Thursday ReadsPosted: June 15, 2017
Trump is totally screwed now, and he did it to himself. Last night The Washington Post broke the news that we’ve all been expecting (emphasis added): Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say.
The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.
The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.
That sounds significant. How long before Manafort, Flynn, and others turn on Trump?
Five people briefed on the interview requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week. The investigation has been cloaked in secrecy, and it is unclear how many others have been questioned by the FBI.
The NSA said in a statement that it will “fully cooperate with the special counsel” and declined to comment further. The office of the director of national intelligence and Ledgett declined to comment.
Trump’s lawyers are claiming this information was leaked by the FBI, but it seems likely that the news came from people who have been contacted by Mueller’s team for interviews. The medical cases were dealt by the medical malpractice attorneys at Hastings Law Firm Houston who deal with medical negligence cases.
The interviews suggest that Mueller sees the question of attempted obstruction of justice as more than just a “he said, he said” dispute between the president and the fired FBI director, an official said.
In other words, Mueller will seek to find people who can corroborate Comey’s claims about Trump trying to get him to drop the investigation. In addition, the article makes clear that the investigation into Trump’s actions began shortly after he fired Comey. Mueller is simply taking over that thread of the inquiry. Read more details at the WaPo link.
The New York Times followed up on the Post story: Mueller Seeks to Talk to Intelligence Officials, Hinting at Inquiry of Trump.
It has been clear since Mr. Mueller was appointed last month that he was likely to scrutinize the president’s actions. Mr. Trump has said he is willing to be interviewed by Mr. Mueller’s agents, and Mr. Comey said he was sure that the special counsel would investigate the possibility of obstruction.
In recent days, Mr. Trump is said to have considered firing Mr. Mueller but to have been talked out of it by aides. If the president is under investigation for obstruction, a move to fire Mr. Mueller would prove more complicated politically….
The scrutiny of Mr. Trump’s actions is part of a ripple of unintended consequences that began when the president, frustrated by the cloud of investigations into Russian collusion, fired Mr. Comey last month. “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,’” Mr. Trump told NBC. He then said: “I might even lengthen out the investigation, but I have to do the right thing for the American people. He’s the wrong man for that position.”
The White House could try to assert executive privilege to keep the intelligence officials from discussing conversations between them and the president with Mr. Mueller. But that could set up a fight in court, where judges have generally held that criminal investigators can demand information that would normally be privileged.
In his memos, Mr. Comey said Mr. Trump had encouraged him to end an F.B.I. investigation into Mr. Flynn, an effort that Mr. Comey called “very disturbing.” There is a broad federal inquiry underway into Mr. Flynn’s actions. Among the issues being examined are whether he misled investigators about his ties to Russia, and his failure to disclose that he was working as a foreign agent of Turkey from August to November 2016: the same time he was advising the Trump campaign.
Read the rest at the NYT.
The Daily Beast explains how Trump “shot himself in the foot”: Even Trump’s Aides Blame Him for Obstruction Probe: ‘President Did This to Himself.’
It’s exactly the circumstance Donald Trump tried to avoid. But Trump’s own actions have made an FBI investigation into the president himself a reality.
Firing James Comey, the FBI director, was, by Trump’s explanation, a way to stop a “witch hunt” against his team’s alleged ties to Russia. It led, within weeks, to the appointment of a special prosecutor, Comey’s FBI predecessor, Robert Mueller. And now Mueller is investigating Trump himself for possible obstruction of justice—by firing Comey, who had led the FBI inquiry.
With the crisis engulfing Trump’s young presidency intensifying, senators, Trump aides, former prosecutors, and FBI veterans are sending the White House an urgent warning: Whatever you do, don’t. Fire. Mueller.
News of the obstruction investigation, which was first reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday, comes just days after Trump himself began floating the possibility of firing the new head of the investigation: Robert Mueller, the Justice Department special counsel appointed in the wake of Comey’s firing.
The obstruction investigation has raised the stakes for Mueller’s potential ouster. Firing him now, which would require that Trump personally direct DOJ leadership to do so, would create a political firestorm.
“Firing Robert Mueller right now would be a direct attack on the rule of law by Donald Trump,” Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told The Daily Beast. Wyden declined to directly address the Post report.
Trump reportedly floated the possibility of firing Mueller as a way to prod him toward exonerating the president and other Trump associates party to the investigation. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that aides dissuaded him from doing so.
Trump just can’t even imagine the existence of a person like Mueller, who is reportedly honest as the day is long and strictly nonpartisan. Axios also reports on what White House officials are saying:
- They know Trump talked to countless people about ending the Flynn probe, so they assume Comey’s version of events is true.
- They assume he did, indeed, ask Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, if they could help derail the Flynn probe, as the WashPost reported. They also assume he said similar things to other officials.
- Nobody has privately mounted a straight-faced argument to us that Trump didn’t say this stuff to Comey or to Coats/Rogers. That’s telling in itself. The fact that the Trump public position — that Comey is a perjurer — isn’t being argued in private.
- Any obstruction probe requires context, which means investigators digging into the finances of Flynn, Trump and Jared Kushner. This is the phase of the probe many Republicans have always feared most.
- The obstruction probe is simply a new layer to the bigger underlying matters: Did Flynn have illegal or improper contacts, and did the Trump campaign collude with the Russians to influence the 2016 campaign? So the investigation is metastasizing.
One more to check out at the Washington Post:
The three prongs are Russia’s interference with the campaign and possible coordination with the Trump campaign, Trump’s possible obstruction of justice, and–possibly most significant–financial crimes by Trump or his associates.
Of course, Trump couldn’t resist tweeting this morning. CBS News: Trump tweets obstruction of justice reports are “phony.”
President Trump tweeted Thursday morning to criticize reports that FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller would potentially be looking into whether or not Mr. Trump obstructed justice amid ongoing investigations into any ties between his presidential campaign’s or transition’s associates and the Russian government.
“They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice,” wrote Mr. Trump….
He continued by reiterating his belief that the nation is “witnessing the single greatest witch hunt in America political history,” a move he says is being led by “very bad and conflicted people.”
On yesterday’s shooting:
Scalise, the number three republican in the House, underwent surgery at Medstar Washington Hospital Center and is in critical condition. Earlier, a statement from his office characterized his condition as stable.Two U.S. Capitol Police officers — who [sic] House Speaker Paul Ryan identified as Crystal Griner and David Bailey — were wounded amid the shooting. Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said in a statement that Griner is in “good condition in the hospital after getting shot in the ankle” and that Bailey was “treated and released” following a “minor” injury.
“Had they not been there, it would have been a massacre,” eyewitness Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who took cover behind a tree amid the shooting, said of the Capitol Police. The officers were present because Scalise is a member of the congressional leadership.
Ryan named the others shot: Tyson Foods lobbyist Matt Mika and Zack Barth, a staffer for Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas. Mika was transported to a hospital and remains in critical condition following surgery, according to a Tyson Foods spokesman.
Barth was hospitalized and released, according to Williams. Williams also injured his ankle while diving for cover.
How ironic that Scalise, an ultra-right-winger who reportedly gave a speech at a KKK-linked event, was rescued by two people of color, one of whom is a lesbian and is married to another woman, Tiffany Dyar. A couple of stories to check out:
The Daily Beast: The Hero Cops Who Prevented a Congressional ‘Massacre’
Capitol Police officers Crystal Griner and David Bailey are special agents on Rep. Steve Scalise’s security detail. Scalise was standing near second base in an Alexandria, Virginia park when the bullets began flying from behind the third base dugout, striking Scalise. While Scalise dragged himself to safety, Griner and Bailey lept into action. In an extended firefight, the two agents took down shooter James Hodgkinson while battling through injuries of their own. Both were taken to the hospital after the gunfight, and are recovering from their injuries, officials say.
Read all about them at the link.
It’s not that people should be defined by their skin color, gender, or who they love. But in this case, these details are important enough to focus on for a moment.
Capitol Police special agents Crystal Griner and David Bailey are widely credited with saving Republican lawmakers and staff during the horrific shooting in Alexandria, Virginia that left Representative Steve Scalise in the hospital in critical condition.
Both Griner and Bailey were wounded.
Both Griner and Bailey are minorities.
Crystal Griner is a female minority, who just so happens to be married to a woman. Griner married Tiffany Dyar in 2015.
Rep. Scalise strongly opposes same-sex marriage.
Too often, all of the minority categories that Griner falls into are demonized by Republicans and this is a chance to emphasize the importance of humanity, of seeing people as whole beings with a history, with dreams of their own, with loves of their own.
Too many of our leaders, particularly President Trump but he’s not alone in this, are trying to divide us, to dehumanize the “other.” Wednesday, during moments of exceptional horror, these two Capitol Police special agents stepped up to do their jobs with incredible bravery and effectiveness.
In honoring these heroes, people should also take a moment to consider their humanity. Consider how the laws dealt with in Congress would impact these folks who just saved their lives or the lives of their colleagues.
The folks being hurt by laws bandied about in Congress aren’t nameless, bad “others.” They are sometimes people of stunning courage like Crystal Griner.
That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?