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Tag: Robert Mueller

Trump’s Defiance of Legal Team Prompts Departure of Top Lawyer in Special Counsel Probe

Trump’s former lead attorney John Dowd.

By Steve Neavling

Donald Trump’s lead lawyer for the special counsel investigation resigned Thursday, just days after the president escalated his high-stakes campaign to discredit federal investigators and called for an end to the 10-month probe.

Dowd had become increasingly frustrated with the president for ignoring his legal advice and had considered leaving for several months, the New York Times and other media outlets reported.

Until this weekend, the president had heeded his legal team’s advice to refrain from criticizing special counsel Robert Mueller. But a day after the controversial firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on Friday, Trump unleashed a series of hyperbolic, misleading and inflammatory tweets, some of which for the first time took aim at Mueller and his investigation. 

In a written statement to the media, Dowd did not indicate why he left.

“I love the President and I wish him well,” Dowd said in a written statement.

Trump, who has discounted recent reports of turbulence in his legal team as “fake news,” added conspiracy theorist and longtime Washington D.C. lawyer Joseph diGenova to his legal team.

“John Dowd is a friend and has been a valuable member of our legal team,” Sekulow said in a statement to The Hill. “We will continue our ongoing representation of the president and our cooperation with the office of the special counsel.”

FBI Investigated AG Sessions for Perjury After Failing to Disclose Russia Ties

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was grilled by a congressional committee for failing to disclose his contacts with Russia.

By Steve Neavling

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe just two days before he was set to retire with full benefits last week, Sessions’ justification was for what he described as McCabe’s “lack of candor” in dealing with an internal Justice Department investigation.

But it turns out, McCabe authorized a criminal FBI investigation a year ago into Sessions’ own lack of candor when he told Congress he had no contacts with Russians – a claim he later acknowledged wasn’t true, ABC News reported Wednesday evening. And that’s what prompted Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, a move that has incensed President Trump because the decision to appoint special counsel Robert Mueller now fell to Sessions’ deputy attorney general.

The discovery that Sessions was under investigation for perjury – essentially the same allegations leveled against McCabe – raises serious questions about Sessions’ ability to lead fair and impartial probes as the nation’s top prosecutor. It also raises questions about whether Sessions’ firing of McCabe was an act of retaliation or even a way to remove a top FBI official who has become a key witness in Mueller’s obstruction of justice case against Trump following the president’s firing of then-FBI Director James Comey.

McCabe kept extensive notes of his interactions with Trump, was among a few FBI officials whom Comey briefed on the president’s alleged pressure to end the Russia investigation and met with Mueller about the obstruction of justice case against Trump.

Soon after Sessions fired him on Friday, McCabe bluntly asserted that his termination was an attempt to undermine the special counsel investigation of Trump.

Sessions’ lawyer, Chuck Cooper, told the New York Times on Wednesday that the attorney general is no longer under investigation.

“The special counsel’s office has informed me that after interviewing the attorney general and conducting additional investigation, the attorney general is not under investigation for false statements or perjury in his confirmation hearing testimony and related written submissions to Congress,” Cooper said in a statement.

USA Today: ‘Shamefully Silent’ Republicans Must Protect Mueller with Veto-Proof Bill

President Trump, via the White House.

By Steve Neavling

Donald Trump’s “threatening” rhetoric and “brooding instincts” to fire special counsel Robert Mueller should be reason enough for law-and-order Republicans to join Democrats in passing legislation to prevent the president from pulling the plug on the investigation, USA Today argued in an editorial Wednesday. 

“Most Republicans have been shamefully silent about this prospect, made more plausible in recent days by Trump castigating Mueller by name for the first time,” the politically moderate editorial board wrote.

The USA Today argues that it’s not enough that some Republicans are suggesting they would impeach Trump if he fires Mueller. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for example, said it “would be the beginning of the end of his presidency.”

“But can we be sure about that?” the newspaper wrote. “Would a GOP-led Congress that can barely agree on short-term government funding coalesce around the monumental and inevitably partisan task of impeachment?”

The USA Today wrote that Trump would give “contrived” reasons for orchestrating Mueller’s firing and “concocted logic might be enough for die-hard Trump supporters in the House to sway squeamish colleagues into blocking impeachment.”

“Given the stakes, it’s not enough for GOP lawmakers to speak up in support of Mueller, a highly respected Republican, former FBI director and decorated Marine,” the editorial reads. “They also have a duty to safeguard his inquiry. Two bipartisan measures, pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee, would protect him. Both provide judicial review of any termination’s legitimacy. One would challenge the firing before it’s carried out, the other afterward.”

The editorial adds: Pass one of them now, by a veto-proof margin, before it’s too late. 

Trump Hires Conspiracy Theorist to Join Legal Team Involved in Mueller Probe

Attorney Joseph E. diGenova

By Steve Neavling

Donald Trump, who has escalated his high-stakes campaign to discredit U.S. intelligence officials involved in the special counsel investigation, hired a tenacious, longtime Washington lawyer who has peddled a conspiracy theory that the FBI and Justice Department framed the president.

Joseph E. diGenova, a former Ronald Reagan-era U.S. attorney, will join the president’s legal team as an outspoken voice for Trump, but he won’t be taking a leading role role, the New York Times reports.

“Former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Joe DiGenova will be joining our legal team later this week,” said Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s personal lawyers. “I have worked with Joe for many years and have full confidence that he will be a great asset in our representation of the President.”

DiGenova has claimed that a secretive group of FBI agents and Justice Department officials fabricated the Russia investigation to hurt Trump’s chances of winning the 2016 presidential election.

“There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime,” he said on Fox News in January.

DiGenova added, “Make no mistake about it: A group of F.B.I. and D.O.J. people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime.”

DiGenova has been unable to provide evidence to substantiate the far-fetched plot.   

Trump, who had avoided referring to special counsel Robert Mueller on the advice of his lawyers, slammed the investigation on Monday as a “total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!”

On Sunday, Trump falsely claimed on Twitter that Mueller’s team has “12 hardened Democrats, big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans.”

Mueller is a registered Republican who was appointed by Republican Deputy Attorney General Jay Rosenstein after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who also is a Republican.

Trump stepped up his assault against the FBI and Justice Department following a spate of recent news that Mueller’s team has expanded its investigation to examine the business dealings of the president and his family.

So far, Mueller has indicted at least 19 people and three companies as part of its evolving investigation that began with allegations that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.

Republicans Warn Trump of Impeachment If He Fires Mueller Or Interferes in Probe

Sen. Lindsey Graham

By Steve Neavling

Donald Trump’s escalating assault on the FBI, Justice Department and the special counsel team now pursing an obstruction of justice case against the president drew strong warnings from Republicans who are worried about Trump’s next move.

The president ramped up his rhetoric against federal law enforcement leaders and for the first time targeted special counsel Robert Mueller in a string of inflammatory and often misleading tweets over the weekend that have raised concerns that Trump may be setting the stage for Mueller’s termination.

Those concerns were heightened when Trump’s attorney John Dowd, who had refrained from criticizing Mueller in the past, said Saturday he prays Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will “bring an end” to Mueller’s 10-month investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina warned that any attempts to fire Mueller would trigger impeachment proceedings against the president, who is accused of obstructing justice with the termination of former FBI Director James Comey.

“If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency because we’re a rule-of-law nation,” Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Trump made a series of misleading, bold claims against the FBI, Justice Department and Mueller’s team, repeating his assertion that the investigation is a “witch hunt,” despite the special counsel netting indictments against at least 19 people and three companies so far.

Republicans warned Sunday of serious consequence if Trump refuses to cooperate with Mueller’s team.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, pledged “a very, very long, bad 2018” if Trump tries to interfere in the probe. Gowdy also questioned why Trump’s attorney called for the end of the investigation that is rooting out Russians who “attacked our country.”

On “Fox News Sunday,” Gowdy said Trump’s attorney should have nothing to worry about if the president is innocent.

“If you’ve done nothing wrong, you should want the investigation to be as fulsome and thorough as possible,” Gowdy said.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he did not like how Trump’s administration handled the termination of McCabe, and he defended Mueller’s investigation. 

“I remain confident that the special counsel is going to conduct a probe that is fair and thorough and is going to arrive at the truth and is not going to go down rabbit holes that are not places that we need to be going,” Rubio said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Trump’s White House attorney, Ty Cobb, released a statement later Sunday, saying the president isn’t planning to interfere in the special counsel investigation.

“In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the administration, the White House yet again confirms that the president is not considering or discussing the firing of the special counsel, Robert Mueller,” Cobb said.

FBI’s McCabe Says His Firing Friday Was Designed to Undermine Special Counsel Probe of Trump

Fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe

By Steve Neavling

Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on Friday night, a little more than 24 hours before he was set to retire with full benefits.

McCabe, who spent more than 20 years with the bureau, quickly responded, saying he “was singled out” because he’s a key witness in the obstruction of justice case centered around President Trump’s termination of then-FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.

“Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey,” McCabe said in a statement.

McCabe is among three FBI officials who have corroborated Comey’s claim that the president demanded his loyalty and pressured him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. 

All three have since been forced out or reassigned.

In a statement Friday night, Sessions defended McCabe’s termination, saying it was based on findings by both the Justice Department’s internal watchdog and the FBI office that handles disciplines. According to their yet-to-be-released reports, “Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions.”

McCabe, whose pension is in jeopardy, denied misleading investigators and said in a statement that the accusations are “part of an unprecedented effort by the Administration, driven by the President himself, to remove me from my position, destroy my reputation, and possibly strip me of a pension that I worked 21 years to earn.”

President Trump’s Business Empire Targeted in Special Counsel Probe of Russian Interference

Trump Tower in New York City.

By Steve Neavling

The special counsel team investigating Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for business documents, some of which are related to Russia, the New York Times first reported Thursday.

The subpoena is the first known legal action taken against one of Trump’s businesses as part of a quickly evolving investigation that began with the appointment of Robert Mueller, a former FBI boss, and has so far netted more than 100 combined charges against 19 people and three companies.

The probe now has three major focuses: Did Trump’s campaign collude with Russia to undermine the presidential election? Did the president or his advisers obstruct justice to interfere with the investigation? And did Trump or any of his family members reach international business deals made in exchange for favors from the White House?

The news comes less than a week after Republicans on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee concluded there was no evidence of collusion with Russia, even though lawmakers failed to interview key witnesses who have been charged and are cooperating with Mueller. Trump boasted that the conclusion, made without any feedback from Democrats, was proof he did nothing wrong. 

The Trump Organization said it began cooperating with special counsel in July 2017 and has nothing to hide.

“Since July 2017, we have advised the public that the Trump Organization is fully cooperative with all investigations, including the special counsel, and is responding to their requests,” said Alan S. Futerfas, a lawyer representing the Trump Organization. “This is old news and our assistance and cooperation with the various investigations remains the same today.”

Trump continues to  denounce the investigation as a fruitless “witch hunt” by top intelligence officials who want him out of the White House.

Manafort Seeks Dismissal of Charges, Arguing Mueller Overstepped His Authority

Ex-Trump campaign leader Paul Manafort.

By Steve Neavling

President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is facing up to 305 years in prison, urged a federal judge Wednesday to dismiss the charges against him because they exceed the legal authority of the special counsel appointed to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In a motion to dismiss the charges, Manafort’s attorneys argued the alleged crimes predate Manafort’s involvement in the Trump campaign and therefore fall outside of the jurisdiction of special counsel Robert Mueller.

His attorneys contend Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein overstepped his authority by giving Mueller permission to prosecute any unrelated crimes that are discovered during the investigation of Russia.

“It is a blank check the special counsel has cashed, repeatedly,” Manafort’s filing read.

Manafort made a similar argument for a separate batch of charges file against him by the special counsel team.

Unless Manafort strikes a deal with prosecutors, the former high-paid political consultant is on track to become the first person to be tried in connection with Robert Mueller’s investigation

Manafort’s longtime business partner, Rick Gates, is among three former Trump aides who have pleaded guilty to assortment of charges and have agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s team of prosecutors. Gates, who also served on Trump’s campaign, is expected to provide information about crimes he said he and Manafort committed as business partners.

Gates and Manafort were both charged with multiple counts of conspiracy, tax fraud and money laundering stemming from lobbying and consulting work related to Ukrainian politicians who are strong allies of Russia.