Tag Archives: special counsel

Glad that deputy AG is staying put for now

I am glad to hear the news that Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is staying at his post for a while longer.

I’ve heard the term “heat shield” applied to Rosenstein’s presence near the top of the Justice Department chain of command. It’s an apt term.

Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller to the post of special counsel to look into allegations of collusion between the Donald Trump presidential campaign and Russian operatives who interfered with our election in 2016.

Then-AG Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia matter. Why? Because he worked on the Trump campaign and he knew he could not investigate himself. He followed DOJ rules and regs and infuriated Trump in the process. Trump then fired Sessions.

William Barr is the new attorney general. Mueller is finishing his investigation.

Rosenstein needs to stay on his watch to help ensure that Mueller is allowed to finish his task under his own power.

I trust AG Barr to allow Mueller to do his work. However, the special counsel — who has impeccable credentials — cannot have too many eyes keeping tabs to ensure it’s all done correctly, ethically and transparently.

Trump tweets reveal desperation?

Robert Mueller is finishing up his exhaustive investigation into all things relating to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

We don’t yet know what the special counsel has determined. However, the president’s reaction in advance of the report’s conclusion might be offering some clues.

Trump set some sort of unofficial personal record this weekend with a Twitter torrent that laid waste to a number of targets: Mueller, of course; the late John McCain; the “fake news” media; Democrats, naturally.

I just don’t know how this is the conduct of someone who is confident that the special counsel is going to exonerate him. We are witnessing a possible unraveling of an individual who well might be petrified at the prospect that the special counsel is about to deliver the goods on him.

It’s not a pretty sight.

The trashing of the late Arizona Republican senator, McCain, is especially troubling. Hey, I have written about this extensively already. I just cannot get past the notion that the president of the United States would feel so threatened by the memory of a man he now says he never has liked.

And why in the world would he disparage, denigrate and dismiss someone who served with valor and, yes, heroism in defense of his country? Why now, seven months after McCain died of brain cancer?

The specter of the pending Mueller report being sent to Attorney General William Barr looms large in all of this.

Donald Trump likely doesn’t know what Mueller has concluded. He is reacting seemingly on some sort of concern that Mueller is going to inflict potentially mortal wounds on the president, his closest aides, even his family.

This is all quite nerve-wracking. I’m just a chump blogger. I also am someone who was shocked beyond measure that Trump got elected president of the United States. Still, my nerves are beginning to get the better of me as I await the findings of the special counsel.

Therefore I only can imagine what is occurring within the president’s nervous system.

‘No collusion,’ Mr. President? Let’s wait on that one

 

Donald J. Trump has a “no collusion” fetish.

He keeps invoking the “no collusion” mantra even when it’s irrelevant to the issue of the day.

Take the Paul Manafort sentence handed down the other day. The president’s former campaign chairman got a 47-month sentence for tax fraud and assorted other crimes. None of them had a thing to do with the allegations that the campaign “colluded” with Russians who attacked our electoral system in 2016.

Yet there was the president of the United States, crowing about how the judge found no evidence of collusion with Russians.

Hey, Mr. President? That issue isn’t even on the table in this discussion. Manafort’s sentence didn’t have a single thing to do with collusion.

Oh, and Mr. President, we’re still awaiting Robert Mueller report that he supposedly is preparing to submit to Attorney General William Barr.

That is where we’re going to find out — more than likely — whether there is any Russian hanky-panky related to your 2016 presidential campaign.

So . . . POTUS needs to settle down and wait for the report silently.

Yeah, I know. I’m asking for the impossible.

Make the Mueller report public, Mr. AG

I am ready for the Robert S. Mueller III saga to end.

The special counsel reportedly is wrapping up his report, which he will deliver to Attorney General William Barr, who then will be faced with a most monumental decision.

He must decide how much of it to release to the public.

My plea: Release every single detail you can, Mr. Attorney General, without endangering our national security.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it until my fingers turn bloody from beating on my keyboard: This report from the special counsel comes at enormous public expense. The public, therefore, has a right to know what it contains.

Is there “collusion”? Is there conspiracy to obstruct justice? Is there a violation of the clause that bans the president from taking money from foreign governments? Are there tax issues to consider? Did the president lie about his business dealings with Russia?

This stuff is vital, Mr. Attorney General. We need to know what’s in the report.

I’ve also stated before — and this, too, bears repeating — that I am willing to accept whatever findings Mueller reaches. If he can find no evidence of collusion or conspiracy, I accept that. If there are no tax matters to examine or if he didn’t lie to us about Russia business dealings, I can accept that as well.

Would I like it? Would I embrace those findings? No, but I have placed my trust in the former FBI director — Mueller — to do a thorough job. I believe he has done what he has been charged to do by the Department of Justice.

Do not hide any of this report from us, Mr. AG. We need to see as much of it as we possibly can.

Would an exoneration from Mueller be free of any negative blowback? Certainly! It would reveal itself in the incessant yammering from Donald J. Trump.

To be honest, though, I am enough of an adult to understand what that entails. I’ll just have to suck it up . . . and accept that as well.

How does deputy AG define ‘right thing’?

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has developed a finely tuned flair for cryptic comments.

Such as what he said about his new boss, Attorney General William Barr.

Rosenstein said Barr will “do the right thing” regarding the possible release of the Robert Mueller report, which the special counsel looking into the alleged “collusion” with Russian government operatives is going to send soon to the AG.

Hmm. The “right thing,” yes? How does the deputy DOJ official — the man who appointed Mueller to the job of special counsel — define the “right thing”? I hope it means that Barr will release as much of the report to the public as he can.

I believe strongly the Muller report needs to be placed before the public for our perusal and determination. He has spent a lot of taxpayers’ money examining whether the Donald Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russians who attacked our electoral system in 2016.

Rosenstein is leaving the Justice Department next month. Barr has just taken over a department wracked by controversy and chaos. The president has exacerbated it by his hectoring of former AG Jeff Sessions, who did the right thing by recusing himself from the Russia probe. Rosenstein then selected Mueller to lead the probe into alleged collusion. Meanwhile, the president — who proclaims his total innocence of any collusion — has called the investigation a witch hunt.

What is the “right thing” for Barr to do? Let the public see what is in it, what it lays out, what Mueller has learned.

Hoping new AG lets Mueller finish his task

I have hope that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has some deep inside knowledge that he’s now sharing with us.

The South Carolina Republican says that Attorney General-designate William Barr is going to let special counsel Robert Mueller finish the job he began more than a year ago. His task is to determine whether the allegations of “collusion” between the Donald Trump presidential campaign and Russian operatives who attacked our electoral system are true; he also is examining allegations of obstruction of justice, of conspiracy and perhaps all kinds of matters related to the 2016 election and beyond.

Trump selected Barr to succeed Jeff Sessions as AG, whom the president fired because he had the gall to recuse himself from the Russia probe. Sessions had the good sense to recognize potential conflicts of interest, given his role in the campaign and in the transition. He couldn’t investigate himself, so he handed it off to Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, who then appointed Mueller as special counsel.

Mueller is getting down to brass tacks, or so we are being led to believe. He has extended the term of a grand jury another six months. Mueller reportedly will finish his probe in late February or in March.

He needs to conclude this investigation on his own terms, under his own power and without interference from the new AG, or the White House or the president himself.

Rosenstein reportedly is going to leave DOJ after Barr gets confirmed. Barr will testify next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee. I am quite sure senators will ask him directly whether he intends to let Mueller do his job. Sen. Graham says he will.

Don’t tease us, Sen. Graham.

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.

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.

The walls are closing in on the president

I am pretty sure we can toss aside the comment from the White House that Paul Manafort’s guilty plea will have no impact on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential election.

We have come to expect such false bravado from Donald J. Trump’s team. It delivered the goods yet again when Manafort pleaded guilty to two felony charges and gave Mueller a promise to “cooperate” with his probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians who attacked our electoral system.

Manafort is the biggest fish that Mueller has reeled in. Manafort is the former campaign chairman for Trump. He left the campaign in mid-stride, handing over campaign management duties to Kellyanne Conway.

I, of course, have no way of knowing with any certainty about the mood within the White House. However, when I do the math, I find that two plus two still equals four.

Manafort’s guilty plea and pending cooperation cannot bode well for the president. That brings me to the question of the day: Will the president pardon Manafort and expose himself to accusations of obstruction of justice?

The threat is growing

Trump shouldn’t go there. Then again, he has shown a tendency to do things just because he can. The president has unquestioned power to pardon anyone he chooses. Is this president enough of a fool to do the most foolish thing imaginable at this point in the investigation? I am not putting a single thing past this guy.

Yes, the walls are closing in. However, I won’t predict the president’s downfall. I mean, he wasn’t supposed to win the 2016 election in the first place.

We all know what happened.

Is the president going to slit his own (political) throat?

How can Donald J. Trump make things worse than they are already?

Here’s a scenario to ponder: He can fire U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the midterm elections, nominate a new person to lead the Justice Department, then he can fire special counsel Robert Mueller and hope the Senate confirms a new AG who’ll shut down the investigation that Mueller has been conducting for more than a year.

Can you say “impeachment”?

Read The Hill report here.

The president clearly has no trust in the current AG because of Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from anything to do with the Russia investigation. The special counsel is trying to determine whether there was any conspiracy by the Trump presidential campaign to collude with Russians seeking to influence the 2016 election outcome.

Does he fire the AG? Does he then nominate someone who’ll do the president’s bidding? Does the AG nominee pledge some sort of fealty to the president even if it means he doesn’t follow the law?

Trump, to no one’s surprise, has concocted a phony excuse for his displeasure with Sessions. “Never took control of the Justice Department,” Trump said on “Fox & Friends.”  “And it’s sort of a regrettable thing.”

What utter crap! Sessions’s “mistake” was to recuse himself from the Russia matter. Why? Because the AG couldn’t possibly lead an investigation into a presidential campaign in which he was a major player. So he did the only thing he could do under DOJ rules of conduct.

Is the president capable of turning a bad situation into something so very much worse? You’re damn straight he can.