Monday Reads: The Escalating threat to the Constitution and Rule of LawPosted: May 21, 2018
Trump is acting like a despot gone wild! We’re getting decrees via twitter now!
We’re finding out how far KKKremlin Caligula will go to enrich his crime syndicate family and protect his fat orange ass from justice. My guess is we will never reach the out of bounds boundary unless we vote for accountability in November. Benjamin Wittes–writing for The Atlantic–examines why “The president’s alarming Sunday tweet could genuinely produce a crisis between the White House, on the one hand, and the Justice Department and the FBI, on the other.”
Sunday afternoon, President Trump tweeted an extraordinary threat—extraordinary even by the standards of Donald Trump’s norm-busting use of Twitter and abusive conduct toward the Justice Department and federal investigations: “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes—and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”
I normally try to ignore presidential tweets. This one, however, those concerned about the integrity of law enforcement can’t ignore. It requires attention, because it could genuinely produce a crisis between the White House, on the one hand, and the Justice Department and the FBI, on the other.
I don’t want to overstate the matter. It’s possible that it won’t produce this crisis, both because Trump might (as he has done numerous times before) wimp out, and also because—as I’ll explain—he might issue the order in a fashion vague enough to be susceptible to relatively benign interpretation by the Justice Department and the FBI.
That said, the tweet on its own terms is alarming. It’s a statement of intent to issue a specific investigative demand of the Justice Department for entirely self-interested and overtly political reasons. And Trump published it in the absence of a shred of evidence that might support the demanded action. If we take his tweet at face value, the president is announcing that he will on Monday “officially” “demand” the Justice Department launch a specific investigation of activity that would be criminal were it true—about whether the DOJ and FBI spied on the Trump campaign for an improper purpose and whether the Obama administration demanded such action of them.
This is a nakedly corrupt attempt on the part of the president to discredit and derail an investigation of himself at the expense of a human intelligence source to whose protection the FBI and DOJ are committed. My colleague at Lawfare, Quinta Jurecic, and I fleshed out the history of this saga and warned, “Don’t underestimate this episode. It will have a long tail and big consequences—all of them terrible.”
Trump keeps raising the stakes in his attack on his on Justice Department and the Special Counsel assigned to investigate Russia’s role in the 2016 election debacle. His paranoia about the Obama administration is reaching Nixonian levels.
In September, the Justice Department said it had no evidence to support another of Trump’s unsubstantiated assertions: that Obama had ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.
It was unclear what kind of response Trump was seeking from the Justice Department this time, since investigations are kept secret and designed to be insulated from political influence and White House meddling.
A spokeswoman said the Justice Department had asked the Inspector General to expand a review of the process for requesting surveillance warrants to include determining whether there was impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its investigation.
Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, called Trump’s suspicion of an embedded spy “nonsense.” “His ‘demand’ DOJ investigate something they know to be untrue is an abuse of power, and an effort to distract from his growing legal problems,” Schiff said on Twitter.
In his earlier tweets on Sunday, Trump reprised his attacks on Hillary Clinton, his Democratic challenger in 2016, and maintained that Democrats were not submitted to the same FBI scrutiny.
Trump also implied that the special counsel investigation of whether foreign governments tried to influence the presidential campaign was designed to hurt Republicans in the November congressional elections.
“Now that the Witch Hunt has given up on Russia and is looking at the rest of the World, they should easily be able to take it into the Mid-Term Elections where they can put some hurt on the Republican Party,” he wrote.
Trump, who has long complained the Russia probe has overstepped its bounds, referred to reports that his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., met in August 2016 with an envoy representing the crown princes of United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
One can only assume that there is such much evidence of illegal activity by Donnie Jerko Junior that the Feds have a cell ready for his skinny ass and jawless face. The RNC is already picking up the lawyer tab for Hope Hicks and others.
The Republican National Committee paid nearly half a million dollars to a law firm that represents former White House communications director Hope Hicks and others in the Russia investigations, according to a new federal filing.
The RNC’s $451,780 payment to Trout Cacheris & Janis adds to the mounting legal fees associated with the investigations by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and several congressional committees of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Hicks hired Robert Trout, founder of the law firm, as her personal attorney in September, according to news reports. The report of the payments for legal and compliance services, contained in the Federal Election Commission report filed Sunday, is the first public disclosure of RNC payments to the law firm since Hicks hired Trout.
Three lawyers at the firm represent people in addition to Hicks in the investigations by Mueller and the House and Senate intelligence committees, according to the firm’s website. Hicks, who was one of President Trump’s most trusted and loyal aides, was interviewed by Mueller and the House and Senate intelligence panels in early 2018.
Among the six-figure donors to the Senate Majority PAC, which supports Senate Democrats, were actor and producer Seth MacFarlane, who gave $2 million; Cynthia Simon-Skjodt, a philanthropist and daughter of the Simon Property Group founder, who gave $1 million; and Bay Area real estate developer George Marcus, who gave $1 million.
Rod Rosenstein has responded in a low key manner in an obvious attempt to appease the President to not do anything more stupid than royal decree by twitter. AAron Blake–writing for WAPO–wonders if this approach is too weak?
“If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action,” Rosenstein said in a statement.
The announcement was rather remarkable. Some saw it as deft maneuvering from Rosenstein. It’s certainly a compromise, and it doesn’t give Trump exactly what he wanted. It could effectively run out the clock by burying the matter in a lengthy inspector general’s probe. And it could also avert a potential constitutional crisis that could arise out of Trump ordering DOJ to do something and DOJ declining.
But the concession does risk further politicization of Justice Department business and also unavoidably lends credence to Trump’s allegations. Trump can now credibly say the Justice Department is looking into political bias in the Russia investigation, which risks furthering his goal of undermining the entire investigation. And Rosenstein basically handed him that PR win without much actual evidence.
Many blame the rainy weekend, lack of golf, and boredom for Sunday’s Tweet storm of insanity. Let’s just say that both Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama live in Trumps empty mind rent free. But perhaps these headlines set him off!
Via CNN: “Roger Stone says he is ‘prepared’ for possibility of special counsel indictment”.
From Bloomberg: “Trump Jr. Draws New Mueller Scrutiny Over Foreign Campaign Links”.
Futerfas said George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, was at the meeting with Trump Jr. The Times reported that Nader told Trump Jr. “that the crown princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president.”
The other attendees were Joel Zamel, an Israeli and social media specialist, who presented “a multi-million dollar proposal,” for an effort to help Trump, and GOP donor Erik Prince –a former Navy SEAL, brother of current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater — who arranged the meeting, according to the Times.
Mueller is looking into the interactions and questioning people about that Trump Tower meeting, the newspaper said.
Then, there’s ongoing discussion of how foreign policy seems to align itself with new cash flowing into to Trump and Kushner Private Deals. Trump’s new China deals appeared after a China investment near a Trump property. The deals look like complete cave in.
On Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the administration put its trade war with China “on hold” after two days of talks in Washington that he said had produced an agreement on increased Chinese purchases of American products and measures to make it easier for U.S. companies to operate in China.
Even though the agreement lacked the specific $200 billion reduction in the U.S. trade deficit with China that was Trump’s signature demand on trade, the president halted tariffs he had threatened to impose on $150 billion in Chinese products.
In an earlier sign of softening,Trump directed administration officials to consider easing harsh penalties on a prominent Chinese telecom company that had violated U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea.
“It’s a huge disappointment given the expectations,” said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a partnership between steelworkers and their employers. “It plays right into Beijing’s hands . . . and is more of the same old failed policies we saw under the Bush and Obama administrations.”
Administration officials on Sunday scrambled to cast the Chinese talks as a victory, while some staunch Trump supporters questioned whether Trump had blinked in the first major confrontation with China.
“Not good enough. Time to take the gloves off,” Dan DiMicco, former chief executive of steelmaker Nucor, tweeted Saturday.
Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., warned in a tweet Sunday that by continuing to talk while putting the tariffs on hold “#China has outnegotiated the U.S. again.”
Settling for Chinese promises of increased purchases of American goods and improvements in intellectual property laws marked a shift for the administration, which disparaged earlier U.S. diplomatic dialogues with China as fruitless.
He really can’t make deal but he’s the King of the Grift. Pay to play! Quid pro Quo! Abuse of Power! Emollients Clause violations! Campaign Law Violations! Obstruction of Justice! Get you Mueller Bingo card set up now!!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?