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Tag Archives: Russia investigation

Dems to Start Collusion Probe “Right Away” if they Take the House, Castro Promises

No, not that Castro.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, a member of the Intelligence Committee, says Democrats will waste no time if they take the House getting started investigating whether the Trump campaign “colluded” with Russia.

They may well go ahead, he admitted, even if special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is performing colonoscopies all over Washington, has completed his work.

“The [investigation] that will get going right away is a thorough investigation into Russia and their interference with the 2016 election,” Castro said.

Of course, we know that no matter what Mueller concludes, Democrats will not just investigate “Russia,” they will impeach President Trump.

Senate Intel Chair: “No Hard Evidence” of Collusion

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr Wednesday indicated Wednesday that his panel, after seven years of investigation – or something – had come up with jack s#&% on collusion.

“I can say as it relates to the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation that we have no hard evidence of collusion, said Richard Burr, R-N.C. “Now, we’re not over. That leaves the opportunity that we might find something that we don’t have today.”

Someone was watching.

Trump Suggests He Did Not Direct Cohen to Make Payments

President Trump said Wednesday in an interview with Fox News that he knew “later on” about hush money payments made by his former attorney Michael Cohen to women accusing Trump of extramarital sex, but he did not say when he found out about the payments, at least in the clip provided by Fox News.

Ainsley Earhardt: Did you know aboiut the payments?

Trump: Later on I knew. Later on.

Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday to making the payments as illegal contributions to the Trump campaign and said he was directed to do so by Trump.

Why Neither Cohen – Nor Trump – May Be Guilty of Campaign Finance Violations

If you look at the actual campaign finance laws, it appears that Michael Cohen – and therefore President Trump, who is already being convicted in the press as his co-conspirator – is not necessarily guilty of violating those laws.

First of all, I want to credit Mark Levin for some of the ideas in this analysis. You should listen to his radio show, on which the legal and constitutional wizard, and former chief of staff to Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese, explained the issue extremely well Tuesday evening.

Cohen pleaded guilty to exceeding political contribution limits with his $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about her one-night-stand with Trump. He also pleaded guilty to arranging an excessive “contribution” by the publishers of the National Enquirer for their payment to Karen McDougal for her story about an affair with Trump. As far as I understand it, the publishers walked away from a deal to be reimbursed for their payment, so the money didn’t come from Trump.

That Cohen pleaded guilty to a crime doesn’t necessarily mean that a crime was committed. I mean, technically, yes, because he pleaded guilty, but in reality, there may be no crimes related to campaign finance. The cases haven’t been adjudicated in court. All we have is that Cohen and the prosecutors agreed that he committed a crime.

Why would Cohen admit to a crime that doesn’t exist? Well, first, because that’s the crime prosecutors wanted, because it potentially involved the president. And second, to get them to agree not to prosecute him for far worse criminal acts.

And let’s be clear: It’s probably also the crime his attorney, Lanny Davis, who long worked for the Clintons, wanted him to admit to.

Now, is it a crime? The question is whether it was a personal expense or a political expenditure – that is, effectively a campaign contribution because it was designed to help elect Trump president. But the standard for determining whether it is not a personal expense is NOT whether the expense could help elect a candidate. It is this, according to the FEC website:

Commission regulations provide a test, called the “irrespective test,” to differentiate legitimate campaign and officeholder expenses from personal expenses. Under the “irrespective test,” personal use is any use of funds in a campaign account of a candidate (or former candidate) to fulfill a commitment, obligation or expense of any person that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign or responsibilities as a federal officeholder.

More simply, if the expense would exist even in the absence of the candidacy or even if the officeholder were not in office, then the personal use ban applies.

Conversely, any expense that results from campaign or officeholder activity falls outside the personal use ban.

There is strong reason to believe – and thus reasonable doubt with respect to a conviction – that the “expenses” of paying off MacDougal and Daniels exist outside of the campaign and are therefore personal expenses. Daniels herself has claimed that pressure from Trump not to tell her story existed long before the campaign began.

In a May 3 piece, the article, Politifact quotes legal experts who question whether this is technically a campaign expenditure.

Stephen Hoersting, a lawyer with the Gober Group, a law firm that has done high-level work for the Republican Party, said Washington officials steer clear of apportioning the reasons for an expenditure.

“The FEC does not ask, ‘Would it help a candidate to buy the silence of an old girlfriend?’ ” Hoersting said. “Rather it asks, ‘Would there be any other reason, other than the campaign, for this person to buy the silence an old girlfriend?’ The answer here is yes, there are many reasons a man like Trump would want to buy the silence of old girlfriend.”

Now, you and I may think, if we’re honest, Of course this was related to the campaign. It happened during the campaign. But that’s not the test. The test is whether the expense would exist outside the campaign. It would seem that a rich man accused of having affairs with women who want to be compensated for their silence is something that would exist outside the campaign. That’s what the jury decided in the trial of former presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards, who during a campaign paid off the mistress he had impregnated. That Daniels and McDougal decided to press their claims during the campaign, when it would be most advantageous to them, was their choice, not Trump’s.

What’s more, Cohen and Trump might have at least believed that they were operating within the law, based on the facts. But I doubt either Cohen – or, almost certainly, Trump – understood this as a campaign donation in the first place. That’s the downside of not having a well-organized campaign stocked with veteran campaign operatives. The upside is that he won the presidency.

Finally, the money ultimately came from Trump. Cohen was just the bagman, essentially. Personal expenditures by a candidate on their campaign are not subject to campaign finance limits.

Paying off your paramour, as far as I know, is perfectly legal, even if awfully tawdry. I don’t think Trump or Cohen intended to commit a crime, and it’s highly questionable that they did.

How Trump is Being Vilified for Something that Helps Exculpate Him

Everyone’s talking about a New York Times story suggesting that White House Counsel Don McGahn may have been seeking to protect himself and harm President Trump by spending 30 hours talking to special counsel Robert Mueller.

A fifth column! Rats abandoning the sinking ship!

As the Wall Street Journal points out today, maybe just the reverse.

The thesis of the New York Times story is that Mr. McGahn cooperated in a way that could hurt Donald Trump in order to protect himself and because he doesn’t trust the President. This fits the media narrative that Mr. Trump is covering up his collusion with Russia and his obstruction of justice, and thus Mr. McGahn must be scrambling to save himself.

Yet lost in the resulting tempest is a crucial fact that appears to contradict this spin: Mr. Trump had to waive executive privilege for Mr. McGahn to cooperate with Mr. Mueller . . .

This in turn meant that Mr. McGahn would have to answer all of Mr. Mueller’s questions. Once privilege is waived, Mr. McGahn couldn’t decide to answer, say, what Mr. Trump told him about Attorney General Jeff Sessions but refuse to discuss the President’s state of mind when he fired James Comey at the FBI. Without invoking privilege there is no legal basis for Mr. McGahn to refuse to answer a question.

This isn’t what you’d expect if Mr. Trump is leading a coverup. Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton fought extensive legal battles with prosecutors over executive privilege. Mr. Clinton invoked privilege to block aides Bruce Lindsey and Sidney Blumenthal from testifying to Ken Starr’s grand jury.Yet when Mr. Trump doesn’t invoke privilege for his White House counsel, he gets no credit.

Exactly. Because the media have a particular storyline they are following. And Trump doing good things, or anything that might suggest he’s innocent, is not part of the story.

Here’s Why Cohen is Singing: He’s under Investigation for $20M in Loans

So in case you were wondering why it is that Michael Cohen has turned on President Trump, it appears he is under investigation for possible misdeeds related to $20 million in loans, according to the New York Times.

From the Times piece:

Federal authorities investigating whether President Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, committed bank and tax fraud have zeroed in on well over $20 million in loans obtained by taxi businesses that he and his family own, according to people familiar with the matter.

Investigators are also examining whether Mr. Cohen violated campaign finance or other laws by helping to arrange financial deals to secure the silence of women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump. The inquiry has entered the final stage and prosecutors are considering filing charges by the end of August, two of the people said.

Sounds like Cohen may be facing the rest of his life in jail. And so he’s turning on Trump. They’re putting out stories that he felt Trump didn’t treat him well enough, etc. But the bottom line is he doesn’t want to go to jail.

This is what Trump means by a witch hunt. You look around enough, and you find a witch. Most prosecutors aren’t able to conduct an 18-month investigation, which will certainly end up at least a two-year investigation. Special prosecutors have endless means at their disposal. Eventually, they raid peoples homes, they find things, they turn people against each other. They get the results they want.

We’re all guilty of something, even if accidentally. Maybe just something immoral if not illegal. I’m not saying Michael Cohen isn’t a snake. But our justice system is not predicated on the notion that the government should be looking around endlessly in our business so they can find something to charge us with and then use it to turn us against others who are their actual targets.

Bob Mueller, if he tried hard enough, could convict Moses of something. I don’t know, maybe failing to extinguish a brush fire.

According to Politico, Cohen’s lawyer is talking to John Dean for some reason. Now what that means, I have no idea, other than it sounds very dramatic and is probably meant to try to put fear into the White House.

The American people elected a president. Based on no specific evidence of “collusion,” there is an “investigation” of the president for collusion. And whatever else Mueller might find.

I’ll bet Trump spends at least a third of his time on this. That means he’s not spending all the time he should be on the world’s toughest job. And it’s harmful psychologically.

This thing is dangerous for all of us. And for what? Because Democrats didn’t like the results in November, 2016.

Where Were the Calls to Prosecute Obama for Obstruction of Justice?

When Barack Obama did what President Trump is accused of, trying to influence a Justice Department investigation, there were no calls to impeach him or to prosecute him for obstruction. At least not among “mainstream” analysts.

The reasons, in short, are that Obama is favored by the mainstream media and that he didn’t have a special counsel looking into everything from whether he “colluded” with the Russians to whether he puts out the recycling bin on Tuesdays. But Obama did exactly what Trump did.

As you probably remember, last week Trump got in Big Trouble for calling on Attorney General Session to shut down Special Counsel Mueller’s Russia collusion probe, which seems focused on everything except Russia collusion.

But Obama repeatedly sought to minimize Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while the Justice Department was investigating it, saying it was just a “mistake” and did not jeopardize national security. Of course, he was more subtle about it than Trump, because he is more subtle than Trump. But it is clear Obama was commenting favorably and minimizing the potential crime of the subject of an ongoing investigation, Hillary Clinton.

According to the FBI inspector general’s report issued in June, this was deeply problematic for investigators. From excerpts assembled by National Review:

Former President Obama’s comments caused concern among FBI officials about the potential impact on the investigation. Former EAD John Giacalone told the OIG, “We open up criminal investigations. And you have the President of the United States saying this is just a mistake. . . . That’s a problem, right?” Former AD Randy Coleman expressed the same concern, stating, “[The FBI had] a group of guys in here, professionals, that are conducting an investigation. And the . . . President of the United States just came out and said there’s no there there.” Michael Steinbach, the former EAD for the National Security Branch, told the OIG that the comments generated “controversy” within the FBI. Steinbach stated, “You’re prejudging the results of an investigation before they really even have been started. . . .That’s . . . hugely problematic for us.” Department prosecutors also were concerned. Prosecutor 4 told the OIG that Obama’s statement was the genesis of the FBI’s suspicions that the Department’s leadership was politically biased. This prosecutor stated, “I know that the FBI considered those [statements] inappropriate. And that it . . . [generated] a suspicion that there was a political bias . . . going on from the Executive Branch.”

Attorney general Loretta Lynch didn’t like it either.

She told the OIG that she did not think the President should have made the comment on 60 Minutes. She stated, “I don’t know where it came from. And I don’t know, I don’t know why he would have thought that either, to be honest with you. Because, to me, anyone looking at this case would have seen a national security component to it. So I don’t, I truly do not know where he got that from.”

And don’t think that Obama was necessarily just protecting Hillary out of the goodness of his heart. By communicating with her on an unsecured email system, which he did, he too may have engaged in misconduct.

In fact, this is in some ways worse than what Trump did. Obama is trying to influence a probe that is going on within his own Justice Department. That’s a lot easier to do than to have an effect on an investigation being conducted by a special counsel, who has a much greater degree of independence.

What’s more, Sessions can’t even shut down the probe. He’s recused himself. I’ve heard some suggest Trump is uninformed or mistaken because the person he should be targeting is Deputy Attorney General Rod Sessions, who actually oversees Mueller.

But maybe Trump knows exactly what he is doing. Because how do you accuse someone of trying to obstruct justice when he’s trying to “influence” the wrong person?

Mueller Offers to Limit Questions He Would Ask Trump

According to the Washington Post:

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III indicated this week that he is willing to reduce the number of questions his investigators would pose to President Trump in an interview, renewing negotiations with Trump’s lawyers about a presidential sit-down after an extended standoff, according to two people briefed on the negotiations.

The latest proposal by the special counsel comes as Trump has stepped up his attacks on his investigation and Mueller personally.

For months, Mueller has been seeking to question the president as part of his investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 campaign, which is also examining whether Trump has sought to block that probe.

In a letter sent Monday, Mueller’s team suggested that investigators would reduce the number of questions about potential obstruction of justice they would ask in person and instead seek some answers in written form, according to one person.

Trump’s attorneys should continue to advise him to answer all questions in writing. Mueller will ask questions designed to create a perjury trap. Remember, even someone as careful as Bill Clinton, an attorney and literally lifelong politician, was impeached in part because of perjury committed under questioning from the independent counsel. Trump is far more careless about what he says than Clinton.

Understandably, Trump wants to personally clear his name. According to the New York Times:

President Trump pushed his lawyers in recent days to try once again to reach an agreement with the special counsel’s office about him sitting for an interview, flouting their advice that he should not answer investigators’ questions, three people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday.

Mr. Trump has told advisers he is eager to meet with investigators to clear himself of wrongdoing, the people said. In effect, he believes he can convince the investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, of his belief that their own inquiry is a “witch hunt.”

Bad idea. Mueller likely has nothing with which to prosecute Trump. During an interview, the hunt for a perjury charge will be on. He has to justify the millions that have been spent somehow.

Trump Denies Cohen Allegation that He Knew About Don Jr. Meeting

Former Trump attorney and all-around fixer and hatchet man Michael Cohen is alleging to the Mueller gang that President Trump knew about a meeting arranged by Donald Trump Jr. to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from a Russian government-connected source. Trump denied it Friday morning. …..I did NOT know of the meeting with my son,… Continue Reading

Trump May Revoke Security Clearances of Brennan, Clapper, Comey, Hayden and Rice

President Trump is exploring “mechanisms” for revoking the security clearances of former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former National Security Agency Michael Hayden, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said certain… Continue Reading

Trump Indicates He May Believe Putin Over His Intel Agencies on Russia Hacking

President Trump Monday suggested that he might take Russian President Putin at his word that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election. Trump was asked whether he blieved U.S intelligence agencies or Putin. Trump said: [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me. They said, they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin,… Continue Reading