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How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Tag: special counsel

Obstruction Case Against Trump Strengthens After He Asked Witnesses about Interviews

Donald Trump, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling

President Trump questioned two key witnesses in the special counsel probe about discussions they had with investigators, ignoring his attorneys’ advice to avoid conversations that could be considered obstruction of justice.

The New York Times reports that special counsel Robert Mueller is aware of the conversations as his team investigates growing evidence that Trump interfered in the  Russia probe.

One of those conversations was with White House counsel Don McGhan, whom Trump reportedly urged to issue a statement denying the president had asked him to  order Mueller’s dismissal. But McGhan pressed back and reminded Trump that he had asked him to order Mueller’s termination.

In another conversation, Trump grilled his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, about his interview with Mueller’s team.

Those conversations were revealed to Mueller in interviews with witnesses who considered the interactions as troublesome.

The interactions are likely to be used as further evidence that the president obstructed justice – an allegation first leveled against Trump after he fired then-FBI Director James Comey.

Mueller Probes Growing Evidence of Back-Channel Between Trump, Russia

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI

By Steve Neavling

Special counsel Robert Mueller is honing in on a secret meeting between a Trump associate and a Russian official shortly before the president’s inauguration in what increasingly looks like an effort to create a back-channel between the Kremlin and the incoming White House administration, according to a new report.

The meeting on a small island off the eastern coast of Africa was between Erik Prince, the founder of the private military contractor Blackwater USA, and an official with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Washington Post reports.

The information came from a witness who told Mueller’s team that the meeting was intended to establish future relations between Washington and Moscow.

In testimony before Congress, Prince, who’s the younger brother of Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, denied attending the meeting as a representative of the Trump administration, insisting the meet-up was part of his role as a businessman.

George Nader, a Lebanese American businessman, helped organize the meeting and shared that information during testimony before a grand jury gathering evidence as part of Mueller’s probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump continues to deny ties to the Kremlin, suggesting that allegations of collisions are a “hoax” and “witch hunt” perpetuated by Democrats and others who want to bring the president down.

Mueller’s Investigation of Trump Broadens to Influence-Peddling by Foreign Governments

Special counsel Robert Mueller. Photo via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

George Nader, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates with close ties to various associates of President Trump, is cooperating with prosecutors and testified before a grand jury last week as part of the evolving special counsel investigation of Russia’s role in the  2016 presidential election.

Nadar’s cooperation comes at a critical time for special counsel Robert Mueller, who has expanded his investigation beyond Russia’s election interference and now appears to be examining whether foreign governments funneled money to the Trump campaign to influence the president’s policies, the New York Times reports.

Nader, a frequent White House visitor and a Lebanese-American businessman who served as an adviser to the UAE’s ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, was stopped and questioned by FBI investigators after landing at Washington Dulles International Airport in January. Nader was in the U.S. to meet with Trump and his associates as part of a celebration of the president’s first year in office at Mars-a-Lago, the president’s Florida getaway estate.

Mueller’s team has questioned potential witnesses about allegations that Nader helped funnel money from the UAE to Trump’s presidential campaign to buy political influence. Foreign entities are barred from making donations to political candidates in the U.S.

Fired FBI Director Comey to Break Silence in Televised Interview

Former FBI Director James Comey.

By Steve Neavling

Former FBI Director James Comey, whom President Trump fired over “this Russian thing,” plans to break his silence in his first televised interview since his termination last year.

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos will interview Comey for a special “20/20” segment on April 15.

The former FBI boss wrote a book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies & Leadership,” that will be published earlier than planned – April 17 – because of the relevance of the topics, the publisher said.

Trump initially said he fired Comey on May 9 because of the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation in the lead-up to the election. But the president later admitted he terminated Comey because of “this Russian thing,” referring to conclusions by numerous U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the election.

Just eight days later, the Justice Department appointed Mueller, a former FBI director, to investigate Russia’s election meddling.

In testimony before lawmakers, Comey suggested he was fired after refusing Trump’s request to drop an investigation into a former campaign aide.

Comey served as the FBI director from 2013 to 2017.

Mueller Pursuing Criminal Charges Against Russians Who Stole, Spread Democrats’ Emails

FBI cyber crime agents, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

Special counsel Robert Mueller is building a criminal case against another batch of Russians who hacked and leaked information from Democrats.

The potential charges involve conspiracy, computer fraud and violations of election law, but would rely on intelligence gathered by the CIA, FBI, NSA and Homeland Security, NBC News reported, citing multiple current and former officials familiar with the investigation.

An indictment would reveal for the first time the identities of the hackers, their connection to Moscow and other details behind the theft and public disclosure of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. During the presidential campaign in July 2016, Trump even called on Russia to find and release Clinton’s emails.

One source said charges could be filed in the next few weeks or months.

Last month, Mueller charged 13 Russians and three Russian groups for waging a propaganda campaign to help Trump win.

But so far, no one has been charged with stealing e-mails and leaking them to WikiLeaks.

FBI Investigating Ivanka Trump over International Business Deal

Ivanka Trump, via Twitter

By Steve Neavling

The FBI has launched an inquiry into an international business deal involving President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, according to a new report.

Agents are focused on Ivanka Trump’s handing of negotiations and financing for Trump International Tower in Vancouver, a current U.S. official and former U.S. official familiar with the inquiry told CNN.

News of the investigation comes after numerous reports this week that the president, his son Donald Trump Jr. and his son-in-law Jared Kushner have become potential targets in the special counsel investigation that began over Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Among the reevaluations was that Robert Mueller’s legal team is scrutinizing business deals involving the president and Kushner, who is the husband of Ivanka Trump.

Kushner and Trump Jr. also are under investigation for a secret meeting with a Russian lawyer who offered “dirt” on Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign.

The Vancouver development, featuring a trademarked Ivanka Trump spa, opened in February 2017, just a month after Trump’s inauguration.

The president’s attorneys are trying to prevent him from being interviewed by Mueller for fear that Trump will lie under oath and be charged with perjury.

Trump continues to call the investigation a “witch hunt.”

CNN wrote:

The Trump Organization does not own the building. Instead, like other Trump projects, it receives licensing and marketing fees from the developer, Joo Kim Tiah. A scion of one of Malaysia’s wealthiest families, Tiah runs his family’s Canada-based development company Holborn Group. President Trump’s June financial disclosure form said the Trump Organization made more than $5 million in royalties and $21,500 in management fees from the Vancouver property.
The $360 million project, which features 147 guest rooms and 217 luxury residences, quickly became a magnet for foreign buyers.
In the case of Vancouver, it’s not clear why investigators are examining this particular deal. The timing of the deal — as one of the few Trump-branded properties to open since Trump took office — could be of interest. The flow of foreign money, either from the developer or international condo buyers, could also be sparking scrutiny.

Mueller Crosses Red Line with Intensifying Probe of Trump, Family

Donald Trump Jr. and his dad, President Trump, via Twitter

By Steve Neavling

President Trump cautioned last summer that Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference should not include scrutinizing his family’s finances.

“I think it’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia,” Trump said in July 2017

That red line clearly has been crossed after a series of recent revelations that Mueller is investigating Trump’s business dealings with Russia before his presidential run and whether Moscow had compromising information about him.

Mueller also is investigating whether Trump obstructed justice by firing then-FBI Director James Comey and by threatening to remove Attorney General Sessions and others in the administration.

Trump even reportedly discussed ways to terminate Mueller, who was appointed by the deputy attorney general after Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe.

Mueller must decide whether the president’s goal to remove officials close to the investigation was an attempt to exercise control of the probe, which could amount to obstruction of justice.

This week, NBC reported Mueller was questioning witnesses whether Trump knew about Russian hacking of Democratic emails before the discovery was made public. Trump has claimed that Russia interfering in the election is a “hoax” peddled by the “fake news” and top officials out to get him in the FBI and DOJ.

Also this week, CNN reported that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was unable to obtain a security clearance because of the Russia investigation. A day earlier, CNN reported that Mueller was investigating Kushner over his business dealings during the presidential transitions. Among the inquiries are Kushner’s contacts with Russia, China and Qatari investors.

At the center of the collusion investigation is a meeting between Kushner, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer who pledged to provide “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. 

Manafort faces trial in September after Mueller charged him with numberous counts of conspiracy, bank fraud and money laundering.

The president’s attorneys are trying to prevent him from being interviewed by Mueller for fear that Trump will lie under oath and be charged with perjury.

Trump continues to call the investigation a “witch hunt.”

Mueller’s Potential Obstruction of Justice Case Against Trump Hones in on Fiery Relationship with AG Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in November 2017.

By Steve Neavling

Donald Trump’s public humiliation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions has caught the attention of the special counsel team investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether the president obstructed justice.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is honing in on a period of time last summer when Trump reportedly met privately with his advisers to discuss replacing Sessions, whose recusal from the Russian probe has infuriated the president. To some in Trump’s inner circle, removing Sessions would make it easier to fire Mueller III, whose fate ultimately is determined by the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The authority to fire Rosenstein, a move that could help the president fire Mueller, belongs to Sessions, not Trump. 

Trump has publicly berated Sessions for recusing himself. If Sessions quit, Trump could replace him with someone willing to fire Mueller, who so far has gained indictments against four former Trump aides, a prominent attorney, 13 Russians and three Russian groups.

As Mueller builds an obstruction of justice case against the president, prosecutors are especially interested in the discussions between Trump and others about removing Sessions – a move that could be seen as an attempt to intervene in the probe, the Washington Post reported

Mueller’s team has questioned witnesses in recent months about those discussions and Trump’s state of mind in late July and early August of last year. Around the same time, Trump belittled Sessions on Twitter, calling him a “beleaguered” attorney general.

Hours before the Washington Post broke the story Wednesday about Mueller’s interest in any attempts to remove Sessions, Trump lashed out at the attorney general again on Twitter over the handling of Republican claims of misconduct in the FBI: “Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”

A little over a week ago, Trump blasted Sessions again over the president’s calls for an investigation into the Obama administration. 

Mueller was appointed on May 17, 2017, to investigate Russian interference in the election. Eight days earlier, Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey, who told Congress he rebuffed the president’s request to drop an investigation of his former campaign aide and national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has since been indicted on charges tied to the Mueller investigation.

Since then, Mueller’s team has been investigating whether the president obstructed justice by firing Comey for failing to stop a federal investigation.

On Wednesday, Sessions responded to Trump’s criticisms about the Justice Department’s handling of Republican allegations that the FBI and DOJ inappropriately obtained a surveillance warrant for Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide who was suspected of being a Russian operative.

In an unusual public statement, Sessions responded, “We have initiated the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this Department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary. As long as I am the Attorney General, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this Department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution.”