Posts tagged with "Investigation"

House puts spotlight on secret Trump-Putin summits

February 19, 2019

What happened—in Hamburg in July 2017 and in Helsinki in July 2018—will remain there, if it’s up to the two global leaders who participated in those meetings: Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Apparently there are secrets that the American president has gone to great lengths to suppress—confiscating his translator’s notes of the Hamburg meeting; and allowing no detailed records of his private Helsinki sit-down , according to a recent report by Politico.

But with that silence comes an opportunity for coercion by Putin, who holds Trump’s secrets close at a cost: Intelligence officials fear that Putin may have compromised the American president, who could be following the Russian’s dangerous agenda out of fear of exposure and reprisals.

Now, all that is about to change, as House Democrats prepare to take their first meaningful steps to force Trump to divulge information about those private conversations.

The chairmen of two powerful congressional oversight panel—Representative Adam Schiff (D-California) of the Intelligence Committee and Representative Eliot Engel (D-New York) of the Foreign Affairs Committeetold Politico late last week that “they are exploring options to legally compel the president to disclose his private conversations with the Russian president.

The two lawmakers told the political news outlet that they are “actively consulting” with House General Counsel Douglas Letter about the best way to legally compel the Trump administration to come clean.

“I had a meeting with the general counsel to discuss this and determine the best way to find out what took place in those private meetings — whether it’s by seeking the interpreter’s testimony, the interpreter’s notes, or other means,” Schiff, told Politico in an interview.

According to the February 16 story, the move underscores the seriousness with which Democrats view Trump’s conciliatory statements and actions toward Moscow; and its place as a top House priority as the party pursues wide-ranging investigations into the president and his administration.

Specifically, Politico reported, Democrats want a window into the Helskini meeting last summer, during which Trump put himself at odds with the U.S. intelligence community and declared—while standing next to the Russian president—that the Kremlin did not interfere in the 2016 elections.

“I don’t see any reason why [Russia would interfere with the 2016 election],” he said at the extraordinary news conference following the private confabulation.

Trump’s remark prompted Democrats to call for Marina Gross, the State Department translator who was the only other American present for the Trump-Putin meeting, to share her notes with Congress and testify in public.

Getting Gross’s notes and testimony may be a challenging task, Schiff admitted—noting possible legal roadblocks, including executive privilege.

“That’s a privilege that, based on first impression, is designed to facilitate consultations between the president and members of his staff and Cabinet — not to shield communications with a foreign leader,” Schiff said. “But that’s just a preliminary take. And once we get the studied opinion of the general counsel, then we’ll decide how to go forward.”

For his part, Engel told Politico, “I’m not saying that I’m in favor of interpreters turning over all their notes, but I do think that it shouldn’t be up to the president to hide the notes.”

The White House is expected to fight divulging the details of the discussions every step of the way.

Research contact: @desiderioDC

Senators Graham and McConnell doubt ‘rogue player’ Saudi scenario

October 17, 2018

Although President Donald Trump has suggested that “rogue players” were responsible for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, two of his most avid GOP acolytes are not supporting that version of the story.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), who adamantly backed the POTUS’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, during the Judicial Committee hearings late last month—and who is said to be bucking for a Cabinet position within the administration—came out strongly against the Saudi Crown Prince on October 16, during an appearance on Fox & Friends.

“I’ve been their biggest defender on the floor of the United States Senate,” Graham said of the Saudi leadership. However, he commented, “This guy [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] is a wrecking ball. Nothing happens in Saudi Arabia without MBS knowing it.”

The observations by Graham—described by Bloomberg as “an influential foreign policy hawk in Congress who frequently advises President Donald Trump”—represented some of the harshest words yet made in public by a senior Republican on the Khashoggi disappearance, that news outlet said. He said he’d support efforts to “sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia.”

“He had this guy murdered in a consulate in Turkey and to expect me to ignore it, I feel used and abused,” Graham said on Fox. “I was on the floor every time defending Saudi Arabia because it’s a good ally. There’s a difference between a country and an individual. The MBS figure is to me toxic. He can never be a world leader on the world stage.”

Graham also signed off on an October 10 letter to President Trump that aimed to trigger both an investigation into the alleged murder and sanctions for the Saudis.

The letter read, in part, “The recent disappearance of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi suggests that he could be a victim of a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights, which includes ‘torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges and trial, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, and other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of person.’ Therefore, we request that you make a determination on the imposition of sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act with respect to any foreign person responsible for such a violation related to Mr. Khashoggi. Our expectation is that in making your determination you will consider any relevant information, including with respect to the highest ranking officials in the Government of Saudi Arabia.”

The other signatories on the letter included Senators Bob Corker (Tennessee) and Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), who are, respectively the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), who is ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (of which Graham, himself is chairman). In addition, a number of other legislators, both Democratic and Republican, added their names to the correspondence.

In addition, an October 16 report by Bloomberg noted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky)—who has supported Trump on every major policy effort, from deconstructing Obamacare to the tax bill to the Supreme Court nomination— said the disappearance and possible murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi looks “extremely disturbing” but the United States needs to determine what role Saudi Arabia’s government may have played before responding.

“Clearly we need to find out what happened before deciding what action should be taken,” McConnell said Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg News. “I can’t imagine if what we think happened, that we would take no action.”

Asked whether that action would include halting arms sales to the Saudis, McConnell said he’s not ready to say which form of action he would take. He that the president did “the right thing” by sending Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to Saudi Arabia on October 15 to meet with King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

Research contact: @DonnaAN1

President’s counsel averted firing of Mueller last June

January 29, 2018

Although U.S. President Donald Trump stated at a June 9  press conference in the White House Rose Garden that he “would be “100% willing” to testify under oath to Robert Mueller and his team at the Justice Department, that same month, he tried to have the special counsel fired, according to a January 25 report by The New York Times.

Trump is said by the Times story to have gone to White House Counsel Don McGahn with a list of reasons why Mueller’s appointment represented a conflict of interest with the investigation—among them, a dispute over fees at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia; a former relationship with the law firm that now represented the POTUS’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and Mueller’s interview for the FBI director position by the White House just the day before he was appointed to helm the DOJ investigation.

With that list in hand, the president demanded that McGahn call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and order that Mueller be ousted, based on the Times report. McGahn balked at the idea—threatening to quit if the president pressed him on it. According to the Times, Trump then backed off.

In drawing a line, McGahn is said to have headed off a Constitutional crisis. He also supported the will of the American people: More than two-thirds of Americans (68%) think Mueller should be allowed to finish his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and attempts by the White House to obstruct justice —and only 14% think he should be fired, a Marist Poll revealed on January 17

When asked about his actions by reporters as he arrived in Davos, Switzerland, for meetings with global political and business leaders attending the World Economic Forum, the President said, “Fake news, folks. A typical New York Times fake story.”

Research contactLee.Miringoff@Marist.edu

Updated version

Nearly half of Americans think Trump worked with Putin to win presidency

November 6, 2017

Just 30% of Americans believe that the alleged wrongdoing in the 2016 Trump campaign ended with the three campaign workers who were charged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller last week—and about half (49%) of respondents to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll suspect that President Donald Trump, himself, broke the law, the news organizations reported on November 2.

The poll found substantial support for the Mueller investigation, with 58% of respondents approving of how the special counsel is handling it; and more—68% —approving of the filing of federal charges against Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his associate Rick Gates. Both pleaded not guilty in a federal court on October 30.

In addition, Mueller’s team revealed on October 30 that George Papadopoulos, a  former campaign foreign policy adviser, had been cooperating with them for several months, after pleading guilty to charges of perjury in his interviews about the campaign.

While about half of respondents said that Trump was involved in the criminal activity; 19% said they believe that their opinion is supported by evidence, while 30% said it’s only their suspicion. Forty-four percent said they doubt that Trump committed a crime.

Moreover, just 37% think Trump is cooperating with the investigation, A majority (51%) of respondents said that he is not cooperating; another sizable share (12%) have no opinion.

Trump’s core supporters, however, remain overwhelmingly in his favor. Among those who voted for him last year, only  6% suspect him of law-breaking in the campaign. They say that the president’s repeated claims that he is not personally under investigation and that his campaign did not collude with Russia are true.

The telephone survey of 714 adults was conducted October 30 through November 1 on behalf of the news organizations by Langer Research Associates.

Research contact: info@langerresearch.com