Tag Archives: Justice Department

Just why did POTUS fire the AG?

It’s fair to ask this question regarding former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions: Was he doing a bad enough job as the nation’s top lawyer to be fired for cause?

I keep coming back to this answer: No.

Donald Trump fired Sessions for one reason only. He fired him because the AG recused himself from the Russia investigation. The attorney general had no choice but to step away. He could not possibly ever in a million years take charge of an investigation in which he was a key participant in the matter being investigated.

Sessions was a key adviser to the Trump presidential campaign. He made contact with Russians who were, um, interested in the outcome of the election. The law required him to hand the probe over to someone else. That’s what Sessions did.

The AG’s recusal enraged the president. Sessions doomed his tenure at the Justice Department the moment he stepped away.

Trump wanted Sessions to plow straight ahead and seemingly wanted him to push aside the questions that arose from the Trump presidential campaign’s dealings with Russian operatives who attacked our electoral system in 2016. That the attorney general couldn’t — or wouldn’t — do the president’s bidding simply was more than the president could tolerate.

The only public criticism Trump leveled against Sessions dealt with his recusal and his failure to tell the president he could not deal specifically with the Russia matter.

It’s interesting in the extreme that the president didn’t criticize DOJ’s performance under Sessions’s command. He didn’t lament any perceived disobeying of public policy. Sessions, you’ll recall, announced to the country that the Trump administration was implementing a policy that took children from their parents as they crossed the border into our country illegally. And didn’t he cite Scripture as his basis for doing so?

There will be plenty to say about the appointment of Matthew Whitaker, Trump’s choice to become acting AG.

But for now I am left to wonder out loud what others have asked already: How in the world does the president justify his firing of Jeff Sessions other than to express anger that the ex-AG was being true to the law?

That is no basis for terminating a U.S. attorney general.

Goodbye, AG Sessions … and, yes, good riddance

I feel the need to set the record straight about former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

I have spent some time commenting positively about on this blog for his decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe into the Donald Trump presidential campaign. He faced a clear conflict of interest when he took the job as AG because of his campaign role as a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump.

He was involved at some level with the Russians who made contact with the campaign. There were questions about an investigation. Sessions had to recuse himself because of the conflict of interest.

I applauded him for that singular act.

However, he shouldn’t have been selected AG in the first place. The man “earned” the nomination because he was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump’s candidacy.

Prior to his becoming a senator, though, Sessions took on a serious blot on his public service record.

He served as a U.S. attorney in Alabama. President Reagan nominated him in 1986 to a federal judgeship. Then questions surfaced about Sessions’s comments regarding the Ku Klux Klan. Witnesses testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Sessions reportedly had given KKK members a pass until he learned that they “smoked pot.” Four Justice Department lawyers testified they heard Sessions make racist remarks.

The committee eventually voted 10-8 against his nomination. It went to the full Senate for a vote and senators rejected Sessions for the federal bench.

What did he do then? He ran for the Senate in 1996 — and won! He served in the Senate for 20 years until Trump tapped him to lead the Justice Department. He didn’t stand out during his Senate years. Sessions, though, did manage to get embraced by Trump.

Am I glad he’s gone from the Justice Department? Yes and no. I am unhappy that his resignation now clears the decks for Trump to nominate someone who endorses his view about Mueller’s investigation.

Overall, though, I won’t shed a tear that he’s gone. His pre-Senate history was a deal breaker from the get-go.

The word ‘lie’ becomes part of the debate

There once was a time when Donald J. Trump would spout an untruth that the media would virtually ignore it.

I cannot remember the precise reason why the newly minted presidential candidate was getting a pass from the media. I just recall that the media didn’t hang the “lie” word on his prevarications.

Maybe it had something to do with the media refusing to take his candidacy as seriously as they should have in those early days. The media viewed Trump’s candidacy as a sideshow, a joke, a publicity stunt.

Then as the one-time reality TV celebrity began winning primaries and knocking off the 16 other Republican Party primary opponents — all of whom were more qualified than Trump — the media began taking notice.

These days, now that Trump is president of the United States — the media have caught on with the reality of this individual. He is a liar. His lying is pathological. He cannot tell the truth.

He has lied continually. He speaks, sound comes out of his mouth, his lips move — and he lies.

As I listen to the TV commentary and read the media reports about the untruths he tells, I keep hearing the words “lie,” “lying” and “liar” attached to the message he delivers and to the man who delivers it.

His most recent spate of lies occurred on the White House driveway. Trump sauntered toward media representatives and appeared to launch into a spontaneous media availability. It wasn’t spontaneous by any stretch of the imagination.

For nearly an hour, the president lied to our face. He told untruths about all manner of things relating to the Justice Department’s inspector general report on James Comey and the Hillary Clinton e-mail controversy, on Paul Manafort’s role in the 2016 Trump campaign and all kinds of other matters.

The media have taken specific note of his lying. They are telling us the truth about Trump’s lies.

Unless it’s happened beyond my earshot, I haven’t heard the president’s defenders actually call him a man who tells the truth.

So, here we are. The man few of us took seriously enough to deserve the title of “liar” has emerged as the Liar in Chief.

But … some of us still insist he is “telling it like it is.”

Shocking.

Trump facing serious trouble

This probe into the “Russia thing” has taken a stern turn for the worse … if you’re the president of the United States of America.

Robert Mueller, the meticulous special counsel, has indicted two key Donald J. Trump presidential campaign aides on money laundering charges. The indictment against former campaign chairman Paul Manafort includes a charge of conspiracy against the United States — which makes me say “whoa!”

Now that Mueller has struck, the talk has surfaced yet again about what the president might do. The Hill reports that GOP senators are resisting calls from Democrats to protect Mueller from a possible firing by the president.

Senate grapples over indictments

Will he pardon Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates? Will he pardon George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russia connection?

Ah, but will he actually fire Mueller?

I keep circling back to this notion that if the president is as innocent of colluding with Russian hackers as he insists he is, why would he do anything?

However, I am left to say “holy crap-ola!” If the president is going to do anything that smacks of obstruction — such as, oh, firing FBI director James Comey over that “Russia thing” — then he exposes himself to the full wrath of Congress.

You see, the president has developed universal loathing among Senate and House Democrats. His Republican alliance in both legislative chambers is showing serious cracks, too.

I am left, therefore — as an avid anti-Trumpster — with terribly mixed feelings about what I think the president should do. Does he take the foolish course and do something he will regret? Or does he just shut the hell up — for once in his adult life — and let the process run its course?

OK, here’s my preference.

Keep your big trap shut, Mr. President, and just let the special counsel — who was appointed by the Justice Department because you followed the voice of foolishness with the Comey firing — do what he’s been charged to do.

Mueller’s job appears safe … for now

I am going to give Donald John Trump the benefit of the doubt on what’s being reported about special counsel Robert Mueller’s immediate future.

Mueller will continue his probe of the president’s campaign and its alleged contact with Russian government goons/hackers who sought to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Trump has decided — as I understand it — that he won’t ask a deputy U.S. attorney general to fire Mueller.

Did sanity overcome the president? Has he been infected with the “sound judgment bug” required for those who occupy the highest office in America? Did someone tell him about the horrendous political consequences were he to engineer Mueller’s ouster?

Trump’s staff reportedly talked him out any cockamamie notion of firing Mueller. He’s already canned the FBI director, James Comey. The Justice Department picked Mueller to provide a semblance of integrity to an investigation that needs to be done thoroughly.

Mueller’s on the job

I continue to be utterly flabbergasted at the president’s inability to control the messages that pour out of the White House. What’s more, he cannot find capable, competent staff members to operate his White House communications department.

These reports get leaked out about the president considering a patently and profoundly stupid act … which would be firing the special counsel.

Democrats and Republicans all over Washington are highly complimentary of Mueller, his reputation, his record and his dedication to detail.

Let the man do his job, already!

‘Law and order’ pledge takes a back seat

I can’t take credit for posing this question, but I’ll pass it on here.

How does a “law and order” candidate for president of the United States fail to appoint a single federal prosecutor after firing all of those who hadn’t resigned already when he took office?

The question comes from the New York Times editorial board.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/06/opinion/us-attorneys-trump.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

Donald Trump got elected president partly on his pledge to battle international terrorism. He vowed to combat the “scourge” of drugs. He promised to prosecute and deport immigrants who are here illegally. Who, then, carries the president’s agenda forward? It would be the federal attorneys assigned to represent judicial districts throughout the nation.

As the Times editorial notes: “United States attorneys are responsible for prosecuting terrorism offenses, serious financial fraud, public corruption, crimes related to gang activity, drug trafficking and all other federal crimes.”

They aren’t on the job. Trump emptied all their offices. He’s been busy with, um, other matters related perhaps to the “Russia thing” that just won’t go away.

The Times does posit a possible reason for the president’s inability to find prosecutors: “It’s possible that Mr. Trump is having a hard time luring competent, experienced candidates to work for an administration mired in perpetual chaos and widening scandal. Since Mr. Trump considers loyalty the highest qualification for federal office, that might be. But United States attorney is a highly coveted job under any president, and there should be no shortage of people eager to be considered.”

But … who out there would be “eager to be considered” for a job in a judicial system that isn’t working?

Yep, the Russians are laughing at us.

Donald J. Trump tweeted the following, apparently early this morning: “Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News.”

It’s rare that I agree with the president, but I have to endorse part of the message he fired off today.

They’re laughing at us, Mr. President … just not for the reason you tried to articulate in this nonsensical Twitter message.

The Russians are laughing at the chaos they have created by hacking into our electoral system and by seeking to swing the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor.

To be fair, nothing has been proven — yet — about what they might have accomplished. However, every intelligence agency and expert in many countries agree with the premise that the Russians tried to influence the election.

Look at what has happened since Trump took the presidential oath.

The FBI has said it is investigating whether the Trump team colluded with the Russians; the president’s son-in-law has become the subject of another probe; the Justice Department has appointed a special counsel to examine the “Russia thing”; Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from anything to do with Russia; Michael Flynn was fired as national security adviser because he lied about his own Russian contacts.

They also might be chuckling and chortling over the president’s refusal to call the Russians out publicly for what all those intelligence agencies have concluded about their meddlesome ways.

Are the Russians laughing at us? You’re damn right they are!

Jared Kushner is no RFK

I keep hearing chatter that compares Jared Kushner’s lack of experience to Robert F. Kennedy.

I must now take up the cudgel for my first political hero … and it’s not Jared Kushner.

Kushner is under investigation by the FBI and Congress for something related to his father-in-law’s 2016 presidential campaign. He allegedly had some contact with Russian government officials that might be improper, it not illegal.

One of the arguments being offered is that Kushner doesn’t have any experience with government or public policy. They note that his father-in-law, the president, got around federal anti-nepotism laws when he appointed Kushner to be a senior policy adviser in the West Wing of the White House.

It’s the RFK thing all over again, some of them insist.

Hold the phone!

President-elect John F. Kennedy picked his brother to be attorney general shortly after winning the 1960 election. JFK joked at the time that a government job would give his brother some valuable experience when he decided to go into law.

I want to make a couple of points about Robert Kennedy.

One is that he had government experience. He had served as legal counsel to a Senate committee chaired by the infamous Sen. Joe McCarthy. He also served as a legal staffer working with his brother, Sen. JFK, on  a Senate committee that looked deeply into organized crime within the labor movement.

After that, Bobby Kennedy then managed his brother’s presidential campaign. Sen. Kennedy won the presidency by a narrow popular vote and Electoral College margin over Vice President Richard Nixon.

Compared to the absence of any government exposure as it regards Kushner, RFK brought much more experience to his job as U.S. attorney general.

And, indeed, he used his Justice Department office as a bully pulpit against organized crime and in the fight to enact civil rights legislation. Oh, and he also played a significant role in heading off nuclear war with the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

With that, I shall now cease listening to any further comparison between Jared Kushner and Robert F. Kennedy.

There is no comparison to be made, except to point out how utterly unfit Kushner is to perform the duties to which he’s been assigned.

Timing well could spell doom for Trump

James Comey apparently prefers to write memoranda to record important events.

When the then-FBI director met with Donald J. Trump in the White House — and when the president allegedly “asked” Comey to shut down an investigation — Comey wrote it down.

This occurred in February. The Trump administration was just a few days old. Comey was looking into the activities involving the just-fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Fast-forward to this past week. Trump fired Comey from his job as FBI director.

So, is there a connection? Is there linkage between the president’s so-called “request” for Comey to end the Flynn probe and Comey’s dismissal? Are the events tied together?

It looks that way to me. Does it to you? You don’t have to answer.

This is where this latest blockbuster revelation gets its legs. This is how a conversation threatens to swallow the president of the United States.

There are many more dots to connect. What about the former acting attorney general, Sally Yates, who Trump also fired? She warned the president that Flynn could be blackmailed because he had some sort of connection with Russian government officials. Then she’s out! Is there linkage to that dismissal as well to what we are learning today about what the president reportedly sought from the FBI boss?

At this point, absolutely nothing — not a single thing — is going to surprise me as this story continues to evolve.

I will not predict the president is going to pay a hefty political price. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m out of the predicting business.

This story, however, ain’t lookin’ good for the president.

So, ‘wiretap’ doesn’t mean wiretap?

The White House has issued one of the strangest “clarifications” in modern political history.

It was that Donald J. Trump didn’t mean “wiretap” when he referred to it in a series of tweets regarding an allegation he leveled at President Barack Obama.

He had said that Obama had ordered a “wiretap” of his Trump Tower offices during the 2016 presidential campaign. Yes, he used  a very close variation of that word.

But, but, but …

The White House said today he didn’t actually mean “wiretap.”.

Do you follow me? I didn’t think so. I cannot follow it, either.

Here’s one of Trump’s tweets: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

OK, so he didn’t use the word “wiretap” in this tweet. “Tapp my phones,” though, means the same thing. Doesn’t it? I thought so.

Oh, but no-o-o-o. The president didn’t mean it, according to the White House press office.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has asked for a bit more time to provide proof — presuming that some might exist — that backs up the president’s scurrilous accusation that former President Obama broke the law.