Friday, May 24, 2024

No End to Mueller’s Probe In Sight

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is not honoring the 60-day time-out period traditionally ob-served by Justice Department prosecutors to avoid having their criminal investigations influ-ence the outcome of elections.

Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told the New York Times in May that Mueller’s office had said that September 1 was a likely end date for the investigation, so long as Trump cooperated with the special counsel’s probe. That cooperation was forthcoming, with the White House having turned over 1.4 million documents that Mueller’s probe had requested, waived executive privi-lege and attorney-client confidentiality to allow White House counsel Don McGahn to answer all of Mueller’s questions during three interrogations lasting 30 hours, and having offered to allow the special counsel to question the president, as long as the circumstances do not expose Trump to a perjury trap.

Yet Mueller has continued with his investigation into the beginning of this year’s midterm election season, which traditionally starts on Labor Day. Giuliani reports that Mueller’s team has still not responded to the latest offer by made Trump’s lawyers in July proposing terms for a voluntary interview with the president to help Mueller wind up his investigation.

Some reporters had taken Rudy Giuliani’s September 1 prediction literally and were eagerly anticipating the long-awaited release of Mueller’s findings over Labor Day weekend, but it did not take place. The only significant legal action taken by the Mueller team during that period was the indictment of W. Samuel Patten, a business associate of Paul Manafort and suspected Russian agent Konstantin Kilimnik. Patten was accused of failing to register as a foreign agent after having accepted more than $1 million from the same pro-Russian Ukrainian political par-ty that Manafort got into trouble over.

There are clear indications that Mueller is further expanding the scope of his investigation. He issued a subpoena and a grant of immunity to Trump’s chief accountant, Allen Weisselberg, who has managed the Trump Organization’s financial affairs for decades, and who has also been trusted to handle Donald Trump’s personal finances. While Weisselberg is in a position to confirm the claim by Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, that he was reimbursed through the Trump Organization for paying $130,000 in hush money to protect Trump just before the election, it is also likely that Mueller’s team is pressing Weisselberg to reveal any other poten-tially damaging information he might have about Trump’s financial dealings during his long business career.


Mueller’s team includes Andrew Weissmann, the former chief of the Justice Department’s criminal fraud section who became notorious for his prosecutorial excesses in pursuing finan-cial crimes as the head of the Enron Task Force. Enron was a giant Houston-based energy com-pany which eventually went bankrupt due to risky speculation and accounting fraud by its top executives, who were later sentenced to prison.

Prosecutor Weissmann went after Enron’s accounting firm, Arthur Andersen LLP, for helping to conceal the fraud, and convinced the judge in the case to instruct the jury that the firm itself could be convicted of committing a crime, whether or not its employees knew they were violat-ing the law.

The jury’s ruling forced Arthur Andersen to go out of business. The judge’s ruling in favor of Weissmann’s contention that the firm could be convicted was later overturned by a 9-0 ruling by the Supreme Court, but by then it was too late. The company had been destroyed.

Weissmann also went after four managers for the investment firm of Merrill Lynch who were also involved in the scandal. They were convicted of fraud and sent to prison for a year, but the charges against them were also overturned by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to Houston attorney Tom Kirkendall who argued against Weissmann in one of the Enron cases, he “seemed more interested in obtaining convictions than in promoting justice.” Other defense attorneys also assert that Weissmann regularly bent or broke the rules of proper court procedure by intimidating witnesses, threatening indictments and, in at least one case, pressuring a defendant to plead guilty to a wire fraud crime that the judge in the case decided did not exist.

In 2005, after the Andersen case, Weissmann went to work for Mueller when he was the direc-tor of the FBI, and when Mueller was named special counsel last year, he asked Weissmann to take a leave of absence from his post at the Department of Justice to join his team.

Many believe that Weissmann was responsible for applying the intense pressure on Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn, which forced him to plead guilty to lying to FBI officials, when it now known that those officials thought that Flynn was telling them the truth.

Weissmann is also believed responsible for ordering the pre-dawn FBI raid on the home of Paul Manafort in an effort to intimidate him into testifying against Donald Trump.


Last week, Bruce Ohr, the former associate deputy attorney general who was the fourth highest official in the Justice Department, testified that Weissmann was kept “in the loop” as chief of the DOJ’s criminal fraud division, while Ohr was surreptitiously passing information from Christopher Steele to the FBI.

According to a report in the Daily Caller, Ohr told the House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees that in addition to Weissmann, he also passed the information he got from Steele and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, FBI investi-gator Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. All of them have since been driven out of the FBI in disgrace due to their extreme political bias in handling the investigations of Hillary Clinton and the Trump campaign. Fusion GPS had been secretly paid more than $1 million by the Clin-ton campaign and the Democrat National Committee to produce the dossier as opposition re-search for use against Trump, based upon unverifiable allegations from Steele’s unnamed Rus-sian sources.

Weissmann was also an avid Hillary Clinton supporter. He donated to her presidential cam-paign and attended her 2016 election-night party in New York City’s Javits Center, expecting to celebrate her victory.

Ohr was questioned at the committee hearing last week by Republican congressmen Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, Darrell Issa and Trey Gowdy. In previous testimony, Strzok revealed that after the FBI terminated its relationship with Steele in November 2016 for leaking to the media, Ohr was used as a backchannel to continue receiving the former British spy’s allega-tions against Trump for another six months. “This was after suggesting to the American public they had cut Steele off,” Congressman Meadows said in a tweet. The contacts were terminated in May 2017, because Steele told Ohr that he was afraid they would be exposed in the wake of the firing of FBI director James Comey.

Meadows also said that he had seen “hard evidence” that the FBI deliberately leaked allegations from the Steele dossier to the media in the expectation they would be used as sources for pub-lished news stories that the FBI would then use as basis of its applications for FISA warrants to spy upon Trump advisor Carter Page, and through him, the entire campaign.


In an interview, Issa said that Ohr had confirmed in his testimony that he served as “a willing and constant conduit between Fusion GPS, paid for by the Clinton campaign, and the FBI.” Un-der cross-examination, Ohr had admitted that this was the first time in his career that he had compromised himself by serving as a “fact witness” to transmit unreliable information in an FBI case. He knew he was delivering hearsay that would never stand up in court, and he admit-ted that he was providing as fact that which turned out to be fiction.

Congressman Jordan said, “Go back to the fundamentals. Bruce Ohr, a top Justice Department official, his wife worked for the firm hired by the Clintons to produce the dossier. The dossier that we all know is the foundation of this whole thing which was disproven, salacious, unveri-fied, not credible. That dossier Fusion is giving to Nellie Ohr, to Bruce Ohr who is giving it to the FBI. We know all that, and the FBI took it to the court. Didn’t tell the court who paid for it. Didn’t tell the court the guy who wrote it, Christopher Steele, had been terminated.

“Now it appears [the FBI] knew about Bruce Ohr [and] Nellie Ohr’s involvement and didn’t tell the court that either. They did all of that for what purpose? To spy on the other party’s cam-paign. That is never supposed to happen in the United States of America and yet it did. This is the biggest abuse of power I have ever seen. And I am going to keep digging at it and so are my colleagues until we get answers for the American people.”

During a break in the closed-door hearing with Ohr, Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida told reporters that his testimony conflicted with previous testimony they had received from Glenn Simpson in one instance and Lisa Page in another. “Someone is lying,” he concluded, and ac-cording to Fox News, House committee members are considering calling them all back to sort out the conflicts in their stories.


In a separate development last week, Michael Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, refuted a key alle-gation of the dossier, that Cohen traveled to Prague during the 2016 campaign to set up a “clan-destine” conspiracy for the Trump campaign to collude with Russia in order to influence the presidential election.

When that allegation first surfaced, the Trump campaign offered to produce Cohen’s passport to prove that such a visit never took place, but the Russian conspiracy advocates argued that Cohen could have taken a deliberately circuitous route to Prague in order avoid the leaving evi-dence of the visit in his passport.

But now that Cohen has turned against Trump, accusing him of ordering the $130,000 hush money payments to which Cohen has pled guilty as illegal campaign contribution, there is no longer any reason not to believe Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, when he claims that his client’s alleged visit to Prague to the Russians never took place.

Davis’ retraction of his former claim that Cohen had evidence that President Trump had prior knowledge of the infamous meeting between Trump’s son, Donald Jr. and a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer at Trump Tower has also damaged the effort by Trump’s opponents to portray that meeting as evidence that senior figures in the Trump campaign were colluding with the Russians.

As time goes by, the original allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians have grown steadily murkier and more suspect. At the same time, more evidence is being un-covered to prove that senior FBI and Justice Department officials were colluding with Steele and Fusion GPS, which was in the pay of the Clinton campaign, to frame Trump as a Russian agent in an effort to discredit his candidacy for president, and later, as a pretext to undo the re-sults of the election by driving him from office.


Having failed to find any evidence to corroborate the allegations of collusion in the Steele dos-sier, Mueller’s team is now looking at other one-time Trump allies who have long been sus-pected of election meddling. They will be questioning Trump’s controversial former advisor Roger Stone and two of Stone’s associates, former Trump aide Sam Nunberg and social media consultant Jason Sullivan.

Stone had publicly boasted during the 2016 campaign about his contacts with the Russian com-puter hacker Guccifer 2.0 and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. But Stone denied accusations by the Clinton campaign that he had advance knowledge of the release on Wikileaks of politi-cally damaging emails which were stolen from the computer of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta.

Stone had a reputation for engaging in political dirty tricks for Republican candidates going back as far as the 1972 Richard Nixon campaign. In 1976, he worked with Paul Manafort on behalf of Ronald Reagan’s first bid for the GOP presidential nomination, and the two would later form a political consulting firm together.

Time Magazine accused Stone of being behind the notorious Willie Horton ad which damaged the candidacy of Mike Dukakis during the 1988 presidential campaign. During the 1990s, Stone worked as a lobbyist on behalf of Donald Trump’s casinos in Atlantic City.

Stone worked on behalf of Democrats as well as Republicans and became involved with several third-party campaigns. He was associated with Al Sharpton during the 2004 presidential cam-paign. He became involved in New York State politics and was accused of making a threatening phone call to the elderly father of then-Democrat gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer. In 2008, Stone formed a group that opposed Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democrat presidential nomina-tion.


Because of the controversy which has long been associated with Stone, the Trump campaign cut its formal ties with him on August 8, 2015. That was months before then-CIA director John Brennan began circulating the first suspicions that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians.

After the formal break, Stone continued to publicly support Trump’s candidacy in media ap-pearances. While Trump formally distanced Stone from his campaign, he continued to accept Stone’s help and advice, on an informal basis, during the rest of the campaign. If Stone did have improper contacts with the Russians after the August break, he was not in any position to do it as a representative of the Trump campaign.

In the spring of 2016, Stone made very damaging allegations against Trump’s most serious ri-val for the GOP nomination, Senator Ted Cruz. Stone also had a running personal feud with lib-eral media reporters was eventually banned from further appearances on CNN and MSNBC.

In September 2017, Stone testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Commit-tee about his contacts with Russian sources during the 2016 campaign. Mueller’s July 2018 in-dictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers for hacking Democrat computers to influ-ence the 2016 election, said they had been in “regular contact” with unnamed “senior members of the presidential campaign,” one of whom was later identified by government officials as Roger Stone. Nevertheless, Stone has not been formally charged with any criminal wrongdoing with respect to the 2016 election.


Trump’s enemies have largely abandoned their once high hopes that the Mueller investigation would find smoking gun evidence of Trump collusion with Russian that would force him to leave office.

The evidence of the Democrat conspiracy to bring down Trump’s candidacy and his presidency is now overwhelming. However, Trump’s enemies have enlisted their allies in the media to wage a persistent public relations campaign to discredit or suppress the evidence and to down-play its significance. As a result, the mainstream media has badly damaged its own credibility in the eyes of the American people.

The journalists and their media organization have rationalized their blatant violation of their own principles of fair reporting by arguing that the ends justify the means. Some of them have even argued in print that they have a higher duty to bring down the Trump presidency by any means at their disposal, fair or foul.


In the opinion of several legal experts, the blatant pro-Clinton bias of those who launched the FBI investigation of alleged Russian collusion with Trump’s campaign which Mueller took over last year has now so tainted the accusations that they could not stand up if presented in a court of law. As a result, their main hope to bring down Trump now lies in the expectation that Mueller will eventually deliver a report with enough evidence that Trump engaged in “obstruc-tion of justice” through his firing of FBI director James Comey and his scathing criticisms of Mueller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, even though his actions were entirely within his executive powers as president.

It would be hard for Mueller to make any kind of legal case for obstruction of justice against Trump in a court of law, because there is still no hard evidence that Trump or the members of his campaign committed any prosecutable crime.

Instead, Mueller would have to prove that Trump had criminal intent when he allegedly asked Mueller to show leniency to Michael Flynn, or that he was acting out of fear that the Russian collusion investigation would eventually uncover his criminal wrongdoing when he fired Direc-tor Comey and publicly criticized Mueller and Sessions. But again, without any evidence of such criminal wrongdoing, the legal rationale for the charge of obstruction of justice disap-pears.


That is why Trump’s enemies are now pinning all their hopes for removing Trump from office on his impeachment by Congress after the midterm elections in November, based upon the ex-pected accusations in Mueller’s report. Even though Democrats understand that they have no hope of winning the 2/3 majority needed to convict Trump in a Senate impeachment trial, they have every reason to believe that the impeachment process would prevent Trump from pursuing his governing agenda during the final two years of his first term in office and make it much more difficult for him to win re-election in 2020.

The problem for Democrats at the moment is that the American people clearly do not want to see the federal government gridlocked by the impeachment process over the next two years, especially if no evidence has been produced that Trump did something seriously wrong other than upsetting the Washington political establishment. The public understands that disagree-ment with a president’s policies and approach to governing, no matter how fundamental, does not amount to “treason” or the commission “high crimes and misdemeanors” that the US Con-stitution cites as the only rationale for impeachment. Democrat leaders on Capitol Hill also re-member that when House Republicans impeached Bill Clinton in 1998 for his admission that he had lied under oath in court, but were still unable to get a conviction in the Senate, voters pun-ished the GOP with serious congressional losses in the 2000 presidential election.

Most Democrats have made their “resistance” to President Trump and all of his proposed poli-cies their political raison d’etre since the morning after the 2016 election. It has difficult for even the most Machiavellian of their leaders, such as Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, to dis-guise their true intent: to bring down Trump’s presidency through impeachment or by any other means necessary.


They and other senior Democrat political strategists have repeatedly counseled their candidates in competitive elections this November to exercise caution on the campaign trail and their comments to the media. Above all, they must resist the impulse to reveal their true motives in supporting any Democrat running for office in the midterm elections – the desire to destroy Trump’s presidency, regardless of its impact on the well-being of the nation.

One example was the recent interview on ABC of Leon Panetta, who served as the chief of staff in the Clinton White House and as Barack Obama’s defense secretary and CIA director. He urged Democrats to hold off any public discussion of Trump’s impeachment until after Mueller issues his report to see whether it will provide sufficient evidence to justify an impeachment effort in the eyes of the American people.

ABC reporter Martha Raddatz asked Panetta specifically “As we approach the midterms… do you think it’s wise for Democrats if they retake the House to start impeachment proceedings? Is it wise politically for them to do that?” Panetta answered quickly, “No, not at all. I think the most important thing that the Democrats could do is to allow Bob Mueller to complete his work. I think Bob Mueller’s work will ultimately determine whether or not there are going to be additional steps taken against the president and they ought not to get ahead of that report be-cause that will be the key to determining what happens.”


When Raddatz followed up by citing a recent claim by Rudy Giuliani that Trump’s legal team was now more than halfway through the process of drafting a counter-report to refute Mueller’s likely accusations, Panetta issued a warning to Trump’s lawyers that by doing so they were treading on legally dangerous ground for their client.

“They’re getting very close to making a case for obstruction of justice, not only by the steps that were taken in terms of the president demeaning and attacking a ‘witch hunt,’ but also the fact that Rudy Giuliani himself said that the whole purpose of their effort is to undermine the credibility of the special counsel,” Panetta said.


The Trump White House and cabinet endured a tumultuous first year, as the president learned the hard way whom he could trust to effectively carry out his policies. By now, he has assem-bled a team of top advisors and cabinet heads with whom he largely sees eye-to-eye, and who share his governing vision. Most notably, these include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secre-tary of Defense John Mattis, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and an economic team led by Larry Kudlow, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Trump is still fighting battles in the courts and with Congress to reverse President Obama’s in-trusive environmental and business regulations, roll back some of the main abuses of Obamac-are and begin full enforcement of immigration law and strengthen control over America’s po-rous southern border.

While the rapid growth of the US economy is Trump’s most obvious success, in the long term, the greatest impact of Trump’s presidency may be in the restoration of the social and moral health of the nation by his reversal of the liberal drift of the federal judiciary. Trump, with the help of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has confirmed conservative judges to dozens of open seats on district and appeals courts across the country. In addition to the appointment last year of Justice Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia, McConnell has started the confir-mation hearings for a second outstanding conservative jurist, Brett Kavanaugh, who will take over Anthony Kennedy’s crucial swing vote on the Supreme Court, should he be approved.


As the midterm election campaign goes into high gear across the country, Democrats are count-ing on the polls predicting a “blue wave” that will restore them to majority control of the House. But that wave is no longer as high as it was originally predicted to be a few months ago, and Trump’s enemies are mindful that he and the Republicans are still within striking distance of another 2016-style Election Day upset.

Meanwhile, on the Senate side, polls show the Republicans likely to retain their current narrow majority in the Senate, and possibly pick up an additional seat or two in states with Democrat incumbents which Trump carried in 2016.

Trump has promised to campaign on a nearly daily basis from now until Election Day for Re-publican candidates across the country who are running on his policies. This will test his power to transfer the enthusiasm of his supporters attending those rallies to the dozens of Republicans he has endorsed, who are now locked in close races with Democrats.

The vast majority of Democrats would celebrate a Democrat takeover in the House. But for some of Trump’s most prominent enemies, it is much more than a question of political prefer-ence. They must set the stage for Trump’s impeachment by engineering a Democrat majority in the House, as a necessity for their self-preservation.


The 19th century American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that “When you strike at a king, you must kill him,” because if not, the king has unlimited authority to take retribution on anyone who had anything to do with the plot to kill him. According to a blogger writing under the pseudonym “Doriangrey1” on a political website called The Wilderness of Mirrors, Emerson’s saying now applies to those who tried to destroy Donald Trump’s presiden-tial campaign.

“Sometime in 2015, a coalition of senior Obama administration officials made the conscience decision to engage in just such an act. They decided that it was in the nation’s best interests that Hillary Clinton become the next POTUS (President of the United States), and that to that result, they would engage in whatever actions were required to achieve that end goal.

“When that goal failed to materialize, all evidence appears to indicate they discovered that the actions they had taken put them in legal jeopardy of serious federal felony prosecution. They had ‘struck at the king’ but failed to kill him, and consequently were left with no choice but to continue striking at him in the hopes of killing him before the king could retaliate.”

The blogger accuses FBI director James Comey, who was part of that cabal of senior Obama administration officials, of violating federal law and apparently conspiring with Assistant US Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Robert Mueller to investigate the bogus allega-tions that the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russians. Doriangrey also points out that “From a legal standpoint, neither Rosenstein nor Mueller should have ever been allowed to in-stigate or be involved in such an investigation as both of them have clear and indisputable con-flicts of interest in the case.”


He concludes that the former leaders of “the CIA, NSA, FBI and DOJ are indeed striking at the king. . . because failure to bring down Trump leaves them exposed as having violated numerous federal laws in their own attempt to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election.”

Few had expected the 2016 presidential election to become the first round of a political fight to the death that would determine the future of this country. The drive for impeachment has dra-matically raised the stakes for the outcome of the midterm elections in November. If Trump does survive the midterm and its aftermath, the next round will be fought over his bid for re-election in 2020.

Trump is now at war with the “deep state” establishment forces in Washington which have con-trolled the federal government since the end of World War II. The battle raises serious ques-tions about whether this nation can still hope to come together to heal the partisan wounds that are dividing it to the greatest extent since the Civil War more than 150 years ago.



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