Posts Tagged ‘Michael Flynn’

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

Advertisements

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.
.
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.
.

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

December 7, 2017

By Adam Shaw — Brietbart
December 7, 2017

robert-mueller-profile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 7, 2017

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

Last Updated Dec 7, 2017 11:37 AM EST

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

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

Image result for Christopher Wray, photos

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

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

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

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

Wray on ousted FBI agent in Mueller investigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FBI Director on terrorism investigations 

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

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

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

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

Wray on Trump’s “tatters” Tweets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wray on Mueller and Comey 

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

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

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

Lawmakers press FBI on alleged bias in Clinton, Trump cases

December 7, 2017

Reuters

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

 Image result for FBI Director Christopher Wray, photos

FILE PHOTO FBI Director Christopher Wray 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bernadette Baum

Michael Flynn promised to ‘rip up’ sanctions against Russia, says informant — Did Trump campaign collude with Russia?

December 7, 2017

AFP and Reuters

© Saul Loeb, AFP (Pool) | Michael Flynn before Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-12-07

On Inauguration Day, Trump advisor Michael Flynn assured former business partners that nuclear projects requiring the lifting of sanctions against Russia were “good to go,” senior House Democrat said in a letter released Wednesday.

As President Donald Trump delivered his inaugural address on Capitol Hill in January, his incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn, sitting a few yards away, texted a former business partner that a nuclear power project that would require lifting sanctions on Russia was “good to go,” a senior House Democrat said in a letter released on Wednesday.

Quoting a confidential informant, Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote that Alex Copson, the managing partner of ACU Strategic Partners, told the informant that Flynn would see that the sanctions on Moscow were “ripped up.”

In the letter to Representative Trey Gowdy, the panel’s Republican chairman, Cummings demanded that Gowdy subpoena documents on the nuclear power plan from the White House, Flynn, Copson, their partners and associates.

Cummings said he had found the unnamed informant to be “authentic, credible, and reliable,” and offered to produce the individual for Gowdy.

Reuters was unable to identify the informant or independently confirm the information in Cummings’ letter, which can be seen here: http://tmsnrt.rs/2AvwKex.

Gowdy told reporters later on Wednesday that he was not going to have the Oversight Committee look into the issues raised in Cummings letter, because it falls outside the scope of the committee’s responsibilities. He suggested the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election, take up the matter. Copson and ACU did not immediately respond to detailed requests for comment, while an attorney for Flynn declined to comment.

The White House referred inquiries to Trump’s personal White House attorney, Ty Cobb, who declined to comment.

If true, the informant’s story adds new evidence that the project’s promoters believed that Flynn and Trump backed the plan for a consortium of U.S., Russian and French firms to build and operate 45 nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.

Reuters last week published documents that showed Copson and other plan proponents believed they had Flynn and Trump in their corner. The documents also revealed previously unreported aspects of the ACU proposal, including the involvement of a Russian nuclear equipment manufacturer currently under U.S. sanctions.

Flynn was a consultant to ACU from April 2015 to June 2016, according to amended financial disclosure forms he filed in August 2017.

Flynn, who served only 24 days as Trump’s national security adviser, pleaded guilty last week to lying to FBI agents working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller about his contacts with asenior Russian diplomat. Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 elections.

Cummings wrote that he delayed releasing the letter at Mueller’s request until the special counsel “completed certain investigative steps. They have now informed us that they have done so.”

Cummings said the informant, who contacted his staff in June, met Copson at a Jan. 20 inaugural event in Washington.

The two had not known each other, Cummings said.

Copson described the nuclear project and told the informant that he had “just got this text message” from Flynn saying that the plan was “good to go” and that Copson should contact his colleagues to “let them know to put things in place,” Cummings wrote.

Copson showed the informant the text message, according to Cummings. While the informant did not read the message, he saw the time stamp of 12:11 pm, which was about 10 minutes into Trump’s inaugural address.

“Mike has been putting everything in place for us,” Copson told the informant, Cummings wrote. “This is going to make a lot of wealthy people.”

“The whistleblower was extremely uncomfortable with the conversation,” Cummings wrote. “While at the event, the whistleblower made brief notes of Mr. Copson’s name and the discussion. The whistleblower left the event shortly thereafter.”

(REUTERS)

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

December 5, 2017

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

Mueller’s Credibility Problem

December 5, 2017

The special counsel is stonewalling Congress and protecting the FBI.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/muellers-credibility-problem-1512432318
.
**************************************
.
By Peter Hasson
.

Anti-Trump FBI Agent Bombshell Has The Spotlight On Mueller Now

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

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

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

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

 No automatic alt text available.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board said the Strzok news “reinforces our doubts about Mr. Mueller’s ability to conduct a fair and credible probe of the FBI’s considerable part in the Russia-Trump drama” in a column for Tuesday’s paper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.