Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has used “shock-and-awe” tactics to intimidate witnesses and potential targets of the investigation into Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s election, the New York Times reports.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has used “shock-and-awe” tactics to intimidate witnesses and potential targets of the investigation into Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s election, the New York Times reports. Mueller has obtained a flurry of subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify before a grand jury, sometimes before his prosecutors have taken the customary first step of interviewing them. One witness was called before the grand jury less than a month after his name surfaced in news accounts. The special counsel even took the unusual step of obtaining a subpoena for one of Paul Manafort’s former lawyers, claiming an exception to the rule that shields attorney-client discussions from scrutiny.
Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, was in bed one July morning when federal agents bearing a search warrant picked the lock on his front door and raided his Virginia home. They took binders stuffed with documents and copied his computer files, looking for evidence that he set up secret offshore bank accounts. They even photographed the expensive suits in his closet. Mueller’s prosecutors told Manafort they planned to indict him. “They are setting a tone. It’s important early on to strike terror in the hearts of people in Washington, or else you will be rolled,” said Solomon Wisenberg, a prosecutor in the investigation that led to the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999. “You want people saying to themselves, ‘Man, I had better tell these guys the truth.’ ” Mueller, a former FBI director, is known to dislike meandering investigations that languish for years. He appears to be taking a broad view of his mandate: examining not just the Russian disruption campaign but also any financial entanglements with Russians going back several years. He is also investigating whether Trump tried to obstruct justice when he fired FBI director James Comey.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was reflecting her boss’s moods when she attacked ex-FBI director James Comey at length from the podium, suggesting that Comey himself should be investigated.
Behind the scenes in the West Wing, President Trump continues to rant and brood about former FBI Director Jim Comey and the Russia investigation that got him fired, Axios reports. Trump tells aides and visitors that the probe now being run by special counsel Bob Mueller is a witch hunt, and that Comey was a leaker. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was reflecting her boss’s mood when she attacked Comey at length from the podium on Tuesday after being asked about Steve Bannon’s assertion to “60 Minutes” that the firing was one of the worst mistakes in modern political history. “I think there is no secret Comey, by his own self-admission, leaked privileged government information. … Comey leaked memos to the New York Times … He politicized an investigation by signaling he would exonerate Hillary Clinton before he ever interviewed her or other key witnesses,” Sanders Said.
She suggested that Comey himself should be investigated: “His actions were improper and likely could have been illegal.” The Mueller investigation is hitting ever closer to home for Trump, and he’s using the tools of his office to try to undermine the special counsel’s future findings. Trump allies plan to vilify Mueller the way the Clinton White House treated then special counsel Kenneth Starr. The president’s friends are most worried about Mueller digging into past business deals, which is why his team keeps raising concerns in public and private about the “scope” of the investigation.
President Trump didn’t send the letter, which reportedly was written in an “angry, meandering tone.” The document may play a role in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which includes a look at whether Trump obstructed justice.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has obtained a letter drafted by President Trump and a top aide that offered what the New York Times calls “an unvarnished view” of Trump’s thinking before the president fired the FBI.director, James Comey. The circumstances and reasons for the firing are believed to be a significant element of Mueller’s investigation, which includes whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey. The letter was not sent because Donald McGahn II, the White House counsel, believed that its angry, meandering tone was problematic. Among McGahn’s concerns were references to private conversations the president had with Comey, including times when the FBI. director told Trump he was not under investigation in the FBI’s Russia inquiry.
Trump did not send the letter to Comey. The president wrote it with Stephen Miller, a top political adviser. A copy was given to Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who then drafted his own letter, which was used as the Trump administration’s public rationale for Comey’s firing. The stated reason was that Comey had mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. McGahn’s concerns about Trump’s letter show how much he realized that the president’s rationale for firing Comey might not hold up to scrutiny, and how he and other administration officials sought to build a more defensible public case for his ouster.
Raid on President Trump’s former campaign chairman signals an aggressive approach by special counsel Robert Mueller in the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, says the Washington Post.
FBI agents raided the home in Alexandria, Va., of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, arriving in the pre-dawn hours late last month and seizing materials related to the special counsel investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the Washington Post reports. The raid, which occurred without warning on July 26, signaled an aggressive approach by special counsel Robert Mueller in dealing with a key figure in the inquiry. Manafort has been under increasing pressure as the Mueller team looked into his personal finances and his professional career as a highly paid foreign political consultant.
Using a search warrant, agents appeared the day Manafort was scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee and a day after he met voluntarily with Senate Intelligence Committee staff members. The search warrant requested documents related to tax, banking and other matters. Agents departed the Manafort residence with a trove of material, including binders prepared ahead of Manafort’s congressional testimony. Investigators in the Russia inquiry have previously sought documents with subpoenas, which are less intrusive and confrontational than a search warrant. With a warrant, agents can inspect a physical location and seize any useful information. To get a judge to sign off on a search warrant, prosecutors must show that there is probable cause that a crime has been committed. “I think it adds a shock and awe enforcement component to what until now has followed a natural path for a white-collar investigation,” said Jacob Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor.
The action by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was a concession by the Trump administration to Democratic demands for the investigation to be run independently of the Justice Department. Calls for a special counsel mounted after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has named Robert Mueller, a former prosecutor who was FBI director from 2001 to 2013, to investigate possible coordination between Trump associates and Russian officials seeking to meddle in last year’s election, the Washington Post reports. The action was a concession by the Trump administration to Democratic demands for the investigation to be run independently of the Justice Department. Calls for a special counsel mounted after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
“I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,’’ Rosenstein said. “My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted.” Mueller will resign from his law firm to avoid any conflict of interest. Rosenstein is overseeing the Russia probe after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. Democrats have challenged Rosenstein’s impartiality in the Russia probe because he wrote a memorandum used as the rationale for Comey’s firing. Under the order Rosenstein signed, Mueller is tasked with investigating “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump’’ as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.’’ Mueller is authorized to prosecute any federal crimes he finds.