Tag Archives: obstruction of justice

The GOP’s war on the Department of Justice and the rule of law

When President Trump publicly demanded that the Justice Department open an investigation into the F.B.I.’s scrutiny of his campaign contacts with Russia, he crossed over a well-established bright line norm of constraint on executive power: The White House does not make decisions about individual law enforcement investigations. The independence of the Department of Justice is to be respected and preserved.

This is especially true when the president himself is the subject of a criminal investigation, or he would abuse the Department of Justice and use it as a weapon against his political opponents. This is what authoritarian despots do in a dictatorship or a banana republic.

This is precisely where the authoritarian Donald Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress are taking this country. They are engaged in the destruction of our long-cherished democratic institutions and norms, and the rule of law.

Charlie Savage writes at the New York Times, By Demanding an Investigation, Trump Challenged a Constraint on His Power:

“It’s an incredible historical moment,” said Rebecca Roiphe, a professor at New York Law School who helped write a coming scholarly article on the limits of presidential control over the Justice Department. Mr. Trump’s move, she said, “is the culmination of a lot of moments in which he has chipped away at prosecutorial independence, but this is a direct assault.”

Almost since he took office, Mr. Trump has battered the Justice Department’s independence indirectly — lamenting its failure to reopen a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton that found no wrongdoing, and openly complaining that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia inquiry. But he had also acknowledged that as president, “I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department,” as he told a radio interviewer with frustration last fall.

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Obstruction of justice in plain sight

Last month after the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York executed search warrants against the homes and offices of Michael Cohen, negotiations between the White House and the Special Counsel for an interview of President Trump reportedly broke down (pro tip: this is all kabuki theater, Trump’s lawyers have absolutely no intention of ever allowing their client whom they know to be a pathological liar to ever sit for an interview, or to testify; Trump will “take the Fifth” in the end).

It was widely reported at the time that the Special Counsel could wrap up the obstruction of justice phase of the investigation “as early as May or as late as July.” Trump, Mueller teams prepare to move forward without presidential interview.

On Sunday, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s “TV lawyer,” asserted that Mueller Hopes Obstruction Inquiry Into Trump May Wrap Up by Sept. 1:

Mr. Giuliani said that the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, shared its timeline about two weeks ago amid negotiations over whether Mr. Trump will be questioned by investigators, adding that Mr. Mueller’s office said that the date was contingent on Mr. Trump’s sitting for an interview. A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

Giuliani has made a number of claims recently about what the Special Counsel has allegedly told him which I find suspect, and which has not been verified by the Special Counsel. For all we know, this shyster lawyer is just making up shit.

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The anatomy of a right-wing conspiracy theory, debunked

The conservative media entertainment complex is a mixture of wild conspiracy theories and right-wing propaganda. Its goal is to create alternative facts and to distract from the known truth, in creating a post-truth society in which facts do not matter. In a just world, this would be considered a crime against humanity.

This week the Rupert Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel and National Review’s Andrew McCarthy opined that a secret “source” of the FBI and CIA was used against the Trump campaign. When he appeared on Rupert Murdoch owned FAUX News aka Trump TV’s Fox and Friends, McCarthy went further: “There’s probably no doubt that they [FBI] had at least one confidential informant in the campaign.”

As we all have sadly come to learn, from Fox and Friends lips to the ears of the Twitter-troll-in-chief Donald Trump: a conspiracy theory is born. Trump marks Mueller anniversary by claiming FBI ‘spied’ on his campaign.

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Paul Manafort fails in one court, likely to fail in the other court as well

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. refused Tuesday to throw out criminal charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Judge rejects Manafort claim that Mueller overreaching in probe:

Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the indictment “falls squarely within that portion of the authority granted to the Special Counsel that Manafort finds unobjectionable,” namely the order to investigate any links coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign.

“Manafort was, at one time, not merely ‘associated with,’ but the chairman of, the Presidential campaign, and his work on behalf of the Russia-backed Ukrainian political party and connections to other Russian figures are matters of public record. It was logical and appropriate for investigators tasked with the investigation of ‘any links’ between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign to direct their attention to him,” the judge wrote.

Manafort had argued that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein improperly gave Mueller authority to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from” the investigation of collusion with Russia. His lawyers said that violated Justice Department regulations which specify that a special counsel is appointed to investigate a specific matter.

What Rosenstein gave Mueller, Manafort’s lawyers said, amounted to “a blank check to be filled in after the fact.”

Jackson’s decision rejecting that claim also said the special counsel rules are for the internal management of the Justice Department and do not create any right to sue. Even if they did establish such a right, she said, Mueller didn’t violate them.

Judge Jackson has set a trial date in this case to begin September 17. Judge sets Sept. 17 trial date for Manafort on Mueller charges.

Mueller filed similar criminal charges in Alexandria, Virginia, and on May 4, Manafort’s lawyers urged Federal District Court Judge T.S. Ellis to toss them out, too. Ellis appeared to be somewhat receptive to their argument, taunting members of Mueller’s team.

“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. Well, the government does. You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever. That’s what you’re really interested in,” he said.

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Senate Judiciary Committee releases Donald Trump, Jr. transcripts

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday released 1,800 pages of interview transcripts (.pdf) from Donald Trump Jr.’s testimony about a controversial meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer who has since admitted to being an “informant” for the Kremlin.

Donny Jr. was interviewed, not under oath, and not particularly aggressively questioned by committee staff.

Donny Jr. pulled an “Ollie North” with repeated denials of being able to recall details that a witness who has prepped for his testimony would be expected to be able to recall, or could refresh his recollection by referring to documents. 54 things Donald Trump Jr. couldn’t ‘recall’ or ‘remember’ in his testimony:

If there’s one thing Donald Trump Jr. cleared up with his congressional testimony, it’s that he doesn’t remember a lot of things.

In a newly released transcript of his testimony, Trump repeatedly couched his answers about that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting by saying he did not “remember” or that he didn’t “recall” certain things. Even when he was pretty sure, he’d say “not that I recall” or something like that. The result was a pretty cagey piece of testimony.

Below is a list of 54 substantive issues on which Trump cited his lack of a memory:

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Cohen payments get curiouser and curiouser (Updated)

Last week we were left wondering how Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels attorney, got his hands on Michael Cohen’s financial information, which appeared to come from a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR). Avenatti’s memo was quickly confirmed by news media outlets.

We still don’t know how Avenatti got his hands on the SAR report, but we now know how the media was able to confirm the financial information in his memo so quickly: a government whistleblower provided the news media with a copy of the SAR report.

The New Yorker reports, Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records:

Last week, several news outlets obtained financial records showing that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, had used a shell company to receive payments from various firms with business before the Trump Administration. In the days since, there has been much speculation about who leaked the confidential documents, and the Treasury Department’s inspector general has launched a probe to find the source. That source, a law-enforcement official, is speaking publicly for the first time, to The New Yorker, to explain the motivation: the official had grown alarmed after being unable to find two important reports on Cohen’s financial activity in a government database. The official, worried that the information was being withheld from law enforcement, released the remaining documents.

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