Tag Archives: DOJ

Top lawyer ‘lawyers up’; more to come, maybe?

If you’re keeping score, it’s good to know how many of Donald J. Trump’s key administration staffers have hired lawyers to represent them.

You have the president’s son-in-law and senior public policy adviser, Jared Kushner seeking outside counsel; Vice President Mike Pence has hired a lawyer to represent him and might be able to use campaign funds to pay for the counselor’s advice; today we got word that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has joined the lawyering-up club.

And oh yes, the president himself has hired a team of lawyers.

Why all this legal eagle activity? You know the reason, but I’ll mention it anyway. Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign worked in cahoots with Russian hackers, who tried to influence the 2016 election outcome.

Of all the people mentioned here, I find Sessions’ decision to be most interesting. He’s the nation’s top lawyer. He runs the Department of Justice. He also has recused himself from anything to do with the Russia investigation.

Throughout all of this Russia investigation, we hear the president toss out terms like “witch hunt” and “fake news.” He doesn’t condemn the notion that Russian government goons might have sought to influence the election.

The special counsel has a lot of information to sift through. The former FBI director, James Comey, told Senate committee members that the president pressured him to back off a probe into the Russia matter. The president launches into those tweet tirades that seem to undermine his own message, not to mention his legal defense against whatever might be tossed at him.

We’re a long way from knowing the truth behind all of this.

The high-priced legal community is riding a serious gravy train, thanks to the concerns being expressed by the president of the United States and some among his senior team members.

Trump doth protest too much?

You’ve heard it said, no doubt, that someone with something to hide “doth protest too much” at the hint of questions about whatever it is he or she might be hiding.

It’s a Shakespearean statement, coming from “Hamlet.”

So it could be with Donald John Trump, who’s forgoing his “unity” pledge with another series of tweet tirades against special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The president detests Mueller. He wants him out, or so many have speculated. Trump just might do something seriously foolish by asking deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to remove Mueller. Or, he could do something even more foolish than that by removing Rosenstein and Mueller in one fell swoop.

Here’s my Trump question of the day: If the president is innocent of any of the allegations leveled against him, why not let Mueller do his job — after releasing every single shred of information he would ask of the president, his campaign team and his White House organization?

If he’s clean, the record will show it. Isn’t that how it works?

Don’t even consider it, Mr. President

A back-bench congressional Democrat has issued a warning to the president of the United States.

Rep. Ted Lieu says Congress will start impeachment proceedings if Donald J. Trump fired special counsel Robert Mueller and the fellow who picked him for the job, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Message to the president? Don’t even think about it.

I’m not yet sure how Rep. Lieu knows what the House leadership would do. It’s run by members of the other party. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan would be the key member to set impeachment proceedings into motion. I am not yet convinced Ryan has the fortitude to do the right thing if Trump were to commit what could be considered an impeachable offense.

I also have mixed feelings about an impeachment in the first place.

It’s clear to you, I am sure, that I don’t believe Trump is fit for the office to which he was elected. What would we get if Trump were impeached and then convicted in a Senate trial? Vice President Mike Pence is more of a “true conservative” than Trump. He seems competent enough, whereas Trump can’t find his backside with both hands when it comes to understanding the complexities of government.

OK, I didn’t support the Republican ticket in November 2016. I do take some solace, though, in realizing that I am a member of a majority of voters who endorsed the other major-party candidates.

But … back to my point about impeachment.

We’re a long way from even thinking about that — unless the president does something seriously foolish by firing Mueller and Rosenstein.

Turn the special counsel loose

If history is any guide, a special counsel investigation aimed at rooting out issues relating to the president of the United States and his alleged ties to Russia well could develop a life of its own.

Robert Mueller has been given the task of finding out whether Donald John Trump’s presidential campaign was complicit in Russian government efforts to swing the 2016 presidential election. He’s also going to examine possible links between a former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, to the Russians. Moreover, he has latitude to look into whether the president obstructed justice by “asking” former FBI Director James Comey to shut down a probe of Flynn’s ties to Russia.

Could there be even more to learn, beyond the official tasks given to Mueller — himself a former FBI director?

Mueller’s the man

We have some historical precedent to ponder.

Kenneth Starr once held the title of “independent prosecutor.” His duty in the 1990s was to look at a real estate venture involving President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Republican critics in Congress thought there were some shady circumstances that needed to be examined. Starr began poking around and discovered some evidence of a relationship between President Clinton and a young 20-something White House intern.

A federal grand jury summoned the president to testify. The president took an oath to tell the whole truth to the grand jury — and then he lied about his relationship.

Ah-hah! GOP House members then cobbled together an impeachment proceeding that charged the president with perjury and obstruction of justice. The House impeached the president. The Senate held its trial and he was acquitted.

Will history repeat itself? I have no clue. My guess is that special counsel Mueller doesn’t yet know where his probe will lead.

These matters do have a way of growing legs. The statute gives Mueller considerable leeway in his pursuit of the truth. The president cannot fire him; he can, though, order the Justice Department to do so. Let’s hope that Donald Trump resists that impulse. I know that’s a tall order, given the self-proclaimed joy he gets when he fires people.

But the Justice Department’s deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, has picked a serious legal heavyweight to do some seriously heavy lifting.

It’s time now for Robert Mueller to get busy. Rapidly.

For starters, Mr. POTUS, please explain the timing of Comey firing

This has been a big week in the presidency of Donald J. Trump, wouldn’t you agree?

The former acting attorney general of the United States, Sally Yates, testified Monday that she warned the Trump campaign about Michael Flynn’s association with Russian government officials.

Then on Tuesday, the president decided to fire FBI Director James Comey, whose agency is in the midst of investigating questions surrounding the former national security adviser.

The firing has shocked and stunned much of Washington, D.C., and — I venture to guess — much of the rest of the nation, too.

What in the world does one make of this?

Trump’s letter to Comey discusses something about his conduct regarding the Hillary Clinton e-mail matter that erupted 11 days before the presidential election. So … he waits until today — May 8 — to pull the trigger on Comey?

I don’t know about you, but something smells badly here. It stinks. It reeks.

There’s going to be some gnashing of teeth for a few days. Then what?

Here’s what I think ought to happen. I believe it is monumentally imperative that Congress — House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans — declare the need for an independent prosecutor to continue this Trump-Russia probe. There can be no hint, not a whiff, of bias in this investigation.

Comey told a congressional committee that his office was examining questions about whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian government officials who — according to intelligence agencies’ assessment — sought to interfere with the 2016 election. Has any of it been proven? No, although the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democrat Adam Schiff, has said there appears to be something “more than circumstantial evidence” to pin the collusion charge on the Trump campaign.

Still, the investigation must continue. Can a Trump appointee as head of the FBI be trusted fully to do what he or she must do to root out the truth? Call me a skeptic — even a cynic, if you prefer — but I have grave doubts that the president is going to nominate a truly independent FBI director.

We’re hearing words like “Nixonian” to describe what Trump has just done. President Nixon fired the independent prosecutor who was zeroing in on the White House during the Watergate scandal. As we know, it didn’t work out well for the president, who quit his office just as the House of Representatives was preparing articles of impeachment against him.

This latest matter has taken a dramatic turn for sure.

It’s timing of this dismissal that has awakened a lot of Americans.

Mr. President, you need to explain yourself. Now!

Yates testimony deepens Flynn-Russia mystery

No one in Washington, D.C., likely thought Sally Yates was going to clear things up when she testified today about a former national security adviser and his relationship with the Russian government.

Oh, no. The former acting U.S. attorney general deepened the questions, heightened the intrigue and quite possibly opened some more doors of inquiry into this ongoing mess within the Trump administration.

At issue is former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the retired Army lieutenant general who last 24 whole days as Donald Trump’s right-hand man on national security issues. The president booted him after Flynn lied to Vice President Pence about conversations he had with Russian government officials.

Yates’ testimony, though, did reveal an interesting lapse of time: It took 18 days for the president to fire Flynn after learning about the general’s deception. Why did it take so long to let him go?

Flynn’s seat gets even hotter

Yates also told U.S. senators that Flynn’s conversations with the Russians — and his lying to the vice president — likely exposed him to blackmail. She said that’s a dangerous set of circumstances surrounding someone upon whom the president must rely for national security advice.

Oh, the web of intrigue continues to grow.

Yates stayed on after Donald Trump took office; she had been appointed by President Barack Obama to serve in the Justice Department, but then the new president asked her to stay on during his initial days in office. Then he fired her.

The Hill reports: “Reporting based on leaks of U.S. surveillance revealed in February that Flynn misled Vice President Pence about the contents of a December phone call to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — an account Pence was then repeating to the American people.”

There’s also this from The Hill: “‘We weren’t the only ones that knew all of this,’ Yates said Monday, referring to the revelation that Flynn misled Pence about the true content of the phone call with Kislyak. ‘The Russians also knew about what Gen. Flynn had done. The Russians also knew that Gen. Flynn had misled the vice president and others.

“’This was a problem because not only do we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information — and that created a compromise situation, where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians,’ she said.”

Do you think this Russia-Trump story is going away any time soon? Neither do I.

The FBI is examining this relationship. And of course there’s the question about collusion and whether the Trump campaign actually cooperated with Russian hackers who sought to influence the 2016 presidential election.

I believe I’m going to stay tuned to this drama as it plays out.

Trump now relying on others to prove it?

White House press flack Sean Spicer says Donald Trump is “confident” that Justice Department officials will prove what the president has asserted.

Which is that former President Barack Obama committed a crime by ordering a wiretap on Trump’s campaign offices in New York City.

The president made that scurrilous allegation in a tweet several days ago. He hasn’t produced a scintilla of evidence to back it up. DOJ is now looking for proof. Spicer says Justice will find it.

Here’s my question: If the president had the proof when he fired off that tweet, why didn’t he produce it at the time he made the accusation?

Let me think. Oh, I know! That’s because he didn’t have it! He doesn’t have it now! The Justice Department won’t find it, either.

This is yet another game of verbal gymnastics that Trump’s spokesman is playing with the media that Trump despises.

If the president had the goods he should have produced them long before now.

No pity for Preet Bharara

Preet Bharara doesn’t need any pity.

Indeed, he needs a hand-clap or two for standing up to the president of the United States.

Here’s what he did.

Bharara served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, a post to which he was appointed by President Barack Obama. After the 2016 election, Donald J. Trump reportedly asked Bharara to stay on the job. The federal prosecutor agreed.

Trump took the oath of office, then in a stunning reversal, he sought the resignations of all Obama appointees who had stayed on after the former president had left office.

Bharara was one of them. He refused to quit. What did the president do? He fired him today.

This sequence speaks quite directly to the utter aimlessness of the new administration. The president says one thing, does another and then strikes out against those who try to hold him accountable for the statements he makes.

Bharara will land on his feet. He’s a first-rate lawyer. He’ll likely end up in private practice somewhere and will make a handsome living. Or, he might run for public office.

Or, he might go on a speaking tour, where he’ll also make a lot of money telling the nation about the caprice that the current president seems all too willing to demonstrate.

Oh, and it’s interesting too that the president hasn’t denied — via Twitter or any other medium — that he ever asked the prosecutor to stay on the job.

Get ready for hot seat, Mr. Deputy AG-designate

Rod Rosenstein.

That name, right there, well might become the most-watched in Washington, D.C., behind — quite naturally — the name of the president of the United States.

Rosenstein has been picked by Donald J. Trump to become the deputy U.S. attorney general.

Why is this fellow so important right now? Because his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has recused himself from anything to do with an investigation into whether Trump was too cozy with Russian government officials. That means Rosenstein, by all accounts a hard-nosed prosecutor, will get to decide whether to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump-Russia matter.

Rosenstein’s confirmation hearing focused almost exclusively on Sessions, Trump and the Russians. Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats sought to pin him down, trying to get him to commit to picking a special prosecutor. Rosenstein didn’t give that one up — to no one’s surprise.

Unlike Senate and House Republicans who say it’s “too early” to determine whether there’s a need for a special counsel, I happen to believe one should get the call. There needs to be a thorough investigation of what the president knew about the Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election, when he knew it, whether he colluded with the Russians. We also need to know whether Trump or someone from his campaign staff sought to renegotiate sanctions leveled against Russia by the Obama administration over the Russians’ meddling in our electoral process.

Rosenstein isn’t your ordinary, run-of-the-mill deputy AG. Folks in that job usually blend into the woodwork, never to be seen or heard from again once they take office.

Not this guy.

Assuming the Senate confirms him — and it should — Rosenstein is about to settle into one of the hottest seats in Washington.

Do the right thing, sir. Pick that special counsel.

President ‘furious’ over Sessions recusal? Settle down, sir

Donald John Trump reportedly is steamed that the attorney general has taken himself out of the Russia investigation game.

The president appears to have been furious with his staff and with AG Jeff Sessions over the AG’s decision to recuse himself from investigating possible illegalities involving the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Sessions told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had no contact with the Russians. Then it turns out he did; he then admitted as much.

That’s when he pulled out under mounting pressure from Republicans and Democrats.

What in the name of Watergate does the president fail to understand about the AG’s necessary decision to pull out of this probe?

Sessions did the right thing by recusing himself. Most of out us here — even those of us in the middle of Trump Country — understand that the attorney general has acted appropriately.

I am not going to join the amen chorus in calling for Sessions to quit … at least not yet. The AG needs to ensure that he stays totally clear of any discussions among the career prosecutors who work for him as they regard what they might find in the immediate future regarding Trump’s (alleged) relationship with the Russian government.

Trump’s supposed anger at Sessions, though, merely demonstrates — as if we need any more demonstrations — the president’s utter ignorance about propriety.

This tumult is far from over. My hope — certainly not my expectation — would be for the president of the United States to settle down and to let this massive apparatus called the “federal government” do what it’s designed to do.

It has a lot of moving parts and some of those parts now must find the truth behind whether the president’s campaign did anything illegal by negotiating with a government that our nation’s spy network says tried to influence a presidential election.