Trump-Ukraine suspicions raise specters of collusion and impeachment

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER)

 

Trump-Ukraine suspicions raise specters of collusion and impeachment

Presidential impeachment looms, and perhaps even removal, because Donald Trump may have colluded after all.

Or, to use the correct legal terminology, maybe the president tried to engage in a “conspiracy” with a foreign government, to wit, an effort to use American assets in a quid pro quo arrangement to directly affect a national election and both nations’ systems of criminal justice.

This is what House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California and other Democrats suspect with regard to a whistleblower’s complaint that reportedly was “prompted by President Trump’s interactions with a foreign leader.”

The evidence already indicates a significant likelihood that the suspicions are correct. If — repeat, only if — the reports do prove true, then Trump is in massive trouble.

Granted, Schiff himself is hardly a reliable interpreter of events. He’s a far-left ideological enemy of Trump’s, a publicity hound prone to grandstandinggullibility, and prevarication. Still, even political hacks sometimes stumble upon important information.

What’s known is this: First, former Vice President Joe Biden is suspected by many in Trump world of having used undue influence to kill a Ukrainian investigation into potential illegalities by his son, Hunter. If Biden did so, that would almost surely be illegal and would by all reasonable standards make him unfit for the presidency.

It is not, however, obvious that Biden did what is suspected. Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani, though, obviously want Ukraine to r-open the investigation into Biden. It long has been evident that Trump world believes that among the current Democratic presidential candidates, Biden would be his most serious challenger. If Ukraine finds Biden actually did something wrong, or even if they publicly are investigating him, Trump’s reelection prospects surely would improve.

Hence, Giuliani’s now-admitted efforts to ask Ukraine’s current regime to ensnare Biden in a major investigation. If Giuliani did so at Trump’s request, which is certainly not far-fetched, that alone would be dicey behavior. As the United States is a key ally for Ukraine’s very survival, any implied pressure on it from someone acting for the president, on behalf of the president’s political interests, would be ethically questionable.

Yet Trump is now suspected of doing even worse, than that. A whistle blower filed a report to the inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community — a complaint the White House is withholding from Congress, but whose existence if not exact details are known — alleging an “urgent” matter arose from a “promise” Trump made in a phone call with a foreign leader. Available evidence makes it almost certain that the complaint involved July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, at a time when Trump was delaying a $250 million military assistance package for Ukraine already approved by U.S. law.

Trump subsequently allowed the aid to go forward.

In sum, Democrats suspect Trump conditioned the aid delivery on Ukraine’s willingness to investigate Biden.

Every bit of circumstantial evidence so far, including Giuliani’s similar mission and including a Ukrainian official summary of that July 25 phone call, makes that suspicion entirely plausible. If so, it would be a serious conspiracy indeed.

Substitute “Ukraine” for “Russia,” in this sentence from special counsel Robert Mueller’s explanation (p. 66) as to what potential crime he was investigating: “coordination or conspiracy … with respect to Russia providing assistance to the campaign in exchange for any sort of favorable treatment in the future.” In the new Ukraine case, the suspected quid pro quo is obvious and far worse than what Mueller investigated. If the president uses U.S. taxpayer-financed military supplies as, in effect, a bribe to induce a foreign government to harass the president’s domestic opponent, it’s a horrible crime.

If it is true, this is a scandal much worse than Watergate. If it’s true, Trump must be removed from office.

Moscow Mitch McConnell The Trumpian And Putin Bitch

Moscow Mitch McConnell The Trumpian And Putin Bitch

 

This letter to you today is not the type of letter that I ever thought I would need to write but it has become very clear that these thoughts and opinions need to be vocalized. First, Mitch McConnell is one of my home states two Senators, the other being Rand Paul so I have been reading up on Moscow Mitch for a long time now and the more I learn about this douche bag the sicker I get of him. I am going to pop some realities at you about this man then simply think what you will. I know that many folks won’t care if everything I say was to be proven to be the total truth beyond a doubt and some of you will probably get even more pissed off at him than you are now.

 

Mr. McConnell has already stated that he is running for re-election in the November 3rd, 2020 election cycle. He was born on February 20th of 1942 so if he wins re-election as our state Senator he would be just barely shy of his 79th birthday when the new cycle begins letting him be in Office until just shy of his 85th birthday. This would also be his 8th term in the Senate and the reality is that he is the second most powerful person in our Nation so for a person as power hungry and money hungry as he is I believe that he will try to stay in Office until the day he dies.

 

Now, lets talk about our Nations elections that is and has been fixed by Russian interference since at least 2016. Our security agencies have proven that the Russian government at the direction of Mr. Trumps good friend President Putin have been trying to ‘fix’ all of our elections even at the State level. Even though Mr. Trump supposedly won the most electoral votes in 2016 he did lose to crooked Hilary by more than 3 million actual votes. But think about what I am getting ready to discuss with you about 2016, even during the primaries. The CIA, FBI and NSA all know that Russia was infiltrating the elections in all 50 States. Do you remember how most folks thought that Trump was nothing but a joke running for the Office of President, then he started winning primaries? What if he actually didn’t win most or any of those primaries, Putin did? Think about it, why would Putin wait until the main election to start fixing things for his puppet Trump? Really, if Russia hadn’t fixed the State and Federal elections Mr. John Kasich would probably be our President now. But, then again if the DNC hadn’t fixed the Democratic primaries for crooked Hilary Senator Bernie Sanders would probably be our President, but certainly not this idiotic Clown we have now.

 

Now, back to Moscow Mitch and why he won’t allow any bill to be brought to the Senate floor that would help stop the Russian interference in our next set of elections. First, he using his position as the Head of the Senate to totally nullified the existence of the Federal Congress. Anything and everything that the Congress has passed and sent onto the Senate he has not allowed it to hit the Senate floor for a vote. This is why he is the second most powerful person in our Nation. He is controlling not only the Senate but the House also. There is good reason why he doesn’t want to stop the Russians form messing up our elections, as the votes get fixed for Trump to win, the Republican Senators win riding Trump’s coat tails. As long as this is allowed to continue the Republicans will control the Senate thus keeping McConnell in this high perch of power. In other words it behooves him personally ego wise and financially to not stop the election interference. Just like Mr. Trump has sold out America and all of our people to Mr. Putin, so has Moscow Mitch.

 

 

William Barr is in Deep Trouble

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

William Barr is in deep trouble

(CNN)Attorney General William Barr did two strange things between the time he received special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and when he released it to Congress and the public.

The first came on March 24 when, two days after receiving the Mueller report, Barr released a four-page summary letter in which he made clear his conclusion that the report found no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians and that Mueller hadn’t made any recommendation as to whether President Donald Trump should be charged with obstructing justice.
 

THE POINT — NOW ON YOUTUBE!

In each episode of his weekly YouTube show, Chris Cillizza will delve a little deeper into the surreal world of politics. Click to subscribe!

The second came on the morning of April 18 when Barr, with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein by his side, held a press conference to reiterate those findings — in remarkably Trumpian language — 90 minutes before actually making a redacted version of the report public.
On Tuesday night, those two moves came into far sharper — and more troubling — focus when it was revealed that Mueller sent a letter to Barr on March 27 expressing concern about the ways in which Barr’s summary document described the evidence surrounding obstructive behavior. Mueller did not make issue with any of the factual statements in Barr’s four-page letter but rather the lack of nuance on obstruction — and the resultant media coverage, according to CNN’s Laura Jarrett’s reporting.
That revelation creates a series of problems for Barr — most notably that he appeared to be, at best, misleading in his answers about Mueller’s feelings about his summary of the report.
On April 9, in a House hearing, Barr seemed entirely unaware of Mueller’s issues with his summary report. Here’s the key exchange between Barr and Florida Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist:
CRIST: Reports have emerged recently, general, that members of the special counsel’s team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24 letter, that it does not adequately or accurately portray the report’s findings. Do you know what they are referencing with that?
BARR: No, I don’t.
In an April 10 appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee, this exchange happened between Barr and Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen:
VAN HOLLEN: Did — did Bob Mueller support your conclusion?
BARR: I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion.
What Barr quite clearly knew at that point — and had known for the better part of two weeks — was that Mueller had issues with the way in which he presented the conclusions of the report in the four-page letter.
Now, you can argue that Barr technically didn’t lie there. He knew that Mueller wasn’t thrilled with the way he summarized the broader report but that didn’t mean that Mueller opposed the conclusions. Again, that is technically possible. But, in the real world, it sure as hell seems like Barr was purposely obfuscating when it came to Mueller’s view of the report so as to downplay any sense that a) he didn’t present a full picture of the report and b) there was any rift between the two men.
And, given all of what he knew about Mueller’s opinion of his summary letter, Barr’s decision to hold a press conference more than an hour before the release of the actual report is even more concerning.
At the time — even without the knowledge we now possess about the Mueller letter of March 27 — it seemed odd. The attorney general holding a press conference about a report that he had seen but no one in the media had been given — and wouldn’t be for another 90 minutes? It seemed, even before Barr began speaking, to be a relatively transparent attempt by the AG to frame the soon-arriving Mueller report — to set the terms of the conversation for both Congress and the American public.
Within minutes, it became clear that was exactly Barr’s intent. Here’s just a piece of what Barr said that day:
“So that is the bottom line. After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the special counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes.”
As I noted at the time, Barr’s language was strikingly similar to how Trump himself had long described the Mueller probe. But, that language from Barr seems far more damning for the attorney general in light of what he knew about both the repeated incidents of seemingly obstructive behavior in the Mueller report and also Mueller’s own concerns about the language Barr had used to describe the finding in his March 24 summary letter.
Barr is set to sit to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. He’s got a lot to answer for.

The Fraud On The American People That Is Donald Trump And Matt Whitaker

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

 

Former Attorney General Says Whitaker Appointment ‘Confounds Me’

Matt Whitaker participates in a round table event at the Department of Justice on Aug. 29, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The former attorney general under President George W. Bush is voicing doubt about whether President Trump has the authority to appoint Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, saying there are “legitimate questions” about whether the selection can stand without Senate confirmation.

In an interview with NPR, Alberto Gonzales, who served as attorney general from 2005 to 2007, also said that critical comments made by Whitaker about Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election “calls into question his impartiality.”

Gonzales’s comments add to a chorus of criticism that has faced the Whitaker appointment since Jeff Sessions announced on Wednesday that he was resigning as attorney general at the request of the president. In selecting Whitaker, who served as chief of staff to Sessions, the president passed over the official who had been in charge of the Mueller probe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

“I’ve got some issues with this, quite frankly, because the notion that the chief of staff who is not Senate confirmed would have more experience, more wisdom and better judgement than someone like the deputy attorney general or even the solicitor general, people in the line of presidential succession within the Department of Justice, to me, it confounds me,” Gonzales said in an interview Saturday with NPR’s Michel Martin.

The Whitaker appointment has fueled uncertainty about the future of the Mueller investigation, with many Democrats now urging the former U.S. attorney and Division I football player to recuse himself from overseeing the probe.

Those concerns stem from comments made by Whitaker before he joined the Justice Department last year. In an op-ed for CNN, Whitaker argued that the Mueller investigation had gone too far. He also told the network that he could envision a scenario where Sessions is replaced with an attorney general who “reduces [Mueller’s] budget so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.”

In a separate interview last year with the Wilkow Majority on SiriusXM radio, Whitaker opined on the Mueller investigation, saying, “The truth is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign … There was interference by the Russians into the election, but that is not the collusion with the campaign.”

Addressing Whitaker’s past statements, Gonzales said he questioned “whether or not putting Mr. Whitaker in this position at this particular time was the wise move.” Even if the appointment is lawful, Gonzales said, Whitaker’s comments raised “a whole specter of whether or not he should recuse himself, so again, we’re right back in the situation where you’ve got the leadership at the department subject to questioning as to whether or not they can effectively lead the department with respect to one of the most politically charged investigations that’s ongoing right now.”

On Friday, President Trump responded to criticism that he appointed Whitaker in order to rein in the investigation, saying he has not spoken to him about the probe. The president also said, “I don’t know Matt Whitaker,” even though he has met with him more than a dozen times. In October, President Trump also told Fox News, “Matt Whitaker’s a great guy. I mean, I know Matt Whitaker.”

Adding to the concerns of Democrats is Whitaker’s ties to a witness in the Mueller investigation: Sam Clovis. In 2014, Whitaker chaired Clovis’s campaign for Iowa state treasurer. Clovis went on to work as an adviser to the Trump campaign, and is believed to be one of the campaign officials who spoke with another aide, George Papadopoulos, about overtures Papadopoulos was getting from Russians in London.

The Washington Post, citing “two people close to Whitaker,” reported on Thursday that the new acting attorney general has no intention to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. In a statement on Wednesday, Whitaker said he is “committed to leading a fair Department with the highest ethical standards, that upholds the rule of law, and seeks justice for all Americans.”

As NPR’s Miles Parks and Philip Ewing reported this week, there are multiple ways Whitaker would be able to complicate Mueller’s work:

One is simply by declining to continue to pay the investigators or attorneys working for the special counsel. Or by re-assigning them back to their previous jobs in the FBI and the Justice Department or the intelligence community.

Another way is by constraining the authority that Mueller and his office have to conduct the investigations they want.

… When the special counsel’s office wants to issue a subpoena or send investigators or call witnesses before a grand jury, the deputy attorney general is often involved. If the new leadership at the Justice Department didn’t want to go along, however, that could constrain Mueller’s ability to investigate as he sees fit.

And, if nothing else, having an attorney general who isn’t recused from Mueller’s work might give the White House a clearer look inside it.

Gonzales said he was unsure of what could be done if Whitaker moved to stop the Mueller investigation. Such a dramatic step is sure to trigger a fight between Congress and the executive branch about access to what Mueller has so far found, he said.

“The [Justice] Department may simply assert privilege based on law enforcement privilege to protect the integrity of the investigation and to encourage honest dialogue between investigators and prosecutors. Whether or not that privilege would be upheld in the court remains to be seen,” he said.

But Gonzales said it shouldn’t have to come to that.

“I’m extremely troubled that a change may have been made here to stop an investigation, which by all accounts is almost complete,” he said. “I think we just wait and let this thing play out, let Bob Mueller write his report and let the American people know what actually happened here.”

The audio version of this story was produced by Dana Cronin and Ammad Omar.

‘He’s a F*cking Fool’: Justice Department Officials Trash Whitaker, Their New Boss

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE DAILY BEAST)

 

NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN

‘He’s a F*cking Fool’: Justice Department Officials Trash Matt Whitaker, Their New Boss

The new, acting attorney general will have profound powers on things not just related to the Russia probe.

The appointment this week of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general has sparked sharp concerns among lawmakers over the possibility that he may bottle up Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election.

Inside the Department of Justice, however, the fears are more expansive. Whitaker is seen as a rogue and underqualified new leader whose impact won’t just be felt on the Mueller probe but throughout the federal government.

“He’s a fucking fool,” one trial attorney inside the department said of the new AG. “He’s spent so much time trying to suck up to the president to get here. But this is a big job. It comes with many responsibilities. He just simply doesn’t have the wherewithal.”

Whitaker’s ascension to the rank of top law enforcement officer in the country has been as swift as its been controversial. A former U.S. attorney-turned-conservative media pundit, he served for months as former AG Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff before being appointed to fill his old boss’s post. That resume hasn’t instilled confidence.

“We’ve seen this over and over again with the Trump administration. They never vet these people,” said one former official from the department. “It shows that they don’t really have a strategy when it comes to these things and then they end up having to backtrack.”

But there are some in the department who are willing to give him a chance. One attorney who knew and worked with Whitaker said that when he entered his job as U.S. attorney for the southern district of Iowa in 2004, he faced a “steep learning curve.” But another attorney who encountered Whitaker said he was “humble enough to recognize that he didn’t know everything.”

“When I first encountered Matt I thought he was a bright guy who struck me as someone packaged in a very sort of good old farm boy football player package,” one of the attorneys said. “He was not a know-it-all. He asked a lot of questions. He really wanted to carry out the job effectively.”

But Whitaker is no longer occupying a post where he has time to learn and adjust. He now is running a department with more than 100,000 employees, a budget of roughly $30 billion, and with oversight of and input into every federal law enforcement matter in the country.  Already, Whitaker has signed off on a controversial new regulation that will allow President Trump to prohibit certain immigrants from seeking asylum. The department is currently prepping for December hearings in the AT&T-Time Warner case, in which DoJ has appealed the $85 billion merger. It is also also knee-deep in its lawsuit to block California’s new net neutrality law from going into place.

“We’ve seen this over and over again with the Trump administration. They never vet these people. It shows that they don’t really have a strategy when it comes to these things and then they end up having to backtrack.”
— A former official from the department.

Kerri Kupec, Acting Principal Deputy Director at DoJ defended Whitaker from his critics, saying that he is a “respected former U.S. Attorney and well-regarded at the Department of Justice. As Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said today, he is a superb choice.”

Bu the vast powers that Whitaker has not been given has left officials and trial attorneys at DoJ fearful that, in efforts to impress President Trump, he will try to make up for his inexperience by making rash decisions about the direction of the department, including implementing policy changes in the Division of Civil Rights.

“This guy has spent his whole life trying to climb the rungs of power to get to a federal appointment,” one DOJ official said. “Now that he is here, and who knows for how long, he’s going to try and make a name for himself. And that could make things harder for us.”

Originally from Iowa, Whitaker started his career as an attorney in Des Moines before running unsuccessfully for state treasurer in 2002. In 2004, President George W. Bush appointed him as the U.S. attorney. After leaving that office in 2009, he sought to build up his political connections, often meeting with influential lawmakers and think-tank leaders, two individuals who worked alongside him in the Department of Justice said.

Whitaker headed Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s presidential campaign in Iowa in 2012 before moving on to work in a similar capacity for Texas Gov. Rick Perry during his short-lived bid that same year. In 2014, he ran for a U.S. Senate seat in Iowa but lost in the GOP primary to eventual winner Joni Ernst. That same year, he worked as chairman for then-Republican candidate for State Treasurer Sam Clovis. Clovis, a former Trump campaign official, has been questioned by the Special Counsel’s office.

During the first year of the Trump presidency, Whitaker shuttled back and forth between Washington D.C. and New York, making numerous media appearances in an attempt to catch the president’s attention. In those appearances, Whitaker blasted the Mueller investigation, claiming there was “no collusion” between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

It worked. Though there are constitutional questions surrounding the appointing, Whitaker was named acting AG this Wednesday after Sessions’ forced resignation. On Friday, President Trump claimed he did not know Whitaker. But three people inside DOJ said that after stepping into his role of DoJ chief of staff in September 2017, Whitaker frequented the White House with Sessions and developed a working relationship with the president and his advisors.

It’s not just Whitaker’s efforts to appease the president that have people inside the Department of Justice on edge. His past business dealings and connection to FACT, a partisan watchdog group, have raised concerns that, as attorney general, he will make rash decisions about how to revamp department policies, including those that deal with immigration, criminal justice reform, gun rights and antitrust.

Inside DOJ, Whitaker’s political views are known to be similar to Sessions’. But officials there said that his unpredictability, and lack of institutional experience, could lead the department in a more conservative direction. Whitaker has written several opinion pieces in the national media and spoken publicly about about his conservative take on the law.

“I have a Christian worldview,” Whitaker said in a 2014 interview while campaigning in Iowa. “Our rights come from our Creator and they are guaranteed by the Constitution.”

Whitaker has also said he thought Marbury vs. Madison—a landmark decision that gives courts the power to declare legislative and executive acts unconstitutional—was a “bad ruling.” It’s those comments that have trial attorneys inside the civil rights division of the Department of Justice worried.

“The civil rights division is always more political than the other divisions,” said one trial attorney. “But the feeling is this guy is going to come in and take a tougher stance on policy matters like immigration.”

A previous version of this story said that a spokesperson at DoJ did not comment. The reason they did not, however, was because of a technological mishap. Their comment has since been added to the story.

Mueller’s investigation bears the hallmark of an organized crime case

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

Mueller’s investigation bears the hallmark of an organized crime case

Robert Mueller
Robert Mueller has extensive experience prosecuting organized crime and white collar cases from his time as FBI director.
 Alex Wong/Getty Images

Analysis banner

  • Paul Manafort’s recent plea deal and cooperation agreement with the special counsel Robert Mueller is the latest indication of how the Russia investigation mirrors an organized crime case.
  • The hallmark of any prosecutor’s approach to an organized crime case is the use of cooperating witnesses to move up the chain.
  • “You start low and you ask people: who did you answer to? Who gave you orders? Who did you report to?” said one Justice Department veteran. “That’s the only way to get to the top of a criminal organization, and that’s exactly what Mueller’s doing.”
  • But there are also a few crucial differences that make the Russia probe similar to a complex white-collar investigation.

As the special counsel Robert Mueller works his way through the myriad of threads in the Russia investigation, his approach bears more and more similarities to what prosecutors do when they’re tackling complex organized crime cases.

Mueller’s recent plea deal and cooperation agreement with Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, is just the latest indication of that.

The hallmark of any prosecutor’s approach to an organized crime case, experts say, is the use of cooperating witnesses.

Going up the ladder is critical in these types of cases because the organization typically has a hierarchical structure and a clear chain of command. It also usually involves wide-ranging, multi-party criminal activity.

“The higher you go, the more insulated those people are,” said Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor from the Southern District of New York who successfully prosecuted more than 100 members and associates of the Sicilian Mafia. “So the best way to penetrate that closed inner circle is by flipping people, and flipping them up.”

After investigators get a sense of which players are part of a criminal enterprise, they start by targeting those at the lowest levels.

“If they don’t voluntarily cooperate, you get honest leverage on them to compel their cooperation,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who was part of the team that convicted the Gambino crime family boss John Gotti in the 1990s. “You find their criminal conduct and use that to force them to do what they should have done originally, which is to tell the truth.”

Paul Manafort
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty this week.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Honig said he once nailed a case by flipping someone who was the driver for a more powerful person in the organization.

“That led us right up the chain,” he said. “And you can see that happening in the Russia investigation.”

The first plea deal Mueller’s office announced was that of George Papadopoulos, who served as an early foreign policy aide to the Trump campaign. Next, he looped in Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who admitted to lying to the FBI.

In February, Rick Gates, the former deputy chairman of the Trump campaign, announced that he would be pleading guilty and cooperating with the special counsel. Gates’ cooperation led prosecutors upstream, and his courtroom testimony against Manafort helped them successfully convict his former boss on eight counts of financial fraud last month.

Likewise, legal scholars say, Manafort’s cooperation, as well as that of Trump’s former longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, will likely help Mueller and New York federal prosecutors get information on an even bigger fish.

“It’s a classic strategy used in organized crime,” Cotter said. “You start low and you ask people: who did you answer to? Who gave you orders? Who did you report to? That’s the only way to get to the top of a criminal organization, and that’s exactly what Mueller’s doing.”

‘When you pull at a thread, you never know what you’re going to unravel’

michael cohen paul manafort
Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort are the two highest ranking people who have flipped.
Associated Press/Craig Ruttle; Associated Press/Alex Brandon; Business Insider

That said, there are two critical differences between Mueller’s approach to the Russia probe and prosecutors’ approach to organized crime cases.

The first is that most criminal enterprises don’t have a clear paper trail.

“Organized crime is particularly dependent on insider witnesses, because everything is kind of hidden and done in the shadows,” said Alex Whiting, a former Justice Department lawyer who prosecuted organized crime and corruption cases when he worked at the US attorney’s office in Boston.

“These cases usually aren’t paper heavy because there’s no email trail or documentation,” he added.

The Russia investigation, by contrast, has often been document-heavy. Prosecutors introduced 400 pieces of evidence at Manafort’s first trial in Virginia last month, and they planned to put forward almost three times that amount at his second trial had he not struck a last-minute plea deal.

Similarly, their charging document against Gates extensively cited his financial records, emails, and communications with other witnesses.

In that sense, Whiting said, certain aspects of the Russia probe make it more like a white-collar case.

The other crucial difference is that organized crime cases cases involve activities that clearly cross legal boundaries.

But Mueller’s team is sifting through a mix of legal political activity and potentially illegal activity.

The prototypical example of that overlay, Whiting said, is Trump himself.

“The president has the legal authority to fire the FBI director, but is it obstruction if he fired him to hamper an investigation into him?” Whiting said. “Trump has the power to pardon anyone for any federal crime, but is he obstructing justice if he does it to prevent them from testifying? Is collusion a crime?”

“There’s a complexity here that you don’t often see with organized crime,” he added. “In that respect, it’s much more like investigating white-collar crime, because the main questions there are, what was the conduct, and did the conduct cross into illegal territory?”

The bottom line in a case like the Russia probe, Honig said, is that there’s no way to tell where it will ultimately lead.

“When you pull at a thread, you never know what you’re going to unravel.”

Is Trumps Day Of Reckoning About Here?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

CNN) After one day where truth and facts triumphed, America is back to its alternative realities.

The convictions of two close associates of President Donald Trump in a mind-bending double-header drama in two cities on Tuesday were a moment of clarity in the legal morass that has thickened around the White House over the last 19 months.
Yet anyone who thought that being implicated in a crime in one of the most sensational political moments of recent history would soon temper Trump’s behavior, stop his White House peddling untruths or reshape the political terrain that sustains his presidency is being disappointed — at least for now.
Certainly, in years to come that tumultuous hour on Tuesday could turn out to be the moment when the Trump presidency began to unravel and the Teflon armor that shielded the President from scandals and outrages that would doom normal politicians was finally penetrated.
After all, months of obfuscation and attacks on Robert Mueller could not halt the legal process that’s likely to send former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the President’s former fixer Michael Cohen to jail for years. And the real meat of the special counsel’s investigation into alleged collusion with Russia is yet to be revealed.
But in the immediate term at least, it seems nothing has changed in Washington.
The White House is back to peddling narratives that defy fact, attacking the media and lifting talking points from conservative opinion hosts. Trump is making new assaults on legal propriety. Republicans are dodging reporters in the Capitol to avoid being called to account for the President’s latest transgression. Democrats, owing to the GOP’s power monopoly in Washington, can only stir outrage and fire blanks — at least until the midterm elections.

‘What in the world are we going through?’

Trump’s defenders can still argue that although Cohen and Manafort, and the already disgraced Trump acolytes Rick Gates and Michael Flynn, have been felled by Mueller, the President has not been charged or been proved to have colluded with Russia or obstructed justice.
But his attitude on Wednesday hardly fit the profile of someone who had done nothing wrong or who is convinced the legal process should be allowed to play out to its conclusion.
He made up a legal loophole to argue that the hush money paid to women before the 2016 election who alleged they had affairs with him — payments Cohen said were made at his direction — did not break the law since it did not come from campaign funds.
“They didn’t come out of the campaign and that’s big,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News. “It’s not even a campaign violation.”
Trump is also again brazenly tearing at the boundaries of presidential decorum, dangling the possibility of a pardon before Manafort, who might just be tempted to cooperate with Mueller, now that he’s probably going to jail for most of the rest of his life.
“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’ took a 12-year-old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!” Trump tweeted.
Former Watergate special prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste bemoaned the possibility that the President might be considering a pardon for a man convicted of massive tax fraud and called on political leaders to come together to head off a moment of national peril.
“What in the world are we going through in this country?” Ben-Veniste told CNN’s Erica Hill.
At the White House, press secretary Sarah Sanders held a previously unscheduled briefing to press home the President’s counterattack.
She dismissed the notion that Trump was in legal trouble at all over Cohen’s accusation, which effectively boiled down to the sitting President of the United States being accused of a crime.
“As the President has said and we’ve stated many times, he did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him and we’ve commented on it extensively,” she said.
When asked by a reporter whether Trump’s now-discredited statement on Air Force One that he knew nothing about the payment to former porn star Stormy Daniels, she attacked the messenger:
“I think that’s a ridiculous accusation. The President, in this matter, has done nothing wrong.”
Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, are stuck in their perpetual dance, tiptoeing around Trump’s latest misadventures in fear of his Make America Great Again base. House Speaker Paul Ryan, once seen as the moral conscience of the GOP, is nowhere to be seen nor heard.
“I’m not very happy about it,” said Utah’s Sen. Orrin Hatch, who earlier this year said the current presidency could be the greatest in history, but he added Wednesday that Trump should not be blamed for his staff.
Louisiana’s Sen. John Kennedy said he didn’t see what the fuss was about in the Cohen and Manafort convictions.
“You know, I’m sorry. I don’t see any deeper meaning in this other than you have to pay your taxes and you can’t lie on a loan application,” he told reporters.
South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsey Graham, a sometime Trump golf partner, punted.
“Rather than answer a bunch of hypotheticals, I’ll do what I did in the Clinton — when Ken Starr issued his report. I read it, I’ll make a decision,” he said.
Democrats are gamely repurposing the latest Trump crisis in their almost certainly futile bid to scuttle the President’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, but are limited by their purgatory in the minority.
Hawaii’s Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono nixed a meeting with Kavanaugh, to bolster Democratic calls for the nomination to be put on hold given Tuesday’s events.
But Democrats are also still wary of using the “I” word, partly to avoid giving Trump a rallying issue that could motivate his supporters in the midterm elections.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told The Associated Press on Wednesday that impeachment is still “not on the table” even though some liberals believe that if Trump did conspire with Cohen in the way it appears from his court testimony, he may have already committed a high crime or misdemeanor that is the standard for House of Representatives action against a President.

A ‘reckoning’ will come

It’s become a cliché that nothing — insulting war hero Sen. John McCain, cozying up to Russian leader Vladimir Putin or elevating white supremacists — derails Trump. Tuesday’s events could become just another data point in that trend. And if the special counsel finds no evidence of collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice, Trump will be able to credibly assert that his name is clear.
But no one knows where Mueller’s probe will lead, if Trump or his campaign is guilty of collusion or obstructing justice. Presidencies can take years to unravel, as the varied experiences of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter show.
There’s also little doubt that Tuesday’s legal stunner, and the news that White House Counsel Donald McGahn testified to Mueller for 30 hours, have seeded new dark clouds around the President that could manifest themselves in ways impossible to predict right now.
And while Democrats are currently powerless, they could cripple Trump’s presidency and make his life a misery with incessant investigations if they win the House in November
A Democratic rout would prompt Republicans to consider whether sticking with Trump and a strategy solely reliant on his base is wise in the 2020 election.
So while it may seem that Trump’s political and legal luck is holding, it may erode over time and the furor surrounding Tuesday’s convictions could be a major reason why.
Some Trump opponents are still optimistic that the President is set for a demise.
“I believe in the wisdom and the good faith of the American people,” Norm Eisen, White House ethics czar during the Obama administration, said on CNN International.
“Let’s let it unfold. He is going to meet his day of reckoning.”

Trump Trying To ‘Stifle Free Speech,’ 12 Former Intelligence Officials Say

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

Trump Trying To ‘Stifle Free Speech,’ 12 Former Intelligence Officials Say

The rare rebuke comes after the president revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan.
X

In a joint statement Thursday, a dozen of the nation’s leading former intelligence officials slammed President Donald Trump’s recent decision to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance.

The officials, who served under both Republican and Democratic presidents, include former CIA Directors Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta, William Webster, Porter Goss, David Petraeus and George Tenet, several of the agency’s former deputy directors and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

“We all agree that the president’s action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances ― and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech,” they wrote. “You don’t have to agree with what John Brennan says (and, again, not all of us do) to agree with his right to say it, subject to his obligation to protect classified information.”

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Elana Schor

@eschor

New: Statement from a dozen former top intelligence officials representing R and D admins (including ex-CIA chiefs) says yanking Brennan’s clearance has “everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech.”

Trump announced Wednesday that he had revoked Brennan’s clearance, part of an ongoing effort to retaliate against those who have criticized the administration. Former top intelligence and law enforcement officials have traditionally been allowed to retain their clearances as a professional courtesy, which also allows future administrations to call upon them for their expertise.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday also read a list of several other former officials whose credentials are currently being reviewed, including two people who signed Thursday’s statement.

“We have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case,” the 12 intelligence leaders wrote. The officials, who served under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, stressed that Brennan was an “enormously talented, capable, and patriotic individual who devoted his adult life to the service of this nation.”

Brennan himself fired back at the White House after the announcement, saying it was “an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge” Trump.

Despite the outcry, The Washington Post reported Thursday that Trump felt bolstered by his decision and was eager to revoke the clearances of others in the near future, an effort sure to provoke the signers of Thursday’s statement.

“As individuals who have cherished and helped preserve the right of Americans to free speech ― even when that right has been used to criticize us ― that signal is inappropriate and deeply regrettable,” the former intelligence officials wrote.

John Brennan: President Trump’s Claims of No Collusion Are Hogwash

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

John Brennan: President Trump’s Claims of No Collusion Are Hogwash

That’s why the president revoked my security clearance: to try to silence anyone who would dare challenge him.

By John O. Brennan

Mr. Brennan was director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2013 to 2017.

Image
CreditAl Drago/The New York Times

When Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s internal security service, told me during an early August 2016 phone call that Russia wasn’t interfering in our presidential election, I knew he was lying. Over the previous several years I had grown weary of Mr. Bortnikov’s denials of Russia’s perfidy — about its mistreatment of American diplomats and citizens in Moscow, its repeated failure to adhere to cease-fire agreements in Syria and its paramilitary intervention in eastern Ukraine, to name just a few issues.

When I warned Mr. Bortnikov that Russian interference in our election was intolerable and would roil United States-Russia relations for many years, he denied Russian involvement in any election, in America or elsewhere, with a feigned sincerity that I had heard many times before. President Vladimir Putin of Russia reiterated those denials numerous times over the past two years, often to Donald Trump’s seeming approval.

Russian denials are, in a word, hogwash.

Before, during and after its now infamous meddling in our last presidential election, Russia practiced the art of shaping political events abroad through its well-honed active measures program, which employs an array of technical capabilities, information operations and old-fashioned human intelligence spycraft. Electoral politics in Western democracies presents an especially inviting target, as a variety of politicians, political parties, media outlets, think tanks and influencers are readily manipulated, wittingly and unwittingly, or even bought outright by Russian intelligence operatives. The very freedoms and liberties that liberal Western democracies cherish and that autocracies fear have been exploited by Russian intelligence services not only to collect sensitive information but also to distribute propaganda and disinformation, increasingly via the growing number of social media platforms.

Having worked closely with the F.B.I. over many years on counterintelligence investigations, I was well aware of Russia’s ability to work surreptitiously within the United States, cultivating relationships with individuals who wield actual or potential power. Like Mr. Bortnikov, these Russian operatives and agents are well trained in the art of deception. They troll political, business and cultural waters in search of gullible or unprincipled individuals who become pliant in the hands of their Russian puppet masters. Too often, those puppets are found.

In my many conversations with James Comey, the F.B.I. director, in the summer of 2016, we talked about the potential for American citizens, involved in partisan politics or not, to be pawns in Russian hands. We knew that Russian intelligence services would do all they could to achieve their objectives, which the United States intelligence community publicly assessed a few short months later were to undermine public faith in the American democratic process, harm the electability of the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, and show preference for Mr. Trump. We also publicly assessed that Mr. Putin’s intelligence services were following his orders. Director Comey and I, along with the director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Michael Rogers, pledged that our agencies would share, as appropriate, whatever information was collected, especially considering the proven ability of Russian intelligence services to suborn United States citizens.

The already challenging work of the American intelligence and law enforcement communities was made more difficult in late July 2016, however, when Mr. Trump, then a presidential candidate, publicly called upon Russia to find the missing emails of Mrs. Clinton. By issuing such a statement, Mr. Trump was not only encouraging a foreign nation to collect intelligence against a United States citizen, but also openly authorizing his followers to work with our primary global adversary against his political opponent.

Image
Donald Trump with his daughter Ivanka and campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in July 2016, hours before he accepted the Republican nomination for president. A few days later he called on Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s emails.CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times

Such a public clarion call certainly makes one wonder what Mr. Trump privately encouraged his advisers to do — and what they actually did — to win the election. While I had deep insight into Russian activities during the 2016 election, I now am aware — thanks to the reporting of an open and free press — of many more of the highly suspicious dalliances of some American citizens with people affiliated with the Russian intelligence services.

Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash.

The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of “Trump Incorporated” attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets. A jury is about to deliberate bank and tax fraud charges against one of those people, Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman. And the campaign’s former deputy chairman, Rick Gates, has pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators.

Mr. Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him. Now more than ever, it is critically important that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his team of investigators be allowed to complete their work without interference — from Mr. Trump or anyone else — so that all Americans can get the answers they so rightly deserve.

John O. Brennan was director of the Central Intelligence Agency from March 2013 to January 2017.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

Diana Qeblawi

Travel Tips I Share

Miles for places

Travel | Miles | Photography

Cayman News Service

Cayman Islands Headline News

Nature photoblog la maro

My photographs and my reflections.

Harsh Travel Blogger

A Traveller's Guide to the Planet

Complete Christianity

The Catholic Blog of Shane Schaetzel

PEACEMAKERS

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3

Ryan Callahan's Blog

A Christian Author's blog to help people come to Jesus, help people understand the Bible, and to minister to a lost and hurting world.

A Christian Worldview of Fiction

A look at fiction and other bits of culture through the lens of the Bible

%d bloggers like this: