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Former U.S. district judge John S. Martin, writing in The Post to debunk the baseless proposal by House Freedom Caucus members to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, observes:
The actions of the Freedom Caucus members are not only baseless, they are also shameful. While they call for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Rosenstein, it may be more appropriate to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate an attempt to corruptly obstruct justice by members of Congress who so obviously use their office to intimidate the deputy attorney general and to undermine the credibility of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.
.. Their inexcusable acts include:
- The caper by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) in which he scurried over to the White House to review classified documents and then tried to push the fake “unmasking” scandal;
- Nunes’s memo falsely stating that information about the Christopher Steele dossier’s origins was omitted from the Foreign Intelligence Security Court warrant application to conduct surveillance on suspected spy Carter Page;
- The outing of a confidential intelligence source;
- The badgering of Rosenstein for documents from an ongoing investigation and the bogus impeachment articles cooked up by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio);
- False accusations against the FBI (e.g. accusing FBI officials of aiding Hillary Clinton in the campaign) that were discredited by the inspector general’s report; and
- Refusal to obtain relevant documents (e.g. the blocked phone number that Donald Trump Jr. called in close proximity to the Russia meeting in June 2016).
.. Congressmen, Trump lawyers and White House aides conferring with intent to mislead investigators and the public, to disable the inquiry and/or to discredit law enforcement sounds an awful lot like obstruction of justice. Conversations or documents relating to that sort of conspiracy are in no way privileged.
.. Norman Eisen, Laurence Tribe and Caroline Frederickson wrote in February: “Endeavoring to stop an investigation, if done with corrupt intent, may constitute obstruction of justice. Plotting to assist such action may be conspiracy to obstruct justice. Normally, what is called ‘speech or debate immunity would provide a strong bulwark against any such liability for Mr. Nunes or his staff.” However, they argued, “Mr. Nunes and company may have ranged so far afield that those protections no longer apply. Under the clause, mere peripheral connection to legislative acts cannot serve as a fig leaf to shield criminal conduct.” They argued that if “a member or staff employee of the House Intelligence Committee engaged with the White House to stifle the special counsel inquiry, it would be difficult to see how such collaboration would be” protected by the speech or debate clause.
.. An investigation into Republican House members’ antics is critical if we want to hold them responsible for actions injurious to our criminal justice system. It is also necessary in order to uncover who if anyone they were colluding with on the White House side of the operation. Any White House official and/or lawyer — with or without the president’s knowledge — scheming to obstruct the investigation in concert with members of Congress needs to be investigated and held accountable.
.. Rather than simply play defense on behalf of Rosenstein and the Russian investigators, defenders of the rule of law need to go on offense, demanding Nunes, Meadows and Jordan come clean on their actions in support of a president trying to thwart a legitimate investigation. It all needs to come out.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into a meeting between longtime Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone and a Russian national during the height of the 2016 presidential campaign, according to Mr. Stone’s friend Michael Caputo, who is a witness in the probe.
Mr. Stone didn’t disclose the meeting, which he says was prompted by an offer of information detrimental to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, in his testimony before congressional investigators in September. He is now alerting House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) about it... Mr. Stone’s attorney said the Republican strategist had a “recently refreshed recollection” of the encounter after Mr. Caputo, a former Trump aide who helped arrange the May 2016 meeting, was questioned by Mr. Mueller’s office last month... the Russian man claimed “access to non-specific, damaging Clinton information which he wanted to sell.” He also added that his client declined to pay the $2 million requested.. he and Mr. Caputo now say they believe it was part of a sting operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation... the Russian went by the name Henry Greenberg and that he has a history of working as an FBI informant. Mr. Caputo cited research about the man’s background and alleged ties to U.S. intelligence. The research was commissioned and paid for by Mr. Caputo’s legal defense fund.. “Few of the Trump team witnesses have proved worthy of being taken at their word,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.), who serves on the House Intelligence Committee. The revelation about the meeting between Mr. Stone and the Russian national “proves how irresponsible it was for the House Republicans to wrap up our investigation and say nothing to see here,’” Mr. Swalwell said.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) has spent the better part of the past 15 hours poking holes in President Trump’s dubious trial balloon about a spy in his campaign.
Gowdy, who was one of the few people to get briefed on the situation last week, told Fox News on Tuesday night that the briefing vindicated the FBI: “I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.”
.. Even House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Trump’s most important ally in the House, has been quiet since receiving the briefing alongside Gowdy. That, perhaps more than anything, speaks volumes.
.. But we’ve been here before, and the lack of any real backup for Trump’s claims hasn’t stopped the GOP base from buying into them.
.. Few top Republican members of Congress are calling the Russia investigation a “witch hunt,” as Trump has, yet 82 percent of Republican voters and 44 percent of all Americans believe it is.
The Nunes memo that alleged a political and abusive predicate for the Russia probe wasn’t exactly embraced by Republicans, but it has contributed to Trump’s narrative.
.. Almost none of these conspiracy theories have been embraced by the broader, official Republican Party. Almost all of them have broken through, thanks to Trump’s singularity, his saturation of media coverage and the lack of a concerted pushback beyond people like Gowdy, Graham and Rubio
.. Gowdy is not seeking reelection after this term, so he does not have to worry about the political consequences of speaking out against Trump.
Did the FBI Have a Spy in the Trump Campaign?
Something tells me Glenn Simpson did not make a mistake. Something tells me the co-founder of Fusion GPS was dead-on accurate when he testified that Christopher Steele told him the FBI had a “human source” — i.e., a spy — inside the Trump campaign as the 2016 presidential race headed into its stretch run.
The Justice Department’s inability, or at least unwillingness, to reveal exactly how, when, and why the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation has fueled suspicions that a spy who worked for both the FBI and the CIA was deployed against the Trump campaign, probably in Britain — where Papadopoulos had met with suspected agents of the Kremlin, and where Steele compiled the dossier via reports from his unidentified sources.
From painstaking research, Nunes and committee staff believe they have identified such a spy. When they demanded information about this person — whose name remains unknown to the public — the Justice Department’s response was not “No, you’re wrong, there was no spying.” It was first to bloviate that the department would not be “extorted” (Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s unusual understanding of what is more commonly known as congressional oversight) and then to claim that providing the information sought by the committee would risk “potential loss of human lives, damage to relationships with valued international partners, compromise of ongoing criminal investigations, and interference with intelligence activities.”
By now, Nunes has learned that if he is catching flak, he is over the target.
.. Simpson explained that Steele had met with at least one FBI agent in Rome in mid to late September 2016. The former British spy had provided the unverified allegations he had compiled to that point
.. Simpson explained to the Senate committee (my italics):
Essentially, what [Christopher Steele] told me was [the FBI] had other intelligence about this matter from an internal Trump campaign source, and that — that they — my understanding was that they believed Chris at this point — that they believed Chris’s information might be credible because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing, and one of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump campaign.
.. Sounds like the FBI, with support from the CIA, had some cooperative intelligence venture with British authorities that enabled the Bureau to monitor Trump-campaign figures. That is significant because Papadopoulos has acknowledged meeting in Britain with people who claimed Kremlin ties and who told him Russia had thousands of Clinton’s emails. Did the FBI’s British operation involve using a spy to interact with Trump-campaign figures, such as Papadopoulos, on British soil? Brennan didn’t say.
.. Christopher Steele, the former British spy with extensive British intelligence and FBI connections, told his friend Glenn Simpson that the FBI had penetrated the Trump campaign with a “human source” who was helping corroborate the dossier.
.. But missing here is any discussion of the powers Congress itself has, including but not limited to the subpoena and contempt powers that ultimately forced Mr. Wray and Mr. Rosenstein into compliance.
Every indication is that this is far from the end of the committee majority’s mischief. All signs instead point to this week’s developments as the beginning of a new chapter in the story, in which House Republicans go on the offensive to support President Trump — and fight the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
.. First, the committee’s chairman, Representative Devin Nunes, attempted to provide cover for President Trump’s false allegation that he was wiretapped by his predecessor. Mr. Nunes met with White House officials in secret and then held news conferences in which he claimed that the outgoing national security adviser, Susan Rice, and her colleagues had wrongly sought to “unmask” (i.e., identify by name) certain Trump associates in surveillance reports.
.. When that effort ran out of steam, Mr. Nunes and the majority shifted their attention to the process by which law enforcement agencies obtained Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authorization to conduct electronic monitoring of a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.
The committee released a highly misleading memo claiming that the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice had abused their powers — claims which turned out to be unfounded.
The special counsel is examining three core issues:
- Did Russia attack the 2016 elections to aid Mr. Trump;
- did Mr. Trump or members of his campaign collude with the Russians to do so; and
- did Mr. Trump or others obstruct the investigation of these matters?
.. the majority report endeavors to gut the second question, declaring the absence of collusion altogether.
.. It would be a grave error to think the committee will stop here, especially its chairman. There is nothing in Mr. Nunes’s record to suggest that he will let up in the face of opposition
.. The so-called “Nunes memo,” although widely considered a flop, was just the first in a series that he has said he plans to issue.
.. The president and his supporters have argued that his constitutional power to direct the Justice Department and the F.B.I. and to fire their personnel means he cannot as a matter of law be held accountable for obstructing an investigation.
.. we fully expect them to weigh in on the side of the president, and against accountability.
.. Should Mr. Mueller move to compel the president to testify by obtaining a grand jury subpoena, for example, look for them to back arguments circulated by Mr. Trump’s lawyers that the special counsel has not met the threshold for such a step.
.. We also expect more overt attacks on Mr. Mueller himself
.. We must in addition look for Representative Nunes and his ilk to back the president should he seek to install a crony in one of the positions within the Justice Department that oversees the Mueller investigation.
.. Mr. Trump instead can try to throttle him by replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions or his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, with a compliant soul who can slowly choke off Mr. Mueller by cutting his budget, trimming his staff or curtailing the scope of his review.
.. In a week in which there has already been a major cabinet reshuffle, with the firings of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and one of his top aides, Steve Goldstein, the possibility of such a move looms larger
.. When Mr. Nunes released his first memo, there were ominous rumblings that it was intended to target Mr. Rosenstein for his alleged role in FISA warrant abuses. When the memo fell flat, the rumors faded away. We would hardly be surprised to see a renewed effort against him — and his boss.
.. The special counsel must gird himself for this battle, and all of us must be ready to defend him.