President Donald Trump has stepped up his attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, pointing to the absence of evidence to justify allegations that members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to undermine the 2016 presidential election.
Last week, Trump issued a series of tweets that quoted liberal lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who decried the strong anti-Trump bias which has tainted the Mueller investigation from the outset. “FBI Agent Peter Strzok (on the Mueller team) should have recused himself on day one. He was out to stop the election of Donald Trump. He needed an insurance policy. Those are illegal, improper goals, trying to influence the Election. He should never, ever been allowed to remain in the FBI while he himself was being investigated. This is a real issue. It won’t go into a Mueller Report because Mueller is going to protect these guys. Mueller has an interest in creating the illusion of objectivity around his investigation.”
Trump called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to put an end to the Mueller probe. “This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!” the president tweeted.
Trump addressed the plight of his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, whose trial by Mueller on charges totally unrelated to the 2016 campaign began last week. Manafort is being charged with money laundering and tax evasion related to the payments he received for consulting work he did in 2004 for pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and which ended before Manafort became Trump’s campaign manager in 2016.
TRUMP ASKS WHY HE WASN’T WARNED ABOUT MANAFORT
Trump pointed out that Manafort had a long history as an effective political operative for several Republican leaders before Trump hired him to help manage his delegates at the 2016 GOP national convention. Trump complained that the Obama administration failed to warn him that Manafort was under suspicion.
“Paul Manafort worked for Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other highly prominent and respected political leaders. He worked for me for a very short time. Why didn’t government tell me that he was under investigation. These old charges have nothing to do with collusion – a hoax!” Trump tweeted.
Trump repeated that the allegation of “Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, [which was] one of the most successful in history, is a total hoax. The Democrats paid for the phony and discredited [Steele] dossier which was, along with Comey, McCabe, Strzok and Lisa Page, used to begin the witch hunt. Disgraceful!”
The president noted that Manafort is being treated much more harshly than one of America’s most notorious criminals. “Looking back on history, who was treated worse, Alfonse Capone, legendary mob boss, killer and “Public Enemy Number One,” or Paul Manafort, political operative and Reagan/Dole darling, now serving solitary confinement, although [he has been] convicted of nothing? Where is the Russian collusion?”
Trump noted the double standard which ignored Hillary Clinton’s much more blatant collusion by paying Christopher Steele to get false allegations from Russian sources for use against him during the campaign. Quoting columnist Marc Thiessen, Trump tweeted, “We already have a smoking gun about a campaign getting dirt on their opponent, it was Hillary Clinton. How is it OK for Hillary Clinton to proactively seek dirt from the Russians, but the Trump campaign met at the Russians request and that is bad?”
THE TRUMP TOWER MEETING
The quote is referring to the July 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Trump campaign officials and Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. It was set up by Donald Trump Jr.
Trump Jr. had been told that the lawyer could supply the campaign with dirt the Russian government had gotten on Mrs. Clinton, but when the meeting took place, campaign officials Manafort and Jared Kushner found the information the lawyer was offering to be useless, and rejected her request for Trump, once he was president, to cancel the US economic sanctions that had been imposed on Russian oligarchs imposed by the 2012 Magnitsky Act. Once they decided that the Russian lawyer had nothing to offer, Kushner and Manafort lost interest and the meeting ended.
According to Donald Jr., the meeting lasted for only twenty minutes, nothing further came of it, and he considered it to have been a waste of time. But when word of it emerged in July 2017, it was an embarrassment for the White House, under investigation for collusion with Russians. President Trump compounded the damage by dictating a misleading statement that was issued to the media by his son, Don Jr., which suggested that the meeting was primarily about the Russian sanctions rather than the offer of dirt on Hillary Clinton.
White House officials initially denied reports that the President Trump wrote his son’s statement, but eventually admitted that he did. In an interview Sunday, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, said of his initial denial of the president’s involvement in crafting his son’s statement, “I had bad information at that time and made a mistake in my statement. I’ve talked about that before. That happens when you have cases like this … Over time, facts develop.”
NOTHING ILLEGAL HAPPENED
However, President Trump insists that he was not aware of that meeting before it took place. The president and his lawyers also insist that nothing illegal took place at the meeting, and that it is routine practice for political campaigns to check out third party offers of potentially damaging information about their opponents.
The only possible illegality was if the Russian lawyer had given over information about Mrs. Clinton that would have been of some value to the Trump campaign. A prosecutor might then argue that the Trump campaign violated the federal campaign finance law prohibiting accepting contributions from a foreign government. But all the available evidence indicates that the Trump campaign didn’t received anything of value at the meeting, so no law was broken.
Over the weekend, the president tweeted, “Fake News [is] reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics, and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!”
That tweet was prompted by a CNN report which claims that Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, has told prosecutors that the president did know in advance about the Trump Tower meeting. The Russian lawyer who was at the meeting, at first denied any connection to the Russian government, but later admitted that she has served as an informant for Russian state prosecutors.
Cohen is under investigation for unrelated federal crimes, so his testimony is suspect, but if his claim about the president’s advance knowledge can be confirmed, it might mean legal trouble for Donald Jr. if it contradicts his testimony under oath before Congress about the circumstances of the meeting.
In his next tweet, Trump turned the spotlight back on the collusion of his accusers in the FBI and the Department of Justice, by accepting the unverified Russian allegations against him that were compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. “Why aren’t Mueller and the 17 angry Democrats looking at the meetings concerning the fake dossier and all of the lying that went on in the FBI and DOJ? This is the most one sided Witch Hunt in the history of our country. Fortunately, the facts are all coming out, and fast! Too bad a large portion of the media refuses to report the lies and corruption having to do with the rigged witch hunt, but that is why we call them fake news.”
GIULIANI TO THE RESCUE
The president tweeted a message suggesting Attorney General Sessions put a quick end to the Mueller investigation. This prompted fresh outcries from Trump’s critics that he was attempting to obstruct justice. Trump’s lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, responded on CNN by insisting that the president was “expressing his opinion on his favored medium [Twitter] for asserting his First Amendment right of free speech. He said ‘should,’ not ‘must,’ and no Presidential order was issued or will be,” Giuliani claimed.
Later that day, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders emphasized the same point, “The President is not obstructing. He’s fighting back.” She explained that Trump “wants to see it [the Mueller investigation] come to an end as he has stated many times and we look forward to that happening.”
Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and one of Trump’s most outspoken critics, was quick to raise the obstruction issue with regard to Trump’s tweet about shutting Mueller down.
“The President of the United States just called on his attorney general to put an end to an investigation in which the President, his family and campaign may be implicated,” Schiff wrote in a tweet of his own. “This is an attempt to obstruct justice hiding in plain sight. America must never accept it.”
Schiff said in a CBS interview that he believes that there is “plenty of evidence of collusion or conspiracy in plain sight” that can be used to support an effort to remove Trump from office. But Schiff was forced to admit “that’s a different statement than saying that there’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a criminal conspiracy. Bob Mueller will have to determine that.”
While the president is under no legal obligation to tell the truth in statements to the media or tweeting to the public, the New York Times reported last month that Mueller is reviewing Trump’s tweets and other “negative statements” he has made about Sessions and former FBI director James Comey as potential evidence to support an obstruction of justice charge.
WHY TRUMP PROBABLY WON’T WIND UP IN COURT
Allen Dershowitz and other legal experts have pointed out that it would be difficult to prosecute a sitting president for obstruction of justice in a court of law for firing or publicly criticizing his attorney general or FBI director. Under the Constitution, they are his subordinates, giving him the right to fire them at any time without having to explain his reasons. The only sure way to bring a president in office to trial for committing a crime is through the impeachment process, which is primarily a political rather than a legal procedure.
Democrats are hoping that the Mueller probe will result in a report to Congress on whether Trump should be impeached for his conduct. While only a simple majority vote of the members of the House is sufficient to put a president on trial in the Senate, a two-thirds majority in that chamber is required to remove him from office. Since the Constitution was ratified in 1789, only two presidential impeachment trials have been held, for Andrew Johnson in 1868, and Bill Clinton in 1999. Both were acquitted and permitted to complete their terms.
TRUMP HITS THE ROAD TO FLORIDA
With both the House and Senate in recess for their annual August adjournment, the president is enjoying an 11–day working vacation at his country club home in Bedminster, New Jersey. Last week, Trump took breaks from his vacation traveled to rallies in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, to renew his ties with supporters there and urge them to vote for local and state GOP candidates running in the November midterm elections.
At a Tuesday evening rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Trump supporters started lining up for admission before dawn and waited all day despite the heat, humidity and threat of thunderstorms.
The overflow crowd of about 10,000 cheered as Trump told them, “this may be — in fact it probably is — the greatest movement in the history of America.” Standing in front of a “Promises Made. Promises Kept” banner, he attacked the “fake media” and drew chants of “Build the wall! Build the wall!”
He talked about the accomplishments of his economic policies, from near record-low unemployment to near record-high stock marketed indexes. He boasted of keeping his campaign promise to move the US embassy in Israel to Yerushalayim and making America respected again abroad. “We will never give up. We will never give in. We will never back down. And we will never surrender,” he said as the crowd roared its approval. “Our hearts bleed red, white and blue…. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America strong again, and we will make America great again.”
Trump urged Florida voters to give Republican Governor Rick Scott the seat in the US Senate now held by Democrat Bill Nelson. Trump repeated his endorsement of GOP Congressman Ron DeSantis for Scott’s replacement as Florida’s governor.
BLASTING THE MEDIA IN PENNSYLVANIA
At the rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, two nights later, Trump endorsed Republican Congressman Lou Barletta, who is facing an uphill battle challenging two term incumbent Democrat Bob Casey for his seat in the US Senate. Trump blasted the biased news coverage the media have given him, underselling his accomplishments and challenging his ability to lead the country. “Whatever happened to the free press? Whatever happened to honest reporting?” Trump asked. “They don’t report it. They only make up stories.”
Trump also said that the media distorted his meetings with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “In Helsinki, I had a great meeting with Putin. We discussed everything,” Trump said to cheers from the Pennsylvania crowd. “We got along really well. By the way, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. That’s a really good thing. Now, we are being hindered by the Russian hoax [referring to the Mueller probe].”
Trump defended his refusal to confront Putin at their Helsinki news conference over Russian interference in the 2016 election, because he did think it would be right “to go up and have a boxing match” with the Russian leader. “I said, ‘whatever happened to diplomacy?’” Trump recalled, adding that if he had been rougher on Putin at the press conference, the media would have called him “rude” and “terrible.”
TRUMP DUBS HIS SUPPORTERS IN OHIO THE NEW ELITE
On Motzoei Shabbos, Trump traveled to Lewis Center, Ohio, to endorse Troy Balderson, the Republican candidate running for the House seat in the traditionally Republican 12th district. Trump won the district by 11 points in 2016, but the race was rated a toss-up because the once-rural area is becoming more suburbanized and local Democrats were galvanized behind their candidate by their opposition to Trump.
Trump derided Balderson’s opponent as “a low-level person that did nothing. . . [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi controls Danny O’Connor, whoever [he] is,” Trump said.
He praised Balderson as “really tough” and “really smart,” and promised the crowd, “He’s never going to let you down.”
When Trump introduced conservative Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, they responded with chants of “Speaker of the House,” as Jordan hopes to replace Paul Ryan when he retires from that post at the end of this year.
Trump also had words of praise and encouragement for his supporters. “You are the elite,” the president told the crowd. Trump declared that his supporters “smarter” and earned “bigger incomes” than the members of the self-proclaimed elite in the swamp of Washington who were Clinton’s main supporters. “And I become president and [she] didn’t,” Trump added. “And it’s driving them crazy.”
THE GOP IS TRUMP’S PARTY NOW
Trump told Sean Hannity of Fox News that after the traditional Labor Day start of the fall campaign for the midterm election, he plans to host rallies on behalf of vulnerable GOP candidates across the country at the rate of “six or seven days a week.” Trump obviously enjoys feeding off the energy of his supporters at these events. He is, by far, the GOP’s most popular figure today, consistently commanding the support of 85-90% of Republicans over the last six months of Gallup polling, despite the overwhelmingly negative media coverage he has received.
The “never Trump” Republicans have effectively lost all of their grassroots support. The most prominent of them still make regular appearances and write opinion columns to provide the illusion of “political balance” to the panels of mainstream media outlets such as CNN and the op-ed pages of New York Times. They have also denied Trump any meaningful credit for the major accomplishments during his first 18 months in office. During that time, tax cuts and regulation reductions have unleashed the growth potential of the American economy. He has also dealt creatively with the many foreign policy challenges he inherited from Obama, from North Korea to Syria to NATO and the status of Yerushalayim.
In fact, the public’s growing perception that the mainstream media has been excessive in its negativity towards Trump has created a backlash among a growing number of independent voters. More now say they are rejecting the automatic criticism of the president by the media and judging for themselves his unorthodox approach to this country’s problems, such as immigration policy, which have gone unresolved for decades. Others say that while they may disapprove of his personal behavior, they are willing to overlook that because of his success in restoring prosperity and economic opportunity to virtually everyone in the country, regardless of race or economic class.
THE VALUE OF TRUMP’S TWITTER CHANNEL
Trump’s Twitter postings have generated enormous criticism from the mainstream media as they bypass the media’s ability to filter and color the news, and enable Trump to deliver his message directly to more than 53 million followers. While Trump’s criticisms on Twitter of political opponents has gotten the lion’s share of the media coverage, for his supporters the Twitter feed is the only way they will hear about much of the progress his policies have made possible.
Since the start of August, Trump’s Twitter feed has informed his followers about a number of under-reported accomplishments. For example, the pay rate for American workers has hit the highest level since 2008. After a White House meeting last week with inner-city clergymen, Ohio pastor Darrell Scott said, “This is probably the most pro-active administration regarding urban America and the faith-based community in my lifetime.” He also called Trump, “the most pro-black president that we’ve had in our lifetime.” This was not an isolated development. A Rasmussen poll has measured a near doubling of black approval ratings for Trump over the past year, from 15% to 29%. Similarly, Hispanic unemployment has hit an all-time low.
Trump issued a series of tweets defending his controversial tariff policies by insisting that they “are working far better than anyone ever anticipated. . . We are using them to negotiate fair trade deals. . .
“China, which is for the first time doing poorly against us, is spending a fortune on ads and public relations trying to convince and scare our politicians to fight me on tariffs, because they are really hurting their economy. Likewise other countries. We are winning, but must be strong!”
TRUMP’S GOP DEFENDERS
Fortunately, Trump is not alone in getting the truth out, both about Mueller’s Russia probe and Trump’s breakthrough accomplishments less than halfway through his first term in office. Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes, who was no supporter of Trump during the Republican primaries, has recognized his effectiveness as president.
Barnes credits three Republicans in the House and Senate and a handful of conservative journalists for preventing Trump’s political opponents and his enemies in the mainstream media from crushing the president under a mountain of lies and innuendos. Their work, despite tremendous opposition from the establishment elite, has exposed the rotten core of bias and false allegations underlying the Russian collusion probe, and the Obama administration officials and Clinton operatives behind their false allegations.
Chief among them was the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes. He was one of the first figures in Washington to begin speaking out against the vast Washington establishment conspiracy, which was trying to destroy Trump’s presidency before it could get off the ground.
Nunes started out almost alone. Little known outside of his rural California district, he had no powerful friends in Washington. Because of his determination to give Trump a fair chance, he soon became “the most disliked Republican in Washington by the elite media and their hangers-on,” according to Barnes. Schiff and other senior Democrats tried to muzzle Nunes by filing an ethics complaint against him, forcing him to step aside temporarily as chairman of the intelligence committee.
But House Speaker Paul Ryan stood by Nunes, and eventually, two powerful Republican senators, Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley, joined Nunes’ effort to expose the bias by FBI, Justice Department and national security agency chiefs who secretly plotted together to undermine and destroy Trump, even before he had locked up the GOP nomination. Graham and Grassley were both respected members of the Senate club, and their voices in support of Nunes claims could not be easily dismissed by the Washington power establishment, and even the mainstream media.
ORIGINS OF THE RUSSIA PROBE STILL UNFOLDING
As Nunes, Graham and Grassley dug out the truth, their disturbing findings about the insider conspiracy which led to the creation and acceptance of the Steele dossier were publicized by a small group of stalwart conservative journalists, including Byron York of the Washington Examiner, Mollie Hemingway of the Federalist, Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal, Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller, and Andrew McCarthy of National Review.
In addition, important research uncovering the origins of the FBI’s original Russian collusion investigation has been done by George Neumayr of the American Spectator. In his latest article, entitled “Never Forget the Brennan-Brit Plot to Nail Trump,” Neumayr exposes the deep ties between Obama’s CIA director, John Brennan, CIA undercover spy Stefan Halper and FBI Trump-hating agent, Peter Strzok, and the hitherto untold story of the cooperation of the British security services in the effort to cast suspicion on Trump, long before he first announced his candidacy for president in June 2015.
The elaborate and well-hidden conspiracy to destroy Trump is still being unraveled. Byron York reports that the Justice Department and the FBI are still stonewalling demands by Senator Grassley for the FBI transcripts of a dozen post-election FBI interviews with Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, who ranked as the fourth highest official in the Justice Department.
Ohr served as the informal liaison between Christopher Steele and the FBI after the FBI formally severed its connection with the former British agent for lying to them about sharing his dossier accusations with the mainstream media. Ohr was the perfect go-between because his wife worked for Fusion GPS, which had been hired by the Clinton campaign and the Democrat National Committee to come up with dirt on Trump. He delivered Steele’s reports to the FBI starting on November 22, 2016 and continued through May 15, 2017.
The FBI is still resisting Senator Grassley’s demands that the Ohr interviews be released, and has limited access to them to a few lawmakers and congressional staff who are not allowed to possess any copies of the documents. Grassley insists that since their existence, and some of their content, is already widely known, there is “no continuing justification for the FBI to keep the documents secret,” except for the embarrassment from revealing how thoroughly the FBI and Justice Department violated their own procedures in conducting a politically motivated investigation.
HILLARY GOT HER MONEY’S WORTH
GPS hired Steele and paid him $160,000 to create his dossier of dirt from his Russian sources that could not even be verified by Steele himself. He had not been allowed to re-enter Russia after his cover as a British secret agent was blown 20 years ago.
Neumayr’s narrative picks up the story of “the collusion between the FBI and Hillary’s foreign opposition researcher Christopher Steele. In paying Steele $160,000, Hillary purchased more than just opposition research; she purchased FISA warrants on her opponent’s associates and a counterintelligence probe of his campaign. Through Peter Strzok, who wanted [Clinton] to win ‘1,000,000-0,’ as he put it [in a message to FBI attorney Lisa Page], the FBI was working directly for the Hillary campaign, taking the work of her Brit spy and putting it directly into FISA warrant applications [against Trump advisor Carter Page].”
Neumayr also exposes the role of Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, who set up George Papadopoulos to become the first of several fall guys in the Russian collusion hoax, as President Trump describes it. All of the conspirators were part of the same social circle of Clinton supporters, which included Elizabeth Dibble, who at the time worked at the US embassy in London and accepted Downer’s report on Papadopoulos. That report, in turn, served as Strzok’s official justification for the FBI investigation into the Russian collusion conspiracy.
ANY EVIDENCE WOULD BE UNUSABLE IN COURT
It will probably be years before all the details of the anti-Trump plot are revealed. If this were just a matter of law, the entire investigation would be disqualified because it originated as a political plot by rogue government employees to disqualify Trump and incriminate members of his campaign. What is perhaps most surprising is that the plotters were unable to generate enough evidence of collusion, real or contrived, to discredit Trump’s campaign and prevent him from winning the election.
There is still no evidence we know of to incriminate Trump or any senior members of his campaign of criminally colluding with the Russians to influence the election. If Mueller had found such evidence, it would have undoubtedly been leaked to the anti-Trump media long ago.
It is also clear from Mueller’s 25 Russian indictments that Putin was trying to influence the election using a variety of means, including computer hacking and social media scams. Russian agents may have been trying to recruit Papadopoulos and Page as stepping stones to more important figures in the Trump campaign, but if so, their efforts got nowhere. Carter Page and George Papadopoulos were peripheral members of a Trump foreign policy advisory committee.
END GAME WILL BE PLAYED IN THE HOUSE AND SENATE
The so-called criminal conspiracy with the Russians never got off the ground. That is why the end game for Trump in the Mueller probe will not be decided in a court of law, but rather in the House and Senate.
As Andrew McCarthy points out, “Impeachment is a political process, not a legal one. . . and there is no judicial review.” The Constitution is vague about what constitutes the “high crimes and misdemeanors” that are the grounds for impeachment.
Professor Dershowitz says that Mueller will undoubtedly try to conceal the anti-Trump bias of his investigators because he has “an interest in creating the illusion of objectivity around his investigation.”
But as Trump pointed out last week, the special counsel’s objectivity is open to question. “Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty and contentious business relationship, I turned him down to head the FBI (one day before appointment as Special Counsel) and former FBI Director James Comey is his close friend,” Trump tweeted.
GIULIANI USING BILL CLINTON’S IMPEACHMENT PLAYBOOK
The best way for Trump to counter an impeachment effort is to adopt the playbook that Bill Clinton used to discredit the reputation of independent Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr. Clinton was impeached by House Republicans on criminal grounds unrelated to the allegations that launched the Whitewater probe. He was then acquitted by a trial in the Senate, but only because the majority of Americans had concluded that he was unfairly hounded by Starr’s prosecutors, and the crimes which Clinton did commit did not warrant his removal from office.
Apparently, Giuliani is using the same tactics to argue to the American people that President Trump has been treated unfairly by his accusers. The findings of Congressman Nunes, Senators Graham and Grassley and the conservative reporters have gone a long way to support Trump’s claim that he has been the victim of a criminal conspiracy by his political opponents, rather than the guilty party.
Trump’s impeachment trial has already begun, albeit in the court of public opinion. From the first day Trump took office, Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media have made no secret of their intense desire to remove Trump from office through impeachment or any way they can.
The only thing that matters in this case is public opinion, which moves members of Congress who will serve as Trump’s judge and jury.
ON TRIAL IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION
Giuliani’s job is to do to Mueller what Bill Clinton’s allies did to Ken Starr, and so far, Giuliani’s tactics seem to be working. A recent poll finds that 45 percent of Americans view Mueller’s probe unfavorably, up from 31 percent at the start of the year. If those numbers hold, and Democrats win a majority in the House this November, they may be able to force an impeachment trial, but they have virtually no chance of getting the necessary 2/3 vote against Trump in the Senate, unless Mueller has more convincing evidence that Trump was guilty of collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice than has so far been produced.
Any serious Democrat effort to impeach Trump, even if it fails, will cost Trump much of the legislative time left in his first term. Trump’s best option to save his presidential agenda is help the GOP preserve its perilously thin majority in the House in the November midterms. He knows that on Election Day, his future, and that of the country, will be hanging in the balance.