President Donald Trump gave a remarkable interview to the New York Times yesterday in which he signaled time bombs that will go off in the days and weeks ahead. Citing Recusal, Trump Says He Wouldn’t Have Hired Sessions:
President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”
In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.
OK, two things. Sen. Sessions meetings with the Russian ambassador were not discovered and reported until after his Senate confirmation hearing, making him a potential fact witness and creating a potential conflict of interest which triggered his ethical obligation to recuse himself from the investigation. He could not have told Trump before he took the job that he would recuse himself under this timeline.
Second, Jeff Sessions serves at the pleasure of the president and has previously offered his resignation when the president expressed a lack of confidence in him. In an unprecedented move, Sessions now has been publicly undermined by the president who says he regrets hiring him. Session must resign, and he should do so today if he has any self-respect.
Actually there is a third point, Trump is expressing his view that he wanted an attorney general who would block and deflect any inquiries into his campaign’s coordination with the Russians, signaling that he believes the attorney general is loyal to him personally, and thus rejecting the independence of the Justice Department. See, Trump shows disdain for rule of law with new attacks on Sessions, Rosenstein, Mueller. Update, President Trump’s Contempt for the Rule of Law.
Trump did not stop at Jeff Sessions.
[T]he president also accused James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he fired in May, of trying to leverage a dossier of compromising material to keep his job. Mr. Trump criticized both the acting F.B.I. director who has been filling in since Mr. Comey’s dismissal and the deputy attorney general who recommended it. And he took on Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel now leading the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election.
Mr. Trump said Mr. Mueller was running an office rife with conflicts of interest and warned investigators against delving into matters too far afield from Russia. Mr. Trump never said he would order the Justice Department to fire Mr. Mueller, nor would he outline circumstances under which he might do so. But he left open the possibility as he expressed deep grievance over an investigation that has taken a political toll in the six months since he took office.
Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia, Mr. Trump said, “I would say yes.” He would not say what he would do about it. “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”
OK, Trump did not just threaten former FBI Director James Comey, but acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein — both of whom are fact witnesses in the firing of James Comey under an obstrucion of justice charge — and he asserted a “red line” for firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump cannot directly fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller under the law, the attorney general or an acting deputy must do it. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein previously testified to Congress that he would not fire Mueller, and would resign if asked to do so. Trump just outlined the “Saturday Night Massacre” scenario from Watergate.
And Special Counsel Robert Mueller has already been looking at Trump’s convoluted family finances that involve a “disproportionate share” of money flowing in from Russia, according to his own son. (The Trump organization has previously been charged with money laundering). Big German Bank, Key to Trump’s Finances, Faces New Scrutiny:
During the presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump pointed to his relationship with Deutsche Bank to counter reports that big banks were skeptical of doing business with him.
After a string of bankruptcies in his casino and hotel businesses in the 1990s, Mr. Trump became somewhat of an outsider on Wall Street, leaving the giant German bank among the few major financial institutions willing to lend him money.
Now that two-decades-long relationship is coming under scrutiny.
Banking regulators are reviewing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made to Mr. Trump’s businesses through Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management unit, which caters to an ultrarich clientele, according to three people briefed on the review who were not authorized to speak publicly. The regulators want to know if the loans might expose the bank to heightened risks.
Separately, Deutsche Bank has been in contact with federal investigators about the Trump accounts, according to two people briefed on the matter. And the bank is expecting to eventually have to provide information to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
It was not clear what information the bank might ultimately provide. Generally, the bank is seen as central to understanding Mr. Trump’s finances since it is the only major financial institution that continues to conduct sizable business with him. Deutsche Bank has also lent money to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and to his family real estate business.
Although Deutsche Bank recently landed in legal trouble for laundering money for Russian entities — paying more than $600 million in penalties to New York and British regulators — there is no indication of a Russian connection to Mr. Trump’s loans or accounts at Deutsche Bank, people briefed on the matter said. The bank, which declined to comment, scrutinizes its accounts for problematic ties as part of so-called “know your customer” banking rules and other requirements.
And with one of its most famous clients headed to the White House, the bank designed a plan for overseeing the accounts of Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner and presented it to regulators at the New York State Department of Financial Services early this year. The plan essentially called for monitoring the accounts for red flags such as exceptionally favorable loan terms or unusual partners.
Additionally, the New York regulators recently requested information related to the hundreds of millions in loans Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management division provided Mr. Trump, one of the people said, paying particular attention to personal guarantees he made to obtain the loans. Those guarantees have declined as the loans were paid down and the property values increased, but it remains a source of interest to the regulators.
[T]he New York regulators have questioned whether the guarantee could create problems for Deutsche Bank should Mr. Trump fail to pay his debts. To collect, the bank would either have to sue the president, or risk being seen as cutting him a special deal.
It is not a hypothetical concern: Mr. Trump sued the bank in 2008 to delay paying back an earlier loan.
So, Trump’s red line has already been crossed. There is another “Saturday Night Massacre” in the offing.
Back to theinterview:
The president added a new allegation against Mr. Comey, whose dismissal has become a central issue for critics who said it amounted to an attempt to obstruct the investigation into Russian meddling in the election and any possible collusion with Mr. Trump’s team.
Mr. Trump recalled that a little more than two weeks before his inauguration, Mr. Comey and other intelligence officials briefed him at Trump Tower on Russian meddling. Mr. Comey afterward pulled Mr. Trump aside and told him about a dossier that had been assembled by a former British spy filled with salacious allegations against the incoming president, including supposed sexual escapades in Moscow. The F.B.I. has not corroborated the most sensational assertions in the dossier.
In the interview, Mr. Trump said he believed Mr. Comey told him about the dossier to implicitly make clear he had something to hold over the president. “In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there,” Mr. Trump said. As leverage? “Yeah, I think so,” Mr. Trump said. “In retrospect.”
The president dismissed the assertions in the dossier: “When he brought it to me, I said this is really made-up junk. I didn’t think about any of it. I just thought about, man, this is such a phony deal.”
* * *
Mr. Trump rebutted Mr. Comey’s claim that in a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office on Feb. 14, the president asked him to end the investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. Mr. Comey testified before Congress that Mr. Trump kicked the vice president, attorney general and several other senior administration officials out of the room before having the discussion with Mr. Comey.
“I don’t remember even talking to him about any of this stuff,” Mr. Trump said. “He said I asked people to go. Look, you look at his testimony. His testimony is loaded up with lies, O.K.?”
Here Trump is signaling how he intends to testify — the “Ollie North” defense of “I don’t recall.” Someone should explain to him that if one simply asserts “I don’t recall” when you actually do recall the details — often demonstrated by questioning about surrounding details — that is perjury. Trump is also signaling to others who were present at that meeting that they should also testify that “I don’t recall.” This is something the Nixon administration sought to do during Watergate. This can be considered witness intimidation and tampering.
Trump returns to those currenty investigating him:
Mr. Trump was also critical of Mr. Mueller, a former F.B.I. director, reprising some of his past complaints that lawyers in his office contributed money to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. He noted that he actually interviewed Mr. Mueller to replace Mr. Comey just before his appointment as special counsel.
“He was up here and he wanted the job,” Mr. Trump said. After he was named special counsel, “I said, ‘What the hell is this all about?’ Talk about conflicts. But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”
First of all, no ethicist would say there was a conflict in interviewing for the job nd later being appointed to another position. Secondly, Trump’s dangling “other conflicts” smacks of his previously unfounded claims of President Obama wiretapping Trump Tower and that he had secretly recorded tapes of his conversations with James Comey.
The president also expressed discontent with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a former federal prosecutor from Baltimore. When Mr. Sessions recused himself, the president said he was irritated to learn where his deputy was from. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” he said of the predominantly Democratic city.
He complained that Mr. Rosenstein had in effect been on both sides when it came to Mr. Comey. The deputy attorney general recommended Mr. Comey be fired but then appointed Mr. Mueller, who may be investigating whether the dismissal was an obstruction of justice. “Well, that’s a conflict of interest,” Mr. Trump said. “Do you know how many conflicts of interests there are?”
As for Andrew G. McCabe, the acting F.B.I. director, the president suggested that he, too, had a conflict. Mr. McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, received nearly $500,000 in 2015 during a losing campaign for the Virginia Senate from a political action committee affiliated with Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is close friends with Hillary and Bill Clinton.
Essentially, Trump is seeking to discredited all those who are investigating him with distractions to feed the conservative media entertainment complex and his sycophant supporters.
There is more in this interview about his previously undisclosed meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit. Since neither of his two meetings with Putin were recordeed by note takers, there is only Donald Trump’s word what was discussed, and his word is not to be believed. Trump has made 836 false or misleading claims since January. Update, Trump’s Lies, the Updated List from the New York Times.