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Tag: Attorney General

Mueller’s Potential Obstruction of Justice Case Against Trump Hones in on Fiery Relationship with AG Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in November 2017.

By Steve Neavling

Donald Trump’s public humiliation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions has caught the attention of the special counsel team investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether the president obstructed justice.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is honing in on a period of time last summer when Trump reportedly met privately with his advisers to discuss replacing Sessions, whose recusal from the Russian probe has infuriated the president. To some in Trump’s inner circle, removing Sessions would make it easier to fire Mueller III, whose fate ultimately is determined by the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The authority to fire Rosenstein, a move that could help the president fire Mueller, belongs to Sessions, not Trump. 

Trump has publicly berated Sessions for recusing himself. If Sessions quit, Trump could replace him with someone willing to fire Mueller, who so far has gained indictments against four former Trump aides, a prominent attorney, 13 Russians and three Russian groups.

As Mueller builds an obstruction of justice case against the president, prosecutors are especially interested in the discussions between Trump and others about removing Sessions – a move that could be seen as an attempt to intervene in the probe, the Washington Post reported

Mueller’s team has questioned witnesses in recent months about those discussions and Trump’s state of mind in late July and early August of last year. Around the same time, Trump belittled Sessions on Twitter, calling him a “beleaguered” attorney general.

Hours before the Washington Post broke the story Wednesday about Mueller’s interest in any attempts to remove Sessions, Trump lashed out at the attorney general again on Twitter over the handling of Republican claims of misconduct in the FBI: “Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”

A little over a week ago, Trump blasted Sessions again over the president’s calls for an investigation into the Obama administration. 

Mueller was appointed on May 17, 2017, to investigate Russian interference in the election. Eight days earlier, Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey, who told Congress he rebuffed the president’s request to drop an investigation of his former campaign aide and national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has since been indicted on charges tied to the Mueller investigation.

Since then, Mueller’s team has been investigating whether the president obstructed justice by firing Comey for failing to stop a federal investigation.

On Wednesday, Sessions responded to Trump’s criticisms about the Justice Department’s handling of Republican allegations that the FBI and DOJ inappropriately obtained a surveillance warrant for Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide who was suspected of being a Russian operative.

In an unusual public statement, Sessions responded, “We have initiated the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this Department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary. As long as I am the Attorney General, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this Department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution.”

Sessions Lashes Out at GOP Senator Over Marijuana Policy Dispute

AG Jeff Sessions testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

By Steve Neavling

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has compared marijuana to heroin, blamed pot for spikes in violence and declared that “good people don’t smoke it,” lashed out at a senator from Colorado over a controversial pot policy.

“Too often, we’ve seen bad judgements, even politics enter into the work that we do,” Sessions said in a speech at a National Sheriffs’ Association meeting, according to Forbes. “We’re trying to confirm a number of important component heads at the Department of Justice.  It’s just getting to be frustrating, I’ve gotta tell you. Our nominee to the National Security Division — the anti-terrorism division — was approved unanimously in the committee. But because right now one senator’s concerns over unrelated issues — like reversing federal law against marijuana — we can’t even get a vote.”

Sessions was referring to Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican who has prevented the attorney general’s Justice Department nominees from being confirmed as part of a protest over Sessions’ decision to revoke an Obama-era policy that encouraged federal prosecutors to respect state laws on marijuana. Marijuana is still illegal on the federal level because the government stopped funding research to determine whether cannabis has medicinal benefits. 

Gardner said he voted to confirm Sessions’ nomination as attorney general because the former senator pledged not to make marijuana a major issue for the Justice Department.

“I have not changed my decision to hold these nominations until we have a commitment that lives up to what I believe was given to me prior to the confirmation,” Gardner said.

Other Stories of Interest

DOJ Turns Over Documents about AG Sessions’ Proposed Resignation

Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing in January.

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department tuned over documents to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team revealing Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ proposed resignation last year.

ABC News reports that the documents were handed over to the DOJ before Sessions was interviewed by Mueller as part of the investigation that now includes allegations that the president obstructed justice by interfering with the probe. 

Trump was furious with Sessions when he recused himself in the Russia probe, which enabled Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Mueller in May to investigate possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin to undermine the 2016 presidential election.

Sessions offered to resign last year because he “needed the freedom to do his job,” but the New York Times reported at the time the Trump didn’t accept the idea. 

Legal Pot in Limbo After Sessions Invites Federal Crackdown

By Steve Neavling

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has compared marijuana to heroin, blamed pot for spikes in violence and declared that “good people don’t smoke it,” just threw the blossoming  cannabis industry into chaos.

The longtime, zealous opponent of pot is rolling back Obama-era directives that discouraged federal prosecutors from busting growers and sellers in states where laws permit medicinal or recreational marijuana use.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In a memo to U.S. attorneys Thursday, Sessions told U.S. attorneys they are once again permitted to pursue marijuana prosecutions in any state because federal law prohibits the possession and sale of pot.

“It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States, and the previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission,” Sessions said in a statement. “Therefore, today’s memo on federal marijuana enforcement simply directs all U.S. Attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country.”

A total of 36 states have legalized marijuana for either medicinal or recreational use.

The impact of Sessions’ memo won’t be immediately clear because enforcement is up to the discretion of each federal prosecutor.

Trump’s Deputy AG: No Good Reason to Fire Mueller

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifying before a House committee Wednesday.

By Steve Neavling

In a powerful rebuke to Donald Trump and Republicans, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified Wednesday that he saw no good reason to fire special counsel Robert Mueller from his investigation into possible collusion between the president’s campaign and Russia.

Republicans grilled Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, following recent revelations that two FBI officials on Mueller’s team were mocking the president in text messages.

Rosenstein defended Mueller, saying he is properly overseeing the investigation and has taken action when confronted with allegations of bias on the special counsel team.

“I know what he is doing,” Rosenstein told the House Judiciary Committee. “I am not aware of any impropriety.”

Rosenstein added that he would not comply with Trump if the president ordered him to fire Mueller, unless there was “good cause” for his removal.

“As I’ve explained previously, I would follow the regulation: If there was good cause, I would act,” Rosenstein said. “If there were no good cause, I would not.”

Appointment of Second Special Counsel to Probe Clinton Could Backfire

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

By Steve Neavling

Former and current Justice Department officials are worried about the political fallout if Attorney General Jeff Sessions appoints a second special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton.

During heated testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Sessions appeared to back away from his public suggestion that he may appoint a special counsel over an Obama-era uranium company deal and recent news that Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Convention funded the salacious dossier that outlines Trump’s ties with Russia.

The appointment of a second prosecutor could stoke distrust of the Justice Department’s independence since President Trump and Republicans are looking to distract from the current special counsel investigation of the president’s associates and their ties to Russia. 

“To have the winning side exploring the possibility of prosecuting the losing side in an election — it’s un-American, and it’s grotesque,” said John Danforth, a former special counsel who investigated the FBI’s role in a violent standoff with a cult in Waco, Tex., according to the Washington Post. “The proliferation of special counsels in a political setting is very, very bad.”

Peter R. Zeidenberg, who once served as deputy special counsel in the probe of former White House aide Lewis “Scooter’’ Libby, said the appointment of a second special counsel will backfire.

I think the vast majority of people at DOJ would be completely disgusted and demoralized by it,’’ said Zeidenberg, referring to the Justice Department. “They don’t like feeling that they are political tools to be used by the president.’’

Late-Night Comedians Poke Fun at Sessions’ Selective Memory

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Wikipedia.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Wikipedia.

By Steve Neavling

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ hazy, selective memory during testimony to the House Judiciary Committee created a lot material for late-night comedians.

When asked questions about Trump’s campaign and ties to Russia, Sessions often responded, “I don’t recall.”

“There were so many meetings about collusion, I’ve got the collusion confusion. It’s like brain fever with the vapors at the same time. I do believe,” “The Late Show” Stephen Colbert said.

“I’m starting to get a little worried here. Is something wrong with Jeff Sessions? Did he get hit by a big coconut on his way into the chamber?” he added.

“The Tonight’s Show” host Jimmy Fallon joked about Sessions’ memory.

“At one point he was questioned about his stance on marijuana. You know, ’cause it’s a little odd when a guy’s anti-weed, but seems to forget every conversation he’s every had,” Fallon said.

Trevor Noah, host of the “Daily Show,” illustrated how Trump’s international policies allowed the China to become the most powerful nation in the world, surpassing the U.S.

DOJ Mulls Appointment of Special Counsel to Investigate Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department is weighing whether to appoint a special prosecutor to investigative Hillary Clinton.

In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, the department said it would look into allegations that the Clinton Foundation received donations liked to a 2010 decision by the Obama administration to permit a Russian agency to buy Uranium One.

The records came in response to a formal request from congressional Republicans for the Justice Department to investigate Clinton.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from election-related issues, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, are responsible for oversight of the prosecutors’ decision on appointing a special counsel, according to the letter.

“These senior prosecutors will report directly to the attorney general and the deputy attorney general, as appropriate, and will make recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be opened, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources, or whether any matters merit a special counsel,” Stephen E. Boyd, an assistant attorney general, said in the letter to the House Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, blasted the letter.