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Archive for January 26th, 2018

Weekend Series on Crime History: Richard Nixon and FBI head Pat Gray Talk Mark Felt, Campaign Bugging

Why Trump Likely Will Be Charged with Obstruction of Justice

President Trump, via White House

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An eight-month special counsel investigation into ties between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia appears to be targeting the president for obstruction of justice in a case that began with the firing of former FBI director James Comey.

The case against Trump accelerated this week with the revelations that Trump tried to order the firing of Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed by the deputy attorney general to investigate the role Russia and Trump’d campaign played to undermine Hillary Clinton.

Some legal experts were skeptical that a jury would find Trump guilty of obstruction of justice because the charge requires “corrupt” intent.

But minds are changing following explosive revelations that suggest the president was motivated by a desire to protect himself and his associates from criminal charges, Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who handled many obstruction cases, wrote for a column published Friday by Politico

Trump has repeatedly dismissed the investigation as a “witch hunt” directed by biased FBI officials. 

“We have since learned of very substantial additional evidence that would rebut that defense, or a defense that Trump didn’t understand the consequences of firing Comey,” Mariotti wrote. “While that evidence is indirect, Mueller could argue that we can infer Trump’s intent from that evidence, which is how prosecutors typically prove a defendant’s intent.

Trump hurt his case when he told NBC’s Lester Holt that he had planned to fire Comey even if his attorney general, Jeff Sesions, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, declined to recommend Comey’s termination, citing “this Russian thing” as the motive for firing the FBI director.

Trump also ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia probe. The New York Times reported that Trump responded angrily when McGahn failed to persuade Sessions to stay on the case, despite allegations that the attorney general had implicated himself in the case by meeting with Russian officials and failing to disclose the interactions. 

Trump wouldn’t drop the issue and yelled at Sessions, accusing him of “disloyalty” for recusing himself in the Russia investigation.

“On its face, it corroborates Comey’s testimony that Trump wanted “loyalty” from him,” Mariotti wrote. “It is also a very odd reaction by Trump to recusal, which Sessions was advised to do and is a routine practice when there is a potential conflict of interest or an appearance of a conflict. Mueller could argue that Trump’s intense anger was due to his fear of the investigation and desire to impede it.”

Unwilling to let the issue go, Trump asked Comey’s replacement, acting FBI director Andrew Mccabe, whom he voted for in the 2016 presidential election. Trump staffers also said the president often complained that Comey was a Democrat, which backs Comey’s claims that Trump was searching for a new FBI boss who would be loyal to the president.

Trump didn’t stop there and urged Sessions to pressure new FBI Director Chris Wray to fire McCabe, who refused and said he would resign if asked to do it again. The discovery makes McCabe a witness in the obstruction of justice case.

Then in August, Trump lobbied Sen. Thom Tillis to kill proposed legislation intended to protect Mueller from being fired by Trump. The legislation was shelved.

On Thursday, the New York Times reported that Trump ordered the firing of the special counsel because of “conflicts of interest.” McGahn, the head attorney for the White House, said the case was weak and could easily backfire and lead to catastrophic consequences for the presidency. When McGahn threatened to resign rather than pursue the firing, Trump reportedly backed off.

The president also considered another route to fire Mueller, which would have required the firing of Rosenstein, who appointed the special counsel in May.

The Times wrote that Trump had mulled the firing for several months, prompting an “omnipresent concern among his legal team and close aides.”

“Trump’s desire to fire Mueller despite knowing that firing a law enforcement official overseeing the Russia investigation could raise obstruction concerns is strong evidence that Trump’s intent was to obstruct the investigation,” wrote Mariotti, who originally was skeptical that an obstruction of justice case would be successful. “The excuses offered by Trump also bolster Mueller’s case, because they indicate that the president realized that firing Mueller to impede the investigation would be perceived as wrongful.”

Mariotti said the recent revelations “greatly strengthens the case that Trump had ‘corrupt’ intent when he fired Comey.

Trump said earlier this week that he “looks forward” to being interviewed by Mueller because he has nothing to hide and did nothing wrong.

DEA Sex Scandal Not Sufficient Reason to Dismiss Deadly Drug Conspiracy Case

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A DEA sex scandal was not a sufficient reason to dismiss a St. Louis drug case, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Shirley Padmore Mensah rejected defense lawyers’ claims on Jn. 12 that a deadly drug conspiracy case was compromised by an undisclosed affair between a DEA supervisor and a confidential informer, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Lawyers for four people accused of a deadly drug conspiracy “failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that any government agent or any informant acting as a government agent deliberately or recklessly included a false statement” in an affidavit that resulted in permission to wiretap the suspects.

The wiretaps led to drug-related charges against Dionne L. Gatling, Andre Alphonso Rush, Timothy Lamont Rush and Lorenzo Gibbs. Further evidence was collected that prosecutors said showed Gatling and Rush were involved in the murder of two men whom the suspects believe were feeding information to police.

DEA supervisor Keith Cromer denied having a sexual affair with the informer, but admitted the relationship “became personal in violation of DEA policy but denied that it was ever sexual,” Mensah’s ruling says. 

The judge didn’t buy Mensah’s claims that the affair wasn’t sexual, citing “intimate photographs,” trips the pair took and court testimony.

The DEA forbids its investigators from being alone with an informant or having a relationship closer than “arm’s length.”

Cromer has since been suspended without pay.

The judge said the the alleged misconduct between the DEA supervisor and the informant had no impact on this case. 

Trump Ordered the Firing of Mueller But Backed Off White House Attorney Threatened to Quit

Special counsel Robert Mueller

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump in June ordered the firing of the special counsel appointed several weeks earlier to investigate ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, but he backed off after the White House counsel threatened to resign to avoid handling a legally dubious task that could endanger the presidency.

The New York Times reported that Trump demanded the termination of Mueller, who was appointed in May by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. 

Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general.

At the time, Trump, who has repeatedly claimed he had no plans to intervene in the probe, argued Mueller was incapable of conducting an impartial investigation because of several alleged cases of conflicts of interest, including a dispute over fees that Mueller owed at Trump golf club in Sterling, Va.

White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II declined to ask the Justice Department to fire the special counsel and threatened to quit, saying the president’s allegations of conflicts of interest were not strong enough to hold up in court and could have a catastrophic effect on the presidency. The termination, he added, would give the appearance that Trump was trying to obstruct the Russia probe.

McGahn, a longtime Republican campaign finance lawyer, served as the lead lawyer for Trump’s campaign.

Trump then backed off.

The president’s meddling in the investigation has made him a target of the probe since firing then-FBI Director James Comey. Also this week came revelations that Trump had asked the acting FBI director, Andrew McCabe, whom he voted for in the presidential election. Axios also reported this week that the Trump administration pressured the president’s new FBI director Chris Wray to fire McCabe. Wray responded that he would resign before firing his deputy director without just cause.

Mueller is expected to soon question Trump about the firing of Comey to determine whether the president tried to obstruct justice.

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