Posts Tagged ‘Hillary Clinton’

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:

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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

Donald Trump Jr. Refuses to Discuss Father-Son Talk With Investigators

December 7, 2017

President’s son invoked attorney-client privilege when asked by congressional investigators about conversation held after revelations of a 2016 meeting with a Russian attorney

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump’s eldest son on Wednesday refused to discuss with congressional investigators a father-son conversation earlier this year about how to handle fallout from revelations that he met with a Russian attorney during the 2016 campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.

During the more than seven-hour session with the House Intelligence Committee, Donald Trump Jr. invoked attorney-client privilege when asked for details about a telephone conversation he had with his father after news broke about his meeting with Russian attorney  Natalia Veselnitskaya, the people familiar with the matter said. The younger Mr. Trump has publicly said he met with the attorney to obtain negative information on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Attorneys for both the president and his son were on the call, which took place sometime after a July 8, 2017 New York Times story about the meeting, according to the people familiar with the matter.

An attorney for the younger Mr. Trump didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A White House lawyer declined to comment.

The House committee, as well as Senate investigators and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, are separately investigating Russia’s activities during the campaign and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow. Russia has denied interfering in the campaign, and the president has said his team did nothing wrong.

More

  • Flynn Message on Sanctions Is Disclosed
  • Senators Seek More Information About Reassigned Mueller Aide
  • Franken Under Pressure to Resign

The younger Mr. Trump had initially said in public that the June 2016 meeting with Ms. Veselnitskaya was about Russian adoptions. Days later he acknowledged to reporters that he had agreed to the session in part because he was promised damaging information about Mrs. Clinton.

The meeting was brokered by a British publicist named Rob Goldstone, who was working at the time for Azerbaijani-Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov. The meeting was also attended by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Paul Manafort, who was then serving as campaign chairman.

In emails exchanged by the meetings’ participants, the younger Mr. Trump was told that the incriminating information would be provided as “part of Russia and its government’s support” for Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign. The emails were publicly released by the younger Mr. Trump in July.

Mr. Goldstone’s initial email to him said a Russian government representative met with Mr. Agalarov and wanted to provide the Trump campaign with “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” He added: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

That government representative Mr. Goldstone was referring to was the attorney, Ms. Veselnitskaya, although she has denied any connection to the Russian government, describing herself as an attorney in private practice.

The meeting, according to its participants, ultimately involved a discussion of Russian objections to U.S. sanctions, specifically a 2012 U.S. law that punishes Russian officials accused of human-rights violations. Moscow banned Americans from adopting Russian children in response to the U.S. law’s passage. Ms. Veselnitskaya has long advocated against the law.

Attendees of the meeting, including the younger Mr. Trump, have said the Russians didn’t provide material that could be used to attack Mrs. Clinton.

Democrats on Wednesday argued that the younger Mr. Trump’s invocation of attorney-client privilege wasn’t a proper assertion of the prerogative.

“In my view, there is no attorney-client privilege that protects a discussion between father and son. This particular discussion revolves around a pivotal meeting,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee. “We will be following up with his counsel. They asked for more time to deliberate on the claim of privilege.”

One legal expert appeared to side with Mr. Trump. David Schultz, who teaches law at the University of Minnesota, said that the conversation appeared to be privileged based on the basic facts about it.

“I would tell be telling my students right now in my professional responsibility class that Congress can’t break privilege in this situation,” said Mr. Schultz, adding that the younger Mr. Trump could waive privilege if he desired, but that it was unlikely that Congress could force him to testify about the call.

Attorney-client privilege is a longtime legal concept that protects the confidentiality of conversations between lawyer and client and has long been recognized by U.S. law. Democrats argued that the invocation of privilege between the Trumps wasn’t a proper assertion of the prerogative, however.

There are some exceptions to privilege, Mr. Schultz said, including if either Trump was conspiring to commit a crime. In that case, a judge could decide whether to force a witness to break privilege and testify, depending on the jurisdiction and the situation.

Separately, the rules for privilege in a court of law and for Congress are different. A 1995 analysis prepared by the Congressional Research Service says that assertions of attorney-client privilege “rests in the sound discretion of a congressional committee regardless of whether a court would uphold the claim.”

Write to Byron Tau at byron.tau@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-jr-refuses-to-discuss-father-son-talk-with-investigators-1512612451

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/

Roy Moore’s Liberal Enablers

December 5, 2017

If he wins, he can thank Al Franken and Jimmy Kimmel among others.

Bill Clinton and Al Franken during a rally at the University of Minnesota, Oct. 10, 2014.
Bill Clinton and Al Franken during a rally at the University of Minnesota, Oct. 10, 2014. PHOTO: JEAN PIERI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

When Alabamans go to the polls a week from now in a special election to choose their next senator, not even Mrs. Roy Moore will be rooting as hard for her Republican husband as the junior senator from Minnesota, Al Franken.

The reason is simple. Mr. Franken knows that if Mr. Moore takes his Senate seat, it becomes less likely the former “Saturday Night Live” comic will have to relinquish his. And therein lies a larger tale about how the liberal opposition to Mr. Moore may be backfiring.

Until this race, plausible accusations that a candidate had engaged in sexual conduct with girls as young as 14 would be enough to sink most any man. Coming as these charges do amid a national sexual reckoning that has already brought down many powerful men hitherto thought untouchable, they ought to be even more potent.

But Mr. Moore is not sinking. To the contrary, at last check the Real Clear Politics polling average gives him a 2.6-point lead. A CBS News poll released this past weekend has him up by 6 points.

If Mr. Moore does win, it will be despite calls by Republicans and conservatives for him to step aside. The calls have come from Republican leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, among others.

Then again, the remaining GOP support, including that of Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and now President Donald Trump, may carry more pull. Mr. Moore further benefits from the backing of the evangelical community, many of whose pastors have stuck with him.

But there’s another potent force in this race, which gets little media attention. These are the liberals who are enabling him. Let’s run through a short list:

• Bill Clinton . Remember the argument “It was only sex”? Or reporter Nina Burleigh saying she’d be happy to give then-President Clinton oral sex “just to thank him for keeping abortion legal”?

Some who backed Mr. Clinton now recognize that their unqualified support through all his lies and bad behavior leaves them in a poor position to lecture others about how to treat women, or why policy should not trump character. Now they are throwing Mr. Clinton under the bus to try to regain the moral high ground. How persuasive must Alabamans find this?

• Doug Jones. He is the Democrat in the race. When your rival is credibly accused of sexual misbehavior with underage girls, the race is yours to lose. And yet Mr. Jones is doing his best to do just that, over a classic Democratic blind spot: abortion.

Alabama is one of America’s most pro-life states. Mr. Jones might have expanded his appeal by opting for the Bill Clinton formula of “safe, legal and rare,” or supporting popular restrictions such as the ban after 20 weeks. Instead, Mr. Jones has opted for the Hillary Clinton view that abortion must be sacrosanct. If he ends up losing, abortion will be a big reason.

• Al Franken. On the hypocrisy front there’s plenty on all sides to go around. Still, it has to be hard for Alabama Republicans not to notice that they are being called on to reject their guy at a time when Democrats are keeping theirs.

• Jimmy Kimmel. Mr. Kimmel recently dispatched a comedian to heckle Mr. Moore at a rally at the Magnolia Springs Baptist Church. He succeeded in disrupting the event. Mr. Kimmel and Mr. Moore then got into a Twitter tiff after Mr. Moore suggested Mr. Kimmel put up his dukes, and Mr. Kimmel accepted.

Mr. Kimmel and his audience have had some good yucks at the expense of the local yokels. But again, just a guess that this may not be playing as well in Alabama.

• The national press corps. When Donald Trump tweets about “fake news,” the smart set groans. But just this weekend, ABC News suspended Brian Ross for reporting, falsely, that retired general Mike Flynn would testify Mr. Trump asked him to reach out to the Russians during the campaign, when it was in fact after he’d been elected president. At nearly the same time America learned that the top FBI agent on Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election had exchanged pro-Hillary/anti-Trump texts with an FBI lawyer with whom he was having an extramarital affair.

And then liberals wonder at a CBS poll finding that 71% of Alabama Republicans don’t believe the allegations against their candidate. They may well be wrong about Mr. Moore and his accusers, but is their skepticism really that difficult to understand?

Now we are entering the final week of the race. Perhaps sensing a Moore victory, President Trump Monday morning offered an unconditional endorsement, tweeting that “we need Roy Moore to win.” But Mr. Trump’s endorsement hasn’t always been dispositive: Remember, Mr. Moore is the GOP’s candidate because Alabama Republicans in the primaries rejected the man the president endorsed.

So if Mr. Moore does find himself Alabama’s newest senator next Tuesday night, it may be as much the fault of those who opposed him as those who supported him.

Write to mcgurn@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/roy-moores-liberal-enablers-1512433255

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Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Goes To Bat Against FBI And Robert Mueller For Trump

December 5, 2017

The newspaper has published a series of pieces critical of the investigation into Russian election interference.

Mueller’s Credibility Problem

December 5, 2017

The special counsel is stonewalling Congress and protecting the FBI.

Donald Trump is his own worst enemy, as his many ill-advised tweets on the weekend about Michael Flynn, the FBI and Robert Mueller’s Russia probe demonstrate. But that doesn’t mean that Mr. Mueller and the Federal Bureau of Investigation deserve a pass about their motives and methods, as new information raises troubling questions.

The Washington Post and the New York Times reported Saturday that a lead FBI investigator on the Mueller probe, Peter Strzok, was demoted this summer after it was discovered he’d sent anti- Trump texts to a mistress. As troubling, Mr. Mueller and the Justice Department kept this information from House investigators, despite Intelligence Committee subpoenas that would have exposed those texts. They also refused to answer questions about Mr. Strzok’s dismissal and refused to make him available for an interview.

The news about Mr. Strzok leaked only when the Justice Department concluded it couldn’t hold out any longer, and the stories were full of spin that praised Mr. Mueller for acting “swiftly” to remove the agent. Only after these stories ran did Justice agree on Saturday to make Mr. Strzok available to the House.

This is all the more notable because Mr. Strzok was a chief lieutenant to former FBI Director James Comey and played a lead role investigating alleged coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. Mr. Mueller then gave him a top role in his special-counsel probe. And before all this Mr. Strzok led the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and sat in on the interview she gave to the FBI shortly before Mr. Comey publicly exonerated her in violation of Justice Department practice.

Oh, and the woman with whom he supposedly exchanged anti-Trump texts, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, worked for both Mr. Mueller and deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, who was accused of a conflict of interest in the Clinton probe when it came out that Clinton allies had donated to the political campaign of Mr. McCabe’s wife. The texts haven’t been publicly released, but it’s fair to assume their anti-Trump bias must be clear for Mr. Mueller to reassign such a senior agent.

There is no justification for withholding all of this from Congress, which is also investigating Russian influence and has constitutional oversight authority. Justice and the FBI have continued to defy legal subpoenas for documents pertaining to both surveillance warrants and the infamous Steele dossier that was financed by the Clinton campaign and relied on anonymous Russian sources.

While there is no evidence so far of Trump-Russia collusion, House investigators have turned up enough material to suggest that anti-Trump motives may have driven Mr. Comey’s FBI investigation. The public has a right to know whether the Steele dossier inspired the Comey probe, and whether it led to intrusive government eavesdropping on campaign satellites such as Carter Page.

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.

***Mr. Mueller’s media protectorate argues that anyone critical of the special counsel is trying to cover for Mr. Trump. But the alleged Trump-Russia ties are the subject of numerous probes—Mr. Mueller’s, and those of various committees in the House and Senate. If there is any evidence of collusion, Democrats and Mr. Mueller’s agents will make sure it is spread far and wide.

Yet none of this means the public shouldn’t also know if, and how, America’s most powerful law-enforcement agency was influenced by Russia or partisan U.S. actors. All the more so given Mr. Comey’s extraordinary intervention in the 2016 campaign, which Mrs. Clinton keeps saying turned the election against her. The history of the FBI is hardly without taint.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mr. Mueller, is also playing an increasingly questionable role in resisting congressional oversight. Justice has floated multiple reasons for ignoring House subpoenas, none of them persuasive.

First it claimed cooperation would hurt the Mueller probe, but his prosecutions are proceeding apace. Then Justice claimed that providing House investigators with classified material could hurt security or sources. But House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes has as broad a security clearance as nearly anyone in government. Recently Justice said it can’t interfere with a probe by the Justice Department Inspector General—as if an IG trumps congressional oversight.

Mr. Nunes is understandably furious at the Strzok news, on top of the other stonewalling. He asked Justice to meet the rest of his committee’s demands by close of business Monday, and if it refuses Congress needs to pursue contempt citations against Mr. Rosenstein and new FBI Director Christopher Wray.

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.

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/muellers-credibility-problem-1512432318
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By Peter Hasson
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Anti-Trump FBI Agent Bombshell Has The Spotlight On Mueller Now

The revelation that Special Counsel Robert Mueller kept secret that a top FBI investigator overseeing the Russia investigation exchanged anti-Trump text messages with an FBI attorney has fueled questions about Mueller’s credibility and his ability to oversee an impartial investigation.

Peter Strzok, the anti-Trump agent, is reported to be the official who first signed the FBI’s Russia investigation into existence and interviewed Michael Flynn. Strzok was also reportedly the one who softened former FBI Director James Comey’s language referring to Hillary Clinton’s email investigation.

In an appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton told the Daily Caller co-founder that “both [the Clinton and Russia] investigations in my view have been irredeemably compromised.” (RELATED: Anti-Trump Text Messages Show Pattern Of Bias On Mueller’s Team)

“The Clinton investigation needs to be reopened and the Mueller investigation needs to be shut down until we figure out how badly it’s been politicized,” Fitton said.

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The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board said the Strzok news “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” in a column for Tuesday’s paper.

The editors noted Mueller’s close friendship with Comey, as well as his “reluctance to cooperate with” congressional oversight of the Russia investigation.

“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 WSJ editors concluded. “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.”

In a column for the Washington Post Monday night, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt called the Strzok bombshell “a blockbuster revelation, carrying the possibility of shattering public confidence in a number of long-held assumptions about the criminal-justice system generally and the FBI and the Justice Department specifically.”

Hewitt called on the Department of Justice to “appoint a special counsel to investigate Strzok’s actions as soon as possible.”

Even before the latest bombshell, former US attorney Andrew McCarthy was already warning about the credibility of Mueller’s investigation, which he said “started out as a fishing expedition.

“The ongoing Mueller probe is not a good-faith investigation of suspected espionage or other crime,” he wrote in National Review over the weekend.

“It is the exploitation of the executive’s intelligence-gathering and law-enforcement powers in order to (a) criminalize Trump political policies with which the Obama administration disagreed and (b) frame Clinton’s electoral defeat as the product of a traitorous scheme rather than a rejection of Democratic-party priorities.”

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Republicans Feel Triumph, Fear Tragedy

December 4, 2017

Tax plan, Mueller’s Russia probe help produce two potential divergent paths

President Trump speaking to reporters at the White House Monday morning.
President Trump speaking to reporters at the White House Monday morning. PHOTO: JIM WATSON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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In the era of President Donald Trump, when up can be down and down can be up, it’s no surprise that the Republicans’ hour of great accomplishment also is their hour of great peril.

That is precisely where things stand as a new week dawns upon a thoroughly changed political landscape. Washington’s tectonic plates shifted twice last week, first when special counsel Robert Mueller announced a guilty plea from a now-cooperative former Trump national security adviser, Mike Flynn, and then when the Republican Senate passed the party’s top legislative priority, a giant tax cut.

(And by the way, passage of a tax bill by the full Congress, which now seems assured in coming days, was always the highest priority for most Republican leaders, outstripping even repeal of the Affordable Care Act.)

The Republican establishment’s bargain with Mr. Trump always has been essentially this: It is worth putting up with his excesses and an undercurrent of mutual mistrust because ultimately he would promote and then sign the Republicans’ long-sought tax cut. The benefits of the latter would outweigh the dangers of the former.

Now the test of that proposition begins. Will it go well or badly for the GOP? Let’s look at the two potential scenarios for the party:

The Positive Scenario:

The tax cut and its benefits for American businesses extend and solidify already-robust economic and job growth. The prospect, and ultimately the reality, of greater business investment send positive ripple effects into wage growth. All that builds a firmer footing beneath a booming stock market.

Politically, the tax bill erases 11 months of doubts about Republicans’ ability to govern effectively and washes away the party faithful’s memories of failed efforts to undo the health law, known as Obamacare, and the concurrent exposure of deep intraparty divisions.

Moreover, it’s clear that Mr. Trump’s barbs directed at senior members of his own party—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sens. John McCainJeff Flake and Bob Corker, and House Speaker Paul Ryan —don’t get in the way of the GOP uniting for something really important. The idea that Republicans can repeat that feat in 2018 on health and infrastructure doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

In short, the first year of the Trump presidency suddenly looks a lot better, which sets the table nicely for the 2018 midterm elections. Republican plans to make Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi rather than Mr. Trump the unpopular face of the election year succeed. Republicans suffer some losses in House races but retain control of Congress.

Meanwhile, the Mueller investigation picks off a few more figures around Mr. Trump but never quite proves either collusion with Russians or a presidential effort to obstruct justice. Mr. Trump manages to avoid stirring the pot with Twitter rants that actually make his case worse, and the inquiry wraps up early next year having struck blows but no fatal damage.

The Negative Scenario:

Middle-class Americans revolt against the tax bill, concluding that they agree with Democrats that the rich and corporations are the real beneficiaries, not them. Middle America also is frightened and then appalled by the tax bill’s coming boost to the national debt, and Trump voters decide the party and the president they supported in 2016 don’t share their common-sense aversion to running up big bills and leaving them for the kids.

Meantime, a failure to agree on a new spending bill forces a government shutdown just before Christmas, and the GOP fails to put the blame off on Democrats. That instantly sullies Republicans’ newfound reputation for governing effectively.

Corporate leaders don’t make the kinds of job-creating investments Republicans predict. Meanwhile, the tax cut’s stimulative effect overheats an economy already near full employment, pumps up an overextended stock market and compels the Fed to keep raising interest rates. The bubble bursts.

The Obamacare infrastructure also collapses in 2018, and Republicans now are the party bearing the blame for health-market chaos.

Something bad for Republicans happens in Alabama’s special Senate race next week. Either a victory by party nominee Roy Moore, who takes on those party leaders who disowned him over allegations of sexual misconduct involving teens, which he has denied, or a shocking Deep South victory by his opponent cascades into momentum for Democrats in 2018.

Mr. Mueller uses information from Mr. Flynn and others to carry his inquiry deep into the Trump circle. Two potential nightmare scenarios for the White House emerge: Trump world financial entanglements with Russians gave the Kremlin leverage over the eventual president, and it’s shown Mr. Trump obstructed justice to stop investigators from finding out. Mr. Trump, feeling the pressure from Mr. Mueller, becomes ever more defensive and wedded to conspiracy theories that he vents on Twitter, as he did over the weekend. Impeachment by a Democratic House becomes a possibility.

Either scenario is entirely plausible, which says plenty about today’s volatile climate.

Write to Gerald F. Seib at jerry.seib@wsj.com