Tag Archives: special counsel

A new AG is on his/her way?

Donald John Trump Sr.’ s “fine-tuned machine” has hit another pot hole.

It has opened up in the Department of Justice. The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is now getting skewered by foes on both sides of the political divide.

Democrats detest Sessions mostly for partisan reasons; now even some Republicans are turning on him. Some of them dislike his recusal from the Russian 2016 election meddling investigation, which led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller; others dislike him because he rescinded an Obama administration memo that allowed states to determine how to enforce laws governing the use of marijuana.

As The Hill reports: “When you have Republicans calling for you to step down and you’re in a Republican administration just entering your second year, that’s trouble. He’s really on borrowed time,” said Brian Darling, a Republican strategist and former Senate aide.

Donald Trump himself is angry at Sessions. Why? The recusal, that’s why. The president once said that if he’d known Sessions would have recused himself from the Russia probe he would have selected someone else.

Now we hear from the media that Trump sent White House counsel Don McGahn to the DOJ to try to talk Sessions out of recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

All of this is highly unusual. It borders on bizarre. It also speaks — yet again — the disarray that has become the hallmark of Donald Trump’s administration.

He called it a “fine-tuned machine.” It is nothing of the sort. It is a jalopy in need of a top-to-bottom overhaul.

No, Mr. POTUS, probe makes U.S. look ‘very good’

Donald Trump believes the ongoing investigation into the “Russia thing” makes the United States look “very bad.”

I believe I will take issue with the president of the United States on that one.

Trump told The “failing” New York Times that he didn’t “collude” with Russian agents seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election. He made the point at least 16 times during the conversation, the Times reports.

OK, then. Why is it bad? I am absolutely certain it’s “bad” for the president if special counsel Robert Mueller and his legal team deliver the goods on the Trump campaign.

As for the image this probe casts around the world, I believe the investigation makes the United States look “good” in the eyes of our allies and perhaps even our foes. Why? Because it demonstrates a level of political accountability, which is one of the hallmarks of our representative democracy.

We elect men and women to public office to represent our interests. We expect them to do right by us and for us. If there was collusion, we need to know all about it. How is that a bad thing? How does a Justice Department-appointed special counsel — who happens to be a former FBI director — perform a disservice to the nation if he does his job with skill and precision?

One more time, Mr. President: Let the probe continue. If it comes up empty, then let Robert Mueller draw that conclusion all by himself.

But … if the special counsel reels in The Big One, that’s a different matter altogether.

Nothing to FBI/Mueller probe? Then back off, Mr. President

Donald J. Trump is ending 2017 by declaring war on federal law enforcement.

What a charming way for the president of the United States to sign off on an old year and welcome the new one with forbidding declarations.

He’s gone after the FBI. He is calling it a dysfunctional agency. He has labeled its investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians seeking to influence the 2016 election a “witch hunt.” He fired the FBI director, James Comey, this past spring.

Trump cannot stop yapping about how much he detests the investigation, how much he distrusts special counsel Robert Mueller — whom the Justice Department hired to take over the probe.

The president’s continual disparagement of federal law enforcement agencies is troubling at many levels. I’ll just cite a couple.

One is that the FBI has long been held in high regard by Trump’s fellow Republicans. But the party has become the Trump Party. Longtime Republicans have grown infatuated with the man rather than the party’s ideology.

Indeed, the president lacks an ideology. He doesn’t adhere to core principles. His seemingly sole interest is in boosting himself, his brand.

The other level brings me back to a point I want to make yet again. It is that if Trump is as clean as pure-driven snow on the “Russia thing,” he should welcome the special counsel’s probe, not condemn it.

He should allow Mueller’s probe to run its course. He should let Mueller reach a conclusion. If it finds nothing at the end of its journey, then Trump can crow all he wants.

His continual yammering and yapping about Mueller, the FBI and his foes, however, suggests to me that the special counsel may have something to keep pursuing.

And that is what is giving Donald J. Trump fits.

Hillary remains in Trump’s sights

Donald J. Trump has said he won a “historic” victory in the 2016 presidential election.

The president’s threats of action against his vanquished opponent, though, betray his confidence in that admittedly unexpected victory.

Trump is considering whether to sic the Justice Department on to Hillary Clinton, threatening to examine her sale of a uranium company while she was serving as secretary of state in the Obama administration.

Here we go … again!

The president’s obsession with Clinton and President Obama suggests to me that he’s actually angry beyond measure that he didn’t win the popular vote to go along with the Electoral College majority he won to be elected president of the United States.

He wants to stick it to Hillary. He wants to keep the embers burning. He wants to make her squirm.

I keep asking: To what bleeping end, Mr. President?

Clinton calls such a probe what it would be if the president calls for the appointment of a special counsel: a grotesque abuse of power. According to The Hill: “I regret if they do it because it will be such a disastrous step to politicizing the justice system,” she said. “If they send a signal that we’re going to be like some dictatorship, like some authoritarian regime, where political opponents are going to be unfairly, fraudulently investigated, that rips at the fabric of the contract we have, that we can trust our justice system.”

Congressional committees looked for years at ways to bring charges against Hillary Clinton. As did the FBI. They all came up empty.

Now the president keeps fighting a battle he’s already won.

Give it a rest, Mr. President.

Indictments ratchet up weirdness factor

Paul Manafort is under house arrest after being indicted for money laundering and conspiracy in connection with Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign.

The former Trump campaign chairman, though, reportedly has engaged in some seriously weird travel behavior.

Court filings have revealed that Manafort has three U.S. passports, all under different names. He reportedly traveled abroad under aliases.

It makes me wonder: Who in the world does that?

I get that Manafort is a wealthy man, as Rick Gates, a campaign deputy who also has been indicted by the grand jury impaneled by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating that so-called “Russia thing.” I also get that rich people do things with which I am unfamiliar.

For instance, I possess just one passport. It has my actual name, my actual date of birth and my actual statement that I am an American citizen. I present it when I travel abroad. Passport officials look at it, stamp it and send me on my way.

Financial holdings also questioned

CNN reports as well that Manafort revealed differing estimates of his net worth, as did Gates.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to the assorted money laundering and conspiracy charges. They now are entitled to mount vigorous defenses to uphold their not-guilty pleas.

I have to wonder, however: What in the world gives with the multiple passports and fake names?

Trump defies political gravity

I found a blog post I wrote not quite a year ago, just prior to the 2016 presidential election.

I’ll get this off my chest right up front: I was dead wrong about Donald John Trump Sr.’s political fortunes when I posted the item.

Here it is:

Trump is committing political suicide

There. I’ve admitted once again. Trump defied conventional political expectations.

I want to mention this earlier item as a cautionary tale about any effort to predict what might happen to the president — even as a special counsel seemingly tightens a noose around the Trump campaign’s alleged connections with a Russian government effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

I keep hearing reports about how special counsel Robert Mueller and his crack team of prosecutors are looking ever more closely at key White House aides’ involvement in dealings with Russia. They’re poring through mountains of statements and public testimony from Trump, his closest aides, even members of his family. They’re seeking to determine the truth behind Trump’s involvement with the Russian goons who hacked into our electoral process.

The president keeps bobbing and weaving. He keeps changing his story. He keeps doing what appears to be everything he can to self-incriminate himself.

Does this doom his presidency? Hah!

If the rules of conventional wisdom applied to this clown, he would have imploded long ago. The denigrating of John McCain’s heroic service during the Vietnam War; the disparaging of a Gold Star family; his admission of groping women; his mocking of a disabled reporter; his repeated insults and innuendo; his defaming of Barack Obama over the former president’s constitutional eligibility to serve as president. His incessant lying — about anything!

Any one of those incidents should have doomed this man. That he survived all of them is utterly astonishing in the extreme.

Critics of this blog are fond of reminding me how wrong I was about Trump’s candidacy. They’re entitled to keep reminding me of something I’ve acknowledged readily since this guy’s election. I take a small measure of solace in the knowledge that many other Trump critics were just as wrong. 

I offer this observation as a warning to anyone who’s ready — yet again — to consign this president to the ash heap.

Impeachment isn’t such a long shot after all

Let’s play out a possible scenario that could emerge from the 2018 midterm election.

Democrats think they have a shot at winning back the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. They also believe their chances of winning a Senate majority are even greater.

I’m going to pose a question that well might provoke some angry response: Is it possible that we can learn just how much Democrats hate Donald J. Trump if they manage to achieve a majority in the House and Senate? Is impeachment a foregone conclusion if both congressional chambers flip next year?

Special counsel Robert Mueller is hard at work collecting information — perhaps even evidence — concerning whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians who hacked into our electoral system. If they produce actual evidence and release it to the public, say, in the first quarter of 2018, then the impeachment talk is going to ratchet up to a very loud level. Then again, there might be perjury accusations coming forward, which also is serious enough to impeach a president; just ask Bill Clinton about that one.

The election will occur in November of next year.

Suppose the special counsel produces evidence of collusion. Suppose, too, that Democrats seize control of Congress.

I’ll now offer a brief explanation of presidential impeachment, which is a two-act drama.

It takes only a simple majority of House members to impeach a president. What might the “high crimes and misdemeanors” include? If there’s collusion, I believe that constitutes an impeachable offense.

If the House impeaches the president, it then merely files a formal complaint, an accusation. Then the House hands off to the Senate, which conducts a trial.

To convict a president, though, the bar is set much higher. Two-thirds of the Senate, 67 senators, must vote to convict. President Andrew Johnson came within a single vote of being tossed out of office; President Bill Clinton faced three counts in his Senate trial, and he was acquitted on all three by comfortable margins.

I wouldn’t dare to predict how a Trump trial would conclude. I am not even going to predict that Congress’s controlling majority is going to flip next year.

If it does, however, my sense is that impeachment becomes many times more possible than it is at this moment with Republicans in charge of Capitol Hill.

What is POTUS trying to hide?

I keep circling back to this question regarding “the Russia thing,” the investigation into whether the Donald Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russians who meddled in our 2016 election.

If Donald J. Trump is innocent of the allegations that have been leveled against him and his team, why is he angry at U.S. senators for not doing enough to “protect” him from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of legal eagles?

The president reportedly is steamed at congressional Republicans who won’t rush to his defense. He is angry about efforts to protect Mueller from any presidential effort to get rid of him. One Republican senator, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, is defending pending legislation aimed at shielding Mueller from Trump’s vengeance.

If the president is innocent, if he has done not a single thing wrong, then why is he acting like someone with something to hide?

Hey, I have no inside info here. I’m just watching all this drama from the peanut gallery in Flyover Country.

That gnawing in my gut is beginning to cause some rumbles of discomfort. Donald Trump is working pretty damn hard to discredit everyone seeking to learn the truth.

My sense simply is this: If the truth is as Donald Trump says it is, then let the special counsel do his job, and let him come up empty.

Impeachment? Not so fast, folks

Social media are chattering and clattering like a newspaper newsroom full of typewriters on deadline. Those of you who are old enough to remember actual typewriters will understand the analogy.

But the social media are abuzz with viral statements, requests and demands that Donald John Trump Sr. gets impeached.

Let’s hold that thought. At least for a while, OK?

The president of the United States is demonstrating plenty of disturbing behavior. He holds those rallies in which he ad-libs his way into nonsensical rants. Then he reads reasonably crafted speeches, looking for all the world as if he’s been asked to eat every bite of the squishy spinach on his plate. The next day he tears into the media, members of Congress and virtually every political foe who’s lined up against him.

Serious-minded folks like former head spook James Clapper say they doubt Trump’s “fitness” for his job. He’s acting like a maniac. Sounding like a blithering, blathering fruitcake.

Does any of this behavior rise to the level of an impeachable offense? No. Not as I understand what’s written into the U.S. Constitution.

Article II, Section 4 spells out the specifics of a presidential impeachment. It calls for such an action in the event of “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The House of Representatives must bring formal charges against the president. Then the Senate conducts a trial; to convict a president and toss him out of office requires a two-thirds vote by senators.

Has the 45th president committed any sort of “high crime and misdemeanor”? No. Indeed, there is an open debate on just when we’ll know of any potential charges being brought. Many of us have our opinion on whether there should be charges brought. To date, we have none. We don’t even have any compelling evidence to suggest that there will be charges brought.

What about the president’s behavior? My reading of the Constitution suggests that loopy conduct does not, by itself, constitute an impeachable offense. But let’s not kid ourselves here. Donald Trump’s behavior on speech podiums is weird in the extreme.

I’ve never heard a more inarticulate president than the one we’ve got now. Never have I seen someone trash tradition in the manner that he does. Given an opportunity to heal a nation divided by myriad issues of many stripes, Donald Trump does precisely the opposite. He lashes out. He hurls insults at his foes. He cannot even bring himself to offer a word of good wishes to one of his critics — Sen. John McCain — who is in the midst of a life-and-death struggle against cancer.

Trump disgraces his office almost daily. I’d say he disgraces himself, but he seems to lack the capacity to look inward.

Is any of this impeachable? No.

None of it will stop the social media chatter. I just think it’s important to put some of this hysteria into some perspective.

Meantime, let’s wait for the special counsel looking at “The Russia Thing” to do his job.

Hey, what about ‘the Russia thing’?

Pssst. I am about to let the cat out of the bag.

Much of the nation — maybe most of it — has been consumed by the tragic events of Charlottesville and the president’s response to it. I get it. Donald Trump first blamed “many sides” for the riot; then he singled out the white nationalists, neo-Nazis and the Klan; and after that he reverted back to his original response.

All ever-lovin’ hell has broken loose. The fecal matter has hit the fan.

But, but, but …

We have this other thing going on. It’s the “Russia thing.” Remember it? Of course you do!

Special counsel Robert Mueller has assembled a crack team of legal eagles who are examining the many aspects of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. There might be an obstruction of justice element; there might be collusion; there might be some financial matters to examine; hey, we might even get to see the president’s tax returns.

As the national media continue to scurry after this Charlottesville story — as they should — Mueller and his team are being left relatively alone to pore through the mountain of evidence and information that keeps piling up.

The last thing I heard — and it seems like eons ago now — was that Mueller wants to speak with former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. There might be subpoenas coming from Mueller’s office.

I just thought it would be useful to remind everyone that as important as the Charlottesville story is — and the media must cover it — we’ve got this other matter lurking out there.

The “Russia thing” needs a resolution. Don’t look for it soon. Just be sure to keep one eye on the special counsel’s exhaustive search for the whole truth.