Tag Archives: Robert Mueller

‘Fake news’ gets more Trump scorn

I have become immune to the outrage of Donald Trump’s Twitter fetish, so I won’t gripe that the president is tweeting his outrage yet again.

However, his continuing outrage at what he keeps calling the “fake media” is outrageous in the extreme.

The president went after the media’s coverage of Robert Mueller’s indictments of 13 Russians and three Russian companies over their alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

C’mon, Mr. President! They’re doing their job. The media are part of the very system to which you belong!

They have a responsibility to report on what the special counsel is doing to discover all the facts surrounding the election, the Russian interference in our electoral process and whether there was any “collusion” between the Russians and the president’s campaign.

As for Trump’s criticism of the media reporting of the indictments, I hasten to add that the media have reported quite clearly that the indictments do not suggest there was collusion. To that end, the media have treated the president fairly — which means they have passed the second test of good journalism.

The first test is accuracy. On this matter, the media have done well, too.

So, Mr. President, shut up with the “fake news” mantra.

Now this: Mueller indicts Russians for meddling

Let’s see. If we’re keeping score, the tab is piling up against Donald Trump’s claim that the Russians didn’t interfere in our 2016 presidential election.

The nation’s top spooks, the folks who run our intelligence agencies, say in unison that the Russians meddled in our election.

Now, today, we get word that special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for — drum roll! — interfering in our election.

But … the president of the United States is willing to take the word of a former KGB boss, Vladimir Putin, that he didn’t do what our intelligence experts say he did. Donald Trump is the lone denier in all of this.

To be clear, the indictments don’t suggest any collusion from the Trump campaign. The president might take some solace in that knowledge, although there’s still more to be determined by Mueller’s legal team as it pores through all the material that has piled up.

Nor do the indictments say that the Russian hackers’ activity actually affected the outcome. They did not determine the outcome. I get that, too.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who announced the indictments, said the Russians did accomplish their mission in their meddling, which was to cause “discord” and to throw doubt over our nation’s electoral process.

When will the president ever acknowledge what is now widely known? My hunch: He’ll take his denial with him to the grave.

Weird.

Key aides disserve POTUS and the nation

Believe this or not, but I am going to give Donald J. Trump the benefit of the doubt on the latest tempest that is sweeping through the White House.

The president said he learned only recently of Rob Porter’s record of spousal abuse. I want to believe him. Indeed, I actually am inclined to do so. Porter quit his post as staff secretary to the president when it became known that he had beat up his two former wives and a former girlfriend.

The bad guys here appear to be two of Trump’s closest aides: chief of staff John Kelly and White House counsel Donald McGahn.

We have seen considerable credible reporting that suggests Kelly and McGahn knew about Porter’s alleged wife- and girlfriend-beating a year ago, but kept it quiet. The FBI had received complaints and were holding up Porter’s top secret security clearance because of the probe it was conducting into the allegations. And yet, absent the security clearance he needed given the hyper-sensitive nature of the documents he handled, Porter got hired anyway.

Kelly says he know only recently about the “full details” of the allegations? McGahn, too? Please. These men appear to have kept vital information from the man who is supposed to know these things.

Kelly should depart the White House. I say that with regret. I had high hopes that the retired Marine Corps general would rub off on the mess he inherited when he moved from Homeland Security secretary to the West Wing. It hasn’t happened. Indeed, it seems he has taken on some of the president’s more unpleasant characteristics, such as dismissing accusations leveled by women against men.

As for McGahn, he recently received praise for reportedly threatening to quit if Trump fired special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting his investigation into the “Russia thing.” Now it appears McGahn has joined the cabal of secret-keepers operating within the White House. He needs to hit the road, too.

As for the president, I remain committed to my extreme antipathy toward him on manner of issues and behavior.

On this matter, though, it looks to me as though he — and the nation — have been served badly by two men who should have spilled the beans on their colleague’s spouse-beating history.

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.

You aren’t ‘vindicated,’ Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

Settle down, sir. You need to guzzle a couple more Diet Cokes and then take stock of what has just happened with regard to the “Russia thing” that has you tied up in knots.

The Republican chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee has released a memo that alleges the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and the FBI are “biased” against you. Yet you contend that the memo “totally vindicates ‘Trump'” in this investigation into whether your campaign colluded with Russians who tried to influence the 2016 election in your favor.

I’ll differ with you, sir. The memo doesn’t vindicate — or convict — anyone. It’s been revealed as a fraudulent document. It cherry picks circumstances with the aim of discrediting Mueller’s probe. I hear the Democrats are planning to release a counter memo to refute what Republicans have alleged.

Your continued tweet tirades against the so-called “witch hunt” do not help your assertion, Mr. President, that you are innocent of any wrongdoing. They merely cause many millions of Americans — folks like me — to wonder: Why is the president so damn worked up if there’s nothing to uncover?

Hey, at this point I don’t really care if you keep using Twitter to project your message. I guess it’s become the medium du jour for pols, entertainers and pundits to communicate. In fact, this blog post will be distributed via Twitter as well.

I do care about the messages you send out there, Mr. President.

You say the memo “vindicates ‘Trump'”? No, sir. It does nothing of the kind.

And please, stop referring to yourself in the third person. John Kanelis cannot stand it.

‘An American disgrace’? Not even close

Robert Mueller is looking for the truth behind an allegation that will dog the presidency of Donald Trump for as long as he holds the office.

Yet the president calls the search an “American disgrace.”

It is no such thing.

The disgrace is being generated from another source. The Oval Office has produced a disgraceful example either of extreme naivete or willful ignorance or — in the worst case — of deliberate deception.

I don’t know which it is. The president has signed on to the continuing disparagement of the FBI, the Department of Justice and other intelligence agencies that stand by their combined assertion that the Russian government intervened in our 2016 presidential election.

Trump won’t acknowledge publicly what he must: that the intelligence agencies’ assessment is accurate.

I want to stipulate that I do not know if the Russian interference determined the election outcome. I haven’t seen any evidence that votes were changed or that local local elections officials were compromised. Maybe none exists of actual impact on the outcome.

Whether it did or didn’t, the issue is that the Russians meddled. The operative question is whether the Trump campaign was complicit in that act of aggression against our electoral system.

Mueller was selected to find the truth. Republicans and Democrats sang together in praise of Mueller’s appointment, which came from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after AG Jeff Sessions recused himself from anything dealing with the Russia probe.

The disgrace is occurring now as Republicans are seeking to discredit Mueller, whose integrity once was considered impeccable. If the president fires Mueller, or Rosenstein, or both of them, then the disgrace moves into another category altogether.

Then we’re talking about a certifiable constitutional crisis.

Trump’s definition of “disgrace” needs work. It’s not the search that disgraces the nation. It’s the attempt to derail it that gives millions of Americans serious cause for concern.

Not all in GOP are buying into Nunes memo

I am happy to acknowledge that the Republican Party’s ranks of power players aren’t singing off the same hymnal page as it regards Russian interference in our electoral process.

Donald John Trump and many of his GOP “friends” in Congress have released a memo that accuses the FBI of bias in its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., isn’t one of them.

He has released a blistering statement telling Trump that the memo is doing “Putin’s job for him.”

McCain’s statement, issued prior to the release of the memo from the House Intelligence Committee’s Republican members, said, in part: “In 2016, the Russian government engaged in an elaborate plot to interfere in an American election and undermine our democracy,” McCain said. “Russia employed the same tactics it has used to influence elections around the world, from France and Germany to Ukraine, Montenegro and beyond.”

According to the Huffington Post: McCain said Russia’s interference has, at best, sown political discord and succeeded in “dividing us from each other.” Attacking the intelligence community is not how to fix the discord, he said.

I am acutely aware of Sen. McCain’s longstanding antipathy toward Donald J. Trump. The then-GOP presidential candidate disparaged McCain’s heroic service during the Vietnam War. The men haven’t made peace yet.

That doesn’t diminish the importance of what McCain is saying about the release of the memo, written by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif. The intelligence community opposed its release, as did the FBI leadership.

McCain wrote further: “The latest attacks against the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests ― no party’s, no President’s, only Putin’s,” McCain added. “The American people deserve to know all the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel (Robert) Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the lens of politics and manufacturing political sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

This is not how you protect the interests of the people you were elected to govern, Mr. President.

FBI set to clash with POTUS over memo

This is a new one.

The director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, is now clashing openly with the man who nominated him, the president of the United States.

At issue is the release of a Republican-authored memorandum that alleges FBI misdeeds relating to a dossier that suggests improper relations between Donald J. Trump and the Russian government.

GOP House committee members want the memo released, suggesting it contains “evidence” of a “secret society” within the FBI. Wray disputes the idea. He is standing foursquare in defense of the agency he has led for just a few months. He’s also taking on the president himself, urging him against releasing the memo.

Trump has let it be known he is inclined to release the memo, which could undermine the FBI with critics of the document say doesn’t tell anywhere near the whole story of what the FBI knew and when it knew it. White House chief of staff John Kelly has said the memo will be made public “pretty quick.”

We might be witnessing something virtually unprecedented. Trump might fire the second FBI director in less than a year, unless Wray quits beforehand. And standing with Wray is the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who appointed special counsel Robert Mueller — another former FBI director — as special counsel to examine the “Russia thing.”

From my vantage point, I believe we are witnessing a big-time train wreck that is going to produce more than its share of collateral damage.

One of the casualties — if Trump releases the memo to the public — might be Rosenstein. Wray might hit the road. Oh, and what about Mueller, the man who was universally praised when Rosenstein selected him to lead the Russia investigation after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself?

I keep circling back to the president’s assertion that there’s no evidence of “collusion” between his campaign and the Russians who hacked into our electoral system in 2016.

If that is the case, then let Mueller’s investigation proceed. If there’s nothing there, then let the special counsel make that determination. The more protests that come from Republicans — and from the president — the more I am inclined to suspect there’s a fire burning under all that smoke.

As for Wray, he told senators he would be unafraid to challenge the president if the need arose.

The need has arisen.

What about ‘Russia,’ Mr. President?

I didn’t expect Donald Trump to bring up “the Russia thing” during his State of the Union speech Tuesday night.

It would have required a suspension of disbelief to assume the president would say that a “year of the Russia probe is enough.” He wasn’t about to elevate special counsel Robert Mueller’s accelerated investigation into alleged collusion with Russian hackers by the Trump presidential campaign.

But I was hoping at some level that the president might bring up Russia’s interference in our 2016 presidential election at some level. Perhaps he could have at least pledged to protect our electoral process against actual or perceived foreign meddling, against those who would hack into our process and seek to determine an outcome they preferred.

He didn’t even have to acknowledge what the U.S. intelligence community has determined — that Russia did meddle in our 2016 election.

Contrary to the assertions of the White House press office, the Russia meddling is on the minds of millions of Americans who are concerned about what effect it might have had on the outcome. I am not yet convinced that the Russian hacking into our system was decisive, that they actually tilted the election in Trump’s favor.

Whether the Russians succeeded in their aim, though, misses the point. The point — as I get it — is that they did what they did and put the integrity of our system of “free and fair elections” in jeopardy.

That amounts to an act of open hostility by our nation’s preeminent international adversary.

And isn’t the president supposed to protect us against such assaults on our democratic system? Shouldn’t the president declare his intention to stop such interference in the future? And shouldn’t he put the international perpetrators on notice?

Donald Trump was silent on that matter.

Frightening.

Is lying an impeachable offense? Maybe

The discussion about the investigation into the “Russia thing” has taken a fascinating new turn, thanks to none other than an independent counsel whose probe into Bill Clinton resulted in the former president’s impeachment.

Kenneth Starr said this morning that special counsel Robert Mueller ought to consider the impact of Donald Trump’s apparent lie about firing Mueller.

Speaking on ABC News’s “This Week” talk show, Starr noted that Trump’s repeated statements that he has never considered firing Mueller are exactly counter to what the New York Times and other media are reporting: that Trump actually decided to fire Mueller but backed off when the White House counsel threatened to quit.

How does Starr’s credibility on this matter stack up? In 1998, he said that President Clinton’s public denials about an affair with Monica Lewinsky formed one of the bases for his eventual impeachment.

Do you get it? If Trump has lied to the public about whether he wanted to fire Mueller and the news accounts prove to be accurate, are there, um, grounds for impeachment?

Starr said the president has broad authority to fire anyone. “He can ask for Mueller to be fired for any reason,” Starr said on “This Week.” “The president’s power is extremely broad, as long as he’s not engaged in discrimination or accepting bribes.”

But would his decision to fire Mueller — if it’s true — be because of an intent to block an investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians who hacked into our national electoral system? If so, does that constitute an obstruction of justice?

Let me think. Oh yeah! President Clinton was impeached, too, for obstruction of justice.

And the drama continues to mount.