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The Russia Investigation

Trump Allies Say Democrats Could Get Mueller Report If They Weren’t Afraid Of Impeachment

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2019 – Current and former Trump administration officials say that Congressional Democrats have ample justification to obtain the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but only if they launched a formal inquiry into whether to impeach President Trump.

And because Democrats are afraid to go down that road, say the current and former Trump officials, they’re stuck in an illegitimate quest for documents protected by executive privilege.

A judge would support the Democrats if they weren’t too chicken to talk about impeachment

In the wake of Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee vote authorizing a subpoena for the entire report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, together with underlying evidentiary materials, the president, White House officials and their supporters are reverting to their usual gloves-off approach to dealing with Democrats’ investigations.

Democrats are characterizing their efforts to obtain Mueller’s report as a normal function of Congressional oversight, but the administration’s view is that Democrats’ investigation — as currently constituted — is an illegitimate effort to obtain material they are not legally entitled to see outside of an impeachment investigation.

The one set of circumstances laid out under the precedent most relevant to today’s conditions was the release of materials from Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski’s investigation as part of an impeachment investigation.

One senior administration official said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., is asking the Justice Department to break the law when he should trust that Attorney General Robert Barr will release what he legally can.

 “Chairman Nadler is demanding secret grand jury information and classified material that he knows is against the law to release,” said the official.  “He should stop playing politics and allow the Attorney General to complete his work.”

But another source close to the president said House Democrats could make a strong case for obtaining the materials they seek under the precedent set during Watergate. That’s only if it were not for Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s reluctance to launch a formal impeachment inquiry.

“[Nadler] is probably afraid to even think about impeachment, much less say it on the record,” the official said.

“He knows any judge will give Congress what it needs to conduct an impeachment inquiry, but he knows that if he does, we win. So he’s pretending what he’s doing is the same thing, but it’s illegitimate unless he bites the bullet and calls it impeachment.”

The Mueller Report might have been a role-reversal

After the reception of Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary of the Mueller Report appeared to “clear” President Trump of wrongdoing, Trump appeared to be engaged in a role-reversal: He said he was willing for the public to see the report. 

But after apparent statements by attorneys in the special counsel’s office disputing the characterization of the Barry summary of the Mueller Report, the president has shifted to the argument that releasing the report would run afoul of both the law and Department of Justice policy, rules and regulations. 

Trump’s acceptance of Barr’s exercise of discretion and putative adherence to the letter of the law governing protection of grand jury materials is an uncharacteristic turn for Trump. He spent the first two years of his term encouraging House Republicans’ efforts to release documents concerning ongoing investigations, while belittling and insulting his first Attorney General — former Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions — for following Justice Department rules by recusing himself from investigating Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Prior to this turnabout, Trump had relished the idea of presenting himself as reasonable, transparent, and deferential to the longstanding norms governing the White House’s interactions with the Department of Justice. 

One-time White House Communications Director Scaramucci says Democrats are afraid

Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci also weighed in, telling BeltwayBreakfast that Nadler’s actions are hypocritical in light of his previous opposition to the release of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s report on then-President Bill Clinton.

Democrats are “100 percent” afraid of raising impeachment for fear of triggering an outcome similar to that of what transpired during the 1998 midterm elections, in which voters rejected Congressional Republicans’ attempt to impeach then-President Clinton by declining to re-elect a number of GOP incumbents.

“They can’t go to impeach him because that’ll send his poll numbers through the roof and it’ll likely cause him to get reelected,” Scaramucci said.

“It’ll create a mass wave of voter participation in people who are supporting [Trump], so they can’t impeach him. What they’re really trying to do is they’re trying to harass him so that they can get their fundraising numbers up.”

Former Trump Deputy Campaign Manager David Bossie says Trump should seize control of the Mueller Report

But not everyone in Trump’s orbit is counting on Democrats’ fear of blowback to provide a rationale for denying Democrats the full Mueller report. Trump 2016 Deputy Campaign Manager David Bossie said that Trump should throw caution to the wind by directing the White House Counsel’s Office to assert control over the report’s release and scrub it of any material that would ordinarily be covered by executive privilege.

“I think the White House…needs to exert privilege claims over the report,” Bossie told BeltwayBreakfast. “Giving up the attorney-client privilege, the work-product privilege, the executive privilege and the deliberative privilege should be taken seriously, and just because the Democrats want something in is not a reason to have it in the report.” 

Bossie predicted that despite the Department of Justice’s “public relations” efforts to present the public with a process that is outside President Trump’s control, nothing resulting from the current process overseen by Attorney General Barr would satisfy Democrats because they are “incredibly dedicated to the President’s destruction and don’t care about process.”

“They don’t care about rules and they don’t care about precedent will do whatever it takes to try and destroy him,” he said. 

Democrats, he added are “not going to ever be satisfied” with any result short of impeaching the President, and will do whatever it takes to achieve that end “through any means necessary” and regardless of whether a formal impeachment proceeding is launched or not.

“Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to call it [impeachment], but that’s what it is.”

Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg says no reason to work with Democrats

One of Bossie’s colleague from the 2016 race, Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg, said that from the President’s perspective, there’s no good reason to work with people who are trying to destroy him.

“They’re not going to cooperate on anything because it just won’t stop,” he said. 

“None of these inquiries are being done…in good faith, so what is the point of cooperating?” he asked before adding that nothing the White House did to respond to Democrats’ requests would ever be enough.D

Democrats defend their actions, deny interest in impeachment

One source close to Nadler wondered whether the President or his allies are attempting to goad Democrats into launching impeachment proceedings by refusing to comply with anything short of a formal impeachment inquiry.

Whether or not they are doing so is “their business,” said the source, who warned such maneuvers would not be successful because Nadler “would never do something because he’s goaded into it or anything else.”

Nadler, the source said, “has been very clear” about the need for “all the facts to be in” before he can apply “a very careful test in determining whether [he] would even move forward on impeachment.”

“There’s a lot of work that we need to get done before we’re even at a stage of being able to make that determination.

But one House Democrat who sits on both the Judiciary and Oversight Committees, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said that he and his colleagues have a responsibility to review Mueller’s evidence themselves and that their responsibility was far more wide-ranging than simply deciding whether or not to impeach a President.

I don’t think [impeachment] is a necessary predicate for our ability to obtain the Mueller report or any information that we consider relevant. We have a constitutional oversight responsibility that is far broader than just an impeachment investigation,” he said.

But one House Democrat who sits on both the Judiciary and Oversight Committees, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said that he and his colleagues have a responsibility to review Mueller’s evidence themselves and that their responsibility was far more wide-ranging than simply deciding whether or not to impeach the President.

I don’t think [impeachment] is a necessary predicate for our ability to obtain the Mueller report or any information that we consider relevant. We have a constitutional oversight responsibility that is far broader than just an impeachment investigation,” he said.

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Andrew Feinberg covers the White House, Capitol Hill, and anywhere else news happens for BeltwayBreakfast.com and BroadbandBreakfast.com. He has reported on policy and politics in the nation's capital since 2007, and his writing has appeared in publications like The Hill, Politico, Communications Daily, Silicon Angle, and Washington Business Journal. He has also appeared on both daytime and prime radio and television news programs on NPR, Sirius-XM, CNN, MSNBC, ABC (Australia), Al Jazeera, NBC Digital, Voice of America, TV Rain (Russia) and CBS News. Andrew wishes he could say he lives in Washington, DC with his dog, but unfortunately, he lives in a no-dogs building in suburban Maryland.

The Russia Investigation

Trump Admits Russia Helped Him Get Elected

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U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting at the 2017 G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2019 — After two and a half years of denying that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was aimed towards boosting his candidacy, President Trump on Thursday admitted that Russia’s efforts had helped him win the presidency.

“Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected. It was a crime that didn’t exist,” Trump wrote during a Thursday morning tweetstorm meant to frame counter-narrative to the declaration by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller that his team could not say the President did not obstruct justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey or by directing associates to order Mueller’s firing.

Mueller ended roughly two years of silence on Wednesday — his last day at the Justice Department — with a dramatic public statement revealing that his team had not been permitted to consider whether Trump violated the law because of a longstanding DOJ policy forbidding the indictment of a sitting chief executive.

“Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider,” Mueller said, adding later that the Constitution “requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”

Trump’s statement that he “had nothing to do with Russia helping [him] get elected” is the first time he has ever acknowledged that either the massive social media disinformation campaign or the theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee and members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign team — and their distribution through third parties like WikiLeaks — played a role in his election.

But as he departed the White House en route to the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony, Trump went back on the attack against Mueller by repeating a number of baseless claims about alleged “conflicts of interest” that should have made the former FBI director ineligible for the Special Counsel position.

“Robert Mueller should have never been chosen because he wanted the FBI job and didn’t get it,” Trump said, repeating a false claim he has repeatedly made concerning a visit Mueller made to the White House in 2017, shortly before then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed him to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Despite Trump’s frequent claim that Mueller had asked to interview for the job he’d held from 2001 through 2013, page 293 of the Mueller Report describes how White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon “recalled that the White House had invited Mueller to speak to the President to offer a perspective on the institution of the FBI.”

According to the report, Bannon told investigators that “although the White House thought about beseeching Mueller to become Director again, he did not come in looking for the job.”

Trump also attacked Mueller for not looking into a wide range of conspiracy theories involving former FBI Director James Comey, ex-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI Agent Peter Strzok and former FBI attorney Lisa Page before suggesting Mueller was a “total conflicted person” who harbored political bias against him and his presidency “I think Mueller is a true ‘Never Trumper,’ he’s someone that dislikes Donald Trump,” he said.

When asked about his tweet that seemed to acknowledge Russia’s role in his 2016 win, he immediately began an attempt to walk back what he had tweeted earlier that day before suggesting — without evidence — that Russia’s efforts to boost his candidacy had instead helped “the other side” and equating unfavorable press coverage with a state-sponsored effort to sway another country’s election.

“You know who helped me get elected? I got me elected,” he said, pointing a finger at his chest. “Russia didn’t help me at all.”

However, one person who has acknowledged Russia’s role is Russian President Vladimir Putin. During a joint news conference with Trump at the two leaders’ summit in Helsinki, Finland, Putin was asked if he had wanted Trump to win and directed any actions to further that goal.

His reply?

“Yes, I did.”

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The Russia Investigation

Mueller Says Charging Trump ‘Not An Option’ Under DOJ Rules: ‘The Constitution Requires A Process Other Than The Criminal Justice System’

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WASHINGTON, May 29, 2019 — After more than two years of silence, Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday said that his office could not say “with confidence” that President Trump did not violate laws against obstructing justice, but charging him with violating them was “not an option” because Justice Department policy precludes indicting a sitting chief executive for a federal crime.

“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not,” Mueller said, directly contradicting claims of “no obstruction” made by both Attorney General William Barr and President Trump himself.

Instead, Mueller explained that his office was constrained by a legal opinion authored by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which concludes that indicting a sitting president would be unconstitutional.

“Under longstanding department policy, a president president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office,” Mueller said.

“Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.”

In a clear nod toward Congress’ power to impeach and remove a chief executive for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” Mueller explained that the Constitution “requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”

Mueller’s refutation of Barr’s claims that Trump did not obstruct justice came nearly two years to the day he was named as Special Counsel by then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Rosenstein appointed Mueller, a lifelong Republican who served in senior positions in the Justice Department during the the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton administrations before serving as FBI Director under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, following Trump’s firing of Mueller’s successor as FBI Director, James Comey.

In a letter sent to inform Comey of his termination, Trump cited a memorandum by Rosenstein which criticized Comey’s handling of the investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

But Rosenstein decided to appoint Mueller as a Special Counsel after Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that he’d fired Comey because of the FBI investigation into whether Trump or members of campaign had any involvement with Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Mueller described that interference campaign as consisting of “multiple systematic attempts” by individuals currently under indictment.

“That allegation [of interference] deserves the attention of every American,” he said.

Trump immediately brushed off Mueller’s refutation of his claim to have been exonerated by the report in a tweet which blatantly misstated what Mueller had said moments before.

“Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed!” Trump tweeted.

Other Trump associates weighed in shortly after, echoing the same claims Trumpworld figures have made since the Mueller Report’s release while largely ignoring Mueller’s statement emphasizing the fact that Trump could not be charged with a crime and that impeachment was the only constitutionally-permissible way to address wrongdoing by a President under DOJ rules.

“Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s remarks today confirmed what we already knew.  There was no collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign, and there was no case for obstruction,” Trump 2020 Campaign Manager Brad Parscale said in an emailed statement.

“President Trump has been fully and completely exonerated.  Mueller said his investigation is over.  The case is now closed.”

Another statement posted to Twitter by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders closely tracked Parscale’s language and repeated some of the same baseless claims about what Mueller and his report had said.

“The Special Counsel has completed the investigation, closed his office, and has closed the case,” Sanders wrote in a tweet. “The report was clear — there was no collusion, no conspiracy — and the Justice Department confirmed there was no obstruction.”

“After two years, the Special Counsel is moving on with his life, and everyone else should do the same.”

But Mueller’s statement did not support Parscale’s and Sanders’ assertions that there had been insufficient evidence to charge the President with obstruction of justice.

In his remarks, Mueller only noted that there had not been sufficient evidence to charge Trump or any of his associates with conspiring alongside any participants in Russia’s efforts to interfere with the election, while his report detailed numerous instances of Trump campaign officials meeting with Russian nationals and promoting material that Russia had stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign officials.

While Trumpworld dismissed Mueller’s remarks as nothing new, the sole Republican to speak out in favor of the House launching an impeachment inquiry, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., reacted to Mueller’s nod toward Congress’ impeachment powers in a tweet posted shortly after the Special Counsel concluded his statement.

“The ball is in our court, Congress,” he wrote.

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The Russia Investigation

Mueller To Break Silence With Statement On Russia Investigation

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Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller is pictured in the Oval Office in 2012

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2019 — Special Counsel Robert Mueller will deliver a statement on his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the Justice Department said in a statement Thursday.

Mueller, who was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2001 through 2013, has not spoken publicly since then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed him as a Justice Department Special Counsel in May 2017.

His remarks are set to begin at 11:00 am, though the Justice Department said Mueller will not take questions afterward.

A senior Trump administration official said the White House was notified of Mueller’s intention to speak last night, and that the administration would withhold comment until after he has concluded his remarks.

As White House communications staffers began what one press aide described as a “half-hour meeting,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders revealed that President Trump is “aware” of Mueller’s impending statement and was monitoring the situation

Sanders had no comment on whether Trump would speak following Mueller’s remarks or on whether the White House been briefed on what Mueller plans to say.

This is a developing story — check back for details.

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