Posts Tagged ‘Michael Flynn’

Obama Likely Knew ‘Hillary Clinton Paid for a [FISA] Warrant’ — Mark Levin Shakes Up The Story

February 6, 2018

Constitutional law expert and former Reagan administration official Mark Levin said Americans have been subjected to a “massive propaganda campaign” to protect Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.

Levin, whose program “Life, Liberty and Levin” premieres later this month on Fox News Channel, said Democrats and the media have been fighting to keep the FISA memo away from the public because it effectively shows that “Hillary Clinton paid for a warrant.”

Sean Hannity said a new memo shows that a “phony, Russian-paid-for dossier” was used as a basis of obtaining the FISA warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Levin said a new memo from Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) shows a connection between those involved in the dossier and the Hillary Clinton campaign, as well as the Obama State Department.

He said it was impossible that such activity was not brought up in then-President Barack Obama’s daily intelligence briefing or that his National Security Council didn’t know either.

“[Clinton] colluded with the Russians, but it appears the FBI colluded with the Russians too,” Levin said. “The senior level of the FBI tried to interfere with this election as well.”

Levin said the investigation into Russian collusion “transition[ed] from a counter-intelligence investigation to a criminal investigation when [former FBI Director James] Comey, of all things, confesses to being a leaker,” Levin said.

“Why would the Russians want Donald Trump to be president when they could get everything they want from Hillary Clinton?” he later added.

http://insider.foxnews.com/2018/02/05/mark-levin-hannity-fisa-controversy-shows-hillary-clinton-paid-warrant-and-obama-knew

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Conservative commentator Mark Levin appeared on the Monday night broadcast of FOX News’ Hannity to talk about the ramifications of FISA memo released by the House Intel Committee for the Obama-era intel community and why the 2016 U.S. Democratic party nominee for president Hillary Clinton should be the target of a forthcoming investigation.

Levin accused Clinton of colluding with the Russians, wittingly or unwittingly, and that she “paid for a warrant.” He also said former President Obama is being protected as his name has never come up. Levin said the warrant to surveil members of the Trump campaign was issued under the watch Obama’s FBI, Obama’s DOJ, Obama’s State Department, and Obama’s chosen candidate for president and he can not believe that he didn’t know about what was going on.

“The American people have been subjected to a massive propaganda and misinformation campaign by the Clinton campaign, by the Obama administration.,” Levin declared.

“Why would the Russians want Donald Trump to be president of the United States when they could everything they want from Hillary Clinton?” Levin asked. “Whether it’s uranium, whether it’s undermining defense by cutting military spending, by refusing to secure our border. Why in the world would the Russians want Trump as to Hillary Clinton.”

“They got everything through Hillary Clinton,” the conservative talk show host added.

Levin asked since when has the Democratic party supported law enforcement. All the sudden they are defending the FBI, he said, and turn around and say why are you attacking the FBI.

“Not only do we need a special counsel, we need a special commission… to come up with what we need to do,” Levin called.

Clinton colluded with the Russians:

This is bad. And let me tell you a couple of things here. Now we know why Schiff and the rest of them are fighting so hard. Now we know why the left-wing Praetorian Guard Democrat media are fighting so hard, trashing [Devin] Nunes, me, you, and others.

Let’s walk through this quickly. Who are they trying to protect? Hillary Clinton. Sean, who else are they trying to protect? Barack Obama. His name never comes up. So let me help everybody with this. Loretta Lynch knew about these FISA warrants. [Sally] Yates, the deputy attorney general, the extensions Rod Rosenstein, now the deputy attorney general. He knew. FBI Director Comey, Deputy Director [Andrew] McCabe, [Peter] Strzok, the head of counterintelligence, [Lisa] Page, his girlfriend. Who else would known about these FISA applications and warrants?

Well, let me tell you a little secret. These are counterintelligence efforts. You have to assume the National Security Council (NSC) and the White House knew. Why would the FBI, Justice Department, keep that from the National Security Director in the White House? Why would they keep it from the Deputy Director in the White House? So why would be left out of the president’s daily intelligence briefing which I mentioned in March Congress also needs to get a hold of.

I am telling you, we’re looking at the FBI, we’re looking at the Department of Justice, and we are not looking at all — at all — at the White House. Hillary Clinton paid for a warrant. That’s the easiest way we can put it. Hillary Clinton colluded with the Russians. But it appears the FBI at the seniormost levels colluded with the Russians too. Whether it was witting or unwitting, it doesn’t matter. That’s a fact.

So the senior level of the FBI tried to interfere with this election as well. This is why it’s such a big deal. Now, I know Republicans are bending over backward saying this has nothing to do with Mueller. It has everything to do with Mueller! Because it makes a transition from the counterintelligence investigation into a criminal investigation after Comey, of all things, confesses to being a leaker. And Mueller is the former FBI director! Those are his people; that is his environment. He’s not out there as some independent force.

But I want to get back to Barack Obama. It’s his FBI, his Department of Justice, his State Department, his candidate. I cannot believe for a minute that the National Security Council didn’t know about this. And to show you how elaborate this is, now that more information is coming out, we haven’t even gotten to the incidental collection of intelligence on people, including, by the way, Sessions when he met with and spoke to the Russian ambassador [Sergey Kislyak], Michael Flynn when he spoke to the Russian ambassador, the unmasking and leaking of his name, the record number of unmasking of American citizens in Trump World and so forth and so on. And the American people have been subjected to a massive propaganda and misinformation campaign by the Clinton campaign, by the Obama administration.

Why would the Russians want Donald Trump to be president of the United States when they could everything they want from Hillary Clinton? Whether it’s uranium, whether it’s undermining defense by cutting military spending, by refusing to secure our border. Why in the world would the Russians want Trump as to Hillary Clinton.

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https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/02/06/mark_levin_hillary_clinton_paid_for_a_warrant_fbi_colluded_with_russians_wittingly_or_unwittingly.html
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Trump Still Must Face Mueller, Despite Recent Memo — “There’s going to be a Russia probe, even without a dossier.”

February 4, 2018

Bloomberg

By Steven T. Dennis and Billy House

 Updated on 
  • Gowdy says there’ll be a Russia probe, dossier or no dossier
  • President tweets that the document ‘totally vindicates’ him
The American and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) flags fly outside the DOJ headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Feb. 2.

Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg

President Donald Trump was eager to have a Republican memo alleging bias in the Russia probe released to the public, several people around him said.

Now that it’s out, Trump took to Twitter to promote it for that purpose — although the document may not be as effective as the president wants it to be.

It didn’t, for one thing, touch on the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and didn’t give Trump much pretext to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who’s overseeing the inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. One top Republican, Representative Trey Gowdy, said Saturday that “there’s going to be a Russia probe, even without a dossier.”

Still, Trump tweeted from his Florida resort Saturday morning that “this memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe,” his first public comment since the memo’s release.

Trump added that “the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their (sic) was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!”

Robert Mueller

Photographer: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Low-Level Adviser

The partisan memo by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee alleges FBI and Justice Department officials involved in the probe into Trump and Russia in 2016 failed to tell a secret court that a dossier they cited to get a surveillance warrant on a low-level Trump adviser was paid for by Democrats.

While Democrats slammed the findings as inaccurate and misleading, including in a six-page point-by-point rebuttal released on Saturday, the memo was enough for some Republican partisans to call for shutting down the entire investigation into Russian interference in the campaign and whether anyone close to Trump colluded in it. “Should be game over,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted.

Read more: Fact-Checking the Disputed Republican Memo

Several prominent Republicans, however, sent the White House clear signals they wouldn’t back any effort to use the memo as grounds to disrupt Mueller’s work or get rid of Rosenstein.

Justice Obstructed?

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who facilitated the memo’s release, said Friday it should be viewed narrowly and not used “to impugn the integrity of the justice system and FBI.”

That’s also the tack taken by House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy, who’s also the only Republican on the House Intelligence Committee who’s seen the classified intelligence used to write the memo.

“There is a Russia investigation without a dossier. So to the extent the memo deals with the dossier and the FISA process, the dossier has nothing to do with the meeting at Trump Tower,” Gowdy said in an interview with CBS News that will air Sunday on “Face the Nation.”

The dossier “also doesn’t have anything to do with obstruction of justice. So there’s going to be a Russia probe, even without a dossier,” Gowdy said, according to a partial transcript provided by the network.

Four Associates

Mueller’s investigation has already ensnared four Trump associates, with indictments against former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates, and guilty pleas from campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Trump still has plenty of allies goading him to take drastic steps to curtail or end Mueller’s probe. Republican Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona said Rosenstein and others were “traitors” for signing applications for surveillance warrants against Carter Page, the former Trump adviser, and said he would send a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging their prosecution.

The memo made two glancing references to Rosenstein, noting that he signed at least one extension of the surveillance application. But it didn’t mention Mueller and concerned only limited portions of the broad probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into Russian interference.

‘Cherry-Picked’ Testimony

It also said that then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told the House Intelligence panel that the bureau would never have sought a surveillance warrant on Page without the information from the dossier, which was gathered by former British spy Christopher Steele on behalf of Fusion GPS, an investigative firm.

But Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the Intelligence panel, said McCabe’s testimony was “cherry-picked,” omitting what he said about the origins of the probe, which didn’t involve the dossier.

Schiff, who is working to get a competing Democratic memo released to the public, also disputed the memo’s key finding about the FBI not informing the foreign surveillance court that Trump rival Hillary Clinton and the Democrats paid for the Steele dossier.

‘Political Effort’

The California lawmaker made clear in a call with reporters Friday that the court was informed about Steele’s political motivations. While Republicans said Clinton wasn’t named, Schiff said that’s because U.S. officials try to limit references to U.S. citizens in foreign surveillance applications.

If anything, the memo inadvertently makes clear that the FBI was probing possible contacts between Trump associates and Russians before it started looking into Page. The document notes that the bureau started investigating Papadopoulos in July 2016, three months before it sought the first surveillance warrant on Page.

Denying that Trump intended to interfere with the Russia probe, White House spokesman Raj Shah told CNN Friday night,“No changes are going to be made at the DOJ. We fully expect Rosenstein to continue on.” But some Democrats and others said they fear otherwise.

‘Talk is Cheap’

“This is a political effort to discredit the FBI and ultimately to discredit anything touching on Mueller’s Russia investigation,” said Ronald Hosko, former assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division and now president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund.

“This is to create doubt about the FBI and erode Mueller’s investigation and bring it to a premature conclusion. Period,” Hosko said.

Hosko said he talked with some FBI officials before the memo was made public and got the impression that Director Christopher Wray didn’t want to get into a public battle over the memo. Instead, Wray wants to move forward and have the bureau focus on its work, Hosko said.

Hours after the memo was released, Wray issued a statement to the bureau’s workforce, saying, “Talk is cheap; the work you do is what will endure. We speak through our work. One case at a time.”

It’s unclear whether the memo’s release will affect Trump’s relationship with Mueller and his investigation.

Little Resistance

So far, Trump’s legal team has been working with Mueller in hopes of getting the probe resolved as quickly as possible. They have put up little resistance to handing over documents or arranging interviews with White House staff. The lawyers are currently discussing the terms of an interview between Trump and Mueller and one could take place in the coming weeks, said a person familiar with the process.

But the investigation isn’t wrapping up as quickly as Trump’s lawyers would like. White House lawyer Ty Cobb had been saying since August that he expected it to be complete by the end of 2017, but there’s still no clear end in sight. The lawyers could grow impatient with Mueller’s probe if it drags on past an interview with Trump, said a person familiar with the matter.

Mueller has additional interviews scheduled this month with the former spokesman for Trump’s legal team, Mark Corallo, said a person familiar with the matter. Mueller is expected to ask Corallo about the drafting of a statement for Trump Jr. regarding a meeting he had with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Clinton during the campaign. Mueller has also indicated he would like to interview former White House strategist Steve Bannon, though a date hasn’t been set.

— With assistance by Shannon Pettypiece, Chris Strohm, and Justin Sink

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-03/gop-memo-leaves-trump-with-little-new-ammunition-against-mueller

Donald Trump looking forward to speaking with Mueller — Trump said he would be willing to be interviewed under oath by Special Counsel Robert Mueller,

January 25, 2018

Reuters

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would be willing to be interviewed under oath by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Image result for robert mueller, photos

Special Counsel Robert Mueller

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would be willing to be interviewed under oath by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

“I‘m looking forward to it, actually,” Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said of an interview with Mueller, a former FBI director. “I would do it under oath.”

Although Trump has pledged cooperation with Mueller’s probe before, Trump made his assertion as the White House and allies in Congress have stepped up attacks on the investigation’s credibility and Trump himself has hedged on whether he would answer questions.

Trump’s attorneys have been talking to Mueller’s team about an interview, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation. “I would like to do it as soon as possible,” Trump said.

Trump said, however, that setting a date certain for an interview would be “subject to my lawyers and all of that.” Asked whether he thought Mueller would treat him fairly, Trump replied: “We’re going to find out.”

Ty Cobb, the lawyer in charge of the White House response to Mueller’s probe, said in a statement that Trump was speaking hurriedly to reporters before departing on his trip to Davos, Switzerland. Cobb said Trump emphasized that he remained committed to cooperating with the investigation and looked forward to speaking with Mueller.

Cobb said Mueller’s team and Trump’s personal lawyers were working out the arrangements for a meeting.

Sources told Reuters earlier on Wednesday that senior U.S. intelligence officers including CIA Director Mike Pompeo had been questioned by the special counsel’s team about whether Trump tried to obstruct justice in the Russia probe.

Such questioning is further indication that Mueller’s criminal investigation into purported Russian interference in the election and potential collusion by Trump’s campaign includes examining the president’s actions around the probe.

In his remarks to reporters on Wednesday, Trump repeated past statements that there was no collusion between the campaign and Russia and “there’s no obstruction whatsoever.” The Kremlin has denied conclusions by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the election campaign using hacking and propaganda to try to tilt the race in Trump’s favor.

Trump on Wednesday denied a Washington Post report that last year he had asked then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe whom he had voted for in 2016, which according to reports, left McCabe concerned about civil servants being interrogated about their political leanings.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a working session with mayors at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas“I don’t think so. I don’t think I did. I don’t know what’s the big deal with that, because I would ask you,” Trump said to reporters.

COMEY FIRING

In interviews last year with Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers, the sources said Mueller’s team focused on whether Trump had asked them to lean on James Comey, the Federal Bureau of Investigation director until Trump fired him in May.

Comey said Trump dismissed him to try to undermine the agency’s Russia investigation. His firing led to Mueller’s appointment to take over the FBI probe and is central to whether Trump may have committed obstruction of justice.

Mueller also asked the officials if Trump tried to shut down intelligence investigations into Russian election meddling and into contacts between Russian officials connected with President Vladimir Putin’s government and associates of Trump or his campaign, the sources said on condition of anonymity.

Representatives for the CIA declined to comment on whether Pompeo had been interviewed.

More than 20 White House personnel have voluntarily given interviews to Mueller’s team, Fox News reported on Wednesday.

It is unusual for FBI interviews to be conducted under oath, but even if Trump is not interviewed by Mueller’s team under oath, it would still be a crime for him to lie to federal agents, said Andrew Wright, a professor at Savannah Law School and a former associate counsel to President Barack Obama.

That is the charge to which former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos have both pleaded guilty.

An oath would be administered if Mueller issues a subpoena for Trump to testify before a grand jury as opposed to a private interview, Wright said.

In 1998, charges that then-President Bill Clinton lied under oath to a federal grand jury about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky help lead to his impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives. Clinton was acquitted by the U.S. Senate.

Related:

See also:

Trump Says He Is Willing to Testify Under Oath in Mueller Probe

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-says-he-would-like-to-testify-in-mueller-probe-1516839151

Special Counsel Mueller Weighs Seeking Interview With Trump

January 9, 2018

President’s lawyers are said to have discussed written questions instead of a face-to-face meeting

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

By Rebecca Ballhaus
The Wall Street Journal
Updated Jan. 8, 2018 7:11 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Special counsel Robert Mueller has informed lawyers for President Donald Trump that he may seek an interview with the president early this year, prompting concerns within the Trump legal team over terms of the questioning, according to a person familiar with the matter.

A request would mark a major milepost in the special counsel’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice and Trump associates’ ties to Russia.

In a December meeting in Washington with Trump lawyers John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, Mr. Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, raised the possibility of interviewing Mr. Trump “soon,” but he wasn’t definitive, according to the person familiar with the matter. James Quarles, a Mueller deputy, also attended the meeting, that person said.

Some members of Mr. Trump’s legal team believe a meeting between the president and Mr. Mueller would be “gratuitous,” the person said. The lawyers have discussed accepting written questions from Mr. Mueller and delivering written answers from the president to queries that are “appropriate and respectful of the office,” the person said, adding that the talks with Mr. Mueller are in a “preliminary” stage.

A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment on the possibility of an interview with the president.

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Mr. Dowd, who heads Mr. Trump’s private legal team, said: “The White House does not comment on communications with the Office of the Special Counsel out of respect for the Office of the Special Counsel and its process. The White House is continuing its full cooperation with the Office of the Special Counsel in order to facilitate the earliest possible resolution.”

Mr. Mueller is investigating whether any members of Mr. Trump’s team worked with Russia in what the U.S. intelligence community has said was a wide-ranging effort by the Kremlin to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election, which Moscow has denied.

As part of his probe, Mr. Mueller’s team also is examining whether the president obstructed justice by firing James Comey as FBI director in May, while the agency’s Russia investigation was under way.

Mr. Trump has said his campaign didn’t work with Russia, although several people in Mr. Trump’s orbit have admitted to having had contact with Russians during the campaign.

The special counsel has interviewed dozens of top White House officials and campaign aides, including the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and former chief of staff Reince Priebus. Lawyers for Mr. Trump have anticipated for months that Mr. Mueller may want to interview their client as part of his probe.

WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains what have we learned after Special Counsel Robert Mueller unveiled his first two big actions in his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Photo: Getty (Originally published Nov. 1, 2017)

Interviewing the president would suggest Mr. Mueller’s probe is fairly advanced, legal experts said, since prosecutors typically question the highest-profile figures in any investigation toward the end of a probe, after they have conducted interviews with other witnesses.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly chafed at any suggestion that he is a target of the special counsel’s probe. “Everybody tells me I’m not under investigation,” he said on Saturday at Camp David in Maryland.

Also on Saturday, Mr. Trump suggested he would be willing to meet with Mr. Mueller in person. Asked whether he was committed to meeting the special counsel’s team “personally” if asked to do so, Mr. Trump said, “Yeah. Just so you understand…there’s been no collusion, there’s been no crime.”

He added: “[W]e have been very open.…But you know, it’s sort of like, when you’ve done nothing wrong, let’s be open and get it over with.”

In June, after Mr. Comey testified to Congress that Mr. Trump had asked him to ease off of investigating former national security adviser Mike Flynn, Mr. Trump said he would be “100%” willing to testify under oath that that didn’t happen, and he also said he would consent to be interviewed by Mr. Mueller.

Two Trump campaign advisers have pleaded guilty to lying to FBI about their contacts with Russia, including Mr. Flynn. The Mueller team has indicted two other campaign officials, including Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, for alleged financial misdeeds in work that predated the campaign.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have met several times with Mr. Mueller’s team in recent months, and last summer submitted memos arguing that Mr. Trump didn’t obstruct justice because the president has the inherent authority under the constitution to hire and fire as he sees fit.

There is precedent for sitting presidents to interview with prosecutors. President Bill Clinton testified before a grand jury in 1998 amid independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation of sexual harassment by the president.

The discussions about a possible Trump interview with the special counsel were earlier reported by NBC on Monday.

Former prosecutors said they were skeptical that Mr. Mueller’s team would be satisfied by a written question-and-answer with Mr. Trump but said the special counsel would likely seek to reach an agreement with the president’s lawyers rather than trying to force him to sit for an interview.

“There is no chance in the world that any prosecutor would agree” to a written question-and-answer session, said Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor and an expert in government investigations.

Mr. Mueller can’t compel Mr. Trump to testify, Mr. Zeidenberg said. Since the president’s actions are being investigated in the obstruction-of-justice probe, Mr. Trump could invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions that could incriminate him, he said, but most presidents would be reluctant to do so given the appearance issues surrounding such a move.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have been urging a speedy conclusion of Mr. Mueller’s probe and have repeatedly asserted that the elements of the investigation that involve the president would conclude quickly. For much of last year, Mr. Trump’s lawyers said the Mueller probe would wrap up by the year’s end, if not sooner. More recently, amid news of indictments and guilty pleas from four Trump campaign aides, Mr. Trump’s lawyers have said the date could stretch to the end of January.

The White House said last month that Mr. Mueller had concluded his interviews with administration officials.

Outside legal experts, meanwhile, have expressed skepticism that Mr. Mueller is nearing the end of his broad investigation. “If this wraps up by the end of 2018, I’d be amazed,” said Stephen Gillers, professor of legal ethics at New York University.

Mr. Mueller’s obstruction-of-justice investigation is also examining Mr. Trump’s decision last year to direct White House counsel Don McGahn to urge Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation. Mr. Sessions ultimately did recuse himself from the probe, and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, appointed Mr. Mueller to oversee the Russia investigation in May.

Mr. Mueller is also examining Mr. Trump’s role in Donald Trump Jr.’s response to revelations last July about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer linked to the Kremlin. The meeting was arranged by the president’s eldest son and was attended by top campaign aides, including Mr. Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort. When news of the meeting first emerged, the younger Mr. Trump said it focused only on adoptions. He later said he took the meeting after being promised damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton.

—Peter Nicholas contributed to this article.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/special-counsel-mueller-weighs-seeking-interview-with-trump-1515445766

Trump Tower meeting with Russians ‘treasonous’, Bannon says — Says look for money laundering — “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

January 3, 2018

David Smith
The Guardian
January 3, 2018

Steve Bannon exits an elevator in the lobby of Trump Tower on 11 November 2016 in New York City.

Steve Bannon exits an elevator in the lobby of Trump Tower on 11 November 2016 in New York City. Other Trump campaign officials met with Russians there in June 2016. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon has described the Trump Tower meeting between the president’s son and a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”, according to an explosive new book seen by the Guardian.

Bannon, speaking to author Michael Wolff, warned that the investigation into alleged collusion with the Kremlin will focus on money laundering and predicted: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, reportedly based on more than 200 interviews with the president, his inner circle and players in and around the administration, is one of the most eagerly awaited political books of the year. In it, Wolff lifts the lid on a White House lurching from crisis to crisis amid internecine warfare, with even some of Trump’s closest allies expressing contempt for him.

Bannon, who was chief executive of the Trump campaign in its final three months, then White House chief strategist for seven months before returning to the rightwing Breitbart News, is a central figure in the nasty, cutthroat drama, quoted extensively, often in salty language.

He is particularly scathing about a June 2016 meeting involving Trump’s son Donald Jr, son-in-law Jared Kushner, then campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York. A trusted intermediary had promised documents that would “incriminate” rival Hillary Clinton but instead of alerting the FBI to a potential assault on American democracy by a foreign power, Trump Jr replied in an email: “I love it.”

The meeting was revealed by the New York Times in July last year, prompting Trump Jr to say no consequential material was produced. Soon after, Wolff writes, Bannon remarked mockingly: “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers.

“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people”. Any information, he said, could then be “dump[ed] … down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication”.

Bannon added: “You never see it, you never know it, because you don’t need to … But that’s the brain trust that they had.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed last May, following Trump’s dismissal of FBI director James Comey, to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election. This has led to the indictments of four members of Trump’s inner circle, including Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges; Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. In recent weeks Bannon’s Breitbart News and other conservative outlets have accused Mueller’s team of bias against the president.

Trump predicted in an interview with the New York Times last week that the special counsel was “going to be fair”, though he also said the investigation “makes the country look very bad”. The president and his allies deny any collusion with Russia and the Kremlin has denied interfering.

Bannon has criticised Trump’s decision to fire Comey. In Wolff’s book, obtained by the Guardian ahead of publication from a bookseller in New England, he suggests White House hopes for a quick end to the Mueller investigation are gravely misplaced.

“You realise where this is going,” he is quoted as saying. “This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner … It’s as plain as a hair on your face.”

Last month it was reported that federal prosecutors had subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank, the German financial institution that has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kushner property empire. Bannon continues: “It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me.”

Scorning apparent White House insouciance, Bannon reaches for a hurricane metaphor: “They’re sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five.”

He insists that he knows no Russians, will not be a witness, will not hire a lawyer and will not appear on national television answering questions.

Fire and Fury will be published next week. Wolff is a prominent media critic and columnist who has written for the Guardian and is a biographer of Rupert Murdoch. He previously conducted interviews for the Hollywood Reporter with Trump in June 2016 and Bannon a few months later.

He told the Guardian in November that to research the book, he showed up at the White House with no agenda but wanting to “find out what the insiders were really thinking and feeling”. He enjoyed extraordinary access to Trump and senior officials and advisers, he said, sometimes at critical moments of the fledgling presidency.

The rancour between Bannon and “Javanka” – Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump – is a recurring theme of the book. Kushner and Ivanka are Jewish. Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, is quoted as saying: “It is a war between the Jews and the non-Jews.”

Trump is not spared. Wolff writes that Thomas Barrack Jr, a billionaire who is one of the president’s oldest associates, allegedly told a friend: “He’s not only crazy, he’s stupid.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/03/donald-trump-russia-steve-bannon-michael-wolff

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Andrew Weissmann, second from left, and other members of Robert S. Mueller III’s legal team outside the United States Courthouse in Washington in September. Credit Al Drago for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The target was a New York City titan — plain-spoken but Teflon, irresistible to the tabloids and insistent upon loyalty from his associates.

The defendant, Vincent “the Chin” Gigante, had accumulated power as the head of the Genovese crime family, feigning insanity to conceal his guilt. A prosecutor in Brooklyn was at last prepared to cut him down, using witnesses the government had flipped.

“He couldn’t stop people from talking about him,” the prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, said of Mr. Gigante, addressing jurors at the end of a career-making federal court case in 1997. “When there’s a large organization to run, you cannot erase yourself from the minds, and more important the tongues, of your conspirators.”

Two decades later, Mr. Weissmann has turned his attention to a more prominent set of prospective conspirators: He is a top lieutenant to Robert S. Mueller III on the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links to the Trump campaign. Significantly, Mr. Weissmann is an expert in converting defendants into collaborators — with either tactical brilliance or overzealousness, depending on one’s perspective.

It is not clear if President Trump and his charges fear Mr. Weissmann as they gird for the slog ahead. It is quite clear, former colleagues and opponents say, that they should.

Read the rest:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/31/us/politics/andrew-weissmann-mueller.html

Democrats Are Walking Into a Trumpian Trap — Living in the “House of Outrage”

December 15, 2017

Opinion

Doug Jones supporters celebrate victory. Credit Bob Miller for The New York Times

Take a walk with me, dear reader, into the yard, down the street — anywhere, really, just so that we can step outside of our house of outrage. It’s a roomy house, with space for everyone from woke progressives to disillusioned conservatives. It’s a good house, filled with people united in a just and defiant cause. It’s a harmonious house, thrumming with the sound of people agreeing vigorously.

And lately, we’ve started to believe we’re … winning.

We breathed relief Tuesday night when Roy Moore went down to his well-earned political death, like Jack Nicholson’s Joker at the end of Batman. We roared when Robert Mueller extracted a guilty plea from a cooperative Michael Flynn, and the investigative noose seemed to tighten around Donald Trump’s neck. We cheered when Democrat Ralph Northam trounced Ed Gillespie after the Republican took the low road with anti-immigrant demagogy.

It’s all lining up. Democrats have an 11-point edge over Republicans in the generic congressional ballot. The president’s approval rating is barely scraping 37 percent. Nearly six in 10 Americans say the United States is on the “wrong track.” Isn’t revenge in 2018 starting to taste sweet — and 2020 even sweeter?

Don’t bet on it. Democrats are making the same mistakes Republicans made when they inhabited their own house of outrage, back in 1998.

You remember. The year of the wagged finger and the stained blue dress. Of a president who abused women, lied about it, and used his power to bomb other countries so he could distract from his personal messes. Of a special prosecutor whose investigation overstepped its original bounds. Of half the country in a moral fever to impeach. Of the other half determined to dismiss sexual improprieties, defend a democratically elected leader and move on with the business of the country.

Oh, also the year in which the Dow Jones industrial average jumped by 16 percent, the unemployment rate fell to a 28-year low, and Democrats gained seats in Congress. Bill Clinton, as we all know, survived impeachment and left office with a strong economic record and a 66-percent approval rating.

If nothing else, 1998 demonstrated the truth of the unofficial slogan on which Clinton had first run for president: It’s the economy, stupid. Prosperity trumps morality. The wealth effect beats the yuck factor. That may not have held true in Moore’s defeat, but it’s not every day that an alleged pedophile runs for office. Even so, he damn well nearly won.

1998 also showed that, when it comes to sex, we Americans forgive easily; that, when it comes to women, we don’t always believe readily; and that, when it comes to presidents, we want them to succeed. However else one might feel about Mueller — or, for that matter, Ken Starr — nobody elected them to anything.

Which brings us back to Trump. Democrats may like their polling numbers, but here are a few others for them to consider.

The first is 3.3 percent, last quarter’s annual growth rate, the highest in three years. Next is 1.7 percent, the core inflation rate, meaning interest rates are unlikely to rise very sharply. Also, 4.1 percent, the unemployment rate, which is down half a percentage point, or nearly 800,000 workers, since the beginning of the year. Finally, 24 percent, which is the rise in the Dow Jones industrial average since Trump became president — one of the market’s best performances ever.

Democrats will find plenty of ways to explain that these numbers aren’t quite as good as they sound — they are not — or that we’re setting ourselves up for a big crash — we might well be — or that the deficit is only getting bigger — it is, but so what? Politically speaking, none of that matters. Trump enters 2018 with a robust economy that will, according to the estimate of the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, grow stronger thanks to the tax bill.

What about the outrage over the president’s behavior? Kirsten Gillibrand and other Senate Democrats have called on Trump to resign following new accusations of sexual harassment and assault. Good luck getting him to agree. Tom Steyer and other liberal plutocrats want the president impeached and thrown out of office. Good luck electing 67 Democrats to the Senate.

Every minute wasted on that whale hunt is a minute the Democrats neglect to make an affirmative case for themselves.

Which leaves us with Mueller. All of us in the house of outrage are eager for the special counsel to find the goods on the president and Russia, obstruction, financial shenanigans, anything. The clues seem so obvious, the evidence so tantalizingly close.

Yet we should also know that the wish tends to be the father of the thought. What if Mueller comes up short in finding evidence of collusion? What if the worst Mueller’s got is one bad tweet that, maybe, constitutes evidence of obstruction? And what if further doubts are raised about the impartiality of the investigation? The president’s opponents have made a huge political bet on an outcome that’s far from clear. Anything less than complete vindication for our side may wind up as utter humiliation.

Dear reader, I too live in the house of outrage, for all the usual reasons. Just beware, beware of growing comfortable in it. As in 1998, it just might turn out to be a house of losers.

Donald Trump Is Not Constitutionally Immune from an Obstruction of Justice Charge

December 11, 2017

By DAVID FRENCH December 4, 2017 2:42 PM @DAVIDAFRENCH

National Review

Earlier today one of Donald Trump’s lawyers, John Dowd, made a rather remarkable assertion. He declared that the “President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case.”

.

This statement is wrong. To be clear, the president’s power under the Constitution limits the president’s vulnerability to obstruction of justice charges, but it does not end it.

For example, our own Andrew McCarthy wrote about some of those limits today: The FBI and the Justice Department are not a separate branch of government; they are subordinates of the president delegated to exercise his power, not their own.

Even on Comey’s account, Trump did not order him to shut down the Flynn investigation, even though he could have. Trump could have ordered an end of the Russia counterintelligence investigation, but he did not.

He could have pardoned Flynn, which would effectively have ended the FBI’s criminal investigation — beyond any possibility of review. We can stipulate that these would have been sleazy things to do, potentially damaging to national security, and still grasp that the president had the undeniable power to do them. Similarly, the president had undeniable power to fire the FBI director.

You can argue that his reason was corrupt, but the truth is that he didn’t need a reason at all — he could have done it because it was Tuesday and he felt like firing someone; he could have done it because he figured that the Justice Department’s criticism of Comey’s handling of the Clinton emails investigation gave him the political cover he needed to dispense with a subordinate he found nettlesome.

The point is that even if the president hoped that cashiering Comey would derail an investigation he was addled by, it was wholly in Trump’s discretion to fire the director. Moreover, firing the director did not derail the Russia investigation; it has proceeded apace under the director whom Trump appointed to replace Comey. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the president cannot violate a federal statute by exercising powers guaranteed the president by the Constitution.

He is not, however, above the law when acting outside of his Constitutional authority. With that in mind, read the key language of the most relevant federal statute, 18 U.S.C. Section 1505: Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress— Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. (Emphasis added.)

As the head of the executive branch of government, Trump has the power to fire an FBI director. He has the power to exercise the prosecutorial discretion to order federal law enforcement agencies to drop an investigation. He possesses an immense pardon power. He does not, however, possess the power to order any federal agency to reach a specific conclusion in its investigation.

In other words, he does not have the constitutional authority to “corruptly” put his thumb on the scales of an investigation to dictate that the investigation vindicate him or his associates. Thus, if Trump isn’t just seeking the end of the investigation but rather the total vindication of his campaign, he is barred from “corruptly” influencing the relevant proceeding (or Congressional investigation.) For example – and to hearken back to both the Nixon and Clinton impeachment counts – he can’t manipulate witnesses into giving false testimony (Clinton allegedly provided grand jury witnesses with false information knowing that they’d transmit that false information to the grand jury).

There are limits to his ability to conceal evidence. He obviously can’t direct subordinates to lie to the FBI. But what about his decision to terminate Comey? Clearly, if he terminated Comey because Comey failed to follow a lawful presidential directive – even if that directive was foolish or self-serving – then it’s specious to argue that a federal statute can criminalize the exercise of a constitutional power for a constitutionally-acceptable purpose.

For example, if Trump truly fired Comey for refusing to publicly declare the fact that Trump wasn’t personally under investigation, then that action may be unwise, but it is lawful. If, however, Trump fired Comey for not clearing Flynn because Trump wanted the FBI to vindicate his senior team, then Trump would have used his constitutional power as part of an effort to deceive the American people. Given the scope of the president’s constitutional authority over Comey, I still do not believe the firing alone can meet the legal definition of obstruction of justice.

However, since impeachment is a political process – not a legal adjudication of violations of federal statutes – evidence of malign intent could certainly transform the termination into an abuse of power sufficient to support an article of impeachment. In fact, given the various legal and constitutional complications involved in prosecuting president, I agree with Andy.

The likely course of action even if Mueller believes Trump violated criminal law isn’t a criminal indictment but rather a report articulating the grounds for impeachment. In such a case, however, the legal argument over an alleged statutory violation would be just as important as the political, historic, and constitutional arguments over the definition of high crimes or misdemeanors.

My own view is that there is yet insufficient evidence to bring an obstruction claim against Trump – either as an article of impeachment or as a count in a federal indictment. The Comey firing, however, should not be viewed in isolation. It may represent one key component of a comprehensive effort to corruptly influence relevant proceedings or investigations. Let’s not forget, Trump didn’t just fire Comey, he misled the American people about his reason for firing the FBI director.

Judging from his tweet this weekend, he also misled the American people about his reasons for forcing out Flynn. He also was reportedly directly involved in drafting a misleading statement about his son’s meeting with purported Russian operatives during the campaign.

His administration has time and again made false public statements about its Russian contacts.  As the Flynn guilty plea demonstrates, it’s one thing to mislead the American people, it’s another thing to lie to the FBI. As we’ve watched the administration get caught in falsehood after falsehood over the Trump campaign and transition team’s numerous contacts with Russian officials or purported operatives, it’s premature for any person to definitively declare that there exists insufficient evidence that Trump violated the law.

Any person making that declaration now is, at best, offering an educated guess. But there is one thing that we can definitively declare. Trump is not above the law, and that law includes statutes prohibiting obstruction of justice.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/454324/donald-trump-not-constitutionally-immune-obstruction-justice-charge?utm_campaign=trueanthem&utm_content=5a2de75504d3011d2e9cd8b9&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter

The Trump-Russia Probe Is About to Get Uglier — “It remains to be seen whether anything can shame Donald Trump.”

December 10, 2017

Bloomberg

By Albert R. Hunt

Unpleasant facts are spilling out. Republicans don’t want to know them.
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A long way to go. Photogrpaher: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Here are two certainties about the Trump-Russia investigation. It won’t end soon. It will get uglier.

A new shoe drops almost daily in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. First, Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying and agreed to cooperate. Then the White House changed its story (again) on what President Donald Trump knew after he was first advised in January that Flynn posed security problems.

QuickTakeGuide to the Trump-Russia Probe

Last week came news that Mueller had subpoenaed financial records from Deutsche Bank pertaining to people affiliated with Trump. Then Donald Trump Jr. said he wouldn’t tell Congress about his dad’s 2016 conversations with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer, invoking a dubious claim of attorney-client privilege.

This is not a saga in its closing chapter.

Equally clear is that no matter what is revealed, Trump and his allies won’t go quietly. Already, some congressional Republicans are trying to smear Mueller, the most experienced and respected special counsel in more than 40 years. If cornered, does anyone doubt that Trump will summon his core supporters to the streets?

The constant revelations create such a blur that context sometimes is overlooked. Trump and his operatives have lied repeatedly, denying that they had any contacts with Russians. Now we now know of at least 19 meetings among 31 interactions.

There are three avenues Mueller is exploring. Did the Trump team aid and abet the Russian efforts to hack and steal e-mails with an eye toward influencing with the U.S. presidential election? Did the president try to obstruct the investigation into those efforts? What was the nature of any financial arrangements Trump may have had with Russians linked to the Kremlin? Many of the Trump defenses seem to be unraveling.

U.S. intelligence agencies have reported “with high confidence” that the Russian government was behind break-ins to the email accounts of Democratic operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign as part of a campaign to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process” and harm Hillary Clinton’s “electability and potential presidency.” In a January report, the agencies said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

The question now is whether Trump or his team knew about this and facilitated the dissemination of the stolen material through WikiLeaks and other sources. The secrecy and contradictory accounts of their communications with Russian sources undercuts their repeated claims that their contacts were innocent.

By last week, Trump opponents were taking to public forums to talk about the evidence supporting an obstruction-of-justice case against Trump himself. That’s based on a chain of events involving Trump’s effort to pressure James Comey to drop the Russia probe and then firing him as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation when he didn’t.

News organizations have also reported that Trump tried to influence other key officials to curtail investigations, including National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, National Security Agency director Admiral Mike Rogers and House Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr. Coats and the others have avoided commenting directly on these accounts, which nevertheless appear to worry the White House enough to produce a claim last week by Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, that a president can never be guilty of obstruction because he is the chief law-enforcement officer under the Constitution.

That drew scornful responses from legal scholars and even some pushback from the White House lawyer handling the Russia case. As well it should; obstruction was the central impeachment charge against Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

Duke University law professor Samuel Buell, a former prosecutor, wrote in July that “it is highly likely that special counsel Robert Mueller will find that there is a provable case that the president committed a felony offense,” namely obstruction.

And that’s keeping in mind an important reminder from Bill Ruckelshaus, a former acting FBI director who was a hero of Watergate when he quit Nixon’s Justice Department in 1973 rather than following an order to impede the investigation of that landmark case. What’s publicly known about inquiries like this one, he told me in June, is just a little of what’s actually happening.

There is, for example, evidence that Mueller has expanded his investigation to look at financial deals involving Trump family interests.

Robert Anderson, a top counterintelligence and cybersecurity aide to Mueller when the latter was FBI director from 2001 to 2013, wrote in Time last month that Mueller “appears to have uncovered details of a far-reaching Russian political-influence campaign.” Anderson predicted that the conspiracy would prove to involve wire fraud, mail fraud and moving money around illicitly between countries. He said more informants are likely to emerge, and declared, “When the people who may be cooperating with the investigation start consensually recording conversations, it’s all over.”

The issue of whether a sitting president can be indicted is unsettled. Those who know Mueller believe that he’s less likely to pursue a prosecution than to send Trump’s case to Congress to consider impeachment.

Trump loyalists have already started fighting that battle, with bitter preemptive counterattacks issuing from top congressional Republicans like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy and even Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley. They’ve made it clear that they’re more interested in discrediting Mueller than in learning about what happened between the Trump camp and Russia.

Trump, if caged, will lash out furiously. Maybe he’d try to fire Mueller and issue pardons for his family and friends. He’d rally his hardcore supporters, urging them to protest against the threat to him. Thus it’s impossible to envision a peaceful resolution like the one that occurred in 1974, when Nixon was forced out to avoid impeachment.

“At the end of the day, Richard Nixon was found to have a sense of shame,” notes Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste. “It remains to be seen whether anything can shame Donald Trump.”

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Albert R. Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jonathan Landman at jlandman4@bloomberg.net

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

December 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even If Robert Mueller Is Fired, His Investigation Will Continue

December 8, 2017
The Flynn plea makes it difficult for Trump to can the special counsel without inviting charges of a cover-up and sparking a constitutional crisis.
Bloomberg
By Greg Farrell, Tom Schoenberg, and Neil Weinberg
Special counsel Robert Mueller departs Capitol Hill after a closed-door meeting on June 21.

PHOTOGRAPHER: ANDREW HARNIK/AP

The Dec. 1 plea deal struck with President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, marked a big step forward in Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. It may also have provided some protection for Mueller against being fired by the president—and helped ensure that his probe will continue, even if one day he’s not leading it.

Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to federal agents about his communications with the Russian ambassador last December. Given the other potential crimes that Flynn may have committed, including his failure to disclose that he was being paid millions of dollars by a Turkish company while serving as a top official in the White House, the relatively light charge signaled to many that Flynn had something significant worth sharing.

As Mueller’s probe has gotten closer to Trump’s inner orbit, speculation has risen over whether Trump might find a way to shut it down. The Flynn deal may make that harder. For one thing, it shows that Mueller is making progress. “Any rational prosecutor would realize that in this political environment, laying down a few markers would be a good way of fending off criticism that the prosecutors are burning through money and not accomplishing anything,” says Samuel Buell, a former federal prosecutor now at Duke Law School.

The Flynn plea also makes it difficult for Trump to fire Mueller without inviting accusations of a cover-up and sparking a constitutional crisis, says Michael Weinstein, a former Department of Justice prosecutor now at the law firm Cole Schotz. “There would be a groundswell, it would look so objectionable, like the Saturday Night Massacre with Nixon,” Weinstein says, referring to President Richard Nixon’s attempt to derail the Watergate investigation in 1973 by firing special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY 731; PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES (2)

Even if Mueller goes, his team is providing tools that other prosecutors or investigators can use to continue inquiries. Flynn’s deal requires him to cooperate with state and local officials as well as with federal investigators. That includes submitting to a polygraph test and taking part in “covert law enforcement activities.” Mueller also has provided a road map to state prosecutors interested in pursuing money laundering charges against Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Mueller’s case against Manafort lays out a series of irregular wire transfers made from Manafort’s bank accounts in Cyprus to a variety of companies in the U.S. The sums that Manafort transferred suggest the possibility that some of the money was diverted for other purposes. Mueller stopped short of filing charges related to where the money went. But by including the details in his indictment, he left open the possibility of bringing charges in a follow-up indictment and perhaps left breadcrumbs for state authorities to pursue.

The president can pardon people convicted of federal crimes; only governors can pardon those convicted under state law. For prosecutors in New York, “the Manafort case is like a legal Chia Pet,” says Weinstein. “Just add water, and it grows.” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is investigating the circumstances surrounding unusual real estate loans to Manafort from a bank run by Steve Calk, who served as an adviser to the Trump campaign. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is conducting his own Trump-related probe.

Trump’s reaction to Flynn’s plea raised fresh questions about whether the president had obstructed justice. The day after Flynn appeared in court, Trump tweeted that he fired Flynn because he’d lied to the FBI, which some lawyers say provided a new piece of evidence of what the president knew and when he knew it. Legal experts say Mueller’s ability to bring an obstruction case against Trump could hinge on whether the president was aware of Flynn’s illegal activities when he fired FBI Director James Comey. Prosecuting an obstruction case without an underlying crime is problematic. Critics could demand to know what crime Trump or his campaign officials committed to justify the charge. Many have already argued that collusion itself isn’t a crime. And within days of the Flynn agreement, Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, began pushing back against the notion that a sitting president can even be charged with obstruction.

Mueller is also looking at conduct before the election, when Trump was a private citizen and not covered by the executive protections afforded by the Oval Office. If Mueller uncovers evidence that the campaign accepted Russian help, that opens up the possibility of charging people in the Trump campaign with conspiracy related to the solicitation of in-kind foreign donations. Mueller’s team would be on stronger ground if it uncovered evidence of any quid pro quo deals struck during the campaign, either in changes to the GOP platform favoring Russia or promises made to entice Moscow’s help against Hillary Clinton.

Flynn alone may not be enough to advance an obstruction or collusion case. Prosecutors would likely need evidence against other high-ranking Trump associates, including perhaps Jared Kushner. “Unless you’ve got them on tape, you’re going to need a lot better witnesses than Flynn,” says Raymond Banoun, a former federal prosecutor.

Some experts believe that Mueller’s probe is now almost certain to reach a step beyond that. “Before this is wrapped up, Mueller’s going to request an interview with the president, and he may even request it under oath,” says Amy Sabrin, a Washington lawyer who worked for Bill Clinton on the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. “And then what is Trump going to do?”

BOTTOM LINE – Flynn’s plea deal marks a big step forward for Mueller’s Russia probe and also helps him ensure it continues should Trump fire him.
.