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Tag: special counsel

Papadopoulos’ Fiancee: Trump Lied about Ex-Aides ‘Low-Level’ Role in Campaign

George Papadopoulos’ fiance Simona Mangiante in an interview with ABC News.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

When news surfaced that Donald Trump’s former campaign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, is cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation, the president tweeted that his former aide was nothing more than a “young, low level volunteer.”

But according to Papadopoulos’ fiancee in an interview with ABC News, he played an integral role in Trump’s presidential campaign and “was constantly in touch with high-level officials int he campaign.”

If that’s true, Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about meetings with Russian officials, the inner circle of Trump’s campaign could be implicated in the expanding special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller.

The fiancee, Simona Mangiante, said Papadopoulos took orders from senior campaign officials to ”set up meetings with leaders all over the world.”

Mangiante said her fiancee is “the first domino in the Russia investigation.”

But, she added, Papadopoulos will be “on the right side of history.”

FBI Director: Trump’s Blistering Criticism of Bureau Is Offbase

Christopher Wray testifies during his confirmation hearing to become the next FBI directoru

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

FBI Director Christopher Wray vigorously defended his bureau and employees against President Trump’s histrionic rant about the bureau’s reputation.

Wray, who was nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate just four months ago, told the House Judiciary Committee that the FBI is “respected and appreciated” by its partners in foreign and domestic law enforcement. 

“The FBI I see is reflected in folks like the new class of agents I swore in in Quantico two days ago,” Wray said during his first testimony on Capitol Hill. “Hard-charging, high integrity people. People like the hostage rescue team and SWAT teams that we send out into all sorts of danger with almost no notice.”

Some Republicans grilled Comey about what they characterized as a politically driven special counsel investigation into the cozy relationship between Trump’s campaign and Russia. As an example, Republicans cited recent revelations that a top FBI official, Peter Strzok, was removed from the special counsel team for sending text messages critical of Trump.

“If you kicked everybody off of Mueller’s team who was anti-Trump, I don’t think there’d be anybody left,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. 

The hearing came just four days after Trump slammed the FBI and special counsel investigation, resorting to overwrought rhetoric. In one tweet, for example, Trump insisted the special counsel probe is the “greatest witch hunt in political history.”

Wray told the committee “there is no finer institution” than the FBI.

“We are determined to be the very best at protecting the American people and upholding the rule of law,” Wray said.

Wray, a former Justice Department official, is by no means a liberal. According to the Federal Election Commission, Wray has been an unwavering supporter of
Republican candidates, donating more than $35,000 to their campaigns.

 

Whistleblower: Flynn Pledged to End Sanctions with Russia on Trump’s Inauguration Day

Former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Donald Trump had just begun delivering his inauguration speech when his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, texted a former business associate to alert him that sections against Russia were ending and a plan was in the works to build nuclear reactors with Russian partners, a whistleblower has told Congress.

The new allegations surfaced in a letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who said the whistleblower contacted him in June.

Flynn recently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s U.S. ambassador and is said to be cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team.

Flynn’s text about new deals with Russia was sent to his business partner, Alex Copson, a managing partner of ACU Strategic Partners.

It’s just the latest revelation about links between Trump’s inner circle and Russia, which is accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential election to help Trump defeat Kremlin foe Hillary Clinton.

“During their conversation, Mr. Copson informed the whistleblower that he ‘just got this text message’ from General Flynn saying that the project was ‘good to go’ and directing Mr. Copson to contact their business colleagues to ‘let them know to put things in place’” the letter says.

Copson added, “Mike has been putting everything in place,” according to the letter. “I am going to celebrate today. This is going to make a lot of very wealthy people.”

Republicans Scrambled to Discredit Intensifying Trump-Russia Probe

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Many Republicans are scrambling to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller as the investigation into the cozy relationship between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia intensifies.

The smear campaign is taking on a new urgency after several of Trump’s campaign aides have been charged and are said to be cooperating with the special counsel team.

Republicans are seizing the opportunity following revelations that a top FBI official, Peter Strzok, was removed from the special counsel team for sending text messages critical of President Trump.

“The question really is, if Mueller was doing such a great job on investigating the Russian collusion, why could he have not found the conflict of interest within their own agency?’” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., asked at a news conference, according to the Washington Post

Sen. Chuck Grassley

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, suggested the special counsel investigation is a partisan-driven campaign designed to smear Trump.

“Strzok’s behavior and involvement in these two politically-sensitive cases raises new concerns of inappropriate political influence in the work of the FBI,” Grassley wrote in a letter to the Justice Department and FBI.

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?’”

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.

Other Stories of Interest

Baltimore Sun: Trump’s Tweetstorm Slamming FBI Rings Shallow

By Editorial Board
Baltimore Sun

It’s not every day that a sitting president savages as “in tatters” the reputation of the federal government’s top law enforcement arm, but it is a fairly common practice for those who have something to fear from police and prosecutors to attack them as biased, ineffectual or dishonest. Given that Donald Trump’s extraordinary claim that the agency’s standing is the “worst in history” came not long after his former national security adviser admitted to lying to an FBI agent about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, Americans can draw their own conclusions as to what’s going on.

Nothing much surrounding President Trump’s latest frenetic Twitter storm is especially shocking. Not Michael T. Flynn’s guilty plea. Not the prospect that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is closing in on the president’s inner circle. And certainly not Mr. Trump’s customary counter-punch strategy directed mostly at familiar targets, former FBI Director James B. Comey and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. What would have been far more surprising would have been for Mr. Trump to remain silent and not give the nation further reason to suspect that he is seeking to obstruct justice.

Perhaps the most notable moment of all came Sunday when Mr. Trump’s attorney, John Dowd, took responsibility for an especially problematic Saturday tweet in which the president admitted he knew Mr. Flynn had lied to the FBI before he fired him — which strongly suggests he knew his adviser had committed a crime when he asked Mr. Comey to go easy on him after the firing (something Mr. Comey testified to under oath before Congress). Mr. Dowd said he dictated that particular tweet and sent it to the White House social media director to be posted.

Does anyone seriously believe Mr. Dowd actually did that? Or was he just protecting his client from a criminal charge (keeping in mind that the tweet in question was one of 10 on the subject of the Russia investigation from Mr. Trump’s account)?

Also in classic Trumpian fashion, the president took a small development and blew it entirely out of context.

To read more click here.

House Republicans Pledge Contempt Charges Against FBI, DOJ

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

U.S. House Republicans are preparing to wage war against FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as the special investigation into Trump’s campaign increases in intensity.

Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and other committee Republicans are drafting a contempt of Congress resolution against the two leaders, claiming lawmakers are being stonewalled as they seek material related to probe, Bloomberg reports

The action follows media reports about FBI Agent Peter Strzok’s  removal from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team for writing text messages criticizing Trump and supporting Hillary Clinton.

Nunes said the FBI and Justice Department are refusing to fully comply with an Aug. 24 committee subpoena.

“In light of today’s press reports, we now know why Strzok was dismissed, why the FBI and DOJ refused to provide us this explanation, and at least one reason why they previously refused to make Deputy Director McCabe available to the Committee for an interview,” Nunes said.

“By hiding from Congress, and from the American people, documented political bias by a key FBI head investigator for both the Russia collusion probe and the Clinton email investigation, the FBI and DOJ engaged in a willful attempt to thwart Congress’ constitutional oversight responsibility,” he said.

Other Stories of Interest