Category Archives: Ethics

Robert Mueller III appointed special counsel in Russia probe

When he was confirmed as deputy attorney general and became the acting attorney general for purposes of the Trump-Putin campaign investigation, Rod Rosenstein said he sees no need for a special prosecutor in Russia probe: “One source says Rosenstein isn’t inclined to make a change unless the FBI investigation appears to be imperiled.”

That was before Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and threw Rod Rosenstein under the bus by initially (falsely) asserting that he was acting on the recommendations of a memo prepared by Rosenstein. Trump blames everyone but himself for his problems. The Justice Department just blamed him. The Justice Department tacity admitted that:

[Trump] had badly damaged the credibility of the FBI’s Russia investigation by announcing the probe would now be handled by a special counsel, former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III.

The bombshell revelation represents a startling admission of fault for the administration — if not the White House directly. This was a Justice Department decision about which the White House reportedly learned shortly before it was announced.

“What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command,” Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement.

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What the Trump administration knew about Michael Flynn, and when they knew it

I have said from the beginning the White House cover story that Gen. Michael Flynn was fired for “misleading” Trump transition team chairman Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia and his being an undisclosed foreign lobbyist for Turkey smelled to high heaven of bullshit.

Then acting attorney general Sally Yates notified White House counsel that Flynn was under investigation by the FBI, and the White House did nothing for 18 days. It only became an issue after the Washington Post reported the story. If not reported by the media, Flynn would still be in his job.

Now we learn that the Trump transition team was informed by Gen. Michael Flynn himself that he was under investigation by the FBI even before Donald Trump named him as his mational securty adviser.

There is no credible scenario in which Vice President Mike Pence,  the Trump transition team chairman, was not also fully apprised of the facts by Trump transition team lawyers. Both Trump and Pence knowingly hired a man they knew was under investigation by the FBI and was compromised by his foreign entanglements. Mike Pence has some splainin’ to do under oath.

The New York Times reports that the Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House:

Michael T. Flynn told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.

Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies.

Mr. Flynn’s disclosure, on Jan. 4, was first made to the transition team’s chief lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, who is now the White House counsel. That conversation, and another one two days later between Mr. Flynn’s lawyer and transition lawyers, shows that the Trump team knew about the investigation of Mr. Flynn far earlier than has been previously reported.

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Trump sharing ‘highly classified’ intel with Russians jeopardizes Israeli intelligence

Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russians, in the oval office no less, and his Tea-Publican supporters who chanted “lock her up!” over the mere possibility that Hillary Clinton’s emails may have been intercepted by hackers or foreign goverments (there is no evidence this occurred), respond to Trump’s gratuitous sharing of highly classified intelligence with his Russian handlers with a ‘Seriously? This is Not News’:

President Trump disclosed highly classified intelligence to Russian officials in a meeting last week, a government official said on Monday. The disclosure was not illegal, since presidents have the power to declassify nearly anything, but the sharing of sensitive intelligence provided by Israel, one of the United States’ most important allies in the Middle East, was disclosed without their permission.

Mr. Trump defended his disclosure on Twitter, saying it was his “absolute right” to do so.

Actually, it’s not so clear cut. As Steve Vladeck explains, Trump’s disclosures to the Russians might actually have been illegal.

While the sycophant conservative media entertainment complex Spins an Alternative Narrative About the Crises Around Trump to explain away his bizarre behavior, the release of classified intelligence could have very real and dangerous repercussions on national security and the global fight against terrorism, experts told ABC News. High stakes involved in Trump’s revelations to Russia:

Danny Yatom, the former director of Israel’s spy agency Mossad, warns that even if Trump didn’t reveal the source — which McMaster said the president didn’t know at the time of the conversation with the Russian officials — or methods of how the U.S. obtained the intelligence, it could still put the source in danger.

“Sometimes damage is caused from the content of the revelation, even if he does not say the methods and sources,” Yatom told The Jerusalem Post.

“The fact that you have very high-quality sensitive intelligence can lead to revealing the source. Very few people in ISIS may know about this information. Once it is publicized, ISIS can do an investigation and find the source,” Yatom added.

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Comey’s Revenge?

Last Friday Donald Trump’s Tweet alleged secretly recorded “tapes” of his conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey.

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Tuesday night we learned that James Comey can say “I’ll see your alleged tape recordings, and raise you the contemporaneous memorandums of conversations that I maintain to cover my ass. And I want to testify in both public and private hearings before Congress.”

If Trump was bluffing about his “tapes,” now’s the time for him to fold. He’s about to lose this hand “bigly.”

The New York Times reported, Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation:

President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

This is the basis for an obstruction of justice charge.

Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.

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National security risk: Putin’s puppet, Donald Trump

When Donald Trump hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office last Wednesday just hours after firing the FBI director James Comey who was overseeing an investigation into whether Trump’s team colluded with the Russians, he did so at the specific request of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia’s Oval Office Victory Dance:

The chummy White House visit—photos of the president yukking it up with Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak were released by the Russian Foreign Ministry since no U.S. press was allowed to cover the visit—had been one of Putin’s asks in his recent phone call with Trump, and indeed the White House acknowledged this to me later Wednesday. “He chose to receive him because Putin asked him to,” a White House spokesman said of Trump’s Lavrov meeting. “Putin did specifically ask on the call when they last talked.”

* * *

The images of Trump putting his arm genially on Lavrov’s back—and a later White House official readout of the meeting that said Trump “emphasized his desire to build a better relationship between the United States and Russia”—couldn’t have come at a more fraught political moment for Trump, amid a barrage of bipartisan criticism of his firing of FBI Director James Comey. On Wednesday morning before meeting with Trump, Lavrov even cracked a joke about his hosts’ political predicament, laughingly claiming not to have heard of the Comey firing while standing alongside Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

In other words, Lavrov was right where he has always wanted to be Wednesday: mocking the United States while being welcomed in the Oval Office by the president himself.

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Witness Intimidation, Obstruction of Justice, and Impeachment

I am still on vacation visiting relatives during what has been a busy news week.

The most important developments from last week were the New York Times report on Donald Trump’s insistence of personal loyalty from FBI Director James Comey, as if he is a mafia Godfather insisting on the code of omertà; Trump’s interview with Lester Holt of NBC in which he essentially made a public admission of obstruction of justice; and Trump’s threatening Tweet to fired FBI director James Comey about “tapes” of their alleged conversations.

Trump cannot control his own destructive impulses from acting out on intimidation of witnesses and obstruction of justice — Count One of the Articles of Impeachment against Richard Nixon.

Here is a good summary from New York Magazine. Trump Asked Comey for Loyalty a Day After He Was Warned About Flynn:

Unsatisfied with his press office’s handling of the fallout from the firing of FBI Director James Comey, on Thursday night President Trump took matters into his own hands — and made things much, much worse.

Though their story kept shifting, for days White House officials stuck to their claim that Comey was fired because the president and top Justice Department officials felt he was doing a bad job, not because of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible Russia ties.

Then in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump proclaimed that he had actually decided to fire Comey regardless of what Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommended — and the Russia probe was on his mind.

“In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said [self], ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,’” the president said.

Trump speaking about himself in the third person is your first clue that this Dude is bonkers.

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