We Expected Trump Obstruction Report This Year, But Trump Collusion Evidence Might Also Be Ready By End Of Year….I was surprised to hear reports Mueller might have the Trump collusion case involving the campaign’s involvement with Russians ready this fall, although that news did not come directly from Mueller. But first, this week was yet another case of news headlines overload! Just a sampling of what I can recall, there was another mass shooting, a Supreme Court retirement, several Court cases that leaned conservative, unjustifiable congressional grillings of the heads of our justice/intelligence agencies, a major upset in a congressional Dem primary, immigration votes going down to defeat, a struggle to reunify kidnapped kids with their parents which prompted protests, scheduling a Putin summit, satellite imagery of North Korea beefing up a nuclear facility, negative effects of our emerging trade wars, CBO estimates of skyrocketing deficits, & a new White House communications director. Whew! Did I miss anything? We need a break from the news overload, so hear the song at the bottom of part 3.
I’ve written before about the fact that Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is no bomb-throwing partisan. Yet last December he very ostentatiously gave a big speech on the floor of the Senate that caused more than a few ripples across the political media by drawing a “red line” at the possible firing of Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The timing was weird, right before Christmas. Nobody knew of any reason why he would do that out of the blue. It was later reported in The New York Times that right around that time Trump had gone ballistic and was threatening to fire Mueller over a report that he had demanded Trump Organization records from Deutsche Bank. It turned out that report was erroneous and Trump’s lawyers were able to talk him out of it. But news of his tantrum must have reached beyond the White House, since Warner felt the necessity to go to the floor and warn him off. So Warner knows things. Politico reported a little nugget of political gossip on Sunday that made Russia-investigation watchers sit up and take notice: SEN. MARK WARNER (D-Va.) hosted a dinner Friday night for more than 100 guests at his house on Martha’s Vineyard as part of the DSCC’S annual Majority Trust retreat. OVERHEARD: Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, joking to the crowd: “If you get me one more glass of wine, I’ll tell you stuff only Bob Mueller and I know. If you think you’ve seen wild stuff so far, buckle up. It’s going to be a wild couple of months.” Nobody’s sure exactly what Warner was hinting at, and he says he was just joking. But there have been a number of clues over the past couple of weeks that the investigation is picking up speed.
Mueller has called in some new prosecutors, reportedly to spin off the part of the investigation pertaining to the Russian firms he previously indicted. It’s unclear why he decided to do that, although informed speculation says he’s either punting on that case, since there’s no hope of extraditing the accused, or simply freeing up some of his more seasoned prosecutors to concentrate on the more important cases. Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is now sitting in jail contemplating his future while his lawyers present a flurry of different arguments to spring him, none of which have been successful so far. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, is reportedly getting ready to cooperate with the feds in his case in New York, and Mueller is said to be eyeing his involvement very closely. Erik Prince, the former Blackwater CEO who seems to have turned up in numerous meetings with Russians and Middle Eastern potentates offering “back channels” during the presidential campaign, told the press that he’s “cooperating” with the Mueller probe and has turned over his phone and computer to investigators. (Most legal analysts seem to be skeptical of Prince’s sincerity, which isn’t surprising.) Trump’s old friend Roger Stone is reportedly in Mueller’s crosshairs and is considered most likely to be the next person indicted.
Trump also did his usual shtick, bragging incessantly about his fantasy accomplishments while blaming others for all possible problems. But he was clearly distracted and unable to keep one train of thought going. He isn’t himself. Signs of panic are showing among the Trump loyalists as well. CNN reported that the president’s most dedicated lieutenants in the House are pushing feverishly for the various investigating committees to work faster and take action against the Justice Department as quickly as possible. They’ve accelerated their smear campaign against Mueller’s office and continue to harass the DOJ to provide evidence in the ongoing case, for the obvious purpose of sharing it, exposing it or discrediting it in advance of any legal proceedings. The department is sharing some documents in what appears to be a strategy to buy time. The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand reported on Republicans’ parallel strategy to build on the discredited “Spygate” non-scandal by pushing the idea that anyone in the Trump campaign shown to have interacted or conspired with Russian agents was actually the victim of an FBI frame-up. Rudy Giuliani has used that exact language in the press. This all seems to be aimed at public opinion, which, as Giuliani helpfully explained some time back, is in service of preventing the required two-thirds vote in the Senate in a possible impeachment trial. That’s a remarkably pessimistic view from the president’s lawyer of where this is headed.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is preparing to accelerate his probe into possible collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russians who sought to interfere in the 2016 election, according to a person familiar with the investigation. Mueller and his team of prosecutors and investigators have an eye toward producing conclusions — and possible indictments — related to collusion by fall, said the person, who asked not to be identified. He’ll be able to turn his full attention to the issue as he resolves other questions, including deciding soon whether to find that Trump sought to obstruct justice. Mueller’s office declined to comment on his plans. Suspicious contacts between at least 13 people associated with Trump’s presidential campaign and Russians have fueled the debate over collusion. Some of those encounters have been known for months: the Russian ambassador whose conversations forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation and led Michael Flynn to plead guilty to lying to the FBI. The Russians who wangled a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in July 2016 after dangling the promise of political dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton. Other encounters continue to emerge, including a Russian’s chat with veteran Trump adviser Roger Stone at a cafe in Florida.
‘Warning Lights’: Signs of suspicious Russian contacts first surfaced in late 2015, especially among U.S. allies who were conducting surveillance against Russians, according to a former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. By the spring of 2016 the frequent contacts set off alarm bells among U.S. intelligence officials, according to James Clapper, who was director of national intelligence at the time. The FBI’s Russia investigation officially began that July. “The dashboard warning lights were on for all of us because of the meetings,” Clapper said in an interview this month. “We may not have known much about the content of these meetings, but it was certainly very curious why so many meetings with Russians.” On three occasions, Russians offered people associated with Trump’s campaign dirt on Democrat Clinton — all before it was publicly known that Russians had hacked the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman. Mueller has interviewed or sought information about many of the people known to have met with Russians during the campaign. But it’s not known publicly whether the barrage of Russian contacts was instigated or coordinated by the Kremlin. Trump, for his part, has repeatedly denied any such plotting, tweeting on June 15, “WITCH HUNT! There was no Russian Collusion.” Here are the players and their known interactions, with links to previous news stories:
The case President Trump and his allies have built against the Justice Department and the FBI is circumstantial at best. And on Thursday, the various arguments Trump and his Republican allies have leaned on to suggest or outright claim FBI bias against the president got knocked down, one by one, by the top of the bureau’s chain of command. What’s more, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray categorically denied these characterizations of the FBI’s work while under oath. Wray and Rosenstein, who appointed special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, testified Thursday for hours to the House’s Judiciary Committee. Let’s run down the top GOP attacks thrown at the Russia investigation and what Rosenstein and Wray had to say about them.
GOP congressmen are engaged in this public spectacle to demean the DOJ/FBI in order to cast doubt over the Mueller probe, if not stop it in its tracks. Why do they seem so desperate? They must know bad stuff is about to hit the fan. All this erecting smoke & mirrors is not designed to get at the facts, but to discredit whatever Mueller ultimately finds, or to trap Rosenstein in some faux pas that would give Trump enough rope to fire him, which could scuttle the Mueller probe altogether. Making mountains out of molehills, with plenty of disingenuous showboating from the likes of Jordan & Meadows in yesterday’s congressional hearing, are certainly succeeding with their loyal & thoroughly bamboozled base.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is the Republicans’ designated attack dog on the House Judiciary Committee. He’s the guy pushing conspiracy theories about the FBI and President Trump. And he’s the guy whose push for a second special counsel based on these theories earned a sharp rebuke from Attorney General Jeff Sessions. On Thursday, Jordan again found himself getting shut down by one of the embattled leaders of the Justice Department — this time in somewhat embarrassing fashion. In a tense exchange, Jordan suggested that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation and has earned Trump’s ire, was withholding key information from Congress about the probe. Jordan badgered Rosenstein for several minutes, clearly trying to get under his skin. And it worked, to some degree, with Rosenstein at one point saying, “Your use of this to attack me personally is deeply wrong.”
But then things fell apart for Jordan, and he undermined his own case. He turned to media reports about an alleged threat by Rosenstein to members of Congress. Fox News’s Catherine Herridge reported June 12 that Rosenstein had threatened to “ ‘subpoena’ emails, phone records and other documents from lawmakers and staff on” the GOP-controlled House Intelligence Committee. That’s the committee led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) that has been doing Trump’s bidding in a way that its Senate counterpart simply hasn’t, including releasing the “Nunes memo.” Other conservative outlets have run with the claim, but outlets such as CNN and even Sessions have said it didn’t happen. After Rosenstein rebuked Jordan’s use of anonymous media reports, Jordan read from a quote that one anonymous House committee staffer gave to Fox. “This is what they said: ‘Having the nation’s number one law enforcement officer threaten to subpoena your calls and emails is downright chilling,’ ” Jordan said. “Did you threaten to subpoena their calls and emails?” “No, sir, and there’s no way to subpoena phone calls,” Rosenstein said, clearly pleased with himself. There were audible laughs in the room. Jordan stumbled for what to say next — “Well, I mean, I’m reading what the press said.”
Apparently oblivious to the irony of his own petty complaints during the hearing, Trey Gowdy shouted about the Mueller investigation to “finish it the hell up,” oh he of let’s drag out the Benghazi investigation for 3 years fame: trey-gowdy-rod-rosenstein-
Peter Strzok, the FBI agent fired from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team for his anti-Trump texts, had a disappointing message for congressional Republicans when he testified behind closed doors on Wednesday. According to two sources familiar with his testimony, he told members that he was not involved in the drafting of an application for a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Strzok said he provided no substantive input on the application—he didn’t supply any evidence for it and was not involved in presenting it to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for approval, according to these sources.
The Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI’s 2016 handling of the Clinton email investigation has reenergized those arguing that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation is illegitimate. President Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani recently claimed that Mueller’s investigation is likely to be “thrown out” because of alleged FBI misconduct revealed in the report. A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed co-authored by former Reagan and George H.W. Bush administration attorney David B. Rivkin Jr. — and retweeted by the president — argued that the report demonstrates that Mueller’s investigation is tainted by bias in its origin and should be shut down as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” The hypocrisy is evident: Conservatives typically decry judge-made doctrines such as “fruit of the poisonous tree” as “technicalities” that allow the guilty to walk free. And a president who has shown little regard for due process for others, such as those arriving at our borders, is quick to embrace it when it comes to investigations of his own behavior. But irony aside, it’s worth examining how frivolous this “taint” argument is, both factually and legally.
The main villain in the supposed conspiracy to topple Trump is FBI Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok, who worked on both the Clinton email investigation and the Russia investigation. Strzok and then-girlfriend Lisa Page, an FBI attorney at the time, exchanged a number of ill-advised text messages expressing anti-Trump sentiments. But these personal exchanges can’t bear anything close to the weight Trump’s supporters seek to place on them. Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz’s report also found no evidence that any actions by Strzok or the FBI stemmed from personal bias or political motivation. And Strzok was not working alone; he had colleagues and supervisors. The notion that a single agent could bend the entire Justice Department investigative leviathan to his will — particularly in such a significant case — is ludicrous. Then there’s the fact that, prior to the election, information about the Russia probe was kept secret while FBI personnel were publicly commenting on and leaking widely about the Clinton email investigation. Apparently Trump’s supporters believe that, when it comes to rigging an election, the FBI is not merely corrupt but also incompetent.
Strzok has long since been booted off the Russia probe. Since Mueller was appointed, there have been 19 indictments and five guilty pleas. There are reports of more than a dozen people affiliated with the Trump campaign who had contacts with various Russian individuals in the months leading up to the election. More than a dozen prosecutors have been working with numerous FBI agents investigating the various charges, and their actions have been repeatedly upheld by independent judges. These results already belie any claim there was no proper basis for an investigation — and Mueller’s not done yet. So what exactly do one FBI agent’s personal text messages to his girlfriend nearly two years ago have to do with the facts of this investigation?
As for the legal theory, “fruit of the poisonous tree” is a rule that excludes evidence resulting from an investigator’s unlawful act, such as an unconstitutional search or arrest. Even when there is such misconduct, if the connection is too attenuated or the evidence would have been discovered anyway the doctrine doesn’t apply. But the inspector general found no unlawful investigative acts here; you can’t have tainted fruit if there’s no poisonous tree in the first place. And the authors of the Journal op-ed are arguing not to keep out particular items of evidence but to torpedo an entire investigation, despite nearly two years of intervening events and independent actions by other investigators. That’s not discarding particular pieces of fruit. That’s uprooting the entire orchard.
If those ultimately charged by Mueller want to make a “fruit of the poisonous tree” claim to a judge, they should do so. I’m confident they’ll be laughed out of court. But claiming the doctrine should be used to end Mueller’s entire investigation is just political grandstanding, not a serious legal argument. Those who argue Mueller’s probe is “tainted” no longer bother to deny there was Russian interference with the election or possible collaboration by members of the Trump campaign. Instead, they argue there is no “public evidence” of such a conspiracy (yes, exactly — that’s the way grand jury secrecy works) and simultaneously claim the investigation that could ultimately reveal such evidence should be halted. The IG report provides no basis for impugning Mueller’s inquiry. But the fact that Trump and his supporters would seek to use such a slender reed as a pretext to shut it down can’t help but leave you wondering what they fear Mueller will find.
Our prez is derelict in his duties & possibly treasonous by doing nothing to stop these Russian attacks: ukraine-warns-
When Trump heads out on his foreign engagements coming up in July, expect more undermining of NATO & embracing Russia, which is really scary as he keeps sending the opposite message of what an American President should be doing. Is Trump looking to help Russia rebuild the old Soviet Union? While tearing down the European Union? Everything is bass-ackwards! It’s nothing short of serving to diminish free democracies by empowering an autocratic dictator. And to this day he still seems to be colluding with the Russians to mess with our upcoming elections. Our prez is so shameless in his gushing praise & servitude to Putin, we can’t help but wonder if Trump’s connections have him so compromised with sources high up in the Kremlin, as I mentioned could he really be in effect serving as a Russian agent? That may seem outrageous to some, but does anyone out there have a better explanation? In that planned summit with Putin, will Trump be representing the United States or be plotting against us?
North Korea is carrying out improvements at its nuclear testing facility, new research has discovered. The work at the facility comes despite a pledge by the country to completely denuclearise following the summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. New satellite images of the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Centre show that upgrades are being carried out ‘at a rapid pace’, according to North Korea analysis organisation 38 North. Pictures taken on 21 June show that modifications to equipment are ongoing, new buildings are being erected and a radiochemical laboratory is seemingly still active. Analysts at 38 North note that, despite the promises made at the summit, workers at the nuclear plant would be expected to continue as usual until specific orders to the contrary are made by Pyongyang.
The new evidence pours water on Donald Trump’s claim last week that the process of ‘total denuclearisation’ was underway. The President told a White House meeting that the North had already blown up four of its biggest nuclear test sites, despite there being no evidence to support this. ‘They’ve stopped the sending of missiles, including ballistic missiles. They’re destroying their engine site,’ Mr Trump said. ‘They’re blowing it up. They’ve already blown up one of their big test sites, in fact it’s actually four of their big test sites. ‘And the big thing is it will be a total denuclearisation, which has already started taking place.’ Despite the President’s bluster, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted this week that there was no specific timeline for steps towards denuclearisation.
President Trump assured us he had removed — not just diminished, removed — the North Korean nuclear missile threat. He’d done what no other sitting president had done, namely met with the North Korean dictator. (He thinks this was an accomplishment, not realizing Kim Jong Un had gotten what no other president would give away — the stature of the United States — without sacrificing anything.) Trump aides and sycophants insisted the propaganda coup for Kim, Trump’s slavish praise for the brutal human rights criminal, Trump’s indifference to his reign of terror, etc., were all worthwhile because we had gotten “something.” Oddly, the agreement marking the end of the Singapore summit looked like an even more watery version of the thin gruel we had gotten from past meetings. There were some generic promises about denuclearization, but the “verifiable” and “irreversible” parts of complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization (CVID) were not in the document, an omission that when pointed out sparked a snippy retort from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“Secretary Pompeo’s public posture on this might reflect a careful strategy to protect genuine progress at the negotiating table,” acknowledges former Hillary Clinton foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan. But given the paper-thin commitment Kim gave to Trump in Singapore, the more likely explanation is that Pompeo is aggressively trying to lower expectations and condition us all for an outcome — that so many predicted — in which Pyongyang never gives up the nukes. It does not shock me that Trump has become a patsy for another wily dictator. The rogue gallery of autocrats has figured out how to manipulate the foolish, narcissistic president. I am, however, a bit surprised the previously hawkish and responsible Pompeo is facilitating this farce. Surely he knows the United States is being taken for a ride. Doesn’t he?