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Tag: obstruction of justice

Attorneys in Trump-Russia Probe Believe Mueller Could Indict Trump

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

At least two lawyers representing key Donald Trump associates believe special counsel Robert Mueller may be leading the probe to a historic first – indicting a sitting president.

Legal experts have debated whether Robert Mueller has the authority to bring criminal charges against Trump, who has repeatedly been accused of obstructing justice by interfering with the investigation and those overseeing it.

But two attorneys whose clients were targeted by the widening investigation told Politico they believe Mueller may indict the president of obstruction of Justice. 

The lawyers emphasized they’re unaware of specific plans to charge Trump, but based on their legal experience, they think an obstruction of justice case wend its way through criminal court.

“If I were a betting man, I’d bet against the president,” one of the lawyers told the publication.

Even though the legal standards for indicting a president are limited, a second lawyer representing a senior Trump official said Mueller could show how seriously he’s taking the case with an indictment against the sitting president, which has ever happened in the U.S.

“It’s entirely possible that Mueller may go that route on the theory that, as an open question, it should be for the courts to decide,” the lawyer told Politico.

“Even if the indictment is dismissed, it puts maximum pressure on Congress to treat this with the independence and intellectual honesty that it will never, ever get,” the lawyer continued.

Other lawyers are skeptical that Mueller can bring charges to Trump because it likely would create major constitutional questions.

A boastful and confident Trump said last week he wanted to sit down for a face-to-face interview with Mueller’s team, but his attorneys quickly tried to prevent that encounter from happening.

Trump aides have privately expressed fears that Trump, who is often loose with the facts to fit his narratives, will perjure himself under pressure.

The special counsel investigation has so far produced indictments against four former Trump associates, two of whom have agreed to plead guilty in exchange for helping prosecutors with the case.

Trump Blasts Leadership of FBI, DOJ Today As He Plans to Release Ahead Politically Divisive Memo

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump blasted “the top leadership and investigators” of the FBI and Justice Department this morning, just hours before he is expected to publicly release a secret, much-disputed memo that alleges the two agencies abused their power to spy on one of the president former aides during the 2016 presidential election.

”The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!” Trump tweeted early Friday. 

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Monday to approve the release of the memo written by GOP staff over the objections of the Justice Department, which warned the document’s disclosure would be “extraordinarily reckless.” In a rare move Wednesday, the president’s FBI expressed “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”   

Democrats argue the unprecedented release of confidential material by Republicans is a part of a misleading and desperate effort to undermine the special counsel investigation of Trump, his former and current aides and Russian officials who interfered with the U.S. election.

Even Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan warned GOP members to resist exaggerating the memo’s findings and not to use it to undermine the Robert Mueller investigation, which so far has indicted four former Trump aides.

But it appears, especially from Trump’s tweet this morning, that the president and his allies plan to weaponize the politically divisive memo as part of a larger campaign to erode trust in the intelligence agencies overseeing the Mueller probe, which now is focusing on whether the president obstructed justice by trying to fire or silence top members of the FBI and Justice Department.

Trump’s Attorneys Are Resisting Mueller’s plans to Interview the President

President Trump, via White House.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Just a week after a defiant and confident Donald Trump said he was “looking forward” to testifying in the special counsel’s investigation into the possibility that he obstructed justice, his attorneys are now saying Robert Mueller has not met the high threshold for an interview with the president.

CNN, citing people familiar with the ongoing deliberations, Trump’s lawyers don’t want the president to sit down for an interview. 

To meet the threshold for an interview, Trump’s attorneys said Mueller must demonstrate that the president is the only person who can provide them with information they are seeking.

But Trump’s attorneys don’t get the final say. Mueller could force an interview through a grand jury subpoena, which could lead to a protracted legal battle.

Trump’s aides privately worry that the president could perjure himself in an interview.

Trump Pressed Aides to Smear FBI Officials Who May Testify against Him

President Trump, via White House

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump urged aides in June to launch a smear campaign against senior FBI officials after learning that members of his staff likely would be called as witnesses as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible obstruction of justice by the president.

Trump’s appeal to his aides came after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee last June that he was fired by the president after declining Trump’s request to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Foreign Policy reports

If true, it could strengthen Mueller’s case that Trump obstructed justice.

According to Foreign Policy, Trump targeted three potential FBI witnesses who could confirm the president tried to influence Mueller’s investigation. The FBI officials are Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Comey’s chief of staff Jim Rybicki and former FBI general counsel James Baker.

The president and his allies have spent months attacking the three FBI officials and claiming the bureau is tainted by an anti-Trump bias.

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.

Is Trump Immune from Obstruction of Justice Charges? It’s Complicated, Legal Observers Say

Donald Trump

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Donald Trump’s personal lawyer brazenly declared the president “cannot obstruct justice” because he’s the “chief law enforcement officer.”

Citing the executive powers in the U.S. Constitution, Trump’s attorney John Dowd said the president “has every right to express his view of any case.”

Dowd didn’t elaborate, but his position drew comparisons to Richard Nixon’s infamous remarks in 1977: “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

Dowd’s position that Trump is legally incapable of obstructing justice  came two days after the president’s explosive admission that he knew his then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI. It’s a felony to lie the FBI. 

Many legal experts believe Trump’s admission that he knew of the alleged crime bolsters special counsel Robert Mueller’s case that the president intended to quash a legitimate criminal investigation by urging then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the case against Flynn. When Comey refused, he told investigators that Trump fired him.

Trump fired Comey, leading to claims that the president obstructed justice, a felony punishable by prison time.

But can a president be criminally charged with obstruction of justice?

Legal scholars are deeply divided on the issue, but virtually all agree that Trump, if guilty, could be impeached by Congress on the obstruction of justice charges.

Just look at Nixon and former President Bill Clinton, both of whom were accused of obstruction of justice and were impeached, but never criminally charged.

“No one in the judiciary committees during the Clinton and Nixon cases ever claimed that the president is incapable of obstructing justice,” constitutional scholar Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of Law told ABC.

Former President Nixon

Gerhardt insists the president isn’t above the law and said it’s “absurd” to claim that Trump couldn’t be criminally charged for obstruction of justice.

Blanket Immunity

Peter Zeidenberg, a lawyer who focuses on white collar and investigations, agrees, saying blanket immunity for a president would mean he could lie to prosecutors, destroy evidence and violate other laws.

“That assertion would literally mean that the president is above the law,” Zeidenberg told Politico.

Eugene Kontorovich, professor at Northwestern University School of Law, said it’s possible that a president’s action could constitute obstruction of justice, but added that the president may direct “inferior officers,” such as Comey, because Trump is the president of the supreme law.

“Offering advice on prosecutorial discretion cannot amount to obstruction,” Kontorovich told Politico. 

Noting the law is very unclear and has no precedent in a criminal proceeding, some legal experts said the authority to determine whether a president committed obstruction of justice belongs to the U.S. House of Representatives, which has impeachment powers.

For that reason, some legal scholars said the best way to handle obstruction of justice is through the impeachment process, not through the legal system.

“The task of determining whether Trump acted improperly ultimately falls to the House,” John Culhane, professor at Widener University Delaware Law School, told Politico.

But Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, who focuses on constitutional law, insisted Trump cannot commit obstruction of justice by “exercising his constitutional power” to terminate employees and control appointees.

“I think if Congress ever were to charge him with obstruction of justice for exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, we’d have a constitutional crisis,” Dershowitz told ABC News. “You cannot charge a president with obstruction of justice for exercising his constitutional power.” 

Others disagree, saying the president is required to follow the law like any American citizen.

“We have a president, not a king,” said Sam Berger, senior policy adviser at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “No one is above the law, whether it be Trump or any of his close associates. It’s the sort of desperate claim that makes you wonder, ‘What exactly are they hiding?’”

Trump Lawyer Asks Reporter If She’s on Drugs for Asking about Trump’s Termination Letter to Comey

James Comey testifies about President Trump before a Senate committee.

James Comey testifies about President Trump before a Senate committee.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

White House special counsel Ty Cobb questioned whether a reporter was on drugs for asking why the president didn’t send his letter notifying James Comey that he was being fired as FBI director.

The unprofessional question came in an email exchange between Cobb and Business Insider’s Natasha Bertrand, who wrote a story about how the letter may be used as evidence in the obstruction of justice case against President Trump. 

Cobb declined to say why the letter was never sent to Comey and asked Bertrand, “Are you on drugs?”

Bertrand shared the exchange on Twitter.

“Cobb supposedly has a great reputation and is a very respected lawyer,” Bertrand told HuffPost. “He was brought in to bring some discipline to the whole operation. So I wasn’t expecting that response to what I thought was a pretty basic question.”