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Tag: special counsel

What Happens to Mueller’s Trump-Russia Probe Under a Government Shutdown?

Special counsel Robert Mueller

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

If the U.S. Senate can’t avert a government shutdown by ending a spending impasse by midnight Friday, the special counsel investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia won’t be impacted, according to the Justice Department.

That’s because all employees working on the special counsel probe are exempt from furlough since their paychecks don’t come from annual appropriations.

“All employees with the Special Counsel’s Office are considered exempt and would continue their operations in the case of a lapse in appropriations,” Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior told The Hill

Late Thursday, the U.S. House approved a short-term extension on government funding to allow the Senate an opportunity to reach an agreement by midnight to avert a shutdown.

But many Democrats emphatically pledged to reject the GOP plan without concessions that would prevent the deportation of younger immigrants who were brought to the country illegally.

Although Republicans have a majority in the Senate, the funding bill requires 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster.

Bannon Issued Subpoena to Testify Before Grand Jury in Trump-Russia Probe

Steve Bannon

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Steve Bannon, the former White House chief adviser to President Trump, has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury as part of the special counsel investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump associates.

The issuance of a subpoena, which compels testimony from Bannon, was a rare move by special counsel Robert Mueller, who has been interviewing dozens of former and current Trump officials in more informal settings that don’t require a subpoena, the New York Times reports

A notable exception was Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafot, who was subpoenaed and later indicted on various federal charges, including money laundering.

Why Mueller opted to subpoena Bannon, who joined the Trump campaign team in August 2016, is open to speculation.

On Tuesday, Bannon testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

Bannon was subpoenaed last week, just days after the release of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” an explosive book in which Bannon raised serious legal questions about a June 2016 meeting at the Trump Tower between the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and a Russian lawyer who reportedly offered to release compromising information about presidential rival Hillary Clinton.

Bannon, who was in the campaign’s inner circle when most of the alleged collusion with Russia took place, also predicted the special counsel probe is far from over and will focus on money laundering. 

“By forcing someone to testify through a subpoena, you are providing the witness with cover because they can say, ‘I had no choice — I had to go in and testify about everything I knew,’” said Solomon L. Wisenberg, a prosecutor for the independent counsel that investigated Bill Clinton when he was president.

Bloomberg: Mueller Comes Under Unfair, Partisan Attacks over Russia-Trump Probe

Special counsel Robert Mueller

By Editorial Board
Bloomberg

Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election is coming under growing attack from those most blinded by partisanship and — in the case of the White House — self-interest. Their motivations do not automatically render them wrong. A dispassionate review of the facts, however, does.

Their assaults fall into three main categories. The first two are easily rebuffed. The third lands a punch — but not the knockout blow they seek.

•    Discrediting Mueller. When President George W. Bush nominated Mueller, a fellow Republican, to lead the FBI in 2001, the Senate confirmed him by a unanimous vote. After he served his 10-year term, President Barack Obama gave him a two-year extension — and Senate support was again unanimous. Few people in Washington serving at the highest level of government can equal Mueller’s reputation for integrity and independence.

Yet critics charge that Mueller is somehow compromised by his longstanding relationship with James Comey, his former deputy and successor at the FBI, who initiated the Russia investigation. Republicans have had a hatelovehate relationship with Comey over the past two years, which says more about them than it does about him. Whatever one may think of how he handled his job, there is no evidence suggesting that Mueller is being influenced by him — or anyone else — in any way.

•    Discrediting Mueller’s work. Critics also charge that Mueller’s team is on a fishing expedition that has found no evidence the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election –and thus should be shut down. They often cite the indictment of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, whose charges concern not his campaign activities but his work for a pro-Russian government in Ukraine.

But — leaving aside the seriousness of those charges — Mueller’s mandate is to investigate not only Russian interference in the campaign, including any collusion, but also “any matters that arose or may arise” from the investigation. Manafort’s actions certainly qualify, as do the lies of two campaign officials (both of whom have already pleaded guilty) about their contacts with Russia.

It’s reasonable to expect Mueller to conclude the investigation in a timely fashion. But Congress cannot permit the White House to short-circuit his work.

To read more click here. 

Trump’s Attorneys Hope to Prevent Mueller from Interviewing the President

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s attorneys are seeking potential alternatives to avoid a sit-down interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into Trump’s campaign and Russian election meddling. 

Among the alternatives under consideration are written responses to questions and “an affidavit signed by the president affirming he was innocent of any wrongdoing and denying any collusion,” NBC News reports.

Trump’s attorneys also are trying determine whether Mueller wants a direct interview, the legal standards for interviewing a president, the location of a possible interview, the duration and the topics.

Since the special counsel investigation began with the appointment of Mueller in May, four people formerly in Trump’s inner circle have been indicted, and two have pleaded guilty in exchange for cooperating with authorities.

But veterans of the Justice Department are skeptical Mueller would forgo the chance to interview the president directly.

“Prosecutors want to see and hear folks in person,” said Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and chief of staff to FBI Director Comey. “They want to probe and follow up. Body language and tone are important,” said Rosenberg, now an NBC News analyst. “And they want answers directly from witnesses, not from their lawyers. The odds of prosecutors agreeing to written responses are somewhere between infinitesimally small and zero.”

Book: High-Level Trump Officials Believe He Won’t Survive First Term

President Trump, via White House

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Many of President Trump’s high-level staff members believe the special counsel’s Russia investigation will lead to his resignation or impeachment before his first term is over, according to the new explosive book on the White House and presidential campaign.

Journalist and author Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” which was released Friday, claims insiders were dumbfounded by the president’s “inability to grasp how much Mueller had on him and his family,” GQ reports

Whatever the substance of the Russia ‘collusion,’ Trump, in the estimation of his senior staff, did not have the discipline to navigate a tough investigation, nor the credibility to attract the caliber of lawyers he would need to help him,” Wolff wrote. According to the book, Trump’s White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told colleagues that the president has a one-in-three chance of surviving his first full term.

Wolff wrote, “Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions. It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories—now it was within 10 minutes. Indeed, many of his tweets were the product of his repetitions—he just couldn’t stop saying something.”

Trump Lobbied AG Sessions Not to Recuse Himself from Russia Probe

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before Congress about contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump instructed his White House attorney to urge Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the probe into alleged collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign, is aware of the president’s instructions to White House lawyer Donald F. McGahn, the New York Times and Associated Press report

The pair had a discussion just before Sessions announced he was stepping aside because of conflict-of-interest concerns, leaving the issue to his deputy, Rod Rosenstein.

About two months later, in May, Trump fired his FBI director James Comey, who claimed the president pressured him to drop the investigation. That prompted Rosenstein to appoint Mueller to lead the probe, following mounting allegations that Trump was trying to obstruct justice.

News that the president tried to prevent his attorney general from recusing himself raises more questions about whether Trump was trying to influence the election.

Trump Fires Back at Bannon with Cease-And-Desist Letter

Steve Bannon, via Twitter

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to former White House chief adviser Steve Bannon, claiming he violated a non-disclosure agreement signed as part of working on Trump’s campaign.

ABC reports the letter orders Bannon to refrain from making disparaging comments about Trump or his family. 

The notice was sent on the same day that excerpts of a new book about the Trump campaign and administration were revealed in the Guardian. Bannon, who was forced out of the White House after seven months on the job, mocked Trump, his family and the campaign’s inner circle, accusing some of them of breaking the law.

“You have breached the Agreement by, among other things, communicating with author Michael Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company [the Trump campaign], disclosing Confidential Information to Mr. Wolff, and making disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements to Mr. Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members,” Trump attorney Charles Harder wrote.

In the excerpts, Bannon said it was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” for Trump’s son Donald Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort to meet with a Russian lawyer at the Trump Tower during the 2016 election. Bannon also suggested there was “zero” chance Trump was not aware of the meeting.

Allegations that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the presidential allegations prompted the appointment of a special counsel, Robert Mueller, in May. Since then, four members of Trump’s inner circle have been indicted – and two have already pleaded guilty and plan to cooperate with the special counsel’s team.

Trump Allies: Mueller’s Grand Jury Is Unfair Because It’s Predominately Black

File photo of President Trump protesters in Ypsilanti, Mi. Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The sputtering campaign to discredit the Trump-Russia investigation opened up a new line of attack – the demographics of the grand jury charged with handing down indictments for Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

An unnamed Trump associate and witness who “recently testified” grumbled to a New York Post columnist that the grand jury was mostly African American and looked like “a Black Lives Matter rally.” 

The only white man in the room was a prosecutor.

“The grand jury room looks like a Bernie Sanders rally,” the source said. “Maybe they found these jurors in central casting, or at a Black Lives Matter rally in Berkeley.”

Eleven of the 2o jurors are black and two were wearing “peace T-shirts,” making it impossible for Trump to get “a fair shake,” the witness complained.

Following the New York Post column, Fox & Friends c0-host Brian Kilmeade joined the attack.

The grand jury is “not even emblematic of something that might be, perhaps, demographically pursuing justice,” Kilmeade said.

The demographic makeup should be no surprise. The grand jury meets Fridays in Washington D.C., where nearly half of the residents are black.

Since Mueller impaneled the grand jury in August, it has handed down indictments against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner Richard Gates on charges of money laundering and conspiracy and failing to register as foreign agents.

As the investigation intensifies, so too do the attacks. Trump has referred to the probe as a political “witch hunt.”