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Cummings, Conyers: Congress Must Act to Avoid Unchecked Powers of Trump’s Presidency

Rep. Elijah Cummings

Rep. Elijah Cummings

By Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings and John Conyers
Op-Ed, Baltimore Sun

On Saturday, Oct. 20, 1973, President Richard Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox because he refused to back down from his pursuit of the Watergate tapes. Nearly a half century later, President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because of, in the president’s own words, “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia.” And Wednesday, the president complained about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation; Mr. Trump said he “would have picked someone else” to run the Department of Justice has he known that was coming.

How Congress responds to moments like these matters. The differences between Congress’ response in 1973 and our response today are stark — and, frankly, disappointing. In 1973, the House Judiciary Committee had a serious and bipartisan response, subpoenaing and eventually releasing the Watergate tapes. The current Republican response has been tepid at best; they have not issued a single subpoena to the White House, and Speaker Paul Ryan defended Mr. Trump’s interference in the Russia investigation by assuring us that “he’s just new to this.”

As the senior Democrats on the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees, we believe it is critical that Special Counsel Robert Mueller be given the independence, time and resources to conduct a thorough investigation and report his findings to Congress. At the same time, as a co-equal branch of government, Congress must fulfill its constitutional duty to investigate the full range of Trump administration and Trump campaign actions.

Successful congressional investigations develop a comprehensive, fact-based record to form the basis for further action. The House and Senate Watergate investigations led to Nixon’s resignation and adoption of the Ethics in Government Act. It was serious, deliberative, bipartisan, transparent and operated in parallel to law enforcement investigations.

In the absence of any meaningful investigation by House Republicans, Democratic members have sent requests for information on our own. Our efforts have been met with months of stonewalling. The Trump White House recently told government agencies “not to cooperate [with any oversight] requests from Democrats,” and issued a contrived Justice Department legal opinion that such queries are “not properly considered to be oversight requests.”

We will continue to press for answers because the information we seek goes to the central question of the Trump presidency: Is the administration acting in the public interest, or merely to benefit the private interests of President Trump?

To read more click here.


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Trump’s Lawyer, Spokesman Step Aside Amid Reshuffling of Legal Team

Donald Trump, via Wikipedia

Donald Trump, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The head of Donald Trump’s outside legal team appears to be stepping aside amid reports that Trump is reshuffling his circle of lawyers representing him in the Russia investigation.

News that Marc Kasowitz is “out” as Trump’s attorney was first tweeted by CBS News White Correspondent Major Garrett. 

It wasn’t immediately clear if the move was motivated by a series of profanity-laced email exchanges that Kasowitz had with a seeming stranger.

Mark Corallo, the spokesman for Trump’s legal team, also resigned Thursday.

Kasowitz, who represented Trump in several cases in the past, was hired by the president in late May to represent him in the ongoing investigation into alleged collusion between the president’s campaign team and Russia.


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Trump Asks about Powers to Pardon Aides, Family, Even Himself

President Trump

President Trump

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The looming investigation into alleged collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia has prompted the president’s lawyers to explore his powers to grand pardons to aides, family and even himself, the Washington Post reports.

Trump has been asking advisers about the extent of his constitutional power to grant pardons in connection with the investigation, according to an unnamed source familiar with the queries.

One of Trump’s attorney’s, John Down, called the allegations “nonsense.”

“The President’s lawyers are cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller on behalf of the President,” he said.

The Post wrote:

Other advisers said the president is also irritated by the notion that Mueller’s probe could reach into his and his family’s finances.

Trump has been fuming about the probe in recent weeks as he has been informed about the legal questions that he and his family could face. His primary frustration centers on why allegations that his campaign coordinated with Russia should spread into scrutinizing many years of Trump dealmaking. He has told aides he was especially disturbed after learning Mueller would be able to access several years of his tax returns.


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Trump Tests Limits of Power by Investigating Mueller’s High-Powered Team

President Trump, via White House

President Trump, via White House

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s administration has taken the extraordinary steps of  looking for ways to undermine the team hired by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate whether the Republican’s campaign team colluded with Russia to meddle in the 2016 election.

The New York Times reports that Trump’s legal team is examining potential conflicts of interest in what could be an attempt to fire Mueller or some members of his high-powered legal team.

The president’s lawyers and aides are reviewing the investigators’ donations to Democratic candidates, their past clients and Mueller’s relationship with fired FBI Director James Comey.   

It’s the latest sign that the White House appears to be headed to an inevitable showdown with the Justice Department-appointed special counsel.

The campaign to undermine special counsel is raising questions about the potential reach of presidential power and just how far Trump is willing to go to disrupt an investigation that some legal observers believe could jeopardize his inner circle or even the presidency.


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Lengel: Trump’s Statements Are Indicators of Tough Times Ahead for Jeff Sessions and Christopher Wray

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Heading up a major law enforcement agency like the Justice Department or FBI is never easy. It’s a major headache. There’s always a crisis around the corner.

Keeping your job and doing it with integrity has only been more challenging under the Trump administration. Don’t count on Jeff Sessions sticking around as Attorney General for all too long, and expect Christopher Wray to face endless ethical dilemmas dealing with President Donald Trump after his confirmation as FBI director.

The president’s remarks to the New York Times give a pretty clear indication of tumultuous times ahead for the two.

Trump tells  the paper that he would never have hired Sessions had he known he was going to recuse himself in the probe into Russia.

“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Trump said.

Everyone, perhaps except Trump, realizes Sessions had no choice considering he was in the the inner circle of the Trump campaign in 2016, and he met with Russian officials. It was a no-brainer for Sessions, and frankly, had he not, he would have been under great pressure on the Hill and from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to recuse himself.

Then there’s the comment about the FBI director.

“The FBI person really reports to the president of the United States,” Trump said in what clearly is an untrue statement. Sure, the FBI director can brief the president on a regular basis, but he doesn’t answer to the president, at least not in the way Trump thinks.

The FBI’s website states, “Within the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI is responsible to the attorney general, and it reports its findings to U.S. Attorneys across the country. The FBI’s intelligence activities are overseen by the Director of National Intelligence.”

Trump won’t have a very hard time pushing Sessions out. That seems to be a certainty.

But considering he’s already fired one FBI director, Trump will have a tough time firing a second one without catching hell from Congress and the American people.

These are challenging and complicated times for law enforcement.

What isn’t complicated is doing the right thing and not bending to pressures from the White House.

President Nixon tried undermining the justice system, and we know justice prevailed.


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Trump: I Would Not Have Appointed Sessions If I Knew He’d Recuse Himself

President Trump

President Trump

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

In a stunning admission, President Trump said he would not have appointed Jeff Sessions as attorney general if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Trump complained to the New York Times that Sessions’ decision to recuse himself led to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate alleged collusion between the Republican’s campaign team and Russia. 

 “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Trump said.

The president didn’t stop there, criticizing former FBI Director James Comey, the deputy attorney general and special counsel Robert Mueller III.

Trump painted a picture that he was the victim of a malicious campaign to derail his presidency in a wide-ranging, revealing interview.

Still, Trump insisted, he’s not the focus of an investigation.

“I don’t think we’re under investigation,” he said. “I’m not under investigation. For what? I didn’t do anything wrong.”


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FBI Renews Search for Long-Sought Child Molestation Suspect

Age-progressed photo of what Barrett Preston Busschau may look like today.

Age-progressed photo of what Barrett Preston Busschau may look like today.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is renewing its search for a long-sought fugitive who was charged in 1993 with molesting five girls between the ages of 10 and 15.

Barrett Preston Busschau, now 42, has been on the loose since he was awaiting trial on numerous charges of sexual assault. He disappeared from Oregon in 1993.

The FBI produced an age-progressed photo of what Busschau may look like now and posted the image and information on its fugitive website. https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/cac/barrett-preston-busschau

A native of South Africa, Busschau had been living in the U.S. since 1984 as a legal resident. Authorities believe he may have fled to California, Panama or South Africa.


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Trump Reinvents History by Saying FBI Director Should Report Directly to President

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Showing a disdain or ignorance of the FBI’s independence, President Trump suggested the bureau’s next director should report directly to him during a wide-ranging interview with the New York Times

Trump cited some alternative history by suggesting that the FBI director began reporting to the Justice Department while Richard Nixon was president.

“The FBI person really reports to the president of the United States,” Trump said in what clearly is an untrue statement.

The FBI’s website states, “Within the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI is responsible to the attorney general, and it reports its findings to U.S. Attorneys across the country. The FBI’s intelligence activities are overseen by the Director of National Intelligence.”

Trump suggested “there was nothing official, there was nothing from Congress” that requires the director to report to the Justice Department.

“There was nothing — anything. But the FBI person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting. You know, which is interesting. And I think we’re going to have a great new FBI director.”

Trump’s comments raise questions about his expectation of his nominee for FBI director, Christopher Wray.


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