Perhaps more important than having Democratic credentials was having a heightened understanding of the needs of senior leadership — in the FBI, certainly, but also in the DOJ. Right across the street from the J. Edgar Hoover Building sat Attorney General Loretta Lynch. She would be scrutinizing Midyear Exam in every detail. And not just Lynch. Hillary Clinton herself would be watching closely — and would be brought in for questioning, too. Being willing and able to treat her with kid gloves was essential. She “might be our next president,” team member Lisa Page reminded Peter Strzok, the agent in charge of Midyear Exam. Referring to Clinton’s upcoming FBI interview, Page wrote, “The last thing you need us going in there loaded for bear.”
Why not, then, appoint another special counsel to squeeze the squeezers? Why not turn the tables?
.. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made a foundational error in appointing Robert Mueller to be special counsel to investigate . . . well . . . um . . . come to think of it, that was the error: The investigation has no parameters, and thus no limitations.
Investigations conducted by prosecutors are supposed to be rooted in known crimes — or, at the very least, articulable suspicion that known crimes have occurred.
those crimes must form the basis for two salient findings:
(1) that the Justice Department has a conflict of interest so severe that it cannot conduct the investigation in the normal manner, and
(2) that it is necessary to appoint, from outside the Justice Department, a quasi-independent prosecutor.
.. This special prosecutor is to be given a grant of investigative jurisdiction limited to the crimes that the Justice Department is too conflicted to investigate — and no other crimes, unless the special counsel explicitly requests, and the Justice Department grants, an expansion of jurisdiction.
.. Because counterintelligence is not lawyer work, and because the objective of counterintelligence is to gather information about a foreign power, not to build a criminal case against a suspect, prosecutors are not ordinarily assigned to counterintelligence investigations.
.. In the Mueller appointment, then, counterintelligence is camouflage for something that should never happen: a special counsel unleashed to hunt for crimes to prosecute despite the absence of known crimes warranting appointment of a special prosecutor.
.. is looking into whether Jared Kushner’s financial woes influenced Trump-administration policy towards Qatar.
.. Where I part company with them is not over whether we need an investigation; it is over whether that investigation should be done by a special counsel.
.. The patent flaw in the Goodlatte-Gowdy proposal is the same one that plagued Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller: There is no triggering crime.
.. Investigative Excesses Are Usually Not Crimes
It is very bad for investigators to exhibit bias, to allow bias to taint their exercise of investigative and prosecutorial discretion, to depart from Justice Department guidelines, and to provide unverified information to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court). But none of these things is a crime – at least, not obviously so.
.. There is no criminal statute addressing bias on the part of agents and prosecutors. We all have biases. It would not be possible to have bias-free investigators.
.. But if deviations from guidelines were to become a basis for legal action, including criminal prosecution, one of two things would happen: The guidelines would be repealed, or they would be rewritten in a broadly permissive manner, endorsing investigative behavior that might be justifiable in exigent circumstances but would be grossly inappropriate the rest of the time.
.. If police and prosecutors came to believe enforcement errors would lead to prosecutions or civil lawsuits against them, they would refrain from taking any but the most uncontroversial enforcement actions. In another context, Heather Mac Donald has written compellingly about this phenomenon as “the Ferguson effect.” To discourage policing is to erode the rule of law, imperiling societal peace and prosperity.
.. If there was a good-faith basis for the FBI and Justice Department to investigate possible Trump–Russia ties of a corrupt nature, it would be very difficult to prove that investigators broke the law in conducting their investigation
.. Candidate Trump made alarmingly ingratiating statements about Vladimir Putin
.. Trump brought Manafort and Gates into his campaign at a very high level. They had notorious ties to Kremlin-backed Ukrainians. Those ties are not speculation; they are established fact. Moreover, Trump publicly identified Carter Page, an obscure Kremlin apologist, as one of his campaign’s handful of foreign-policy advisers. Simultaneously, the FBI was alerted that the Russians might be in possession of thousands of hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton, and might have made a point of communicating this claim to George Papadopoulos, another of the few identified Trump foreign-policy advisers.
.. Then the bureau was approached by Christopher Steele. Far from being unknown to the FBI, this former British spy was a proven asset, having provided information that helped the bureau crack the FIFA soccer case
.. Steele alleged that Trump was involved in a corrupt conspiracy with Russia, in which Manafort, the point man, was using Page as an intermediary. Because of his prior work with the bureau, Steele would not have been ignored by the FBI, regardless of the Clinton campaign’s sponsorship of his work
.. given the preexisting reasons for concern: Trump’s pro-Putin rhetoric; the backgrounds of Manafort, Gates, and Page; and the report about possible Russian involvement in hacked Democratic emails.
.. It would not be credible to claim that the Trump-Russia investigation was fabricated out of whole cloth. Even stipulating that the top FBI/DOJ hierarchy was biased against Trump, and thus too quick to credit sensational allegations of Trump wrongdoing, there were good-faith reasons for concern about ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian regime. These reasons do not prove that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic emails; that Carter Page was a Russian agent; that Manafort and Gates were choreographing a Trump–Russia conspiracy; or that Trump’s Russia rhetoric was anything more than a political novice’s effort to do what American administrations have been doing for decades — seek better relations with Moscow.
.. Goodlatte and Gowdy are also right to suggest (as I believe they have) that the contemplated investigation should scrutinize the handling of the Clinton-emails probe
.. The special counsel is a pernicious institution that operates outside the procedures and discipline of a normal U.S. attorney’s office — where the merits of every case must be weighed against those of every other in the competition for limited investigative and prosecutorial resources.
.. Attorney General Sessions should assign a U.S. attorney from outside Washington to conduct a probe of how the Clinton-emails and Trump-Russia investigations were handled by the Justice Department and FBI. A good model would be John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut just confirmed by the Senate.
.. the Bush administration was cut no slack by Fitzgerald, then a career prosecutor who is remembered for conducting a hyper-aggressive probe.
.. Mueller is effectively independent only because Rosenstein has chosen to be passive
.. Mueller reports to Rosenstein, who could assert more active supervision.
.. There is no reason that Attorney General Sessions cannot structure a probe that can be credibly conducted by the Justice Department’s standard investigative arrangement
How the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia.
One day it’s all sun and sycophantic fun on one of the president’s fancy golf courses, where you’re telling yourself that to marvel at his putts and swoon over his swing are small prices for influence and will pay off in the end.
.. That’s the story of Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Its moral couldn’t be clearer. There’s no honor or wisdom in cozying up to Donald Trump — just a heap of manure.
.. Maybe more than any other figure on Capitol Hill, Graham personifies his party’s spastic, incoherent, humiliating response to Trump across time and its fatally misguided surrender.
He denounced Trump before he befriended and defended him. He graduated from the unpleasant experience of being Trump’s punching bag to the unprincipled one of being his enabler. Like the majority of his Republican colleagues in Congress, he reckoned that he could somehow get more than he was giving up, which included his dignity. He reckoned wrong.
.. It was Graham who recently joined Senator Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican, in undercutting the credibility of federal inquiries into Trump’s ties with Russia by recommending that the Justice Department investigate Christopher Steele
.. Did Graham tell himself then that he was craftily staying in Trump’s good graces so that he could coax the president toward saner, better immigration policy?
.. when Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, and David Perdue, a Georgia Republican, strenuously disputed the initial accounts that Trump said “shithole” in the Oval Office, it was not because his talk was actually statesmanlike. No, they heard him fume about immigrants from “shithouse countries” rather than “shithole countries,” and in that scintilla of semantic difference they found a rationale for muddying the waters and rallying around the president.
.. During the campaign, Graham blasted Trump as the “world’s biggest jackass,” said that the way to make America great again was to “tell Donald Trump to go to hell” and described the choice of Trump versus Ted Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination as a decision whether to be “shot or poisoned.”
.. A fervent champion of national security, he gave Trump a pass for making light of Russian interference in an American election.
.. He sternly reprimanded the media for calling the president “some kind of kook.” Oops! He had hung that same label on Trump,
.. But it’s reckless folly, because it doesn’t take Trump’s creeping authoritarianism, his instability, his degradation of the presidency and, yes, his racism into full account. To flatter him is to sanitize and encourage all of that.