Posts Tagged ‘James Comey’

Opinion: Think it can’t get worse than Donald Trump? Think again

November 8, 2017

Donald Trump’s election win a year ago was a watershed moment. It showed an utterly incompetent politician can become president by appealing to voters’ base instincts. But he could be just a harbinger of things to come.

Donald Trump on election night (Getty Images/C. Somodevilla)

Even after saying and typing the words President Donald Trump hundreds or even thousands of times since his stunning presidential election victory one year ago, it still feels awkward. And that’s the way it should be. Because it still is hard to stomach that a rabble-rouser like Trump, with a penchant for routinely speaking falsehoods and no political experience, could win the presidency in the most powerful country in the world through a campaign based on bigotry, misogyny and fear-mongering.

But while it is important to resist the natural tendency to normalize the Trump presidency, it is equally important to fully accept the fact, as difficult as this may be, that Donald Trump did win the election and Hillary Clinton lost it. It is crucial to own up to that reality and not blame Russian meddling, actions by former FBI Director James Comey or other real or imagined interferences for Hillary Clinton’s defeat and Trump’s win. To look for scapegoats and employ a whataboutism-strategy, a Trump specialty, may be understandable to cushion the hard reality of what happened on November 8, 2016, but it would be counterproductive for trying to prevent a repeat.

A disenfranchised electorate

A key element in Trump’s campaign was his insistence that the country was in bad shape and his promise that he would “Make America Great Again.” This was a daringly negative theme to run a presidential campaign on, especially because Trump repeatedly described, often erroneously, how bad things were in the country. And of course he almost always blamed others, like immigrants or Muslims, for the country’s problems.

Michael KniggeMichael Knigge is DW’s correspondent in Washington

But his negative description of the status quo in the country resonated with many voters because it rang true. That Trump hit a nerve with his depiction of the US as a country on a downward spiral is underscored by the fact that Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist from the small state of Vermont, was able to win 23 states against Hillary Clinton on a campaign based solely on individual donations. While Sanders is certainly not comparable in style and substance and seriousness, he addressed many of the same issues as Trump that plague ordinary Americans, from income inequality to an aging and often decrepit American infrastructure.

But the core point both Trump and Sanders made repeatedly was that when it comes to the political game being played in Washington, the cards are stacked against ordinary Americans. And the sentiment that political and business elites are looking out only for themselves, while many Americans have a hard time making ends meet, resonated with voters a year ago. And it still does today.

The populist appeal

It should not be a surprise when, according to a survey from the US Federal Reserve from last year, 44 percent of Americans said they do not have enough money to cover a $400 (€345) emergency expense. It should not be a surprise when, on an average day, 32 Americans are killed by guns. It should not be a surprise when 64,000 Americans were killed in 2016 by an opioid epidemic that has been ravaging the country for years — a crisis politicians seem incapable or unwilling or address, like many other very basic issues.

Trump sensed and ruthlessly exploited the widespread feeling of an American malaise and positioned himself, boasting his supposed business acumen, as the sole candidate not beholden to party politics capable of improving people’s lives. His basic claim to make America “win again” was not only outlandish, he also had no plan or intention to do it.

Still, it is not unlikely that he would win again if another election were held today, or that he could win a second term in 2020. Never mind that nine months into office he has not been able to pass a single major legislative initiative, never mind that his administration is scandal-ridden like no other in recent memory, never mind that he has not improved Americans’ lives.

That he is able to get away with all of that shows that there is no credible alternative, not in the Republican Party, which Trump hijacked and is increasingly turning into his own, and more importantly in the Democratic Party, which is deeply divided about its future course. It also shows the desperation and anger many Americans feel that they cast their lot with someone who operates so far outside the country’s political norms.

A darker alternative

Having said all that, we may in fact be lucky we are stuck with Trump. Sure, during Trump’s disastrous first nine months he has already wreaked havoc on many issues, from environmental policy to international relations. But on many major matters, from the botched travel ban to the failed Obamacare repeal, Trump is running a chaotic and deeply dysfunctional administration.

And now imagine a future candidate who shared Trump’s rabble-rousing instincts, but was not as impulsive and nor as chaotic, and could actually execute his pernicious agenda. If both major parties don’t wake up to fulfill the basic functions expected from elected officials — namely to provide core government services  we could find out sooner than we think.     

http://www.dw.com/en/opinion-think-it-cant-get-worse-than-donald-trump-think-again/a-41286351

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Juan Williams: The shame of Trump’s enablers

November 6, 2017
Juan Williams: The shame of Trump's enablers
© Greg Nash

Congressional committees on national security once stood as the gold standard for American politics.

This is where our most respected politicians put aside party politics in service to the nation’s best interests.

So, how do you explain the naked politicization of national security now taking place in both the House and Senate?The answer begins with President Trump. It is old news that Trump plays loose with facts.

What is new and chilling is witnessing senior Republican senators and congressmen debase themselves to play along with Trump in the name of party loyalty.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is the prime example of a politician abandoning an esteemed role on Capitol Hill to become a Trump stooge, gladly sinking in the morass of the president’s “alternative facts.”

In April, Nunes was forced to recuse himself from the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election after he backed Trump’s bogus claim that President Obama had “wiretapped” him at Trump Tower.

Nunes made a secret visit to the White House without any other members of his committee to review classified information. He later stood in front of the White House to insist to reporters that Obama’s aides had members of the Trump team under illegal surveillance, if not technically wiretapped. Trump then claimed to be vindicated on the basis of that false claim.

Next, Chairman Nunes introduced the phony scandal of Obama administration national security officials improperly “unmasking” Trump campaign aides talking to Russians. It turned out to be another smokescreen to help Trump distract the public from Russia’s effort to divide the country and help Trump win the White House.

After Nunes recused himself, the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russia matters was supposed to be led by Texas Republican Rep. Mike Conaway.

But last month, Nunes claimed the power of the chair to issue subpoenas for the financial records of Fusion GPS, the research firm. Fusion was the group that hired ex-British secret agent Christopher Steele to produce the infamous dossier purportedly showing Trump’s dealings with Russia and Russia’s desire to control Trump.

Nunes suggested that since the Democrats paid Fusion for opposition research on Trump, it is Clinton who is guilty of colluding with the Russians. And he smeared the FBI and its former head, James Comey, by insinuating they hid facts to help Clinton. Nunes told Laura Ingraham, my Fox News colleague, there “is no possible way the FBI did not know who paid for that dossier.”

But there was nothing to hide.

There is a big difference between paying for opposition research and coordinating with a foreign government while it attacks your political opponent. One is legal and one is not.

To Trump’s delight, Nunes’s empty charges echoed loudly on right-wing websites.

The dirt being kicked up by Nunes fits in with the smokescreen created by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

Goodlatte and his fellow Republicans on the Judiciary Committee called for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate…wait for it…Hillary Clinton!

In a July letter, Goodlatte said the special counsel needs to spend time looking at “many actions taken by Obama Administration officials,” and implicitly less time on Russia and Trump.

In the Senate, the story is not much better.

Last week, the Intelligence Committee held important hearings on Russia’s use of social media to manipulate public opinion. U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed earlier this year that the Russian interference was done for the express purpose of helping Trump and hurting Clinton.

In the case of Facebook, some of the anti-Clinton ads were actually paid for with rubles, the Russian currency. Yet, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tried to minimize the impact of Russia’s corruption of U.S. social media.

“What you haven’t heard is that almost five times more ads were targeted at the state of Maryland than at Wisconsin,” Burr said in his opening statement. “Maryland, which is targeted by 262 ads, in comparison to Wisconsin’s 55 ads, wasn’t up for grabs; it was a state the Democratic candidate carried by 26 percent,” Burr added.

Huh?

What does the number of ads in each state have to do with an act of cyberwarfare by Russia to disrupt the American elections?

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), is also using his platform and his committee’s resources to push conspiracy theories about the dossier. Not only does Grassley believe the Democrats’ funding of the dossier is a legitimate line of inquiry but he has suggested the Justice Department is involved in a “cover-up.”

A cover-up of what?

As last week’s indictment of two Trump campaign officials and a guilty plea from a third showed, the Special Counsel investigating Russian meddling is steadily building a case.

Meanwhile, Trump has reduced members of Congress to partisan hacks throwing around distractions to deflect the public’s attention, and discredit the FBI and the Special Counsel.

The president’s strategy is evident in his Tweets. After news broke of last week’s indictments, he wrote: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????”

The president no longer has to rely solely on tweets and fake news to distract the public. Sadly, leading Republicans in Congress have been reduced to Trump enablers.

They are giving him cover in the name of party politics — the country be damned.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

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New York Times’ coverage of Mueller is peak liberal bias — Behaving like a party propaganda outlet

November 5, 2017

By Michael Goodwin
New York Post

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A friend likens The New York Times to a 1960s adolescent who refuses to grow up.  In a perpetual state of outrage, it is a newspaper of college snowflakes who embrace all forms of diversity except thought.

It sees its liberal politics not as a point of view, but as received wisdom that cannot be legitimately disputed.

The fixation on conformity reached a new low last week when the paper rolled out a coordinated attack on those of us who believe special counsel Robert Mueller ought to resign. I say coordinated because the newsroom and the opinion page produced similar pieces on the same day, showing again how Executive Editor Dean Baquet has erased the barrier between news and opinion and turned every page into an opinion page.

In the Times’ view, there are only two reasons to question Mueller’s credibility: insanity or treason. And so we detractors stand accused of engaging in a conspiracy that will embolden adversaries like Russia and produce a “constitutional crisis.”

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Robert Mueller

The animating impulse for the assault is obvious — the Times is locked into its mission of destroying President Trump, and, like Hillary Clinton, still cannot accept Trump’s election as legitimate.

Consider that the paper’s dozen Op-Ed columnists are all Never-Trumpers. That’s either a remarkable coincidence or a litmus test for hiring.

But the paper, following a bad habit it developed during Barack Obama’s presidency, is not content with advocating its positions. Behaving like a party propaganda outlet, it takes a coercive approach to anyone with a different view. Objections are demonized as heretical.

The reactionary tone of both pieces last week, and following ones by columnists Nicholas Kristof and Bret Stephens, carries the unavoidable assumption that Trump is guilty of colluding with Russia, and so critics of Mueller are subversives with unpatriotic aims.

The spear carrier for the Times’ newsroom opinion, media reporter Jim Rutenberg, singled me out for making a “dubious argument” that Mueller has too many conflicts of interest. Rutenberg, who assumed the role of Baquet’s apologist for its biased coverage of Trump, flatly declared doubts about Mueller unwarranted because “there is no evidence to support the assertion that the Democrats hired Fusion GPS with the purpose of getting Russians to spread ‘wild allegations’ about Mr. Trump.”

His straw man is a diversion and his logic turns the concept of evidence on its head, making it required before an investigation can start. Isn’t the point of investigations to find evidence?
Besides, if the lack of evidence is sufficient to avoid investigation, why is Mueller still investigating Trump, since more than a year of FBI probes has turned up no evidence of Trump wrongdoing.

The editorial page was even more venomous, calling criticism of the special counsel “crazy talk.” Incredibly, it also equated us with those who were silent in the face of Nazis by opening the editorial with, “And then they came for Robert Mueller.”

The zeal to protect Mueller from any criticism raises the question of why the Times cares so much. With the mainstream media in lockstep with its jihad against Trump,
why bother to smear a handful of skeptics?

My great sin was to argue that Mueller’s close relationship with his successor at the FBI, James Comey, was always a problem and that recent developments created a situation that was fixable only by resignation.

Image result for FBI, James Comey, photos

James Comey

Those added conflicts include the revelation that Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic Party paid for the Russian dossier against Trump, with some of its paid sources linked to the Kremlin.

Because the FBI reportedly used the dossier to launch its probe of Trump and considered hiring its author, any probe faithful to Mueller’s assignment would include an examination of the FBI’s role in 2016.

That would put Mueller in the untenable position of investigating the agency he led for 12 years.

Moreover, as questions grow about whether the Obama White House used the dossier as justification for unmasking Trump associates picked up in wiretaps in an attempt to swing the election to Clinton, Mueller’s probe must also examine the previous administration. But that, too, is an impossible task for him because he spent more than four years working for Obama, where he was a colleague of ­Clinton’s.

Resignation under these circumstances is not a radical idea, especially because I did not call for the Russia probe to end. I merely stated an obvious fact about how serious conflicts of interest are routinely resolved in the criminal-justice ­system.

For example, a judge with Mueller’s relationships and history would almost certainly be recused from overseeing those cases, so why should a special counsel investigating the president be held to a lesser standard? And if Justice Department rules required Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from anything related to the 2016 campaign because he was a Trump surrogate, those same rules should apply to Mueller’s relationship with Clinton, Obama and Comey.

Image result for hillary clinton, photos

In the end, the Times’ rabid ­defense of Mueller resembles the debacle of its 2016 campaign coverage. It never saw Trump’s victory coming because it was blinded by its hatred for him and contempt for his 63 million voters.

A year later, the Gray Lady has learned nothing.

 

http://nypost.com/2017/11/05/new-york-times-coverage-of-mueller-is-peak-liberal-bias/

See also:

Robert Mueller Should Resign

http://nypost.com/2017/10/28/robert-mueller-should-resign/

Trump White House Gets Ready For Impeachment — Trump Said To Have Lost Trust in Jared Kushner

November 3, 2017
After Monday’s indictments, the president blamed Jared Kushner in a call to Steve Bannon, while others are urging him to take off the gloves with Robert Mueller.
US President Donald Trump speaks alongside his daughter, Ivanka Trump (L) and her husband, Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner (R) during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, October 16, 2017.
By SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.

Until now, Robert Mueller has haunted Donald Trump’s White House as a hovering, mostly unseen menace. But by securing indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates,and a surprise guilty plea from foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, Mueller announced loudly that the Russia investigation poses an existential threat to the president. “Here’s what Manafort’s indictment tells me: Mueller is going to go over every financial dealing of Jared Kushner and the Trump Organization,” said former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg. “Trump is at 33 percent in Gallup. You can’t go any lower. He’s fucked.”

The first charges in the Mueller probe have kindled talk of what the endgame for Trump looks like, according to conversations with a half-dozen advisers and friends of the president. For the first time since the investigation began, the prospect of impeachment is being considered as a realistic outcome and not just a liberal fever dream. According to a source, advisers in the West Wing are on edge and doing whatever they can not to be ensnared. One person close to Dina Powell and Gary Cohn said they’re making sure to leave rooms if the subject of Russia comes up.

Trump, meanwhile, has reacted to the deteriorating situation by lashing out on Twitter and venting in private to friends. He’s frustrated that the investigation seems to have no end in sight. “Trump wants to be critical of Mueller,” one person who’s been briefed on Trump’s thinking says. “He thinks it’s unfair criticism. Clinton hasn’t gotten anything like this. And what about Tony Podesta? Trump is like, When is that going to end?” According to two sources, Trump has complained to advisers about his legal team for letting the Mueller probe progress this far. Speaking to Steve Bannon on Tuesday, Trump blamed Jared Kushner for his role in decisions, specifically the firings of Mike Flynn and James Comey, that led to Mueller’s appointment, according to a source briefed on the call. When Roger Stone recently told Trump that Kushner was giving him bad political advice, Trump agreed, according to someone familiar with the conversation. “Jared is the worst political adviser in the White House in modern history,” Nunberg said. “I’m only saying publicly what everyone says behind the scenes at Fox News, in conservative media, and the Senate and Congress.” (The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment by deadline.)The consensus among the advisers I spoke to is that Trump faces few good options to thwart Mueller. For one, firing Mueller would cross a red line, analogous to Nixon’s firing of Archibald Cox during Watergate, pushing establishment Republicans to entertain the possibility of impeachment. “His options are limited, and his instinct is to come out swinging, which won’t help things,” said a prominent Republican close to the White House.

Video: Trump Impeachment: A Serious Possibility?

As Mueller moves to interview West Wing aides in the coming days, advisers are lobbying for Trump to consider a range of stratagems to neutralize Mueller, from conciliation to a declaration of all-out war. One Republican explained Trump’s best chance for survival is to get his poll numbers up. Trump’s lawyer Ty Cobb has been advocating the view that playing ball will lead to a quick resolution (Cobb did not respond to a request for comment). But these soft-power approaches are being criticized by Trump allies including Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, who both believe establishment Republicans are waiting for a chance to impeach Trump. “The establishment has proven time and time again they will fuck Trump over,” a Bannon ally told me.

In a series of phone calls with Trump on Monday and Tuesday, Bannon told the president to shake up the legal team by installing an aggressive lawyer above Cobb, according to two sources briefed on the call. Bannon has also discussed ways to pressure Congress to defund Mueller’s investigation or limit its scope. “Mueller shouldn’t be allowed to be a clean shot on goal,” a Bannon confidant told me. “He must be contested and checked. Right now he has unchecked power.”

Bannon’s sense of urgency is being fueled by his belief that Trump’s hold on power is slipping. The collapse of Obamacare repeal, and the dimming chances that tax reform will pass soon—many Trump allies are deeply pessimistic about its prospects—have created the political climate for establishment Republicans to turn on Trump. Two weeks ago, according to a source, Bannon did a spitball analysis of the Cabinet to see which members would remain loyal to Trump in the event the 25th Amendment were invoked, thereby triggering a vote to remove the president from office. Bannon recently told people he’s not sure if Trump would survive such a vote. “One thing Steve wants Trump to do is take this more seriously,” the Bannon confidant told me. “Stop joking around. Stop tweeting.”

Roger Stone believes defunding Mueller isn’t enough. Instead, Stone wants Trump to call for a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton’s role in approving the controversial Uranium One deal that’s been a locus of rightwing hysteria (the transaction involved a Russian state-owned energy firm acquiring a Canadian mining company that controlled a large subset of the uranium in the United States). It’s a bit of a bank shot, but as Stone described it, a special prosecutor looking into Uranium One would also have to investigate the F.B.I.’s role in approving the deal, thereby making Mueller—who was in charge of the bureau at the time—a target. Stone’s choice for a special prosecutor: Rudy Giuliani law colleague Marc Mukasey or Fox News pundit Andrew Napolitano. “You would immediately have to inform Mueller, Comey, and [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein that they are under federal investigation,” Stone said. “Trump can’t afford to fire Mueller politically. But this pushes him aside.”

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Trump Said To Have Lost Trust in Jared Kushner
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BY JTA
 NOVEMBER 2, 2017 12:24

 

Trump blames Kushner for decisions that have led to a probe into connections between his campaign and Russia, according to a ‘Vanity Fair’ report.

Donald Trump and Jared Kushner

Donald Trump and Jared Kushner . (photo credit:REUTERS)

 WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump believes his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is giving him bad advice, according to a Vanity Fair report.

The report Wednesday, citing sources “briefed on Trump’s thinking,” said Trump has confided in two right-wing provocateurs, Roger Stone and Stephen Bannon, that he no longer trusts Kushner. Bannon for the first eight months of Trump’s presidency was his top strategic adviser and reportedly clashed frequently with Kushner.

 

According to the article, Trump blames Kushner for decisions that have led to a probe into connections between his campaign and Russia, among them the firing of his first national security adviser, Mike Flynn, for not revealing the extent of his ties with Russian officials; and the firing of James Comey, the FBI director, who said he was investigating the ties.
Those events were among the factors that led the Justice Department to name a special counsel to run the probe, Robert Mueller. On Monday, Mueller announced his first arrests in the case.
The White House did not provide comment to Vanity Fair, but Trump later Wednesday called The New York Times to say he was not upset by the Mueller investigation.
“I’m not under investigation,” he told the newspaper.
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Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort Charged in Russia Probe

October 30, 2017

Manafort expected in federal court later Monday

Paul Manafort arrives at the FBI field office in Washington, D.C., with his lawyer, Kevin Downing, on Monday morning.
Paul Manafort arrives at the FBI field office in Washington, D.C., with his lawyer, Kevin Downing, on Monday morning. PHOTO: DEL QUENTIN WILBER/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

WASHINGTON—The former chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been told to surrender to authorities on charges including tax fraud, according to people familiar with the matter.

Paul Manafort is expected in federal court in Washington, D.C., later on Monday, the people said.

Paul Manafort is expected in federal court in Washington, D.C., later on Monday, the people said.

Mr. Manafort was charged in an indictment returned on Friday, and unsealed Monday, along with his former business associate, Rick Gates. They are the first to face arrest in an investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director.

Mr. Manafort and his attorney Kevin Downing arrived about 8:15 a.m. at the FBI’s Washington Field Office. Mr. Manafort didn’t respond to questions as he entered the building.

Mr. Mueller’s team, which includes 16 attorneys versed in public-corruption, fraud and national-security matters and more than two dozen FBI agents, has been presenting evidence before a federal grand jury convened in Washington since July.

Related Video

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/former-trump-campaign-chairman-paul-manafort-charged-in-russia-probe-1509365767?mod=e2tweu
The Trump-Russia Investigations: Who Are the Russians Involved?
U.S. investigators are looking into contacts between several current and former associates of Donald Trump and Russian individuals—some with direct ties to the Russian government or state-owned entities. WSJ’s Niki Blasina provides a who’s who of the Russians at the center of the investigations.

Besides investigating Russian influence in the election, Mr. Mueller has been investigating whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice in his firing of FBI Director James Comey, and the business dealings of several former Trump aides, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Manafort has been the focus of an investigation examining whether he violated tax laws or engaged in illicit financial transactions. In July, FBI agents working with Mr. Mueller raided a home of Mr. Manafort’s to obtain documents and other material tied to foreign bank accounts and tax matters.

Mr. Manafort’s spokesman, Jason Maloni, has said in the past that Mr. Manafort didn’t collude with the Russian government to help Moscow interfere in the 2016 election. He couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday.

A lawyer for Mr. Gates didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Write to Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com and Del Quentin Wilber at del.wilber@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/former-trump-campaign-chairman-paul-manafort-charged-in-russia-probe-1509365767

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Photo: Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort leaves his home in Alexandria, Va., Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, in Washington. Andrew Harnik AP Photo

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WASHINGTON — Paul Manafort and his former business associate were indicted on Monday on money laundering, tax and foreign lobbying charges, a significant escalation in a special counsel investigation that has cast a shadow over President Trump’s first year in office.

Mr. Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, and his longtime associate Rick Gates, surrendered to the FBI on Monday. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said Mr. Manafort laundered more than $18 million to buy properties and services.

“Manafort used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States without paying taxes on that income,” the indictment reads.

Mr. Gates is accused of transferring more than $3 million from offshore accounts. The two are also charged with making false statements.

DOCUMENT

Read the Charges Against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, was indicted on charges including conspiracy, money laundering and other charges. Mr. Manafort’s business associate, Rick Gates, was also charged.

Mr. Gates is a longtime protégé and junior partner of Mr. Manafort. His name appears on documents linked to companies that Mr. Manafort’s firm set up in Cyprus to receive payments from politicians and businesspeople in Eastern Europe, records reviewed by The New York Times show.

Attempts to reach Mr. Gates on Monday were not successful. A spokesman for Mr. Manafort did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Manafort has expected charges since this summer, when F.B.I. agents raided his home and prosecutors warned him that they planned to indict him. That warning raised speculation that Mr. Manafort might try to cut a deal to avoid prosecution.

Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Ty Cobb, said there were no concerns that Mr. Manafort would offer damaging information about the president in exchange for a deal.

Read the rest:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/30/us/politics/paul-manafort-indicted.html

Begging Your Pardon, Mr. President — How Trump can shut down the special counsel probe and leave the Russia investigations to Congress

October 30, 2017

How Trump can shut down the special counsel probe and leave the Russia investigations to Congress.

The Trump presidency has been consumed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s efforts to uncover collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Mr. Mueller reportedly has secured one or more indictments that he will announce Monday. Some Republicans now seek a new special counsel to investigate if the Clinton Campaign “colluded” with Russians to smear Candidate Trump, along with other aspects of the Clintons’ relationship with Russia and Russian nationals. But one special counsel already is one too many.

Clockwise from top left, Presidents Ford, Washington, Lincoln and Carter all used the pardon power in politically charged cases.
Clockwise from top left, Presidents Ford, Washington, Lincoln and Carter all used the pardon power in politically charged cases.PHOTO: WHITE HOUSE COLLECTION/WHITE HOUSE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION

During the 1980s and ’90s, American politics was repeatedly distorted, and lives devastated, through the appointment of independent counsels under the post-Watergate Ethics in Government Act. These constitutionally anomalous prosecutors were given unlimited time and resources to investigate officials, including President Clinton, and scandals, such as Iran-Contra. Once appointed, almost all independent counsels built little Justice Departments of their own and set out to find something—anything—to prosecute. Hardly anyone lamented the expiration of this pernicious law in 1999.

But special counsels, appointed by the attorney general and in theory subject to Justice Department oversight, haven’t proved any better in practice. Mr. Mueller’s investigation has already morphed into an open-ended inquiry. It is examining issues—like Donald Trump’s private business transactions—that are far removed from the Russian question. It also has expanded its focus beyond the original question of collusion with the Russians to whether anyone involved in the Russia investigation has committed some related offense. That is evident from investigators’ efforts to interview White House aides who were not involved in the 2016 campaign, and from leaks suggesting that Mr. Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey might have “obstructed” justice.

That claim is frivolous, and it damages America’s constitutional fabric even to consider it. A president cannot obstruct justice through the exercise of his constitutional and discretionary authority over executive-branch officials like Mr. Comey. If a president can be held to account for “obstruction of justice” by ending an investigation or firing a prosecutor or law-enforcement official—an authority the constitution vests in him as chief executive—then one of the presidency’s most formidable powers is transferred from an elected, accountable official to unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats and judges.

Mr. Mueller’s investigation has been widely interpreted as partisan from the start. Mr. Trump’s opponents instantaneously started talking of impeachment—never mind that a special counsel, unlike an independent counsel, has no authority to release a report to Congress or the public. Mr. Trump’s supporters count the number of Democratic donors on the special-counsel staff. The Mueller investigation is fostering tremendous bitterness among Trump voters, who see it as an effort by Washington mandarins to nullify their votes.

Mr. Trump can end this madness by immediately issuing a blanket presidential pardon to anyone involved in supposed collusion with Russia or Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign, to anyone involved with Russian acquisition of an American uranium company during the Obama administration, and to anyone for any offense that has been investigated by Mr. Mueller’s office. Political weaponization of criminal law should give way to a politically accountable democratic process. Nefarious Russian activities, including possible interference in U.S. elections, can and should be investigated by Congress.

Partisan bitterness will not evaporate if lawmakers take up the investigation. But at least those conducting the inquiry will be legitimate and politically accountable. And the question of whether Russia intervened in the 2016 election, and of whether it made efforts to influence U.S. policy makers in previous administrations, is first and foremost one of policy and national security, not criminal law.

The president himself would be covered by the blanket pardon we recommend, but the pardon power does not extend to impeachment. If Congress finds evidence that he was somehow involved in collusion with Russia, the House can determine whether to begin impeachment proceedings. Congress also is better equipped, as part of its oversight role, to determine whether and how the FBI, Justice Department and intelligence agencies might have been involved in the whole affair, including possible misuse of surveillance and mishandling of criminal investigations.

There is ample precedent for using the presidential pardon authority to address matters of political importance. Certainly it is what the framers expected. As Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist 69, the pardon power was to “resemble . . . that of the king of Great Britain.” In Federalist 74, he observed that “there are often critical moments, when a well-timed offer of pardon to . . . insurgents or rebels may restore the tranquility of the commonwealth.”

Securing harmony in the body politic was President Washington’s motivation when he offered amnesty to participants in the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s, and it was President Lincoln’s motivation when he issued an amnesty during the Civil War for Confederates who would return their allegiance to the Union. Similar reasons motivated President Ford to pardon Richard Nixon, and President Carter when he offered amnesty to Vietnam-era draft evaders.

Lincoln’s proclamation of Dec. 8, 1863, is an excellent model of a broadly drafted and complete amnesty: “I . . . do proclaim, declare and make known to all persons who have directly or by implication participated in the existing rebellion, except as hereinafter excepted, that a full pardon is granted to them . . . upon condition that every such person shall take and subscribe an oath” of loyalty to the U.S. A similar pardon can be issued with respect to the Russian affair, ending the criminal investigations and leaving the business to Congress.

Permitting the criminal law again to become a regular weapon in politics is more destructive of democratic government than ham-handed efforts by a foreign power to embarrass one or more presidential candidates. It is true that Washington’s Augean stables need periodic cleaning, but it is Congress that should wield the shovels.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey practice appellate and constitutional law in Washington. They served in the White House Counsel’s office and Justice Department in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

 

The Trump Dossier Dam Is Breaking — Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton campaign funded Fusion GPS?

October 29, 2017

A U.S. political party applied to a hostile power for lurid stories about a domestic opponent.

Then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid campaigns for Hillary Clinton in North Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 23, 2016.
Then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid campaigns for Hillary Clinton in North Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 23, 2016. PHOTO: ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES

’Tis the season of tossing out nondisclosure agreements. Victims and employees of Harvey Weinstein clamor to be released from their NDAs so they can talk about his abuse. Perkins Coie, the Washington law firm for the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton campaign, showed the way by voluntarily releasing Fusion GPS from its duty to remain mum on Democrats who funded the notorious Trump dossier.

May the example catch on.

Journalists who investigated the Trump dossier now say their Democratic sources lied to them. That’s already a start. Please, Democrats, release journalists from their confidentiality agreements so they can tell us more about your lying.

The revelations provide new context for Harry Reid’s “October surprise,” his attempt 10 days before Election Day to lever the dossier’s allegations into the press with a public letter to then-FBI Director James Comey accusing him of withholding “explosive information.”

Mr. Reid knows how the responsible press works. Implausible, scurrilous and unsupported allegations are not reportable, but a government official making public reference to such allegations is reportable.

Mr. Reid, though, failed to mention his party’s role in concocting the allegations, much less that the manner of its doing so left him no reason to suppose the charges were anything but tall tales spun by Russian intelligence officials in response to danglings of Democratic money.

This is a completely novel tactic in U.S. politics, applying to a hostile foreign power for lurid stories about a domestic opponent. Mr. Reid, please tell us more about your role.

Let’s also hear from Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

He claimed on TV to have “circumstantial” and “more than circumstantial” evidence of Trump collusion with Russia. In the event, what he delivered in a committee hearing was a litany of routine, innocuous business and diplomatic contacts between Trump associates and Russian citizens, interspersed with claims from the Trump dossier.

He failed to mention, though, that the Trump dossier was manufactured by Democrats paying a D.C. law firm to pay a D.C. “research” firm to pay a retired British spook to pay unknown, unidentified Russians to tell stories about Mr. Trump, in reckless disregard for whether the stories were true.

Mr. Schiff, a Harvard Law graduate, will know the phrase is not our coinage. “Reckless disregard” is the standard by which the Supreme Court says, even in a country that bends over backward to protect the press at the expense of public figures, the press can be held liable for defamatory untruths about a public figure.

Even so, journalists are presumed to know their sources, not to have paid a long chain of surrogates to elicit sensational claims from perfect strangers, let alone anonymous agents of a foreign regime with a known habit of disinformation. It is impossible to exaggerate how reckless Democrats have been under this standard. If they found the Trump dossier on the sidewalk, they’d be in a better ethical position now. Let’s hear what Mr. Schiff knew and when he knew it.

Finally, let us hear from James Comey.

The Trump dossier was reckless and irresponsible in the extreme, but only consequential after Election Day. It didn’t prevent Mr. Trump from becoming president.

In the new spirit of non-non-disclosure, it’s time for Mr. Comey to tell us about the Russian intelligence scam that may really have changed the election outcome.

In closed hearings, he reportedly acknowledged that his intervention in the Hillary Clinton email case was prompted by what is now understood to have been planted, fake Russian intelligence. The fake Russian intelligence purported to discuss a nonexistent email between then-DNC chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz and George Soros-employed activist Leonard Benardo.

This led directly to Mr. Comey’s second intervention, reopening the case 11 days before Election Day, a shocking development that appears now to have moved enough votes into Mr. Trump’s column to account for his win.

At the time, the press was all too happy to blame Bill Clinton for his wife’s loss when Mr. Comey, for nonclassified consumption, cited Mr. Clinton’s tarmac meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch as the reason for his intervention.

The press is silent now. The new story satisfies nobody’s agenda, and only makes the FBI look foolish. Mr. Trump is not eager to hear his victory portrayed as an FBI-precipitated accident. Democrats cling to their increasingly washed-out theory of Trump-Russia collusion.

And yet, if Mr. Comey’s antic intervention in response to Russian disinformation inadvertently led to Mr. Trump becoming president, this was the most consequential outcome by far.

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-trump-dossier-dam-is-breaking-1509143847

Robert Mueller should resign — That’s the best fix

October 29, 2017

By Michael Goodwin
New York Post

Forgive yourself if you are confused about developments in the Russia, Russia, Russia storyline. In fact, there are so many moving parts that you shouldn’t trust anybody who isn’t confused.

Consider this, then, a guide to the perplexed, where we start with two things that are certain. First, special counsel Robert Mueller will never be able to untangle the tangled webs with any credibility and needs to step aside.

Mueller, whose office is apparently leaking the “secret” news that a grand jury has approved charges against an unidentified defendant, assumed his role with one big conflict, his relationship with his successor at the FBI, James Comey. That conflict has morphed into several more that are fixable only by resignation.

That became obvious last week when events showed that any honest probe must examine the Obama White House and Justice Department. Mueller served as head of the FBI for more than four years under President Obama and cannot be expected to investigate his former colleagues and bosses.

But without that necessary step, his work would be incomplete at best. So it’s time for him to say ­bye-bye.

The second thing we know for certain is that Hillary Clinton had a worse week than Mueller. Much worse.

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The revelation that her campaign and the Democratic National Committee secretly funded the discredited dossier on Donald Trump’s supposed connections to Russia rocked the political world. The Clinton connection, denied by the campaign for a year, throws more doubt on the entire Trump-Russia-collusion narrative and shows that Clinton worked with Russian officials to meddle in the election.

The Washington Post reported that her campaign and the DNC paid millions of dollars to a law firm, Perkins Coie, which hired a shadowy company called Fusion GPS, which hired a former British spy, Christopher Steele, to compile the dossier, much of which was said to be based on Kremlin sources.

The bombshell sent Clinton into hiding, and no wonder. She probably thought three degrees of separation from the dossier would be enough to insulate her. In her absence, her defenders offered a dog’s stew of evasions, half-truths and diversionary attacks.

Their claim that nobody in the campaign or the DNC knew anything about the deal doesn’t pass the smell test. When as much as $12 million goes out the window for a document that aimed to win the election — and failed — everybody knows something.

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While the link to Clinton answers some questions, it raises others. For example, while it is certain her campaign spread the dossier among the media last summer, it remains uncertain whether the dossier was used by the White House and the FBI to justify snooping on the Trump campaign.

One hint that it was is that Comey, while still in office, called the document “salacious and unverified,” but briefed Obama and President-elect Trump on its contents last January. And the FBI never denied reports that it almost hired Steele, the former British spy, to continue his work after the campaign.

The mystery might soon be solved because the FBI, after months of stonewalling, agreed last week to tell Congress how it used the dossier and detail its contacts with Steele.

If the bureau did use the dossier to seek FISA warrants to intercept communications involving the Trump campaign, it would mean the FBI used a dirty trick from the candidate of the party in power as an excuse to investigate the candidate from the opposition party.
Somewhere, Richard Nixon is wondering why he didn’t think of that.

There is also the issue of the “unmasking” of Trump associates caught up in the snooping, with the names leaked to anti-Trump media. It is essential to investigate that angle, but it would lead right to the Obama White House, which is why Mueller is not the man for the job.

As for Clinton, the dossier revelation was not her only new problem. In fact, the second blow might be the most serious yet.

At the urging of Congress and Trump, the Justice Department lifted its gag order on an informant who can now testify to Congress about bribery and other wrongdoing surrounding Moscow’s gaining control of 20 percent of US uranium production.

The 2010 transaction was approved by Obama officials, including Clinton, then secretary of state. About the same time, Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 for a speech to a Russian bank involved in the transaction. Later, tens of millions of dollars — $145 million by one estimate — were said to be donated to the Clinton Foundation by individuals having a stake in the deal.

The informant’s lawyer, Victoria Toensing, told Fox News the speech fee and the donations amount to a “quid pro quo” for Hillary Clinton’s help.

“My client can put some meat on those bones and tell you what the Russians were saying during that time,” Toensing said.
Clinton called the accusations “baloney,” but that’s what her team said about any connections to the dossier — before the truth came out.

Finally, another event is worth mentioning: the release of thousands of files from the JFK assassination trove. There were lots of juicy tidbits, but no final clarity, which raises the horrifying idea that, 50 years from now, we might still be waiting for the truth about Russia, Russia, Russia.

Heaven help us.

Coward on the run

“He can run but he can’t hide,” boxing legend Joe Louis said about an opponent. He might have been talking about Mayor de Blasio.

A federal corruption trial against Norman Seabrook, the former head of the correction officers union, has turned into a daily barrage against the mayor.

Faced with a convicted felon on the stand insisting he bought City Hall with contributions and top cops with gifts, an honest mayor would be outraged and immediately defend himself.

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Instead, de Blasio scurries from the press for two days like a coward before finally denouncing the testimony as “false” and said it was an exaggeration.

De Blasio doesn’t fight back with details because he can’t. The testimony rings true because there’s no question the mayor gave big favors to big donors. Prosecutors said it wasn’t a crime they could prove in court, but it sure looks corrupt as hell in the light of day.

Maybe voters will deliver a Joe Louis knockout punch on Election Day.

Cuo’s uncivil war on GOP

Gov. Cuomo is going ’round the bend with incendiary name-calling. Afraid the federal tax- reform plan will eliminate the deduction of state and local taxes, Cuomo twice accused New York Republicans who support the measure of “treason.” On Friday, he also called them “Benedict Arnolds.”

Any day now, he’ll lecture us on the need for civility in public discourse. You know, do as he says, not as he does.

“Truth” in the cards

Headline: “MetroCard Replacement Will be Safe, Officials Say.”

Well, then, nothing to worry about.

FILED UNDER 
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http://nypost.com/2017/10/28/robert-mueller-should-resign/

Conservative Publication Hired Fusion GPS to Research Trump, Other Candidates

October 28, 2017

Washington Free Beacon denies involvement in anti-Trump dossier compiled by ex-British spy

Christopher Steele, shown on March 7, is the former British spy who compiled a dossier of unverified information about Donald Trump. 
Christopher Steele, shown on March 7, is the former British spy who compiled a dossier of unverified information about Donald Trump. PHOTO: VICTORIA JONES/ZUMA PRESS
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WASHINGTON—A research firm that produced a dossier of unverified information about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia was first hired by a conservative publication to conduct research on a number of presidential candidates.

In a joint statement released Friday, the Washington Free Beacon’s chairman and editor in chief acknowledged that the Washington, D.C.-based web publication hired the firm Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research during last year’s presidential campaign.

But the publication denied any involvement in anti-Trump research compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele in a 35-page dossier that has become of significant interest to investigators probing Russian activity during the 2016 election.

“Since its launch in February of 2012, the Washington Free Beacon has retained third party firms to conduct research on many individuals and institutions of interest to us and our readers. In that capacity, during the 2016 election cycle we retained Fusion GPS to provide research on multiple candidates in the Republican presidential primary, just as we retained other firms to assist in our research into Hillary Clinton, ” said editor Matthew Continetti and chairman Michael Goldfarb in a statement.

“All of the work that Fusion GPS provided to the Free Beacon was based on public sources, and none of the work product that the Free Beacon received appears in the Steele dossier. The Free Beacon had no knowledge of or connection to the Steele dossier, did not pay for the dossier, and never had contact with, knowledge of, or provided payment for any work performed by Christopher Steele,” the two men said.

The publication’s representatives told the House Intelligence Committee, which is conducting a wide-ranging probe into Russian activity during the 2016 election, on Friday that it was the source of the original funding for Fusion GPS’s presidential research. Fusion GPS was founded by former Wall Street Journal reporters in 2011.

After the Free Beacon ended its relationship with Fusion, Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for the anti-Trump research through a law firm, according to a letter from the firm filed in federal court. Mr. Steele’s memos begin in June 2016—after the Free Beacon stopped paying the firm and the Clinton campaign began picking up the tab for Fusion GPS’s research.

Brian Fallon, a former spokesman for the Clinton campaign, said this week that he didn’t learn about Mr. Steele or the dossier until after the election, but added: “If I had gotten handed it last fall, I would have had no problem passing it along and urging reporters to look into it.”

The dossier, which was circulated in intelligence and media circles late in the 2016 election, contained a number of unflattering allegations about Mr. Trump. It was eventually presented to Mr. Trump by then-FBI director James Comey in an attempt to “minimize potential embarrassment” to the president, Mr. Comey later testified.

Mr. Trump has called the dossier “fake” and “discredited” and has denied any collusion with Russia during the 2016 election. Russia has denied any meddling in the U.S. race.

The Washington Free Beacon was founded in 2012 under the umbrella of a nonprofit organization called the Center for American Freedom. The publication, which became a for-profit entity in 2014, aimed to offer a counterweight to liberal web publications, publishing original investigative journalism and commentary.

Hedge-fund manager and conservative donor Paul Singer —who during the election campaign was critical of Mr. Trump but has since moved to repair their relationship—helps fund the Free Beacon, according to a person close to Mr. Singer.

The publication defended its hiring of research firms to look up information on the presidential candidates.

“We stand by our reporting, and we do not apologize for our methods,” said Messrs. Continetti and Goldfarb. “We consider it our duty to report verifiable information, not falsehoods or slander, and we believe that commitment has been well demonstrated by the quality of the journalism that we produce. The First Amendment guarantees our right to engage in news-gathering as we see fit, and we intend to continue doing just that as we have since the day we launched this project.”

News of the Free Beacon’s role in funding Fusion’s presidential research was first reported by the Washington Examiner.

Fusion GPS has repeatedly refused to disclose its clients to congressional investigators. Two partners of the firm refused to testify in front of the House Intelligence Committee this month, citing their constitutional rights. The firm is also fighting a subpoena in federal court for its bank records, arguing that it has an obligation to protect the identity of its clients.

“None of this changes the fact that the intelligence community found a former U.K. intelligence official’s findings so credible that they landed on the president’s desk,” said Josh Levy, an attorney for Fusion GPS.

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

James Comey and Robert Mueller Imperil the Rule of Law

October 26, 2017

The former FBI directors tend to investigate Republicans far more zealously than Democrats.

James Comey and Robert Mueller at the White House, June 21, 2013.
James Comey and Robert Mueller at the White House, June 21, 2013. PHOTO: WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES

News broke last week about possible Russian wrongdoing in the U.S., and it didn’t involve the Trump campaign. The Hill reported that in 2009 the FBI “gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States.”

The FBI kept that information from Congress and the public, the Hill reported, even as Hillary Clinton’s State Department in 2010 approved a deal that transferred control of more than 20% of America’s uranium supply to a Russian company. The Hill also reported the FBI had documents showing that during this period Russia engineered the transmission of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation.

The FBI director at the time: Robert Mueller, now special counsel in charge of investigating “Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election and related matters.” The revelations can only heighten anxieties about Mr. Mueller, the FBI and the rule of law.

The special counsel’s open-ended mandate covers not only “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” but also “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Because Mr. Mueller has interpreted his mandate expansively, his effort may become the most politically disruptive federal investigation of our young century—more than the FBI’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s private email server and mishandling of classified information, more than Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into the 2003 disclosure of CIA employee Valerie Plame’s identity.

All three investigations have one important characteristic in common: James Comey, Mr. Mueller’s successor as FBI director, played a dubious role in each.

In December 2003, after Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from the Plame matter, then-Deputy Attorney General Comey named Mr. Fitzgerald—a close friend who was godfather to one of Mr. Comey’s children—as special counsel to head the Justice Department’s “investigation into the alleged unauthorized disclosure” of Ms. Plame’s employment.

Unknown to the public then, and still not widely known, that potential crime had already been solved. By early fall 2003, the CIA had determined that revealing Ms. Plame’s identity caused no injury to national security, while the FBI knew it was not a White House official—as many Democrats and liberal pundits ardently believed—but rather Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage who was columnist Robert Novak’s source for the original Plame story.

Mr. Fitzgerald declined to prosecute Mr. Armitage, but he played hardball with the Bush White House. Over several years, Mr. Fitzgerald inflicted severe damage by feeding the false accusation that the president had lied the nation into the Iraq war. The only criminal charges he prosecuted were generated by his investigation. He won a 2007 conviction of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, for obstruction of justice, false statements and perjury. The conviction was based on small inconsistencies Mr. Fitzgerald discovered in (or created from) more than 20 hours of Mr. Libby’s FBI interrogation and grand-jury testimony. Star prosecution witness Judith Miller wrote in her 2015 memoir that Mr. Fitzgerald had withheld crucial information and manipulated her memory, inducing her to testify falsely against Mr. Libby.

In contrast, then-FBI Director Comey played softball with the 2015-16 Hillary Clinton investigation. Despite the gravity of the matter—military service members can be court-martialed and discharged for sending classified information on nonsecure systems—Mr. Comey mostly avoided issuing subpoenas and cooperated with the Obama Justice Department in obscuring the investigation’s criminal character. He permitted Mrs. Clinton and her team to destroy evidence and granted generous immunity deals to her advisers. He drafted a statement exonerating Mrs. Clinton months before the FBI interviewed her. And his FBI neither recorded the interview nor compelled her to answer questions under oath.

In addition, in a July 2016 press conference, Mr. Comey usurped the authority of Justice Department prosecutors by publicly exonerating Mrs. Clinton. In the process, he confused the pertinent legal issue by asserting she did not intend to violate the law. But intent wasn’t a necessary condition for a crime. Federal law criminalizes “gross negligence” in mishandling classified information. By Mr. Comey’s own account, Mrs. Clinton had been “extremely careless.”

With Mr. Trump, by contrast, Mr. Comey is playing hardball even after leaving government. In May, shortly after President Trump fired him, Mr. Comey—possibly in conflict with FBI policy—leaked notes of an Oval Office meeting with the president. His purpose, Mr. Comey publicly acknowledged, was to “prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”

Mr. Mueller is playing hardball too. Unlike the Clinton investigation into narrowly defined allegations, his mandate authorizes pursuit of unspecified crimes. That invites casting a wide net, which Mr. Mueller has done, exploring conduct that long predated the 2016 presidential campaign. He has assembled a huge team that includes, in addition to FBI agents, 16 seasoned prosecutors, at least seven of whom have contributed money to Democratic candidates. He might have extended his investigation to Mr. Trump’s business interests. And he is working with agents from the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation unit, raising the possibility that he has obtained Mr. Trump’s tax returns.

Mr. Mueller has adopted scorched-earth tactics in pursuit of Paul Manafort, who ran Trump’s presidential campaign from June to August 2016. The special counsel’s team has reached back more than a decade into Mr. Manafort’s financial affairs and conducted a predawn, guns-drawn raid on his home on a day he was scheduled to testify before Congress as a cooperating witness.

One crucial difference distinguishes the probe of Mrs. Clinton from the two Comey-instigated special-counsel investigations of Republican administrations. Mr. Fitzgerald’s multiyear investigation of the Bush administration and Mr. Mueller’s ever-widening scrutiny of the Trump campaign exhibit a tenacious and nearly unconstrained search for persons and crimes to prosecute. In contrast, Mr. Comey’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton reflects a determination not to prosecute systematic and obvious unlawful conduct.

Both excesses threaten the rule of law—but the dogged search for persons and crimes to prosecute poses the graver threat to constitutional government.

Mr. Berkowitz is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Appeared in the October 24, 2017, print edition as ‘Comey and Mueller Imperil the Rule of Law.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/james-comey-and-robert-mueller-imperil-the-rule-of-law-1508798756?mod=e2two