Posts Tagged ‘FBI’

Let Mueller Keep Digging

December 12, 2017

The special counsel’s team raises questions about its own fairness and impartiality.

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FBI Director Christopher Wray is sworn in during a House Judiciary hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. (AP Photo-Carolyn Kaster)

At a moment when the special counsel’s team is busy calling its own fairness and impartiality into question, why would Donald Trump even think of firing Robert Mueller ?

When the special counsel picked his team, almost half the lawyers he selected had donated to Hillary Clinton. Legally that may not be disqualifying. It was, however, highly imprudent for a man presiding over the nation’s most sensitive investigation. Not a single Mueller prosecutor had contributed to Mr. Trump.

Those donations now provide the context for more recent revelations about the partisan preferences of Team Mueller. Start with the lead FBI agent, Peter Strzok, who exchanged anti-Trump, pro-Hillary text messages with his mistress, an FBI lawyer named Lisa Page —who was then also working for Mr. Mueller. Andrew Weissmann, the lead prosecutor, not only attended Mrs. Clinton’s election-night soiree but turns out to have cheered an Obama holdover at the Justice Department, Sally Yates, for her refusal to carry out a presidential order. Meanwhile we learn that a senior Justice official, Bruce Ohr, met with both Trump dossier author Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson during the 2016 campaign—and that his wife worked for Fusion GPS.

These developments, alas, have encouraged two horrible responses from Republicans. The first is the call for Mr. Trump to sack Mr. Mueller, an idea news reports say is gaining traction inside the White House. The other is for a new special counsel to investigate the existing special counsel.

Robert S. Mueller.
Robert S. Mueller. PHOTO: UNIVERSAL HISTORY ARCHIVE/UIG VIA BRIDGEMAN IMAGES

Either would make a bad situation worse. If the president fires Mr. Mueller now, it will look as though he has something to hide; if another special counsel is appointed, it will further diminish the proper investigative authority here—i.e., Congress. There are better ways forward.

Start with the president. If it’s true that there is no obstruction or Russian collusion, his overriding interest lies in full transparency. In a recent piece for National Review, former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy asks why Mr. Trump doesn’t just order the declassification of material such as the FBI’s application for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrants to wiretap Trump associates, so Americans can see for themselves whether the FBI used or misused information from the infamous Steele dossier. Good question.

My colleague Kim Strassel has suggested the president might create a temporary position at Justice for an appointee whose only job would be to ensure Justice and FBI compliance with congressional oversight. Again, a good idea. But even without a point man, Mr. Trump as president has the authority to declassify documents and have information made public.

Here Donald Sr. might follow the example of Donald Jr. Back in July, amid reports that he met with a Russian after being offered dirt on Mrs. Clinton, the first son released his email exchanges. He was similarly forthcoming last month, releasing his direct-message exchanges with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after news broke they had been in touch.

Then there’s Congress, which has been rightly frustrated to find the Trump Justice Department as obstructionist as the Obama Justice Department. In testimony last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray advanced the extraordinary claim he can hold back information from the elected representatives of the American people on the grounds that it is classified or that he’s waiting for an inspector general’s report and so, presumably, should they.

The message for Congress is this: Why should an FBI director take you seriously when you don’t take yourselves seriously? During the IRS scandal, Lois Lerner rode off into the sunset without testifying because Congress allowed the Obama Justice Department to determine her fate. Ditto for John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner who happily served out his time when Congress should have impeached him for his falsehoods and obstructionism.

In its 1821 decision affirming the right of the House to hold people in contempt and jail them, the Supreme Court noted that depriving Congress of this authority would mean “the total annihilation of the power of the House of Representatives” to prevent people from just flipping it the bird. Isn’t that just what government officials from Ms. Lerner to Mr. Wray have been doing?

If executive branch officials continue to play games with subpoenas, Congress needs to give them a taste of the legislature’s powers, whether by cutting agency budgets, impeaching directors or holding uncooperative officials in contempt. In this regard it’s good to know Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is still pursuing contempt citations for Mr. Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. A contempt vote by the full House would of course depend on Speaker Paul Ryan, who complained in October about FBI “stonewalling.”

So forget firings and new special prosecutors. Let the president use his executive authority to make public the evidence that would tell the American people what really happened. And let Congress start acting like the coequal branch of government the Founders intended—and get to the bottom of a story that involves the legitimacy of the presidency, the 2016 election and our federal institutions.

Write to mcgurn@wsj.com.

Appeared in the December 12, 2017, print edition.

Includes video:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/let-mueller-keep-digging-1513035975

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Can a president obstruct justice?

December 11, 2017

Yes, but not by doing any of the things we know Trump to have done.

Speculation about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has turned toward obstruction of justice—specifically, whether President Trump can be criminally prosecuted for firing James Comey as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or for earlier asking Mr. Comey to go easy on onetime national security adviser Mike Flynn. The answer is no. The Constitution forbids Congress to criminalize such conduct by a president, and applying existing statutes in such a manner would violate the separation of powers.

The Constitution…

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/can-a-president-obstruct-justice-1512938781

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Editorial: Yes, the president can obstruct justice, said Senate GOP

  • Quad-City Times editorial board
Illustration

Yes, the president can obstruct justice. Just ask the nine Republicans still in the U.S. Senate, including Chuck Grassley, who voted “guilty” when then-President Bill Clinton was accused of obstruction in 1999.

And that’s true no matter how badly those very same Republicans now don’t want to talk about it.

The long-debated issue came to a head this past week when an attorney for President Donald Trump, John Dowd, summoned the ghost of Richard Nixon during an interview with Axiom.

 “… the president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer and has every right to express his view of any case,” Dowd told the news site.

Dowd’s provocative statement follows a slew of charges filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller against members of Trump’s inner circle, who just couldn’t seem to stop meeting with Russian operatives during the campaign. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a close Trump aide and political confident, recently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. In response, Trump basically admitted on Twitter that he knew Flynn wasn’t honest with investigators when he canned former FBI Director James Comey, who refused to acquiesce to the president’s request to back off on the Flynn investigation, according to Comey’s congressional testimony. 

The legality of Dowd’s position has been debated for decades. The U.S. Constitution does not clarify if a sitting president can face prosecution. During the Watergate scandal, Nixon was listed as an “unindicted co-conspirator” during the court proceedings. But obstruction of justice was the first and key charge in the list of impeachable offenses drafted in the House. Nixon left office before the House could actually impeach him.

In 1999, Clinton’s administration was ablaze with the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The GOP-run House sent two indictments against the Democratic president to the Senate, including an obstruction of justice charge. The Senate failed to convict Clinton on either charge, splitting 50-50 when a two-thirds majority was required. But that also means 50 senators — universally Republicans — determined that a U.S. president can obstruct justice.

Of those 50, nine still sit in the Senate. They are Mike Crapo, Mike Enzi, Thad Cochran, Jim Inhofe, Orrin Hatch, John McCain, Mitch McConnell and Pat Roberts. Two more — Jeff Sessions and John Ashcroft — are, or have been, attorneys general in GOP administrations. 

In both instances, presidents were tried in Congress, not the courts. Still, each case represents a moment when a sitting president was charged, in a legal proceeding, with obstructing justice. But, unlike the court system, impeachment is a wholly political event. 

What’s clear is that congressional Republicans don’t want to talk about Dowd’s under-construction defense amid Mueller’s probe. Grassley’s vote in 1999 is a testament in black-and-white that, at least when the other side is under investigation, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee believes a president can obstruct justice. Yet, this past week, a straight answer was not to be had when Grassley’s staff were asked about Dowd’s assertion that, like a king, a president is immune from the rule of law. That silence was made even more notable in the wake of Sen. Diane Feinstein’s allegations that Grassley — with his desire to remake the federal courts for a generation in Trump’s image — has no interest in probing Trump too deeply. Instead, he’s more concerned with yet another probe of Hillary Clinton, on Wednesday blasting Democrats on the Judiciary Committee for resisting his push for yet another diversion from Trump’s legal perils. 

But a direct rebuke of Dowd’s assertion from the likes of Grassley and his peers is necessary, regardless of how badly Republicans want to protect the White House. Silence sets precedents that are sure to outlive us all. It would further erode basic democratic norms that separate republic from monarchy. It would, in very real terms, be another example of a Congress willing only to stand for the rule of law when it suits partisan ends.

 http://qctimes.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-yes-the-president-can-obstruct-justice-said-senate-gop/article_e26e3dcb-e17c-5639-826a-54548c229003.html

Local editorials represent the opinion of the Quad-City Times editorial board, which consists of Publisher Deb Anselm, Executive Editor Autumn Phillips, Editorial Page Editor Jon Alexander, Associate Editor Bill Wundram and community representative John Wetzel.

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On whether the president can obstruct justice

  • New York Times

You know you have a problem when you’ve been president for less than 11 months and you’re already relying on Richard Nixon’s definition of what’s legal.

On Monday morning, Axios reported that Mr. Trump’s top personal lawyer, John Dowd, said in an interview that the “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer” under the Constitution and “has every right to express his view of any case.”

This will come as news to Congress, which has passed laws criminalizing the obstruction of justice and decided twice in the last four decades that when a president violates those laws he has committed an impeachable offense.

In 1974, the first article of impeachment drafted by the House of Representatives charged President Nixon with “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force.”

A quarter-century later, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House for, among other things, having “prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice” and for having “engaged personally, and through his subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or scheme designed to delay, impede, cover up and conceal the existence of evidence and testimony.”

Now let’s see if those descriptions apply to President Trump.

On Saturday morning, in the wake of the bombshell guilty plea by Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, for lying to F.B.I. agents about his communications with Russian officials late last year, Mr. Trump tweeted, “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.”

Recall that the original justification for Mr. Flynn’s firing was simply that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence; otherwise he had done nothing wrong. That’s the case Mr. Trump made the day after Mr. Flynn’s firing, when he allegedly tried to shut down the F.B.I.’s inquiry into his campaign’s connections with Russian officials by telling James Comey, who was then the F.B.I. director, in a private Oval Office meeting, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”

In May, Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey, telling Russian officials in the Oval Office the next day that firing Mr. Comey had relieved “great pressure” on him, and referring to Mr. Comey as a “nut job.” In an interview with NBC, Mr. Trump said, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’”

It was bad enough for the president to attempt to interfere in any way with a law enforcement investigation of one of his top aides. But with Saturday’s tweet, Mr. Trump admitted that he knew Mr. Flynn had committed a federal crime at the time he fired Mr. Comey for refusing to stop investigating him. To most people with a functioning prefrontal cortex, it sure sounds like Mr. Trump is admitting to “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations” and to “impeding the administration of justice.”

Mr. Dowd confused the country further by saying he had drafted Mr. Trump’s tweet himself — a bizarre claim for a lawyer to make about a statement that incriminates his client. Then he outdid himself with his assertion to Axios that it is not possible for the president to obstruct justice. The argument, as far as it goes, is that the president is the nation’s highest ranking law enforcement officer and has the constitutional authority to supervise and control the executive branch, which includes making decisions about investigations and personnel.

But Mr. Trump didn’t just try to shut down some random no-name case; he tried to shut down an investigation into his own campaign’s ties to the Russian government’s efforts to swing the 2016 election in his favor. As that investigation keeps revealing, Mr. Trump’s top associates have repeatedly been untruthful about their contacts and communications with Russian officials.

In Saturday’s tweet, Mr. Trump also wrote, “It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!” If there were truly nothing to hide, if these talks with Russians were all just part of a normal presidential transition process, then why all the lying?

Any child could tell you the answer: People lie when they know they’ve done something wrong. Mr. Flynn and others in Mr. Trump’s campaign and transition team were secretly trying to undermine United States foreign policy as private citizens — which is not just wrong, but a criminal violation of the Logan Act. Worse, the policy being undermined was President Barack Obama’s punishment of a foreign adversary for interfering in an American election, and the underminers — Mr. Trump’s team — were the very people who benefited most directly from that interference.

For some historical perspective, Richard Nixon once again proves useful. In the closing days of the 1968 presidential campaign, Mr. Nixon ordered H. R. Haldeman, later his chief of staff, to throw a “monkey wrench” into the Vietnamese peace talks, knowing that a serious move to end the war would hurt his electoral prospects. Mr. Nixon denied that he did this to the grave; Mr. Haldeman’s notes, discovered after his death, revealed the truth.

Meanwhile, as the evidence of both subterfuge and obstruction continues to grow, Mr. Trump’s tireless spinners and sophists are working to convince the American public that it’s all no big deal. This is an embarrassing and unpersuasive argument, but it’s not surprising. At this point, they have nothing else to work with.

Trump’s Allies Urge Harder Line as Mueller Probe Heats Up

December 8, 2017

President’s legal team had predicted investigation would clear Trump by year’s end

Jay Sekulow, in a file photo from October 2015, is a member of President Trump’s legal team. Some Trump supporters are urging a shake-up of the president’s legal advisers.
Jay Sekulow, in a file photo from October 2015, is a member of President Trump’s legal team. Some Trump supporters are urging a shake-up of the president’s legal advisers. PHOTO: STEVE HELBER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Russia investigation that Donald Trump’s legal team predicted would clear the president by year’s end looks to stretch into 2018, prompting his supporters to press for more hard-edge tactics that portray Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s operation as politically motivated.

The calls for a more aggressive approach have intensified amid disclosures that a senior agent on Mr. Mueller’s team, Peter Strzok, sent text messages that were allegedly critical of Mr. Trump during the 2016 election. Republicans also point to Andrew Weissmann, a Mueller deputy who applauded the department’s decision not to defend the initial White House travel ban on people from majority Muslim nations, as evidence of bias on the special counsel team.

The president’s legal team has largely stayed quiet on the issue. But with Mr. Mueller’s investigation appearing to edge closer to Mr. Trump’s family and inner circle, the president is being urged to drop the mostly cooperative approach taken to date.

“The president’s lawyers are sleepwalking their client into the abyss,” said Roger Stone, an adviser to the president’s 2016 campaign. “They are entirely unrealistic about the enmity toward the president from the political establishment and the established order.” FBI and congressional investigators have been examining his dealings with WikiLeaks as part of the Russia probe.

Jay Sekulow, a member of the president’s personal legal team, said: “We’re pleased with the progress we’ve made. We remain confident with regard to the outcome.”

Defenders of Mr. Mueller, who is a Republican, say he is conducting an apolitical investigation into serious allegations of wrongdoing.

Federal law prohibits the Justice Department—which includes the special counsel’s office—from using political or ideological affiliations to assess applicants for career positions in the agency. Employees are also allowed to express opinions on political subjects privately and publicly, as long as they aren’t in concert with a political party or candidate for office.

Some of the president’s associates say they want the White House to set up a classic “war room” to respond to the probe, hire attorneys more inclined to challenge Mr. Mueller or to spotlight what they see as an anti-Trump animus on the part of the special counsel.

Mr. Mueller is investigating allegations of Russia interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow. Mr. Trump has said his team did nothing wrong, and Russia has denied meddling in the election.

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday, Republicans focused on Mr. Strzok and Mr. Weissmann, who sent an email to former acting attorney general Sally Yates the night she was fired applauding her decision to instruct Justice Department lawyers not to defend Mr. Trump’s initial travel ban.

“I am so proud,” Mr. Weissmann wrote in the subject line of an email, which was released by the conservative group Judicial Watch. Mr. Weissmann also attended Hillary Clinton’s election-night party at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York, according to people familiar with his attendance.

Related Video

WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains what have we learned after Special Counsel Robert Mueller unveiled his first two big actions in his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Photo: Getty

At the time, Mr. Weissmann was running the Justice Department’s fraud section, which is a senior career post within the agency. In his current role, Mr. Weissmann has been leading the case against Paul Manafort , the former Trump campaign chairman, and Rick Gates, a campaign aide. Both men have been indicted on lobbying and financial crimes, charges they deny and which aren’t related to the Trump campaign.

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment on behalf of Mr. Weissmann.

Rep. Steve Chabot (R., Ohio), a judiciary committee member, called the “depths of this anti-Trump bias” on the team “absolutely shocking.”

As U.S. sanctions against Russia for its interference in the 2016 presidential election move forward, here’s a look at various contacts between President Trump’s associates and Russians. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday explains why each contact is significant. Photo: Getty

Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist who continues to occasionally advise the president, has been critical of Mr. Trump’s legal team, and a person close to Mr. Bannon said he expects the former strategist to continue “pointing out the inadequacies” in the president’s legal strategy. Mr. Bannon wasn’t available for comment.

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment. Democrats characterized the bias allegations as a way to discredit a legitimate investigation.

“I predict that these attacks on the FBI will grow louder and more brazen as the special counsel does his work, and the walls close in around the president, and evidence of his obstruction and other misdeeds becomes more apparent,” said Jerrold Nadler of New York, the House committee’s top Democrat.

Mr. Mueller, a Republican, appears to be mindful of potential conflicts or appearances of conflicts in his investigation.

He removed Mr. Strzok “immediately upon learning of the allegations,” according to special counsel spokesman Peter Carr. Still, congressional Republicans said it was months after Mr. Strzok’s reassignment that federal officials disclosed the reasons why it happened. Mr. Strzok couldn’t be reached for comment.

The special counsel team also was interested in hiring another prosecutor from the fraud section, according to people familiar with the matter, but didn’t proceed because the prosecutor’s spouse works for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee. That panel is conducting its own Russia investigation.

When then-President Bill Clinton faced off against an independent counsel, Kenneth Starr, in the 1990s, his allies worked to discredit Mr. Starr and paint him as a partisan—an approach that some of Mr. Trump’s confidants said they would like to emulate.

Suggestions that Mr. Trump shake up his legal team also follow what critics see as a series of missteps over recent months. A tweet sent from the president’s account, which lawyer John Dowd said he wrote, appeared to overstate what the president knew about his former national security adviser’s interactions with the FBI.  That former aide, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty this month to lying to federal agents. Two of his lawyers, Mr. Dowd and Ty Cobb, sat at a popular Washington steakhouse in September and talked openly about the case with a reporter in earshot.

Asked earlier this year whether the president was happy with his legal team amid criticism from outside advisers, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “I’m not sure how he couldn’t [be].”

While Trump lawyers say they have at times clashed among themselves, including over whether to assert executive privilege on certain documents, their general consensus has been that cooperation would help bring the investigation to a rapid close.

Mr. Cobb, who initially said the probe would wrap up by year’s end if not sooner, stands by his assessment that it’s moving at a reasonable clip. “I don’t see this dragging out,” said he in a recent interview. Mr. Mueller’s team is “committed to trying to help the country and get this done quickly,” and he added, “I commend them for that. And we’re certainly determined to do it.”

Write to Peter Nicholas at peter.nicholas@wsj.com, Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com and Erica Orden at erica.orden@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-allies-urge-harder-line-as-mueller-probe-drags-on-1512748299

Obstruction of Congress — Justice Department, FBI and the “Deep State”

December 8, 2017
 Mueller, the Justice Department and the FBI aren’t helping the lawmakers’ probe.
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Former FBI Director Robert Mueller departing Capitol Hill on June 21.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller departing Capitol Hill on June 21. PHOTO: ANDREW HARNIK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The media echo chamber spent the week speculating about whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller can or will nab President Trump on obstruction-of-justice charges. All the while it continues to ignore Washington’s most obvious obstruction—the coordinated effort to thwart congressional probes of the role law enforcement played in the 2016 election.

The news that senior FBI agent Peter Strzok exchanged anti-Trump, pro-Hillary text messages with another FBI official matters—though we’ve yet to see the content. The bigger scandal is that the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Mr. Mueller have known about those texts for months and deliberately kept their existence from Congress. The House Intelligence Committee sent document subpoenas and demanded an interview with Mr. Strzok. The Justice Department dodged, and then leaked.

The department also withheld from Congress that another top official, Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, was in contact with ex-spook Christopher Steele and the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS. It has refused to say what role the Steele dossier—Clinton-commissioned oppo research—played in its Trump investigation. It won’t turn over files about its wiretapping.

And Mr. Mueller—who is well aware the House is probing all this, and considered the Strzok texts relevant enough to earn the agent a demotion—nonetheless did not inform Congress about the matter. Why? Perhaps Mr. Mueller feels he’s above being bothered with any other investigation. Or perhaps his team is covering for the FBI and the Justice Department.

When Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mr. Mueller, he stressed that he wanted a probe with “independence from the normal chain of command.” Yet the Mueller team is made up of the same commanders who were previously running the Trump show at the Justice Department and the FBI, and hardly distant from their old office.

Andrew Weissmann, Mr. Mueller’s deputy, is chief of the Justice Department’s criminal fraud section and was once FBI general counsel. Until Mr. Strzok’s demotion, he was a top FBI counterintelligence officer, lead on the Trump probe. Michael Dreeben is a deputy solicitor general. Elizabeth Prelogar, Brandon Van Grack, Kyle Freeny, Adam Jed, Andrew Goldstein —every one is a highly placed, influential lawyer on loan from the Justice Department. Lisa Page —Mr. Strzok’s mistress, with whom he exchanged those texts—was on loan from the FBI general counsel’s office.

Does anyone think this crowd intends to investigate Justice Department or FBI misdeeds? To put it another way, does anyone think they intend to investigate themselves? Or that they’d investigate their longtime colleagues— Andrew McCabe, or Mr. Ohr or Mr. Strzok? Or could we instead just acknowledge the Mueller team has enormous personal and institutional interests in justifying the actions their agencies took in 2016—and therefore in stonewalling Congress?

The Strzok texts raise the additional question of whether those interests extend to taking down the president. Mr. Strzok was ejected from Team Mueller for exhibiting anti-Trump, pro-Clinton behavior. By that standard, one has to wonder how Mr. Mueller has any attorneys left.

Judicial Watch this week released an email in which Mr. Weissmann gushed about how “proud and in awe” he was of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates for staging a mutiny against the Trump travel ban. Of 15 publicly identified Mueller lawyers, nine are Democratic donors—including several who gave money to Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign. Jeannie Rhee defended the Clinton Foundation against racketeering charges, and represented Mrs. Clinton personally in the question of her emails. Aaron Zebley represented Justin Cooper, the Clinton aide who helped manage her server. Mr. Goldstein worked for Preet Bharara, whom Mr. Trump fired and who is now a vigorous Trump critic. The question isn’t whether these people are legally allowed (under the Hatch Act) to investigate Mr. Trump—as the left keeps insisting. The question is whether a team of declared Democrats is capable of impartially investigating a Republican president.

Some want Attorney General Jeff Sessions to clean house, although this would require firing a huge number of career Justice Department lawyers. Some want Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Mueller—which would be counterproductive. Some have called for a special counsel to investigate the special counsel, but that way lies infinite regress.

There is a better, more transparent way. Mr. Sessions (or maybe even Mr. Trump) is within rights to create a short-term position for an official whose only job is to ensure Justice Department and FBI compliance with congressional oversight. This person needs to be a straight shooter and versed in law enforcement, but with no history at or substantial ties to the Justice Department or FBI.

It would be a first, but we are in an era of firsts. Congress is the only body with an interest and ability to get the full story of 2016 to the public, thereby ending this drama quickly. But that requires putting an end to the obstruction.

Write to kim@wsj.com.

Appeared in the December 8, 2017, print edition.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/obstruction-of-congress-1512691791

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The Threat of a Deep State Is Real. No, Really.

POLITICS FEATURES DEEP STATE

The Threat of a Deep State Is Real. No, Really.

It wasn’t too long ago that if you saw something like this, you could write it off, because it came out of the mouth of someone like Alex Jones or G. Gordon Liddy—someone you’d have to make an active effort to discover and follow. Such rhetoric was so far underground that odds were you’d never come across it in the first place, but here we have it in primetime:

rog1.png

To be clear, the FBI isn’t “out of control.” And the FBI isn’t “a threat to you, and every American.” What Mr. Tucker Carlson means is the FBI is a threat to the Trump administration.

So that’s the one hand: The FBI is a dark-handed, deep-state political op being run by [this part not made clear but I assume it involves Schumer, Podesta, Soros, and Hillary Clinton] in order to dismantle the Trump agenda at any cost. Not only that, but in Mr. Carlson’s world, the FBI has also already broken the law in its investigation of Trump.

(At this time, I’d like to point out to Mr. Carlson that the FBI isn’t actually investigating Donald Trump; Special Counsel Robert Mueller is, as an independent agent of the Department of Justice outside the FBI.)

A major news network that millions of people take as gospel is saying our existing federal law enforcement apparatus is a secret police force. And if we can’t trust the people in charge of administering the law, then we can’t trust those administrations. Everything the FBI (DOJ) does (against Trump) should be not merely questioned, but rejected outright with great urgency: The agency is out of control.

I don’t think we should accept everything a law enforcement official says as gospel, but I also don’t advocate peddling ego meth in the form of batshit conspiracies not so subtly intended to sow the seeds of legitimizing future violence against the state. The rhetoric might not lead to disastrous consequences, but there’s a good chance it might.

This is one of the consequences of electing a birther. Conspiracy theories have made it into the news. We’ve already seen a conspiratorial fascination with the “deep state,” which has branched this latest volley of insanity. That phrase, “deep state,” still sounds ridiculous to me, something a guy wearing a loupe says to you while he slides an inspirational poster off his basement wall to show off his safe full of commemorative moon landing coins, which he says he can sell you cheap because the moon landing was fake.

Or something this guy says to you.

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WSJ Editorial Board Calls for Robert Mueller to Step Down After FBI Agent’s Anti-Trump Texts

December 7, 2017

By Adam Shaw — Brietbart
December 7, 2017

robert-mueller-profile

The Wall Street Journal increased the pressure on embattled FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Tuesday with a scathing op-ed from its editorial board, calling on Mueller to resign over the controversy surrounding a lead investigator’s anti-Trump texts.

The New York Times and the Washington Post reported over the weekend that Mueller dismissed FBI agent Peter Strzok over anti-Trump texts he sent to an FBI lawyer with whom he was having an extramarital affair.

Since then, outlets have reported that Strzok was involved in the interview of former national security Michael Flynn, who was charged last week for lying to the FBI. Strzok was also involved in the Hillary Clinton email probe, where he reportedly interviewed two top Clinton aides and was later behind the change of language Comey used to describe her behavior — changing the language from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless.”

The Journal’s editorial board argued Tuesday that the scandal is reason for Mueller to stand down, noting that Mueller and the Justice Department had kept the information from investigators in the House, and refused to allow Strzok to be interviewed.

The board, which can not accurately be described as “pro-Trump,” argues in addition to the FBI’s questionable moves and stonewalling — including about possible connections to the Fusion GPS “Trump dossier” — it is far from clear if Mueller can be trusted to run the probe. It notes in particular Mueller’s connection to former FBI Director James Comey:

All of this reinforces our doubts about Mr. Mueller’s ability to conduct a fair and credible probe of the FBI’s considerable part in the Russia-Trump drama. Mr. Mueller ran the bureau for 12 years and is fast friends with Mr. Comey, whose firing by Mr. Trump triggered his appointment as special counsel. The reluctance to cooperate with a congressional inquiry compounds doubts related to this clear conflict of interest.

The Journal also argues that there have been a number of examples of resistance from the FBI more broadly to congressional oversight, particularly Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s role in ignoring House subpoenas. Rosenstein appointed Mueller to the role.

The Journal argues that the increasing focus on the FBI, and Mueller’s role in that, means he should step down:

The latest news supports our view that Mr. Mueller is too conflicted to investigate the FBI and should step down in favor of someone more credible. The investigation would surely continue, though perhaps with someone who doesn’t think his job includes protecting the FBI and Mr. Comey from answering questions about their role in the 2016 election.

The Journal’s board called for Mueller to stand down in October after revelations about the FBI’s actions surrounding the sale of Uranium One to Russian energy giant Rosatom, as well as the need for answers behind the FBI’s role in the Trump dossier.

“It is no slur against Mr. Mueller’s integrity to say that he lacks the critical distance to conduct a credible probe of the bureau he ran for a dozen years,” the Journal’s editorial board wrote.

Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before House amid Trump criticism of bureau

December 7, 2017

By EMILY TILLETT CBS NEWS December 7, 2017, 10:22 AM

Last Updated Dec 7, 2017 11:37 AM EST

Christopher Wray is defending America’s top law enforcement agency before lawmakers amid public attacks from President Trump on Capitol Hill. His testimony before the House Judiciary Committee comes just one week after Mr. Trump’s weekend tweets calling the FBI biased, saying its reputation is “in Tatters — worst in History!” and urging Wray to “clean house.”

Following Mr. Trump’s public lambasting of the bureau, Wray sent an internal email to FBI employees amid concerns about morale.

Image result for Christopher Wray, photos

Wray said he was, “inspired by example after example of professionalism and dedication to justice demonstrated around the Bureau.” He told the staff, “It is truly an honor to represent you.”

He did not acknowledge the president’s criticism but he did write, “We find ourselves under the microscope each and every day — and rightfully so. We do hard work for a living. We are entrusted with protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution and laws of the United States. Because of the importance of our mission, we are also entrusted with great power,  and we should expect — and welcome — people asking tough questions about how we use that power. That goes with this job and always has.”

Wray echoed that sentiment in his prepared remarks for Thursday’s hearing. “The strength of any organization is its people,” he’ll tell senators. “The threats we face as a nation are as great and diverse as they have ever been, and the expectations placed on the Bureau have never been higher.”

He adds, “Each FBI employee understands that, to defeat the key threats facing our nation, we must constantly strive to be more efficient, effective, and prescient. Just as our adversaries continue to evolve, so must the FBI. ”

Wray on ousted FBI agent in Mueller investigation

At the outset of the hearing, Wray was asked about reports surrounding an FBI agent that was removed over allegations of anti-Trump text messages who was responsible for softening language about Secretary Hillary Clinton in the bureau’s investigation into her private email server.

Peter Strzok, who led the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, changed the language in former FBI Director James Comey’s description of how Clinton handled classified information, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Strzok had changed Comey’s earlier draft language describing Clinton’s actions as “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless.” That change in wording has significant legal implications, since “gross negligence” in handling classified information can carry criminal penalties.

Wray told lawmakers that while he agreed with the investigation into the handling of the server as well as the removal of the FBI agent, he said it would not be “appropriate” for him to speculate on the investigation.

“These matters are being looked at as they should be, when those findings come to me I’ll take the appropriate action necessary,” said Wray. He added that he would “leave it to others to figure out if ‘gross negligence’ and ‘extremely careless’ is the same thing.”

In a back-and-forth with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, over the agent removed, Wray answered the Congressman’s line of questions if the text messages exchanged were indeed a fireable action.

“Each question would have to be based on its own circumstances, I can imagine situations where it wouldn’t be and situations where it might be,” Wray said.

He explained however, that the “individual in question has not been dismissed”, clarifying that Strzork had been “reassigned away from the special counsel investigation which is different than disciplinary action.”

FBI Director on terrorism investigations 

Wray told the panel in his opening remarks to lawmakers that there are about 1,000 open domestic terrorism investigations in the U.S. and also about 1,000 open cases related to ISIS.

Over the last year, there have been 176 arrests in domestic terrorism cases, Wray told the committee.

When pressed on domestic terrorism particularly as it relates to any federal investigations of “extremist” groups, Wray explained that the bureau will only investigate acts of terrorism if there is credible information of federal criminal activity, credible information suggesting an attempt of use of force or violence, and use of force or violence in the furtherance of a political goal.

Wray explained that currently the FBI has 50 percent more white supremacist investigations than black identity extremist probes at the moment, but “it doesn’t matter if they’re right wing, left wing or any other wing,” said Wray of investigating extremist groups.

Wray on Trump’s “tatters” Tweets

Meanwhile, on the topic of President Trump, when asked if Director Wray was ever given a “loyalty oath” similar to that of Former FBI Director James Comey or if he was ever asked to “side step the chain of command”, the director replied, “no.”

Wray also said Mr. Trump has not spoken to him about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion or communications between Russia and the Trump campaign.

But when questioned on Mr. Trump’s tweets denouncing the bureau he leads, Wray delivered an impassioned speech in defense of his staff.

“There is no shortage of opinions out there but what I can tell you is that FBI that I see is tens of thousands of agents and analysts and staff working their tails off keeping Americans safe,” said Wray.

He called his staff “decent people committed to the highest principles of integrity and professionalism and respect.”

“Do we make mistakes? You bet we make mistakes just like anybody who’s human makes mistakes,” said Wray, applauding the work of independent investigations to keep the FBI accountable.

He went on, saying that the staff of the FBI are “big boys and girls, we understand we’ll take criticism from all corners and we’re accustomed to that” but it was in his assessment that the FBI’s reputation was “quite good.”

Asked how exactly he can keep the FBI from ever being in “tatters”, Wray replied, “The best way that I can validate the trust of the American people and the FBI is to ensure we bring the same level of professionalism and integrity and objectivity and adherence to process in everything we do.”

Wray went into his opinions on the president’s tweet, saying “I’m not really a Twitter guy” and that he has no plans to ever tweet or ever “engage in tweets.”

Wray on Mueller and Comey 

Director Wray called Former Director Comey a “smart lawyer” and a “dedicated public servant” when he worked with him in the early 2000’s. He said he enjoyed working alongside Comey on anti-terrorism endeavors and said all experiences with comey were “positive” but has since lost touch with the former director.

On Special Counsel Robert Mueller, he sad in his experience, Mueller is “very well respected within the FBI.”

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/fbi-director-christopher-wray-testifies-before-house-amid-trump-criticism-of-bureau/

Lawmakers press FBI on alleged bias in Clinton, Trump cases

December 7, 2017

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee lambasted the FBI on Thursday over how it handled an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, and questioned whether Justice Department officials gave her preferential treatment over President Donald Trump.

 Image result for FBI Director Christopher Wray, photos

FILE PHOTO FBI Director Christopher Wray 

During a routine oversight hearing before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Republicans questioned FBI Director Christopher Wray, who took over at the helm of the Federal Bureau of Investigation after Trump abruptly fired the previous head, James Comey, earlier this year.

Republicans, including Trump, have in recent weeks ramped up their attacks on the FBI and openly questioned its integrity.

“The FBI’s reputation as an impartial, non-political agency has been called into question recently. We cannot afford for the FBI – which has traditionally been dubbed the premier law enforcement agency in the world – to become tainted by politicization or the perception of a lack of even-handedness,” Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said.

Their criticism comes as Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged four people from Trump’s inner circle since October as part of an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Republicans had been frustrated with Comey’s decision not to charge Hillary Clinton for sending classified emails through her private email server.

With potential challenges looming for the party as it heads into the 2018 congressional elections, House and Senate Republican leaders have ramped up attacks on Comey, Mueller and the FBI in recent weeks with a fresh round of congressional inquiries.

Most recently, Republicans have questioned whether Mueller’s team has a political bias against Trump, after media reports said FBI agent Peter Strzok was removed from working on the Russia probe because he had exchanged text messages that disparaged Trump and supported Clinton.

Strzok was involved in both the Clinton email and Russia investigations.

Representative Jerrold Nadler told Wray he expected the attacks on the FBI to grow louder as the special counsel’s investigation continues and the “walls close in around the president.”

“Your job requires you to have the courage to stand up to the president, Mr. Director,” Nadler said. “There are real consequences for allowing the President to continue unchecked in this manner.”

Republicans have also separately accused the FBI of improperly basing wiretap requests on a dossier written by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence investigator who was hired by the firm Fusion GPS to do opposition research for the Democrats.

Steele’s dossier alleges collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign in the 2016 presidential election, and claims the Russians possess compromising information that could be used to blackmail Trump.

To date, however, there has been no evidence to suggest the FBI wiretaps were improperly obtained.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bernadette Baum

Latest revelations make the entire ‘collusion’ probe look like a partisan hit

December 6, 2017

Image may contain: 3 people, suit

The Editorial Board
The New York Post

So Peter Strzok wasn’t just a top investigator for special counsel Robert Mueller until he was axed for anti-Trump and pro-Clinton bias: He was also a major player in the Hillary email probe and the FBI work that led to the “collusion” investigation.

And Mueller and the FBI both dragged their feet on sharing key info about all this with Congress.

Including the news that Strzok was the one who changed then-FBI chief Jim Comey’s draft languageon Clinton’s use of that private server from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless” in the final version.

That’s huge, because the statute specifies that gross negligence in the handling of classified info is itself a crime, whatever the intent — though Comey declared that Clinton shouldn’t face prosecution precisely because she had no “intent” to break the law.

Strzok also conducted the FBI interviews of Clinton and her top aides, Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, in the email probe.

More, he was reportedly one of the major FBI figures urging investigations on the basis of the “Steele dossier” of Russian-sourced scurrilous anti-Trump allegations, which we now know was commissioned by the Clinton campaign.

Image result for Cheryl Mills, photos

More, he signed the documents that opened the ensuing “collusion” probe. And he led the FBI interview of Gen. Mike Flynn, in which Flynn told the lies that eventually forced him out as Trump’s national security adviser, and for which he’s now pleaded guilty in a deal with Mueller.

Image result for Huma Abedin with Weiner, photos

Meanwhile, Mills and Abedin’s testimony in their interviews has been shown false in one major regard: Contrary to their denials, each had been well aware of Clinton’s private server — they had to deal with the office fallout whenever it went down. Unlike Flynn, though, they never faced charges for lying to federal investigators.

Which makes President Trump’s request to Comey to go easy on Flynn look reasonable enough.

The public doesn’t know just how egregious Strzok’s bias was, and won’t until the release of his texts with his mistress, an FBI lawyer who (sigh) was also on Mueller’s team.

But as things stand, it now looks like the fix was well and truly in on the Hillary probe. Far worse, it also looks like the “collusion” probe was a partisan hit from the start — which undermines the basis for Mueller’s own investigation.

What a mess.

https://nypost.com/2017/12/05/latest-revelations-make-the-entire-collusion-probe-look-like-a-partisan-hit/

Trump’s Big Gamble on Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

December 6, 2017

A general view shows part of Jerusalem's Old City and the Dome of the Rock Dec. 5.

A general view shows part of Jerusalem’s Old City and the Dome of the Rock Dec. 5. PHOTO: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS
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President Donald Trump is expected to make a speech today announcing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. The decision, because of Jerusalem’s disputed status with the Palestinians, could derail a Middle East peace effort that the White House had been working on, and it could also lead to violence across the Middle East, report Felicia Schwartz and Dion Nissenbaum from Washington and Rory Jones in Tel Aviv .

The decision could also reverberate politically. Mr. Trump during the campaign criticized President Barack Obama as not being a good ally to Israel, promising that his administration would reinvigorate an alliance tested by Mr. Obama’s pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran, a longtime Israeli adversary. The move the president is expected to announce today—while it is at odds with Arab, Palestinian and European leaders who have argued that decisions over the highly sensitive issue of the status of Jerusalem should be made in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians—would fulfill a campaign pledge.

“We will move the American Embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem,” Mr. Trump told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the largest pro-Israel groups in the U.S. in March 2016, when he was the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. AIPAC struck a positive tone on Mr. Trump’s decision, tweeting: “It is our long-held position that undivided #Jerusalem is the historic, current and future capital of Israel. We continue to believe that the United States should recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

Arab leaders across the Middle East are making last-ditch appeals to the U.S. not to declare Jerusalem as Isreal’s capital. The foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt have called Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to warn about the dangers of such an announcement. Palestinian leaders had pledged to stop working with the U.S. if Mr. Trump makes any declaration about Jerusalem this week. And Americans have been warned to carefully consider travel plans to Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank, citing widespread calls for demonstrations to be held today.

Mr. Trump’s decision on Jerusalem marks a return toward unilateral action after his frustrating year working with Congress, where the push to the repeal the Affordable Care Act stalled and the tax reform effort, which isn’t finished, has yielded changes to the tax code that are unpopular with the public.

With the Jerusalem decision, he is back to changing Washington in the way that seems most effective for him so far in his presidency: acting alone. Through this method, Mr. Trump has scraped the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, announced plans to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and charted a new course for the war in Afghanistan. Domestically, he’s rolled back regulations that he says strangle job creation, and placed a ban on travelers from certain countries, which the Supreme Court recently said can, for now, go into effect.

Here’s what else is going on today:

SEIB VIDEO: TRUMP’S BIG GAMBLE ON MOVING THE U.S. EMBASSY TO JERUSALEM

President Trump’s plan to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem is a calculated gamble, running the risk of stirring up protests and violence. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains why Mr. Trump thinks now is the time to act, when past administrations made similar promises but decided not to act.

From the Washington bureau:

Deutsche Bank received a subpoena earlier in the fall from U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller’s office concerning people or entities affiliated with Mr. Trump, Jenny Strasburg reports, citing a person briefed on the matter. Dan Stein, former chief of the criminal division at the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, said the special counsel’s subpoena of Deutsche Bank signals one of two possible directions for the broader investigation. “Either it means they’re going beyond the narrow question of election interference,” Mr. Stein said of Mr. Mueller’s team. Or, he said, it means the question of election interference may now somehow involve the transfer of funds to the president or his family or inner circle. Plus: Mr. Mueller’s office spent $3.2 million in just over four months as it investigated Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and any potential links between Moscow and people associated with Mr. Trump.

U.S. intelligence and military officials believe Kim Jong Un is a rational actor, a conclusion that for now is guiding Washington’s approach to the North Korean leader as he risks economic sanctions and military reprisals to build nuclear weapons and threaten rivals. The assessment by the main components of the U.S. national security community has shaped their thinking toward North Korea in two major ways, Nancy A. Youssef reports.

In Congress: California Republicans are pushing for an income-tax deduction in the final tax bill being worked out by lawmakers in a House-Senate conference committee on tax legislation. The House and Senate bills both repealed the deductions for state and local income and sales taxes, using that money to lower individual tax rates. Interactive: GOP Tax Plan Calculator: Use our calculator, based on the Penn Wharton Budget Model, to find out and also see the possible impact on several representative scenarios. And: A dispute among House Republicans over their year-end strategy forced GOP leaders to delay a vote on a stopgap spending bill, with just a handful of days before a partial government shutdown.

“It seems to me the state has been neither tolerant or respectful” of the baker’s views, Justice Anthony Kennedy said Tuesday when the Supreme Court plunged into a  lively debate on a Colorado baker’s claim that the First Amendment exempts him from state law outlawing discrimination against gay people. Justice Kennedy, a maverick conservative who has written major rulings in favor of gay rights, is widely believed to be the key vote in this case and his skepticism may not be good news for gay-rights activists.

The number of illegal crossings has been falling for years but there was a sharp drop immediately after Mr. Trump took office, suggesting his tough talk on illegal immigration was a factor, Laura Meckler writes. At the same time, The Trump administration ramped up arrests of undocumented immigrants in 2017. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency arrested 143,470 people in 2017, with arrests in the months since President Trump took office up by 40%.

Losing support: Some key GOP centrists supported a Senate tax overhaul that repeals the requirement that most people have health insurance, a move experts say will likely drive up premiums, on the condition that it be swiftly accompanied by a bipartisan measure that aims to lower premiums. That plans fate remains uncertain after some conservative House Republicans said they don’t support it, Stephanie Armour and Kristina Peterson write.

A Senate panel on Tuesday approved a plan to ease the rulebook for regional banks, advancing the most significant bipartisan rollback of financial regulations since postcrisis rules were put in place, writes Andrew Ackerman. The bill, expected to advance through the full Senate in early 2018, eases “the burden on American businesses that are unfairly being treated like the largest companies in our economy,” Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R., Idaho) said ahead of the vote.

State of the GOP: The Republican hierarchy is splitting over the party’s controversial Senate nominee in Alabama, Roy Moore. Polls suggest he may weather sexual misconduct allegations and win the special election Dec. 12. But the Senate campaign committee is continuing to withhold support for Mr. Moore despite the Republican National Committee restoring support for him after Mr. Trump endorsed him this week, writes Janet Hook.

Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.) resigned from Congress amid sexual misconduct allegations. The race for his seat promises to be a family affair: After the congressman endorsed his son John Conyers III, 27, his great-nephew Ian Conyers, 29, a state senator, said he was running.

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed deputy White House chief of staff Kirstjen Nielsenas President Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

K.T. McFarland’s nomination to be the next U.S. ambassador to Singapore appeared to be in jeopardy after both Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill publicly questioned whether she told the truth to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in written testimony earlier this year. Ms. McFarland told the committee she was “not aware” of former national security adviser Michael Flynn‘s contacts with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador, but recent reports appear to contradict her claims.

Richard Cordray, the former chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, announced he is running for Ohio governor, ending months of speculation over his return to state politics following a tumultuous six-year tenure at the agency, Yuka Hayashi reports.

The appointment of Thomas Barkin, a McKinsey & Co. executive, to lead the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond reinforces a gradual and subtle shift among central bank officials away from dissenters and toward consensus, Nick Timiraos reports.

ALSO IN THE NEWS

The International Olympic Committee suspended Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics for its alleged state-sponsored doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, saying it would permit some Russian athletes to compete neutrally by invitation only.

An undocumented Mexican national who was acquitted of murder in the death of a San Francisco woman now faces federal charges in connection with the case.

Harvard moved to end its infamous, unsanctioned final clubs, so-called because they were historically the last of the social clubs a student would join as an undergraduate. Final clubs host exclusive parties in buildings they own around Harvard’s Cambridge, Mass., campus and boast powerful alumni networks. A 2016 report by the school’s Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention expressed concern about the groups’ “strong sense of sexual entitlement.”

If the $69 billion deal between CVS and Aetna goes through, the health insurer’s CEO, Mark T. Bertolini stands to reap a payout worth $500 million, benefiting from a sizable increase in the value of the stock and rights he owns because of the premium CVS is paying for Aetna.

Premium offers for Fox assets from Disney and Comcast  found a receptive audience in Rupert Murdoch amid concerns about the shifting media landscape. A deal could come as early as next week and could clarify the empire’s leadership structure.

For the second time in as many months, a series of wildfires ripped through California, burning into urban neighborhoods that had not been hit by fire for decades, and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee.

HERE’S A LOOK AT THE DAY AHEAD

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: President Donald Trump holds a Cabinet meeting at 11:30 a.m. He gives a statement announcing that he recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital at 1 p.m. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is on foreign travel to Belgium, where he’s participating in North Atlantic Treaty Organization Foreign Ministers meetings. Attorney General Jeff Sessions travels to Colombia to participate in the Trilateral Summit Against Transnational Organized Crime. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson holds a conference call at 10 a.m. to announce the 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.

CONGRESS: The House meets at noon, with the agenda including consideration of the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, Rules Committee Print,” and postponed suspension votes on the “Enhancing Veteran Care Act” and “condemning ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya” in Burma. A final tax bill is being worked out by lawmakers in a House-Senate conference committee on tax legislation. Follow our updates on the tax debate here.

SUPREME COURT: The court hears arguments at 10 a.m.

ECONOMIC INDICATORS: ADP reports the number of jobs private employers added in November at 8:15 a.m. The Labor Department releases revised third-quarter productivity data at 8:30 a.m.

WHAT WE’RE READING AROUND THE WEB

In a profile of Vice President Mike Pence and his relationship with religious conservatives, McKay Coppins of The Atlantic writes: “In Pence, Trump has found an obedient deputy whose willingness to suffer indignity and humiliation at the pleasure of the president appears boundless….Meanwhile, Pence’s presence in the White House has been a boon for the religious right.”

“It is almost impossible to see the logic of the Trump administration’s expected recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and possibly moving the U.S. embassy to Israel there—before it even unveils what’s certain to be a controversial plan for Middle East peace, which will be tough enough to sell,” writes Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution.

Britain’s Sky News reports: “A terror plot to assassinate Prime Minister Theresa May has been foiled, Sky sources have confirmed.”

MILESTONE

28.8%: In all, 28.8% of U.S. home sales this year have been all-cash transactions, according to Attom Data Solutions.

Readers: Send feedback to Capital Journal Daybreak by emailing daybreak@wsj.com.

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https://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2017/12/06/capital-journal-wed-8/

Trump’s Deutsche Bank Records Subpoenaed by Mueller

December 5, 2017

The subpoena requested documents and data about the president’s accounts and other dealings

Deutsche Bank AG received a subpoena earlier in the fall from U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller’s office related to the lender’s business with President Donald Trump, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The subpoena requested documents and data about accounts and other dealings tied to client relationships with Mr. Trump and people close to him, the person said. The bank has lent more than $300 million to entities affiliated with Mr. Trump, according to public disclosures.

Mr. Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including flows of cash tied to Russia and people in Mr. Trump’s orbit, in a deepening probe that has led to charges against former advisers to Mr. Trump.

Related:

Mueller Drops Support for Manafort’s Bail Deal
FBI Agent Removed From Russia Probe Had Key Role in Clinton Email Investigation (Dec. 3)
When Trump Needs a Loan, He Chooses Deutsche Bank (March 2016)

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A Deutsche Bank spokesman said Tuesday that the bank “cooperates with investigative authorities.” The subpoena was earlier reported by Handelsblatt.

Mr. Trump has called the special counsel’s investigation a “witch hunt,” and Moscow has denied meddling in the election. A White House spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning.

Image result for deutsche bank, photos

Deutsche Bank executives and lawyers had been expecting a demand for information from Mr. Mueller’s team as the special counsel investigation progressed, according to people close to the bank. As Mr. Trump’s primary lender in recent years, Deutsche Bank this year faced repeated document requests from Democratic lawmakers scrutinizing the administration’s ties to Russia.

The Democrats lacked Republican support to compel Deutsche Bank to provide the information. Deutsche Bank lawyers have said U.S. bank-secrecy rules prohibited the lender from revealing details about its clients or their business with the bank without a subpoena or other formal request from Congress.

Deutsche Bank faces ongoing questions about a series of Russian trades that have been scrutinized in multiple investigations in the U.S. and Europe, including in a still-pending U.S. Justice Department probe. The Democratic U.S. lawmakers wanted the bank to detail any ties between those trades or other Russian financing and anyone connected to Mr. Trump, his family or advisers.

Write to Jenny Strasburg at jenny.strasburg@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-deutsche-bank-records-subpoenaed-by-mueller-1512480154