Mueller braces for challenges to his authority

The special counsel has won some early court victories in the Russia investigation, but with charges filed defense attorneys and others are lining up to rein in the probe.

.. the criminal case against former Donald Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates speeds toward a possible spring 2018 trial
.. Kevin Downing, Manafort’s lead attorney …. Downing also said he may try to prevent Mueller’s prosecutors from presenting some of their evidence during the criminal trial.

.. “’Distort, detract, deny’ is a common playbook for defense lawyers,” said Julie Myers Wood, a former Whitewater prosecutor. “And if the allegations are serious here, I wouldn’t expect the lawyers to sit back or withhold any tool in a quest to undermine the perception of Mueller’s legitimacy.”

.. Past independent counsel and special prosecutor cases are rife with legal battles that can come to rival the actual investigation. Michael Deaver, a former senior aide to President Ronald Reagan, tried without success to halt an independent counsel conflict-of-interest probe into his post-White House work by claiming the investigator held a grudge against him.
During the Iran-Contra probe, Lt. Col. Oliver North similarly failed to get the Supreme Court to consider his bid to block the investigation.
.. Trump himself told the New York Times in July that he would consider it “a violation” if Mueller’s investigators looked into his personal finances. And the president’s personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, told POLITICO on Thursday he is primed to lodge formal objections with either Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if the Russia investigation took a wide or unexpected detour into issues like an old Trump real-estate deal.
.. “Whenever you operate in uncharted legal territory, and this would be an example, you’d expect defense lawyers to push the envelope and edges
.. In a case like Manafort’s, Mueller may be wise to hand it over to DOJ for prosecution
.. But Rotunda also said a court is unlikely to give a defendant standing to object to Mueller’s jurisdiction. “The only entity that could object is the DOJ,” he said.
..  U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson has proposed should go to trial starting May 7
.. Jackson also told the attorneys for Mueller and the defense that she’s considering issuing a gag order that limits the public statements both sides may make about the case.
.. Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled last month in the special counsel’s favor when he tried to seek grand jury testimony from an attorney for Manafort and Gates.
.. Richard Ben-Veniste, a former Watergate prosecutor, said that he expected defense lawyers representing indicted defendants to keep on challenging Mueller’s authority and jurisdiction. “I would also expect such challenges to be unavailing,” he said, “as Mueller’s authority to act is on firm legal ground.”

The Crowdsourced Guide to Fighting Trump’s Agenda

Levin and the other authors that, “despite the despair that many progressives may be feeling right now, there really actually is a model for success.” Unfortunately, it belonged to the Tea Party.

The document analyzes the strategic wisdom of the Tea Party, focussing on its local activism and emphasis on defense rather than offense. “We tried to be really clear in the document that, like it or not, the Tea Party really _did _have significant accomplishments—facing more difficult odds than we face today

.. Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and a former staffer for Senators Edward Kennedy and Harry Reid, told me that he was impressed that the document “urges people to play defensive baseball.” “I understand the need for a positive agenda, as do they,” he added. “But I think they’re correct in their assessment on copying some of the tactics of the Tea Party and trying to make Republicans feel pain or pay a price for some of the stuff they’re about to vote on.”

.. “We were three of the only people who_ _had Twitter accounts,” Levin explained. “We also didn’t want there to be some kind of mysterious, anonymous document that came out and inspired folks to speculate about its author. To avoid that scenario, we put a handful of names on it.”

To Defend Trump, the GOP Is Becoming a Party Bill Clinton Would Love

Donald Trump’s supporters create endless alibis for him, just as Bill Clinton’s did for him.

.. He inspired such fanatical devotion (and gratitude for his key policy decisions) that men and women were willing to lie for him, sacrifice their principles for him, and in one notorious case even go to jail to protect him.

.. He inspired such fanatical devotion (and gratitude for his key policy decisions) that men and women were willing to lie for him, sacrifice their principles for him, and in one notorious case even go to jail to protect him.

.. This meant that they simply held him to a different standard. He could lie; his opponents could not. He got the benefit of the doubt despite admitted affairs, multiple credible claims of sexual harassment, and even one disturbing account of rape. But that’s just Bubba being Bubba, right? How can he help it if women love him, and besides, aren’t we Americans just a tad too uptight about sex? European politicians flaunt their mistresses and no one cares.

.. The question of the controversy morphed. The central question wasn’t “Did Bill Clinton commit the crime of perjury by lying under oath?” It was instead, “Who do you want to win this political battle? The president of peace and prosperity or the sneaky Linda Tripp and the obsessive Ken Starr?”

.. Think of the avalanche of vitriol against James Comey. Trump fired him, misled the public about the reasons, and then absurdly trashed his reputation. But how dare Comey fight back and defend himself? How dare he “leak” a memo?

.. The Clinton playbook left a party robbed of moral authority to confront Trump, and it indeed helped make his victory possible.

.. The Clinton playbook left a party robbed of moral authority to confront Trump, and it indeed helped make his victory possible.

The Young Trump: Jared Kushner is more like his father-in-law than anyone imagines.

With little experience, and against all predictions to the contrary, Kushner had managed Trump’s way to the White House, and was now poised to be his most trusted adviser and enforcer in the West Wing.

.. He had come to offer a message to his old friends: Be unafraid.

.. He thought about immigration in terms of Silicon Valley’s needs, about education the way Robin Hood Foundation philanthropists did, about climate change in terms of carbon emissions, not mining jobs. Then, about a year ago, Kushner said, he had started traveling the country with Trump, going to rallies where thousands of ordinary Americans shouted in fury about government regulations and the Common Core curriculum.

.. David Zaslav, the chief executive of the Discovery cable networks, asked Kushner how it would be possible in the future to have a national discussion based on facts. Kushner replied that it was the media that was deluded about America, claiming his own computer models told him the morning of the election that Trump would capture more than 300 electoral votes.

.. Kushner believes Trump’s victory was a repudiation of the media and both political parties — the entire governing Establishment. He said he was “proud” Trump had won only 4 percent of the vote in Washington, D.C.

.. He predicted the administration would take a “rational” position on immigration and would join with Democrats to invest in infrastructure, which he said could mean not only roads and bridges but high-speed internet and driverless cars. He said Trump had asked Elon Musk why the aerospace industry couldn’t make planes that fly faster, like the Concorde used to, and Musk replied that most CEOs preferred incremental improvements to moon-shot risks.

.. Ten blocks to the north, in his golden tower, Trump was nominating a climate-change skeptic for Interior secretary and tweeting gleefully about Russian hacking, even as his son-in-law said America needed to take a long-term view of the “warfare of the future.”

.. Kushner flattered the Partnership audience by saying the president-elect was happy to be bringing so many billionaires to D.C., asking, “Who else to do you want to see cutting deals?”

.. Kushner’s impact can be seen in the centrist tilt of Trump’s economic team, which is heavy on Goldman Sachs guys. For secretary of State, he preferred Mitt Romney and, later, Rex Tillerson over bomb-throwers like John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani.

.. “For a guy who was a progressive,” Bannon says, “he really gets this grassroots populist movement in a huge way.”

.. “We have no formal chain of command around here,” Trump said

.. the depth of Kushner’s commitment to Trump’s reactionary agenda was surrounded by a bit of what Henry Kissinger — a Kushner admirer — would call constructive ambiguity.

.. he had always been quick to champion Trump to his many detractors and expressed admiration for his knack for self-promotion and his impish ability to play the press for suckers. But Kushner never gave the impression that he had anything more than a grudging son-in-law’s level of tolerance for Trump’s more radical positions.

.. Back when Trump was spinning birther conspiracy theories, which were lapped up by gullible Republicans, one person who talked to Kushner says he offered assurances that his father-in-law didn’t really believe that stuff.

.. His voice is just literally soft. His opinions are anything but deferential. “He’s very aggressive,” says Zelnick, who says that once Kushner makes up his mind, “it may look like he’s barreling down a path.”

.. Above all, he and Trump share a clannish outlook on life, business, and politics. Trump prizes loyalty, especially when it flows upward, and no defender has been more steadfast during his turbulent struggle than Kushner. Neither forgets when he’s been wronged. They both appear to enjoy the metallic taste of payback, although of the two, Trump may be the more forgiving.

.. In fact, “family first” is his paramount value, a personal principle instilled in him through bitter history.

.. Rae Kushner, the family’s matriarch, was born in Novogrudek, in what is now Belarus. When the Nazis arrived in 1941, they executed the town’s Jewish doctors, lawyers, and intellectuals on the square, as an orchestra played. Rae, a teenager, was one of 50 girls selected to scrub their blood from the cobblestones.

.. They ended up in a displaced-persons camp, where they spent three and a half years while the family waited for a visa to immigrate to the United States. “Nobody wanted to take us in,” Rae said in The Miracle of Life. At the time, the United States had immigration quotas based on ethnicity. “For the Jews, the doors were closed. We never understood that. Even President Roosevelt kept the doors closed.”

.. “You cater to the masses, you eat with the classes.”

.. He has also served as a bridge to the government of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has known the Kushners for years.

.. Through Jared’s teenage years, his father became increasingly involved in politics, becoming a top Democratic Party donor. Politicians with national aspirations, including Hillary Clinton, would regularly pay visits to the Kushners.

.. Charlie wanted more than just zoning approvals. He aspired to be a kingmaker.

.. that was Charlie’s flaw: his craving for a public role.

.. Chris Christie, the ambitious U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, who appeared to relish the idea of pursuing Governor McGreevey’s patron.

.. Jared saw his father as a victim of injustice. “It’s an outrage that Charlie’s brother and sister cooperated with the government against him; that’s the lowest thing a Jew can do in my book,”

.. The youthful staff at the Observer made subsistence wages, but the writers didn’t seem bothered about money. They competed instead for the fickle approval of the paper’s charismatic editor, Peter Kaplan, who cultivated an air of intellectual eccentricity punctuated by sarcastic exclamation points.

.. If Kushner, then 25, was seeking to confirm a suspicion that the media was made up of socially insecure smartasses who glory in the human failings of the rich and powerful, he couldn’t have picked a better place to educate himself.

.. Kaplan told friends that Kushner’s favorite book was The Count of Monte Cristo, the story of a wronged man who escapes prison, becomes rich, and uses his wealth to stealthily visit vengeance upon his unsuspecting enemies.

.. Wildstein was hired by Christie and engineered the politically retributive traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge. After the scheme came to light, Kushner sent an email to Wildstein, who had resigned amid the investigation. “That’s another thing we have in common I guess with my Dad having done the same,” he wrote. “For what its worth, I thought the move you pulled was kind of badass.”

.. Ray Kelly, the former NYPD commissioner, who got to know Kushner as a donor to the New York City Police Foundation

.. he saw Kushner as a “law-and-order person” who was supportive of the Bloomberg administration’s technocratic approach to government. Kushner was also close to Joel Klein, the schools chancellor, who influenced his views on education reform

.. In 2006, Jared negotiated the purchase of 666 Fifth Avenue for $1.8 billion, a record sum for a Manhattan office building at the time. The transaction was financed by an onerous amount of debt. The following year, the Kushner Companies liquidated its apartment portfolio for $1.9 billion. The shift was akin to trading a fleet of taxicabs for a single Formula 1 race car. “It wasn’t my idea to buy a New York building,” says Hammer, who was chairman of the company during Charlie’s absence. “That was really the idea of a very aggressive, ambitious young man.”

.. Kushner’s loans were premised on the assumption that office rents would rise; instead, the economy crashed.

.. Vulture investors bought the debt, threatening foreclosure. Kushner felt besieged, with few friends and no leverage.

.. Kushner didn’t forget who had been unkind to him along the way.

.. Kushner emerged from the crisis with a reputation as a gutsy dealmaker.

.. “He’s very uncluttered in his mind,”

.. “I think that simplicity allows him to filter some things out.”

.. Kushner managed to tune out the doubts of those who thought the prices he and his partners had paid, more than $1 billion in all, were hard to justify.

.. Kushner’s public identity underwent its own conversion. In the newspapers, he was no longer inevitably identified as a felon’s son — he was Ivanka’s husband, an auxiliary Trump.

.. Kushner and a local partner developed the building on a site they bought out of foreclosure in 2011. As is his practice, Trump lends his name via a branding and management deal, while Kushner’s partnership owns and financed the development.

.. The partnership raised about a third of its projected $193 million cost via the federal EB-5 program, which offers green cards to foreign investors. Bloomberg News reported that it was marketed to would-be Chinese immigrants

.. he would return to New York, which was dwelling in its comfortable delusions. “Nobody has less credibility than the people in this town,” he recently told an associate. “If you want to talk with yourselves all day and convince yourselves that you’re right, that’s what people in this town do all day.” Trump was giving voice to authentic grievances, Kushner thought

.. For all the criticism he has encountered, though, Kushner has displayed supreme confidence in his own judgment.

.. “If the campaign was proof of anything, it was that neither prior campaign experience nor, perhaps especially, presidential-campaign experience was required,”

.. “Pollsters are total thieves,” he said in his speech to the Partnership. Kushner pushed the campaign to use direct-marketing strategies employed by private tech companies.

.. “Why did he have to do it that way, why did he say it this way? Et cetera,” he says. “And I would always get a typical Jared response from him that was, ‘Look, there’s a bigger picture here, you know, I know what he said maybe didn’t look good, but he really didn’t mean it that way.’

.. Kushner received more scorching emails, too, some of them from people he respected. He viewed these as useful data points — he now knew who his loyal friends were. “I call it an exfoliation,”

.. The criticism seemed to trigger a practiced defense mechanism. In private conversations, he would return to the prior experience of his father’s arrest and his brush with financial ruin at 666 Fifth. “I’ve been in quite a few foxholes in my life,”

.. Kushner found in Bannon a strategist just as disdainful as he was of the traditional campaign playbook. “He threw the whole thing out,” Bannon says. “That’s why I bonded with him.”

.. Kushner arguably has more in common with Bannon — an insurgent attitude, a disdain for the GOP Establishment, a background in digital media — than with anyone in Trump’s orbit besides Ivanka.

.. Kushner, as a family member, was often the person called on to broach difficult conversations with Trump, such as firing Lewandowski or talking him out of offering the vice-presidency to Governor Chris Christie.

.. in its final days, the campaign needed $10 million to buy advertising in several key states, which analysts gave Trump little chance of winning, Kushner made the ask. “He appealed to him by saying, ‘I know this is family money and personal wealth, I get it, and I also know that you can win and we need that extra infusion,’ ”

.. Kushner recruited Bill Stepien, the ruthless campaign manager that Christie fired for his role in the bridge plot, to be Trump’s political director.

.. If Trump’s administration is anything like his campaign, or the rest of his life, it is likely to be split along lines of clan, with the conservative Republicans — Pence, Conway, and chief-of-staff Reince Priebus — competing for influence with the cadre of outsiders who are loyal to Trump, foremost among them Kushner and Ivanka

.. “Certainly a president needs someone to say, ‘Look, this isn’t helpful to you, this isn’t helpful to the country,’ ” Reed says. “I think Jared will play that role.” Still, there’s little evidence that anyone can moderate Trump, other than Trump himself

.. Some of the same Manhattan liberals who ostracized him during the campaign were rattled afterward, and they sent him emails, trying to offer healing words of congratulations and conciliation. These went right in the trash. Kushner is in no mood to offer comfort