Trump: Roger Stone has ‘guts’ for not testifying against me

President Donald Trump on Monday praised longtime associate Roger Stone for refusing to talk to special counsel Robert Mueller, as the president continues to denounce the investigation.

“‘I will never testify against Trump.’ This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out-of-control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about ‘President Trump,'” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!'”

Stone, who has come under scrutiny in Mueller’s Russia probe for possible contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 election, said on Sunday during an interview on ABC’s “This Week” that there’s “no circumstance in which I would testify against the president.” He has denied multiple times that he had any direct knowledge that WikiLeaks was going to release hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Stone also said Sunday that he has not discussed a pardon for himself or for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted in a financial fraud trial brought by Mueller. The president told the New York Post last week that he has “never discussed” a pardon for Manfort, but “wouldn’t take it off the table.”

“I’ve had no discussion regarding a pardon,” Stone said over the weekend.

Trump on Twitter also continued to denounce Mueller’s investigation into whether Russia colluded with Trump’s presidential campaign, claiming without evidence that the special counsel “only wants lies.”

Stone during his Sunday interview claimed that Mueller wanted him to “bear false witness against” Trump, adding that he “would have to make things up.”

“Bob Mueller (who is a much different man than people think) and his out of control band of Angry Democrats, don’t want the truth, they only want lies,” Trump tweeted Monday. “The truth is very bad for their mission!”

[Politico]

Trump tried to order the Justice Department to prosecute Clinton and Comey

President Donald Trump tried to order prosecutors at the Department of Justice to indict two of his political enemies — 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey — this spring, according to the New York Times.

According to the Times report, then-White House counsel Don McGahn warned Trump not to issue the order, and had lawyers prepare a memo for Trump explaining what would happen if he tried to prosecute Clinton and Comey. One of those possibilities was, reportedly, the risk of impeachment.

Presidentially directed indictments against specific individuals would be a massive breach of the independence of the Justice Department; the general expectation that prosecutors are supposed to issue indictments based on an examination of the evidence at hand; and the democratic norm against prosecuting political opponents for political acts.

The president’s lawyers reportedly asked the Justice Department to investigate Comey last year, according to the Times’s Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman. That request was not successful. And McGahn’s memo appears to have discouraged the president from going further — for now.

But the Times reports Trump has “continued to privately discuss the matter, including the possible appointment of a second special counsel to investigate both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Comey” — suggesting he hasn’t given up.

Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed shortly after Comey’s firing to both continue the investigation into Russia ties, and to investigate whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice by interfering into the investigation — including by firing Comey. (McGahn is known to be cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller, and so has likely told Mueller about Trump’s musings on prosecution orders.)

The Times report suggests that new information could help him argue that the president did, in fact, obstruct justice by attempting to bend it to his will.

Clinton’s sins are reportedly her emails and Uranium One; Comey’s are “leaking” and his treatment of Clinton

Trump promised during the 2016 campaign to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton based on her use of a private email server as secretary of state — a campaign promise in line with the common Trump rally chant to “Lock her up!” However, when he fired Comey in May 2017, the stated reason (in a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein) was that Comey treated Clinton too harshly during the investigation.

Trump didn’t stick to that pretext for long: a few days after Comey’s firing, he said in an interview with NBC News’s Lester Holt that his frustration with Comey was rooted in this “Trump-Russia thing” — the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia before Trump’s inauguration. And according to the Times, one of the reasons Trump’s lawyers cited in asking the DOJ to investigate Comey after his firing was his handling of the Clinton email investigation, presumably because Trump felt Comey was too soft on Clinton, not too hard.

In addition to the email issue, Trump now believes the Justice Department should prosecute Clinton for her approval of a uranium-mining deal as secretary of state, a long-time conservative bugaboo that has no evidence of criminal activity or intent, and that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to appoint a special counsel to investigate.

Trump’s lawyers’ request to the DOJ to prosecute Comey, meanwhile, were based both in his treatment of Clinton and in his supposed leaking of classified information.

Trump has spread the “leaking” claim around; as far as anyone can tell, it is a lie. It appears to be based on Comey’s recounting of conversations he had with Trump and others before the US Senate in June 2018, and his recording of events as FBI director in contemporaneous memos, some of which were subsequently leaked to the press. But there’s no evidence that Comey engaged in any illegal leaking, and it’s not clear what Trump wants him prosecuted for.

Attempting to prosecute Clinton would be an obvious presidential override of the official finding of an FBI investigation. Attempting to prosecute both Clinton and Comey — the man Trump fired because, ostensibly, he seemed too willing to prosecute her — would be a clear-cut sign that Trump was using the Justice Department for his own ends.

[Vox]

Trump Just Blurted Out, Unprompted, That He Installed His Pet Attorney General Over the Russia Probe

Wednesday, we explored the career timeline of Matthew Whitaker, the man whom Donald Trump, American president, appointed acting attorney general after firing Jeff Sessions the day after the midterms. Trump passed over multiple Senate-confirmed officials in the actual line of succession to pick Whitaker, who’d become Sessions’s chief of staff close to a year earlier after repeatedly going on CNN to defend Trump against the Russia probe with the expressed intent of getting the president’s attention and a job. Even some conservative legal commentators have suggested his appointment was unconstitutional, and the state of Maryland is suing to that effect.

This was about as blatant a move to obstruct the investigation as the president could have made. Whitaker is an obvious Trump loyalist and longtime Republican operative who time after time attacked the special counsel’s investigation, including by promoting a story suggesting Robert Mueller’s team was a “lynch mob.”Whitaker has close ties to Sam Clovis, a grand-jury witness in the probe who advised him to start going on CNN to catch Trump’s eye.

After he got the job as Sessions’s chief of staff, Whitaker was described by Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly as the White House’s “eyes and ears” in the Justice Department—an assault on the department’s independence and the rule of law. And even well before all this, Whitaker allegedly politicized a federal investigationas a U.S. attorney in Iowa, participated in scams and grifts in his business dealings, and once flexed his background in federal law enforcement to run protection for a company—of which he was on the board—that the Federal Trade Commission fined $26 million and shuttered as a criminal enterprise.

Still, no matter how clear something is, it helps to hear it from the horse’s mouth. The President of the United States, who once said on national television he was considering “the Russia thing” when he fired FBI Director James Comey, was happy to oblige in a typically freewheeling interview with The Daily Caller. As first flagged by journalist Brian Beutler, Trump seized on a softball question to spill the beans on Whitaker’s appointment.

THE DAILY CALLER: Sure. Could you tell us where your thinking is currently on the attorney general position? I know you’re happy with Matthew Whitaker, do you have any names? Chris Christie —

POTUS: Matthew Whitaker is a very respected man. He’s — and he’s, very importantly, he’s respected within DOJ. I heard he got a very good decision, I haven’t seen it. Kellyanne, did I hear that?

WHITE HOUSE ADVISER KELLYANNE CONWAY: 20 pages.

POTUS: A 20 page?

THE DAILY CALLER: It just came out right before this, sir.

POTUS: Well, I heard it was a very strong opinion. Uh, which is good. But [Whitaker] is just somebody who’s very respected.

I knew him only as he pertained, you know, as he was with Jeff Sessions. And, um, you know, look, as far as I’m concerned this is an investigation that should have never been brought. It should have never been had.

It’s something that should have never been brought. It’s an illegal investigation. And you know, it’s very interesting because when you talk about not Senate confirmed, well, Mueller’s not Senate confirmed.

THE DAILY CALLER: Right.

Right.

The president just admitted, unprompted, that he fired the head of the Justice Department and installed a loyalist over a Justice Department investigation into him and his associates. This is obstruction. This is corrupt. This is an untenable assault on the rule of law in a democratic republic. And the Republican majorities in Congress—to say nothing of his base—will happily let him get away with it.

Oh, and by the way: Trump’s claim he only knows Whitaker through Sessions is a blatant lie. And not just because Trump’s chief of staff said Whitaker was their “eyes and ears.” Here’s Trump on October 11, 2018—a month ago:

“I can tell you Matt Whitaker’s a great guy,” President Trump said in a Fox News interview. “I know Matt Whitaker.”

This is not the first time he’s lied about knowing Whitaker since appointing him to, incredibly obviously, interfere in the Mueller investigation.

All that said, there is a beautiful symmetry here. The rear-end of Donald Trump, a lifetime grifter who’s just trying to lie his way to the end of each day while his brain is steadily melted by television, may ultimately be protected by a ‘roided-out Mr. Clean who came to him through the teevee—and who once threatened peopleon behalf of a company peddling Big Dick Toilets. America the Beautiful.

[Esquire]

Trump: Don’t Forget That Mueller Probe Is A Total, Raging, Screaming Witch Hunt

How could we forget? Well, Donald Trump has been relatively quiet about the Robert Mueller probe lately, perhaps because of his work with his legal team in answering Mueller’s questions in writing. This morning, however, Trump let his anger out for an early morning walk in the Twitter neighborhood:

Actually, Mueller worked for Obama for four-plus years, and only two by dint of an Obama decision. George W. Bush appointed Mueller as director of the FBI in mid-2001 (and started one week before 9/11, in fact), but Obama extended it by two years after his ten-year term expired. That decision was met by unanimous acclaim in the Senate, with the only concern raised — briefly — by Chuck Grassley over the precedent it would set rather than any issue with Mueller’s performance. Between his eventual departure in September 2013 and his June 2017 appointment as special counsel, Mueller worked in the private sector at Stanford, the law firm WilmerHale, and then Booz Allen Hamilton — not for Obama.

Most media outlets wondered what prompted the sudden reversion to offense, but no one’s taking it seriously. Politico just recaps the Mueller-Trump relationship while noting the “revive[d] personal attacks.” The New York Times points out Trump’s being “relatively quiet about the investigation” of late, and also that his legal team had reportedly urged him to quit attacking Mueller on Twitter.

The catalyst for this morning’s eruption is likely the attacks on his choice for acting AG, Matt Whitaker. That’s the Washington Post’s take as well:

Trump’s rant, in a pair of morning tweets, came a week after the installation of Matthew G. Whitaker as acting attorney general, a move many Democrats have said appears designed to curtail Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election.

Trump angrily dismissed a reporter’s question about that notion last week and said he had not spoken to Whitaker about the Russia probe before naming him to replace ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Many of Trump’s complaints in Thursday’s tweets were familiar, but they took on heightened significance with Whitaker now overseeing Mueller’s probe, which is also examining whether Trump has obstructed justice.

Is Whitaker actually overseeing the probe, though? So far that’s still Rod Rosenstein, with Whitaker overseeing Rosenstein. Courts will likely weigh in on whether Whitaker can oversee anything, but at least there’s been no indication of a transfer of that portfolio to this point.

All of this is likely much ado about nothing, anyway. There is a slim chance that Mueller will pull a smoking gun out of his report, but it’s far more likely that he’ll have little impact on Trump in the end. Columbia professor Lincoln Mitchell argues for Reuters that even drawing lines between Trump and the Kremlin won’t result in any action:

Trump has succeeded in making the Mueller investigation so partisan an issue that whatever Mueller has found, or will find in the future, will have little effect other than reinforcing existing views among voters and lawmakers. It is unlikely that anything, even evidence of criminal activity, beyond the campaign finance violations Cohen cited in connection with Trump, will change this.

Trump has never been a very popular president, but his support has been quite stable in the face of revelations that one might expect to influence public opinion. From the time he was inaugurated through the recent midterms, according to Gallup’s weekly polling, his popularity was always between 35 and47 percent, with fluctuations that were not particularly correlated to Russia-related revelations. By comparison, for a similar period, Obama’s ranged from 44 and69 percent and Bush’s from 51 and 90 percent. Trump’s numbers suggest that while he is never going to be well-liked by most Americans, there is a floor of about 35 percent that is not going to abandon him.

That base of 35 percent is significant because it roughly translates into more than 35 Republican senators whose voters like Trump and will continue to back him. The presence of those senators and their constituents’ unflappable support for the president is the guarantor that he will not be removed from office by Congress. Regardless of what Mueller finds, even if the Democratic House votes to impeach Trump, there seems to be zero chance that two-thirds of the Senate will cast the decisive vote required by the Constitution.

I’d guess, based on the process-crimes and old-news indictments generated by the Mueller probe thus far, that his final report won’t even be as significant as Mitchell presumes. He’s correct, though, in his assessment of what it would take to impeach and remove Trump at this point, in part because of Trump’s relentless campaign to cast the probe as a partisan “witch hunt.” If all Mueller has is a dumb decision by Don Jr and Jared Kushner to meet with Natalia Veselnitskaya at the Trump Tower and campaign-finance violations over payoffs to former paramours, it won’t go much of anywhere in the Senate — and maybe not even an impeachment in the House.

[HotAir]

Trump again threatens to ‘get involved’ in the Justice Department

President Trump on Thursday evening again threatened to “get involved” in the Department of Justice (DOJ) “if it doesn’t straighten out.”

Trump said during a rally in support of Indiana Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun that the DOJ and the FBI “have to start doing their job and doing it right and doing it now.”

“I wanted to stay out, but if it doesn’t straighten out … I will get involved and I’ll get in there if I have to,” Trump said.

The president’s comments echoed those he made in May, when he threatened to “get involved” in a rolling dispute between conservative House Republicans and the top DOJ official overseeing the Russia probe.

Trump has frequently attacked the DOJ and Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The president’s feud with the DOJ has escalated since last week, when he said during an interview on “Fox & Friends” that Sessions “never took control of the Justice Department.”

“The Dems are very strong in the Justice Department,” Trump said. “And I put in an attorney general that never took control of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions. Never took control of the Justice Department. It’s sort of an incredible thing.”

Sessions quickly fired back, saying in a statement that the DOJ “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”

Weeks before that interview, Trump wrote on Twitter that Sessions should stop the special counsel’s investigation “right now.” Trump has repeatedly cast the investigation as a “witch hunt.”

Sessions has long drawn the ire of Trump for recusing himself from the Russia investigation a month after being installed at the DOJ last year.

The president’s attacks against Sessions have continued to fuel speculation that he could move to fire the attorney general at some point.

Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) both predicted last week that Trump will eventually fire Sessions.

Trump told Bloomberg News earlier in the day Thursday that Sessions would remain in his job until at least the November midterm elections, but declined to say whether he would keep Sessions after the elections.

The president appeared in Indiana on Thursday night in an effort to boost Braun, who is seeking to unseat Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) in November.

[The Hill]

Media

Trump Says He Could Lead the Investigation Into Himself: I Can ‘Run it if I Want’

President Donald Trump insists he has has stayed out of Robert Mueller‘s way so far — but he can seize control of the special counsel’s investigation if he wants to.

As part of a wide-ranging conversation with Reuters published on Monday, the president faced questions about whether he would ever give an interview to Mueller under oath. Trump grumbled that a Mueller interview would be a “perjury trap” if his discrepancies and past statements get used against him.

“Even if I am telling the truth, that makes me a liar,” said Trump. “That’s no good.”

Trump went on to say he’s “totally allowed” to run the special counsel investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia.

[Mediaite]

Justice Department steps in to block whistleblowers from seeing Trump’s Washington DC hotel financial records

According to an Associated Press report, Justice Department lawyers stepped in late Friday and asked a judge to hold off on letting outsiders review financial data related to President Donald Trump’s hotel in Washington D.C.

In response to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte, who is based in Maryland, to allow a lawsuit demanding access to the records to go forward, the Justice Department asked for a stay while they appeal his decision to a higher court in Richmond, Virginia.

According to the report, allowing the case to go forward could “potentially unearth financial records such as Trump’s income tax returns.”

Plaintiffs in the case indicated they are seeking “information from the hotel, a Trump hotel steakhouse, and the General Services Administration as well as the president’s financial records.”

Justice Department lawyers objected by stating the “public interest is decidedly in favor of a stay because any discovery would necessarily be a distraction to the President’s performance of his constitutional duties.”

In response, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine issued a statement saying: “After winning two major rulings in this case already, we anticipated President Trump’s most recent motion. Nonetheless, our case is still moving forward. We are on track to propose a schedule for discovery by September 14, and we hope to request relevant documents shortly thereafter.”

Whistleblowers are hoping to use discovery to make a case for the president violating the emoluments clause, banning Trump from profiting off of his presidency.

[Raw Story]

Trump calls Attorney General Jeff Sessions ‘scared stiff and Missing in Action’

President Donald Trump called Attorney General Jeff Sessions “scared stiff and Missing in Action” on Saturday in his latest broadside on Twitter against the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

The attack on the attorney general came as Trump claimed the news media “refuses to report” on meetings held between Christopher Steele, the ex-British intelligence officer who authored an opposition research dossier on Trump, and former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr.

Ohr was demoted from his position in the deputy attorney general’s office after the discovery of certain meetings he held with Steele and the head of the opposition research firm that hired him to compile the dossier, Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, CNN reported last year, citing a source familiar with the matter. Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS doing research and analysis on Trump, Simpson has disclosed.

“The big story that the Fake News Media refuses to report is lowlife Christopher Steele’s many meetings with Deputy A.G. Bruce Ohr and his beautiful wife, Nelly. It was Fusion GPS that hired Steele to write the phony & discredited Dossier, paid for by Crooked Hillary & the DNC….,” Trump wrote on Saturday.

[CNN]

Trump compares Paul Manafort to Al Capone, fails to mention their tax evading similarities

President Trump deployed quite the metaphor for the first trial in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair whose trial for tax and bank fraud began Tuesday, is being treated worse than infamous mobster Al Capone, the president declared. Scratch that — “Alfonse Capone.”

“Alfonse” is presumably the knockoff cousin of Alphonse “Al” Capone, Chicago’s murdering gangster eventually taken down for tax evasion. Manafort is similarly charged with hiding millions of dollars from the IRS, which is probably not the comparison Trump was hoping to draw.

[The Week]

Reality

Manafort is not “serving” his sentence yet. He violated the terms of his bail by attempting to influence witnesses and publish while under a gag order. He *earned* his jail confinement.

Trump Tells Sessions to ‘Stop This Rigged Witch Hunt Right Now’

President Trump called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday to end the special counsel investigation, an extraordinary appeal to the nation’s top law enforcement official to end an inquiry directly into the president.

The order immediately raised questions from some lawyers about whether it was an attempt to obstruct justice. The special counsel, appointed last year to oversee the government’s Russia investigation, is already looking into some of the president’s previous Twitter posts and public statements to determine whether they were intended to obstruct the inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and any ties to the Trump campaign.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers quickly moved to contain the fallout, saying it was not an order to a member of his cabinet, but merely an opinion. An hour and a half after the tweet was posted, Mr. Trump’s lawyers contacted a reporter for The New York Times. In a subsequent telephone conversation, one of his lawyers, Rudolph W. Giuliani, dismissed the obstruction of justice concerns, calling it a “bizarre and novel theory of obstruction by tweet,” adding that it was “idiotic.”

Presidents typically do not weigh in on active Justice Department investigations, but Mr. Trump has been outspoken about his anger and frustration with the Russia inquiry. Mr. Trump has also said that he never would have made Mr. Sessions his attorney general if he had known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from the inquiry.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Mr. Sessions recused himself in early 2017 in part to avoid the kind of conflicts Mr. Trump proposed. Later, the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was appointed to carry out the inquiry.

The president’s lawyers, Jay A. Sekulow and Mr. Giuliani, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Trump was not ordering the inquiry closed but simply expressing his opinion.

“It’s not a call to action,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that it was a sentiment that Mr. Trump and his lawyers had previously expressed publicly and that it was a statement protected by the president’s constitutional right to free speech.

“He doesn’t feel that he has to intervene in the process, nor is he intervening,” Mr. Sekulow said.

The president wanted the legal process to play out, his lawyers said. “He’s expressing his opinion, but he’s not talking of his special powers he has” as president, Mr. Giuliani said.

[The New York Times]

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