DOJ to Brief Congress on 2016 Campaign Informant

Under pressure from President Trump, Justice Department officials agreed to review highly classified information with congressional leaders connected to the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, The announcement was made after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray met with the president.

Under pressure from President Trump, Justice Department officials agreed to review highly classified information with congressional leaders connected to the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Politico reports. The decision to share the information came after Trump met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray and asked them to turn over to Congress and his legal team all of the memos they have about an FBI informant who made contact with his 2016 campaign. “Based on the meeting with the President, the Department of Justice has asked the Inspector General to expand its current investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s or the Department of Justice’s tactics concerning the Trump Campaign,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Sanders added that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will confer with national security leaders and Congress “to review highly classified and other information they have requested.” The breadth of the agreement — and what information, exactly, might be provided — was not immediately clear. The Justice Department had previously indicated that sharing details about its informant could risk lives and endanger national security. It’s also unclear who will be permitted to view the documents. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said the documents requested by Trump will “indicate what the informant found.” Trump’s lawyers also want to interview the FBI officials who made the decision to connect the informant with the campaign. “It’s the FBI who has the onus for having invaded the campaign,” Giuliani said.  He predicted the Justice Department would place redactions on some parts of the material.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump Allies Seek to Expose Secret FBI Source

The FBI is trying to mitigate the potential damage if the source’s identity is revealed. President Trump called the possibility “Bigger than Watergate!”

President Trump’s allies are waging an aggressive campaign to undercut the Russia investigation by exposing the role of a top-secret FBI source, the Washington Post reports. The effort reached new heights on Thursday as Trump alleged that an informant had improperly spied on his 2016 campaign and predicted that the ensuing scandal would be “bigger than Watergate!” The push begun by a cadre of Trump boosters on Capitol Hill now has champions across the GOP and throughout conservative media. The dispute pits Trump and the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee against the Justice Department and intelligence agencies, whose leaders warn that publicly identifying the source would put lives in danger and imperil other operations.

The stakes are so high that the FBI has been working to mitigate the potential damage if the source’s identity is revealed. The bureau is taking steps to protect other live investigations that the person has worked on and is trying to lessen any danger to associates if the informant’s identity becomes known. Trump reacted on Twitter to reports that there was a top-secret source providing intelligence to the FBI as it began its investigation into Russia’s interference in the election process. “Wow, word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI ‘SPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT,’ ” Trump tweeted. He added, “If so, this is bigger than Watergate!” Trump’s attorney, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, said the president believes some law enforcement officials have been conspiring against him. “The prior government did it, but the present government, for some reason I can’t figure out, is covering it up,” Giuliani said, adding that confirmation of an informant could render the Mueller investigation “completely illegitimate.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Mueller’s Year: Does Trump Have Anything to Fear?

Thursday marks one year since the appointment of Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller has achieved the unusual distinction of being both intensely reviled and deeply beloved despite appearing on no TV programs and no radio call-in shows. No one on the outside knows where he will end up.

Thursday marks one year since the appointment of Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller has achieved the unusual distinction of being both intensely reviled and deeply beloved despite appearing on no TV programs and no radio call-in shows; in no newspaper interviews; and posting no Snapchat stories, Facebook Live streams or Twitter threads, NPR reports. Mueller appears to prefer to let his work do the talking for him. Mueller’s office has told a detailed story about a years-long campaign by the Russian government first to reconnoiter and then to attack the democracy of the U.S.

One year of investigating, prosecutions and plea agreements has provided a few clues to what he is doing in both the counterintelligence investigation he inherited from the FBI and a conventional criminal investigation. Of the guilty pleas secured in the year of the Mueller team, the most substantive was that of Paul Manafort’s former partner and Trump’s former campaign vice chairman, Rick Gates. Other pleas are for lying to the FBI. The complexity of Mueller’s task makes it impossible to assess the special counsel’s work from the outside. The record so far is encouraging for President Trump and his administration: no conspiracy charges tying campaign aides to Russian active measures even after all this time. That result followed what Trump and his aides call historic cooperation by the White House and his presidential campaign, including with witnesses and more than one million documents. Vice President Mike Pence cited the one-year mark for Mueller’s work as a good opportunity for him to “wrap it up.” Read another way, Trump and aides still could have a great deal to fear. Prosecutors in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia are putting Manafort and Trump’s longtime attorney, Michael Cohen, under enormous legal pressure.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Judge Upholds Manafort Indictment by Mueller

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson rejects former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s argument that special counsel Robert Mueller’s charges of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent were flawed.

A federal judge rejected an attempt by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to dismiss an indictment against him by arguing that special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment was flawed, Politico reports. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Mueller’s prosecution of the longtime political consultant on charges of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent for Ukraine was “squarely” within the authority that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein approved a year ago. Manafort’s “work on behalf of the Russia-backed Ukrainian political party and connections to other Russian figures are matters of public record,” the judge said. Citing press reports that Manafort filed with the court discussing his activities abroad, Jackson suggested it would have been malpractice for Mueller not to have investigated him.

Manafort’s lawyers argued that part of Rosenstein’s order that gave Mueller the authority to pursue “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” gave the special counsel more authority than permitted under Justice Department regulations. Jackson said the subjects that Manafort was indicted for  were part of Mueller’s core focus, not an expansion of it. Manafort’s defense team has appeared more hopeful about a similar motion to dismiss filed against another criminal case Mueller brought against him in Virginia on charges of bank fraud, tax evasion and failing to report foreign bank accounts. The judge in that case, T.S. Ellis III, has expressed skepticism about Mueller’s authority to pursue charges with no obvious connection to Russia.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Will Mueller ‘Go Dark’ As Elections Loom?

Six months before the midterm elections, Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign will soon run into a dead zone of sorts. Former prosecutors expect him either to wrap up, or lie low and take no visible steps until after the elections.

Six months before the midterm elections, Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign will soon run into a dead zone of sorts. Former prosecutors expect him either to wrap up, or lie low and take no visible steps until after the election, reports the Wall Street Journal. Though Mueller doesn’t face a specific legal deadline, the fall midterms amount to a political one. He will reach a point this summer when Justice Department habits dictate that he will have to either finish his inquiries or go dark and stretch out his work until past November so he doesn’t appear to be trying to sway voters’ decisions, which would be at odds with Justice Department guidelines for prosecutors.

Mueller has a lot still to do—prepare several reports, bring expected charges against alleged Russian hackers behind the breach of the Democratic National Committee and make decisions on whether to prosecute other cases. Perhaps the most politically sensitive issue he has yet to resolve is whether the special counsel’s office will interview President Trump. He might get all those things done in the next few months. If he can’t, he may have to go quiet during the political season and resume afterward. On Friday,  Trump said he wants to grant an interview to Mueller but his lawyers have counseled him otherwise. One Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said he could envision a conversation of two or two-and-½ hours at most. The probe to date has produced five public guilty pleas, largely for lying to investigators or for conduct unrelated to the 2016 campaign.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Were Giuliani’s Comments on Trump a ‘Murder-Suicide’?

Some experts say Rudy Giuliani’s remarks about President Trump’s reimbursement of a $130,000 payment to a porn star devastated his legal defense to charges of campaign finance violations.

President Trump “is in considerably more potential legal trouble than he was before (Rudy) Giuliani opened his mouth,” Rick Hasen, a University of California at Irvine law professor and expert on campaign finance tells Politico. Giuliani ignited a firestorm with media appearances in which he explained Trump’s reimbursement of a $130,000 pre-election payment to a porn star who appeared to be ready to go public with a story about a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier. Some pundits are going so far as to call the former New York City mayor’s actions the equivalent of a “murder-suicide” that devastated Trump’s legal defense.

Other experts said Giuliani’s remarks about the arrangement between the president and attorney Michael Cohen might not have been helpful to Trump but didn’t really put him in greater jeopardy. Giuliani’s comments “have no impact on the legal fact that the payments by Mr. Cohen to Stormy Daniels were consistent with a long pattern of payment by businessman Trump and the Trump Organization to protect their reputation,” said Charlie Spies, an election attorney in Washington, D.C. “They don’t have to stop defending him just because there’s a campaign going on.” Giuliani stressed that the money used to reimburse Cohen came from Trump’s personal funds and not from any campaign account, but the critical legal question is whether the original payment to Daniels or the reimbursement were intended to advance Trump’s electoral chances. One question is what emails, recordings or other evidence seized from Cohen’s online accounts and his home, office and hotel room give prosecutors insights into Cohen’s motivation in arranging the payment in October 2016. Indications that it was urgently necessary because of the looming election could make a charge of a legal violation more likely.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Mueller Subpoena to Trump Could Lead to High Court Test

With President Trump increasingly opposed to an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, Trump could be subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury–which the White House could ask the Supreme Court to block.

In a tense meeting in March with special counsel Robert Mueller, President Trump’s lawyers insisted he had no obligation to talk with federal investigators probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Mueller responded that he could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, reports the Washington Post. Mueller’s warning — the first time he is known to have mentioned a possible subpoena to Trump’s legal team — prompted a sharp retort from John Dowd, then the president’s lead lawyer. “This isn’t some game,” Dowd said. “You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States.”

The flare-up set in motion weeks of turmoil among Trump’s attorneys as they debated how to deal with the special counsel’s request for an interview, a dispute that led to Dowd’s resignation. After the testy meeting, Mueller’s team agreed to provide the president’s lawyers with more specific information about the subjects that prosecutors wished to discuss with the president. With those details in hand, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow compiled a list of 49 questions that the team believed the president would be asked. Trump’s newly reconfigured legal team is pondering how to address the special counsel’s queries, all while assessing the potential evidence of obstruction that Mueller might present and contending with a client who has grown increasingly opposed to sitting down with the special counsel. Without a resolution on the interview, the standoff could turn into a historic confrontation before the Supreme Court over a presidential subpoena.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump Calls Leak of Mueller Questions ‘Disgraceful’

President Trump called it “disgraceful” that a list of questions that the special counsel investigating Russian election interference wants to ask him was “leaked” to the news media. The New York Times published the nearly four dozen questions given to Trump’s attorneys, covering Trump’s motivations for firing FBI Director James Comey and contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians.

President Trump called it “disgraceful” that a list of questions that the special counsel investigating Russian election interference wants to ask him was “leaked” to the news media, the Associated Press reports. The New York Times published the nearly four dozen questions given to Trump’s attorneys, covering Trump’s motivations for firing FBI Director James Comey and contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians. “It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened,” Trump said. Trump repeatedly has called the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller a “witch hunt” and insists there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia. Trump has also accused Comey of leaking classified information.

Although Mueller’s team has indicated to Trump’s lawyers that he’s not considered a target, investigators remain interested in whether the president’s actions constitute obstruction of justice and want to interview him about several episodes. Many of the questions obtained by the Times center on the obstruction issue, including his reaction to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation, a decision Trump has angrily criticized. The questions also touch on Russian meddling and whether the Trump campaign coordinated in any way with the Kremlin. The queries also touch on Trump’s businesses and his discussions with his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, about a possible Moscow real estate deal. Cohen’s business dealings are part of a separate FBI investigation.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump Bolsters Legal Team With Giuliani, Others

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will replace John Dowd as the president’s primary representative to special counsel Robert Mueller. Many other lawyers are involved with lawsuits by adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and the investigation of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

President Trump’s legal team got a significant boost of big-name talent and criminal-law expertise with the addition of Rudy Giuliani and two other former federal prosecutors, Politico reports. The changes come at a critical time for the widespread Russia inquiry and a high-stakes criminal investigation into the president’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. The hiring of the former New York mayor, along with the husband-wife law partners Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin, came shortly after a federal judge raised doubts about the scope of the order used to appoint special counsel Robert Mueller to look into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and just before the Justice Department delivered to Congress copies of former FBI director James Comey’s memos documenting his interactions with the president last year.

The additions came on the eve of a Friday hearing in Los Angeles on a bid by the president and Cohen to delay a lawsuit filed by Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump. Giuliani, a longtime friend and outspoken ally of the president, is expected to take a lead role as Trump’s representative in navigating the Mueller investigation. He replaces John Dowd, who resigned last month. Trump’s team has been missing a big-name criminal law expert since Dowd’s departure. Ty Cobb, a white-collar defense expert, is handling the official White House response to the Russia investigation. On the personal front, Trump has been leaning on Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law & Justice. He’s in touch with other legal advisers, including Marc Kasowitz and Jeanine Pirro, the Fox News host. Trump also has a New York-focused wing with Joanna Hendon, a former federal prosecutor who has been handling the response to the Cohen investigation.

from https://thecrimereport.org

McConnell Blocks Bill to Protect Mueller from Trump

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) won’t allow consideration of a proposal to prevent President Trump from firing special counsel Robert Mueller. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), objects, saying, “We ought to head off a constitutional crisis at the pass.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says he will block bipartisan legislation intended to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by President Trump, the Los Angeles Times reports. “I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor,” McConnell told Fox News, adding, “We will not be having this on the floor of the Senate.” McConnell said that while he wouldn’t support Mueller’s removal, he doesn’t think Trump would take that step. The president in the past has ordered aides to fire Mueller or he considered doing so. “This is a piece of legislation that’s not necessary in my judgment,” McConnell said.

Though there is debate on whether Congress can limit the president’s power over the executive branch, a bipartisan group of senators has drafted legislation that would write into law current Justice Department regulations holding that only department leaders can fire a special counsel. The bill would allow the special counsel to appeal a firing in court. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) criticized McConnell’s opposition, saying, “We ought to head off a constitutional crisis at the pass, rather than waiting until it’s too late.” Last week’s FBI seizure of records from President Trump’s personal attorney deeply rattled the president, souring him on his long-stated preference to sit down for an interview with Mueller and prompting him to renew efforts to hire more legal firepower, sources told the Washington Post. Trump’s team has contacted Robert Bonner, a former federal judge and former Customs and Border Protection commissioner, about possibly representing the president.

from https://thecrimereport.org