Posts tagged with "Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller"

Andrew McCabe sues DOJ and FBI, alleging his ouster was retaliatory and demanded by Trump

August 12, 2019

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe filed suit [Civil Action No. 19-2399] in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on August 8 against Attorney General Bill Barr, the U.S. Department of Justice, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for ending his career on March 16, 2018—just before he would have qualified for his retirement benefits following 21 years of public service, Politico reported.

“Defendants responded to Plaintiff’s two decades of unblemished and non-partisan public service with a politically motivated and retaliatory demotion in January 2018 and public firing in March 2018— on the very night of Plaintiff’s long-planned retirement from the FBI,” McCabe said in his complaint.

He added, “Defendants’ actions have harmed Plaintiff’s reputation, professional standing, and dramatically reduced his retirement benefits. Plaintiff asks this Court to find that his demotion was unlawful and his purported termination was either a legal nullity or, in the alternative, unlawful, and to award him any and all relief necessary for him to retire as he had originally planned: as the Deputy Director of the FBI and an agent in good standing, with sufficient time in service to enable him to receive his full earned law enforcement pension, healthcare insurance, and other retirement benefits.”

The ousted FBI official also specifically named President DonaldTrump—acting in an official capacity as President of the United States—as the individual who was “responsible and accountable for Defendants’ actions.”

He alleged that the president, in conspiracy with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, executed the scheme to deprive him of his job and retirement funding.

“It was Trump’s unconstitutional plan and scheme to discredit and remove DOJ and FBI employees who were deemed to be his partisan opponents because they were not politically loyal to him,” McCabe said in his complaint, adding, “Plaintiff’s termination was a critical element of Trump’s plan and scheme. Defendants—as well as then-Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Defendant Barr’s predecessor—knowingly acted in furtherance of Trump’s plan and scheme, with knowledge that they were implementing Trump’s unconstitutional motivations for removing Plaintiff from the civil service. “

According to the Politico report, the lawsuit comes just two days after former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok filed a similar lawsuit, alleging that Trump’s vendetta against him led to his unceremonious firing, despite a formal disciplinary process that recommended a less severe punishment.

Strzok is seeking his old job back or compensation for his lost pay and benefits.

Although both men made plain their dislike of Trump, they say it never affected their official actions at the FBI. McCabe argues that Trump’s Twitter threats also coerced his subordinates at the Justice Department to do his bidding.

“Trump demanded [McCabe’s] personal allegiance, he sought retaliation when Plaintiff refused to give it, and [former Attorney General Jeff] Sessions, [FBI Director Christopher] Wray, and others served as Trump’s personal enforcers rather than the nation’s highest law enforcement officials, catering to Trump’s unlawful whims instead of honoring their oaths to uphold the Constitution,” McCabe’s suit charges. “Trump’s use of threats and accusations to cause his subordinates to act is memorialized in his tweets and other public documents, including the Special Counsel Report.”

Research contact: @politico

Senior federal judge challenges AG Barr’s handling of Mueller findings

August 7, 2019

A senior federal judge pressed Department of Justice attorneys in a Washington, D.C., courtroom on August 5 to explain why the American public shouldn’t be allowed to see redacted portions of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference into the 2016 elections—suggesting that he might be willing to consider releasing at least some of the restricted information, The Hill reported.

Judge Reggie Walton, who was appointed to the bench in 2001 by President George W. Bush, posed the questions during a hearing on a couple of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits seeking the redacted portions of the report.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and BuzzFeed News reporter Jason Leopold filed the lawsuits earlier this year. The cases have since been consolidated, and attorneys for each party split the arguments during Monday’s hearing, The Hill said.

During more than two hours of arguments, Judge Walton voiced his concerns—not only about the redactions, but about the conduct of Attorney General Bill Barr immediately following the release of the report.

I do have some concerns, because it seems to me difficult to reconcile the contents of the Mueller report and statements made by the attorney general [about the report],” Walton said of Barr’s four-page summary of the Mueller report—which asserted there had been “no collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia; and no obstruction of justice.

“It’d seem to be inconsistent with what the report itself said,” Walton said, adding that Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance” of the report.

Mueller has since stated that his office did not investigate collusion but instead whether any Trump campaign officials conspired with Russians in 2016. And the former special counsel has repeatedly stated that his report does not exonerate President Donald Trump.

DOJ lawyer Courtney Enlow pushed back—saying that Barr was not required to release the report under the special counsel regulations, but did so anyway. She said the attorney general’s actions were in “good faith.”

However,attorneys for those seeking the unredacted portions of the report urged the judge to read the disputed redactions privately so that he could review them and determine if any of the information was already publicly available and no longer needed to redacted.

Enlow argued that rulings in previous FOIA cases mean that the administration doesn’t necessarily have to make that information publicly available.

However, Walton appeared skeptical. At several times throughout the hearing, he noted the high level of public interest in the redacted versions of the documents.

Mathew Topic, who was arguing on behalf of Leopold in court, also noted that releasing more details of the report could help resolve disputes about the origins of the Mueller investigation.

Topic pointed to Trump repeatedly referring to the probe as a politically motivated “witch hunt” and said that making the investigators’ findings fully available could help affirm or disprove those claims, The Hill reported.

Among the redacted information in the report being sought in these cases is grand jury information. The House Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Jerrold Nadler (New York), also filed an application in court last week seeking the grand jury materials.

But Enlow, in arguing that Walton should not make the information public, cited an opinion from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals handed down earlier this year that found a court doesn’t have the inherent authority to release grand jury materials.

Judge Walton did not provide a date for when his decision might be disclosed, saying that he is facing a “heavy” caseload at the moment. But he noted the high level of public interest in the case—and the inevitable prospect that whatever ruling he issues will be appealed—in saying he will work to make a decision soon.

Research contact: @thehill

Moscow Mitch denies he is aiding Kremlin

August 1, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) is angered by his new nickname, Moscow Mitch. On July 29, he strode to the Senate floor to defend his decision to block an election security bill and lashed out at critics who suggested he was helping Russia—complaining that they had engaged in “modern-day McCarthyism” to “smear” his record.

“The[y] … [don’t] let a little thing like reality get in their way,” said McConnell in a nearly 30-minute speech , according to a report by The Washington Post.

The Republican ringleader—who has blocked every bill passed by the Democratic House during this session—saw fit to say, “They [perceived] the perfect opportunity to distort and tell lies and fuel the flames of partisan hatred, and so they did.”

McConnell was responding primarily to an opinion column by The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, published July 26 under the headline, “Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset.”

The majority leader used what is usually a speech on the Senate’s upcoming workweek to issue an angry denunciation of the column and some liberal commentators on MSNBC—accusing Senate Democrats of helping fan the liberal flames, the news outlet reported.

Last week, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified to Congress about Russian interference in the 2016 election and about whether President Trump had tried to obstruct the inquiry. Casting Russian sabotage as a serious threat to the United States, Mueller warned that interference efforts were happening “as we sit” in the hearing rooms.

Hours after Mueller’s testimony, Democrats tried to get the Senate to vote on bipartisan election security legislation. Republicans objected. The next day, Democrats tried to get a vote on a bill that would have authorized hundreds of millions of dollars to update voting equipment. McConnell objected, The Washington Post noted.

Fred Hiatt, The Post’s editorial page editor, defended Milbank’s column and criticized the GOP leader for invoking McCarthyism.  “Dana Milbank’s column was a legitimate exercise in commentary, making the argument that Senator McConnell’s blocking of elections-security legislation will harm the United States and work to Russia’s advantage. Of course it’s equally legitimate for Mr. McConnell to express a contrary view, but the Milbank argument has nothing to do with McCarthyism,” Hiatt said in a statement.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Despite chilling warnings from Mueller, GOP blocks election security bills

July 26, 2019

America is under attack. That was the biggest takeaway from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony on Capitol Hill on July 24—not that President Donald Trump may have obstructed justice, although that’s what most people continue to argue about, CNN reported this week.

“In your investigation,” Representative Will Hurd (R-Texas) of the House Intelligence Committee asked Mueller, “did you think that this was a single attempt by the Russians to get involved in our election? Or did you find evidence to suggest that they will try to do this again?”

Mueller responded, with a chilling effect:  “No, it wasn’t a single attempt.” And he was quick to note that the Russians still are working to influence U.S. elections—predicting that their influence will be felt when Americans go to the polls in 2020.

“They’re doing it as we sit here,” Mueller testified. “And they expect to do it during the next campaign.”

He then warned that America’s intelligence agencies must find a way to coordinate better in order to assure secure elections going forward.

In his report, the former special counsel disclosed that Russian hackers had compromised local election systems of two Florida counties in 2016—a development later confirmed by Florida’s Republican  Governor Ron DeSantis, although he said no votes were changed. And while Mueller did not bring conspiracy charges, it’s been well documented that Russians in 2016 were doing their best to help Trump, not Clinton, win.

“Did your investigation find that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from one of the candidates winning?” Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-California) of the Judiciary Committee entreated him.

“It did,” Mueller replied.

Lofgren then asked for specificity: “Which one?”

“Well,” Mueller said, “it would be Trump.”

Yet despite Mueller’s testimony, his report, and alarming statements from elsewhere in Washington, public urgency on addressing Russian interference for the 2020 election appears lacking.

Indeed, according to a report by The Hill, Senate Republicans blocked two election security bills and a cybersecurity measure on Wednesday, July 24,  in the wake of former special counsel Robert Mueller warning about meddling attempts during his public testimony before congressional lawmakers.  

Democrats tried to get consent to pass two bills that would require campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission about foreign offers of assistance, as well as a bill to let the Senate Sergeant at Arms offer voluntary cyber assistance for personal devices and accounts of senators and staff.

But Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) blocked each of the bills. She didn’t give reason for her objections, or say if she was objecting on behalf of herself or the Senate GOP caucus. A spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

Under Senate rules, any one senator can ask for consent to pass a bill, but any one senator is able to object.

What’s more,  election interference bills face an uphill climb in the Senate, where Republicans aren’t expected to move legislation through the Rules Committee, the panel with primary jurisdiction, and have warned about attempts to “federalize” elections. 

Democrats cited Mueller as they tried to get consent on Wednesday evening to pass their bills.

Mr. Mueller’s testimony should serve as a warning to every member of this body about what could happen in 2020, literally in our next elections,” said Senator Mark Warner (D-Virgina), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

He added that “unfortunately, in the nearly three years since we uncovered Russia’s attack on our democracy, this body has not held a single vote on stand-alone legislation to protect our elections.” 

Research contact: @thehill

Mueller muddles through Judiciary Committee testimony

July 25, 2019

In more than three hours of testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning, July 24, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller refused to answer many questions, saying they were outside his purview; responded to others with only a “yes” or a “no;” refrained from reading relevant portions of his own report—and did not add any personal color to the story line on the president’s efforts to obstruct the investigation.

Overall, his performance did not deliver the dramatic narrative, or the television moment, that Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-New York) and his Democratic committee members had hoped would captivate the American audience.

However, the former special counsel did clarify a number of points—putting the kibosh on the president’s constant claims of “TOTAL EXONERATON. NO COLLUSION.”

Director Mueller,” Nadler asked, “the president has repeatedly claimed that your report found there was no obstruction and that it completely and totally exonerated him, but that is not what your report said, is it?”

“Correct,” Mueller replied. “That is not what the report said.”

“So the report did not conclude that he did not commit obstruction of justice, is that correct?” Nadler asked.

“That is correct,” Mueller replied.

“And what about total exoneration? Did you totally exonerate the president?” Nadler continued.

“No,” Mueller said.

“Does your report state there is sufficient factual and legal basis for further investigation of potential obstruction of justice by the president?” Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) later inquired.

“Yes,” Mueller replied.

What’s more, in a line of questioning by Representative Ted Lieu (D-California), the legislator got Mueller to agree that the reason he did not indict Trump for obstruction was that he deferred to the opinion of the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

When asked, Mueller also confirmed that Russia was working on Donald Trump’s behalf during the 2020 presidential campaign.

“Did your investigation find that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from one of the candidates winning?” Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-California) entreated him.

“It did,”Mueller replied.

Lofgren then asked for specificity: “Which one?”

“Well,” Mueller said, “it would be Trump.”

In fact, Mueller went on to say, “During the course of my career I have seen a number of challenges to our democracy”—and noted that the Russian interference into the 2020 elections was “the worst.”

Finally, as Republicans tried to make points, frequently shouting, Representative Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) attempted to establish that Mueller had been “conflicted” in carrying out the investigation because he had interviewed with Trump the day before for the position of FBI director.

 “Not as a candidate,” Mueller replied. He noted that he met with Trump on May 16, 2017, to discuss the then-vacant FBI director position, a position that he once had held— but not because he was a candidate for the job. He said he merely outlined what it would take to do the job.

Indeed, as The Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett tweeted, Mueller is barred by law from holding the FBI director position again. Barrett’s sources did say that White House staffers raised the possibility of changing that law, but that doesn’t comport with Trump’s presentation of Mueller as having gotten “turned down” in seeking the position.

Mueller was due to appear before the House Intelligence Committee during the afternoon session—where hopes that he would tell a colorful narrative on Russian interference that would shift public opinion still were high.

Research contact: @HouseJudiciary

Look who’s talking! Mueller agrees to testify for TV cameras in July; Trump vents anger

June 27, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump flailed out in all directions—at the Democrats, at former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, at two former FBI officials—on June 26, after he learned that Mueller had agreed to testify in public before Congress next month about his investigation into Russia’s election interference and possible obstruction of justice, The New York Times reported.

Coming nearly three months after the release of what is commonly referred to as the Mueller Report, two back-to-back hearings on July 17 before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees promise to be among the most closely watched spectacles of Trump’s presidency to date, the Times said.

For those who have not read the lengthy report—including, in all probability, the majority of Congress and the U.S. population—this will represent an opportunity for the lead investigator on the case to recount what his team found, up-close and personal.

Indeed, unlike the print presentation, the live video will zoom in on Mueller’s demeanor, providing a chance for viewers to evaluate the Special Counsel’s verbal emphasis and body language.

The testimony will have the power to change minds and, potentially, to reshape the political landscape around the president’s re-election campaign and the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

In a statement released on the evening of June 25, Chairmen Jerry Nadler (D-New York) of the Judiciary Committee and Adam Schiff (D-California) of the Intelligence Committee noted, “Americans have demanded to hear directly from the special counsel so they can understand what he and his team examined, uncovered, and determined about Russia’s attack on our democracy, the Trump campaign’s acceptance and use of that help, and President Trump and his associates’ obstruction of the investigation into that attack.”

For his part, upon hearing that the former special counsel would respond to the Congressional subpoenas and testify before two committees publicly, President Trump lashed out at Mueller on Wednesday, dredging up false accusations about the conduct of investigators.

The president offered no evidence as he repeated earlier accusations that Mueller destroyed text messages between two former F.B.I. officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who worked on the Russia investigation and, personally, were not fans of the president. “They’re gone and that is illegal,” the president said of the texts in an interview with Fox Business Network. “That’s a crime.”

According to the Times report, Trump was referring to a December Justice Department inspector general report—which revealed that 19,000 text messages had been lost because of technical problems; not intentionally deleted by Mr. Mueller or anyone.

“It never ends,” Mr. Trump said about Democratic efforts to investigate his conduct. He repeated, as he has done many times, that Mueller’s report found “no collusion with the Russians, “and he again offered a false assertion that he was cleared of obstruction of justice.

In a press conference at the end of May, Mueller emphasized that Mr. Trump has not been cleared of obstruction crimes, remarking, “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Trump to Stephanopoulos: ‘I never suggested firing Mueller’

June 17, 2019

In addition to his assurances that “oppo” research on a political rival would be acceptable to “anyone” inside the Beltway—even if it were offered by a hostile nation such as Russia—President Donald Trump, told ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos last week in an exclusive interview that he had “never suggested firing [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller.”

In doing so, ABC News noted, the president directly disputed the account of a key witness in Mueller’s investigation—former White House Counsel Don McGahn—saying that it “doesn’t matter” what McGahn testified to the special counsel’s team.

Taking it one step further, Trump told Stephanopoulos that McGahn “may have been confused” when he told Mueller that Trump instructed him multiple times to have the acting attorney general remove the special counsel because of perceived conflicts of interest.

“The story on that very simply: No. I was never going to fire Mueller. I never suggested firing Mueller,” Trump told Stephanopoulos, according to the ABC report.

But when Stephanopoulos pushed back and referenced McGahn’s testimony, Trump became defiant. “I don’t care what [McGahn] says, it doesn’t matter,” Trump said.

The rest of the ABC News transcript went as follows

“Why would [McGahn] lie under oath?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer,” Trump said. “Or he believed it because I would constantly tell anybody that would listen— including you, including the media—that Robert Mueller was conflicted. Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest.”

“And has to go?” Stephanopoulos followed up.

“I didn’t say that,” Trump insisted.

And if Trump has anything to do with it, McGahn will not be asked to set the record straight: At the president’s instruction, McGahn currently is fighting a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee to testify publicly about those conversations with Trump, among other things, the Times reports.

Research contact: @ABC

Brinksmanship: Unable to cut deal, Nadler soon may subpoena Mueller to testify before U.S. public

June 12, 2019

When and if former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress, his face will be familiar—but the story he tells won’t be, according to findings of a CNN poll fielded in May, which found that fully 75% of Americans have not read the Mueller report on Russian interference into the last presidential election and obstruction of justice by the Trump administration.

Most legislators have failed to read the 448-page document, either.

But that doesn’t include House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-New York)—who  told Democratic leaders at a closed-door meeting this past week that he could issue a subpoena to within two weeks to Mueller, if he is unable to reach an agreement to secure the former special counsel’s public testimony, according to two sources familiar with the meeting, Politico reported.

Nadler’s comments clarified whether the chairman had considered compelling Mueller’s attendance at a public hearing. The committee is still negotiating with Mueller, who, according to Nadler, is thus far only willing to answer lawmakers’ questions in private—a nonstarter for most House Democrats.

The sources cautioned the news outlet that the committee has not settled yet on a timetable for a potential subpoena to Mueller. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) hosted the meeting, and four other committee chairs were in attendance.

However, according to Politico’s sources, Nadler told reporters that he was “confident” Mueller will appear before his panel, and that he would issue a subpoena “if we have to.”

“We want him to testify openly. I think the American people need that,” Nadler added. “I think, frankly, it’s his duty to the American people. And we’ll make that happen.”

This week, the committee began to hear testimony related to the report, in an effort to educate the American public.

In addition, Nadler said that, with the threat of a civil contempt citation from the committee hanging over his head, Attorney General William Barr had agreed to release the underlying documents to the report, which had been requested by the House Judiciary Committee back in April.

However, on June 11, word came out that the White House would work with the Department of Justice to decide exactly how much (and what type of) material would be released—leaving the actual evidence that the committee would be permitted to see in question yet again.

Research contact: @politico