Posts tagged with "Press conference"

Mueller: ‘No confidence’ that Trump didn’t commit obstruction of justice

May 30, 2019

If the House Judiciary Committee wants Robert Mueller to testify about his investigative report in front of live cameras and the American public, the panel will have to subpoena him, the special counsel made clear at a news conference on May 29.

He also made it abundantly clear that the investigative team could not exonerate President Donald Trump of criminal obstruction of justice —but also could not charge him with it under Department of Justice rules.

Appearing at an 11 a.m. media event staged at the DoJ, Mueller announced that he was wrapping up the investigation, closing the Special Counsel’s Office, and resigning from the agency to return to private life.

During his brief statement, Mueller said that he had nothing to add to what had been written in the 448-page report—and confirmed two conclusions of his team’s investigation: First, he said that there was interference by a foreign enemy in the 2016 election, “As alleged by the grand jury in an indictment, Russian intelligence officers who are part of the Russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system.

“The indictment alleges that they used sophisticated cyber-techniques to hack into computers and networks used by the Clinton campaign. They stole private information and then released that information through fake online identities and through the organization WikiLeaks,” Mueller noted, adding, “ The releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate. And at the same time as the grand jury alleged in a separate indictment, a private Russian entity engaged in a social media operation where Russian citizens posed as Americans in order to influence an election.”

Second, he addressed obstruction of justice by the Executive Office, commenting, “When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.”

The second volume of the report describes the results and analysis of the special counsel’s obstruction of justice investigation involving the president.

Mueller then went on to confirm what President Donald Trump, Attorney General Bill Barr, and the G.O.P. have denied to date: “As set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.

He said that, although the investigative team could not clear Trump of obstruction of justice, they also could not charge him with a federal crime while he is in office. “That is unconstitutional,” Mueller explained.” Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited.”

Indeed, the special counsel said, “Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider … Beyond department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially—it would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.”

Mueller concluded by saying, “I will … [reiterate] the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple systemic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.”

Research contact: @RepJerryNadler

Trump cuts Kim summit short, with no agreement on denuclearization

March 1, 2019

“We are gonna win, win, win. We’re going to win with military, we’re going to win at the borders, we’re going to win with trade, we’re going to win at everything”—has just lost ground in his negotiations with Leader Kim Jong Un of North Korea.

Trump arrived in Vietnam this week entertaining high hopes that he and Kim would strike a deal on denuclearization. Such a pact would have positioned the president firmly in the winners’ circle among global leaders following a long-term standoff with the Asian military state.

But it didn’t happen: The second U.S.-NoKo summit in a year (following a June 2018 meeting in Singapore) ended without any agreement on February 28, The Hill reported.

“Sometimes you have to walk,” Trump said at a press conference in Hanoi, Vietnam. “This was just one of those times.”

Accord to The Hill’s report, Trump said the sticking point was sanctions, which Kim wanted lifted before taking all of the steps towards transparency that the United States was asking of him.

“It was about the sanctions,” Trump said at the media event. “Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that. They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that.”

Nonetheless, Trump said the summit was “very productive.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that the two leaders “discussed various ways to advance denuclearization and economic driven concepts.”

“No agreement was reached at this time, but their respective teams look forward to meeting in the future,” she added.

The lack of any tangible results could give fodder to critics who have accused Trump of holding summits with Kim that are nothing more than photo ops that boost the legitimacy of the North Korean dictator, the political news outlet noted.

The summit included a one-on-one meeting and dinner Wednesday night, followed by a one-on-one meeting and meeting with aides Thursday.

Signs that no agreement was within reach became clearer, The Hill reported,  a half-hour after a working lunch was supposed to start when the White House told reporters the summit would end earlier than expected. The schedule originally called for the lunch and a ceremony to sign a joint agreement, both of which were abruptly scrapped.

At the start of Thursday meeting, Kim said he was not “pessimistic” about the ability to reach a deal and that he had a “feeling that good results would come out” of the summit.

The stand-down couldn’t have come on a worse day politically for Trump, whose former “fixer” and personal attorney Michael Cohen took the opportunity to “correct the record” before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform simultaneously with the summit—calling Trump “a racist, a conman, and a thief” during nearly a full day of testimony.

“He was just disbarred by the State Supreme Court for lying & fraud. He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time. Using Crooked’s lawyer!” Trump tweeted, referring to Cohen adviser Lanny Davis, who once worked for former President Clinton.

Research contact: @rebecca_h_k

Trump parries with press on CIA report that MBS ordered Khashoggi murder

November 26, 2018

On Thanksgiving, President Donald Trump took time out from thanking himself for doing a wonderful job to say that the CIA did not reach a conclusion about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi—adding during a teleconference with U.S. military troops that Salman “regretted the death more than I do,” Politico reported.

The president previously had declined to listen to Turkey’s tape of the actual murder—or to confirm or deny reports that the CIA had concluded that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s assassination.

When asked who should be blamed instead, Trump said on the conference call from his residence and private club Mar-a-Lago, “maybe the world” because it’s a “vicious, vicious place,” and referenced oil prices as a reason not to punish Saudi Arabia further, according to pool reports.

Asked by a reporter if the CIA had a recording implicating Salman, Politico noted that the president responded: “I don’t want to talk about it. You’ll have to ask them.”

Later, he answered a question on the crown prince’s possible involvement by saying: “Whether he did or whether he didn’t, he denies it vehemently. His father denies, the king, vehemently. The CIA doesn’t say they did it. They do point out certain things, and in pointing out those things, you can conclude that maybe he did or maybe he didn’t.”

Comments from both the press and the public were, on the whole, critical of Trump’s refusal to denounce the Saudis during the holiday and the preceding week.

“He’s actually publicly lying about whether or not the US government and its intelligence agencies have concluded … that Khashoggi was murdered and by whom, MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow tweeted on 1 p.m. on November 23.

According to a November 23 report by The Hill, Turkey’s top ranking diplomat scorched President Trump on Friday, accusing him of turning a ‘blind eye’ to the killing of Washington Post journalist and Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi.

“Trump’s statements amount to him saying ‘I’ll turn a blind eye no matter what,'” Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said in an interview.

“Money isn’t everything. We must not move away from human values,” Çavuşoğlu added.

David Axelrod, director of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, tweeted, “For all his bravado @real Donald Trump has proven himself pathetically weak in the eyes of the world, heeling like a Chihuahua on the end of a gilded Saudi leash,” at 8:42 a.m. on November 22.

Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, commented, “The president’s failure to hold Saudi Arabia responsible in any meaningful way for the death of Jamal Khashoggi is just one more example of this White Houe’s retreat from American leadership on issues like human rights and protecting the free press.”

Finally, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) tweeted, “ … [It] is not in our national security interests to look the other way when it comes to the brutal murder of Mr. Jamal #Khashoggi.”

A poll conducted at the end of October by Axios/SurveyMonkey found that most Americans think President Trump hasn’t been tough enough on Saudi Arabia in response to the  Khashoggi by Saudi agents—with just one-third saying his response had been “about right” and only 5% thinking he had been too tough.

Research contact: @LilyStephens13

FBI investigates what seems to be a smear against Robert Mueller

November 1, 2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller last week asked the FBI to investigate a possible scam in which a woman threatened to allege he was guilty of sexual misconduct and harassment, according to an October 30 NBC News report.

The request came after several political reporters were contacted about doing a story on Mueller’s purported bad behavior.

Multiple reporters were contacted over the past few weeks by a woman, who said she had been offered money to claim she had been harassed by Mueller, who is heading up a  probe into possible conspiracy between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia in 2016.

After investigating, the Hill Reporter said, the journalists each independently determined that the allegations of misconduct and harassment were likely a hoax and that it was unclear if the woman had been offered money to make the claim. The reporters then contacted the special counsel’s office to divulge that they had been approached about the scheme, the network news outlet reported.

“When we learned last week of allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about the special counsel, we immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation,” said Peter Carr, spokesperson for the special counsel. 

While investigating the possibility of a hoax, the Hill Reporter’s Ed Krassenstein, who was one of the journalists contacted, revealed on October 30 that he had received threats, including a text message reading, “You’re in over your head…. Drop this” which included his and another editor’s home addresses.

Around the same time reporters began to be contacted about the misconduct allegations, Jack Burkman, a Republican lobbyist and radio host, began promoting, via his Facebook page, that he is investigating sexual misconduct and alcohol-related allegations against Mueller. On October 30, he tweeted that he would hold a press conference two days later to “reveal the first of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sex assault victims.”

Over the past two years, NBC News reported, Burkman has peddled a separate, evolving conspiracy theory that has blamed several different wild plots forthe death of Democratic staffer Seth Rich, who was shot on a Washington street in 2016 during an apparent botched robbery.

Krassenstein told NBC News he reached out to the special counsel’s office on Tuesday telling them what he knew about the scheme.  He also gave NBC News the phone numbers used by the woman alleging she was offered money to make the allegations, which were both disconnected.

Since then, Burkman has posted several more tweets, including one at 9:14 a.m. on October 31:” The woman to whom we allegedly offered payment—Lorraine Parsons—does not exist. The allegations are an outright joke. This entire backstory is a hoax designed to distract the nation from my press conference on Thursday, which is where all eyes need to be.”

Research contact: @brandyzadrozny