Posts Tagged ‘James Comey’

Yes, there was a spy in the Trump campaign but we can explain….

May 23, 2018

President Donald Trump reportedly reached an agreement with the Justice Department Monday to have the agency’s inspector general probe his claims of FBI wrongdoing and bias against him in the Russia probe.

Democrats are having some trouble explaining this.

One congressman we spoke to said, “It was NOT a spy. It was an informant.”

Renaming this will not make it smell any better.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has spoken out about the “staggering” amount of evidence that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin swayed the 2016 presidential election.

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So where is the evidence. And was it gathered legally? When do we, the voters, get to see it. And does it implicate any of the Trump team (or the Obama administration) in any illegal activity?

We all have a dog in this hunt if we expect our elections to be legal, honest and reliable.

Well, ONE of those is better than none!

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Defending spies in the Trump campaign is the height of liberal hypocrisy

May 23, 2018

It has been said that if you live long enough, you will see everything. I’m experiencing that feeling as I watch The New York Times and Washington Post abandon their ultra-liberal leanings to defend government spying on innocent American citizens.

The case shows Trump Derangement Syndrome in action as it turns two of the nation’s prominent newspapers into the type of organizations they spent 50 years attacking.

By switching sides, they become the bell cows of a Deep State Media that, in another era, would have shielded Sen. Joseph McCarthy. And so the famous question Army lawyer Joseph Welch asked the scurrilous McCarthy should now be directed at them: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Commentary By Michael Goodwin
New York Post

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This latest version of media madness involves the confirmation that the FBI and perhaps the CIA sent a spy — or maybe two spies — to see whether Donald Trump’s associates were in cahoots with Russia during the 2016 campaign.
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The spying is an event of enormous consequences, with no known precedent in American history, because it catches the incumbent party targeting the candidate of the opposition party. Even Richard Nixon didn’t weaponize law enforcement and intelligence agencies to this extent.

Additionally, the timing of the spying effort matters because it began before the FBI says it started its counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign. So was that official July start date another James Comey lie?

Then there’s John Brennan, Barack Obama’s last CIA chief, who is calling attention to himself with twitter threats against Trump and any others who pursue the matter. His panic is not pretty, but it is instructive.

On its face alone, the spying destroys any possibility that the Obama administration played it straight during the 2016 election. The only questions now are how wide and how high did the cancer spread.

Yet instead of denouncing the malignant invasions of privacy, as they did when President George W. Bush spied on foreign terrorists, the Deep State papers are rushing to defend domestic snooping. They split semantic hairs, calling the spy an “informant” or a “source” in a silly bid to give him a sheen of respectability.

The Times, based on anonymous sourcing, even had the chutzpah to lecture President Trump on its front page, saying the president had his facts wrong about what the spy, er, informant was up to. In a news story, no less.

In other words, The Times is so wired into the circle of anti-Trump spooks that it feels qualified to speak for them. So in addition to being the propaganda arm of the Democrat Party, the Times is also the flak for crooked cops and spies.

Both papers also accuse Trump of sinking to a new low because he demands to know what the hell was going on. Who does he think he is?

Alice, meet the looking glass — but watch the drop.

This much we know: The man identified as the spy is Stefan Halper, an American professor in Great Britain who has long family ties to the CIA. Reports say he was paid up to $1 million during the Obama presidency for vague research projects.

Halper, sometimes with a female assistant, approached three members of Trump’s team in the spring and early summer of 2016 with various inducements — and chatter about Russia’s hacking of e-mails. Another member of the Trump team says he was approached by a different man during the campaign, suggesting there might be a second spy.

Trump, as I wrote Sunday, has been angry about the probe of special counsel Robert Mueller, but hasn’t been able to do much about it. But the Halper story was the final straw, and the president threw patience out the window and jumped into the fray.

In the span of 24 hours, he demanded — and got — a Justice Department investigation into the matter. He also set up a process for his chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, to forge a settlement between Justice officials and congressional Republicans, who have tried for months to get documents on the origin and other details of the FBI investigation.

The president’s moves, combined with Rudy Giuliani’s attacks on Mueller, have changed the dynamics just as polls show diminishing public support for Mueller’s probe, now in its second year.

But I’m not persuaded the Justice Department is serious about the new investigation or turning over documents. I believe that under Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is the point man thanks to AG Jeff Sessions’ foolish abdication, the agency sees itself as above the law and the Constitution. Large portions of it have joined the “resistance” to Trump.

Thus, Rosenstein’s statement that the department’s inspector general would look into whether anything “inappropriate” happened in 2016 gives him a loophole large enough to drive a cabal of spies through. Any agency that spied on a presidential campaign cannot be trusted to investigate itself.

As for producing documents, Rosenstein recently said the demand amounted to extortion.

There is an additional option. Trump has the power to declassify virtually any government document, making it accessible by the public under Freedom of Information Law requests. That’s the best route and the only one with a chance to lead to timely transparency. Justice and the FBI could make objections on national-security or personal-safety grounds, but final decisions should be made by a qualified team led by Kelly, with a prejudice toward openness, not secrecy.

The time is up for professional gatekeepers like Comey and Rosenstein to control what the public knows. They have done nothing but add to distrust of the FBI and that will not change if their ilk makes the final decisions.

By insisting that the documents go online, Trump would be letting taxpayers see for themselves what the government was up to, and what it was hiding. And to connect the dots between the various agencies involved.

Besides, think of the distress public release of the documents would cause the Deep State and its media handmaidens. All their wailing and gnashing of teeth would make the perfect soundtrack as ordinary citizens take back their government.

https://nypost.com/2018/05/22/defending-spies-in-the-trump-campaign-is-the-height-of-liberal-hypocrisy/

Stopping Robert Mueller to protect us all — The FBI and the Justice Department broke their own rules

May 21, 2018

The “deep state” is in a deep state of desperation. With little time left before the Justice Department inspector general’s report becomes public, and with special counsel Robert Mueller having failed to bring down Donald Trump after a year of trying, they know a reckoning is coming.

This is about cleaning out and reforming the deep state…

 Mueller grilled pharma giant that paid $400K to Trump lawyer

After year of investigation, Trump can rightly claim some vindication (No Wonder Hillary Is Bitter — The CIA and FBI Let Her Down)

May 21, 2018

 

Former Secretary of State and former Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton holds up a Russian fur hat, an ushanka, with a Soviet era hammer and sickle emblem, to the Yale College class of 2018 during her Class Day address at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., Sunday, May 20, 2018. As a tradition, Yale students and faculty wear humorous and playful hats during a Senior Class Day ceremony. (Peter Hvizdak/New Haven Register via AP) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

It was called “Crossfire Hurricane,” the FBI counterintelligence operation that targeted Trump figures as part of the investigation into possible campaign ties to Russia. It was a poignant choice of a Rolling Stones song, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” that describes a man “born in a crossfire hurricane” who “howled at the morning driving rain.”

By Jonathan Turley
The Hill

https://johnib.wordpress.com/2018/05/21/after-year-of-investigation-trump-can-rightly-claim-some-vindication-no-wonder-hillery-is-bitter-the-cia-and-fbi-let-her-down/

It could be an apt description of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. After a year of media denials of his claims of surveillance targeting his campaign, Trump can legitimately claim some vindication. Indeed, with his rising poll numbers, the president must feel, in the words of the song, like “it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas.”The New York Times this week disclosed that the FBI made a conscious effort to use secret counterintelligence powers to investigate Trump officials and may have had a confidential informant who was used in connection with key Trump figures long before the November 2016 election. (Officials stated anonymously that this was a longstanding source who worked with both the FBI and CIA for years.)


In early 2017, President Trump was widely ridiculed for alleging that the Obama administration placed his campaign under surveillance. The response from experts on CNN and other sites was open mockery. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper came forward to assure the media that he could categorically deny the allegation and stated, “There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign.” The range of media analysis seemed to run from whether Trump was a clinical paranoid or a delusional demagogue.
We now know there was, indeed, surveillance ordered repeatedly on Trump campaign figures before and after the election. Rather than acknowledge the troubling implications of an administration investigating the opposing party’s leading candidate for president, the media shifted to saying that there was ample reason to order the surveillance.That remains to be seen but much of the coverage brushes over the fact that no charges were brought against the principal target, Carter Page, or that the secret warrants for surveillance were based in part on a dossier paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, a fact known but not fully disclosed by the FBI to the secret FISA court. The documented Russian interference, thus far, has been largely a Russian operation out of St. Petersburg that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has said was carried out without the knowledge of Trump campaign officials.Now the plot has thickened even further with the added disclosure of not just national security letters to gather documents related to Trump figures but also at least one confidential informant who met with campaign figures like Page and George Papadopoulos to gather information. In response to the New York Times report, Trump declared that the FBI planted “at least one” spy in his campaign to frame him. Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani ratcheted up the rhetoric and said, if the story is true, that former FBI Director James Comey should be prosecuted.The record does not currently support such a criminal conspiracy. However, if Trump and his counsel can be accused of overplaying the known facts, the media can be equally accused of ignoring the implications of the known facts. It should be a serious concern that the Obama administration used secret counterintelligence powers to target officials in the campaign of the opposing party. That is a practice we have widely criticized in other countries from Turkey to Russia to Iran.

Worse yet, the New York Times wrote that the decision was made to use the secret FISA court and counterintelligence personnel to conceal the operation for political purposes. According to the report, FBI officials consciously decided not to seek conventional criminal warrants or pursue a criminal investigation because it might be discovered and raised by Trump during the campaign. Thus, as Trump campaigned against the “deep state,” FBI officials hid their investigation deeper inside the state. FISA was not designed as a convenient alternative for the FBI and the Justice Department to avoid political costs or scrutiny.

The added problem with using a counterintelligence operation is that it is easier to launch and conceal than a criminal investigation. While there is a “probable cause” requirement under FISA, it is not the same as the one contained in the Fourth Amendment. Virtually every FISA application ever filed by the Justice Department has been granted, with a couple of exceptions. The FISA investigation was based on loose claims of foreign influence and a little cognizable evidence of actual crimes.

For his part, Page continues to maintain that he accepted standard contracts to work with the Russians, as have hundreds of people in Washington. Clearly, the FBI should investigate any serious criminal conduct linked to Trump figures or the campaign. However, the publicly released FISA material describes interactions with Russians that could have applied easily to myriad other “Beltway bandits” who regularly cash in on foreign contracts, including leading figures of both parties. The still unresolved question is why these particular allegations of foreign contacts merited the extraordinary decision to target an opposing party’s campaign or campaign figures before a major election.

I have been highly critical of Trump’s attacks on the media. However, that does not mean his objections are wholly unfounded, and this seems one such example. There may have been legitimate reasons to investigate Russian influence before the election. Yet, very serious concerns are raised by the targeting of an opposing party in the midst of a heated election. These concerns will be magnified by the use of a confidential source to elicit information from Trump campaign associates, though officials deny that the FBI actually had an informant inside the campaign.

Just as it is too early to support allegations of a conspiracy to frame Trump, it is too early to dismiss allegations of bias against Trump. As shown by many of the emails and later criminal referrals and disciplinary actions at the FBI, an open hostility to Trump existed among some bureau figures. Moreover, the extensive unmasking of Trump figures and false statements from FBI officials cannot be dismissed as irrelevant.

As a nation committed to the rule of law, we need a full and transparent investigation of these allegations. All of the allegations. That includes both the investigation of special counsel Mueller and the investigation of these latest allegations involving the FBI. For many Trump supporters, this new information deepens suspicions of the role of the “deep state.” If we ever hope to come out of these poisonous times as a unified nation, the public must be allowed to see the full record on both sides.

Until then, many Americans across the country will continue to believe that, like “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” Trump was greeted after his election by being “crowned with a spike” right through his head.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

TAGS GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS HILLARY CLINTON ROBERT MUELLER JAMES CLAPPER DONALD TRUMP JAMES COMEY SPECIAL COUNSEL INVESTIGATION ELECTION RUSSIA

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Giuliani: Mueller to finish Trump obstruction probe by Sept. 1

May 21, 2018

President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe into obstruction of justice by the president will wrap up by Sept. 1 because allowing it to continue longer could improperly influence the mid-term elections in November, according to a report on Sunday.

Mueller’s office released a timeline of its investigation to him two weeks ago while he was negotiating with prosecutors over whether Trump would testify, Giuliani told the New York Times.

The former mayor of New York City urged that investigation end soon offering as an example the firestorm former FBI Director James Comey ignited when he announced weeks before the 2016 election that he was reopening the probe into Hillary Clinton’s email server.

Democrats and Clinton have blamed Comey’s decision for costing her the election.

“You don’t want another repeat of the 2016 election where you get contrary reports at the end and you don’t know how it affected the election,” Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, told the newspaper.

The report said Mueller’s findings on obstruction would not mean that the special counsel’s work is completed.

He is also looking into Russia’s efforts to interfere in the election.

Giuliani told the Times he wants the case to come down to a question of Comey’s credibility as opposed to Trump’s.

Soon after Trump entered the White House the president asked the former G-man to drop the investigation into his national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to memos from Comey.

“We want the concentration of this to be on Comey versus the president’s credibility, and I think we win that and people get that,” Giuliani said.

FILED UNDER         
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Here’s How the 2018 Midterm Elections Could Affect Robert Mueller’s Investigation

May 8, 2018

President Donald Trump is already arguing that the Russia investigation might “wrongfully” affect the 2018 midterm elections, but legal experts say that even if Mueller halts some announcements in the month preceding the elections, his investigation will continue.

Image result for mueller, photos

By ALANA ABRAMSON
Time Magazine

In a tweet Monday morning, Trump argued that that former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s investigation could “go on even longer so it wrongfully impacts the Mid-Term Elections, which is what the Democrats always intended.”

Typically, employees of the Department of Justice refrain from making any major decisions in investigations in the immediate weeks preceding an election, but legal experts and former prosecutors say Mueller’s investigation is anything but typical.

While they anticipate that Mueller will stick with longstanding agency protocol and not issue any indictments in the month leading up to the November elections, they also don’t think it will dramatically slow down his investigation.

“Ninety-nine percent of his work has been done under the surface; the only time we hear from Bob Mueller is when he has something to say in court,” said Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. Attorney who served as counselor to Mueller and chief of staff to former FBI Director James Comey. “Respecting the general rule in not interfering in an election will have no effect on his investigation. From his perspective, it will be business as usual.”

Ironically, Trump himself benefited from a violation of this norm in 2016. Many Democrats argue that Comey’s decision to send a letter to Congress that he was looking into Hillary Clinton’s emails on Oct. 28 — 11 days before the presidential election — essentially cost her the election, and there is evidence that it may have proven decisivein key states.

But there is no actual law barring Justice employees from making major decisions until after an election.

“Department of Justice employees are entrusted with the authority to enforce the laws of the United States and with the responsibility to do so in a neutral and impartial manner. This is particularly important in an election year,” then-Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a memo to DOJ employees in March of 2012 “Simply put, politics must play no role in the decisions of federal investigators or prosecutors regarding any investigations.”

Employees typically receive a memo similar to Holder’s during a presidential election year; the last one issued was in 2016. But the memos do not typically lay out guidelines or timelines for when employees should stop issuing any decisions. In Holder’s memo, for instance, he told employees that if they had questions they should contact the Public Integrity Section of the criminal division.

“You’ll notice, [the memo] doesn’t really say what the right thing to do is,” said Barbara McQuade, who served as former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan during the Obama administration. “It doesn’t say don’t file indictments, or don’t investigate, it just says consult with the public integrity section and think things through.”

But despite the lack of specificity, the backlash when employees appear to violate the protocol laid out in Holder’s memo can be fierce – like the intense scrutiny Comey found himself under. That’s why experts deem it highly any major bombshells from the investigation will drop within 30 days before the November election.

But, they caution, comparing Comey’s decision with Mueller’s investigation is not necessarily a fair comparison. (“Its like comparing apples and oranges,” said one former U.S. attorney). Clinton was actually on the ballot at the time. Trump is not – and neither are any of the nearly 20people who have been indicted or pled guilty in the Mueller investigation so far.

“None of the indictments we’ve seen so far strike me as the type that would be too politically sensitive to be filed too close to an election. Especially an election in which the President is not on the ballot,” said Eric Columbus, who worked as an attorney in the DOJ during the Obama Administration. “Those are not indictments that suggest guilt by the President or anyone close to him. If Mueller is continuing to indict people in that way, then I don’t think there’s much concern regarding the proximity of the election.”

Columbus said the situation would be different if Mueller decided to indict a close Trump associate, and that indictment directly implicated the President in something. At that point, he said, Mueller would probably be reluctant to announce that too close to the election. But he did say former Trump campaign head Paul Manafort’s trial on charges of bank fraud and tax evasion, which is scheduled for July, will likely be able to proceed without allegations of election interference.

And all experts were in agreement that Mueller’s teams work would continue in that month leading up to the midterms, even if he potentially held off on major announcements.

“I don’t think it’s going to affect his timeframe. I think he’s probably moving as rapidly as he can,” said Peter Zeidenberg, who was deputy special counsel in the Scooter Libby case and worked with Mueller at the Justice Department. “He’s moved very quickly so far. I don’t think that’s going to slow down, and I don’t think it’s going to stop except for maybe that small window right before the midterms, when he may want to hold off on issuing anything. That’s about it.”

http://time.com/5268114/robert-mueller-donald-trump-midterm-elections-protocol/

Trump Team Takes a More Aggressive Stance on Mueller Probe

May 7, 2018

Posture could further delay an investigation already facing a time crunch from midterm election

Special counsel Robert Mueller has work left to do in the probe into Russian election meddling—but if he can’t complete it before the midterm election season, he could have to put it on hold, under federal guidelines.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has work left to do in the probe into Russian election meddling—but if he can’t complete it before the midterm election season, he could have to put it on hold, under federal guidelines. PHOTO: YURI GRIPAS/REUTERS

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump’s legal team is striking a more combative tone with Robert Mueller, suggesting publicly that the president may decline to cooperate with the special counsel’s prosecutors.

That tougher stance comes as the Mueller probe already faces a time crunch because of the approaching midterm elections.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who recently joined the president’s defense team, said Sunday he was reluctant to have Mr. Trump agree to an interview with the prosecutors or testify before a grand jury for fear that what he called a “trap” could lead the president to commit perjury under oath.

A decision to not comply with a grand jury subpoena likely would set off a legal battle that would be decided by the Supreme Court.

“We don’t have to,” Mr. Giuliani said about complying with a subpoena, speaking Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “I’m gonna walk him into a prosecution for perjury, like Martha Stewart did?”

Mr. Giuliani also left open the possibility the president could invoke his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to testify.

Mr. Giuliani is one of several lawyers to join Mr. Trump’s team in recent weeks. With those attorneys still reviewing documents, no decision is imminent on whether to have the president sit for an interview with Mr. Mueller, said a person familiar with the legal team’s deliberations.

For Mr. Mueller, the clock is ticking. With six months until November’s midterm elections, the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign will soon run into a dead zone of sorts, in which former prosecutors say they expect Mr. Mueller either to wrap up or lie low and take no visible steps until after November.

Though Mr. Mueller doesn’t face any specific legal deadline, the fall midterms amount to a political one, according to experts and prosecutors. He will reach a point this summer when Justice Department habits dictate he would have to go dark so he doesn’t appear to be trying to sway voters’ decisions, which would be at odds with Justice Department guidelines for prosecutors.

Many Democrats said then-Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey didn’t properly observe those guidelines when he disclosed less than two weeks before the 2016 election that the FBI had reopened an investigation into then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s email use.

Any action by Mr. Mueller that implicates or exonerates Mr. Trump and his associates in working with Russia or obstructing justice could play into whether Democrats take control of one or both houses of Congress.

Democrats have promised extra scrutiny of the Trump administration if voters pull the lever for their party in November, while Republican candidates have largely sided with Mr. Trump, and some have echoed the president’s message that the prosecution is a “witch hunt.”

Mr. Mueller has a lot still to do—prepare several reports, bring expected charges against alleged Russian hackers behind the breach of the Democratic National Committee and make decisions on whether to prosecute other cases. Perhaps the most politically sensitive issue he has yet to resolve is whether the special counsel’s office will demand an interview with Mr. Trump.

If he can’t get all those things done in the next few months, his probe is likely to stretch into 2019.

On Friday, Mr. Trump said he wants to agree to an interview with Mr. Mueller but that his lawyers have counseled him otherwise.

Agreeing to a voluntary interview would allow Mr. Trump’s lawyers to set conditions, including the length of the talk, the topics raised and whether Mr. Trump could be accompanied by counsel. If he refused and was subpoenaed, the interview conditions would be much less favorable to Mr. Trump.

“When you volunteer, at least maybe you can constrain the questions. When you’re subpoenaed, a subpoena is broad. Your lawyer isn’t present. This is a tough decision for the president’s team to make,” Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who has defended Mr. Trump in television appearances, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Mr. Mueller raised the possibility of issuing a grand jury subpoena in a March interview with the president’s previous attorneys, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

The probe to date has produced five public guilty pleas—largely for lying to investigators or for conduct unrelated to the 2016 campaign. A sixth defendant, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is scheduled to face trial on bank and tax-fraud charges stemming from alleged misconduct that largely predated the presidential election. Mr. Mueller has also charged 13 Russians with election interference.

But Mr. Mueller has begun to refer some new matters to other U.S. attorneys’ offices, including the investigation into the president’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, suggesting the special counsel’s office is trying to avoid taking on new matters that could prolong its primary investigation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is recused from the Mueller investigation, said in late April that he understood Mr. Trump’s unhappiness with how long Mr. Mueller’s investigations seems to be taking. “This thing needs to conclude,” Mr. Sessions told a House budget hearing.

According to the handbook for federal prosecutors, the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, Justice Department employees are barred from using their official authority “to interfere with or affect the result of an election.”

The rules aren’t explicit, but a March 2012 memo from then-Attorney General Eric Holder also instructed Justice Department employees to be “particularly sensitive to safeguarding the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship.” Specifically, he told law-enforcement officers and prosecutors to never time investigative steps or criminal charges “for the purpose of affecting any election” or to give “an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party.”

Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said if an investigation becomes public during a politically sensitive time, prosecutors should seek to resolve it as quickly as they responsibly can.

“I think it is the obligation of every reasonable prosecutor to minimize the duration of that cloud or cause lightning to strike as quickly as possible,” Mr. Bharara said.

Mr. Comey weighed those considerations and opted to alert Congress 11 days before the 2016 election about the bureau’s look at newly discovered Clinton emails. Two days before polls closed, Mr. Comey told Congress the agency had reviewed the new evidence and found no reason to change its earlier recommendation that Mrs. Clinton face no charges related to her email practices, but many Democrats blamed Mr. Comey’s initial disclosure for Mrs. Clinton’s loss.

In a recent onstage interview with the website Axios, Mr. Comey was asked about whether he would have any advice to Mr. Mueller about “coming out and saying something.”

“It’s worked well for me,” Mr. Comey deadpanned.

“There aren’t any rules around how we act in the run-up to an election…there’s a norm, you avoid any action in the run-up to an election that might have an impact, if you can,” Mr. Comey said, adding that he was “sure” Mr. Mueller would “operate with that norm in mind.”

When Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey in May 2017, he initially cited a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein criticizing Mr. Comey’s public actions around the Clinton investigation as a “textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.”

The problem isn’t unique to presidential elections. The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office investigated New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2016, and that summer people close to the mayor asked prosecutors if they could wrap up the probe or bring any charges by the fall, so the investigation wouldn’t spill over into his re-election campaign in 2017. Prosecutors didn’t announce until March 2017 that they had decided against charging Mr. de Blasio or his aides or allies. Mr. de Blasio won re-election that November.

Write to Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com, Erica Orden at erica.orden@wsj.com and Byron Tau at byron.tau@wsj.com

Appeared in the May 7, 2018, print edition as ‘Trump’s Lawyers Harden Tone on Mueller.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/mueller-probe-might-have-go-dark-for-midterm-election-1525604400

Mueller Probe Might Have to Go Dark for Midterm Election

May 6, 2018

Though there is no legal deadline, Justice Department guidelines say prosecutors should avoid the appearance of trying to sway elections

Special counsel Robert Mueller has work left to do in the probe into Russian election meddling—but if he can’t complete it before the midterm election season, he could have to put it on hold, under federal guidelines.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has work left to do in the probe into Russian election meddling—but if he can’t complete it before the midterm election season, he could have to put it on hold, under federal guidelines. PHOTO: JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS

WASHINGTON—The clock is ticking for special counsel Robert Mueller.

With six months to go until November’s midterm elections, Mr. Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign will soon run into a dead zone of sorts, in which former prosecutors say they expect him either to wrap up, or lie low and take no visible steps until after the election.

Though Mr. Mueller doesn’t face any specific legal deadline, the fall midterms amount to a political one, according to experts and prosecutors. He will reach a point this summer when Justice Department habits dictate that he will have to either finish his inquiries or go dark and stretch out his work until past November so he doesn’t appear to be trying to sway voters’ decisions, which would be at odds with Justice Department guidelines for prosecutors.

Mr. Mueller has a lot still to do—prepare several reports, bring expected charges against alleged Russian hackers behind the breach of the Democratic National Committee and make decisions on whether to prosecute other cases. Perhaps the most politically sensitive issue he has yet to resolve is whether the special counsel’s office will interview President Donald Trump.

He might get all those things done in the next few months. But if he can’t, he may have to go quiet during the political season and resume afterward.

On Friday, Mr. Trump said he wants to grant an interview to Mr. Mueller but his lawyers have counseled him otherwise. One of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said on Fox News last week he could envision a conversation of two or two-and-½ hours at most.

The probe to date has produced five public guilty pleas—largely for lying to investigators or for conduct unrelated to the 2016 campaign. A sixth defendant, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is scheduled to face trial on bank and tax fraud charges stemming from alleged misconduct that primarily predated the presidential election. Mr. Mueller has also charged 13 Russians with election interference.

But Mr. Mueller has begun to refer some new matters to other U.S. attorneys’ offices, including the investigation into the president’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, suggesting the special counsel’s office is trying to avoid taking on new matters that could prolong its primary investigation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is recused from the Mueller investigation, said in late April that he understood Mr. Trump’s unhappiness with how long Mr. Mueller’s investigations seems to be taking. “This thing needs to conclude,” Mr. Sessions told a House budget hearing.

According to the handbook for federal prosecutors, the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, Justice Department employees are barred from using their official authority “to interfere with or affect the result of an election.”

The rules aren’t explicit, but a March 2012 memo from then-Attorney General Eric Holder also instructed Justice Department employees to be “particularly sensitive to safeguarding the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship.” Specifically, he told law-enforcement officers and prosecutors to never time investigative steps or criminal charges “for the purpose of affecting any election” or to give “an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party.”

Former U.S. attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara said if an investigation becomes public during a politically sensitive time, prosecutors should seek to resolve it as quickly as they responsibly can.

“I think it is the obligation of every reasonable prosecutor to minimize the duration of that cloud or cause lightning to strike as quickly as possible,” Mr. Bharara said.

Perhaps most famously, James Comey, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director, weighed those considerations and opted to alert Congress 11 days before the 2016 election that the FBI had reopened an investigation into then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s email use.

Two days before polls closed, Mr. Comey told Congress the agency had reviewed the new evidence and found no reason to change its earlier recommendation that Mrs. Clinton face no charges related to her email practices, but many Democrats blamed Mrs. Comey’s initial disclosure for Mrs. Clinton’s loss.

In a recent onstage interview with Axios, Mr. Comey was asked about whether he would have any advice to Mr. Mueller about “coming out and saying something.”

“It’s worked well for me,” Mr. Comey deadpanned to audience laughter. “Ah, God,” he sighed, to more laughter from the audience.

“There aren’t any rules around how we act in the run-up to an election…there’s a norm, you avoid any action in the run-up to an election that might have an impact, if you can,” Mr. Comey said, adding that he was “sure” Mr. Mueller would “operate with that norm in mind.”

When Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey in May 2017, he initially cited a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein criticizing Mr. Comey’s public actions around the Clinton investigation as a “textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.”

The problem isn’t unique to presidential elections. The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office investigated New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2016, and that summer people close to the mayor asked prosecutors if they could wrap up the probe or bring any charges by the fall, so the investigation wouldn’t spill over into his re-election campaign in 2017. Prosecutors didn’t announce until March 2017 that they had decided against charging Mr. de Blasio or his aides or allies. Mr. de Blasio won re-election that November.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/mueller-probe-might-have-go-dark-for-midterm-election-1525604400

Is The Robert Mueller Investigation of Trump Collusion and the 2016 Election About Over?

May 6, 2018

It now appears that the only real case Robert Mueller has filed involving anything vaguely resembling a Russian collusion caper the indictment of thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian entities for a variety of alleged computer crimes

Robert Mueller announced, via his errand boy Rod Rosenstein, the indictment of thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian entities for a variety of alleged computer crimes during the 2016 election.

VICE News

@vicenews

Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals for meddling in the 2016 election. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said they misrepresented themselves as Americans when contacting the Trump campaign. http://bit.ly/2obQJqL 

This was supposed to be the silver bullet that brought down Trump. But, when you took a close look at the indictment it was pretty obvious it was a public relations scam. Mueller had come under a lot of criticism for indicting people on the flimsiest of pretexts and was showing zero interest in actually pursuing his charter. As I said in my prescient post, If Mueller’s Indictment Isn’t A Nothingburger You Could Be Forgiven For Making That Mistake:

Summary.

The project began in 2013 as a way of attempting to cause confusion in the U.S. presidential campaign. Mission accomplished. This indictment is a nothingburger. It tells us damned little we didn’t know from press accounts and there are no arrests on the horizon. Two of the three entities were already sanctioned so indicting them does nothing. There is absolutely nothing in here that even hints that the Russians involved in this had any help from anyone in the U.S. Maybe that indictment is coming but there is not a hint of it here.

This interference is exactly what Comey described around September 2016 when he said the object of the Russians was to create division. There is no evidence presented here that there was any greater goal than creating turmoil.

The interference seems aimed at bolstering what all of us thought were the LEAST LIKELY candidates in the primary: Trump, Sanders, Stein. The Russians attacked Cruz and Rubio and other GOP candidates as well as Clinton. After the election they helped organize anti-Trump rallies.

More importantly, there is no evidence here that there was any coherent strategy–or that they really knew what they were doing–beyond garden variety trolling.

I’m not authority on campaign finance law, but I’ve never heard of anyone, foreign or domestic, indicted for creating Facebook posts and tweets supportive of a candidate.

Buck Sexton

@BuckSexton

Mueller just indicted a bunch of Russians for setting up fake social media accounts and buying Facebook ads to say nasty things about Hillary online

How anyone can miss the massive prosecutorial overreach and blatant First Amendment implications of this is beyond me

Claims like this:

Ted Lieu

@tedlieu

Dear @realDonaldTrump: The DOJ indicted 13 Russian nationals at the Internet Research Agency for violating federal criminal law to help your campaign and hurt other campaigns.

Still think this Russia thing is a hoax and a witch hunt? Because a lot of witches just got indicted. https://twitter.com/NBCNews/status/964564350429167621 

and this:

Philip Rucker

@PhilipRucker

As we process 37-page federal indictment against 13 Russian nationals for interfering with U.S. election, remember that Trump views it as “a hoax” made up by Democrats. He has not acted to safeguard US democracy from future foreign intrusions.

are fatuous nonsense. If anything this indictment makes Trump’s case that his campaign did not cooperate with Russia.

I’d be perfectly happy packing these people off to Gitmo but I have say that I find it is pretty underwhelming. At no stage, thus far, is it an investigation that merited the appointment of a special counsel.

This scam seemed foolproof. The thirteen Russians were never going to be caught. Two of the three companies were already under US sanctions and not likely to worry a whole lot about a US indictment. Mueller got the press. No work was involved. All is good.

 https://www.redstate.com/streiff/2018/05/05/robert-mueller-facing-humiliating-end-one-high-profile-indictments/
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Judge rejects Mueller’s request for delay in Russian troll farm case
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Mueller’s Russia probe should wrap up and Rosenstein should accept congressional oversight
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By Robert Charles
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Most Americans are sick and tired of the leaky, slow-motion drama that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s so-called “Russia collusion” investigation has become.

Mueller has mounted an all-out effort, funded by your tax dollars, to find something – anything – that he can use to accuse President Trump of illegal conduct. The goal is clear: getting the president either convicted on criminal charges (if such a thing is even possible for a president) or impeached and removed from office.

This may be as close to a coup as we’ve ever come in the United States. Unhappy with the 2016 election results – attributable to Americans who Hillary Clinton called a “basket of deplorables” – President Trump’s opponents are now arrayed against him and want him out of the Oval Office.

The precedent being set by these post-election machinations is constitutionally damaging, and genuinely deplorable. Investigations of future presidents by their political opponents, as a means to force them from office, may become the norm.

Tying up any president – Democrat or Republican – in investigation after investigation after unwieldy, God-forsaken investigation would make it almost impossible for someone to effectively carry out the demanding job.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis hammered the point home Friday, addressing prosecutors working for Mueller at a hearing in Virginia on financial fraud charges against former Trump presidential campaign manager Paul Manafort.

“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud,” Ellis told the prosecutors. “You really care about getting information that Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever.”

Then the judge opened up the throttle. “We don’t want anyone in this country with unfettered power,” he said, and “it’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special prosecutor has power to do anything he or she wants,” since “the American people feel pretty strongly that no one has unfettered power.”

Right he is! Already, the special counsel’s anti-Trump crusade has imposed incalculable costs on our country – creating distrust and disunity, unnecessary stress, emotional and mental fatigue, millions of wasted taxpayer dollars and rolling ill-will.

Let’s remember one thing: The American people elected Donald Trump because we wanted him to tackle the nation’s serious problems – not be forced to devote endless time to an investigation that’s more debacle than disclosure, waste than haste, and increasingly arrogant.

Whatever the original intent, the Mueller investigation has begun to consume people, eroding bonds that make us one. That is why it has to wrap up.

Now, on top of everything else, we face a constitutional crisis, as the Department of Justice challenges long-established congressional oversight authority.

To what end? To preserve a clutch of second-tier convictions? For that, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is gambling America’s institutional trust and longstanding inter-branch relationships.

Members of Congress recently requested documents from Rosenstein, including the full “scope memo” explaining exactly what the Mueller probe was assigned to investigate. That’s a reasonable request, since there’s a great deal of confusion surrounding the Mueller investigation’s scope, duration, motives, authorities, personnel and selective focus.

Congress wants to understand – as do many Americans – whether Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation has gone beyond its scope, and when the investigation nightmare will end.

But Rosenstein refused to produce the scope memo without redactions, arguing that it pertains to an ongoing criminal investigation. This is a weak excuse, given the flood of recent leaks about the Mueller probe.

Congress’ constitutional oversight authority is supported by six express constitutional clauses and 18 separate laws – as well as Congress’s historic power to subpoena, grant immunity, take testimony, hold executive officers in contempt, and impeach.

So Rosenstein is on shaky ground in telling Congress that it has no right to see what it needs to exercise oversight.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who is chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said earlier this week: “Valid investigative requests from Congress have been slow-walked, stonewalled, and impeded at each step of the way under his (Rosenstein’s) watch.”  That should not happen.

In response to Rosenstein’s refusal to produce key documents, some House members have prepared articles of impeachment against him as a last resort. They want accountability. They are right to want it.

Maybe Rosenstein just wants to be left alone – or to give Mueller more time for rummaging around for something on the president. Perhaps Rosenstein is allied with forces that want to avoid further congressional scrutiny.

Either way, Rosenstein said Tuesday: “I can tell you there are people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time and I think they should understand by now: The Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.”

Extorted? By members of Congress? Men and women elected by the American people to seek truth and assure accountability? What a curious, inapt and constitutionally disparaging reference by Rosenstein – a man trained in careful use of words like “extorted.”

Aiming to put himself in the right, Rosenstein added: “We’re going to do what is required by the rule of law and any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job.”

Someone needs to slow this train down, or turn the burner back to simmer. No personal threats are contained in congressional insistence that executive branch officials comply with constitutional oversight. That is what the law requires. Refusing to comply doesn’t uphold the law – it ignores the law.

In fact, the Justice Department has often been forced to disgorge documents to Congress that compromise cases. Whether Rosenstein likes it or not, that is the law. He is not exempt from legitimate congressional oversight, which can at times impinge on individual cases.

Constitutional oversight is paramount. In a head-to-head battle over what is produced, Congress always wins. Absent executive privilege, the deputy attorney general cannot bar Congress from the documents it seeks.

I was a principal counsel in the Waco investigation by Congress in 1995, which examined a disastrous siege by federal law enforcement officers against members of an armed religious cult in Waco, Texas. Some 86 people died – including four federal agents.

The committee I served compelled the FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Immigration and Naturalization Service; and Justice Department to provide us with hundreds of thousands of documents that later resulted in criminal referrals.

Like today, tricks were played by political actors at the Justice Department. Our committee was stiff-armed, slow-rolled and flayed in the media. Documents were over-redacted, under-produced, and dumped on the eve of hearings, hiding critical things in a massive pile of nothing important.

But we got them. Such shameless legal games, in that day, distressed average Americans. They still do. These antics do a disservice to the pursuit of truth, disaffect regular people, and create unnecessary suspicion and distrust around institutions that work on trust.

Complying with lawful congressional oversight is central to upholding rule of law in a democracy. Obstructing Congress should not be a policy for any department, especially not the Justice Department.

No wonder that President Trump tweeted, in response to Rosenstein’s obstruction: “A Rigged System – They don’t want to turn over Documents to Congress. What are they afraid of? Why so much redacting? Why such unequal ‘justice?’ At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!”

President Trump would be within his rights to “get involved.” Ironically, presidents have been criticized in the past for not providing information to Congress. But no modern president has been harangued by the opposition party for saying a department should provide Congress with material sought pursuant to constitutional oversight.

Here’s the bottom line: Rosenstein has a responsibility – indeed, a duty – to give Congress the full “scope memo” explaining what Mueller is investigating and other information Congress needs to carry out its oversight responsibilities. America has a right to know.

And Mueller and his team have a responsibility to wrap up their investigation, so President Trump and his administration can get on with the important work he was elected to do.

To borrow a phrase from failed Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont: “Enough is enough!”

At a certain point, words run out, and action is required.

Robert Charles is a former assistant secretary of state for President George W. Bush, former naval intelligence officer and litigator. He served in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/05/05/muellers-russia-probe-should-wrap-up-and-rosenstein-should-accept-congressional-oversight.html

Lisa Page resigns — FBI agent who bashed Trump in texts, and damaged the FBI’s reputation

May 6, 2018

Lisa Page, who was implicated in the Department of Justice Inspector General’s probe into official misconduct during the Clinton and Trump investigations, stepped down on Friday. She’d been reassigned to a less powerful position in recent months.