Posts Tagged ‘Special Counsel Robert Mueller’

Mr. Rosenstein, What Is the Crime?

September 9, 2018

We have a special prosecutor, a ton of facts, Public Enemy Number One George Papadopoulos is going to the slammer for 14 days, but we still don’t know what the BIG CRIME is we are looking for. Seems un-American…

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies on Capitol Hill, December 13, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

What’s the legal basis for his special-counsel investigation? We have a right to know.For precisely what federal crimes is the president of the United States under investigation by a special counsel appointed by the Justice Department?

It is intolerable that, after more than two years of digging — the 16-month Mueller probe having been preceded by the blatantly suspect labors of the Obama Justice Department and FBI — we still do not have an answer to that simple question.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein owes us an answer.

To my mind, he has owed us an answer from the beginning, meaning when he appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller on May 17, 2017. The regulations under which he made the appointment require (a) a factual basis for believing that a federal crime worthy of investigation or prosecution has been committed; (b) a conflict of interest so significant that the Justice Department is unable to investigate this suspected crime in the normal course; and (c) an articulation of the factual basis for the criminal investigation — i.e., the investigation of specified federal crimes — which shapes the boundaries of the special counsel’s jurisdiction.

This last provision is designed to prevent a special counsel’s investigation from becoming a fishing expedition — or what President Trump calls a “witch hunt,” what DAG Rosenstein more diplomatically disclaims as an “unguided missile,” and what Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz, invoking Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s secret-police chief, pans as the warped dictum, “Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime.” In our country, the crime triggers the assignment of a prosecutor, not the other way around.

Trump Makes It Hard to Defend Trump

Sound reasons undergird the regulations. If a Democrat were in the White House, we would know them by heart at this point. Republicans once knew them well, too. That was before Donald Trump’s character flaws had them shrugging their shoulders, resigned that he deserves to be investigated whether he committed a crime or not.

Yet, the rationale for the regulations relates to the presidency, not to the man or woman who happens to occupy the office at a particular time. It is too debilitating to the governance of the United States, to the pursuit of America’s interests in the world, for us to permit imposing on the presidency the heavy burdens of defending against a criminal investigation unless there is significant evidence that the president has committed a serious crime.

As illustrated by this week’s hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, Democrats are too Trump-deranged in this moment to recognize their interest in avoiding a prosecutor’s cloud over future Democratic administrations. (Of course, they probably calculate that no Democratic attorney general would appoint a special counsel, no matter the evidence, and that the media would compliantly play along.) It is therefore up to Republicans to respond to the damage being done to the office. This can be hard to do.

If policy were all that mattered, the Trump presidency would be a rousing success. The economy is humming. The yokes of tax and regulation have been eased to the extent that, despite tariff hijinks, unemployment has plummeted and employers have trouble filling positions. Meanwhile, the federal courts are being stocked with exemplary jurists who, for decades, will be faithful stewards of the Constitution.

Alas, there’s a lot more to it than policy. You want to slough off as unreliable the latest ABC/Washington Post poll that has Trump’s job approval at just 38 percent (with 60 percent disapproving)? Okay . . . but since he seems hell-bent on personalizing the midterms as a referendum on him, it is less easy to ignore that the so-called generic ballot is swinging the Democrats’ way: by nearly 10 points according to FiveThirtyEight, while even more Trump-friendly Rasmussen reflects a recent Democratic surge to a four-point lead.

As the Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger observes, the president’s loyal base, consisting of roughly a third of the voting public, is going to be with him and, presumably, with Republicans. Still, if a Democratic takeover of the House is to be avoided, the GOP desperately needs the voters who reluctantly pulled the lever for Trump only because he was not Hillary Clinton.

You may notice that Mrs. Clinton is not on the ballot this time. Meanwhile, in just the last few days, the president has attacked his attorney general yet again, this time for prosecuting two allegedly corrupt Republican congressmen and thus refusing to politicize the Justice Department; he has conflated himself with the country in absurdly suggesting that an anonymous derogatory op-ed by an administration official might amount to “TREASON,” such that the New York Times should “turn [the author] over to the government at once” for the sake of “National Security”; and he has used Communist North Korea’s murderous anti-American dictator Kim Jong-un as a character reference. If this is the plan for turning out the Trump-skeptical vote, I respectfully suggest that it needs rethinking.

It’s about the Presidency, Not the President

More to the point, these derelictions — the president’s self-supplied fuel for the media narrative of an unhinged chief executive — make it politically risky for Republicans to defend the presidency by defending the president from what appears to be an unwarranted investigation.

To be clear, if there is probable cause to believe that Donald Trump was criminally complicit in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, he must be investigated, and the nation must resign itself to the compromised administration that entails. But we have never been told, much less shown, that this is the case. It is supposed to be established before the investigation commences.

Meantime, not only have millions of public dollars been expended on Mueller’s investigation; administration officials have had to go into their own pockets, paying millions in legal fees to defend themselves and comply with the special counsel’s demands. Executive officials have been forced to deal with Congress and foreign leaders while hamstrung by criminal suspicion of the president. Trump aside, the signal has gone out to the meritorious people we should want to serve in future administrations: Why leave your prestigious, profitable job to serve in government and risk financial and reputational ruin?

Congressional Republicans are letting this happen because they don’t want to stick their necks out for Donald Trump. Yet this is not solely about Donald Trump, much as he seems determined to frame it that way. It is about a constitutional office that is far more critical than any current incumbent.

Questioning the Legitimacy of Mueller’s Investigation

Echoing Democrats, Republicans say Robert Mueller, a patriotic and honorable man, should be allowed to finish his work. Let’s take Trump the lightning-rod out of the equation. If we were to pretend that the president is a Democrat, what would be made of that claim?

1. Rectitude
Mueller’s personal rectitude would be irrelevant. If he or you don’t think so, go ask Ken Starr. In any event, a prosecutor’s personal integrity is never dispositive when he or she commences an investigation, seeks a warrant, or tries an accused. What matters is whether the laws and rules have been satisfied.

2. Special Counsel Neither Necessary Nor Authorized for Investigation of Russia 
If the president were a Democrat, it would be pointed out that to question the special counsel’s criminal investigation of the president is not to question the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The latter is vital. No one denies that it should be aggressively pursued to its conclusion.

Moreover, if the counterintelligence investigation were incidentally to turn up concrete evidence that Donald Trump had committed a crime, no one denies that a special counsel appointment would be appropriate at that time. (Get it? Evidence of crime first, then assignment of prosecutor.) But unless and until that were to happen, a counterintelligence investigation does not need a prosecutor at all, much less a special counsel. That is why the aforementioned special-counsel regulations do not authorize an appointment for counterintelligence cases.

3. Conflict of Interest
It is a condition precedent to the appointment of a special counsel that there be a conflict of interest. There is no such conflict preventing the Justice Department from investigating Russian interference in the election. If that were not obvious enough, Mueller himself has elucidated the point by transferring the two indictments he has brought against Russian operatives to Justice Department components — the “Troll Farm” case to the U.S. attorney’s office in the District of Columbia, and the hacking case to Main Justice’s National Security Division. If there were a conflict of interest, it would be inappropriate for the special counsel to make such transfers. To the contrary, there is no reason why DOJ could not have investigated these cases in the normal course — if there is a “normal course” for a pair of publicity-stunt cases that will never be prosecuted.

But while we’re on the subject of conflicts . . . let’s have a brief look at Mueller’s staff.

The president is in the habit of ranting about “17 angry Democrats.” As is often the case, this misses the point. There is nothing wrong per se with a president’s being investigated by prosecutors registered with the opposition party. Of course, for the sake of his own credibility, Mueller is foolish to have stacked his staff with partisans. (Please, spare me the blather about how the Justice Department is not allowed to inquire about party affiliation when hiring. These are not obscure lawyers who applied for a job; they are well-known lawyers whom Mueller recruited into a hyperpolitical case, fully aware that they are activist Democrats.) But there is foolish, and then there is disqualifying. Being a Democrat is not disqualifying.

Still, we must ask, Why was Mueller appointed? Supposedly, because DOJ was too conflicted. So whom does he turn around and recruit? Well, his chief deputy is Andrew Weissman, and his main legal beagle is Michael Dreeben. They were two of the top officials at the purportedly conflicted DOJ — respectively, chief of the criminal-fraud section and deputy solicitor general. Before her stint as Hillary Clinton’s lawyer, Jeannie Rhee was DOJ’s deputy assistant attorney general. She, like several other members of Mueller’s bloated staff, comes to the task of investigating the president either directly from the purportedly conflicted Justice Department or after a brief stint in private practice.

In any proper special-counsel investigation, it would be worth asking why, if the Justice Department is too conflicted to handle the case, its top officials are an ethical fit to staff the case. In this particular investigation, however, the actions of the Justice Department (and the FBI) in commencing and pursuing the Trump/Russia probe are themselves under investigation by the Justice Department and its inspector general, and by several congressional committees. Under those circumstances, how is it appropriate to staff a special-counsel probe, which is premised on avoiding a conflict of interest, with lawyers who were top officials in the Justice Department whose conduct of the same probe is itself under investigation? If we pretend that the president is a Democrat, and we throw in for good measure Weissman’s adulation of former acting attorney general Sally Yates for insubordinately defying the president on an enforcement matter, is it not worth asking why Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself but Weissman gets to run the investigation?

If a Democrat were in the White House, it wouldn’t happen. Because if a Democrat were in the White House, and Weissman & Co. were Republicans transferred over from the Republican DOJ now under investigation, congressional Democrats would be screaming that there was no conflict of interest warranting the appointment of a special counsel, and that the only apparent conflict involved the prosecutors. And Republicans sages would be meekly agreeing — as would I (less meekly, I hope).

What Is the Crime?

There is one thing and one thing alone that would justify the appointment of a special counsel: concrete evidence that Donald Trump committed a crime in connection with Russia’s election interference. So, to repeat: For precisely what federal crime is the president of the United States under investigation?

DAG Rosenstein owed us an explanation of this on Day One. He and Mueller’s staff have evaded this obligation by arguing that nothing in the special-counsel regulations requires a public recitation of the factual basis for the investigation. More haughtily, they claim that the special-counsel regulations are not enforceable — they’re just hortatory guidelines that DOJ may flout at will.

Allow me to translate: Rosenstein claims that the Justice Department’s desire for investigative secrecy takes precedence over the president’s capacity to govern.

This, notwithstanding that in every independent-counsel investigation since Watergate, the president and the public have been apprised of exactly what crimes necessitated an investigation. And notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s rationalization, in Morrison v. Olson (1988), that the constitutionally dubious statute (since lapsed) authorizing an independent counsel passed muster because, prior to the appointment, the Justice Department first carefully established evidence of specific criminal-law violations.

That is preposterous. Investigative secrecy should never have had pride of place where the presidency is at stake. After 16 months, there is no excuse for it.

The Rosenstein Memo . . . and the Steele Dossier

It is no answer that Rosenstein has given Mueller a supplemental memorandum (dated August 2, 2017) purportedly fleshing out the factual basis for the investigation. This memorandum, too, has been almost completely withheld from Congress and the public. Furthermore, from what little we know of it (the passages unsealed in connection with the prosecution of Paul Manafort for crimes unrelated to Russia’s election-meddling), it is inadequate.

As I have previously noted, it appears that the Rosenstein memo merely asserts that there are “allegations” that crimes may have been committed. It does not provide a factual basis for believing these allegations are true.

The Justice Department claims the memo cannot be unsealed without compromising the investigation and potentially prejudicing uncharged people. The latter concern could easily be addressed by redacting the names — except, of course, the president’s, if it appears. (Remember, the point here is to determine if the president is under investigation, and for what crime.) Thus I suspect there is a more controversial reason for Rosenstein’s obstinacy: Unsealing would reveal that the memo relies on the Steele dossier — the unverified opposition-research project sponsored by the Clinton campaign.

What makes me say so? Well, here is one of the two passages that Rosenstein, under court pressure, has deigned to let us read: Mueller is authorized to investigate:

Allegations that Paul Manafort . . . Committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election for President of the United States of America, in violation of United States law.

To date, Manafort, like every other Trump-campaign official, has never been charged with a crime related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Now, the Steele dossier is not the only “collusion” evidence against Manafort. There has been public reporting that, while he was Trump’s campaign chairman, Manafort furtively offered briefings on the campaign to Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch known to be close to Vladimir Putin (but intriguingly discussed as if he could be, or become, a Western intelligence asset in emails between dossier author Christopher Steele and top DOJ official Bruce Ohr). If true, this claim of Manafort’s offer to Deripaska is unseemly and suspicious, but it does not establish a crime. Manafort is also known to have been present at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, arranged by Donald Trump Jr. in hopes of scoring campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. Again, unseemly, but not a crime per se (unless the campaign-finance laws are stretched in a way that would implicate many, many campaigns). No, the only publicly known, unambiguous allegation that Manafort was enmeshed in a criminal conspiracy involving the Trump campaign and Russia is sourced to the Steele dossier.

We know that in June 2017, a month after appointing Mueller, Rosenstein relied heavily on the Steele dossier in approving a FISA surveillance-warrant application (targeting former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page). Is it not reasonable to suspect that, less than two months after signing off on the warrant application, he would again rely on the Steele dossier in amplifying the basis for Mueller’s investigation?

More questions: Did Rosenstein have evidence other than the Steele dossier to support this criminal-collusion allegation against Manafort? Does the deputy attorney general acknowledge relying on the Steele dossier in his memo to Mueller? Are there other allegations in the Rosenstein memo that mirror the Steele dossier’s sensational, uncorroborated claims? Is Donald Trump named in the memo?

Mueller’s Report . . . about What?
The last question is the pertinent one. Reuters reported back in April of this year that Rosenstein assured Trump that he is not a “target” of Mueller’s probe. Even if true, that would not mean the president is not a subject of the probe. If he’s not, why wouldn’t we have been told that? Why hasn’t it been announced that the Trump aspect of the investigation is closed — if, indeed, it was ever open?

We have to assume that Trump is and has been under criminal investigation, even if there is not and has never been a crime.

It is frequently noted that, as special counsel, Mueller is expected to provide a report to Rosenstein, who will then decide what parts of the report to share with Congress and the public. This is said to explain why Mueller is being so thorough: He must be comprehensive even if he finds no prosecutable crimes.

Democrats, of course, anticipate that such a thoroughgoing, narrative report will form the basis for an impeachment of the president. Impeachment does not require proof of courtroom-prosecutable misconduct, but of any misconduct Congress might determine is — or might inflate into — high crimes and misdemeanors. The idea is that, despite the absence of penal offenses, Mueller will find discreditable and erratic behavior, which, post-midterms, a Democratic-controlled House can whip into “collusion” and “obstruction” for purposes of impeachment articles.

We go back, however, to first principles. The way this is supposed to work, the Justice Department must describe the factual basis for specified crimes – not discreditable, erratic behavior; crimes – that the special counsel is authorized to investigate. If the special counsel wants to investigate other crimes, he is supposed to ask for his jurisdiction to be expanded. When the special counsel writes his report, it is supposed to be about why prosecution of those crimes should be authorized or declined. That’s it. Mueller is a prosecutor working for the Justice Department, not counsel for a congressional impeachment committee. His task is to report his prosecutorial decisions about crimes he has been authorized to investigate because the Justice Department is conflicted; it is not to hold forth on his assessment of Donald Trump’s overall comportment and fitness to be president. That is for voters, or their elected representatives, to determine.

So what are the suspected crimes committed by Donald Trump that Mueller has been authorized to investigate, and what was the factual basis for Rosenstein’s authorization of this investigation?

We still haven’t been told.

The anti-Trump Left decries all criticism as an effort to “delegitimize” and “obstruct” the Mueller investigation. But no one is questioning the investigation of Russia’s interference in the election. We are questioning why a special counsel was appointed to investigate the president of the United States. It is the Justice Department’s obligation to establish the legitimacy of the appointment by explaining the factual basis for believing a crime was committed. If there is no such basis, then it is Mueller’s investigation that is delegitimizing the presidency and obstructing its ability to carry out its constitutional mission — a mission that is far more significant than any prosecutor’s case.

We’re not asking for much. After 16 months, we are just asking why there is a criminal investigation of the president. If Rod Rosenstein would just explain what the regs call for him to explain — namely, the basis to believe that Donald Trump conspired with the Kremlin to violate a specific federal criminal law, or is somehow criminally complicit in the Kremlin’s election sabotage — then we can all get behind Robert Mueller’s investigation.

But what is the explanation? And why isn’t the Republican-controlled Congress demanding it?

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/09/trump-russia-probe-robert-mueller-investigation/

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Rudy Giuliani Is Putting Together a Report to Counter the Robert Mueller Investigation — “We’ll question the legitimacy of the whole investigation…”

August 31, 2018
Jason Kempin/Getty

President Donald Trump’s legal team is crafting a “counter-report” that will seek to delegitimize Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and present countervailing arguments.

Trump’s personal attorney, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, told The Daily Beast in an interview on Thursday that part of his report would examine whether the “initiation of the investigation was… legitimate or not.”

According to Giuliani, the bulk of the report will be divided into two sections. One section will seek to question the legitimacy of the Mueller probe generally by alleging “possible conflicts” of interest by federal law enforcement authorities. The other section will respond to more substantive allegations of Trump campaign collusion with Russian government agents to sway the 2016 election, and obstruction of justice allegations stemming from, among other things, the president’s firing of former FBI director James Comey.

Though this latter section will focus on the meat of Mueller’s investigation, Giuliani acknowledged that he doesn’t actually know what Mueller’s findings will look like, making the act of putting a counter-report together a bit more challenging.

“Since we have to guess what it is, [our report so far] is quite voluminous,” Giuliani said, claiming that he would spend much of this weekend “paring it down” and that he was editing the document created by the “whole team.”

“The first half of it is 58 pages, and second half isn’t done yet… It needs an executive summary if it goes over a hundred,” he added. Giuliani also indicated that most of what’s being put together by him and his Trump-defending colleagues currently can already be found on Google.

Giuliani said that Trump’s legal team had not conducted any original interviews or investigation for their current draft.

“I don’t think there’s anything in it that isn’t publicly available in some form or another,” he continued. “There is no [secret] grand jury material here… It’ll be our report, put out on… personal stationery, and it would be in response to their report… We may have to use it in court, or [send to] Congress.”

Giuliani also mentioned that Trump’s legal team is considering devoting a section of the report to revelations surrounding former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty last week to a number of federal crimes, including campaign finance violations in which he directly implicated the president.

Glenn Kirschner, a retired federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., said it was highly unusual for a rebuttal report to be authored by lawyers for potential subjects of an investigation, and virtually unheard of for it to be put together prior to the investigation’s findings being made public.

“This sounds to me like pure PR nonsense,” Kirschner said. “They are making an announcement that they will issue a rebuttal to a report that we don’t know when it is coming out or what it will contain.”

Kirschner said he believed the entire exercise was being done for the purposes of trying to “poison the well” for Mueller, as there was virtually zero likelihood that Giuliani and others would admit to any wrongdoing on the part of Trump.

“I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that they will find no obstruction or collusion,” Kirschner said.

The Trump team’s counter-report has been in the works since late July. Giuliani briefly mentioned the “report” in a tweet earlier this month, but little information about the actual document has been reported since.

Among those working on it are Giuliani and fellow Trump attorney Jay Sekulow along with their colleague on Trump’s legal team, Marty Raskin. Sekulow would only tell The Daily Beast that the president’s legal team is “preparing a comprehensive report that will include issues related to the commencement of this investigation through the legal issues of it.” A number of attorneys who work with Sekulow at his nonprofit legal group, the American Center for Law and Justice, are assisting with the report, though they are not doing so in their capacity as ACLJ employees, and the organization is not involved in its formation.

Sekulow declined to go into detail about the report’s contents, or conversations he’s had with the president about it.

Giuliani, who said the report was “probably” his idea, was more forthcoming, telling The Daily Beast that the president is aware of the report and Trump “knows it is part of our [legal] strategy and he’s happy with it.”

Giuliani said he aims for the preliminary draft of the “counter-report” to be “in pretty good shape by next week.” A source familiar with the process said those involved expect the counter-report to be ready to go in the next two to three weeks. The same source said that the initial deadline for the Trump team’s draft was Sept. 1, the date that Giuliani previously said that he expected Mueller’s investigation to wrap up. That appears unlikely to happen, so Trump’s legal team now hopes to have its counter-report ready to go once Mueller does submit his findings.

Giuliani suggested that his report could be released sooner if he gets a sense that Team Mueller “leaks theirs” or part of their findings. He also acknowledged that the entire process could be derailed by developments in the Mueller investigation.

“It may all be for naught,” Giuliani said, “because they may subpoena [the president], and then we’d have to turn our attention to fighting the subpoena.”

The report’s apparent focus on the roots of the Mueller investigation tracks with tactics taken by Trump’s chief defenders in Congress—notably House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). It also aligns with lines of attack taken by Trump’s favorite cable news personalities and informal advisers, such as Fox’s Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs.

Trump himself routinely tweets about the “angry Democrats” on Mueller’s investigative team. Efforts to paint the Mueller investigation as the fruit of a poisoned tree have been fueled by revelations that senior FBI officials such as Peter Strzok, who was recently fired, harbored intense private antipathy towards Trump.

An examination of the roots of the investigation could also touch on the process by which the FBI obtained a foreign intelligence surveillance warrant against one-time Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Some of the evidence presented to obtain that warrant was produced by former British spy Christopher Steele on behalf of the firm Fusion GPS, a subcontractor for both conservative entities and, subsequently, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

—With additional reporting by Sam Stein

https://www.thedailybeast.com/rudy-giuliani-is-putting-together-a-counter-report-to-question-robert-muellers-legitimacy

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Trump: Mueller probe is perjury trap — Even Ronald Reagan faced Democrats wanting to hang him

August 21, 2018

In a broad interview, the US president has said he doesn’t trust the impartiality of those investigating him. ” A fervent critic of Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling, Trump has said he “could run it if I want.”

    
US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump expressed concerns on Monday that any statement made to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading a probe into Russian election meddling, could be used to charge him with perjury.

In a wide-ranging interview to Reuters news agency, Trump echoed similar concerns from his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is negotiating terms for a possible interview and warned it could be a “perjury trap.”

Trump said that his statements could be used against him if they are contrasted to others who have testified to investigators, including former FBI Director James Comey, who the president fired.

“So if I say something and he [Comey] says somethings, and it’s my word against his, and he’s best friends with Mueller, so Mueller might say: ‘Well, I believe Comey,’ and even if I’m telling the truth, that makes me a liar,” Trump said.

Trump: ‘I could run’ the probe

During the interview, Trump said he had the power to intervene in the probe, but had decided against doing so for the moment.

“I can go in, and I could do whatever — I could run it if I want. But I decided to stay out,” Trump said. “I’m totally allowed to be involved if I wanted to be. So far, I haven’t chosen to be involved. I’ll stay out.”

The president has repeatedly attacked Mueller and his probe into whether Russia coordinated with the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential elections.

On Monday, he described Mueller in a tweet as “disgraced and discredited,” accusing the former FBI director of “enjoying ruining people’s lives.”

Trump’s comments come as a jury deliberates on whether Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort is guilty of banking fraud and failure to pay taxes on tens of millions of dollars he earned while consulting Russian-backed politicians in Ukraine.

If Manafort is found guilty, he would be the first campaign official to do so as a result of the probe. Manafort has pleaded not guilty.

Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has also been targeted by the probe. Although Cohen said he would “take a bullet” for Trump, observers believe he is likely to collaborate with Mueller’s probe.

The full interview with Trump touched on a range of other topics, including North Korea, Turkey, China, Russia, and the US Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates.

ls/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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Democrats in 1987, as today, along with the media—led by the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN—with Democrats in Congress hoped to bring about the impeachment of a Republican president.

Mueller recommends up to six months of jail time for Papadopoulos

August 18, 2018
Robert Mueller
Robert Mueller. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Special Counsel Robert Mueller recommended up to six months in prison for former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, reports Reuters.

His reasoning: Mueller called prison for Papadopoulos “appropriate and warranted” in a court filing after the former campaign aide lied to federal agents investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Papadopoulos is scheduled for sentencing on September 7.

https://www.axios.com/robert-mueller-george-papadapoulos-russia-investigation-df594093-354b-478a-8220-7892a52fb1d4.html

Related:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/mueller-prosecutors-say-prison-is-optional-for-george-papadopoulos-in-russia-probe/2018/08/17/44a194ce-a194-11e8-93e3-24d1703d2a7a_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.3be775817c36

Some Republicans will say how about Hillary Clinton, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr and a host of others…. None of them lied during the investigation?

Trump Proposes Mueller Interview With No Obstruction Questions

July 24, 2018

President Donald Trump would agree to an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators if it’s limited to questions on whether his presidential campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election, lawyer Rudy Giuliani said on Monday night.

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Trump is demanding in return that he isn’t asked questions about obstruction of justice in the probe into election interference, under a proposal the president’s legal team submitted to Mueller, Giuliani said.

The president’s legal team is concerned that Mueller and his staff might believe witnesses who contradicted Trump’s account, such as former FBI Director James Comey, Giuliani said. That could leave the president vulnerable to a perjury charge, he added.

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Mueller hasn’t yet responded to the proposal, Giuliani, a former mayor of New York, said on Monday.

For months, the question of whether Trump would testify in some fashion in Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election has been the subject of intense speculation.

Earlier this month, Giuliani said Trump was willing to answer “narrow” questions from Mueller, but only with the assurance that the inquiry was in its final stages.

Trump has often criticized the inquiry as a “witch hunt.” Over the weekend, he used the release of a surveillance application on an adviser during his campaign to renew his claims of a “rigged” FBI investigation, even as a Republican senator, Marco Rubio of Florida, said the request to a foreign intelligence court was legitimate.

Trump and Republicans have attacked the FBI and Justice Department for relying partly on a dossier, paid for in part by Democrats, written by former British spy Christopher Steele in the application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-24/trump-s-lawyers-submit-proposal-to-mueller-on-interview-terms

See also The Hill:

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/398487-giuliani-trump-would-agree-to-interview-with-mueller-if-no-questions

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Mueller Poised to Zero In on Trump-Russia Collusion Allegations

June 26, 2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is preparing to accelerate his probe into possible collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russians who sought to interfere in the 2016 election, according to a person familiar with the probe.

Image result for robert mueller

Robert Mueller

Mueller and his team of prosecutors and investigators have an eye toward producing conclusions — and possible indictments — related to collusion by fall, said the person, who asked not to be identified. He’ll be able to turn his full attention to the issue as he resolves other questions, including deciding soon whether to find that Trump sought to obstruct justice.

Suspicious contacts between at least 13 people associated with Trump’s presidential campaign and Russians have fueled the debate over collusion.

Some of those encounters have been known for months: the Russian ambassador whose conversations forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation and led Michael Flynn to plead guilty to perjury. The Russians who wangled a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in July 2016 after dangling the promise of political dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Other encounters continue to emerge, including a Russian’s chat with veteran Trump adviser Roger Stone at a cafe in Florida.

‘Warning Lights’

Signs of suspicious Russian contacts first surfaced in late 2015, especially among U.S. allies who were conducting surveillance against Russians, according to a former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

By the spring of 2016 the frequent contacts set off alarm bells among U.S. intelligence officials, according to James Clapper, who was director of national intelligence at the time. The FBI’s Russia investigation officially began that July.

“The dashboard warning lights were on for all of us because of the meetings,” Clapper said in an interview this month. “We may not have known much about the content of these meetings, but it was certainly very curious why so many meetings with Russians.”

On three occasions, Russians offered people associated with Trump’s campaign dirt on Democrat Clinton — all before it was publicly known that Russians had hacked the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman.

Mueller has interviewed or sought information about many of the people known to have met with Russians during the campaign. But it’s not known publicly whether the barrage of Russian contacts was instigated or coordinated by the Kremlin. Trump, for his part, has repeatedly denied any such plotting, tweeting on June 15, “WITCH HUNT! There was no Russian Collusion.”

Here are the players and their known interactions, with links to previous news stories:

Michael Cohen

Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer started working on a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow in September 2015 with Felix Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer who’s a felon and previously had helped collect intelligence for the U.S. government. Cohen said the Trump Organization signed a nonbinding letter of intent in October 2015 with Moscow-based I.C. Expert Investment Company.

The project ultimately fizzled. Cohen said he stopped working on it in January 2016, around the time he reached out to a Kremlin spokesman asking for help with the project. Yahoo News reported that in May Sater and Cohen were still talking about the tower, including a possible trip to Russia to have a meeting with government officials. Just before and after Trump’s inauguration, Cohen met with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg and Andrew Intrater, who invests money for Vekselberg. Shortly after, Intrater’s private equity firm, Columbus Nova, awarded Cohen a $1 million consulting contract.

Russian Oligarch Tied to Trump Lawyer in Stormy Bombshell

Michael Flynn

The retired Army lieutenant general attended a December 2015 dinner in Russia where he sat at a table with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Several months later, Flynn started working as an informal adviser to the Trump campaign and in August attended Trump’s first intelligence briefing with the FBI. After the election he was named Trump’s national security adviser. During the presidential transition he had multiple contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in which they discussed U.S. sanctions. Flynn resigned as national security adviser after it become known he had lied about the nature of his conversations with Kislyak. He was later indicted by Mueller for making false statements to investigators and agreed to become a cooperating witness.

Flynn’s Side Deals, Link to Trump Aides Offer Clues for Mueller

George Papadopoulos

Shortly after being named a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign in March 2016, Papadopoulos met with a London professor he believed had connections to the Russian government. That month, Papadopoulos suggested he could help arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin, an offer that was rejected by Sessions, who led the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team. In April, the professor told Papadopoulos that Russian officials had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. Papadopoulos also was in contact with a Russian who said he represented the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Papadopoulos was arrested in July 2017 and in October pleaded guilty to misleading investigators.

Trump Says He Has Little Memory of Meeting With Papadopoulos

Jared Kushner

The president’s son-in-law met briefly with Kislyak at an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington in April 2016 in what he has described as an exchange of pleasantries. In December, after the election, Kushner met again with Kislyak and Russian banker Sergey Gorkov, who’s close to Putin.

Kushner Denies Improper Russia Contacts as He Meets With Senators

Michael Caputo

The Republican political strategist — who lived for a time in Moscow and worked for the campaign of the late President Boris Yeltsin — worked briefly as an adviser to the Trump campaign. He was contacted by a Russian business partner who asked him to help facilitate a meeting between the Trump campaign and a Russian national who identified himself as Henry Greenberg. Caputo directed him to veteran Republican operative Stone, with whom Caputo has worked for decades.

Caputo Says He Never Heard Campaign Talk of Russia Collusion

Roger Stone

The longtime Trump political adviser confirmed for the first time this month that he met at a Florida cafe in May 2016 with Greenberg, who claimed to have information that would be “beneficial” to the Trump campaign but demanded $2 million in exchange. Stone — who says he’d forgotten about the 20-minute meeting when he failed to disclose it in interviews with a congressional committee — said he rejected the deal. Stone says he thinks the meeting was part of an FBI plot to entrap him in light of indications that Greenberg had worked in the past as an informant for the bureau.

Stone also told people during the campaign that he was in contact with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which published Democratic National Committee emails believed to have been stolen by Russian operatives. Stone has since denied that he communicated directly with Assange. Stone also exchanged private messages on Twitter with an online persona called Guccifer 2.0, believed to be linked to the Russian government.

Mueller Turns His Focus to Longtime Trump Adviser Roger Stone

Paul Manafort

While serving as Trump’s campaign chairman, Manafort was in contact with Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI has described as having ties to Russian intelligence. In July 2016, Manafort offered to give a campaign briefing to another business associate, Oleg Deripaska, who’s closely aligned with the Kremlin. Manafort was charged in October with a series of financial crimes and for failing to register as an agent of Ukraine. His bail was revoked and he was jailed after prosecutors claimed he tried to tamper with witnesses.

Manafort Judge Rejects Bid to Toss Money-Laundering Charge

Donald Trump Jr.

The president’s son helped arrange the meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist. Kushner and Manafort also were there. While the Russians billed it as a chance to share damaging information on Clinton, participants have said nothing of value was offered.

Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting at the request of a pop star in Russia whose family has ties to Putin and has known the Trump family for several years. The meeting also has led to controversy over President Trump’s role in drafting a statement that falsely described the topic of the meeting as adoptions of Russian children.

In addition, Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank, has said he had shared a dinner table with Trump Jr. at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in May. Torshin, a former senator in Putin’s United Russia party directed dirty-money flows for mobsters in Moscow, according to investigators in Spain.

Trump Jr. Declines to Detail Talk With Father, Democrat Says

Carter Page

After being named a foreign policy adviser to the campaign in March 2016, Page traveled to Moscow that July for a speech and meetings. Page said he met briefly with Arkady Dvorkovich, then the deputy prime minister of Russia. Page said he also met Dvorkovich again at a dinner in December, after he was no longer affiliated with the Trump campaign. Page also met in July with Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations for the Russian energy company Rosneft. And Page met with Kislyak briefly at the Republican convention in July. U.S. intelligence agencies indicated Page was a target of Russian intelligence as early as 2013.

Page Tells Russia Probe He’s ‘Biggest Embarrassment’ to Trump

Jeff Sessions

The attorney general, who took an early role in Trump’s campaign while serving in the Senate, had conversations with Ambassador Kislyak at the Republican convention and in September in his Senate office. The Washington Post reported that U.S. intelligence intercepted Kislyak telling Russian officials that they discussed campaign-related issues. Session recused himself from the Russia investigation — a move for which Trump has repeatedly vilified him because Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then appointed Mueller as special counsel.

Trump Laments Picking Sessions as GOP Ally Undercuts Spying Claim

J.D. Gordon

As a campaign foreign policy adviser, Gordon met briefly with Kislyak at the Republican convention. Page contacted Gordon, a former Pentagon spokesman, and others on the campaign in July to praise them for a change in the Republican Party platform that softened the party’s support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. Gordon also has said Page went around him to secure permission to make a trip to Russia.

Trump’s Campaign Foreign Policy Team Under Mueller’s Microscope

Rick Gates

In September and October, Gates communicated directly with Kilimnik, according to court filings. Gates was a right-hand man to Manafort and worked as a campaign aide until he was fired by Trump in August. Even after being fired, Gates remained involved with the campaign through the Republican National Committee, and he worked on the presidential transition. Gates pleaded guilty in February to conspiring with Manafort to defraud the U.S. in charges not directly related to the Russia probe.

Gates Guilty Plea Strengthens U.S. Hand Against Manafort

Erik Prince

The founder of Blackwater, a provider of private security forces in trouble spots such as Iraq, served as an informal adviser to Trump’s transition team. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is now education secretary. After Trump’s election but before the inauguration, Prince met Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian-government controlled wealth fund who’s close to Putin, during a visit to the Seychelles islands.

Prince told congressional investigators he was meeting with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates to discuss topics including Middle East tensions and bauxite mining when the prince’s brother casually suggested that he go downstairs to chat with “this Russian guy.” The New York Times has reported that the meeting was arranged in part to explore the possibility of a back channel for discussions between the incoming Trump administration and the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the meeting it didn’t identify.

Erik Prince’s Seychelles Meeting With Russian Draws New Scrutiny

— With assistance by Billy House, and Steven T. Dennis

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-26/mueller-poised-to-zero-in-on-trump-russia-collusion-allegations

Related:

FBI attorney who worked on the special counsel Mueller’s Russia investigation fired for anti-Trump bias

June 14, 2018

An FBI attorney who worked on the special counsel’s Russia investigation until earlier this year sent anti-Trump text messages to a colleague, including one exclaiming: “Viva le Resistance.”

The attorney’s comments are revealed in a Justice Department inspector general’s report released on Thursday.

The lawyer is not identified, but he worked on the Hillary Clinton email investigation and was the FBI’s lead attorney on the investigation into Russian election interference. He was assigned to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation soon after it began in May 2017 and left in late February of this year after some of his private messages were shared with the special counsel.

The inspector general’s report focuses on instant messages that the attorney exchanged with a colleague about the Clinton and Russia probes.

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“I am numb,” the attorney wrote on Nov. 9, 2016, the day after President Trump’s election.

“I am so stressed about what I could have done differently,” the lawyer continued, apparently referring to the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email probe.

The attorney’s messages show that the was distressed at the FBI’s decision in October 2016 to re-open the investigation into Clinton’s emails. Democrats have claimed that decision hurt Clinton at the polls.

The FBI lawyer also suggested that he would work to resist the Trump administration.

“Is it making you rethink your commitment to the Trump administration?” one FBI lawyer wrote on Nov. 22, 2016.

“Hell no. Viva le resistance,” the future Mueller attorney responded.

During interviews with the office of the inspector general, the lawyer claimed that his “personal political feelings or beliefs…in no way impacted” his work on the Clinton or Russia investigations.

The lawyer did acknowledge that the messages created the perception of anti-Trump bias. He told investigators that he “can understand the, the perception issues that come from” the Nov. 22, 2016 exchange.

The special counsel’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

http://dailycaller.com/2018/06/14/mueller-lawyer-resisted-trump/

Mueller Probe Needs Less Secrecy So The Public Can Understand

May 7, 2018
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies before the House Judiciary Committee, December 13, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

It’s time to level with the public about the basis for Mueller’s investigation.‘How do you know Trump’s not a suspect?”

I’ve been hearing that question a lot these days. News reports indicate that Special Counsel Robert Mueller may try to coerce President Trump’s testimony by issuing a grand-jury subpoena if the president does not agree to a “voluntary” interview. That has sparked a public debate over the question of whether Mueller, an inferior executive officer, has such authority to strong-arm the chief executive — the official in whom the Constitution reposes all executive power, including the power that Mueller exercises only as long as the president permits it.

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I don’t think he does.

To be clear, there is no question that Mueller, as a special counsel, is a federal prosecutor who has the authority to issue grand-jury subpoenas. But everyone who works in the Justice Department has a boss, including the attorney general (who answers to the president). As special counsel, Mueller answers to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the so-called Russia investigation). That means Mueller has the authority to issue a subpoena to the president unless Rosenstein — or the president — tells him not to.

Before we come to whether the deputy AG should clip the special counsel’s wings, let’s address one point of confusion.

Many people believe, as I do, that the president should not be subjected to questioning by a prosecutor on the facts as we presently know them. From that premise, however, they argue that Mueller may not subpoena the president, or that the president may ignore any subpoena. Neither of those things is true.

A prosecutor has the power to subpoena virtually anyone. In our system, there are very few limits on what the grand jury may investigate. A comparison usefully illustrates this point. I’ve frequently observed that by appointing Mueller without first establishing a basis to believe a crime warranting investigation had been committed, Rosenstein violated regulations that govern special-counsel appointments. By contrast, the grand jury has no such constraints — it can investigate pretty much anything. There is no proof hurdle — such as “probable cause” or “reasonable suspicion” — that has to be surmounted. In fact, a grand jury is free to investigate even if it just wants to satisfy itself that a crime has not been committed.

So a prosecutor who is using the grand jury has sweeping investigative authority. That includes broad subpoena power. There is a big difference, however, between the power to issue a subpoena to a person and the power to make that person testify.

Our law extends various privileges that relieve the privilege-holder of the obligation to provide evidence. Best known is the privilege against self-incrimination — a person never has to testify against himself. But there are many others: husband-wife, lawyer-client, doctor-patient, priest-penitent, and so on

So sure, a prosecutor can issue a subpoena requiring a witness (including a witness who may be a subject or target of the investigation) to appear before the grand jury. But that does not necessarily mean the witness must testify. If the witness has a privilege that would be infringed by the prosecutor’s questions, the witness may refuse to answer.

Of course, a prosecutor is not going to issue a subpoena or otherwise try to coerce the testimony of a witness the prosecutor knows is going to assert a valid privilege. Similarly, a person who has a valid privilege knows a subpoena cannot force him to testify. These practical realities understandably cause non-lawyers to assume that the prosecutor is probably not allowed to issue the subpoena, or that the recipient’s privilege means he can ignore the subpoena. Not so. Technically, the prosecutor has the authority to issue the subpoena, even if it is futile; and a witness may not lawfully ignore the subpoena — that would be contempt of court (since a subpoena is basically a court order to appear).

Bottom line: The question is not whether a prosecutor has the power to issue a subpoena. It is whether the person he wants to subpoena has a privilege that would allow him to refuse to testify.

Now, why does our law grant such privileges? Because we recognize that in a society based on ordered liberty, some things are simply more important than the search for truth in a criminal investigation. Some security considerations; some fundamental human relationships; some needs to promote exchanges of information that, in turn, promote the functioning of a free society — these priorities can and often do outweigh a prosecutor’s desire to gather evidence relevant to an investigation.

I dealt with this in national-security cases. Let’s say the FBI has an informant who has infiltrated a terrorist cell and is giving the government information that helps us prevent terrorist attacks. A prosecutor at the Justice Department says we now need to indict some of the terrorists in the cell; the FBI counters that if we indict the terrorists, we will have to identify the informant and we will lose this vital source of life-saving information. If the officials who run the Justice Department agree with the FBI, that does not mean they believe terrorism prosecutions are unimportant; it means they prioritize security, so the need to prosecute has to take a back seat to other vital concerns.

The president’s job is more critical to the nation than Robert Mueller’s investigation. That does not mean Mueller’s investigation is insignificant; it is crucial that we fully uncover Russia’s interference in the 2016 election (the aim of the counterintelligence investigation Mueller was assigned to conduct) so that we can thwart the Kremlin in the future. But it does mean that Mueller’s desire for investigative secrecy and the ability to interview every witness who might have relevant evidence has to give way to other priorities.

As we observed here a few days ago, while the president’s awesome responsibilities for American governance and national-security are more significant than any criminal investigation, the president is not above the law. Thus, there are circumstances in which it is reasonable to burden the president to comply with investigative demands. But those circumstances must be narrow.

This is precisely why the courts have recognized “executive privilege,” a qualified privilege that enables a president to shield information unless a prosecutor can demonstrate that its disclosure is critical to an investigation. Given that the president is the chief executive and can fire federal prosecutors at will, it is not clear how a prosecutor would have authority to oppose a presidential assertion of privilege. But the upshot is obvious: A prosecutor should not be permitted to seek information from a president unless there is evidence of a serious crime in which the president is implicated, and there is no alternative source from which the prosecutor could obtain the information sought.

This is certainly clear enough to the Justice Department when, as sometimes happens, a defendant in a trial attempts to subpoena some top government official on the theory that the official might have relevant information. The Justice Department routinely fights off these efforts, arguing that there is no basis to burden these officials in the absence of proof that the testimony sought is critically important to the case and there is no alternative source from which the information can be elicited.

This makes perfect sense. If there were any other rule, these officials would be unable to perform the responsibilities of their public offices — responsibilities that are more vital to the nation than the case in question. And plainly, no other government official’s responsibilities compare to the importance of the president’s.

There are thus very good reasons why Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein should step in and prevent Special Counsel Mueller from seeking to question the president. But I want to leave you with a different thought. How are we supposed to grapple with whether the president should be compelled to testify when we don’t know what Mueller is alleging? What crime does Mueller want to ask the president about? And if there isn’t one, why are we even talking about an interview, let alone a subpoena?

Yes, all prosecutors want to maintain investigative secrecy. In the vast majority of cases, the enforcement of the law after a serious crime has been committed outweighs other concerns; secrecy enables prosecutors to investigate without smearing innocent people, so we respect the need for it. But secrecy is not an absolute requirement; it must give way when outweighed by other considerations.

Can anyone conceivably contend that a prosecutor’s desire to maintain secrecy until the prosecutor is good and ready to reveal details of his investigation is more important to our society than the damage caused by potentially unfounded suspicion that the president is a criminal?

It has become ludicrous. The question of whether a prosecutor should be permitted to interview a president hinges on whether the president is a suspect. There is no public evidence that President Trump is. This raises the patent objection that he should not be asked to be interviewed under those circumstances. What we hear in response is, “How do you know he’s not a suspect?” But the reason we don’t know — other than the lack of evidence after two years — is that Mueller won’t deign to tell us, and Rosenstein won’t deign to comply, publicly, with regulations that required him to outline the basis for a criminal investigation.

The president should direct Rosenstein to outline, publicly and in detail, the good-faith basis for a criminal investigation arising out of Russia’s interference in the election — if there is one.

That is not acceptable. In every other independent-prosecutor investigation in modern history — Watergate, Iran-Contra, Whitewater/Lewinsky — the president and the public have known exactly what was alleged. The prosecutor was able to investigate with all the secrecy the law allows, but under circumstances in which we all understood what was being investigated and why the president was suspected of wrongdoing.

After two years, we are entitled to nothing less. The president should direct Rosenstein to outline, publicly and in detail, the good-faith basis for a criminal investigation arising out of Russia’s interference in the election — if there is one. If he can’t, Mueller’s criminal investigation should be terminated; if he can, Mueller should be compelled to explain (unless Rosenstein’s disclosure makes it clear) why he needs to interview President Trump in order to complete his work.

If Rosenstein and Mueller are reluctant to do that, it can only be because they’ve decided that not only their investigation but also their desire for secrecy take precedence over every other consideration, including the president’s capacity to govern domestically and conduct foreign policy in a dangerous world. But secrecy is not the nation’s top priority. It’s long past time to lay the cards on the table.

Will Donald Trump Meet Kim Jong Un and Start Meaningful Negotiations? The Odds Just Got Lower as John Bolton Heads to The White House

March 23, 2018

Peace and Freedom

Donald Trump’s new National Security Advisor is a hawk who plays hard ball. He has a history of claiming that North Korea will never give up its quest for nuclear weapons and will never negotiate in good faith.

This joke has been attributed to Bolton:

 “Question: How do you know that the North Korean regime is lying? Answer: Their lips are moving.”

See also:

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The return of John Bolton, a hawk on North Korea and Iran, sparks concerns

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/south-korea-worries-about-the-return-of-john-bolton-and-his-hawkish-views/2018/03/23/4adc68aa-2e6c-11e8-911f-ca7f68bff0fc_story.html?utm_term=.9a2315e1008b

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CNN

(CNN) John Bolton said on Thursday that his past policy statements are “behind me” and that, after taking over next month as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, “The important thing is what the President says and the advice I give him.”

But Bolton’s history of provocative, often bellicose pronouncements, typically in the form of calls to bomb countries like Iran and North Korea — along with his unwavering support, before and after, for the 2003 invasion of Iraq — are impossible to pass off, especially as Trump considers tearing up the Iran nuclear deal and prepares for talks with Pyongyang.
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What follows is a small sampling of Bolton’s rhetoric, dating back to the post-9/11 period. Back then, while working in the Bush administration, Bolton made the case at home and abroad that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and that the US role in the aftermath of regime change in Iraq would be “fairly minimal.” Trump, by the way, has pointed to his own opposition to the Iraq war as evidence of his smarts.
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Bolton also publicly accused Cuba of providing “dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states.” Years later, after leaving his post as ambassador to the UN, he pushed to expand the Iraq War into Iran. More recently, he’s pushed for unilateral strikes in Iran and North Korea, while casting doubt on Russia’s role in 2016 election-related hacking.
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He made the case last month for striking North Korea ‘first’

Citing preemptive strikes by Israel on Syrian (2007) and Iraqi (1981) reactor sites, Bolton in February of this year — less than four weeks ago — made a case in the Wall Street Journal for a potential US attack on North Korea:
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“Pre-emption opponents argue that action is not justified because Pyongyang does not constitute an ‘imminent threat.’ They are wrong. The threat is imminent, and the case against pre-emption rests on the misinterpretation of a standard that derives from prenuclear, pre-ballistic-missile times. Given the gaps in U.S. intelligence about North Korea, we should not wait until the very last minute. That would risk striking after the North has deliverable nuclear weapons, a much more dangerous situation.”
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He suggested election hacking was a ‘false flag operation’ designed to frame the Russians

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In December 2016, Bolton said he wasn’t convinced the Russian had a role in pre-election hacking.
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“It’s not at all clear to me just viewing this from the outside that this hacking into the DNC and the RNC computers was not a false flag operation. The question that has to be asked is, why did the Russians run their smart intelligence service against Hillary’s server but their dumb intelligence services against the election?”
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He seems to have changed his mind; is now advocating heavy retaliation

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In an opinion piece filed after special counsel Robert Mueller returned indictments alleging conspiracy to defraud the US against a group of Russian nationals, Bolton wrote:
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“One way to (deter Russia) is to engage in a retaliatory cyber campaign against Russia. This effort should not be proportional to what we have just experienced. It should be decidedly disproportionate. The lesson we want Russia (or anyone else) to learn is that the costs to them from future cyberattacks against the United States will be so high that they will simply consign all their cyberwarfare plans to their computer memories to gather electronic dust.”
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He said a diplomatic option for dealing with North Korea was to ‘end the regime’

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Asked by a Fox News host if there were any “diplomatic options” remaining in the nuclear standoff with North Korea, Bolton suggested this:
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Bolton: “I think the only diplomatic option left is to end the regime in North Korea by effectively having the South take it over. You’ve got to argue with China–“
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Fox News host Trish Regan: “That’s not really diplomatic! (Laughing) As far as they’re concerned.”
Bolton: “Well, that’s their problem, not ours. Anybody who thinks that more diplomacy with North Korea, more sanctions, whether against North Korea, or an effort to apply sanctions against China, is just giving North Korea more time to increase its nuclear arsenal…”
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He compared — to laughter and cheers — former President Barack Obama to a ‘Muslim king’

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In a speech to the American Freedom Alliance conference in August 2016, Bolton drew applause when he said this of Obama at the beginning of a speech on Muslim countries and their politics:
“King Abdullah of Jordan, who is not simply the Muslim king of a Muslim country, unlike our president… (laughter and cheers) … King Abdullah and other political leaders in the Middle East have said this is a civil war within Islam.”
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He desperately wants to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal

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In Janaury of this year, again in the Wall Street Journal, he argued that the administration take more forceful steps to break the terms of the pact:
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“Spending the next 120 days negotiating with ourselves will leave the West mired in stasis. Mr. Trump correctly sees Mr. Obama’s deal as a massive strategic blunder, but his advisers have inexplicably persuaded him not to withdraw. Last fall, deciding whether to reimpose sanctions and decertify the deal under the Corker-Cardin legislation, the administration also opted to keep the door open to ‘fixes’ — a punt on third down. Let’s hope Friday’s decision is not another punt.”
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He also touched on a common theme in his writing, going back at least to former President George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech, that connects Iran and North Korea:
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“Little is known, at least publicly, about longstanding Iranian-North Korean cooperation on nuclear and ballistic-missile technology. It is foolish to play down Tehran’s threat because of Pyongyang’s provocations. They are two sides of the same coin.”
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He took — and seems to take — the ‘Axis of Evil’ line literally

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Rewind to August 2002 and remarks made during talks between the North and South Koreans, when Bolton defended the expression and insisted “it was factually correct.” This is from the New York Times report:
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“In a strongly worded speech, the official, John R. Bolton, the under secretary of state for arms control, cited what he said was ‘a hard connection between these regimes — an “axis” along which flow dangerous weapons and dangerous technology.'”
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He argued in favor of Brexit, touting the UK’s strong negotiating hand

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Ahead of the Brexit vote in 2016, Bolton wrote in the New York Daily News that the UK would enter potential EU exit negotiations with the upper hand. (Things have been somewhat more difficult than he figured.):
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“EU stalwarts like German Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble have tried to scare Britain by proposing obnoxious exit terms. The rhetoric is hollow bluster. The advantages of free trade and easy movement of goods and financial resources between Europe and Britain, whether or not the latter remains part of the former, will dictate that Britain and the EU negotiate Brexit terms that are mutually advantageous. … There is an inherent economic risk in abandoning arrangements and institutions built up over time. But in the sweep of European history, the EU is a newcomer. It makes sense for Britain exit now rather than wait until disaster strikes.”
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Before the deal was done, he wrote an op-ed calling on the US to bomb Iran

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Shortly before the framework of the Iran nuclear deal was set in place, Bolton wrote a piece headlined, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” He even considered outsourcing the job to Israel:
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“Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed. … An attack need not destroy all of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but by breaking key links in the nuclear-fuel cycle, it could set back its program by three to five years. The United States could do a thorough job of destruction, but Israel alone can do what’s necessary. Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran’s opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran.”
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He (still) believes leaving Iraq was a worse decision than invading it

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Bolton became Bush’s under secretary of state for arms control and international security in May of 2001 and remained in the job for about four years, during which time the US invaded Iraq under false pretenses, before taking over as ambassador the United Nations via recess appointment. Asked in 2015 about the decision to go to war, here’s what he told the Washington Examiner:
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“I still think the decision to overthrow Saddam was correct. I think decisions made after that decision were wrong, although I think the worst decision made after that was the 2011 decision to withdraw U.S. and coalition forces. The people who say, oh things would have been much better if you didn’t overthrow Saddam miss the point that today’s Middle East does not flow totally and unchangeably from the decision to overthrow Saddam alone.”
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He wanted to bomb Iran during the Iraq war

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In 2008, Bolton called for strikes inside Iran as part of a bid to cut off Tehran’s aid to insurgents in Iraq. Asked by a Fox News host what he thought would “happen next” if the US attacked, he downplayed the potential for widening the war:
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“I think the Iranians need to look very carefully at what risk they would run if they were to escalate. The idea here is not to have much larger hostilities, but to stop the Iranians from engaging in the hostilities that they’re already doing against us inside Iraq. And they’re doing much the same by aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan. So this is not provocative or preemptive, this is entirely responsive on our part.”
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He downplayed the short- and long-term dangers of war in Iraq

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In the run-up to the Iraq invasion he made the case for regime change to the BBC. Here’s one of his arguments in favor:
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“I think the Iraqi people would be unique in history if they didn’t welcome the overthrow of this dictatorial regime. And Iraqi opposition leaders of a variety of positions and views are discussing now what will happen after Saddam Hussein. I expect that the American role actually will be fairly minimal. I think we’ll have an important security role. I think concluding the destruction of the weapons of mass destruction themselves will be important. But I think fundamentally the recreation of a hopefully democratic Iraqi government — that must rest with the Iraqis.”
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See also:
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The return of John Bolton, a hawk on North Korea and Iran, sparks concerns
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Trump Make a Snap Decision To Replace McMaster With John Bolton

March 23, 2018

Bloomberg

By Jennifer Jacobs and Margaret Talev

  • McMaster Ousted Days After His Briefing to Trump on Putin Call
  • Trump names ex-U.S. envoy Bolton as national security adviser

Video: H.R.Mcmaster out, John Bolton to come in…

 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-23/trump-makes-snap-move-to-oust-mcmaster-as-russia-decision-looms
 Image result for John Bolton, photos
Trump Continues to Shake Up the Administration

President Donald Trump made a snap decision to oust H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, moving as the administration weighs tough actions against Russia and acting far sooner than many White House aides expected.

McMaster’s departure had been the subject of intense speculation in recent days, yet most administration officials thought it wouldn’t come for weeks. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said just a week ago that the two men had a great working relationship.

Trump and McMaster

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

But Trump changed all that on Thursday evening, abruptly replacing McMaster with John Bolton, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and proponent of the 2003 Iraq War best known for his hawkish views.

The move was announced by Trump on Twitter so quickly on Thursday afternoon that many of the president’s top aides didn’t know it was coming.

Even by the standards of Trump, it was a turbulent day that left staff frustrated and demoralized. Earlier, the president rattled markets by imposing tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports, saw one of his top lawyers in the Russia probe quit in frustration and watched Congress struggle to try to avoid a government shutdown.

Read more: This is John Bolton’s view of the world

The ride isn’t over: Sunday brings a “60 Minutes” interview with porn actress Stormy Daniels, who is expected to say she slept with Trump just months after his wife Melania gave birth to their son in 2006.

North Korea

The McMaster move also means Trump is heading into talks with North Korea with a new national security team, having also just sacked his top diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Trump’s tariffs meanwhile risk alienating one of the most important countries to the success of those talks, China — which retaliated early Friday with $3 billion in levies on imports from the U.S.

McMaster’s exit also comes as Trump faces tough decisions on whether to punish Russia for the attempted assassination of a former spy in the U.K. His security advisers discussed on Wednesday a list of options to present to the president, including fresh sanctions, closing consulates and expelling Russians from the U.S., according to two people familiar with the matter. Trump has been asking aides what allies — including France and Germany — are doing in response to the attack, conducted with what the U.K. says was a Soviet Union-designed nerve agent.

Earlier this week, McMaster briefed Trump for a call with Vladimir Putin and didn’t warn against offering congratulations on the Russian leader’s election win, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Written guidance prepared for the president by White House advisers ahead of Tuesday’s phone call explicitly cautioned against complimenting Putin. But in a verbal briefing he personally delivered to Trump before the call, McMaster didn’t emphasize what not to say about the election, said the people, who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.

Trump likely didn’t read the written guidance before speaking with his Russian counterpart, and he ended up offering good wishes to Putin on his re-election. That congratulatory message — uttered as the U.S. considers a tougher stance toward Moscow — prompted sharp criticism from senior Republican lawmakers and intensified tensions among White House aides involved in Russia matters.

McMaster’s omission may not have made much difference. By the time the call was set up at Trump’s request, two of the people said, most of the president’s advisers widely believed their boss wanted to congratulate Putin and would have ignored any advice to the contrary.

The administration’s stance toward Russian President Vladimir Putin had been the source of friction between McMaster and Trump. Last month, McMaster echoed the sentiments of top U.S. intelligence officials who told Congress that Russians are targeting the 2018 elections with potential cyber attacks and efforts to sow political division.

Trump Conflict

“The evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain, whereas in the past it was difficult to attribute,” McMaster said on Feb. 17, after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted a Russian “troll farm” and its operators for an alleged covert social media campaign to influence the election.

McMaster called the Russian actions as described in the indictment a “sophisticated form of espionage.”

Trump rebuked him on Twitter, saying McMaster “forgot” to say that the results of the election weren’t changed by the Russian meddling — something the indictment didn’t address — and that the only collusion was between the Russians, Clinton and Democrats.

During his 30-minute call with Putin Trump didn’t mention such sensitive issues as the U.K. poisoning or ongoing concerns over Russian interference in U.S. elections. He conducted the conversation while alone in the White House residence, though some Trump aides were on the line. There has been some second-guessing in the White House that Trump was left without the proper staffing support at his side for this call.

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, assailed Trump’s outreach to the Russian leader.

“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” McCain said in a statement Tuesday. “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future.”

Later, the Washington Post reported that written guidance for Trump had advised him not to congratulate Putin.

McMaster, an Army lieutenant general, had been the focus of recent speculation that he would soon leave as Trump reshaped his foreign policy team. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was said to be in consultations with Pentagon officials about finding a command that would have allowed McMaster to obtain a fourth star. In a statement released by the White House after his departure was announced, McMaster said he would retire from the military this summer.

Later Thursday night, after Trump announced his replacement, McMaster attended a dinner for visiting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Washington and received a standing ovation after former Florida Governor Jeb Bush pointed him out in the crowd from the stage.

— With assistance by Nick Wadhams

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-23/trump-makes-snap-move-to-oust-mcmaster-as-russia-decision-looms