U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) on May 18 called for the impeachment of President Donald Trump in a Twitter thread, accusing him of committing obstruction of justice and “conduct that violates the public trust,” citing the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as justification.
Nowhere in the Twitter thread did Amash make a specific allegation of which conduct by President Trump he was referring to that obstructed justice or violated the public trust — although he said there were “multiple examples”. In May 2017, Amash did indicate that President Trump firing former FBI Director James Comey could be a basis for impeachment, a topic the Mueller report does consider, so let’s assume for the purposes of this discussion that in part that is what he’s talking about.
Critically, nowhere in the Twitter thread did Amash mention Russia or the fact that the Mueller report had found no coordination or conspiracy with Russia by President Trump, his campaign or any American for that matter to interfere in the 2016 elections.
Mueller stated in the report, “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” It also stated, “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference.”
That is important because the only reason President Trump was under investigation in the first place were false allegations made by former British spy Christopher Steele, beginning in the summer of 2016, paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign, that Trump was a Russian agent and his campaign had coordinated the hack of the DNC and posting the emails on Wikileaks with Russia. Those allegations were given to the FBI and eventually formed the basis of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application against the Trump campaign in Oct. 2016.
Amash has always been a hawk on reining in FISA abuse. In July 2013, Americans for Limited Government supported his efforts to rein in mass surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA). In Jan. 2018, when the USA Rights Act came up as an amendment by Amash, Americans for Limited Government again supported it, specifically because we believed if it had been law, the FISA abuse that occurred in 2016 would not have been possible, and that it might be a means of preventing it.
When more information about the Steele dossier’s role in the FISA warrant began to be known in Feb. 2018 with the release of the House Select Committee on Intelligence memorandum, Amash responded on Twitter calling for Congress to enact the USA Rights Act if members of Congress were concerned about FISA abuse.
Of the memo, Amash said, “The central allegation is that a warrant was obtained fraudulently or without sufficient cause. If true, it shows the dangers of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, something @libertycaucus and @freedomcaucus members have been saying for a long time.”
Amash noted, “the section of FISA discussed in the memo requires probable cause and a warrant.” Here, Amash is referring to 50 U.S. Code Sec. 1805(a)(2), which would have required probable cause that Carter Page, then a Trump campaign official, was acting as a foreign agent for the warrant to be issued.
But there was no probable cause. Steele, we now know in the Oct. 2016 FISA warrant application obtained by Judicial Watch in July 2018 in a Freedom of Information Act request, used “sub-source(s),” and the court was fully aware that Steele was not an eye-witness to the allegations. It stated Steele “tasked his sub-source(s) to collect the requisite information.” And then, after Steele “received information from the sub-source(s),” it was passed along to the FBI. So, the court knew it was second-hand or third-hand information, or hearsay.
These were rumors that were given to the FISA Court. The information was unverified, something Steele would later admit in testimony, saying that the allegations needed to be “further corroborated and verified.” Steele said his sources were Kremlin officals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but so far no evidence has been presented publicly he actually spoke to those sources directly.
In fact, Steele never went to Russia. Instead, according to testimony by Fusion GPS’ Glenn Simpson before the Senate Intelligence Committee in Nov. 2017, Steele hired “a network of sources who live in or came from the place that you’re interested in… who can travel and talk to people and find out what’s going on” to get the dirt. But we don’t know who, since, per Simpson, “I didn’t ask for the specific identities of specific people.”
On why didn’t Steele go to Russia himself, Simpson said “[H]e really would not be safe if he went to Russia. He’s been exposed as a former undercover British Intelligence officer who worked in Moscow. So it wouldn’t be wise for him to go to Russia.”
A March 2017 Vanity Fair piece about Steele by Howard Blum similarly stated, “[Steele] could count on an army of sources whose loyalty and information he had bought and paid for over the years. There was no safe way he could return to Russia to do the actual digging; the vengeful F.S.B. would be watching him closely. But no doubt he had a working relationship with knowledgeable contacts in London and elsewhere in the West, from angry émigrés to wheeling-and-dealing oligarchs always eager to curry favor with a man with ties to the Secret Service, to political dissidents with well-honed axes to grind. And, perhaps most promising of all, he had access to the networks of well-placed Joes — to use the jargon of his former profession — he’d directed from his desk at London Station, assets who had their eyes and ears on the ground in Russia.”
McCain Institute Senior Director for Human Rights and Human Freedoms David Kramer, testified in federal court about when he met Steele to get the dossier after the 2016 election, with the purpose of giving it to the late Sen. John McCain. Kramer said Steele told him, in Kramer’s words, “what was produced … needed to be corroborated and verified, he himself did not feel that he was in a position to vouch for everything that was produced…”
In May 2017, former FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the dossier was “salacious and unverified.”
By the time President Trump was being inaugurated in Jan. 2017, the dossier had been published by Buzzfeed. It was known as early as April 2017 that the dossier had been used in the FISA warrant application. That was a month before Comey was fired by President Donald Trump for lying to him about the extent of the investigation.
In his order firing Comey, Trump wrote, “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”
Steele had alleged in July 2016 that not only had Russia hacked the Democrats and put the emails on Wikileaks, which was already public knowledge since June 2016, but that Trump and his campaign helped with “full knowledge and support” of the operation. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, as well as campaign advisor Carter Page when he traveled to Moscow in July 2016, were both named by Steele as the key intermediaries to the Kremlin. Steele said then-Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen had traveled to Prague in the summer of 2016 to meet with Russian agents to mop up the fallout of the supposed operation.
The Mueller report debunked those claims, stating, “In particular, the Office did not find evidence likely to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Campaign officials such as Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Carter Page acted as agents of the Russian government — or at its direction, control or request — during the relevant time period.”
Manafort was brought up on unrelated tax and bank fraud charges. Papadopoulos pled guilty of lying to investigators about his start date with the Trump campaign. Page was not charged with anything. As for Cohen, per the Mueller report, “Cohen had never traveled to Prague…” And so, he very well could not have been there meeting with Russian intelligence officials.
Trump knew all along and was well aware there was no basis for the investigation. For example, it was known as early as Jan. 2017 that Cohen had never traveled to Prague. Trump himself was also in a position to know that Steele’s allegations that he was Russian agent were false. So, when it became public that the FBI relied on false allegations to get electronic surveillance on the Trump campaign, and that the investigation into Trump had been carried over into his administration, which Comey lied about to Trump, the President had more than ample basis for firing Comey.
The only reason Mueller was appointed was because Trump fired Comey, who was leading the investigation — which turned out to be into a crime that was not committed by Trump or his team. At the time, Amash was already on the record in May 2017 saying that the firing could be the basis for impeaching Trump.
But Comey should have been fired. The FISA warrant, which Comey signed, and the ensuing investigation that carried over into the Trump administration in 2017 was all based on false information.
The FBI had reason to doubt Steele and his sources, and yet kept going back to renew the FISA warrant. A New York Times report Scott Shane, Adam Goldman and Matthew Rosenberg on April 20 that in Jan. 2017 reported the FBI interviewed one of the main sources for the dossier and came away with “misgivings about its reliability [that] arose not long after the document became public” in Jan. 2017.
Per the Times report: “By January 2017, F.B.I. agents had tracked down and interviewed one of Mr. Steele’s main sources, a Russian speaker from a former Soviet republic who had spent time in the West, according to a Justice Department document and three people familiar with the events, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. After questioning him about where he’d gotten his information, they suspected he might have added his own interpretations to reports passed on by his sources, one of the people said. For the F.B.I., that made it harder to decide what to trust.”
What is disappointing about Amash is he has previously championed FISA reform in 2013 after the NSA mass surveillance program was exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. What does Amash imagine should happen to government officials who abuse the federal government’s spying powers? Should they get promotions or something?
By defending Comey’s actions, which permitted the FISA court to be defrauded by Steele, the DNC and the Clinton campaign even after the FBI knew it was a fiction, and condemning Trump’s actions to fire Comey, Amash is condoning the use of FISA to spy on a presidential campaign, the opposition party, in an election year, for crimes, conspiracy with Russia to interfere with the election, that were not committed by Trump, his campaign or any American.
In short, Amash is buying the Justice Department’s official rationale for the Russian collusion investigation that there was “probable cause” that Trump was a Russian agent when we know for a fact that was a lie today. The court was given false information. The call for impeachment comes despite the fact that in Feb. 2018, Amash said that “a warrant… obtained fraudulently or without sufficient cause… shows the dangers of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”
I suppose now Amash no longer believes that fraudulent FISA warrants are dangerous if they’re taken out against his political opponents, like President Trump.
Ironically, Amash now warns that “America’s institutions depend on officials to uphold both the rules and spirit of our constitutional system even when to do so is personally inconvenient or yields a politically unfavorable outcome.” He added, “When loyalty to a political party or to an individual trumps loyalty to the Constitution, the Rule of Law — the foundation of liberty — crumbles.”
I agree, and in this case, Amash might want to take his own advice. In July 2013, when the House debated his amendment barring suspicionless surveillance, Amash asked, “When you had the chance to stand up for Americans’ privacy, did you?” Today, Amash is failing his own test. So blinded by his apparent political hatred of President Trump is he, Amash is ignoring the flagrant abuse of spying authorities that occurred in 2016 against a political campaign that most certainly endangers the liberty of all Americans. For shame.
“Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?” - Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
“Mueller? Mueller? Mueller?” Just when I thought Robert Mueller had earned his day off. Anyway, a few weeks ago when his report was released, I almost thought we wouldn’t hear from Mueller again. But now Congress wants unredacted report and wants Mueller to testify because Mueller sent a letter claiming that Barr misrepresented his report. President Trump said, “It should be up to the AG if Mueller testifies,” but then AG Barr said to Congress, “I don’t care if Mueller testifies, ” but then Barr didn’t show up for his second day of testimony, and now Congress wants to hold AG Barr in contempt. But then, the President changed his mind saying Mueller shouldn’t testify. So, now, of course, Mueller will testify before Congress. But then … President Trump invoked Executive Privilege to prevent Congress from seeing the unredacted Mueller report, which will probably delay Mueller's testifying.
How naïve of me to assume this was over and done.
Anyway, I tried to read the entire Mueller report. But I’m only one guy, and it clocks in at 450 pages, and I have other work to get done. I got through about a third of it and mostly skimmed the rest, stopping to fully read a page or two that seemed important or to focus on some of the redacted bits to see if I could figure out what it was redacted (usually - no). Now, I know that “skimming” is not an exact science, but I suspect I’ve read much more of the full report than the vast majority of folks. And so, I tackle the following issues with a reasonable amount of knowledge.
A couple things I noticed. It’s very clear that Mueller found large amounts of evidence outlining Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. Like, a jaw dropping amount of evidence! The other thing I noticed is that there is also, a jaw dropping amount of evidence - linking Trump staffers, advisors and family members to meetings and information swaps with the Russians.
BUT, as clearly stated in the opening statement summarizing the report, Mueller says, “... the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” And the reason Mueller states this is because there was no long term agreement between the Russians and the Trump campaign. That’s it. There was no “long term” agreement. Not, “The Russians and the Trump campaign never met up.” Because the report says they did. Only that there was no, “long term agreement,” to fit the legal definition of collusion.
Did the Russians sabotage the election in favor of Trump? The report says “yes.” Did the Trump Campaign meet with the Russians to get said stolen information? The report says “yes.” It’s just that there was no “long term coordination,” for it to be legally considered collusion. The Russians, realizing that a Trump White House would be much more sympathetic to their cause, committed cyber terrorism against the US, then stole a bunch of documents from the DNC, then gave the stolen information to the Trump Campaign in hopes to help Trump win, and then went on to commit huge amounts of additional interference from outright misinformation campaigns on social media to fraud. The Mueller report literally says there is huge amounts of evidence supporting all those claims, it’s just that there was no long term agreement between the two parties for it to legally constitute collusion.
Wow. That, um - forgive me for saying this but … that does NOT sound like “total exoneration.”
The next thing I noticed is that - not much of the report is redacted. The redacted parts come sometimes in giant black chunks, and sometimes in lots of little snippets. All in all, I would say, of the 450 pages there are about 20 total redacted pages. And certainly not in a row, they are scattered all over. Of course, our two political parties see those 20 pages in a completely different light.
Republicans, “We see the majority of the report and we understand the spirit of what is being said, and so no one has to read the redacted twenty pages - because it won’t change anything. Also, the report clearly says “No collusion. Total exoneration,” so any additional investigation is a waste of time.”
Democrats, “We see the majority of the report and we understand the spirit of what is being said but too much information can be hidden behind twenty redacted pages that might shed more light into an investigation that clearly states Russia sabotaged the 16’ Presidential Election. Also, the report does not say, “total exoneration,” in fact it says the opposite of “no exoneration,” so we would like more information.”
Hrmmmm. Well, they can’t both be right! You know? One side is clearly in the wrong here. Alas, we all know the day and age we live in. Our side is always right. No common ground attempted. The other side is always wrong. Ad nauseam.
Republicans like to think they are one hundred percent altruistic, perfectly just and always correct, while simultaneously believing that Democrats are devil worshiping, lying, “libtards,” who are one hundred percent wrong, one hundred percent of the time.
Democrats like to think they are one hundred percent altruistic, perfectly just and always correct, while simultaneously believing that Republicans are faux-Christian, lying, “deplorables,” who are one hundred percent wrong, one hundred percent of the time.
Common sense and reason appears to have gone the way of the dodo.
Well, allow me to apply some common sense and reason to this new Mueller … happening. Let Congress read the unredacted report and allow Mueller to testify, because there is no reasonable explanation for blocking Congress from the full report. Members of Congress have security clearance on all matters of national security up to and including investigations that look into - if a hostile foreign power sabotaged a Presidential Election - which the report universally found Russia to have done! That sounds like National Security to me. Which Congress has clearance for. Therefor, common sense and reason suggest Congress should receive the full report.
And now Trump is invoking Executive Privilege to prevent Congress from receiving the full report. Which, if you are not exactly familiar with Executive Privilege, from Wikipedia:
“Executive privilege is the power of the President of the United States and other members of the executive branch of the United States Government to resist certain subpoenas and other interventions by the legislative and judicial branches of government in pursuit of information or personnel relating to the executive.”
Fair enough. That is the right of the President (and members of the executive branch) and it’s an important protection. In fact, many modern day Presidents have invoked Executive Privilege, some have done it much more than once, including - Nixon (a few times), Reagan, Bush, Clinton (several times), Bush Jr. (several times), Obama and now Trump.
Of course, it should also be noted that Congress can breach EP but must sue in federal court. It’s happened before, and in two notable cases, Nixon and Clinton, the President lost. Nixon invoked EP to avoid Watergate, Clinton invoked EP to avoid the Lewinsky scandal. Congress sued and won in court. The rest, as they say - is history.
So, this is really nothing new. The cover ups. The investigation. The lying. The testifying. The “I don’t recalls.” The invoking of Executive Privilege. The lawsuit. So people should really stop their fake outrage because we’ve seen this happen over and over.
These new shenanigans are nothing new but will add to the cost of the investigation and the amount of time we have to hear about it. Apparently, the overall cost of the Mueller investigation, so far, is a bit more than $16 million. Maybe that sounds like a lot to you, maybe it doesn’t. For context, the 9/11 Commission was funded with a $15 million budget. I’m sure you folks remember the 9/11 Commission. If not, it was an investigation into how and why the largest terrorist attack on the US occurred, and what can be done to prevent future attacks. Which, is the exact definition of “a matter of National Security.” (I just scanned over the 9/11 report and did not notice a single redacted item, which, I know, is NOT exactly the same thing we have going on today with Mueller report, but was still something I thought was interesting).
Now we have a new report, that is literally looking into a matter of National Security, investigating if a hostile foreign power sabotaged the 16’ Presidential Election. One would think, when applying common sense and reason to this dilemma - the Mueller Report is an important investigation into the National Security of the country.
And if you feel annoyed that the Mueller report cost more than the 9/11 Commission, allow me to remind you that the Clinton Impeachment cost taxpayers more than both investigations combined. To break it down:
Clinton Impeachment - “Did the President lie to Congress while under oath, about weather or not he cheated on his wife?” Cost to taxpayers: $70 million dollars (adjusted for inflation that’s $105 million today).
9/11 Commission: “An investigation into the largest terrorist attack on US soil and, as a matter of National Security, a report on how we can be better equipped to thwart future terrorist attacks.” Cost to taxpayers: $15 million dollars (adjusted for inflation that’s $22.5 million, today)
Mueller Report: “As a matter of National Security, an investigation into if a hostile foreign power sabotaged the 16’ Presidential Election?” Cost to taxpayers: $16 million dollars (but could go up).
If you honestly can’t see which of the above is not like the others, well - then you can’t. But common sense and reason should tell you that two of them are matters of National Security, and one of them is total BS that wasted a lot of taxpayer money.
Republicans used to be the security party, the military party. Even President Obama had a Republican Secretary of Defense. Speaking of Obama, we all know the truth of this next statement, if a two year Special Prosecutor investigation uncovered Russian interference in 2012’s Obama vs. Romney election that involved stolen information from the RNC in a way that handed Obama the win - Republican heads would have exploded from rage induced aneurysms!
I bet then, with that ridiculous Russian/Obama scenario, Republicans would have been very interested in security and in preserving election integrity.
Now … meh, not so much.
After everything we’ve seen, politically, since Donald Trump announced his campaign for President in 2015, is it unreasonable to believe, today, everything he has said about the Washington swamp?
In a word, no.
In fact, believing Trump and disbelieving pencil neck Adam Schiftless and his ilk is as reasonable as believing that baseball season started last week and the Stanley Cup playoffs start this week.
We have created a class of people in Washington, New York and other large Democrat controlled urban areas who simply do not care about what we, the people who actually own America, want. We didn’t intend to create this class of people—call them the Swamp class.
It happened because Americans are so in awe of our experiment in self-government, we have, over the last 200 years, forgotten that when you give people access to a vast treasury, many of them seem to want some of it for themselves. In short, we trusted them but we didn’t verify their intentions. It’s kind of like trusting that nice man who owns a casino in Las Vegas to play you with even odds. Not going to happen. Seriously. How is it that people who have served in the House or Senate almost their entire professional lives, emerge from public service as multi millionaires? How indeed, Harry Reid?
Ironically, it took a billionaire—who actually made his money in business—from, of all places New York City, to tell the public the truth.
“We have a lot of great support, far more than you think,” said President Trump. “But where we really have the support are the voters that pull that handle, or whatever the hell they are pulling, they are pulling it for us. So, the Russia hoax proves more than ever that we need to finish exactly what we came here to do. Drain the swamp! The Democrats have to now decide whether they will continue defrauding the public with ridiculous bullshit — partisan investigations, or whether they will apologize to the American people, and join us to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, bring down the cost of health care.”
So, when these clowns get caught trying to manipulate the system to their advantage with their panties down around their ankles, why are they amazed that our pitchforks are out for them?
Donald Trump may be a little crude, but he’s certainly been effective.
Ask any member of the Washington Swamp class. After they get done sputtering.
Their newest scam is to insinuate the Mueller Report is, somehow, flawed. CBS is trumpeting a report that certain unknown members of Mueller’s team are “unhappy” with Attorney General Bill Barr’s summary of the report.
It’s not enough for them to have spent more than $25-million of our money to try and unelect a duly elected President they hate. Now, they need to trash their own work. Or, the Democrats do. (Maybe that’s one and the same.) Think about it. This Attorney General has spent an entire career building a sterling reputation. He didn’t need this job. Mueller is exactly the same.
Do you seriously think they would endeavor to ruin their reputations by involving themselves in a bizarre conspiracy to protect Donald Trump?
Do you seriously think that either of these two would allow their names to be used in some illicit scheme to tilt the results of this investigation? If you do, we have bigger problems than Adam Schiff.
Let’s start from the premise that Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee is so full of crap that his eyes are brown.
He suffers from a case of political Diarrhea which will ultimately consume him and his cronies who absolutely hate the President and simply cannot help themselves—even in the light of Robert Mueller’s nothingburger which was handed to the Attorney General over the weekend.
That said, we hope he continues along the path he is setting out on—impeachment. It will guarantee this President another term in office because the American public is simply not as stupid as Nadler and his fellow travelers think we are.
And then, there’s Senate Minority Leader, “Chuckie” Schumer, who thinks he’s way too important to lower himself to Nadler’s level. In point of fact, he’s much lower—if that’s possible.
Both of these clowns stand before lecterns and calmly, professorially, lie to the public. They sound a lot like Donald Sutherland’s college professor in the classic movie Animal House. Why, you’d think they actually a) knew what they were talking about and, b) were telling the truth.
Truth be told, they’re Washington swamp hucksters who only want to make sure they hold on to whatever sliver of power they think they have and they see Donald Trump as the guy who can take them down by telling the American voter the truth.
They have a hard time believing a) that Trump could have been elected in the first place and b) that a good share of the voting public—possibly a majority—likes him and approves of the job he is doing.
And they think that by doing everything possible to undermine Trump they will, somehow, gain the hearts and minds of the voters and vanquish the Trump dragon. You know, kind of like how Lyndon Johnson won the hearts and minds of the Viet Nam’s citizens by bombing them into submission. Not.
The truth is that America is so much smarter than the brain trust of the Democrat party that Democrats are heading for an extraordinary beat down in 2020. Think Ronald Reagan in 1984.
It’s not that we love Donald Trump—although many of us do. It’s that Trump has this bad habit of actually standing up for what he believes and doing what he promises. The Democrats aren’t scared that what the President proposes won’t work. They’re scared that it WILL work. That it IS working.
Yet the Democrats are shameless. John Podesta—whose emails were almost as embarrassing as Hillary Clinton calling half of America ‘deplorable’—was on CBS screeching that the report was not an exoneration of the President. Seriously? The poor dear. His emails were supposedly hacked. He didn’t bother to mention that they were all written by his own hand and that he’s so crooked they couldn’t straighten him out with a crucifixion.
Somehow, the party of tolerance and free speech has become the party of Fascist thought. The party which Jews endorsed has become the party of anti-Israel anti-Semitism. The Democrats are the best reason for Israel’s existence, because they have proven that, put into power, another Holocaust CAN happen again!
It’s as if Firesign Theatre and Monty Python have taken over the Democrat Party. Actually both of those early 70’s groups usually made more sense than the Democrats do these days.
Watching Democrats dance over what they still insist is the President’s political grave is like watching an alternate version of Saturday Night Live.
We’ll see how funny they think it is in November of 2020.
Fred Weinberg is a columnist and the CEO of USA Radio Network. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GCN. Fred's weekly column can be read all over the internet. You can subcribe here www.pennypressnv.com. His column has been repritined in full, with permission.
“When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."
It’s unfair to Richard Nixon to be compared to Donald Trump. Nixon was ashamed of his behavior and proved it when a British game show host got the best of him in an interview that resulted in the incredibly incorrect statement Nixon uttered above. I’m not sure Trump is capable of feeling shame, but we can’t ignore how similarly the Trump Administration is unraveling like the Nixon Administration did as a result of Watergate.
Nixon was more popular than Trump is or has been. Trump limped into the White House thanks to the Electoral College. He lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by two percent (48.18 percent to 46.09 percent). Nixon, however, won reelection in 1972 in one of the biggest landslides in American political history (60.67 percent to 37.52 percent). So these two Presidents started from vastly different measures of popularity.
After winning reelection, Nixon’s job approval rating according to Gallup was 50 percent. Trump entered his first term as President with a job approval rating of 45 percent, but his post-midterm job approval rating is just 38 percent—falling six percentage points in less than a month. That sudden drop is no doubt in response to Trump coercing the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s potential participation in Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election.
Trump replaced Sessions with former ambulance chaser and potential defrauder of veterans, Matt Whitaker, Sessions’ former Chief of Staff, which is apparently legal, even though the order of succession at the Department of Justice doesn’t include the Chief of Staff on the list. The executive order Trump signed on March 31, 2017, doesn’t list the Chief of Staff as a potential successor either, but does state that “the President retains discretion, to the extent permitted by law, to depart from this order in designating an acting Attorney General,” which was the case when Barack Obama was President, too.
Nixon’s job approval rating dropped eight points between Dec. 11, 1972, and Jan. 12, 1973, as a result of The Washington Post’s continued reporting on the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel that occurred June 13, 1971. But it wasn’t until Nixon’s Attorney General, Richard Kleindienst, resigned, along with top White House staffers, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, on April 30, 1973, that Nixon’s job approval rating reflected his guilt.
It’s generally not a good sign for Presidents when U.S. Attorneys General resign amid scandal, whether coerced to do so or not. Attorneys have a pretty good sense of people’s guilt and tend to be pretty good at covering their asses. Kleindienst wrote the playbook Sessions is simply following in an attempt to avoid the fate of John N. Mitchell, the Attorney General who ran Nixon’s 1968 and 1972 Presidential campaigns and was imprisoned for 19 months due to his involvement in the Watergate break-in and cover-up. And Trump is trying to improve upon the playbook Nixon wrote on covering up election fraud, but Trump is leaving his friends out to dry just as Nixon did.
Gordon Liddy, leader of the group of five men who broke into the DNC headquarters, told Attorney General Kleindienst that the break-in was directed and funded by the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP), and that Kleindienst should arrange the release of the burglars to reduce the risk of exposing CREEP’s involvement in the break-in. But Kleindienst refused and ordered the Watergate burglary investigation to proceed like any other. He resigned April 30, 1973. Nixon's approval rating had dropped 19 points in roughly three months.
Just like Trump failed to ask Sessions if he would be willing to undermine Mueller’s investigation prior to appointing him Attorney General, Nixon failed to ask Kleindienst’s replacement, former Secretary of Defense Elliot Richardson, if he would do what Kleindienst wouldn’t and undermine the Watergate investigation. When ordered to fire the top lawyer investigating the Watergate scandal, Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, Richardson responded by resigning on Oct. 20, 1973—five months into his tenure as Attorney General. Like Sessions, Richardson had promised Congress he would not interfere with the special prosecutor’s investigation. At this point, Nixon's approval rating was 27 percent—down another 21 points since Kleindienst's resignation.
Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox, the original Mueller. He refused and also resigned. Nixon then ordered the third-most-senior official at the Justice Department, Solicitor General Robert Bork, to fire Cox. Bork considered resigning after firing Cox, but Richardson convinced him not to in order to ensure proper DOJ leadership. Bork served as acting Attorney General until Nixon appointed William B. Saxbe to the position on Jan, 4, 1974, his approval rating still hovering at 27 percent.
You could say Trump has avoided some of the mistakes Nixon made, but he’s still mired in scandal and using any opportunity afforded him as President to undermine Mueller’s investigation into his campaign’s potential participation in Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election. The appointment of Whitaker is to Trump as Bork was to Nixon; Whitaker just hasn’t fired Mueller yet, and might not have to if his idea to slow the investigation to a halt by cutting its funding works.
Sessions smelled guilt on Trump when he recused himself from the Mueller Investigation. That was Sessions covering his ass, and that odor has only worsened as Mueller’s investigation has resulted in indictments or guilty pleas from 32 people and three companies...so far. Some suspect a big announcement coming from Mueller, as eight members of his team worked Veteran’s Day—a paid day off for federal employees.
On Wednesday, CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s White House press pass was suspended indefinitely. Acosta asked Trump whether he thought his calling a migrant caravan in South America an “invasion” demonized immigrants. The President answered “no,” adding that he wanted the immigrants to come to this country but do so legally, and that Acosta’s definition of invasion differed from his. Trump then went on to tell Acosta that he should focus on running CNN and let him run the country, and if he did, their ratings would be much better.
Trump attempted to take a question from NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander, but Acosta withheld the microphone from a White House intern and asked if Trump was concerned about the Russia investigation, to which Trump responded by calling it a “hoax” and told Acosta to “put down the mic,” stepping away from the podium when Acosta asked if he was worried about indictments. Acosta yielded control of the microphone to the intern, and Trump told Acosta that “CNN should be ashamed” to have him working for them, calling him “a rude, terrible person.”
Alexander defended his fellow free-press member: "In Jim's defense, I've traveled with him and watched him, he's a diligent reporter who busts his butt like the rest of us.” Trump responded by saying, “Well I'm not a big fan of yours either.” Trump continued to insult reporters during the press conference, calling a question from PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor “racist.” She asked if Trump thought calling himself a nationalist emboldened white nationalists. Trump also told April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks to “sit down” repeatedly.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now being accused of circulating a doctored video of Acosta’s interaction with the White House intern. Sanders originally cited Acosta “placing his hands on” the woman as reason for his barring, but in defense of a lawsuit brought by CNN, the White House is now citing Acosta’s “disruptions” as reason for the suspension of his press pass.
If these aren’t the nervous actions of a guilty man’s administration, I don’t know what is. Nixon barred Washington Post reporters from the White House for everything but press conferences on Dec. 11, 1972. This was long after he sued The New York Times for publishing stories citing the leaked “Pentagon Papers,” a classified study of the Vietnam War that revealed the Nixon Administration had escalated the war despite knowing it couldn’t win the war. The Post came to The Times’ defense and published stories from the “Pentagon Papers” on June 18, 1971...just like NBC News and even Fox News is coming to the defense of Acosta and CNN today.
It took a year and a half for The Post to wear out its welcome at the White House with its Watergate coverage. Mueller’s investigation has been ongoing for a year and a half.
Democrats will have the votes to impeach Trump in the House of Representatives when the new Congress is convened on Jan. 3. House Democrats already introduced five articles of impeachment in November 2017, and only need a majority vote on one to force a Senate trial overseen by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts. Impeachment doesn’t mean Trump is removed from office, however.
Nixon’s Senate trial lasted two months, and it was a full two years between the Watergate break-in and his resulting resignation, so if Trump’s timeline is as similar as it has been thus far, if he’s to be removed or if he’s to resign from office, it’s likely to happen sooner rather than later, but unlikely to happen at all. In fact, Congressional Democrats and Democratic Presidential candidates would likely prefer to run against a Trump White House rather than a Mike Pence White House, who is beloved by the Koch Brothers.
It’s not likely that Congress will remove Trump because two-thirds of Senators would have to find the President guilty in order for Vice President Pence to take over. Unless Senate Republicans up for reelection in 2020 (there are at least 20) feel they’d be better served running under a Pence Presidency than the Trump Administration, don’t expect Congress to remove the President. But Congress didn’t need to vote for Nixon to resign, and similar pressure on Trump—like criminal charges brought by Mueller—might bring similar results.
The more Mueller digs, the more he seems to be digging Trump’s political grave, so don’t be surprised if come February or March of 2019, Trump is doing what Nixon did on Aug. 9, 1974—resigning. But if there’s any shame to be pried from Trump’s soul to give us what we all need to heal as a nation, it’s going to require one hell of a game show host.
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