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Tag: special counsel

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.

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.

Book: Indicted Ex-Campaign Aide Told Feds Trump Encouraged Meeting with Putin

Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, via LinkedIn.

By Steve Neavling

George Papadopoulos, former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign and cooperating witness in the special counsel probe, told federal investigators that Donald Trump encouraged him to try and secure a secret meeting with Russian President Donald Trump, according to the book “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on Ametrica and the Election of Donald Trump,” by Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff and Mother Jones’ David Corn.

Papadopoulos, a 28-year-old political newcomer at the time, told Trump during a meeting on March 31, 2016, that he believed he could establish a meeting between Trump and the Russian leader.

According to the book, Trump considered the prospect “interesting” and encouraged Papadopoulos to arrange the meeting.

Papadopoulos, who agreed to cooperate with Robert Mueller’s investigation after pleading guilty in October 2017 to making false statements to the FBI, shared the information with federal prosecutors, according to the book.

The information could prove to be helpful to Mueller’s team as investigators try to determine whether Trump or anyone else from his campaign colluded with Russia to interfere it the 2016 presidential election.

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

Sex Coaches Jailed in Thailand Claim to Have Evidence of Russian Interference in Election

Russian leader Vladimir Putin

By Steve Neavling

The FBI has tried to arrange a meeting with two self-proclaimed “sex coaches” housed in a Thai jail over claims that they have information about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

FBI agents attempted to set up a meeting with Anastasia Vashukevich and Alexander Kirillov, both Belarusian citizens, but the bureau was rebuffed by Thai officials who insist only the detainees’ lawyers and family members are allowed to have access to them, CNN reported Tuesday

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok received handwritten letters last month from the women, who offered to provide evidence of Russian meddling in exchange for asylum.

The women were arrested along with other Russian-Speaking sex coaches at a seminar in Thailand last month.

Vashukevich claims to be a former mistress of a Russian oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the letter, she said she witnessed meetings between the oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, and unidentified Americans in 2016 and 2017.

Deripaska denies the affair.

Trump Mulls Hiring Clinton Impeachment Attorney As Mueller Probe Intensifies

President Trump at the White House, via the White House.

By Steve Neavling

As the special counsel investigation continues to expand into uncomfortable territory, Donald Trump has met with veteran attorney Emmet T. Flood, who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial, to join the president’s legal team.

Trump met with Flood in the Oval Office to discuss duties that would include “a day-to-day role helping the president navigate his dealings with the Justice Department,” The New York Times reports. 

While the sources said the meetings don’t necessarily reflect developments in the investigation, it does underscore Robert Mueller’s probe is far from over.

If hired, Flood would not replace Ty Cobb, who has been Trump’s lawyer throughout the investigation, the sources said.

On Sunday, Trump slammed New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman for writing the story, saying he is happy with his current legal team.

“The Failing New York Times purposely wrote a false story stating that I am unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case and am going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong,” Trump tweeted. “I am VERY happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow. They are doing a great job.”

According to the Times, Cobb has told friends he doesn’t expect to remain in his job much longer.

In addition to representing Clinton during the impeachment process, Flood represented Vice President Dick Cheney in his civil suit against CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Ex-Trump Aide Nunberg Says Special Counsel Probe Not a ‘Witch Hunt’

Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg.

By Steve Neavling

Former Donald Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg, following a string of bizarre media appearances, said the special counsel investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the president’s campaign is not a “witch hunt.”

“No, I don’t think it’s a witch hunt,” Nunberg told ABC. “It’s warranted because there’s a lot there and that’s the sad truth.”

But, he added, “I don’t believe it leads to the president.”

Nunberg said he believes may in Trump’s inner circle could be implicated, including his mentor and former Trump campaign aide Roger Stone.

“I’m very worried about him,” Nunberg said. “He’s certainly at least the subject of this investigation, in the very least he’s a subject.”

After defiantly daring Mueller to arrest him last week, Nunberg backed down from his pledge to ignore the investigation, including a subpoena to turn over records involving contacts with Trump’s inner circle.

On Friday, Nunberg met with Mueller and testified before a grand jury for more than five hours in Washington D.C.

Nunberg was fired from Trump’s campaign in August 2015 following the discovery of racially charged comments he made on Facebook.