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Tag: james comey

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.

Special Counsel Probe Closes in on Trump After 8 Months of Interviews

President Trump, via White House.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An eight-month special counsel probe into ties between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian officials has hit a critical stage as investigators close in on the president over allegations of obstruction of justice and collusion with an adversarial country.

Special counsel Robert Mueller and his legal team plan to soon question Trump in what could carry enormous consequences for the presidency and the country.

Since May, Mueller’s team has already interviewed more than 20 White House employees, and legal analysts believe, based on those meetings, that Mueller is pursuing obstruction of justice charges against Trump for allegedly firing his FBI director James Comey for refusing to drop an investigation into the president’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

But legal experts are growing skeptical that Mueller’s team has enough evidence to charge Trump with colluding with Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

It’s unknown whether the special counsel team is pursuing other charges against the president.

Trump has repeatedly dismissed the investigation as a “witch hunt” and accused the FBI’s leadership of conspiring to bring him down.

On Wednesday, Trump said in an impromptu press conference that he “looks forward” to the special counsel investigation, insisting he did nothing wrong.

GOP Lawmakers Push for Comey to Testify in Clinton Probe

Former FBI Director James Comey

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

GOP lawmakers are trying to beat the drum louder on the probe into the FBI Hillary Clinton investigation.

House Republicans are preparing to ask former FBI Director James Comey to testify as part of the Republican-led probe into the FBI and Justice Department handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, CNN reports, noting:

Comey’s testimony, if he appeared, would raise the stakes of the joint Judiciary and Oversight Committee investigation into the decision not to charge the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee over classified emails on her private server — and the rare step for Comey to publicly announce Clinton would not be charged — as the probe has become a proxy battle on Capitol Hill between Democrats and Republicans over special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

 “I think that would be essential,” says Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican.  We’re going to have to find out from James Comey why the normal procedures were ignored in this case.”

Trump Accuses ‘Deep State’ DOJ of Ignoring Clinton Aide Huma Abedin

President Trump

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s attacks on his intelligence agencies continued Tuesday morning when he suggested the Justice Department is part of the “deep state” that “must finally act” to jail Huma Abedin, a top Hillary Clinton aide.

“Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents. Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act? Also on Comey & others,” Trump tweeted.

Huma Abedin, via Wikipedia

Trump’s “deep state” comment suggests the Justice Department is composed of powerful interests working to undermine him.

Trump appears to be referring to reports that Abedin forwarded e-mails from her Yahoo account that included passwords to government systems. Millions of Yahoo accounts were hacked.

Ethics Lawyers: Trump’s Tweets May Amount to Witness Intimidation

President Trump

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s persistent and stubborn Twitter attacks may finally land him in hot water.

Several legal experts said Trump’s drumbeat of criticism of the FBI may amount to witness intimidation.

In less than a week, Trump slammed former FBI Director James Comey, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and outgoing FBI general counsel James Baker.

In a tweet on Saturday, Trump blasted Comey for helping leak a memo to a reporter. The president also claimed that McCabe’s wife’s state Senate campaign received $700,000 from “puppets” of Hillary Clinton.

On Sunday, Trump suggested that McCabe used “his FBI Official Email Account to promote (his wife’s) campaign. You obviously cannot do this.”

Richard Painter, the top ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, said the president is making special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation easier.

Newsweek wrote:

The FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller are investigating Trump’s 2016 campaign, including whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey in May—and it’s possible that Comey, McCabe and Baker could be witnesses in that probe. Comey has already testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, in June, and McCabe met with the House Intelligence Committee on December 19. Both committees are overseeing their own investigations into Russia’s election meddling and possible coordination with the Trump campaign. On December 21, McCabe also met with members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Judiciary Committee.

Norm Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and special assistant for ethics and government reform for former President Barack Obama, said Trump is at risk of “witness tampering charges.”

Deputy FBI Director Testifies Comey Told him about Trump’s Loyalty Pledge

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testifies before Congress.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testified before a congressional committee that his then-boss James Comey told him about President Trump’s loyalty pledge.

McCabe’s told the House Intelligence Committee that Comey said he was pressured by President Trump to stop investigating the Russia scandal, CNN reports

Comey refused, and Trump fired the FBI director, prompting allegations that the president obstructed justice. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is investigating the firing as part of a broader probe into the relationship between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

McCabe testified for nearly eight hours this week.

New Poll: Majority of Voters Believe Mueller Has ‘Conflict of Interest’

Robert Mueller, via FBI

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A majority of voters polled by a new survey believe Special Counsel Robert Mueller has a “conflict of interest” in the investigation into Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign

The Harvard CAPS-Harris survey found that 54% of polled voters believe that Mueller’s relationship with fired FBI Director James Comey represents a conflict of interest.

Of those who believed there was a conflict of interest, 70% were Republicans, 53% were Independents and 40% were Democrats.

When Mueller retired, he was replaced with Comey. Although the extent of their relationship is unclear, the pair worked together and both threatened to resign over domestic surveillance issues under President George W. Bush.

Ousted Member of Russia-Trump Probe May Have Saved Clinton from Charges

Hillary Clinton

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

In what could become a distracting setback to the credibility of the Trump-Russia investigation, the FBI agent who was removed from the special counsel probe for mocking the president altered the language used to describe Hilary Clinton’s actions in the email inquiry last year.

Peter Strzok’s change in the original writing, which was by then-FBI Director James Comey, was significant and may have helped Clinton avoid charges, legal observers told CNN

Strzok, a former top counterintelligence expert at the FBI, altered Comey’s earlier draft language, from “gross negligence” to “extremely careless.”

Several people were involved with the decision to change the language, a U.S. officials familiar with the matter said. The change in language carries significant legal implications because federal law makes it a crime to mishandle classified material in a grossly negligent way.

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