On the Sessions and Trump Interviews: It’s Not Just Obstruction of Justice
There are two stories out (in addition to this piece I did for TNR) renewing the frenzy around the Mueller investigation.
First, NYT reveals that Mueller interviewed Jeff Sessions for a few hours last week.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned for several hours last week by the special counsel’s office as part of the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election and whether the president obstructed justice since taking office, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman.
Then, WaPo reports that Mueller wants to interview Trump about the Mike Flynn and Jim Comey firings.
Within the past two weeks, the special counsel’s office has indicated to the White House that the two central subjects that investigators wish to discuss with the president are the departures of Flynn and Comey and the events surrounding their firings.
Commenters and the WaPo piece (which cites information that should only be available from a member of Trump’s legal team) suggest these developments mean Trump is looking at obstruction.
Mueller’s interest in the events that led Trump to push out Flynn and Comey indicates that his investigation is intensifying its focus on possible efforts by the president or others to obstruct or blunt the special counsel’s probe.
I’m sure obstruction absolutely is one of the things Mueller is assessing when interviewing Sessions and Trump.
But neither of these interviews, particularly not the Sessions one, is necessarily focused exclusively on obstruction.
Sessions, for example, was in a key early meeting where setting up a meeting between Putin and Trump was discussed (though Sessions claims he opposed the idea). I have noted, for example, how Sessions played dumb when asked whether he had any discussions about emails and that key Sessions aide Stephen Miller is a top candidate to have heard about emails from George Papadopoulos.
[I]t seems highly likely that on April 27 (or whenever Papadopoulos was next in DC), Miller learned that Russia had some kind of emails from Hillary.
[Stephen] Miller, recall, is Jeff Sessions’ close aide, his installment in the Administration. The NYT makes clear that Miller was interviewed by Mueller’s team recently, which means he was one of the people the government planned to interview just after locking in Papadopoulos’ plea.
Which makes this exchange from Jeff Sessions’ most recent congressional appearance, on October 18, all the more interesting. First, Patrick Leahy got the Attorney General to admit that there was a difference between not recalling something and affirmatively denying something. Leahy then pointed out that, once the meetings he had denied were disclosed, Sessions started not recalling certain things about the meetings that he had previous affirmatively denied.
Leahy: Later in March, when you did disclose such meetings, you said you could not recall what was said at the meetings. Your answer to my question was an emphatic no. It wasn’t, “I don’t recall.” You are a lawyer, I am a lawyer. You are, in fact, our nation’s top lawyer. Is there a difference between responding “no” and “I do not recall”?
Leahy: Thank you.
Sessions: Certainly it is, Senator Leahy.
Leahy: So if you could not recall, then you could not answer have answered my first question, yes or no, if later you said that you don’t recall what was discussed. The reason I ask is that, US intelligence intercepts reported in July that it would appear you did in fact discuss campaign issues with the Russian Ambassador.
Leahy then asked Sessions whether he had, since the election, had conversations with Russian officials about a slew of things, starting with emails. Sessions got even squirrelier than he normally is, and first attempted to answer a question Leahy didn’t ask.
Sessions: I have never had a meeting with any Russian officials to discuss any kind of coordinating campaign efforts.
So then Leahy asked about each item in turn.
Leahy: Let’s take this piece by piece. Did you discuss any of the following: Emails?
Sessions: Repeat the question again about emails.
Leahy: Since the 2016 campaign, have you discussed with any Russian connected official anything about emails?
Sessions: Discuss with them. I don’t recall having done any such thing.
Right after this exchange, Sessions totally balks when Leahy asks him if he has been interviewed or asked for an interview by Mueller, saying he should clear it with the Special Counsel.
Now, there was some imprecision in this questioning. It’s clear that Sessions believed he was answering the question about during the campaign, not since it.
But of the things Leahy asked about — emails, Russian interference, sanctions, or any policies or positions of the Trump campaign or presidency — Sessions ultimately not-recalled in response to just one question: the emails.
Based on the past practice Leahy had just laid out, Sessions claimed to not recall issues that he had actually done. Which would suggest Sessions is worried that there’s evidence he has discussed emails — with someone. It’s just not clear how he interpreted that question.
And while Trump’s firing of Comey after attempting him to drop the Flynn investigation is a key prong in any obstruction case, his role in Flynn’s non-firing is far more interesting, especially given the likelihood, given Republican efforts to claim privilege, that he was on the Mar-a-Lago side of orders directing Flynn to ask Sergey Kislyak to hold off on a response to Obama’s sanctions. While it’s certainly possible that Mueller may hold off on any examination of Trump’s personal role in any hypothetical quid pro quo with the Russians, there’s plenty of reason to believe Trump was in the loop.
And in early discussions about Sally Yates’ testimony, Adam Schiff had said she might explain why Trump waited so long to fire Mike Flynn after she warned Don McGahn he had been compromised. One obvious reason is that it allowed Flynn, who had helped set up a meeting days later, attend it. That might change the connotation of the timing of the Comey firing, just in time to report back to Russia that the firing had “taken off” the pressure created by the investigation.
President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”
It’s crystal clear that Trump fired Comey in an attempt to stave off investigation of Mike Flynn.
But the why behind that obstruction led to the rest of the guts of the Russia investigation. And the why may implicate both Trump (as unindicted co-conspirator) and Sessions (most likely as witness) more directly in any quid pro quo pertaining to the election.
So, now we know why all the squawking about the Secret Society at the FBI is going on. Trump is about to be interviewed.
This was my thought. “Hmm, seems like a full-court press against the FBI”, then news breaks about the recent interviews and what the Trump team expects the questions to be. Clearly connected.
Yeah, the Trump team is making noise, but I don’t think his interview is actually all that imminent.
Hey Bman, I been thinkin’ the same (“…I don’t think his interview is actually all that imminent.”) but I do think that Mueller has been opening up a bit to keep attention focused on the “imminence” of the investigation. I notice that whenever something happens that threatens to undermine or distract media attention from the investigation we get announcements of interviews past or “imminent”. And I do believe that obstruction is one of the lesser charges that will be more important in any impeachment. “Conspiracy” is a great word and I think has rich potential legally. I believe that Mueller is going on through 2018 and that his investigation, chargings and trials will go on well beyond Trumps’s ouster. Remember that Watergate ended with 77 folks convicted of felonies.
Nice analysis, easy for a moron like me to digest. I wish my senator, Lahey, had been more concrete in his phrasing, and had not let that white supremacy snake Sessions slither out of answering definitively.
From all your written pieces to your appearance on podcasts, it seems that you have honed in on Trump being directly connected to a quid-pro-quo. I am excited and anxious to see what surprise is next.
This is the kind of thing that should terrify the palace because of what Mueller presumably already knows, and the length of time Sessions spent in his interview (as well as Comey’s chat and GP’s wire, etc., etc., etc.) the Kaiser’s lawyers should be well aware that the gig is up.
That’s why Sarah said it was “old news”
And why “#releasethememo” got an assist from a coordinated group of Russian bots and I would guess would serve as the latest distraction from the underlying crimes committed by the GOP
So, how long until Wray gins up a reason to fire Mueller? I think it depends upon the price, since everyone is aware that Trump in an interview with Mueller will indict himself within 15 minutes.
Great story and thanks for the analysis. I believe Trump fired Comey for much more than any threat to Flynn. Comey was severely damaged goods following the Hillary Clinton investigations and I can’t see any reasonable person doing anything other than firing him for that screw up alone. Trump also had a memo from Rosenstein that was fundamentally supportive of the action Trump later took. There was no doubt plenty of unseen anecdotal evidence floating into the white house ears that pointed to even more unsatisfactory activities within the FBI. Comey was entirely responsible for his own demise and it is Clintons name that will be forever associated with his departure.
That seems completely silly since the timeline indicates that the Rosenstein and Sessions inputs were pretty clearly attempted cover for a Trump decision that had already been made.
This also seems to be an unfounded, and at best wildly speculative, statement. And, no, thanks to Trump, it will now be he who is associated with Comey’s departure. Completely.
Great story. Good look selling it.
In the real world, Trump is not a fan of good government: it gets in the way of making money and keeping it. He is not a fan of good management. People who do their jobs well bore him. He wants people who are beautiful and abjectly loyal to him. They need only do their job well enough to give Don what he wants when he wants it. Everybody else can pound salt.
Donald Trump is a con artist, PT Barnum with a bad combover, with the same conviction that there’s a sucker born every minute and who wants every dime they have. Trump fired Comey because he threatened to apply the law to Donald Trump.
regardless, Uncle Tungsten is a pretty cool screen name. :~)
… unless, of course, it accurately reflects that the author actually is your exceptionally brittle rw nutbar uncle that gets you loathing family gatherings.
I always think of the old time film for tungsten lighting.
OT: Trump is sometimes quite brilliant however. He saw DACA possibly/probably happening in the attempt to avoid the shutdown with little gain for his agenda so he blew it up. Now DACA is the chip he gives to get his wall AND his reduction in legal immigration during a process that is divorced from budget talks. (Unless the Dems wake up and don’t let Schumer get played again when this CR runs out.)
What about the report that Trump had been told before he fired Comey that doing so wouldn’t stop any investigation and would probably make things worth? If that is the case, wouldn’t hurt any obstruction case?
I doubt Mueller is going for anything other than a perjury trap at this point. Hence, the request for an interview. Trump has two choices:
1 He either refuses the interview and is then lambasted by the media as a guilty man hiding behind the powers of President.
2 He gives the interview and is tripped up on past statements of fact and declared to have perjured himself.
How much worse can the media get if he chooses #1?
1) If Trump refuses an interview on mutually agreeable terms and conditions, Mueller can simply compel his testimony via a grand jury subpoena.
2) Think someone said this earlier, but what is a “perjury trap”? All Trump has to do is tell the truth; he controls whether there is perjury/false statements or not.
Despite the fact that the bar for perjury is lower than a snake’s belly (‘I didn’t have sex with that woman’*) I hear that perjury is no longer a federal crime but a duty of one holdng high federal office. In other words, is a majority of the House going to get exercised if t perjures himself? I sure hope Mueller comes up with more than perjury.
*Query: Is a blowjob sex? (But I digress.)
The Earl had a good post on “perjury trap” in the Simpson thread, it’s toward the end but worth getting. In short, if the Kaiser tells the truth there is no “perjury trap”, but if not it’s just perjury by his own lips. No one else’s.
I’m not sure under whether the subpoena would go smoothly as the palace lawyers will immediately claim double-secret privilege even though Kellyanne’s hubby helped to establish the precedent with SillyBilly Clinton and Ken Starr. It might take a couple of iterations and the difference here would be made to center on “official actions taken while President”. Given how many Trumpies selected for loyalty and approved ideology have already been waved through into the federal courts it may be somewhat harder even though the legal principle is sound.
A more useful question for me might be “who would Trump give up Flynn to save?” since that might explain why the over-the-top effort was expended on Flynn and so far no one else (Bannon, Priebus, Spicer, Mooch, Manafort, etc.) who showed themselves to be as loyal to the Kaiser.
What’s the leverage here? Does Flynn have smoking guns on the Kaiser or the “royal family”? If so, Mueller may already know it.
For us in CA, “Slick Willie” refers to Willie Brown, who managed to get himself elected Speaker of the Assembly when the GOP had the majority in an act of political magic never repeated as far as I know.
Yes! It was Earl.
Tripped up on statements of fact? Oh, so his lies?
Here is the way to avoid committing perjury- DONT FUCKING LIE
What about the report that Trump had been told before he fired Comey that doing so wouldn’t stop any investigation and would probably make things worth?
How is being told it will make things worse a mitigating factor as to obstruction? He thought he had it covered by Sessions and Rosenstein fronting that it was Comey’s behavior in regard to Clinton, and how she was unfairly treated. He thought the Democrats would eat it right up, taking the bait. And yet he hasn’t stopped calling for, or rather, demanding an investigation of her. Plus, he admitted to everyone in the US that he fired Comey because of this “Rush-er thing”. No one ever said criminals were geniuses.
Trump is famous for ignoring good advice. That’s why he goes through so many lawyers, and probably accountants, sex partners, business managers and a host of others.
Yeah, that’s also why he’s on twitter every day. He has gotten away with so much along the way too, he has become careless. Money talks
. . . and wives.
… especially ex-wives….
Someday “Sex, Lies, and Twitter” may win the Oscar.
Marcy, if Mueller is interested in pursuing an obstruction case, why is there no reporting on investigations into the early Flynn/congressional efforts to derail the process. Certainly Cohen-Watnick and Nunes would be worth querying if there was suspicion of a broad conspiracy to obstruct. Nunes in particular seems to be the go-to guy when they start to get worried about exposure- i.e. when Flynn was fired and now, when the core is facing fire. Does the balance of powers make the legislative too sacrosanct for Mueller to probe?
When you look back, it’s astonishing how many people were asked to end the investigations. Some of them in charge of investigations. Since no one was “bothered” by it, I guess all of it was meaningless?
Trump Pressed Top Republicans to End Senate Russia Inquiry
Newcomer my ass. Trump has worked with lawyers his entire career. His dad went to federal prison for racial discrimination in housing, a process that would have involved a lot of time with lawyers and impressed on him with how business actions can have personal legal consequences. Trump’s model and early mentor was lawyer Roy Cohn, a very dirty Mr. Fixit for the high and mighty.
Trump knows what obstruction is. He’s confident he can get away with it. He’s the Don.
The scary part is, he just might get away with it.
Earl of Huntigdon says
Not so. He was arrested at a KKK rally, but released without charges.
Alas, racial discrimination per se is not a crime and never has been.
Kushner’s father went to prison, but I doubt Trump was involved with that process.
Yes, Fred C. Trump AOT plainly was caught employing classic profiteering schemes in erecting wartime house, a person we all are safe in concluding from court proceedings along with resolution by consent order was a corrupt landlord whose practices reflected systemic racism, and an all-around scumbucket with at least so much empathy with pointy-hatt’d KKKs it got him arrested in their company as they demonstrated, but it does appear earl may have confused him in this technical respect with Trump’s son-in-law’s father.
The core point of earl’s still remains, Trump as naive is laughable. As a business person, one has to know how to navigate the system without breaking laws.
My bad. I confused Trump Sr. with Kushner Sr, who spent 14 months at Club Fed.
Trump senior was one of the first landlords to be sued by the Feds for violating federal non-discrimination in housing provisions. The Trumps hired the great Mr. Fixit, Roy Cohn, still in his prime. The federal case was so strong, it took the Trumps two years of wrangling to settle.
In what is now the sad norm in the corporate world, the resulting consent decree permitted the Trumps to settle without pleading guilty to a violation. It was hardly the clear win Trump claims. He, his father and their business were forced to implement a list of agreed practices intended to open their properties to more African American tenants. Not the sort of thing that would be required of a business that had been found not to have violated the law.
Someone on twitter brought up something interesting, that we now know about a Sessions interview and the planning to set up a Trump interview, what is the significance that Kushner had an interview on only one subject, Flynn. Any thoughts on that?
As bmaz has pointed out, as recently as earlier in this same thread, we actually do not “know” of any such “planning”, except possibly from some source that may have ties, indirect or not, to Trump, which in turn may reflect a state of affairs that exists entirely in the imaginations of a vein of Trumpers.
And relative to your third ‘known’ thing, that phantom just discussed is infinitely more precise.
Great point brightdark and I would be backing #1. The daily exposure of a deep seated corruption within the FBI plus so many other extraordinary Dem related prosecutions and inquiries under way will eventually bury the Mueller vs Trump interview ‘news’. The FBI old guard is not liking the sunlight beamed on its internal (less than) covert operations and machinations and that alone must be driving Mueler crazy. Every day his early activities and appointments are corroding his credibility.
You know, this is seriously bonkers crap you are posting.
The story that the FBI lost five months worth of the Peter Strzok-Lisa Page messages is interesting. The months cover the time period between the transition and when Mueller was appointed. The question that is asked is: did the FBI misstate that they had ‘all’ the messages or did those months go ‘missing’. IF they did, someone is running a very bad coverup.
Oh and the friend that Comey gave the letters and then made public? He’s now saying that he is Comey’s legal rep. Just when people wanted to ask him some question.
They did not “lose” the emails, they were inadvertently scrubbed in a quite routine update, and were subject to no protection orders. Shit happens in a bureaucracy, that does not make it a scandal for conspiracy theorists.
And if you have a credible cite for your second paragraph, let us know. Sean Davis, a certified nutjob at The Federalist, an extreme right wing dishrag, does not count. Who else do you find credible, Infowars?
If I remember correctly, George W. Bush and Karl Rove kept entire servers private and outside the government control, despite public records laws. And Cheney kept a lot of business on paper or in his head, so it officially never existed. But nobody is better than Republicans at projection and inventing crises for the other guy. The MSM falls for it every time; so do a lot of Democrats.
Millions, as in arguably 22 million, White House emails lost in that deal. Now THAT is scandalous.
Loss of millions of White House emails IOIYAR.
(‘it’s/is okay if you are Republican’).
Also remembering the VP Cheney office fire in light of the recent Trump Tower fire…more papers lost in a blaze perhaps.
I ws reading a while back that Trump has something like 3 million emails that are subject to production for court cases that he never has coughed up, like his tax returns. Mueller might have those.
On what possible basis do you suggest Mueller might have Trump emails discussing Trump & Trump org taxes?
Plus Rove’s “lost” Blackberry that IIRC was subject to a subpoena.
There was a fire at the naval observatory (presumably Cheney’s papers), if I recall.
It’s interesting, but a couple of points:
There has been some 50,000 texts between the two released thus far by the FBI, per the Justice Dept. How many cherry-picked texts has the public seen? Not a lot. Even within that small number, none thus far provide a smoking gun of any conspiracy. Why don’t they release all of them for some context of how focused they were on these opinions, or if the majority of the time they weren’t.
Were these two agents the only ones whose communication was lost within that time frame, or was there an issue across the board with some others? We don’t know.
Comey admitted that he wanted a special counsel. He said the conversations with Trump and pressure (do you like your job?) were disturbing, as the head of the investigation. I can’t say his method was completely above board. But that, in itself, does not make for evidence of a far ranging conspiracy. Trump contacted senators and a host of people to stop the investigation before Comey and before the special counsel. It’s not a jump to conclude that he applied the same pressure to Comey. We don’t have access to Comey’s notes, so there is no way to know the seriousness of leaking what Grassley determined “classified” information therein.
He might well be playing the system by hiring his lawyer friend to defend against questioning. Then again, even your source does not know when the attorney/client relationship began.
Hoo nelly, did you ever run quickly away from that “50,000” strawman.
First, think about that number: 50,000 that in someone’s feral imaginings would have been produced not just by but entirely BETWEEN just 2 people, within a period of 5 months, i.e. ~150 days. That’d require on average over 330 ems per DAY, every freaking day – a rate that, to put this mildly, is not remotely founded in even one single day of known e-communications between the two, and indeed, if even possible, would require giving up working at their jobs & probably at the sacrifice of meals & personal hygiene. IOW, it’s an absurdity, an invention, a number plucked straight out of the keester of whichever Trump political appointee was purporting to ‘leak’ to the paper (and at that, ‘leak’ in the sense of how the Cheney mob worked their angle in ginning up invading Iraq).
Then you try to escape the general vicinity of your dubious adoption of that absurdity by referring to as a “small number”, while leaping from that fake-burning building onto the next one, the epic unanswereable “how many more” R that that “we” don’t know about. And from that point on in your game of Connect the Suspect Squiggly Microbial Dots (that may in fact be ambient dust particles, many traced to yourself), you start up with mixing up the cards on the floor the way my children would do in games of Go Fish.
I might not be completely accurate, and my source may be dubious, but:
“Their texting history, which Sessions said included over 50,000 messages outside of the uncollected period, is currently under review by the DOJ’s inspector general, who is conducting a separate probe of the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.”
The texts, I think, are the total number given, from over years. It’s possible that they don’t have a team going over these and that’s why there hasn’t been a daily deluge of news. On the other hand, Trump is obsessed with stopping the investigation, and Sessions et al seem determined to help in that path. So relatively speaking, we haven’t seen a lot of interaction in re to this subject. We haven’t seen direct evidence pointing to the two crafting ways to get Trump arrested, or to frame him, nor any other activity pulling other agents into this quest. And yes, I agree that they would have been insane had they texted that often in a short time span. That, or they were actually teen agents, lol. (Your comments again were funny, whether I am incorrect or correct, and I always enjoy them).
The small number of texts presented to the public as proof that Everyone-is-out-to-get-Trump™, in other words, and to use a favorite saying in Trumpland, have been a ‘nothingburger’ thus far. Just two people talking shit, much in the way a lot of people did during the election. They didn’t seem particularly fond of either candidate, but opine that Trump is worse. There is no lie in that. Whether they should have shared opinions at all, is not an argument I have taken one way or another. My point is that there has only been a small number extracted from a larger number that hasn’t been a smoking gun of conspiracy.
Trump has misquoted this number as the amount of the ‘missing’ communications.
Or to condense my verbosity, if so much evidence exists, why has so little been demonstrated?
If Mueller took up a sport, it would be fly fishing. Some things can’t be hurried. Waiting is a big part of the game.
@earl, I was speaking about the Sessions, Nunes, etc “investigation”. They are playing out this entire thing in the public sphere. Mueller is keeping whatever he has tight to the vest, as you would expect a prosecutor to do. But we should proceed with caution on that end too, and not conjure up or anticipate anything, until he makes it all public, through trials and his reporting. His findings will likely be things he believes he can prove beyond reasonable doubt. What Sessions (and Nunes) are doing is creating reasonable doubt through tiny tidbits. Since our imaginations are wide and without limit, Trump Inc are using the Hitchcock device of making the audience believe that what they don’t see is more filled with horror than what they are presently viewing. The shower scene in Psycho was effective because you saw the blood in the drain and the knife in hand, so everyone “saw” the stabbing. The Trump Inc reasonable doubt factory thus far has sent out vignettes of conversations while the audience already knows the campaign is under investigation. By holding back the middle, they create suspense, and ask the public to fill in the blanks. That’s why we have the thriller of the Nunes memo (which could be declassified by Trump) without a critical airing and assessment in the public, the not knowing, or seeing, creates a crescendo of interest and anticipation of something devastating…because imagination.
Based on what I’ve read of the FBI text messages that Nunes seems so concerned about–and on the fact that the FBI leadership removed the people involved from active duty long ago–I see the opposite of what you imply.
Page and Strzok gossiped in their inappropriate workplace texts but they are clearly appalled by political interference (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fbi-texts-trump-clinton-deep-state_us_5a615538e4b01d91b25449c9) by others and reject doing such themselves. On top of their gossip being no more than gossip, they were completely removed from the Mueller investigation and FBI work in general to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
In short, what I’ve seen strongly suggests that the FBI is operating in a straightforward upright manner and Nunes and Co. are using Mueller’s abundance of caution about an everyday workplace issue to gin up a political firestorm to subvert an investigation.
While we are on the subject of “#releasethememo”, how about the communications of the rogue cell of NYC Feebs that leaked the HRC email BS without knowing (or even looking) at what they had? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander….
There was supposed to be a simultaneous investigation of Comey and also the FBI in regard to Clinton. Comey was fired and that line of inquiry went kaput.
Trump has devoted his entire administration to staving off an inquiry into his relations with the Russians.
He refused to fire Flynn, who might well have known about them, along with much else, until public disclosures about Flynn forced his hand. He fired Yates, who knew about Flynn and warned Trump about him. He fired Bahrara, who had jurisdiction over NYC-based federal financial crimes and Deutsche Bank’s US ops. He fired Comey, telling the Russian ambassador within 24 hours that the heat on him was finally off, claiming that it was Comey who was “bonkers”.
Trump is still furious at Sessions for having recused himself from overseeing Mueller’s investigation – a step Sessions was legally obligated to take. That – and a lack of many other skills – precluded Sessions from being Trump’s Roy Cohn. Disappointing.
What Marcy keeps asking, but not much of the MSM, is why Trump is obsessed with keeping his Russian ties so secret?
Session’s recusal is the most interesting part to me. Comey said there were classified reasons as to why Sessions needed to recuse himself- session’s connection to the campaign is enough for him to recuse himself, but isn’t classified. What was Comey talking about?!
(oh fcol – gah …) At the very least, FBIs involved in cointel & probably also quite a few DoJos were by then, even before Comey was fired, already intensely aware of Sessions’ contacts with Russians. Add to that the fact that Sessions is plainly a witness in relation to both the lead-up to and execution of firing of Comey, and one is left in wonder only about your ‘naivete’ on this point.
rug9, it’s ‘what’s SAUCE for the goose …’; not “what’s good …”.
Also, Wray can’t fire Mueller: Wray is FBI & FBI is under DoJ. Mueller was appointed OSC by the senior DoJ officer not already recused. The reg that provides for that kind of appointment also provides that only that officer or successor can fire Mueller, and only for cause.
I’m probably just being an old fuddy-duddy here, but I find that, in reading comments by folks who don’t appear to have a handle on the basics involved, an affect of breezy familiarity in flitting about a bunch of loosely-identified subjects that require the best of explanations & clearest of language to tie together, is not just enervating but annoying.
I had to look up the goose thing, LMAO. I think “what’s good for the goose” has been in common use since the 60s.
But I’m rolling over here, that really made me laugh. Thank you.
Just to be clear, my comment wasn’t mockery.
‘I could care less’ has been in far more common use over the last generation than the correct ‘I could not care less’.
Yes, “irregardless”. My father is driven mad by the newer use of nonplussed, so I completely understand.
BTW, Wiktionary has the idiom origin as “as deep drinketh the goose as the gander” (1562), which seems to be the most poetic.
Did the Bard use it?
Sessions recused himself in an effort to prevent a Saturday Night Massacre.
He does not want to become an Elliot Richardson or William Ruckelshaus.
Trump will not fire Rosenstein otherwise Trump will make Nixon look good.
Potus, meet the rock and the hard place.
I do not think this is right. Sessions recused himself, to the extent he has actually honored any such recusal, because attorney ethics and DOJ ethics demanded he do so. There was not, and is not, any question but that he literally had to. A moron could have told him that, but even the career officers at DOJ so advised. And that was that.
Why does timing of Trump’s firing of Flynn after Yates’ warning matter? Or, really, even the investigation of Flynn (as pertains to his contact with Kislyak)?
Yates’ warning assume Trump didn’t know about the convo Flynn had with Kislyak/Russia contacts. But what if Trump told him to have it and what to say, which, based on what we know was said, would not have been illegal? It Flynn was just following Trump’s directive, there was no exposure to blackmail, and the need for the investigation into Flynn (for *that meeting*, though not necessarily for FARA and/or Flynn violations) would be moot. Unless all of this is about Trump trying to obstruct the investigation of Flynn’s into possible non-Russia related crimes (again, FARA, etc.).
The timing is important bc it may show that Trump was pursuing the payoff for the quid pro quo and didn’t care that Flynn had lied to hide that.
If Trump ordered Flynn to say those things — which I think is probable — it means that Trump himself was involved in the payoff of the quid pro quo.
For one thing, Yates’s warning establishes the latest that Trump can be deemed to be aware of Flynn’s risk to national security. As a proof problem, everything after the warning is on Trump. The delay in firing him needs to be explained, and explained in a way that fits the other explanations Trump will have tried. Few of them are likely to fit together; Trump’s not a detail guy and he’s arrogant as hell. That’s ultimately what opens the door to Mueller; what he finds is likely to be interesting.
But if Trump knew what Flynn said (bc Flynn did as he was instructed by Trump in talking to the Russians, as many envoys of incoming administrations have done before, including McFaul on behalf of Obama), then there was nothing to the warning that Flynn was open to blackmail, and thus posed no peril to national security.
It all depends on whether what Flynn said to the Russian was known in advance to Trump. If he was following Trump’s directive, then there’s no issue.
The blackmail was in the Russian contacts during the campaign and (while we’re at it) the Logan Act violations plus the planned rendition of the Turkish dissident Gulen (IIRC) which exposed Flynn to criminal charges in addition to loss of his clearance. It would be enough for leverage.
The Logan Act connection was nonsense though. It’s never even been thought of being used for a prez elect. Not even Mueller believed it could be used, thus it doesn’t even appear among the other charges in Flynn’s plea deal.
Don’t get me wrong, Flynn is garbage (as is Trump, it should go without need to say). The rendition plan alone should preclude him from basically anything at all, if not support charges of some kind (the FBI has nabbed dupes talked into planning terrorism after all). But is it even clear Russians knew about that?
That said, skepticism of much of this “Russia business” is, I think, well-founded if you read the recommended policies of the new report from the Council on Foreign Relations about our New Cold War, which are deeply disturbing and blatantly McCarthyist.
Unless Donald can be maneuvered into a Colonel Jessup moment, an admission of wrongdoing, Mueller has to prove things beyond a reasonable doubt. Yates telling Trump something establishes the latest date for his knowledge. If Mueller can prove Trump had knowledge earlier, good.
Following orders is no defense if the orders are illegal. There’s also a question of whether someone lied about an act or an order in a context where that produced legal jeopardy.
A president-elect remains a private citizen until he takes the oath of office. He can engage in introductory, non-issue specific talks with foreign nationals that do not interfere with the sitting president’s foreign policy. Talks about specific issues, promises, exchanges of value are problematic, and are more so if they conflict with foreign policy that the president-elect is not yet responsible for. Donald has always scoffed at the notion, but the devil really is in the details.
As a general officer in the US Army, Flynn would be well aware and trained in what illegal orders are and that illegal orders are not enforceable. He has no excuse here any more than the generals did at Nuremberg.
Directing someone to speak with Kislyak or other Russian official, including Putin for that matter, is not illegal. Telling them, “Oh hey, maybe don’t react to whatever’s going on now and we can talk when the new President is sworn in” is not illegal. Practically every president-elect at least since Nixon has sent a messenger to do this. Obama sent McFaul.
A president-elect is not a mere private citizen. For one, he gets national security briefings. The notion that he can’t establish connections to foreign governments finds no precedence. There’s a lot of doubt among constitutional scholars of all stripes whether the Logan Act could even apply to a president-elect, except perhaps in the most flagrant violations. Note that Mueller didn’t even mention it in Flynn’s plea deal, which one would think he would have done if he thought it were even plausible.
The issue is not, of course, that a president-elect cannot “establish relations” with foreign governments. The issue is the extent of those relations. Being “read in” to national security briefings is a domestic matter. The president-elect would still be prohibited from practicing his own foreign policy before he assumes the office.
Exchanging value with a foreign government to help him get elected might also be problematic. And as Flynn knows about his own alleged behavior, making deals with foreign governments to commit illegal acts, in or out of office, is also problematic.
Yeah. And while the Logan Act is a bit of a joke in some regards, arguing that it has no application to a transition team is ludicrous.
I recall watching Leahy question Sessions and thinking of that old legal cliche: if the facts are against you, argue the law; if the law is against you, argue the facts; if both are against you, pound the table.
Sessions seemed to do a lot of table-pounding.
The other thing that I pondered that day is that Leahy did all his questioning blind. That is, Leahy wasn’t interviewing Sessions after interviewing dozens of others, reviewing mountains of emails, and checking into God only knows what kind of things that would turn up on intercepts of Russian communications.
That’s what Mueller did.
With cooperation from Flynn and Papadopoulus, Team Mueller had a lot of context in which to frame their questions about the pre-election activities of Sessions (and others). If Sessions could get this flustered by Leahy, Mueller and Co likely filleted him quite neatly. Perhaps even so neatly that Sessions doesn’t realize what kind of information he gave up.
Sessions getting flustered by questions from Harris make me VERY entertained imagining him under tough questioning from Mueller.
I’m really curious about who on Mueller’s team would have led the questioning of Sessions. My guess is Jeannie Rhee, based on her taking the lead on the Papadopoulos pleading and Marcy’s description of things in a Nov 5 post on the Mueller Dream Team:
Likewise, in another EW post a little over a week later, she said this:
One of the more relevant parts of Rhee’s bio is DAAG at OLC, suggesting that she has more than a passing familiarity with all elements of the DOJ and the WH — which means she understands the worlds of both Sessions and Flynn. Add in the discomfort that he displayed in being shown up by a woman (Kamala Harris), and Rhee could be a very interesting choice to take the lead on questioning Sessions.
[various internal links in the blockquotes omitted here]
I think you’re on the mark here. There are a number of the OSC’s lead prosecutors who have personal experience of high-level DOJ positions and know the institutional norms there, which matters for interrogating any kind of undue influence / obstruction. Rhee has the experience to know what’s normal for DOJ interactions with the WH and Congress.
We’ve also had PapaFiancée (who met him after all this) doing a bunch of interviews saying “hey, coffee boy was doing a lot more than fetching coffee” over the past couple of weeks — all presumably with the sign-off of the OSC, given that she says they’ve spelled out what she can’t say — which feels somewhat relevant here. I think we’re going to learn a lot more about the summer/autumn lacunae in the Papadopoulos statement of facts sooner than later.
Nah, I think Mueller would do it. Too senior not to have him do it, and per reports he has been in some of the interviews.
Agree. It’s not the sort of thing Mueller can delegate, except to warm up an interviewee who has no patience and would hate to answer difficult questions posed by an underling, a woman at that.
That was my first thought, too, but then I wondered if Mueller would like to stay out of sight with Sessions for a strategic reason. If Trump continues to lean on folks (like Sessions) to let him get rid of Mueller, it is perhaps in Mueller’s interest not to be the voice asking Sessions all those pesky pointed ugly questions.
He may have been there, but perhaps Rhee (or others) did the verbal heavy lifting.
The idea that Trump will tell the truth is hilarious. He’s been laundering Russian money since 1984
A self-inflicted perjury trap, like flicking out your tongue to eat the cheese balanced perfectly on that little wire. It’s a monster that defense counsel invent to scare clients who lie about their age, their weight, their golf score, about sex, drinking, money, and who are dying to answer that stupid DA’s questions. The clients who never listen.
The Don’s in trouble. Litigation to him means countersuing his opponent into bankruptcy. But the Don can’t countersue Mueller or his staff. He can’t evict them without notice. He can’t find another bank and tell Mueller to go fuck himself for wanting to do due diligence before lending him money. And he can’t support his political opponent in the next election.
The Don isn’t out of tricks. But he’s staring at the bottom of the barrel.
Trump’s whole reputation as a deal maker is built solely on his real estate transactions. Leaving aside the dubious nature of this reputation, think about what kind of negotiations these are. Central to this kind of deal making is the ability to say to a city planner reluctant to grant you a variance or a city council reluctant to give you a tax break “OK, I’ll just go to the next town over.” He could bully some folks, charm others, and bluff still others.
With Mueller, that kind of negotiation means nothing, despite Trump’s obvious desire to look for another prosecutor to investigate him. Ditto for negotiating with Congress (either the GOP or Dems), negotiating with NATO or the EU, negotiating with North Korea, or negotiating with damn near anyone else the Government of the United States negotiates with.
“I’ll pick up my toys and go somewhere else” might have worked with the city fathers of Atlantic City, but not with Mueller.
Unfortunately, it still works well for Apple and Amazon. But, yes, Trump is a house of cards. One reason he’s afraid of Mueller, I suspect, is that he’s very good at poker.
Huh? Surely you don’t mean Trump is “very good at poker”. Go Fish maybe.
“He” refers to Mueller. Go Fish would be hard for Donald.
Destroying a bunch of federal institutions (with the assistance or indifference of the congressional GOP) is the only escape route.
And, you know, it might happen. It might work. It’s zero-sum now. Mueller is in a position where every documented attempt to obstruct justice adds to the tally of evidence, while the Dotard believes that you can’t be nailed for obstructing justice if you successfully obstruct the people investigating you for obstruction and have sufficient lackeys to back you up. It’s like a game of poker where both sides believe they have the strongest hand according to different rules and nobody knows who the dealer will side with.
There’s a working assumption that people like Adam Schiff won’t say “fuck it” and dump top secret shit into the public sphere, because to do so would be compromising and destructive. Nunes and his cohorts have no such scruples.
Since the GOP controls all the levers and machinery, they won’t pull the plug on Trump until his usefulness to the Koch doctrine has been exhausted. They have kept Trump on life support, no matter the amount of tripping over cords. Trump isn’t so much the Teflon Don as much as the entire GOP act as nonstick pans, tossing debris, no matter how disgusting, down the drain.
It will be more than a shame, but I doubt when it’s over any of them will pay a real price for complicity, aside from possibly being voted out of office.
I’d love to know how many C of O inspections were rigged for Trump by the NYC buildings dept. Atlantic City? a given.
“All of them, Katie.”
What about Torshin and NRA?
How long has that been going on?
How long has Trump and NRA been in bed?
How many states elections were manipulated by Russian money via NRA?
This needs to come out.
Nunes and the rest of the GOP have very good reasons to dig in and dodge, because of their own complicity from McTurtle preventing Obama from warning the country months before the election to the use of the hacked data by the GOP in Florida, at least, but probably other House and state races as well. That seems like a lot of criminal liability to me and so they know that when the Kaiser goes down they will too.
They are hamstrung by the Kaiser’s pronouncements plus the facts. Stuff like the “DHS report” that didn’t use any DHS info (and was issued despite warnings about the quality of its information) indicates a smoke-and-mirrors evolution that will run out of tricks soon.
The question no one is asking, and I mean no one, is why the Russians like the Republicans so much. No serious Republican commentator has asked this, no one on the left has really asked this. Why not?
Republicans are against government, or at least the Koch network plants are. This works well with Russia, who has probably been propping up Ron Paul since 2007 at least. Libertarians, AnCaps, and the short jump to fascism are ideal for Russians. Fox, which exists in a bubble, is basically RT with hot chicks.
Republican rhetoric facilitated this shit. They won’t own up to it and democrats are too dumb to articulate it.
Great point. What do they fear in driving this home?
There is documentation of a coordinated effort between the parties, of the religious right, Exxon, Koch, the Mercers, Russian oligarchs, etc that is easy to find by simply searching past articles and then connecting dots. However, a lot of this may not rise to any criminality, but there has certainly been joint efforts in propaganda toward hard right authoritarian leadership, where a consortium of the richest increase their freedom and prosperity, to the disadvantage of everyone else. They frame these points in different ways that make it palatable for the little guy’s interests, or the perception that it helps his interests, even if that is not remotely the goal.
After reading Mary’s piece about Greenwald, I checked into what Laura Poitras was up to, and happened upon this guy (who had worked with her in the past, rabbit hole, yes). Maybe you have already seen it:
A Sundance filmmaker has made a movie about the Russian propaganda machine
While this piece could possibly be propaganda about propaganda (with the heavy pile-ons), it does illustrate that Russia was hard-selling Trump to its own people, which is quite interesting. As a disclaimer, I couldn’t make it through the entire video. Why would Trump need to be sold, in Russia, as the savior of Russia?
I think you danced around the connection: it’s big money in the Panama Papers club that are looking out for themselves at everyone else’s expense. I don’t think any other ideology applies, and I would expect the oligarchs of whatever nationality to pull out all of the stops to protect their assets.
This state of affairs will last until one part of the cabal wants something from another part of the cabal that is not for sale. At that point the s&^R%*&^t hits the rotating air mover.
I’m still wondering about the defense circles for the Kaiser, and why Flynn appears to rate an effort equal to one expected for Ivanka. What did Sessions give up since Mueller’s investigation is not kabuki, or did he try to protect the palace in hope of a pardon? I would suspect Mueller already knows most of what the RKElf can’t recall but wanted him under oath.
If the Kaiser is interviewed by Mueller, it will be with a cloud of lawyers and frequent invocations of memory loss or “executive privilege”. I can’t see how that would work on the money laundering aspect of the various deals predating his time in office, however. For that reason I cannot see any deal with the palace that makes both sides happy, and Mueller isn’t doing this for show.
I think it is all about money. The ideology in propaganda is a tool for control, over people’s hearts and minds, behavior and most importantly, over that money.
I sometimes wonder if Trump will simply cut out at some point down the road. He’s a guy who opted toward bankruptcy multiple times. Cut, run, leave a path of devastation behind, self-preservation aided by others, is what his history tells us. Not much in the way of ‘facing the music’. I can’t imagine a drastic turn in personality at his advanced age. They are hoping to find anything they can use, and run the clock out before Mueller makes his findings.
Clearly, it is because that is where the money is. Whether legit or not is not an issue.
Brilliant report. Just a critical remark on the Greenwald TNR piece re: Maddow and the blue bubble….It is important not to fall into the journalist-lawyer’s empiricist fallacy that the truth shall set you free. One needs to find the truth, and then work on establishing a constitutional majority in the senate to resolve the problem once the truth is established. The legal system brought down Nixon, but the American public was educated for months and months by the journalists, not by the legal system. Carl Bernstein’s name recognition in US history is vastly higher than Ron Jaworski’s. Wheeler needs to get her facts straight; but Maddow’s ratings need to go up, as she is convincing the electorate that Wheeler has her facts straight. It might help if Ed Walker would put Jay and Bourdieu away and have a read of Arendt’s arguments about truth, lying, and meaning.. E.g.: ..https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/06/15/lying-in-politics-hannah-arendt/
Ms. Wheeler’s facts are just fine. But, hey, thanks for edifying us on what we need to do. Very helpful.
By the way, speaking of “brilliant”, you just argued that Carl Bernstein is better known than a long ago former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback. And, frankly, due to his work at ESPN, Ron Jaworski is a hell of a lot better known than you argue!
Damning with faint praise. Always a good strategy. Facts? Meh. But I’ll ask Leon.
I’ll ask John (8:32), too, what he thinks of journalist-lawyers stealing his friend’s insight about spiritual freedom and labeling it empiricist. And I’ll ask Pierre what he thinks of this example of unconscious cultural adherence. He might suggest your correspondent change their street habitus.
I’m also struggling with the idea that Rep. Meehan is arguing that he should ‘scape whipping because his adultery was only in the heart, not in the hand.
I’m not sure, but I don’t think he is criticizing Marcy on her facts. I think the argument was that the public needed to find a ‘consensus’ of truth.
At any rate, the link he provided was interesting and well worth a read.
You’re right, the citation, a review of work by Hannah Arendt, was worth reading. The preceding lament, though, made it difficult to get to it. And wiki is an easy way to check spelling, name references, dates, etc.
Writing a simpler main theme would be more effective. Dissing other sources – here, Ed Walker and Bourdieu – is less effective than touting the one you want attention paid to. That’s especially true here, given that Ed earlier crafted a long series of posts exploring Arendt’s thought.
My reference to Rep. Meehan was unrelated to John Ely’s post.
I concur on what looked like the dissing part as unnecessary. However, I know I’m not always adept at getting my point across, or my tone might be misinterpreted, so there’s that. After reading the link, I think he was trying to stress the importance of not only not getting caught in lies, but also not getting into the weeds of independent facts, rather than recognizing the collective truth or facts as it/they relate to the most important issue, and education thereof. But I really can’t speak for this person, I have a hard enough time doing it for myself. I’m not even sure this comment makes a hell of a lot of sense, in hindsight.
Don the Con should seek asylum in Switzerland.
Trump will attempt to fire Mueller
Act’s I, II, and III are done.
Final Act is in process:
General Flynn is a cooperating witness
George Pappa is a cooperating witness
Manafort’s buddy, Gates, sources say is contemplating cooperation
Attorney General “I can’t recall” Sessions was grilled last week.
On deck: Don the Con
Manafort will go to jail for money laundering and income tax evasion.
Pappa, Flynn, and Gates will be given leniency.
Sessions is a wild card…. I have no idea where his mind lives.
Don the Con will be charged as an “Unindicted Co-Conspirator” for Obstruction of Justice
Marcy, you got a shout out in the Atlantic:
The Epistemic Quandary of the FBI and Trump
Today’s Nunes BS:
If it is so awesome, why can’t it be released to the Senate Intel committee. Schiff makes the point that the sources are currently classified, which needs to be fixed to stop the innuendo campaign.
Apparently Nunes’ memo is “centered” around well-known name-dropping blowhard Carter Page.
Also, Trump’s lawyers said “not so fast, Kaiser” in a surprise to nobody:
And, it appears the “secret society” only has one text about it.
This is lighter-weight than the usual dreck shoveled out by the RWNM, but I doubt the MSM will make them pay for it. Also, the NRA still has not commented in the last week now about their Russian funding activities / money laundering. For an organization (and spokescreature LaPierre) that likes to see itself on the news as much as they do, the silence is deafening and telling us something important.
i’ll concede carter page may be a name-dropping blowhard, but in my book his outstanding characteristic is that he is one of the most inarticulate ph.d.’s ever minted. the guy cannot put even a single, simple english sentence together to form a coherent communication.
i honest to god don’t care about obstruction. i don’t give a flying damn about perjury. i don’t give a rst’s ass about impeachment.
i just want to know what happened; that’s all. i want an accurate set (sets) of facts consistent with each other and provable; thst’s all.
i don’t care much about the trump story. i want the russia-successfully-intruded-in-an-american-presidential-election story, the whole goddamned russia story – trump and family and henchmen included. because, you see, an intrusion by a foreign power in our presidential election was a fundamental and very rational fear of the folks who set our government in motion.
the facts in order and reliable are what i want; that what i get at emptwheel.
i’m also counting on mueller, some of the congress, and some of the press to gather the russia facts together.
Agree. I’d give up all the obstruction/ perjury stuff to know the truth about Russian hacks & social media manipulation. I think real defensive measures need to be made to our cyber infrastructure & helping social media platforms combat against state-sponsored disinformation campaigns.
Do not use Tor.
Encourage anyone you know that uses Tor to stop.
Encourage anyone you know that runs Tor servers to shut them down.
And that’s what we ALL want, isn’t it?
So, it’s great that Nunes and Grassley are bringing the truth out as fast as they can.
Swampcritter perpwalks will be seen before midterms – you can bet on it.