Tag Archives: Russia probe

Trump is ‘talking past the sale’

A former boss of mine had a saying — perhaps he still says it — that overzealous advocates had a habit of “talking past the sale.”

He meant it to suggest that someone who had a point to make could have stopped trying to make it long ago.

Thus, the president of the United States is “talking past the sale” as it regards a network news broadcast journalist’s erroneous report regarding Michael Flynn’s admission that he lied to the FBI about his contact with Russian government operatives.

ABC News suspended investigative reporter Brian Ross for four weeks without pay after he reported erroneously that Trump instructed Flynn to talk to the Russians while he was running for president; in fact, Trump’s instruction occurred after he was elected, which puts the issue in an entirely different context.

ABC News acted. Ross is off the air for a month — or perhaps longer. The network policed itself. Trump, though, is not letting it go. Oh, no. Now the president is urging “investors” to sue the network for reporting “fake news.”

C’mon, Mr. President! Let … it … go, will ya?

The network has taken ownership of its mistake. However, Ross has given Trump plenty of ammo to keep up his “fake news” barrage against all the media outlets that cover the news — except, of course, Fox News, which caters to the president’s insatiable appetite for “positive news.”

Trump is delivering yet another example of how he doesn’t understand curious relationship between the media and the government. Yes, reporters make mistakes. Some of them are grievous errors, which I consider Ross’s blunder to be.

The president of the United States, though, need not spend a moment more of his time on this matter. He’s got plenty of serious issues on his heaping plate to consume his attention.

Trump’s lawyer did … what?

Donald Trump might need a new lawyer.

The guy he has hired to represent him in this “Russia thing” investigation has done something that, according to an ethics counsel who worked for President George W. Bush, should qualify him for disbarment.

Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, allegedly wrote this in a tweet: I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!

What’s in play here? The lawyer supposedly wrote a tweet that contradicts something Trump had said earlier, that he fired former national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the vice president. He made no mention earlier of his lying to the FBI.

Now it’s Richard Painter, who served President Bush as ethics lawyer, who has weighed in. Painter, no friend of Donald Trump, wrote: “A lawyer who writes a tweet like that incriminating a client should be disbarred. He can tell (special counsel Robert) Mueller he wrote it.”

Of course, this all presumes that Dowd actually wrote the tweet. I am just going to state up front that I don’t believe that Dowd wrote it. Painter is likely correct to presume that a lawyer who would actually send something like into universe isn’t smart enough to operate under a law license.

I don’t know the first thing about John Dowd, but I am going to make an assumption that he’s probably alert enough to avoid something so stupid.

What still might need explaining, though — if Dowd didn’t write the tweet — is why he would fall on the grenade in the first place.

Taking the fall for doing something he might not have done is pretty stupid, too.

But if he did … then why in the name of presidential stupidity would Donald Trump allow someone else to use his Twitter account to incriminate him?

Trump keeps stepping in it

Donald Trump now says he fired Michael Flynn because the former national security adviser lied to the FBI and to Vice President Mike Pence about what he said to Russian government officials.

He fired off — that’s right — another series of tweets about this matter. Previously, he had said he canned Flynn because of lies he allegedly told Pence; the FBI was not part of the narrative Trump was pushing when Flynn was let go.

Now it is. Go figure, eh?

I keep wondering when the president is going to inflict a mortal political wound with these careless Twitter tirades.

According to The Hill: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies,” Trump tweeted while traveling in New York City for fundraising events.

Trump also stressed “there was nothing to hide!”

“It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!” he added.

Here is the story from The Hill

Here’s my question: When in the world has a president of the United States ever gotten so entangled and entwined in an ongoing criminal investigation?

What in the name of “acting presidential” is Trump going to listen to anyone who might be advising him to keep his trap shut when it regards this matter?

Then again, the more he yaps and yammers about it, the deeper he keeps digging the proverbial hole.

Network does well to police itself

I am quite certain Donald John “Fake News Maven” Trump is going to crow like a rooster over this bit of news.

Let’s try to put this into a bit of perspective.

ABC News has suspended veteran correspondent Brian Ross for four weeks without pay for reporting erroneously on the Michael Flynn guilty plea in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian collusion with the Trump transition team.

It might be that Ross will be canned soon. You see, this isn’t the first time Ross has stepped in it on the air. In 2012, he reported that a suspect in the Aurora, Colo., massacre was a member of the Colorado TEA Party; he wasn’t.

ABC takes care of problem

But here’s my point: ABC is doing its due diligence in policing its personnel. It’s what responsible media companies do, despite the howls we’re going to hear from those on the far right about “fake news.”

Ross went on the air to report falsely that “candidate” Donald Trump had instructed Flynn to make contact with Russian government officials. Actually, that instruction came after Trump had been elected president; thus it came from the president-elect, which is a significant difference from it coming from a mere presidential candidate.

ABC said its reporter had failed to check his sources adequately and that he “fell far short” of the standards the network has set for its reporting staff.

I accept that mea culpa as sufficient evidence that the network has taken ownership of its mistake.

As for Ross, who carries the title of “chief investigative reporter” for ABC News, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised — or disappointed — if he is shown the door at the network.

This kind of mistake — and the sanction that has followed it — are going to tar Ross’s work for as long as he continues to pursue what many of us still consider to be an honorable craft.

Dare we say, ‘Lock him up’?

It’s difficult to feel much sympathy for retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

He has pleaded guilty to lying under oath to the FBI about when and with whom he met with the Russian government. He faces a possible prison sentence — once he finishes cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into that “Russia thing.”

I doubt he’ll serve prison time. But that’s just me. Whether he remains free or in behind bars might depend on the quality of the goods he delivers to Mueller’s team of legal eagles.

However, Flynn now is being cast in a curious role in this probe. He stands to become the star witness for the special counsel’s office in its search for answers into whether the Donald J. Trump presidential campaign colluded with the Russian government that hacked into our 2016 presidential election process.

Here’s the juxtaposition that cannot be ignored:

Flynn stood at the podium in the summer of 2016 during the Republican National Convention and led the GOP faithful into that ghastly chant “Lock her up!” — the reference being aimed at Hillary Rodham Clinton and her use of her personal e-mail service while she was serving as secretary of state during President Obama’s first term.

I use the term “ghastly” because such conduct was totally unbecoming of a man with a distinguished military career who morphed into a leading politician’s national security adviser. Flynn, though, took the low road in that preposterous display.

Will this guy be locked up? Will he get the kind of punishment he urged for a political foe?

It’s tempting to shout “Lock him up!” I won’t do it, though.

Oh, wait! Maybe I just did.

Is the vise tightening around White House?

Robert Mueller has just landed another big fish in his search for the truth.

The special counsel appointed by the Justice Department to look into the “Russia thing” appears now to have reeled in a three-star witness to help learn a great deal about Donald John Trump’s relationship with the Russian government.

He is retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the one-time national security adviser to the president. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian officials. In exchange he has agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s legal team as it pores through a growing pile of evidence.

Mueller already has secured an indictment of former campaign chief Paul Manafort and a chief deputy; former campaign aide George Papadopoulos has copped a guilty plea as well.

Now it’s Flynn’s turn to sing.

As the Washington Post reports: With the guilty plea Friday by former national security adviser Michael Flynn — one of Trump’s closest and most valued aides — the investigation has swept up an array of figures with intimate knowledge of the campaign, the transition and the White House.

It appears to have swiftly expanded beyond Russia’s interference in the campaign to encompass a range of activities, including contacts with Russian officials during the transition and alleged money laundering that took place long before Trump ran for office.

Where does Mueller go from here?

I, of course, am in no position to predict what will happen next, or beyond the next step. My gut — along with my trick knee — are telling me that Mueller’s investigation well might be getting close to pay dirt.

Here’s hoping the president has the good sense to let him stay on the hunt. I mean, Donald Trump keeps saying there’s nothing to any of it … right?

Moore saga burying the bigger story

A part of me — maybe it’s a tiny part — wishes the Roy Moore story would go away.

I probably shouldn’t give a damn about Alabama’s U.S. Senate race, other than the fact that the Republican nominee for that race is being accused — apparently credibly — by women who accuse him of sexual misbehavior when they were underage girls.

I don’t want Moore to become the next senator from Alabama. Although this matter really is in the hands of Alabama voters, who need to come to grips with the notion that if they elect Moore they are sending an empty suit to represent them. Moore will be unable to do anything for them if the Senate GOP leadership has its way.

But the media are consumed by this story.

It’s masking another more important matter. While the media are focusing on the Moore story, the “Russia thing” is proceeding with all deliberate speed.

But in a way, this all might be a good thing. Special counsel Robert Mueller doesn’t strike me as a media hog. He is working under the cover of a media glare that is shining on someone else, who has nothing to do with his investigation into whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russian hackers seeking to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

So, now that I think about it, perhaps the media mania over Moore might be serving a greater good.

Are we clear now? POTUS backs intel agencies

That’s as clear as mud, isn’t it?

Donald John Trump says in one breath that Vladimir Putin is sincere when he says Russia didn’t meddle in our nation’s 2016 presidential election.

In virtually the next breath — actually it was the next day — the president says he backs the U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment that, yep, the Russians meddled, they interfered, they sought to influence the election outcome.

The question now is this: Which is it, Mr. President? Who do you believe?

This kind of stumble-bum rhetoric is driving many of us utterly bananas.

POTUS back tracks

Trump had been “on script” for most of his 12-day trip to Asia. Then he shook hands with the Russian president; the men met privately for a brief period in Da Nang, Vietnam. Putin told Trump he has been “offended” by assertions that Russia meddled in our election. Trump seemed to side with the bad guy while dismissing the assessments of the good guys, the men and women who work for our intelligence agencies.

For the life of me, I don’t understand — let alone accept — Trump’s belief that Putin can be trusted as far as he can throw him. The man is a former KGB hot shot. He is trained to lie.

Forgive me for quoting former Fox TV commentator Bill O’Reilly, but O’Reilly did assert correctly during an interview with Trump that “Putin is a killer”; Trump responded by saying, essentially, “So are we.”

Good … grief. Dude! Get an ever-lovin’ grip!

Oh, but now he backs U.S. intelligence analysts, who’ve been saying all along that Russian hackers meddled in our election — and they did so on orders from Vladimir Putin. One of them who stands by our analysis of Russian meddling happens to be CIA Director Mike Pompeo, whom Trump appointed.

My head is spinning.

Should we trust Putin’s word? Nope!

Well, that settles it.

Russian strongman/president/dictator/former spy chief Vladimir Putin told Donald J. Trump that he didn’t “interfere” with the 2016 presidential election. The president took him at his word. He believes him. That’s it. Done deal. Let’s move on to the next thing, shall we?

Good … grief, Mr. President!

Who in the world should the president believe? A lying former KGB agent who is trained to deceive, divert and dissemble? Or should the president take the word of trained U.S. intelligence professionals who say quite the opposite, that the Russians did hack into our electoral process with the expressed aim of influencing its outcome?

Trump and Putin have shaken hands in Vietnam and have visited unofficially for a brief period when they weren’t posing for pictures with other foreign leaders. The president said he trusts Putin, that he’s telling him the truth, that when Putin says his government didn’t interfere that it’s good enough for him.

Once again, the president has disrespected and disparaged the intelligence officials who answer to him and whose mission is to protect U.S. interests against those who seek to do us harm.

I don’t know about you, but I am inclined to take the word of our trained spooks, the men and women who take their oath seriously enough to stake their careers on what they say in public.

They have said the Russians interfered with our electoral process. Putin can deny it all he wants. Those of who’ve been paying attention know about the Russian’s history and understand completely that he remains quite capable of lying to the face of the president of the United States.

If only the president, himself quite a prevaricator, would accept what the rest of the country knows.

Impeachment talk heats up prematurely

I’ve made no secret of my loathing of Donald John Trump Sr.

I still believe he is unfit for the office of president of the United States. Furthermore, I believe he has disgraced his high office and has embarrassed the nation he was elected to govern.

Do I believe he should be removed from that office? Yes, either by election or by some other extraordinary means, such as impeachment.

However, the talk of impeachment that reportedly is getting hotter by the week — if not by the day — is a good bit premature.

Some congressional Democrats aren’t waiting for the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to finish his job. They want Trump’s scalp now. One Democrat, Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, believes that Trump’s reaction to the Charlottesville, Va., riot in which the president equated white supremacists with those who protested against them is enough of a reason to impeach the president.

Hey, folks. Impeaching the president is the most politically dangerous thing the House of Representatives can do. I get that the House doesn’t need any official findings to launch an impeachment. President Clinton was impeached because he messed around with a young female White House intern; House Republicans said the real reason was that he lied under oath to a grand jury about it.

I maintain — as I have all along — that House members need to wait for Mueller’s investigation into the “Russia thing” runs its course, even if it lasts well into the 2018 congressional election season. Mueller already has indicted three members of Trump’s campaign team, including its former chairman Paul Manafort. There appears to be much more to follow.

So, with that, let’s cool the impeachment talk while the special counsel goes about his arduous task of cobbling together a highly complicated finding of fact.

As The Hill reported: It is not, obviously, off the table at some time in the future, but is premature at this point in time,” Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House minority whip, told reporters last month.

If something emerges that rises to the level of an “impeachable offense,” I happen to believe Robert Mueller and his crack legal team will hand it to Congress.