Tag Archives: special counsel

POTUS manages to trample on his own high moment

Donald J. Trump is not without some political skill.

He did, after all, manage to win a presidential election when every pundit in America was predicting his defeat in 2016.

The president also is quite good on a more dubious level. When given a chance to shine, to speak with high-minded rhetoric on behalf of the nation — he manages to trample all over his own moment of statesmanship.

Trump went to France this week to honor the memory of those who died during the D-Day invasion of Europe on June 6,1944, 75 years ago. He delivered a glorious speech to the crowd at Normandy. He said the young men who stormed the beach to liberate a continent were the greatest people “who will ever live.”

But only moments before delivering those remarks, Trump managed to tape an interview with the Fox News Channel. There he was, sitting before a cemetery filled with the headstones of fallen Allied warriors.

That backdrop was the perfect antithesis to what came out of his mouth. Donald Trump managed to call former special counsel Robert Mueller — a former Marine who was wounded in combat during the Vietnam War, who received the Bronze Star for valor in combat — a “fool.” He said Mueller “made a fool of himself” with his report detailing the conclusions he reached regarding the 22-month investigation into alleged collusion with Russians who attacked our electoral system.

While speaking to Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham, Trump also managed to call House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “disaster.”

My point is this: Presidents don’t normally resort to that kind of partisan bickering while in the midst of representing our nation on the worldwide stage. They damn sure don’t do such things while commemorating monumentally historic events such as the D-Day invasion, an event that many historians describe as the decisive battle of World War II.

Presidents are supposed to recognize the solemnity of these events and behave accordingly.

Donald Trump doesn’t play by those rules. He doesn’t play by any of the normal conventions associated with his high and exalted office.

His base adores him for the crassness he exhibits.

It sickens the rest of us.

Mueller breaks with his ‘friend’ Barr

It might be that William Barr and Robert Mueller aren’t as close as they once were thought to be.

The attorney general reportedly received a letter from the special counsel that challenges the AG’s public interpretation of the report that the special counsel filed regarding the conduct of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

What do you know about that?

I had thought initially that we needed to hear from Mueller about what he thought of Barr’s four-page summary of the report Mueller filed with the Justice Department. Now we have. His reaction is a doozy.

Mueller wrote Barr a letter that suggests that Barr’s summary injects “confusion” into what Mueller’s team concluded about Trump’s alleged “collusion” with Russians who attacked our electoral system. Mueller’s reaction came immediately after Barr released his summary of what he said was Mueller’s conclusion.

Mueller seems to suggest that Barr sought to give the president cover from what Mueller found out.

I won’t go so far as to suggest that Barr should be resign or be impeached, as some have said should happen. I mean, he did release a redacted report to the public and it has exposed a number of questions about what Mueller determined happened during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Politico reports that Mueller’s letter has revealed a “widening rift” between the men who have been friends for decades. Politico also reports that the letter suggests that Mueller’s team is “angry” over the way Barr characterized its findings about Trump’s behavior.

I kind of expected this reaction from Mueller once Barr’s summary was released. I am surprised it took so many weeks to make it known to the public.

Mueller wrote, in part, to his (possibly soon-to-be former) friend Barr: “This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”

The nation needs some answers from the attorney general. He is supposed to testify Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee.

My sincere hope is that he shows up, takes the oath, and answers this question truthfully: Mr. Attorney General, did you write your summary intending to cover up for the president of the United States?

No. 2 at DOJ calls it quits

Rod Rosenstein had me. Then he lost me.

He submitted his resignation today from the U.S. Justice Department. Rosenstein’s last day will be May 11.

The deputy U.S. attorney general made what many millions of Americans thought was a stellar choice in naming Robert Mueller the special counsel in determining whether Donald Trump’s campaign “colluded” with Russians during the 2016 presidential election.

Rosenstein was called into action after then-AG Jeff Sessions recused himself from anything having to do with Russia.

So, he answered the call. He acted wisely.

But then . . .

Most recently it was revealed that he fought for his job near the end of Mueller’s exhaustive probe and told Trump that he — the president — was not a target of the special counsel.

Huh? What’s up with that? Deputy attorneys general aren’t supposed to spill the beans about ongoing investigations. Are they?

He had me at first. Then he lost me at the end.

Still, I want to give him high marks for selecting Mueller to do a thorough job looking into these terrible questions regarding the president’s campaign and its alleged relationship with Russians who dug up dirt on Hillary Clinton and sought to pass it on to the Trump political team.

Rosenstein’s conduct near the end of his time at DOJ doesn’t negate completely the good he accomplished by picking Mueller.

However, it does give me pause.

I trust that congressional investigators will have plenty to ask him once he clears out his desk at Justice.

‘Collusion delusion’ becomes new Trump mantra

Donald Trump has produced what sounds like a 2020 campaign slogan, referring to the “collusion delusion” as he continues his touchdown dance after Robert Mueller concluded his investigation into The Russia Thing.

It’s a knee-slapper! Don’t you think? Well, me neither. The president is reciting it and getting lots of laughs, cheers, whoops and hollers from the adoring crowds.

It is good to put a couple of issues into perspective.

First of all, special counsel Mueller did not say that there was “no collusion.” He said, according to Attorney General William Barr, that he found insufficient evidence to produce a complaint of collusion with the Russians against the president and his 2016 campaign team.

We haven’t yet seen Mueller’s report. William Barr today said he intends to release the report, with redactions, in a couple of weeks. We don’t yet know what precisely Barr is going to black out from public view. He has talked openly about grand jury testimony, issues related to national security and statements that mention individuals who aren’t formally charged with wrongdoing.

My sincere and fervent hope is that the AG releases as much as of the report as possible. He has pledged transparency. I want to believe him.

Absent any knowledge of what Mueller has concluded, it is impossible — even for the president — to say categorically that he has been “exonerated” at any level regarding any allegation that has been leveled against him.

Trump is incapable of being magnanimous in victory. He vows revenge against those who he says have done him wrong. That includes damn near everyone who didn’t vote for him, or so it sounds to me. He continues to label the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt” that failed. He continues to refer to the media as the “enemy of the people.” Trump hurls despicable personal insults at congressional Democrats; House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has become his latest target.

One more point: We haven’t seen anything yet about obstruction of justice. Barr said that Mueller did not “exonerate” the president, even though he did not find sufficient evidence to conclude that he did obstruct justice. Once again, we need to see precisely what evidence Mueller collected and we need to be able to assess how he reached his conclusion.

Yet the president of the United States, as he is prone to do, is getting way out in front of this still-developing story.

Hey, he still has his campaign slogan that he thinks will serve him well. “Collusion delusion” it is. My sense is that Donald Trump is wallowing in his own delusion as well.

Hoping the end of probe would . . . be the end!

Silly me.

I had this naïve thought that Robert Mueller’s report to the attorney general into whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians would be the end of the story.

The special counsel would wrap up his findings, hand them to AG William Barr, who then would tell the public what Mueller had found out. We’d all know — for better or for worse — what went down during the 2016 presidential election.

Then this happened: Mueller essentially cleared Trump and his team of conspiring to collude with Russians who interfered with our election; but then he remained silent on whether Trump obstructed justice by seeking to block any further examination into top aides.

What’s more, Barr issued a four-page “summary” of Mueller’s findings. Not everyone believes Barr’s assessment of what Mueller determined. They contend that Barr is a Trump toadie, handpicked by the president to run interference for him.

Now we’re waiting on the full report from Barr, who promises “transparency.” I am forced to ask: How much of it is he going to show us?

I tend to trust William Barr. I also tend to believe him when he says he will let Americans see as much of Mueller’s findings as he can under the law. I do not need to know the deepest national secrets. All any of us ought to see is the body of evidence that Mueller had collected and from which he drew his conclusions.

Of course, I do have questions now about why Mueller would remain silent on the obstruction of justice matter. Barr said Mueller determined that even though he lacked credible evidence of obstruction, he didn’t “exonerate” the president; Trump, quite expectedly, calls it all a “total exoneration,” which is yet another Trump lie.

I’m going to pose another question: If we presume the worst, that Barr withholds parts of Mueller’s report that might be damaging to the president, would the special counsel be willing to blow the whistle on what the AG is hiding from public view?

Oh, how I want to know the whole truth. My hope of knowing it upon the end of Robert Mueller’s probe has been quashed.

We need to see more of what Mueller found

A four-page summary authored by the U.S. attorney general isn’t enough.

Americans need to see — to the furthest extent possible — more of what special counsel Robert Mueller III found that led him to clear Donald Trump of colluding with Russians or of obstructing justice.

Don’t misconstrue my point. I accept Mueller’s findings. He worked tirelessly along with his team of prosecutors to get to the truth behind the allegations that Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russian government operatives. He has determined that there is insufficient evidence to accuse the president or his campaign of collusion. Nor does he have enough evidence to accuse him of obstructing justice.

AG William Barr, though, did say that the lack of a formal criminal complaint on obstruction of justice does not “exonerate” the president.

So, let’s look at the supporting documents that Mueller used to make his determination. Congressional Democrats want the public to see them. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls it an “urgent” matter.

There appears to be some “evidence” of obstruction, just not enough to file formal charges, Mueller concluded. I get that.

I also want to see the rest of it. Or at least as much of the rest of it that won’t tar individuals who aren’t charged with wrongdoing. We don’t need to see national security-sensitive information, either.

Many Americans have been waiting for a couple of years to know what the special counsel has concluded. We have heard the executive summary as delivered by the attorney general.

There’s more to learn.

Waiting for that proverbial big shoe to drop

While the nation — perhaps the world — awaits word on what Robert Mueller III concluded in his exhaustive investigation into alleged collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russians, it is good to understand what we do not yet know.

We don’t know whether special counsel Mueller found any sort of collusion between the Trump team and Russians who hacked into our election system. It’s good to understand that “collusion” is not a crime. Therefore, Mueller isn’t going to charge anyone with committing a criminal offense if they winked and nodded at Russians who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Rodham Clinton, Trump’s 2016 presidential opponent.

Nor do we know whether the president — in Mueller’s eyes — “obstructed justice” when he fired FBI director James Comey in the spring of 2017 because he was conducting a probe into that “Russia thing.” Again, there might not be any criminality involved with Comey’s firing, but there might be an intent that Mueller has identified.

Mueller has been mum on every aspect of his investigation. Thus, we don’t know if he’s going to give Trump the kind of tongue-lashing that Comey gave to Clinton when he concluded the FBI probe into her use of private e-mail servers while she was secretary of state. Do you recall how Comey said Clinton was guilty of “extreme recklessness”? It gave Republican opponents of Clinton plenty of fodder to toss at her while she sought the presidency in 2016. Will there be a similar scolding in store for the president when we see what Mueller has concluded?

It has been said in the past 24 hours that “We don’t know what we don’t know.” To put it another way, it is good to keep our traps shut and stop speculating about what Mueller has delivered to Attorney General William Barr.

Mueller had a narrow mandate when he accepted the special counsel job two years ago. It was to determine the extent — if any — of collusion between Trump’s team and the Russians. His work is done. We don’t know what he has concluded.

Is this the end of it? Does the president now slip/slide away out of the grasp of prosecutors? Umm. No. He’s still got Congress that will be hot on his trail. And let’s not dismiss those prosecutors in New York who are looking at other matters not connected to the Russians.

Mueller’s findings are still to be revealed.

Let’s just wait. Shall we?

Wide range of conclusions to draw from Mueller findings

Robert Mueller’s submission today of a final report on alleged “collusion” involving the Donald Trump presidential campaign is fraught with peril or is brimming with joy, depending on whose side you’re on.

The special counsel has turned over a tightly sealed report to Attorney General William Barr. He said he would recommend no further indictments. Donald Trump Jr. is off the hook; so is son-in-law Jared Kushner. By “off the hook,” I mean that Mueller isn’t going to issue any indictments.

We can run all over the field trying to determine what Mueller has produced.

He might have produced a finding of no criminality, no wrongdoing, no unethical conduct, no collusion, no conspiracy. Nothing! Zero. The president can high-five what’s left of his White House staff, unlimber his Twitter fingers and blast away at Mueller.

Or . . . Mueller has determined something quite different. He might find that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian goons who attacked our electoral system in 2016. He might conclude there was conspiracy to collude. He might have found an obstruction of justice at any number of stops along the way.

There might indeed be nothing worth prosecuting, but there might be enough in that report to conclude that the president has committed an “impeachable offense” or three, maybe four.

Whatever we learn in due course — and I hope it’s soon — I am prepared to accept whatever Robert Mueller has concluded. He is a professional. His integrity is intact. Mueller is a former FBI director whose tenure was extended past the term of a Republican president (George W. Bush) for two more years by his Democratic successor (Barack H. Obama).

I just want the AG to let us know quickly.

Now . . . the wait begins

Robert Mueller III has handed off the report the world has been waiting for to Attorney General William Barr.

Well . . .

His work is finished! Now it’s up to the attorney general to do the right thing, which is to say that he must release Mueller’s findings to Congress and to the rest of us. That would be you, me and the rest of Americans whose money paid for this two-year-long probe into allegations of “collusion” between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russians who interfered with our election in 2016.

Mueller has submitted a letter to Barr. He hasn’t revealed a single thing about what’s in the report. The AG likely has a good idea of what’s in it; he likely knew what it contains even before he received it.

I understand that there are limits to what the AG can and should release. He doesn’t want to implicate individuals who aren’t charged with crimes, if anyone has been implicated in potential criminal activity.

However, now that Mueller’s work is done, it should not take the attorney general very long to determine how much to divulge to Americans — such as me — who are waiting to know what Mueller has found.

To borrow a Watergate-era phrase: Do not, Mr. AG, keep us twisting in the wind.

Hicks turns on POTUS; more to follow, maybe

Michael Cohen once was Donald Trump’s lawyer, a man he could count on to “fix” things gone awry. He’s now one of the president’s worst nightmares.

Hope Hicks once served — albeit briefly — as communications director for the White House occupied by Donald Trump. Now she’s gone over the hill, telling congressional Democrats she wants to cooperate fully with them.

Cohen likely was motivated to turn against Trump by a prison sentence he received after pleading guilty to lying to Congress; he is set to start a three-year federal prison term soon. He might, it should be noted, get that sentenced reduced.

Hicks isn’t driven by that necessity. She has told House intelligence and judiciary committee members she lied on Trump’s behalf. She says she’s done lying.

Oh, my. It seems as if this saga has no end. There’s no bottom to this pit. It sinks lower and lower.

Whether the special counsel, Robert Mueller III, provides anything of substance in his investigation of The Russia Thing now seems almost a moot point. There might be other information coming forward from former friends, political allies and associates of the president of the United States.

Cohen, Hicks . . . who else is out there?