Tag Archives: Russia probe

No need to lock him up . . . at least not yet?

Michael Flynn went before the judge today and got a snootful from the jurist who holds the man’s future in his hands.

The former Donald Trump national security adviser, though, was spared a prison sentence from U.S. District Judge Emmitt Sullivan until after Flynn is finished cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the alleged Russia collusion matter during the 2016 presidential election.

To be totally candid, I don’t really care whether Flynn serves time in prison for the felony crimes to which he has pleaded guilty. Mueller is asking the judge to spare Flynn prison time because of the extensive cooperation he has given the probe into allegations of collusion, conspiracy and perhaps other matters relating to the Trump campaign — if not the presidency itself.

Sullivan reminded Flynn this morning that he is under no obligation to follow Mueller’s recommendation and scolded the retired Army lieutenant general for being an “unregistered agent” for a foreign power while serving as national security adviser. Sullivan told Flynn that “arguably you sold your country out.” The hearing reportedly was contentious as Sullivan — who was appointed to the federal bench by President Clinton — gave Flynn the holy what-for in connection to his admitted involvement with the Russian government.

Mueller is going to get more information from Flynn as he seeks to conclude his investigation. I hope the end arrives sooner rather than later.

As for Flynn — who once led Republican National Convention cheers to “lock up!” Hillary Clinton for using her personal email server while she was secretary of state — all I want from him at this point is full cooperation with Mueller and his team of legal eagles.

Something tells me Flynn has more beans to spill regarding Trump’s campaign and whether the president himself committed illegal acts on his way to being elected to the nation’s highest office.

James Comey: They need to ‘speak the truth’

“People who know better, including Republican members of this body, have to have the courage to . . . speak the truth and not be cowed by mean tweets or fear of their base. There is a truth and they’re not telling it. Their silence is shameful.”

So said former FBI director James Comey when asked about the state of congressional Republicans.

He said later that members of Congress will have “tell their grandchildren” what they did while they served in Congress.

Comey has endured his share of barbs, bombs and beatings from Republicans in Congress ever since Donald Trump fired him from his post as FBI director. Indeed, the man who once was cheered by Republicans when he announced at the 11th hour of the 2016 campaign that he had more questions to ask Hillary Clinton about her use of a personal email server while she was secretary of state, is now a pariah among the GOP.

Comey is not standing by silently. He is seeking to challenge Republicans who remain silent while the president of their party threatens them, makes them “cow” in front of him.

I should point out, too, that Comey is a longtime Republican. He is no squishy progressive/liberal Democrat who’s been demonized by the president and many of his more ardent followers.

That is what — to my mind — gives Comey’s admonition to Republicans to tell their constituents “the truth” about what they are hearing from the president and his team of sycophants some much-needed gravitas.

Trump’s hysteria continues to mount

My astonishment at the presidential hysteria mounting over the Russia probe and related matters is continuing to build.

It presents itself in stark contrast to the stone-cold silence coming from the office of the special counsel that Donald Trump is attacking multiple times daily.

Robert Mueller continues to insist on a veil of silence. He has instructed his team to keep its collective trap shut. No leaks are coming from the special counsel who is examining that “Russia thing” that prompted Trump to fire FBI director James Comey in May 2017.

Yet the president continues his frontal assault on Mueller’s reputation, on the reputation of his former friend Michael Cohen, on Comey, on the Department of Justice, on the FBI. His assault is inflicting some collateral damage, too, such as on the rule of law and on the notion that the U.S. Constitution stands as a bulwark against any abuses of power that might arise from any of the three branches of government.

It is my fervent hope that Mueller concludes his investigation sooner rather than later. I am growing weary of the Twitter tirades coming from the White House. I am tiring of the insistence from the president that Mueller has “no evidence of collusion”; in fact, we don’t know what Mueller has or doesn’t have, which is why I want the probe to reach its finish line.

As for the president, every time he yaps about “no collusion” or “no laws being broken,” he sounds all the more to me as if he’s trying to hide something from public purview. I refer to those tax returns that he has refused to release; or the mountain of documented evidence that Mueller has compiled that is bound to answer a lot of questions.

Donald Trump’s hysteria plays well with the base that is hanging with him to the end. Fine. It isn’t playing well with the rest of the country, the 60-some percent of us who disapprove of the manner that Trump seeks to lead the country.

Please, Mr. Special Counsel, wrap this thing up as soon as possible to spare us the frothing madness that pours out of the White House.

Oh, wait! It just occurs to me that the end of the Russia probe — no matter how it concludes — is going to produce another endless barrage from the president of the United States.

Dang it, man! We can’t win!

Trump inaugural actually dwarfed Obama inaugural . . . yes, it did!

Donald Trump has bragged about the stupendous size of the crowd that witnessed his inauguration. He, um, misspoke, er, lied about it.

What he’s never bragged about is the amount of money he raised for an event that in truth was a good bit smaller, with less bling than either of the inaugurations of Barack Obama or George W. Bush.

And that has become yet another focus of federal prosecutors who are looking at this man’s presidency.

Trump reportedly raised $107 million for his 2017 inaugural. Compare that with the $53 million raised for Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural, the one that heralded the start of a truly historic presidency.

The Obama inaugural featured headline artists galore, not to mention a crowd that totaled more than 1 million spectators. The Trump inaugural had, um, a lot fewer acts, a lot less pizzazz and drew a lot fewer spectators to watch the 45th president take the oath of office.

However, the Trump inaugural team banked a lot of cash.

That has presented prosecutors with a series of questions. Why did they raise so much money? For what purpose did the donors give that kind of dough? Is it all above board, legal, transparent? Did the new president’s team turn back any of it, the way Obama’s inaugural team did with some of the donations it received prior to the president taking office?

It looks to me as if we have a mushrooming investigation. It started with a look into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign with Russian operatives who interfered with our 2016 election. It appears to be spreading to include the president’s business dealings in Russia, along with the conduct of members of Trump’s transition team.

Hey, this kind of thing happens with these probes. Special prosecutor Ken Starr started looking at an allegedly shady real estate deal in Arkansas involving President and Mrs. Clinton; it veered into another area altogether, an inappropriate relationship between the president and a White House intern. Starr summoned the president to testify to a grand jury, the president lied to the grand jury about the relationship and, thus, handed congressional Republicans a pretext to impeach him.

Now we’re looking at inaugural fundraising?

Oh, brother. This is getting more confusing by the hour.

The Trump Story has turned into a stampede

I have sought to refrain myself from getting swept away by all the developments associated with the Donald Trump Story. It’s true but I won’t beg you to believe it.

The more I see and hear, the more I read and the more I try to understand it all, I am now of the opinion that this story has turned into a stampede that well could trample the president and those closest to him.

Three former top aides and friends — Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort — are facing prison time. They’re convicted felons. They are working, or have worked, in conjunction with the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is investigating that Russian collusion matter.

Mueller is acquiring a mountain of evidence from all two of those men; the third, Manafort, has been caught lying to Mueller’s team.

Then we’re hearing reports of a leading tabloid newspaper burying stories about Trump’s relationships with at least two women to help him win the 2016 president election. We are hearing of allegedly illegal payments to those women. There might be campaign finance violations.

Meanwhile, the president cannot find a new White House chief of staff. He cannot fill key secondary positions within his staff. There are reports about his alleged “concern” about impeachment by the House of Representatives that in January flips from GOP to Democratic control.

I had hoped this story could wind down. That Mueller would finish his probe, tie a bow around it and present it to the public for our review, our analysis and our judgment.

Jiminy crickets, man. It’s getting more complicated, more complex, more controversial by the hour.

Donald John Trump is in trouble.

Tax returns: the gift that keeps on giving

Tax returns have, um, returned to the top of our awareness.

Not my tax returns. Or yours. I refer to the president of the United States.

You’ll recall when Donald Trump stiffed 40 years of political tradition by refusing to release his returns for public scrutiny. He said dubiously that he was under audit by the Internal Revenue Service. That was more than two years ago! He still hasn’t released them. He is showing not a single indication that he’ll do so voluntarily.

Presidential candidates of both parties since 1976 have released their tax returns in the spirit of full transparency. Trump talks about being transparent, then hides his returns.

They’re increasing in relevance to what has developed. The special counsel, Robert Mueller, likely knows what is in those returns. He likely knows about whether the president has invested in “Russia matters.” He likely knows whether the president has benefited materially from his office, which could be in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, the part that says presidents cannot accept money from foreign governments.

We’ll know in due course whether Mueller has those returns. We’ll know also in due course whether the special counsel has anything incriminating regarding those returns.

The idea that Trump has refused to release those returns because of an IRS audit falls apart on two levels. First, he’s never produced any evidence that the IRS is even auditing his tax returns. Second, the IRS — which doesn’t comment on individual audits — has made it clear that an audit does not preclude any public figure from making those returns public.

My direct plea to the special counsel is this: Make those returns available to those of us who want to know the truth behind our president’s financial dealings.

Comey stakes his anti-Trump claim

It’s no big surprise, but it still is a bit jarring to hear this statement from the former director of the FBI.

James Comey, whom Donald J. Trump fired a year ago for reasons that still baffle me, now says Americans should do all they can do to remove the president from office in 2020. Americans should use “every breath we have” to that end, according to Comey.

Comey got canned while he was in the middle of investigating whether Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russian operatives who had interfered in our campaign. Then he declined to give the president some kind of idiotic “loyalty pledge.”

Trump wouldn’t have it, so he fired Comey. He notified the FBI director by tweet. Great, eh? Classy, yes?

Comey already has declared his displeasure with the president on a number of levels. He contends that Trump has no moral compass; he has no external reference points to guide his thoughts; he acts on impulse.

So his stated desire that Americans should spare no effort to defeat Trump in 2020 is no surprise.

Given that Trump has managed to politicize damn near every function of the executive branch of government and has denigrated law enforcement at the highest levels, Comey’s outburst remains a bit a jolt to the system.

This is no surprise, either: I agree wholeheartedly with him. Thus, I am going to do my part.

Pearl Harbor, Mr. POTUS?

Oh, man. I just had to share this hilarious social media post . . . with a brief comment.

It reminds us that Donald J. Trump, no matter what he says about his love, affection and respect for the men and women who serve in our armed forces, just didn’t have time on Pearl Harbor Day to commemorate the sacrifice made by roughly 2,500 Americans on Dec. 7, 1941.

Oh, no. Instead, he chose to launch into a Twitter tirade about Robert Mueller’s probe into the Russia matter.

Mr. President, don’t ever proclaim your phony respect for those of us who have worn the uniform in defense of our country. Those proclamations are as phony as your commitment to making America great again.

Fair to ask: Is POTUS now in serious jeopardy?

For the nearly two years that Donald Trump has served as president of the United States, I have sought to refrain from saying out loud what others have opined.

It is this: Donald Trump might not finish his term as president?

I haven’t gone there. Until now.

For the first time in Donald Trump’s time as president, I am feeling some pangs of uncertainty about his political future. I am believing that there is a chance he won’t finish his term.

How might that occur? It won’t be through impeachment. I believe as others do that although the House of Representatives can impeach the president for still-unspecified reasons and/or charges, the Senate remains an extremely high hurdle to clear. If the president stands trial, the Senate would need to find 67 votes to convict him of any of the charges for which he would be impeached.

Trump might resign, a la President Nixon. The 37th president quit after the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment; Senate Republicans trooped to the White House to inform the president that he didn’t have the support in the Senate to acquit him in a trial. Then he resigned.

Why would Trump quit? It might occur if it becomes obvious — even to the president — that he has no path toward governing. The Senate that now has 53 GOP members could be in jeopardy of falling to the Democrats in 2020, following the House that flipped from GOP control to Democratic control in the 2018 midterm election.

There could actually be an indictment handed down by a legal authority once the special counsel completes his work. No one can predict what Robert Mueller will conclude when his painstaking investigation wraps up. Trump keeps yammering about “no collusion!” but not even he knows what Mueller has uncovered — if anything. I get the sense that he’s got some goods . . . if not the goods on Donald Trump.

Mueller’s recent sentencing memos regarding former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former Trump lawyer/friend Michael Cohen and former national security adviser Michael Flynn all suggest clearly that he has compiled a mountain of information and evidence that something has gone terribly wrong with the presidency of Donald Trump.

We are entering the murkiest of pathways into the president’s world. I am not sure how this all ends. That gives me reason at this moment to wonder whether the president is going to finish his term.

Trump sounding more guilty by the hour

I long ago quit imploring Donald J. Trump to stop using Twitter the way he does. It’s now an accepted — in some circles — method the president uses to communicate with us more normal Americans.

I now am looking at those tweet tirades in another light.

The more furious they become, the angrier, the more outlandish the outbursts, the more it looks to me as though the president’s nervousness is on display.

To be honest, Trump’s seeming anxiety over the progress of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the “Russia thing” is making me nervous. It’s beginning to frighten me at some level.

I don’t want the president to do something foolish, such as, oh, throwing out pardons left and right; or ordering the acting attorney general to fire Robert Mueller; or, God forbid, send our troops into battle in a “wag the dog” scenario that would divert/deflect attention from his political trouble.

My view of the president’s unfitness for the office he holds only has strengthened as the nation and the world have watched him writhe in anger at the so-called “witch hunt” I hope is drawing to a close.

Despite all the comparisons we made over the past week between Trump and the late George H.W. Bush, I am more concerned about the comparison between Trump and Mueller.

Trump’s hysteria stands in stark and telling contrast to the buttoned-up, tight-lipped, totally secret conduct of Mueller and his legal team. That the president would take to Twitter to blast Mueller as a partisan hack, a closet Democrat, a “friend” of fired FBI boss James Comey and, thus, intent on destroying his presidency is both laughable and disgraceful on its face. Mueller is a pro, he’s  Republican, he is a man of impeccable character and he’s trying to get to the truth behind all the allegations that have swirled around Donald Trump’s campaign and administration.

I only can conclude that the more Trump rants and roars at Mueller, the more culpable he appears to Americans who need to know the truth about their president.