Anger, Concern, Discontent, Thoughtfulness, Uncertainty, Worry
Don't Blame Me If This Train Goes Off the Rails
(I Know Nuthin' — Blame the DEMS or Mueller)
With the Russia investigation continuing to widen, Trump’s lawyers are working to corral the probe and question the propriety of the special counsel’s work. They are actively compiling a list of *Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work, according to several of Trump’s legal advisers.*
A conflict of interest is one of the possible grounds that can be cited by an attorney general to remove a special counsel from office under Justice Department regulations that set rules for the job.
* RELATED: TRUMP’S OWN CONFLICTS OF INTERESTS SEEN IN THIS SHORT VIDEO CLIP:
Other advisers said the president is also irritated by the notion that Mueller’s probe could reach into his and his family’s finances. Trump has been fuming about the probe in recent weeks as he has been informed about the legal questions that he and his family could face.
Trump’s primary frustration centers on why allegations that his campaign coordinated with Russia should spread into scrutinizing many years of Trump deal making. He has told aides he was especially disturbed after learning Mueller would be able to access several years of his tax returns. “If you’re looking at Russian collusion, the president’s tax returns would be outside that investigation,” said a close adviser to the president.
Further adding to the challenges facing Trump’s outside lawyers, the team’s spokesman, Mark Corallo, resigned on Thursday. Corallo confirmed Friday that he has resigned but declined to comment further.
The Washington Post reported some lawyers representing the president are looking at ways to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller, who is spearheading the Russian probe.
Bloomberg first reported on Thursday Mueller was looking into Trump’s past business transactions as a part of the probe, despite Trump’s warning in a New York Times interview not to do so.
Corallo had only been on the job for two months. According to Politico he “had grown frustrated with the operation and the warring factions and lawyers” and was increasingly concerned about whether he was being told the truth about certain matters.
Corallo had told an associate that the dynamics in the White House were untenable and that there was “too much fighting all the time,” in the words of one person who spoke to him and said he no longer needs the money and had complained about the fighting among the lawyers, this person said. Corallo worked in the George W. Bush administration under former AG John Ashcroft.
Meanwhile, veteran Washington lawyer John Dowd, hired last month, will take the lead in responding to the Special Counsel and Congressional inquiries. Jay Sekulow, a lawyer who has been a familiar face in conservative media in recent years, will serve as the group’s public face, appearing frequently on television.
Sekulow said in a recent interview: “…that the president and his legal team are intent on making sure Mueller stays within the boundaries of his assignment as special counsel and he will complain directly to Mueller if necessary…”
Sekulow continued: “The fact is that the president is concerned about conflicts that exist within the special counsel’s office and any changes in the scope of the investigation. The scope is going to have to stay within his mandate. If there’s drifting, we’re going to object.” Sekulow then cited Bloomberg News reports that Mueller is scrutinizing some of Trump’s business dealings, including with a Russian oligarch who purchased a Palm Beach mansion from Trump for $95 million in 2008 and he concluded: “They’re talking about real estate transactions in Palm Beach several years ago. In our view, this is far outside the scope of a legitimate investigation.”
“This is Ken Starr times 1,000” said one lawyer involved in the case, referring to the independent counsel who oversaw an investigation that eventually led to House impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton adding: “Of course, it’s going to go into his finances.”
Following Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director Comey — in part because of his displeasure with the FBI’s Russia investigation — Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel in a written order. That order gave Mueller broad authority to investigate links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” and any crimes committed in response to the investigation, such as perjury or obstruction of justice.
Mueller’s probe has already expanded to include an examination of whether Trump obstructed justice in his dealings with Comey, as well as the business activities of Jared Kushner.
Trump’s team could potentially challenge whether a broad probe of Trump’s finances prior to his candidacy could be considered a matter that arose “directly” from an inquiry into possible collusion with a foreign government.
Trump also took public aim on Wednesday at AG Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein, whose actions led to Mueller’s appointment. In an interview with the New York Times Wednesday, the president said he never would have nominated Sessions if he knew he was going to recuse himself from the case.
Some Republicans in frequent touch with the White House said they viewed the president’s decision to publicly air his disappointment with Sessions as a warning sign that the attorney general’s days were numbered. Several senior aides were described as “stunned” when Sessions announced Thursday morning he would stay on at the Justice Department.
Another Republican in touch with the administration described the public steps as part of a broader effort aimed at “laying the groundwork to fire” Mueller adding: “Who attacks their entire Justice Department? It’s insane.”
Law enforcement officials described Sessions as increasingly distant from the White House and the FBI because of the strains of the Russia investigation.
Traditionally, Justice Department leaders have sought to maintain a certain degree of autonomy from the White House as a means of ensuring prosecutorial independence.
But Sessions’s situation is more unusual, law enforcement officials said, because he has angered the president for apparently being too independent while also angering many at the FBI for his role in the president’s firing of Comey.
As a result, there is far less communication among those three key parts of the government than in years past, several officials said.
Currently, the discussions of pardoning authority by Trump’s legal team are purely theoretical, according to two people familiar with the ongoing conversations. But if Trump pardoned himself in the face of the ongoing Mueller investigation, it would set off a legal and political firestorm, first around the question of whether a president can use the constitutional pardon power in that way.
“This is a fiercely debated but unresolved legal question,” said Brian C. Kalt, a constitutional law expert at Michigan State University who has written extensively on the question.
Other White House advisers have tried to temper Trump, urging him to simply cooperate with the probe and stay silent on his feelings about the investigation.
On Monday, lawyer Ty Cobb, newly brought into the White House to handle responses to the Russian probe, convened a meeting with the president and his team of lawyers, according to two people briefed on the meeting. Cobb, who is not yet on the White House payroll, was described as attempting to instill some discipline in how the White House handles queries about the case.
But Trump surprised many of his aides by speaking at length about the probe to the New York Times (July 20, 2017). Cobb, who officially joins the White House team at the end of the month, declined to comment for this article.
Some note that the Constitution does not explicitly prohibit a president from pardoning himself. On the other side, experts say that by definition a pardon is something you can only give to someone else. There is also a common-law canon that prohibits individuals from serving as a judge in their own case. “For example, we would not allow a judge to preside over his or her own trial,” Kalt said.
A president can pardon an individual at any point, including before the person is charged with a crime, and the scope of a presidential pardon can be very broad. President Gerald Ford pardoned former president Richard M. Nixon preemptively for offenses he “committed or may have committed” while in office.
Excellent article and links therein … a keeper for sure along with this (The Trump Dossier – by Christopher Steele, former MI-6 operative in Moscow).
Thanks for stopping by.