Tag Archives: James Comey

Suddenly, Mueller seems a bit more vulnerable

If I were Robert Mueller, I might be sleeping a bit fitfully for an undetermined period of time.

Mueller, the special counsel appointed to examine allegations of collusion by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign with Russians seeking to influence the 2016 election, now suddenly seems a bit more vulnerable to White House trickery.

Rachel Brand, the No. 3 in command at the Department of Justice, has quit to become general counsel for Walmart. Brand had held her job at DOJ for less than a year.

This is a real big deal. Here’s why.

The president can’t stand Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from anything dealing with Russia. Sessions had worked on the Trump campaign foreign policy team and on its transition to the presidency. He was too close to the Russia matter to be an independent investigator. So, he stepped aside. It angered the president so much that he has said that had he known Sessions would recuse himself, he would have nominated someone else to become AG.

There’s that.

Now we have Rod Rosenstein, the No. 2 at DOJ. Rosenstein selected Mueller — a former FBI director and a crack lawyer himself — to be the special counsel. Mueller has assembled a first-rate team of legal eagles to investigate the “Russia thing” that caused Trump to fire James Comey as FBI director. Rosenstein has the authority to fire Mueller if directed by the president, but he has said he won’t do so “without cause.” Trump hasn’t exactly issued a vote of confidence for the job Rosenstein is doing as the second banana at Justice.

OK, now for the punch line.

Trump can select whoever he wants to succeed Brand. The new No. 3 must go through a Senate confirmation process. If the president were to dismiss Rosenstein, that means the next in command would be available to dismiss Mueller if the president issues the order.

My operative question, thus, goes like this: Is the president going to ask Rachel Brand’s potential successor if he or she is willing to fire Mueller if the order comes from the White House?

Sessions is now out of the game, more or less. Rosenstein says he won’t fire Mueller simply because the president wants him gone. That means, the way I see it, that Sessions and Rosenstein now are vulnerable to the Machiavellian whims of the guy who sits behind that big desk in the Oval Office.

Trump could axe both the AG and his chief deputy, leaving the next in line — the third in command — to do the dirty work of getting rid of Robert Mueller, which then could derail the special counsel’s work of finding the whole truth behind the collusion matter.

I believe that would smell like, oh, obstruction of justice.

Deputy FBI director departure might signal some worry

Andrew McCabe has decided to call it quits at the FBI, where he served as deputy director.

He left earlier than expected, caving under pressure from Donald J. Trump and congressional Republicans who said he was biased against the president. Why? Because his wife is a friend and ally of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

McCabe also stood up for fired FBI director James Comey, who Trump dismissed this past year after Comey declined to pledged total loyalty to the president. And, oh yes, there was that “Russia thing” that still hangs over the Oval Office.

In the midst of all this, Trump reportedly asked McCabe in a private discussion about who he voted for president in 2016. Interesting, if true. It’s also quite dangerous.

I join others who are concerned about what might happen next. The FBI director, Christopher Wray, will find someone who is decidedly less independent to serve as deputy director. There well might be a push to squeeze the life out of a probe into whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russian hackers who sought to influence the 2016 election outcome.

McCabe’s forced resignation suggests pressure from the White House, from the Oval Office to guide the special counsel’s Russia collusion investigation to a desired outcome.

I believe they would call that “obstruction of justice.”

Oh, and about the special counsel …

Robert Mueller is back in the news.

While our attention was yanked away while we watched Congress and the president writhe and wriggle over immigration and funding the government, the special counsel’s office was busy interviewing players in Donald John Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

We now have learned that Mueller interviewed fired FBI director James Comey sometime this past year. Mueller’s legal team has talked to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

What’s on the special counsel’s mind? He is looking for answers to the Big Question: Did the Trump campaign collude with Russians seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election outcome?

Sessions was a key campaign adviser while serving in the U.S. Senate. Comey — as you no doubt recall — led the FBI while it looked into the e-mail use matter involving Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton; then he turned his sights on the “Russia thing,” before he was fired in May 2017 by the president.

Mueller is trying to ascertain, reportedly, whether Comey’s firing, along with the dismissal of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, was meant to obstruct justice, impede the Russia meddling probe.

Gosh, who could be next on Mueller’s call list? Oh, I know! How about the president himself?

Trump says the investigation into collusion is a big fat nothing. He calls it a witch hunt. He blames it all on Democrats, the “fake media” and other critics of him and his administration.

Here’s a thought: If the president’s phone rings and it’s Robert Mueller on the other end of the call, the president ought to agree on the spot to meet with him — if what he says about the veracity of the probe is true.

If not, well … then we have a problem. Isn’t that right, Mr. President?

Trump is wearing us out; just think, it’s only been a year!

We are on the verge of marking the first year of one of the more, um, consequential presidencies in the history of the American republic.

I use the term “consequential” with caution. I do not mean to suggest that Donald John Trump Sr.’s first year in office has produce much in the way of positive consequence. I mean to suggest that the consequence has been important in ways few of us could have imagined.

On Jan. 20, 2017, Trump took his presidential oath and then delivered one of the darkest, most forbidding inaugural speeches in history. The most memorable line spoke of how he intended to end “the American carnage.”

Did he end it? Uh, no.

It has gone downhill from there.

Chaos has led to confusion, which has led to controversy, which has brought us resignations and dismissals of top administration aides and advisers. The president’s reliance on Twitter as his main method of conveying policy proclamations has been, well, also quite consequential. 

The president has continued to lie about his foes, his policies, his pronouncements … everything, or so it seems.

He has insulted world leaders. Seemingly all of them. Our friends and our enemies have been on the receiving end of Trump tantrums and tirades — all via Twitter.

Trump has reshaped the American presidency. He has demanded loyalty to himself. He fired FBI director James Comey when he failed to receive such a pledge.

Yes, it’s been a hell of a ride so far. It is bound to get a lot bumpier, provided the special counsel, Robert Mueller — appointed to look into that “Russia thing” — is allowed to do the job to which the Justice Department appointed him to do. Will it result in something terribly, um, “consequential” regarding the future of the Trump administration? Let’s find out.

As for the president’s first year, it’s been the longest such stretch of time I can remember. I’m old enough to recall quite a few of these historical events.

I know I have just peeled the first layer of skin off the presidential onion with this blog post. I mean, there’s just so much.

Still, I hope you get my drift. I considered this guy unfit for the office to which he was elected while he was running for it. My feelings about his fitness have changed. He’s worse — more consequential — than I thought.

Now, let’s get ready for Year No. 2.

That’s some Trump 2016 campaign ‘leak’

George Papadopoulos seems to have a big mouth that spews a lot of, um, intelligence when it’s lubricated with liquor.

Who is this guy and what does it mean? According to the New York Times, Papadopoulos is a former low-level Donald Trump presidential campaign aide who, during a drunken bender in London, told the Australian ambassador to Great Britain that Russian government officials had compiled dirt on Hillary Rodham Clinton.

So … its meaning? The young man who served as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump team said enough to alarm the Aussie envoy, who then alerted U.S. government officials. He also triggered the FBI investigation into the “Russia thing” that prompted the president to fire former FBI director James Comey earlier this year.

Another bombshell … maybe?

The revelation has the potential of creating yet another firestorm regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of the Russia collusion allegation. The Department of Justice selected Mueller — also a former FBI director and a highly respected career prosecutor — to lead the probe into whether the Trump team colluded with Russian agents who sought to meddle in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The president keeps insisting there was “no collusion.” He has said Mueller is engaged in a witch hunt, although of late he says he believes Mueller will treat him “fairly.”

My own view is that this one-time low-level underling — Papadopoulos — might have spilled enough of the beans to lure the special counsel’s legal team toward pay dirt.

Bizarre.

Trump trashes FBI yet again

Put yourself in the shoes of a professional law enforcement officer with desires to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Your director works at the pleasure of the president of the United States. The FBI director’s job is to manage arguably the world’s premier investigative agency. Yet the president calls out the management of your agency almost daily, using language one hears on junior high school playgrounds.

The FBI has long been considered a place where trained professionals do their jobs with skill and precision. Yet the president — the nation’s top dog — keeps questioning its competence and its professionalism.

POTUS takes aim at FBI

Donald J. Trump seeks to embark on a sort of scorched-Earth policy with regard to the FBI. The man he chose to lead the agency, Christopher Wray, is now being hamstrung by the man who hired him. Wray cannot shake himself loose from the shackles that Trump clamps around his ankles.

The president keeps invoking the name of the man he fired, James Comey, who was investigating whether Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russian hackers who sought to influence the 2016 election outcome. And, yes, he attaches epithets to Comey’s name, along with that of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the president’s election opponent.

Now the president has joined the conservative chorus in seeking the departure of Andrew McCabe, who was Comey’s chief deputy at the FBI. Trump has accused McCabe of being too cozy with Clinton while the agency was investigating her use of private email servers while she was secretary of state during the first term of the Obama administration.

I guess I just cannot put myself into the shoes of anyone with designs of becoming an FBI agent. The president’s Twitter tirades against the FBI cannot possibly be a lure to anyone who seeks to serve their country.

Why ‘fight’ Mueller if there’s nothing there?

Donald John Trump’s friends and advisers are encouraging him to fight special counsel Robert Mueller.

The special counsel is up to his eyeballs in investigating a whole array of issues involving the 2016 presidential election. They involve whether Russia sought to meddle in our electoral process; they also involve questions into whether the president’s campaign colluded with Russian government agents in seeking to sway the election. There also are questions about Trump’s financial dealings in Russia and with Russians.

The president says it’s all “fake news” concocted by his political enemies. He keeps denying anything happened. There was “no collusion,” he says.

So, why fight the special counsel? Why not just let Mueller do his job and then produce, um, nothing!

If Donald Trump is as pure as he keeps suggesting he is, then he would welcome a thorough investigation … wouldn’t he? If he is innocent of all those “fake news”-inspired allegations, then it stands to reason that he would endorse Mueller’s findings that there’s nothing there.

That’s right, isn’t it?

Except that Trump keeps acting like he’s got something to hide. Those tax returns still aren’t known to the public. He keeps changing his story. He actually has acknowledged publicly that he fired former FBI Director James Comey over “the Russia thing.”

Is this a “hoax,” as you say, Mr. President? If it is, then ignore those advisers who are telling you to fight.

James Comey: in the political bulls-eye

James Comey is man under siege.

Think of it. The former FBI director is taking incoming rounds from Hillary Rodham Clinton, who blames him for costing her the 2016 presidential election. Her new book “What Happened” seeks to lay out the case that Comey’s 11th-hour decision to take a fresh look at Clinton’s “email controversy” cost her crucial votes down the stretch.

So, does that make Comey a sort of Trump toadie? Is he snuggling with the Trumpkins now that their guy, Donald John Trump, got elected president against Hillary Clinton?

I don’t believe so.

White House staffers now want Comey to be investigated for his leaks to the media in the wake of his sudden firing by Trump as FBI director earlier this year. Let’s not forget that Comey was in the midst of an investigation into the “Russia thing,” which prompted Trump to can him in the first place.

Comey’s allies come to his defense.

Has the former FBI boss committed a crime by leaking information to the press? No chance. He didn’t leak any classified or confidential information. What’s more, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the media against efforts to prevent them from doing their job.

Comey has become a principal figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s expanding investigation into the Russia matter.

His role in the email controversy involving Hillary Clinton really is irrelevant in the context of the here and now, which is the Russia investigation. It’s worth mentioning only to highlight what I believe is James Comey’s curious position in the crosshairs of leaders in both political parties.

For the record, I don’t believe Comey’s decision to take a fresh look at Clinton’s e-mail mess by itself determined the outcome of the election. Clinton lost to Trump because she made too many other mistakes down the stretch; she snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Nor do I believe Comey should be investigated by law enforcement over his leaks to the media after his shocking dismissal as FBI director. He didn’t break the law.

Keep standing tall, Mr. Comey.

Hoping that Hillary calls it a career

Hillary Rodham Clinton is beginning to resurface.

Her book is out, the one that “explains” why she lost a presidential election she should have won. I’ll stipulate that I haven’t read “What Happened.” I have every intention of doing so. I’m curious as to what this candidate who should have been elected in 2016 says about her stunning election loss.

I’ll simply fall back to a position I took not long after Donald J. Trump got elected president of the United States.

My hope for the Democratic Party is that they find a fresh face, a novice to the national political stage, a rookie to run against whomever the Republicans nominate for president in 2020.

It shouldn’t be Hillary Clinton. And if the Republican Party honchos were to ask for my opinion, I’d say they shouldn’t renominate the incumbent president. Hey, I just told ’em that very thing. Imagine that!

Hillary will lay a lot of blame on FBI Director James Comey and his strange reopening of the e-mail probe late in the campaign. She’ll blame the Russians for hacking into our electoral system. She will blame the media for the way they covered her campaign. Sure, she also is going to take a lot of the blame herself.

From where I sit out here in Flyover Country, it’s that last element that deserves the bulk of the cause for her stunning loss.

Clinton was a lousy candidate. She spent too much time down the stretch in states she had no prayer of winning and too little time in those battleground states that flipped from supporting Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 to backing Trump.

Yes, I also believe in that malady called Clinton Fatigue. We had two terms of her husband, President Bill Clinton; and along the way, we got a big dose of first lady Hillary Clinton, too. Do you recall when candidate Bill told us in 1992 if we elect him, we’d get her as well in a sort of two-for-one deal?

She ran for the U.S. Senate in 2000 as she and her husband were to leave the White House and she served her new home state of New York with competence and some level of distinction.

She challenged Sen. Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination and took him to the wire. The new president’s payback was to appoint her secretary of state, a post she held for Obama’s first term.

Clinton won the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination believing the election was hers for the taking. She wasn’t alone. I was among the millions of pseudo-experts who thought she’d win in a record-setting landslide. I’ve been eating crow ever since.

Her time has come and gone. She’s yesterday’s heroine.

I do not want her to run again. She had my support once already. I’m not sure I can back her a second time.

Her book is likely to produce some interesting reading. That is it. However, the future of her political party, I believe, belongs to someone who’s going to emerge from nowhere.

Firing Comey a big mistake? Yeah … do ya think?

I didn’t expect to agree with Stephen K. Bannon on anything.

But you know what? The former chief strategist for Donald John Trump Sr. said something on “60 Minutes” that makes me rethink that notion.

He said the president’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey is the “biggest political mistake in recent political history.”

I believe Bannon is on to something.

Trump canned Comey because of the “Russia thing.” He said initially the Russia probe wasn’t a factor; Vice President Mike Pence said the same thing. Then the president blabbed to NBC News anchor Lester Holt that, yep, Russia was the reason.

Then came Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who was hired by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to become special counsel. Mueller is off and running; he has hired a crack team of legal eagles; the “Russia thing” is getting pretty damn serious.

Mueller is examining whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russian computer hackers who sought to meddle in our electoral process in 2016. He is going full bore, as he should. Had the president not fired Comey, Bannon said, there would be no Mueller, no special counsel, no need for concern among Trumpkins that Mueller has smelled blood in the political water.

Bannon is a tremendously objectionable character. He is back where he came from, as editor in chief of Breitbart News. Bannon had no business in the West Wing. His political experience is just a shade greater than Donald Trump, who had none before he entered the 2016 presidential campaign. Bannon is a right-wing provocateur and political hack who once sat on the “principals committee” of the National Security Council. Then the president wised up and removed him.

However, Bannon is likely quite correct about what Trump may have done to his presidency by kicking Comey out the door and ushering in the Age of Mueller.

And isn’t it fascinating that someone who professes such admiration for Donald Trump might have given the special counsel — Mueller — an even more inviting target by talking about potentially grievous political consequences the president has delivered to himself?