‘Teflon don, Trump’ About To Go Down In The Flames Of Impeachment?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

(Is The ‘Teflon don, Trump’ About To Go Down In The Flames Of Impeachment?)

Right Turn

Trump melts down after Cohen raid — and only hurts himself

  
 April 10 at 9:00 AM 
 2:01
Trump fumes ‘attorney-client privilege is dead’ after FBI raid

President Trump tweeted his outrage at an FBI raid of his personal attorney Michael Cohen’s home and offices, calling it a “witch hunt.”

In an extraordinary series of events, the FBI executed a no-knock raid on President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen’s office, home and hotel. The president, seated alongside his top military and civilian national security advisers to discuss a response to the Syrians’ use of chemical weapons, launched into a rant in which he did not rule out firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, accused law enforcement of bias, whined that Hillary Clinton was not being prosecuted, suggested Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein had behaved improperly in signing off on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, railed again at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself (and thereby allowing the investigation proceed) and deemed execution of a warrant signed off on by a federal judge and approved by a U.S. attorney and deputy attorney general, both of whom he appointed, to be an “attack” on the country.
Let’s start with the raid. The Post reports:

Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney of President Trump, is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations, according to three people with knowledge of the case.
FBI agents on Monday raided Cohen’s Manhattan office, home and hotel room as part of the investigation, seizing records about Cohen’s clients and personal finances. Among the records taken were those related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump, according to another person familiar with the investigation.
Investigators took Cohen’s computer, phone and personal financial records, including tax returns, as part of the search of his office at Rockefeller Center, the second person said.
In a dramatic and broad seizure, federal prosecutors collected communications between Cohen and his clients — including those between the lawyer and Trump, according to both people.

Let us not understate how extraordinary a development this is. The standard of proof required to raid any attorney’s office is exceptionally high. To authorize a raid on the president’s lawyer’s office, a federal judge or magistrate must have seen highly credible evidence of serious crimes and/or evidence Cohen was hiding or destroying evidence, according to legal experts. “The FBI raid was the result of an ongoing criminal investigation *not* by Mueller but by the interim US Attorney personally interviewed and selected by Trump himself, pursuant to a warrant issued under strict standards by a federal judge, subject to approval by the head of the Criminal Division,” said constitutional scholar Larry Tribe. He warns that “firing Sessions or Rosenstein (or reining in Mueller) would trigger a crisis for the Constitution and our national security but wouldn’t even extricate Trump from criminal investigation of his innermost circle.” In short, Tribe concludes, “This is every bit as shattering as many have surmised.”

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What we don’t know is whether the suspected wrongdoing extends to Trump or is solely attributable to Cohen. (By referring the matter to the New York prosecutor, Mueller may have signaled this is not germane to the Russia investigation; however, any possible crimes concerning Stormy Daniels, for example, may or may not implicate Trump.) Whatever the FBI sweeps up may very well further enmesh Trump in an investigation in which what seemed like a series of separate topics — Trump’s personal finances, potential obstruction of justice, possible Russian collusion and hush money paid to a porn star — have begun to bleed into one another. Trump is as vulnerable as he has always been, in part because he plainly does not know what federal prosecutors now have in their possession and because intense pressure may be brought to bear on Cohen to “flip” on Trump.
Trump cannot take much comfort in the attorney-client privilege. For one thing, it applies to legal communications; if Cohen is acting as a businessman/”fixer,” no privilege may attach. Moreover, the attorney-client privilege cannot apply to communications that are part of a crime (e.g., a conspiracy to obstruct justice). Trump once said investigating his finances were a “red line” for Mueller; the latest move in raiding Cohen transgresses any limitation Trump could possibly have dreamed up. His reaction reflects his fury in not being able to fend off Mueller.
Trump’s response was disturbing on multiple levels.
First, Trump in essence declared war on the rule of law. “It’s, frankly, a real disgrace. It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for,” said the president, who now equates the operation of the criminal-justice system under the rule of law to be an attack on the country. He is the country in his eyes. Those who challenge him are enemies of the country. There is no better formulation of his authoritarian, anti-democratic mindset than this.

 3:03
Opinion | Trump can fire Mueller, but that won’t get rid of the Russia investigation

Opinion | If President Trump fires the bane of his legal troubles, he could spark a legal and constitutional crisis.

Second, his tirade against Sessions should rekindle concerns that he is contemplating firing him and putting in a flunky to protect himself. “The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this, and when he recused himself,” Trump said. “Or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself, and we would have used a — put a different attorney general in. So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country.” That, too, is a picture-perfect distillation of his warped view of the presidency. He hands Mueller another admission that he thinks the DOJ should protect him from, instead of conducting investigations into criminal and counterintelligence matters.
Third, Trump’s attempts to discredit Mueller’s team and the FBI should highlight the necessity of Congress protecting the special counsel. (“This is the most biased group of people. These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I’ve ever seen.”) When he says the investigation is a “witch hunt,” he may be plowing the way to fire Mueller and/or Rosenstein or refuse to cooperate with an interview. In either event, we would face a constitutional crisis.
Fourth, Trump’s insistence that his campaign has been exonerated from “collusion” (“So they find no collusion, and then they go from there and they say, ‘Well, let’s keep going.’”) is baseless. More than 70 different contacts between Trump team and Russian-related figures have been found. Multiple indictments and plea deals have been struck. The investigation continues. His false certainty that there is no evidence of collusion can now be seen as the motive for his attempts to discredit and derail the investigation, to obstruct justice, in other words.
Finally, Trump’s rambling, unhinged reaction — after his attorneys no doubt counseled him to keep quiet — should shake his supporters. The pressure of the investigation and vulnerability to prosecution and/or impeachment are not going to vanish. His family and his fix-it lawyer won’t stop Mueller. His TV friends cannot keep the FBI at bay. He lashes out like a cornered animal. The angrier and more panicked Trump becomes, the greater chance he will behave in extreme and destructive ways.
“The president cannot help himself,” former White House ethics counsel Norman Eisen told me. “Instead of doing his job as our chief federal law enforcement official and allowing the rule of law to operate unimpeded, he lashes out when he feels personally threatened.” He adds, “The president’s words were more befitting a mob don when the feds are closing in. Given Michael Cohen’s role in Trump’s past, perhaps they are. The American people will not stand for any Trump attempt to match his hostile words with aggressive action against Mueller, Sessions, Rosenstein or other DOJ officials. If he does, it will be the beginning of the end for his presidency.”
Now would be a good time for Republicans to find their spines, remember their oaths and act to insulate Mueller and Rosenstein from Trump. A simple declaration that firing either would be an impeachable offense would, frankly, be a help to Trump. He could use some outside restraint.

FBI Raids The Office Of Trumps Personal Lawyer

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

The FBI raided the office of Michael Cohen, a personal lawyer and confidant of President Donald Trump, Cohen’s attorney confirmed to CNN Monday.

One source familiar with the matter told CNN that included in the documents authorities seized was information related to Stephanie Clifford, better known as porn actress Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with Trump in 2006 that the White House has denied.
Stephen Ryan, a lawyer for Cohen, said in a statement that the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York had executed “a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications” between Cohen and his clients.
A White House official said Trump had been watching TV reports of the FBI raiding Cohen’s office, and that Trump knew about the raid before the news broke.
Ryan’s statement called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary,” and said federal prosecutors had told him it stemmed partially from a referral by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller.
“I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller,” Ryan said in the statement. “… It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney client communications between a lawyer and his clients. These government tactics are also wrong because Mr. Cohen has cooperated completely with all government entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath.”
The New York Times first reported on news of Monday’s raid.
The special counsel’s office declined to comment on the searches Monday.
A person briefed on the search told the Times that the FBI also seized emails, tax documents and business records, including communications between Trump and Cohen.
The White House official said it is unclear if Trump has spoken to Cohen.
Cohen is a longtime ally of the President, and admitted earlier this year to setting up a limited liability company in 2016 to pay Daniels. She has alleged she had an affair with Trump a decade earlier, and that the payment was hush money. The White House has denied Daniels’ allegations of an affair with Trump.
Asked about the Daniels controversy last week, Trump said he did not know about the payment and declined to comment further, instead referring questions to Cohen.
“You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” Trump said. “Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.”

There’s more to Trump’s ‘fair’ prediction on Mueller probe than meets the eye

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

There’s more to Trump’s ‘fair’ prediction on Mueller probe than meets the eye

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Trump raises questions on how he’ll act if Mueller doesn’t end his probe soon
  • “I hope that he’s going to be fair,” Trump told The New York Times

(CNN)President Donald Trump’s latest interview with The New York Times is a many layered exercise of political positioning, calculated ambiguity and veiled menace.

On the face of it, the President appears to undercut a holiday season campaign by Hill Republicans and the pro-Trump media to discredit Robert Mueller’s probe by saying he believes the special counsel will be “fair” to him.
Yet Trump raises implicit questions about how he will act if Mueller does not soon end his investigation and clear him. Other comments in the interview are already prompting new concerns about the President’s perception of his own powers of jurisdiction over the Mueller inquiry and the Justice Department itself.
Trump also used the session to direct a stinging new critique toward Jeff Sessions, revealing the President’s still boiling fury with the attorney general, which will provoke new speculation about how long the former Alabama senator will survive in his job.
The interview, conducted Thursday during Trump’s stay at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, offers a fascinating glimpse into the President’s mind and mood as the Russia investigation hangs over his administration despite a strong end-of-year streak that saw the passage of the most sweeping tax reform law in 30 years.
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He stayed true to his recent strategy of not criticizing Mueller personally, though many of his supporters among Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the pro-Trump media are waging an escalating campaign against the special counsel and arguing that his subordinates are biased against Trump.
“I hope that he’s going to be fair. I think that he’s going to be fair. … There’s been no collusion. But I think he’s going to be fair,” Trump said.
The President’s comments could be seen as an above-the-board attempt to ensure that Mueller’s capacity to finish his investigation is not compromised. Or perhaps his motivation is to set up a good guy/bad guy scenario as his allies continue to attack the special counsel.

Defining ‘fair’

Lead Chalian new CNN Russia poll live_00011812

  
New CNN poll on Russia 
It’s impossible to know what the President is really thinking, since his remarks are characteristically ambiguous and open to so many interpretations. They allow his supporters and adversaries to take specific messages, while allowing him plausible deniability that he is trying to lean on Mueller or Justice authorities.
One example of this is when Trump defines what fairness means in his mind: a swift conclusion by Mueller that there was no cooperation between his campaign and Russia in last year’s election. The implications of a verdict that does not measure up to his expectations remain unspecified but ominous possibilities are left hanging in the air.
“Everybody knows the answer already. There was no collusion. None whatsoever,” Trump said, before returning over and over again to the “no collusion” line throughout the interview.
While there has been no proof offered of collusion so far either by Mueller or multiple congressional investigations into the matter, no probe into the affair has yet concluded that collusion did not exist. And Trump’s comment that all Democrats say there is no collusion — while not being true — also appears to be an attempt to prejudge the outcome of the various inquiries.
Mueller is not investigating the collusion issue alone. His moves so far — for instance, the plea deal with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and interviews with White House staff — suggest he is also probing whether the President obstructed justice.
In the interview, Trump maintains that the prevailing shadow of the Russia investigation is detrimental to the best interests of the United States at large. His gambit follows reports by CNN that his lawyers have told him they believe the Mueller probe will be wrapped up soon and that he will be exonerated, despite the lack of outside signs that the special counsel is anywhere near that point.
“The only thing that bothers me about timing, I think it’s a very bad thing for the country. Because it makes the country look bad. It makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position,” Trump said.
“So the sooner it’s worked out, the better it is for the country.”
Taken at face value, those comments can be read as evidence of altruistic concern by a head of state for the damage a divisive affair is wreaking on US political and judicial institutions, and they will be perceived that way by Trump supporters.
“We have one investigation, let alone three right right now currently going on to address issues related to the last election,” Republican Rep. Rodney Davis said on CNN’s “New Day” on Friday.
“I think the President is clear in his distaste for the disarray that any investigation causes. And I think he’s right to say that.”
Yet to critics concerned about an authoritarian streak that Trump has displayed throughout his 11 months in power, and his propensity to attack institutions like the FBI and the Justice Department, his motive in equating his personal, political interests with those of the nation may appear more sinister.
Some Republicans don’t agree with the President, saying the nation’s interests are better served by pursuing the Russia probes to their rightful end and that the investigations show the robustness of American civic institutions.
“I believe the Russia investigation, you know, speaks to our transparency in many ways,” Republican Rep. Charlie Dent told “New Day.” “The Russians meddled in our elections, and not only here but throughout the world, and it’s important this be investigated by Congress and Director Mueller.”
“We have to let him do his work and let’s see what he finds before we jump to conclusions,” Dent said.

Justice Department powers

Analyst: No job safe in Trump administration

  
Analyst: No job safe in Trump administration
Trump’s interview also contains a remarkable assertion of presidential power over the Justice Department that will do little to quell concerns among the President’s critics who fear he may eventually move to dismiss Mueller as the investigation gets ever closer to the Oval Office.
Asked whether the investigation into 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server should be reopened, Trump makes a case that such a move could be within his purview.
“What I’ve done is, I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department. But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter,” Trump told the Times.
While the President can remove top Justice Department officials and the head of the FBI, presidents have traditionally sought to avoid perceptions they are influencing or politicizing the act of implementing the law.
The word “absolute” in this context is a loaded one. And should Trump order the department to end an investigation into his own conduct, he could open himself to accusations that he is obstructing justice.
The hint that Trump retains the right to use the department to investigate his enemies will raise fresh worries that he could test constitutional norms in the future.
Former US Attorney Michael Moore said Trump’s comments made him sound like a king or an emperor.
“He has absolutely no idea what his constitutional role or responsibilities or limitations are,” Moore told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Friday.
“The Justice Department is not his tool. It maintains independence for a very specific reason. It is not a tool of the administration either to persecute your political enemies or to somehow be a cheerleader for political accomplishments,” Moore said.
Trump’s interview also aimed another body blow at Sessions, who the President has repeatedly criticized for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, given Sessions’ previous role as a member of the President’s campaign team.
Trump was asked if former Attorney General Eric Holder was more loyal to his President, Barack Obama, than Sessions is to him.
“I don’t want to get into loyalty,” Trump said, while also taking a characteristic swipe at the previous administration.
“I will say this: Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him,” Trump said.
“When you look at the things that they did, and Holder protected the President. And I have great respect for that, I’ll be honest,” he said.

Trump keeps creating his own personal hell—Because He Is To Ignorant And Stupid To Shut Up

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Trump keeps creating his own personal hell

June 15 
Special counsel investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice
The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials to determine whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said. (Patrick Martin,McKenna Ewen/The Washington Post)

Last month President Trump apparently told the Russians he fired FBI director James B. Comey to relieve pressure on him. Except, in firing Comey, Trump has upped the pressure cooker he’s in by a factor of 10.

“I’m not under investigation,” Trump then told the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office, according to the New York Times.

Now, it appears he is.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, related to Comey’s testimony alleging that Trump tried to interfere in some of the FBI’s Russia investigations.

Until recently, the FBI’s investigation had focused on Russia meddling in the presidential campaign and whether Trump’s campaign helped. We knew the investigation was looking into Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, but we had no idea how much higher it would go. Now, that investigation has branched out into obstruction into its first investigation. And the spotlight on the obstruction case is entirely on the president himself.

This is the great irony for Trump, an irony he doesn’t seem to have comprehended: When he feels backed into a corner, he lashes out in politically inadvisable ways that often makes his life much more difficult. But he can’t seem to stop doing it.

As a candidate behind in the polls, Trump lurched at Hillary Clinton in a way that gave her supporters leverage to claim Trump wasn’t supportive of women. As a president who watched health-care legislation stall in the House of Representatives, he blamed conservatives in a way that fractured his delicate relationship with Congress. When he tweeted about an impending court decision on his travel ban, a federal court used that against him.

Some of that still worked out for him, some of it hasn’t.

But when Trump feels encroached by a serious and multipronged legal investigation, lashing out attracts a different set of consequences for the president: Legal ones that directly threaten him.

You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!

 

Jacobovitz doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that, last week, a friend of the president said Trump was considering firing Mueller. (A consideration the White House didn’t deny: They later said Trump has “no intention” of firing Mueller.)

A few days later, sources with knowledge of the closed-door special counsel investigation leaked to The Post that Trump himself is under investigation. That’s a shocking development.

But making the scope public is like a buffer for Mueller’s job security — and it could act as a buffer to try to save the president from himself.

“Now it’s clear that he’s being investigated, it makes it even more difficult to fire Mueller,” Jacobovitz said, “because it looks like he’s trying to terminate an investigation against himself. … It would be political suicide.”

If Trump were to follow through on his natural instinct to lash out and fire Mueller, he would have little support. Pretty much everyone who’s anyone in Washington has made clear they think it’d be a terrible, terrible idea for Trump to sack Mueller.

“I think the best advice is to let Robert Mueller do his job,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters on Tuesday.

For how Trump could, feasibly, fire Mueller, here’s a flow chart by Washington Post’s Philip Bump, who explains the process in detail here:

That doesn’t mean Trump will keep his head down. Especially since things could get even worse for him on the legal front.

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Attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit against the president, alleging he’s violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution by not fully separating himself from his business. (He retains an ownership stake in the business his sons run.) So has a government watchdog advocacy group. And nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress will soon file a similar lawsuit.

If any one of those gets traction in the courts (and Jacobovitz thinks one will), Trump could be investigated for his personal finances as well as his actions as president. Oh, and Mueller’s investigation is also reportedly looking into unexplained “broad financial crimes.”

Add it all up and you have a president who could soon be under attack on multiple legal fronts. Trump’s go-to move when he feels under attack is to respond in a way that exacerbates the situation. That’s why there’s an obstruction of justice investigation in the first place.

At this point, the president has boxed himself into a corner where following his instincts could make his life exponentially worse.

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