Tag Archives: collusion

No need to lock him up . . . at least not yet?

Michael Flynn went before the judge today and got a snootful from the jurist who holds the man’s future in his hands.

The former Donald Trump national security adviser, though, was spared a prison sentence from U.S. District Judge Emmitt Sullivan until after Flynn is finished cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the alleged Russia collusion matter during the 2016 presidential election.

To be totally candid, I don’t really care whether Flynn serves time in prison for the felony crimes to which he has pleaded guilty. Mueller is asking the judge to spare Flynn prison time because of the extensive cooperation he has given the probe into allegations of collusion, conspiracy and perhaps other matters relating to the Trump campaign — if not the presidency itself.

Sullivan reminded Flynn this morning that he is under no obligation to follow Mueller’s recommendation and scolded the retired Army lieutenant general for being an “unregistered agent” for a foreign power while serving as national security adviser. Sullivan told Flynn that “arguably you sold your country out.” The hearing reportedly was contentious as Sullivan — who was appointed to the federal bench by President Clinton — gave Flynn the holy what-for in connection to his admitted involvement with the Russian government.

Mueller is going to get more information from Flynn as he seeks to conclude his investigation. I hope the end arrives sooner rather than later.

As for Flynn — who once led Republican National Convention cheers to “lock up!” Hillary Clinton for using her personal email server while she was secretary of state — all I want from him at this point is full cooperation with Mueller and his team of legal eagles.

Something tells me Flynn has more beans to spill regarding Trump’s campaign and whether the president himself committed illegal acts on his way to being elected to the nation’s highest office.

Trump’s hysteria continues to mount

My astonishment at the presidential hysteria mounting over the Russia probe and related matters is continuing to build.

It presents itself in stark contrast to the stone-cold silence coming from the office of the special counsel that Donald Trump is attacking multiple times daily.

Robert Mueller continues to insist on a veil of silence. He has instructed his team to keep its collective trap shut. No leaks are coming from the special counsel who is examining that “Russia thing” that prompted Trump to fire FBI director James Comey in May 2017.

Yet the president continues his frontal assault on Mueller’s reputation, on the reputation of his former friend Michael Cohen, on Comey, on the Department of Justice, on the FBI. His assault is inflicting some collateral damage, too, such as on the rule of law and on the notion that the U.S. Constitution stands as a bulwark against any abuses of power that might arise from any of the three branches of government.

It is my fervent hope that Mueller concludes his investigation sooner rather than later. I am growing weary of the Twitter tirades coming from the White House. I am tiring of the insistence from the president that Mueller has “no evidence of collusion”; in fact, we don’t know what Mueller has or doesn’t have, which is why I want the probe to reach its finish line.

As for the president, every time he yaps about “no collusion” or “no laws being broken,” he sounds all the more to me as if he’s trying to hide something from public purview. I refer to those tax returns that he has refused to release; or the mountain of documented evidence that Mueller has compiled that is bound to answer a lot of questions.

Donald Trump’s hysteria plays well with the base that is hanging with him to the end. Fine. It isn’t playing well with the rest of the country, the 60-some percent of us who disapprove of the manner that Trump seeks to lead the country.

Please, Mr. Special Counsel, wrap this thing up as soon as possible to spare us the frothing madness that pours out of the White House.

Oh, wait! It just occurs to me that the end of the Russia probe — no matter how it concludes — is going to produce another endless barrage from the president of the United States.

Dang it, man! We can’t win!

‘The Fixer’ on the verge of inflicting serious damage

Michael Cohen is no longer Donald Trump’s “Fixer.” He’s now seemingly ready to inflict some serious, possibly fatal, damage to Trump’s tenure as president of the United States.

I’m still trying to figure all this out. It’s complicated, folks.

Cohen, the president’s former confidant and lawyer, has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump’s business dealings with Russia. They appear to be far more extensive than he told Congress. He spent 70 hours talking to special counsel Robert Mueller about all of this.

Trump’s response has bordered on hysterical. He calls Cohen a “weak man” and a liar. He says he was entitled to do business with Russia as a candidate for president, but said he didn’t do it . . . but that he wouldn’t have broken the law had he done so.

Meanwhile, the president is continuing his all-out assault on Mueller and his legal team that is examining alleged “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.

Trump in trouble?

This is getting even messier than before, ladies and gents, if that is at all possible. It’s getting so messy that I am seeing some commentary from longtime Washington journalists and political operatives who suggest that “for the first time” they are wondering whether Trump will finish his term as president.

I won’t go there. I keep thinking about all the times Trump has avoided potentially mortal injury to his candidacy and then his presidency. He has wiggled free, largely owing to the devotion he still commands from his political “base” of voters and his Republican allies in Congress.

I guess we now might see just how devoted they all are if the evidence continues to pile up.

I have this sense that Robert Mueller has compiled a tremendous amount of evidence that is going to make the president’s life extremely uncomfortable.

So . . . the drama continues.

Does this make you proud of POTUS?

I am running out of ways to express my disgust, disdain and uber-disappointment in the president of the United States.

Donald John “Smart Gut” Trump retweeted this picture that shows some familiar images of men and women behind bars. You have a couple of former presidents, two former attorneys general, two former FBI directors (one of whom is a special counsel examining “The Russia Thing”), a former first lady/senator/secretary of state/presidential candidate and, well . . .  some others.

It galls me in the extreme that Donald Trump would send an image out with the word “treason” under his name. A good number of Americans are wondering the very same thing about the president himself, whether he might have committed the t-word by meeting with Russian operatives who had attacked our supposedly inviolable electoral system during the 2016 presidential election.

This is precisely the kind of thing, the retweeting of such a defamatory image by the president, that reminds us of the kind of man we have representing this country at the highest levels of international relations.

This is the stuff of a bully, the kind of individual who the first lady herself has pledged to combat with her still-unspecified campaign to rid the culture of this hideous behavior.

And yet . . .

The 38 percent of Americans who continue to revel in this individual’s presence as president cheer him on. They continue to refuse to acknowledge the shame in knowing that their president is capable of such hideous public pronouncement.

Despicable.

A pardon for Manafort? Consider the consequence

There’s a good bit of speculation afoot about why Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman who pleaded guilty to felony charges and then agreed cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller, would lie repeatedly to Mueller’s team.

Mueller is looking into whether Trump’s campaign “colluded” with Russians who attacked our election system in 2016. Manafort was thought to have a lot of answers to Mueller’s many questions. Then he lied, according to Mueller. Manafort blew the plea deal apart.

But . . . why? Some analysts suggest Manafort might be angling for a presidential pardon.

I have two words for them: Gerald Ford.

A presidential pardon is likely to explode like a volcano over the political landscape. Hey, come to think of it, if such an event results in Trump’s ouster, then I am all for it!

Back to President Ford. The president took office in August 1974 after President Richard Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Barely a month in office, the new president issued a blanket pardon for any offenses his predecessor might have committed. He freed President Nixon from any prosecution.

Ford was vilified at the time for the pardon. He ran for election in 1976 and lost that year narrowly to Jimmy Carter. The pardon was seen at the time as a major contributor to the president’s defeat.

I was among those who criticized Ford at the time. Since then my views have changed about President Ford and the pardon. But the damage was done in real time.

If the current president thinks he is going to cover his backside from any incriminating circumstance by pardoning Paul Manafort, he is likely instead to purchase a whole basket full of political crises.

I am now wondering whether the president has any idea of what might transpire if he is foolish enough to take such an action.

What happened to bipartisanship, Mr. Majority Leader?

Hey, hold on a minute. Maybe for two or three.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to work toward a more “bipartisan” atmosphere in the Senate. So, what does Mr. Bipartisan do? He blocked a “bipartisan” bill that seeks to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from the whims and foolish acts of a president under siege.

McConnell said the bill is not necessary. Why? Because he takes Donald Trump at his word that the president won’t fire Mueller, who’s up to his eyeballs investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives who attacked our electoral system in 2016.

Yes, McConnell believes the president. He takes him at his word. He says that, by golly, if the president pledges something that he’s true to his word.

Is the majority leader serious? Has he swilled one mouthful too many of the Trump Kool-Aid?

Well, it appears that not all GOP senators are on board. Lame-duck Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona has promised to block every judicial appointment that comes to the Senate for as long as he continues to serve in that congressional chamber.

McConnell’s pledge to seek a more bipartisan approach — which seemed hollow when he made it — now has been exposed as just another political platitude.

Imagine that.

Is there a constitutional crisis on the horizon?

Jeff Sessions is gone. The Department of Justice has a new acting boss, a guy who happens to be a Donald Trump sycophant, someone who has been openly critical of an investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s alleged “collusion” with Russian agents.

So, what’s in store? Acting AG Matthew Whittaker could fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Donald Trump could order him to do so. What would a firing engender? It would, in my view and in the view of many observers much closer to the situation, ignite a constitutional crisis of the first order.

Trump pushed Sessions out the door because the former AG thought enough of the law to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. He did so because of his own involvement in the Trump campaign and his own relationship with Russians. He could not possibly investigate himself. The law and an appreciation of ethics and conflict of interests forced him to back away, forced him to hand the matter over to his No. 2 man at DOJ, Rod Rosenstein.

It was Rosenstein who hired Mueller to examine the complex matter.

Trump once asked “what kind of man?” would recuse himself from this probe. I can answer that one for you, Mr. President. That man would be someone who understands and appreciates ethical propriety. That’s why he recused himself.

Don’t misunderstand me on this point: I am not a fan overall of Jeff Sessions. On this matter, though, he did the right thing. He did the only thing he could do. Trump castigated Sessions for accepting a job and then recusing himself from a key part of that job. He never once questioned his own decision to appoint Sessions in the first place. Had he given any substantive thought to what might play out down the road upon his being elected president, he wouldn’t have appointed Sessions to become attorney general.

So now we’re facing the real prospect of a constitutional crisis if the acting AG — and his pal the president — commit the mother of foolish acts.

Robert Mueller needs to stay on the job. He needs to finish what he started. He needs to let this probe play out completely without interference from the president of the United States.

Sessions is gone; let the battle commence

There goes compromise, collegiality, comity, courtesy.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been shown the door. The day after the midterm election, Donald Trump made good on his threat. He asked for Sessions to submit his resignation; the AG did and now he’s out.

What’s next? Let’s see, the president will nominate a new attorney general who more than likely won’t recuse himself from the “Russia thing” probe, which Sessions had to do. More on that in a minute.

This appointment might put special counsel Robert Mueller’s expansive and extensive investigation into alleged “collusion” between Russian agents and the Trump presidential campaign into jeopardy.

Trump, though, says he has “no interest” in ending Mueller’s probe. You believe the president, right? Me, neither.

I am no fan of Jeff Sessions, but he did the only thing he could do by recusing himself from the Russia investigation. He served on Trump’s foreign policy team during the campaign. He played a role in whatever happened between the Russians and the campaign. He couldn’t possibly investigate himself, so he backed away, handing the Russia probe over to his No. 2 man at DOJ, Rod Rosenstein.

Sessions’s recusal infuriated the president, who wanted Sessions to act with total loyalty and fealty to the man who nominated him. That, of course, is utter nonsense. Sessions did the right thing and he incurred the president’s wrath for doing it.

One more time, with emphasis: Be sure to let Mueller complete his investigation, Mr. President. If there’s nothing there, then Mueller should be allowed to say so himself. But if there is something … well, then we all have a problem.

Don’t fire deputy AG, Mr. President

Rod Rosenstein’s backside might be in a sling as I write this brief blog post.

The deputy U.S. attorney general who hired Robert Mueller as special counsel to look into Donald Trump’s possible Russia dealings is heading to the White House on Thursday to meet with the president.

Rosenstein reportedly said something about wearing a listening device while in the White House and also reportedly asked around about invoking the 25tha Amendment to the Constitution, the one that allows Cabinet officials and Congress to remove the president from office.

Rosenstein denied the reports … sort of. He called them “inaccurate,” which isn’t exactly a denial that he made those statements. Other reports indicate Rosenstein said those things “in jest,” which is how the White House has tried to explain some of the president’s own bizarre statements.

Rosenstein might face the music

If the president fires Rosenstein, then Mueller’s future is in serious question. Does the next deputy AG then fire Mueller, ending the painstaking probe that Mueller has conducted in the search for the truth behind allegations of “collusion” between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian goons who attacked our electoral system in 2016?

Rosenstein’s selection of Mueller was hailed in the moment as a brilliant move, a stroke of genius. The former FBI director, Mueller, was hailed as a man of impeccable integrity and character. Then he started indicting people close to Trump. Now — suddenly, like magic! — he is called everything but the son of Satan by many within the Trump inner circle. The president has labeled the Mueller investigation “illegal” and a “rigged witch hunt.”

I do not want Trump to fire Rosenstein. He perhaps can chew him out royally, which is within his purview. Then again, so is firing him.

Robert Mueller’s investigation needs to proceed and conclude under its own power. Rod Rosenstein needs to stay on the job until Mueller’s task is complete.

And the president of the United States needs to shut his trap and let this investigation reach its end. If there’s nothing there, as Trump insists, Robert Mueller will tell us. Correct?

The walls are closing in on the president

I am pretty sure we can toss aside the comment from the White House that Paul Manafort’s guilty plea will have no impact on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential election.

We have come to expect such false bravado from Donald J. Trump’s team. It delivered the goods yet again when Manafort pleaded guilty to two felony charges and gave Mueller a promise to “cooperate” with his probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians who attacked our electoral system.

Manafort is the biggest fish that Mueller has reeled in. Manafort is the former campaign chairman for Trump. He left the campaign in mid-stride, handing over campaign management duties to Kellyanne Conway.

I, of course, have no way of knowing with any certainty about the mood within the White House. However, when I do the math, I find that two plus two still equals four.

Manafort’s guilty plea and pending cooperation cannot bode well for the president. That brings me to the question of the day: Will the president pardon Manafort and expose himself to accusations of obstruction of justice?

The threat is growing

Trump shouldn’t go there. Then again, he has shown a tendency to do things just because he can. The president has unquestioned power to pardon anyone he chooses. Is this president enough of a fool to do the most foolish thing imaginable at this point in the investigation? I am not putting a single thing past this guy.

Yes, the walls are closing in. However, I won’t predict the president’s downfall. I mean, he wasn’t supposed to win the 2016 election in the first place.

We all know what happened.