Rudy Giuliani on Sunday said the president and former FBI Director James Comey never discussed former national security adviser Mike Flynn, seemingly changing course on previous remarks he had made.
.. there were 82 known “contacts between the Trump team and Russia-linked operatives.”
.. the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower between the Trump campaign high command and Kremlin emissaries promising dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of the Kremlin’s “support for Mr. Trump.” “If it’s what you say, I love it,” Donald Trump Jr. gushed. When this was revealed last summer, President Trump personally orchestrated an attempted coverup by claiming the meeting was about adoptions.
This was shortly after Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey to stop the investigation of “this Russia thing,” as he put it in an interview with “NBC Nightly News” — showing just how much he fears this inquiry.
.. Trump’s deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, was in touch in 2016 with Konstantin Kilimnik, a business associate with “ties to Russian intelligence.” Campaign chairman
Paul Manafort, who has a long history of representing Russian interests and was running the campaign for no pay, also reportedly met with Kilimnik in 2016.
Manafort was also in contact with the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska (whom he owed at least $10 million) , offering him “private briefings” that would no doubt have been instantly conveyed to Putin.
.. Russians first tried to hack into Clinton’s email on July 27, 2016, hours after Trump asked them to do just that (“Russia, if you’re listening”).
.. Both Stone and Donald Trump Jr. were also in contact with WikiLeaks, the Russians’ conduit for releasing stolen emails. Surely it is no mere coincidence that Stone predicted on Aug. 21, 2016 — nearly seven weeks before Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s stolen emails were released — that “it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in the barrel.”
.. the indictment also reveals that the Russians stole not just emails but also the data analytics Democrats used to run their campaign. This happened in September 2016. A few weeks later, the Trump campaign shifted its “datadriven” strategy to focus on the states that would provide the margin of victory, raising the question of whether it benefited from stolen Democratic data.
.. The application, approved by four Republican judges, notes that “the FBI believes that the Russian Government’s efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with Candidate #1’s [Trump’s] campaign.” It also says that Putin aide Igor Diveykin “had met secretly with Page and that their agenda for the meeting included Diveykin raising
a dossier or ‘kompromat’ that the Kremlin possessed on Candidate #2 [Clinton] and the possibility of it being released to Candidate #1’s campaign.”
.. Helsinki, where Trump refused to criticize Putin and insisted on meeting with him alone for two hours. Why doesn’t Trump want his own aides in the room when he talks with Putin? What does he have to hide?
.. Former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. , among others, suspects that Putin has “something” on Trump — perhaps evidence of financial wrongdoing. But, by now, any such “kompromat” could well include the help that Russia provided in 2016. Trump certainly gives the impression that he knows how much he owes Russia and how important it is to repay that debt lest Putin release the evidence that might bring him down. And the
Putin Republicans give the impression that they couldn’t care less if the president plotted to win power with help from a hostile foreign state.
Mr. Mueller has told the president’s lawyers that he needs to talk to their client to determine whether he had criminal intent to obstruct the investigation into his associates’ possible links to Russia’s election interference. If Mr. Trump refuses to be questioned, Mr. Mueller will have to weigh their arguments while deciding whether to press ahead with a historic grand jury subpoena.
Mr. Mueller had raised the prospect of subpoenaing Mr. Trump to Mr. Dowd in March.
.. The attempt to dissuade Mr. Mueller from seeking a grand jury subpoena is one of two fronts on which Mr. Trump’s lawyers are fighting. In recent weeks, they have also begun a public-relations campaign to discredit the investigation and in part to pre-empt a potentially damaging special counsel report that could prompt impeachment proceedings
.. Mr. Giuliani said in an interview that Mr. Trump is telling the truth but that investigators “have a false version of it, we believe, so you’re trapped.”
.. “Ensuring that the office remains sacred and above the fray of shifting political winds and gamesmanship is of critical importance,” they wrote.
.. They argued that the president holds a special position in the government and is busy running the country, making it difficult for him to prepare and sit for an interview. They said that because of those demands on Mr. Trump’s time, the special counsel’s office should have to clear a higher bar to get him to talk. Mr. Mueller, the president’s attorneys argued, needs to prove that the president is the only person who can give him the information he seeks and that he has exhausted all other avenues for getting it.
“The president’s prime function as the chief executive ought not be hampered by requests for interview,” they wrote. “Having him testify demeans the office of the president before the world.”
They also contended that nothing Mr. Trump did violated obstruction-of-justice statutes, making both a technical parsing of what one such law covers and a broad constitutional argument that Congress cannot infringe on how he exercises his power to supervise the executive branch. Because of the authority the Constitution gives him, it is impossible for him to obstruct justice by shutting down a case or firing a subordinate, no matter his motivation, they said.
“Every action that the president took was taken with full constitutional authority pursuant to Article II of the United States Constitution,” they wrote of the part of the Constitution that created the executive branch. “As such, these actions cannot constitute obstruction, whether viewed separately or even as a totality.”
That constitutional claim raises novel issues, according to legal experts. Under the Constitution, the president wields broad authority to control the actions of the executive branch. But the Supreme Court has ruled that Congress can impose some restrictions on his exercise of that power, including by upholding statutes that limit his ability to fire certain officials. As a result, it is not clear whether statutes criminalizing obstruction of justice apply to the president and amount to another legal limit on how he may wield his powers.
Subpoenas of the president are all but unheard-of. President Bill Clinton was ordered to testify before a grand jury in 1998 after requests for a voluntary appearance made by the independent counsel, Kenneth W. Starr, went nowhere.
To avoid the indignity of being marched into the courthouse, Mr. Clinton had his lawyers negotiate a deal in which the president agreed to provide testimony as long as it was taken at the White House and limited to four hours. Mr. Starr then withdrew the subpoena, avoiding a definitive court fight.
In making their arguments, Mr. Trump’s lawyers also revealed new details about the investigation. They took on Mr. Comey’s account of Mr. Trump asking him privately to end the investigation into Mr. Flynn. Investigators are examining that request as possible obstruction.
But Mr. Trump could not have intentionally impeded the F.B.I.’s investigation, the lawyers wrote, because he did not know Mr. Flynn was under investigation when he spoke to Mr. Comey. Mr. Flynn, they said, twice told senior White House officials in the days before he was fired in February 2017 that he was not under F.B.I. scrutiny.
“There could not possibly have been intent to obstruct an ‘investigation’ that had been neither confirmed nor denied to White House counsel,” the president’s lawyers wrote.
Moreover, F.B.I. investigations do not qualify as the sort of “proceeding” an obstruction-of-justice statute covers, they argued.
“Of course, the president of the United States is not above the law, but just as obvious and equally as true is the fact that the president should not be subjected to strained readings and forced applications of clearly irrelevant statutes,” Mr. Dowd and Mr. Sekulow wrote.
Samuel W. Buell, a Duke Law School professor and white-collar criminal law specialist who was a lead prosecutor for the Justice Department’s Enron task force, said the real issue was whether Mr. Trump obstructed a potential grand jury investigation or trial — which do count as proceedings — even if the F.B.I. investigation had not yet developed into one of those. He called it inexplicable why the president’s legal team was making arguments that were focused on the wrong obstruction-of-justice statute.
They went beyond asserting Mr. Trump’s innocence, casting him as the hero of the Flynn episode and contending that he deserved credit for ordering his aides to investigate Mr. Flynn and ultimately firing him.
“Far, far, from obstructing justice, the only individual in the entire Flynn story that ensured swift justice was the president,” they wrote. “His actions speak louder than any words.”
The lawyers acknowledged that Mr. Trump dictated a statement to The Times about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between some of his top advisers and Russians who were said to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Though the statement is misleading — in it, the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., said he met with Russians “primarily” to discuss adoption issues — the lawyers call it “short but accurate.”
The president’s lawyers argued that the statement is a matter between the president and The Times — and the president’s White House and legal advisers have said for the past year that misleading journalists is not a crime.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers also try to untangle another potential piece of evidence in the obstruction investigation: his assertion, during an interview with Lester Holt of NBC two days after Mr. Comey was fired, that he was thinking while he weighed the dismissal that “this Russia thing” had no validity. Mr. Mueller’s investigators view that statement as damning, according to people familiar with the investigation.
But the lawyers say that news accounts seized on only part of his comments and that his full remarks show that the president was aware that firing Mr. Comey would lengthen the investigation and dismissed him anyway.
The complete interview, the lawyers argued, makes clear “he was willing, even expecting, to let the investigation take more time, though he thinks it is ridiculous, because he believes that the American people deserve to have a competent leader of the F.B.I.”
Most white-collar prosecutions turn on the issue of criminal intent. These cases involve behavior that would, in ordinary circumstances, be totally legal—if not for the intent of the defendant.
.. It’s only criminal to sell stock if you had improper knowledge of the status of the company.
.. The President clearly had the right to fire Comey, but he did not have the right to do so with improper intent.
.. McGahn’s threat to resign shows that he saw these purported reasons as pretexts.
- .. The golf-dues matter was obviously trivial
- .. the law firm’s representation of Kushner, which did not involve Mueller at all, could only have biased the special counsel in favor of the President’s family
- .. and Trump’s willingness to interview Mueller for the F.B.I. position showed how much the President trusted Mueller, not that he believed the former F.B.I. director harbored any animosity toward him.
.. McGahn recognized the key fact—that Trump wanted to fire Mueller for the wrong reasons. Trump wanted to fire Mueller because his investigation was threatening to him.
.. Trump and his advisers have offered various tortured rationalizations for the firing of Comey—initially, for example, on the ground that Comey had been unfair to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. Trump himself came clean in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt and in a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister.
In both, Trump acknowledged that he fired Comey to stall or stop the Russia investigation—that is, the investigation of Trump himself and his campaign.
Not so long ago, Republican leaders prided themselves on protecting middle-American minds from the liberal intellectual rot being spread by politicians and college professors they viewed as being hostile to law enforcement, contemptuous of constitutional traditions, indifferent to personal morality and accommodating to Russian tyrants. They claimed to be the intellectual heirs of Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley Jr. Now those same politicians debase themselves daily in service to Trump... “I faced great pressure because of Russia,” America’s president told the Russians. “That’s taken off. I am not under investigation.”.. As a storm gathers over Washington and the world, Donald Trump’s Republican Party remains complicit in his frenzied efforts to undermine the American institutions and established values that conservatives once claimed to share.And while the clouds overhead are cause for all to be concerned, it will be the husk of a once-proud Republican Party that will be swept away first by the deluge that is sure to come.
The Democrats are clearly in full partisan mode, framing every inconvenient, benign, or even potentially exculpatory detail as a smoking gun. The whole “hacked the election” formulation, used both by the Democrats and by allegedly objective reporters, is a misleading bit of hyperbole. Is “meddled with” or “interfered in” too big a concession to reality?
.. Meanwhile, there’s no shortage of hyperbole among those most eager to defend Trump on the Russia story.
.. More seriously, the rush to say there’s nothing to the collusion story is a mirror of the rush to insist the story is everything.
.. There were no meetings with Russians. Well there was that meeting about adoption with that Russian lawyer (attended by the campaign manager). Well, it was a meeting about opposition research that turned into a meeting about adoption, but I had no idea the Russian government was involved. Then the NYT reports last night about an email saying the meeting was pitched as part of a Russian-government operation. Then this morning the Russian lawyer says it was the Trump team that was desperate for Clinton dirt.
.. But that’s my larger point. Who the hell knows? What I just don’t understand is how conservatives can mock, scoff at, and ridicule the idea there might be some legs to this story when Donald Trump does everything he can to make it look like there might be a there there. He fired the FBI director. He told the Russian ambassador he did it to thwart the Russia investigation. He told Lester Holt the same thing. Donald Trump is clearly obsessed with the Russia story and with forging a bromance with Vladimir Putin. Both his son and his son-in-law have ties to Russia and keep having to revise their denials, making anyone who believed them in the first place look foolish.
President Trump is a selfish liar, and a vain one. Those traits, together, can cause chaos, as they did on Thursday, when, in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump undermined his own alibi for firing the F.B.I. director, James Comey
- Vice-President Mike Pence and other dependents repeated this story all day Wednesday, with Pence portraying the President as solemnly resolved to follow the best advice he had, and
- Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary, throwing in some smears of Comey, who she said had committed “atrocities” while at the F.B.I. and was disliked by its rank and file.
.. But, when Holt asked him about heeding Sessions and Rosenstein, Trump seemed to bristle. Could Holt think that he, Trump, needed to hear what anyone had to say—that he had his mind changed by subordinates?
.. “when I decided to just do it”—that is, to fire Comey: “I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story; it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.” His aides, needless to say, had spent the day saying that Comey’s firing had nothing to do with Russia.
.. Instead, it leaves open the possibility that some sort of public confession in which Comey would “admit his errors” might be an alternative, in terms of restoring “trust.”
.. Instead, in both the letter that Trump sent to Comey and in his interview with Holt, Trump claimed that he got something else from Comey: an assurance that he was not under investigation. Trump doesn’t bother to conceal that he regarded such an assurance as something of a condition of employment.
.. Trump would rather raise the possibility that he’d had an improper, if not actually illegal, conversation with Comey than leave anyone with the impression that he couldn’t instruct the people who worked for him to do anything he desired.
.. Trump seems to treat the idea of being investigated the same way that he regards the idea of losing money. He is not personally being investigated; he never personally declared bankruptcy—only some of his various businesses did.
.. McCabe added that he personally regarded serving with Comey as the honor of his life. Sanders countered that many F.B.I. officers of her acquaintance had told her the opposite, which she treated as definitive despite adding, with a note of pleased and oblivious self-contradiction, “And I don’t even know that many people in the F.B.I.!”
.. She answered questions about the propriety of the Trump-Comey dinner by seeming to cite lawyers she’d seen comment on television.
.. In a way, she is the perfect Trump spokesperson. Her incoherent answers revolved around the greatness of Trump and the perfidy of his enemies.