Posts tagged with "Obstruction of Justice"

Whodunnit? House Judiciary Committee intends to find out

March 5, 2019

It reads like a whodunnit. On March 4, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) announced that he and his colleagues would investigate alleged obstruction of justice, public corruption, and other abuses of power by President Donald Trump, his associates, and members of his Administration—among them, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, David Pecker of American Media, former White House Counsel Don McGahn, Trump son-in-law and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, Trump buddy Roger Stone; and the president’s sons, Eric and Donald, Jr.

As a first step, the committee has served document requests to 81 agencies, entities, and individuals believed to have information relevant to the investigation (see full list). 

“Over the last several years, President Trump has evaded accountability for his near-daily attacks on our basic legal, ethical, and constitutional rules and norms,” said Nadler.

“Investigating these threats to the rule of law is an obligation of Congress and a core function of the House Judiciary Committee,” he noted. “We have seen the damage done to our democratic institutions in the two years that the Congress refused to conduct responsible oversight.

“Congress must provide a check on abuses of power,” said the committee chairman. “Equally, we must protect and respect the work of Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller, but we cannot rely on others to do the investigative work for us.  Our work is even more urgent after senior Justice Department officials have suggested that they may conceal the work of the Special Counsel’s investigation from the public.

Nadler explained,“We have sent these document requests in order to begin building the public record.  The Special Counsel’s office and the Southern District of New York are aware that we are taking these steps.  We will act quickly to gather this information, assess the evidence, and follow the facts where they lead with full transparency with the American people.  This is a critical time for our nation, and we have a responsibility to investigate these matters and hold hearings for the public to have all the facts.  That is exactly what we intend to do.”

The Committee’s investigation will cover three main areas:

  • Obstruction of Justice, including the possibility of interference by the president and others in a number of criminal investigations and other official proceedings, as well as the alleged cover-up of violations of the law;
  • Public Corruption, including potential violations of the emoluments clauses of the U.S. Constitution, conspiracy to violate federal campaign and financial reporting laws, and other criminal misuses of official positions for personal gain; and
  • Abuses of Power, including attacks on the press, the judiciary, and law enforcement agencies; misuse of the pardon power and other presidential authorities; and attempts to misuse the power of the Office of the Presidency.

For the two years that the Trump administration has been in power, “in the absence of responsible oversight by the Republican Majority,” the House Judiciary Committee Democrats say that they have written—but received no response to—over 100 letters to the White House, the Administration, and House Republican Leadership documenting the failings of the Trump Administration and demanding accountability. With this investigation, they intend to finally get their questions answered.

Research contact: @RepJerryNadler

Mueller to convey key findings of Russia probe after midterms

October 18, 2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to divulge key findings of his team’s 18-month-long Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections.

The news comes as Mueller faces mounting pressure, either to produce more indictments or shut down his investigation, according to Bloomberg sources, the business news outlet reported on October 17.

Specifically, two U.S. officials told Bloomberg, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on a couple of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry:

  • Were there clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign?
  • Did the president take any actions that constituted obstruction of justice?

That doesn’t necessarily mean, Bloomberg said, that Mueller’s findings would be made public if he doesn’t secure unsealed indictments. The regulations governing Mueller’s probe stipulate that he can present his findings only to his boss, who is currently Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The regulations give the special counsel’s supervisor some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released.

The question of timing is critical. Mueller’s work won’t be concluded ahead of the November 6 midterm elections—and, with just three weeks to go, it is unlikely that Mueller will take any overt action that could be turned into a campaign issue. Justice Department guidelines say prosecutors should avoid any major steps close to an election that could be interpreted as influencing the outcome.

Also complicating the release of findings is the fact that Mueller only recently submitted written questions to Trump’s lawyers regarding potential collusion with Russia—and his team hasn’t yet ruled out seeking an interview with the president, according to one of the U.S. officials.

What’s more, the news outlet reported, this timeline raises questions about the future of the probe, itself. Trump has signaled repeatedly that he hopes to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the election—a move that could bring in a new boss for Mueller or put the entire inquiry in jeopardy.

Rosenstein has made it clear that he wants Mueller to wrap up the investigation as expeditiously as possible, another U.S. official said. The officials gave no indications about the details of Mueller’s conclusions. Mueller’s office declined to comment for the Bloomberg story.

Research contact: @cstrohm

Is the POTUS ‘obstructing justice’ by demanding declassification of Mueller probe documents?

September 19, 2018

The POTUS is treading a thin line, between obstruction of justice and presidential privilege.

On September 17, President Donald Trump directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice to immediately declassify portions of the June 2017 FISA court application regarding former Trump campaign adviser Carter W.Page, according to a report by the Huffington Post.

The president also demanded the public release of text messages exchanged by former FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Trump’s defenders on Capitol Hill and in the conservative media have routinely used the Strzok-Page text messages to undermine the Mueller probe and suggest that the FBI is biased against Trump, the news outlet said.

In immediate response to the order, Representative Adam Schiff (D-California-28th District), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, sent out a tweet at 8:08 p.m. on September 17, remarking: “President Trump has intervened again in a pending investigation by ordering the selective disclosure of classified materials he believes to be helpful to his defense. The DOJ and FBI have previously informed me that release of some of this information would cross a ‘red line.’”

In a statement picked up by MSN, Schiff characterized the president’s order as “a clear abuse of power,” suggesting that Trump  “has decided to intervene in a pending law enforcement investigation by ordering the selective release of materials he believes are helpful to his defense team and thinks will advance a false narrative.”

Representative Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia-11th District) also came out against the release of documents, tweeting shortly after 8 p.m. on September 17, “More obstruction from the President.”

And Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) tweeted on September 18,”The President is trying to undermine an active investigation through reckless declassification. We need an independent DOJ to do everything possible to protect sources and methods.”

The FBI previously had released a heavily redacted version of the Page FISA application in July. Trump also ordered the public release of texts messages sent by former FBI Director James Comey, former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, as well as Justice Department official Bruce Ohr. The president also ordered the release of notes on meetings with Ohr, who relayed information to the FBI collected by former British spy Christopher Steele about Trump’s relationship with Russia.

According to the Huffington Post, a Justice Department spokesperson said late on September 17 that the DOJ and FBI were “already working with the Director of National Intelligence to comply with the President’s order.”

The president’s order, the spokesperson said, triggered “a declassification review process that is conducted by various agencies within the intelligence community, in conjunction with the White House Counsel, to seek to ensure the safety of America’s national security interests.”

Research contact: ryan.reilly@huffingtonpost.com

Pence remains obfuscator-in-chief, saying on CBS talker, ‘I would’ speak to Mueller

September 11, 2018

Speaking on CBS-TV’s Face the Nation political talk show on September 9, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said he would sit down for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, if asked.

“I would. I would be more than willing to continue to provide any and all support in that,” Pence said during one segment of the show. And we have outside counsel that will advise me accordingly.”

Mueller and his team are investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and are probing ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. On Sunday, Pence told Magaret Brennan during an exclusive interview at the White House that Mueller’s team hasn’t broached the topic of an interview.

“He has not” asked for an interview, Pence said. “Although we’ve provided any and all information, and we’ll continue to do that.”

Mueller has been haggling with President Donald Trump’s legal team over an interview—in-person and/or in writing.

Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, said last week that the two sides remain at odds over the subject of the interrogation—specifically, whether prosecutors could ask questions about obstruction of justice—as well as the way in which it would be conducted.

Trump has confirmed that  “he’s open” to an interview—under the right conditions. What those conditions would be is unclear, as the president’s team seems to be “moving the goalposts,” depending on the ask from the Mueller probe.

And while Trump has publicly disparaged the Russia probe as a “witch hunt” meant to undermine him, Pence said Sunday the investigation isn’t a “focus” for him or the president.

“It’s just not been my focus, and it’s not the president’s focus,” Pence said, in his ongoing function as obfuscator-in-chief.

“I mean,” the vice president said, “the reason why we’re making the progress that we’re making all across this country, rebuilding our military, restoring America’s strength in the world, seeing the opportunity for peace emerge on the Korean Peninsula.”

As of June 10, President Trump’s approval rating was posted on the Gallup Poll as 40%; with disapproval up to 54%.

Research contact: cobrien@politico.com

Trump to Sessions: ‘Stop the rigged witch hunt right now’

August 2, 2018

President Donald Trump is feeling the heat—and it is not environmental. On August 1, he implored Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections that is being helmed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

As usual, the president took to Twitter to make his intentions known. At 9:24 a.m., he tweeted, “This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!”

The angry “ask” came after a week in which the POTUS’s probable involvement in a Trump Tower meeting with the Russians in June 2016 grabbed headlines, thanks to a revelation by former Trump lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen.

In addition, Trump’s instructions to Sessions were issued on the second day of the Alexandria, Virginia-based federal trial of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. Manafort is accused of bank and tax crimes.

The media quickly characterized his tweet as a form of obstruction of justice. The Washington Post’s Carol Leonnig was prompt to report (also on Twitter) : “NEW: Trump lawyers tell me his tweets this morning are simply “his opinions” and not evidence of an ongoing effort to obstruct the Russia probe. @RudyGiuliani and @JaySekulow call in to explain @realDonaldTrump well-established practice.”

What’s more,  Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell ( 15th District, California) rapidly tweeted, “Just as a reminder, @realDonaldTrumps tweets are official statements. [Press Secretary] Sarah Sanders might try to spin it now into “opinion,” but Trump is telling his subordinate Jeff Sessions what he wants him to do: stop Mueller’s investigation.”

And progressive organization, MoveOn, commented, “If @real DonaldTrump sabotages #Mueller‘s #TrumpRussia investigation we will need to take swift action. Text ALERT to 668366 & head here: …http://www.trumpisnotabovethelaw.org” 

Presidents typically do not weigh in on ongoing Justice Department investigations, The New York Times said, “but … Trump has been outspoken about his anger and frustration with the Russia investigation, which predates his presidency and was later taken over by …. Mueller.…. Trump has also said that he never would have made … Sessions his attorney general if he knew … Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia inquiry.”

The special counsel is also looking into some of Trump’s tweets about. Sessions and the former FBI Director James Comey —and whether the messages were intended to obstruct justice, the Time said.

A CNN poll conducted by SSRS posted on June 22 found that most Americans continue to believe that the Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election is a serious matter that should be investigated, but the constant criticism by President Donald Trump of special counsel Robert Mueller is taking its toll. The number of Americans who approve of how Mueller is handling the investigation has dropped from 48% in March to 44% in May to just 41% [in June], the lowest it has been in CNN’s polling.

Mueller has a lot of company; no one connected with this matter is coming out of it in a positive light. According to CNN, his favorable rating is just 32%; former FBI Director James Comey’s favorability is just 28%; Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers in the Russia investigation, is viewed favorably by only 31% of Americans.

Research contact: @CNNPolitics

Most Americans think Trump is obstructing justice

December 19, 2017

The majority of Americans believe U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to obstruct the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller—which already has brought charges against four of his campaign advisers and increasingly appears to be focused on the POTUS’s inner circle.

Indeed, 40% of Americans think the president has done something illegal when it comes to Russia, while an additional 30% say he’s at least done something unethical.

What’s more, 68% disapprove of his response to the investigations, based on poll results released by The Associated PressNORC Center for Public Affairs Research on December 15.

It is no surprise that Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to be concerned about Trump’s actions, or to feel invested in what the probes uncover, the poll, covered by Georgia radio station WDUN, noted. Overall, the poll found, 62% of Democrats say they think Trump has done something illegal, while just 5% of Republicans think the same. Among Republicans, 33% think he’s done something unethical, while 60% think he’s done nothing wrong at all.

But, specifically, did Trump obstruct the investigations into whether his campaign had Russian ties? According to the survey, 86% of Democrats, 67% of Independents and 24% of Republicans say he did.

But, Americans also are unsure of how fair and impartial Mueller’s investigation is turning out to be. Of the special counsel’s investigation, just 26%t say they’re very or extremely confident that it will be fair and impartial, while an additional 31% are moderately confident.

Opinions about the possibility of a fair and impartial congressional investigation are even lower, with just 13% saying they’re very or extremely confident in that happening and 32 % saying they are moderately confident.

The AP-NORC poll surveyed 1,020 adults in early December using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population.

Research contact: gentile-claudia@norc.org