Abuse of power and obstruction of justice in plain sight


Russian asset and crime family boss Donald Trump just keeps digging his hole deeper with the Special Counsel’s investigation.

Yesterday he added two more counts, for abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The GOP House Freedom Caucus co-conspirators who are aiding and abetting his crimes should also be charged.

Steve Benen does a good job of breaking it down. Trump ignores security, crosses ‘red line’ with declassification gambit:

Donald Trump’s abuses have become routine, but that doesn’t make them any easier to tolerate. The president’s move yesterdayafternoon, for example, is awfully tough to defend.

In an unprecedented move that stunned current and former intelligence officials, President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the public release of highly classified documents and text messages related to the FBI investigation into whether his campaign conspired with Russia.

A statement by the White House press office said Trump had directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Department of Justice and the FBI to declassify about 20 pages of a highly sensitive application for surveillance against Carter Page, a one-time Trump foreign policy aide.

The president suggested two weeks ago that he was considering such a move, but many hoped Trump was just blowing off steam and he’d end up in a more responsible place. That’s obviously not what happened.

Instead, the president ignored the concerns of the intelligence community and federal law enforcement officials, ordering the release of highly specific materials and excerpts requested by far-right members of Congress.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, issued a blistering statement on the developments, arguing, “President Trump, in a clear abuse of power, has decided to intervene in a pending law enforcement investigation by ordering the selective release of materials he believes are helpful to his defense team and thinks will advance a false narrative. With respect to some of these materials, I have been previously informed by the FBI and Justice Department that they would consider their release a red line that must not be crossed as they may compromise sources and methods. This is evidently of no consequence to a president who cares about nothing about the country and everything about his narrow self-interest.”

That reference to “a red line that must not be crossed” was of particular interest – because it suggests Trump’s actions, which put his interests above the nation’s, can be fairly described as dangerous.

Davis Kris, the former head of the Justice Department’s national security division, came to a similar conclusion.

“The release of [FISA materials] like this is off the charts. It is especially unprecedented considering that the [documents] have already gone through declassification review and the president is overruling the judgments of his subordinates to require expanded disclosure.

“The president has the literal authority to do this, but here, as in so many other areas, his exercise of authority is tainted by a severe conflict of interest, as he is a subject of investigation to which these [FISA materials] pertain.

“This is perhaps the signal feature of many of his worst actions – he seems assiduously to view and engage with everything through the straw-sized aperture of his own self-interest instead of the broader national interest.”

That’s no small charge. The former head of the Justice Department’s national security division believes the sitting president is abusing his power and undermining his own country’s interests in order to protect himself.

It’s an extraordinary series of events: Trump and his political operation are the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, and he’s now ordering the release of sensitive materials pertaining to that investigation, despite warnings from relevant officials and agencies.

Trump is doing this at the insistence of Rep. Jim Jordan, a member of the GOP House Freedom Caucus and a leading critic of the Russia probe, and Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus and a close ally of Trump’s. Declassification of Russia investigation materials poses a risky gambit for GOP:

Republicans believe that Trump, who is eager to find ways to sow doubt about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and castigate the FBI, is poised to declassify the relevant records. [He now has.]

Doing so, however, would spark concern from some quarters, including from Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, Richard Burr. When the Justice Department was forced to release the redacted version of the FISA application to monitor Page in July, Burr said there were “sound reasons” to approve the warrant, breaking with House conservatives who said it showed wrongdoing. And he raised concerns about the release of the heavily redacted documents.

“I cease to be amazed by how much stuff we release publicly now,” Burr said in July.

A Burr spokesperson said that the chairman still stands by that sentiment.

Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called on “responsible adults” in the administration to convince the President “to back off this terrible idea.”

“FISA applications are classified for good reason and shouldn’t be declassified in an effort to undermine an ongoing investigation,” Warner told CNN on Monday. “Every time the White House acts in support of House Republicans to stop the Mueller investigation, they are doing damage to national security and the rule of law.”

Former Justice Department officials echoed the concerns, one calling it a “slippery slope.”

“You look back and say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe we’ve gone from point A to X, when previously we didn’t want to go from A to B,'” the official said.

David Laufman, the former chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section at the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said it was “extraordinary” that the department released the redacted Page FISA application in the first place, explaining that defendants routinely seek discovery of FISA applications in an attempt to undermine the prosecution, and department lawyers have always contested those efforts.

“Typically, the department could count on the executive branch — including the White House counsel’s office — to fully support it in pushing back on the public disclosure of such a document,” Laufman said. “Here, it appears the White House is a cheerleader for that effort.”

And then there is Trump’s other co-conspirator, Rep. Devin Nunes. House Intel Chairman Nunes plans to release interviews from committee’s Russia probe:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes said Sunday that he intends to release all of the transcripts and documents from the committee’s interviews of about 70 people in its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The California Republican said in an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” that he would release the materials “in the next few weeks” so that the public could review them before the midterm elections.

“The depositions that we took, I believe about seventy people, those need to be published and I think they need to be published before the election,” Nunes said. “I expect to make those available from our committee to the American public in the next few weeks.”

In a statement Sunday, the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, urged Nunes to facilitate the transcripts’ release “immediately.” Schiff called for Nunes to release all such interview materials in June, NBC reported.

“During the Russia investigation, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee repeatedly promised to release all the transcripts when their work was completed, and then reneged when it became clear the transcripts would show how often they acted as defense lawyers for Donald Trump rather than objective fact finders,” Schiff said Sunday. “We hope this time he will follow through on his commitment by scheduling a business meeting immediately and allowing a new vote to release all the transcripts.”

* * *

Nunes connected his push to have his committee’s materials out by the election to some House Republicans’ calls for President Donald Trump to fully declassify Justice Department documents related to the Russia investigation, such as the FBI’s application for a FISA warrant on former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page and the FBI’s notes from interviewing Justice official Bruce Ohr.

“Just for the sake of full transparency, because there’s so much that’s out there that’s misinformation or disinformation on this Russia-gate fiasco … we need this information out before the election,” Nunes said. “And that’s why we’ve been asking the President of the United States to declassify many more documents as it relates to not only Bruce Ohr but also with the Carter Page FISA.”

Robert Mueller should just indict the lot of them now. It’s time to clean house and be done with these criminals.

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