Monday Reads: Justice on the RopesPosted: March 19, 2018
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
There were many things to admire about Muhammed Ali. He was tenacious, strategic, clever, and principled. His invention of the ‘Rope a Dope ‘was tactical brilliance. A boxer will pretend to be trapped against the ropes but what said boxer is actually doing is “goading the opponent to throw tiring ineffective punches”.
Can the Democratic members of Congress and the Mueller investigation ‘Rope a Dope’ KKKremlin Caligula? He appears to be in endless pursuit of ridding himself of the meddlesome G-Man. This is not in the best interest of our democracy or global stability. The Republican members of Congress–from top to bottom–have refused to do their constitutional duties sending hopes for timely justice to the ropes. It’s time to ‘Rope a Dope’ the lot of them. They need to protect the Mueller Investigation. Bills to do so have stalled in the Senate.
Back in January (when news broke that the president had—unsuccessfully, as it turned out—instructed White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller last summer), Republicans asked about the legislation suggested that McGahn’s refusal proved why these bills weren’t necessary. That was baloney then, and it’s an even more alarming abdication now, with the president seemingly poised to go after Mueller directly. And yet, for all of the talk about Mueller over the past few days, nary a Republican has come out in support of passing these bills—including their Republican co-sponsors.
If the hitherto-silent Republicans really have constitutional objections to these bills, let’s hear them (per the above, I’m skeptical). If they have policy objections, let’s hear those, too. But for those who actually want to ensure that the special counsel’s investigation continues unimpeded and don’t just want to look good to their constituents, there’s an easy way to do more than just threatening the president in tweets and talk-show interviews:
Pass this legislation.
The weekend Twitler meltdown is rattling nerves as are the comments from Trump’s legal team.
Within hours of McCabe’s firing, Dowd, Trump’s personal lawyer, asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to kill the Justice Department’s Russia probe. (Rosenstein has direct authority over the Mueller probe.)
Dowd, in an email to reporters, linked McCabe to the Russia investigation and blamed Comey for making up a case:
I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier.
Dowd had initially told the Daily Beast that he was speaking on behalf of Trump as his “counsel,” only to backtrack after his statement was published and say he was actually speaking for himself. That matters because Trump has repeatedly denied that he’s trying to get rid of Mueller, largely relying on Republican allies to make the case for him.
Dowd is a longtime Washington lawyer, having helped Sen. John McCain confront the Keating Five banking scandal as far back as 1990. He joined Trump’s team to combat the Mueller probe in June, taking the lead as Trump’s chief outside lawyer (Trump is also represented by White House counsel Don McGahn and Ty Cobb, who handles the White House’s response to Mueller’s investigation).
It’s not the first time Dowd’s comments about Mueller have sparked a political controversy. In December, Trump tweeted that he “had to fire” Flynn, the former national security adviser, because Flynn had lied to the FBI.
The Mueller and Trump teams are hoping to work out the specifics of a presidential interview within the next few weeks.
The big question they’re debating is whether it’ll be in person, in writing, or some combination of the two.
After a weekend of increasingly personal and vocal battles with Mueller, the White House extended an awkward olive branch on Sunday night, with White House lawyer Ty Cobb issuing this statement:
“In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”
But that’s too late. Veering from the White House legal strategy of cooperating with Mueller, Trump attacked him by name on Twitter, seeking to discredit the eventual findings with Republican supporters.
Someone familiar with the process said that was presidential frustration, and that the Trump team continues its ongoing dialogue with Mueller.
Trump’s team has more than signaled a new willingness to attack Mueller directly.
The president, those close to him say, is determined to more directly confront the federal probe into his campaign’s potential role in alleged Russian election interference, even if it means exacerbating his legal standing amid an investigation that has already ensnared some of his most senior campaign and White House aides.
Two sources who speak regularly with Trump said they had noticed an uptick in recent months in the frequency of the annoyance the president would express regarding Mueller and his team, and the irritation at the deluge of negative news stories regarding the probe.
Last week, for instance, The New York Times reported that Mueller had subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, some pertaining to Russia—a demand for personal financial details that the president famously said would be crossing a “red line” in an interview with the Times last year.
Still, on Sunday, White House lawyer Ty Cobb blasted out a statement to reporters that simply assured, “in response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”
Folks are calling this weekend the “pre-Saturday Night Massacre.”
By laying the foundation for this fresh, orchestrated case for the end of the Russian investigation, Sessions appears to have abrogated a commitment, made to the Senatein June 2017, that he would take no step toward firing Mueller.
Sen. Mark Warner: Will you commit to the committee not to take personal actions that might not result in director Mueller’s firing or dismissal?
Sessions: I can say that with confidence…
Warner: You would not take any actions to have the special investigator removed.
Sessions: I don’t think that’s appropriate for me to do.
Did Sessions’s rush to fire McCabe fall under the umbrella of any “action to have [Mueller] removed?” If Sessions had any knowledge that the president and his counsel were prepared to seize on the dismissal to call for Mueller’s firing, then he would have lent support to the plan in a manner inconsistent with his pledge to Warner. Certainly Sessions knew weeks ago that the president was singling out McCabe in his denigration of the “corrupt” FBI leadership. He also must know that McCabe is a witness in the special counsel’s obstruction investigation. These considerations alone should have been sufficient to alert the attorney general to the risks of taking an active part in firing McCabe—especially hurriedly, to beat his retirement date, under public pressure from the president.
But even if Sessions missed all of this, he now understands how the president and his counsel used the firing of McCabe. This may not have been another Saturday Night Massacre, but it may turn out to have been the prelude. And Sessions is—or he has been made—a party to it.
In the massacre of Watergate fame, the attorney general at the time, Elliot Richardson, discovered that the president and White House advisers were maneuvering to force out the special prosecutor, Archibald Cox and “induce [Richardson] to go along.” As Richardson wrote in an Atlantic piece in March of 1976 (titled “The Saturday Night Massacre”), Nixon’s plan was to have him help unwittingly with the ouster of Cox and yet not feel he had to resign.
A new report on Trump’s state of mind from the New York Times underscores why this should worry us a great deal. Relying on numerous people close to Trump, it says he decided to attack Mueller over the advice of his advisers because he “ultimately trusts only his own instincts,” with the result that Trump is “newly emboldened” to “ignore the cautions of those around him.”
“For months, aides were mostly able to redirect a neophyte president with warnings about the consequences of his actions, and mostly control his public behavior,” the Times says. But some of his recent actions — his decisions to go ahead with tariffs and a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — have persuaded him that such warnings are overblown. Make sure not to miss this sentence:
Warnings of dire consequences from his critics have failed to materialize.
This helps explain why Trump unleashed his fury on Mueller over the weekend. In a tweet storm that was full of lies — see Glenn Kessler’s takedown of the specifics — Trump claimed that law enforcement is riddled with corruption and that the Mueller probe itself is illegitimate. To make this latter claim, Trump floated the intertwined falsehoods that the Democratic-funded Steele dossier triggered the probe (a lie) and that there was no legit basis for its genesis (also a lie).
This is the problem. Republican members of Congress are not fighters like Ali. They will not fight for their supposed convictions, country, or even the future of their own party. There are repercussions for this blatant attack on our rule of law and Constitution. Republican silence is damning.
President Donald Trump’s direct assault on Robert Mueller over the weekend renewed fears he’s preparing to fire the special counsel as Republicans mostly remained silent on the threat.
Just a few Republicans strongly warned Trump against firing Mueller — Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said it could lead to the end of Trump’s presidency. Most avoided taking a stand.
The lack of clarity from the majority party in Congress about potential repercussions may embolden Trump, who last week fired his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and is said to be contemplating a bigger shakeup of his Cabinet and inner circle. The president’s attacks on the FBI, the Justice Department and Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling — and whether anyone close to Trump colluded in it — channeled a long-running narrative on conservative news outlets.
On Sunday evening, White House lawyer Ty Cobb issued a statement saying Trump “is not considering or discussing the firing” of Mueller. But Trump already had made clear his growing impatience at the special counsel and his probe. He continued to do that on Monday morning, saying in a tweet: “A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!”
Here are the few Republicans speaking out. The term milquetoast comes to mind. Yup Milquetoast Republicans.
Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he expects his colleagues in Congress, including GOP leadership, to push back on the President’s comments and any potential move to force the end of the probe.
“I mean, talking to my colleagues all along it was, you know, once he goes after Mueller, then we’ll take action,” Flake said.
I’m not holding my breath on that action part. We’re no longer hearing about the roaring markets from them either because this:
U.S. stocks pulled back on Monday as a decline in Facebook pressured the technology sector. Wall Street also paid attention to Washington after a Twitter meltdown from President Donald Trump.
Oh, and what’s plaguing Facebook?
Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are calling on Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to appear before lawmakers to explain how U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica, the data-analysis firm that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency, was able to harvest the personal information.
Everything Trump touches dies.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?