Posts tagged with "Special Counsel Robert Mueller"

FBI carries out predawn raid, arresting Roger Stone and searching his home

January 28, 2019

In a predawn video by CNN, armed FBI agents and local police were shown arriving at the home of longtime Trump adviser and associate Roger Stone to arrest him—in a marked departure from how Special Counsel Robert Mueller is known to have handled other players tied to the Russia probe.

According to CNN reporters stationed outside of Stone’s residence in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the authorities announced their presence while knocking on the door. The FBI agents also reportedly said they had a warrant to search the home.

President Donald Trump commented on Twitter, “Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country! NO COLLUSION! Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better. Who alerted CNN to be there?”

And White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CNN, “This has nothing to do with the president and certainly has nothing to do with the White House. This is something that has to do solely with that individual.”

Meanwhile, CNN clapped back, tweeting, “CNN’s ability to capture the arrest of Roger Stone was the result of determined reporting and interpreting clues revealed in the course of events. That’s called journalism.”

Based on the same report, former New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram commented,”There’s a reason” why the FBI arrested former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone “at the crack of dawn with agents fully armed,” even if the reason for that is unknown as of now. 

“This is a standard procedure to arrest someone when you don’t have a belief that they’ve come in voluntarily,” Milgram told CNN’s “New Day” on Friday morning. “… they clearly wanted the element of surprise.” 

A copy of the indictment by the Grand Jury for the District of Columbia was posted on The Hill. Stone is facing seven charges, including five counts of making false statements, one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, and one count of witness tampering.

“It’s clear that the Trump campaign was acting in a coordinated fashion to try to undermine this election and to try to get this information into public circulation,” Representative Dan Kildee (D-Michigan) told CNN’s Jim Sciutto.

“It’s pretty stunning to read these indictments … and compare them to the constant pronouncements the president has made. Clearly he has a distant relationship with the truth, but in this case he’s getting his wall: Unfortunately, it’s the wall that’s being built around him,” Kildee added.

Stone is the sixth associate of President Trump to be charged in connection with Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

A federal magistrate ruled that Stone could be released on a $250,000 signature bond. CNN reported that Stone told the judge that he does not have a current passport.

In a statement following the indictment, Stone said that would not plead guilty to the charges and believes that they are politically motivated. He also reinforced that he would not testify against the president.

Research contact: @davidgshortell

Beyond the point of no returns: Get Trump’s tax forms, progressive group tells House Dems

January 7, 2019

Americans for Tax Fairness—a coalition of more than 325 national, state, and local organizations that support progressive tax reform—reminded Democratic Congressional leaders this week about the “urgency of obtaining and publicly releasing President [Donald] Trump’s tax returns,” reminding them that “he broke decades of precedent and his own repeated promises by not making them public.

The group argued that Trump’s returns could shed light on “the complex financial structures and tax loopholes used by the wealthy.” They also believe the returns to be “the best source of answers to vital questions about Donald Trump’s presidency—including whether there are any conflicts of interest and/or foreign influences that could be adversely affecting his exercise of official duties.”

In fact, in a new 21-page white paper obtained by NBC News, the group—which the network describes as “a left-leaning organization backed by organized labor”— said that securing Trump’s tax returns “is an important public policy objective and a legitimate exercise of Congress’s oversight authority.”

As NBC News reported last month, Democrats plan to use a 1924 law26 U.S. Code § 6103—to compel Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to turn over Trump’s tax records to Representative Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), the newly designated chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The law appears to allow the committee to vote to make the returns public. Democrats say they expect that Mnuchin will not hand over the returns without a court fight, however.

Trump is the only major party nominee in the past four decades—other than President Gerald Ford— not to release his tax returns—and Ford released summaries of his returns. Trump has said he won’t release them because he is under audit.

House Democrats are pushing legislation that would require presidential candidates to release a decade of tax returns, aides told NBC News, but that bill’s chances of becoming law are uncertain.

The returns also are likely to provide information relevant to whether Trump’s public actions enhanced his private wealth, particularly in relation to his luxury Trump International hotel a few blocks from the White House, the report obtained by NBC News noted.

“The president has shown inexplicable deference to the leaders of foreign powers in conflict with the United States, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, raising the possibility that his business connections in those countries are influencing his conduct of American foreign policy and threatening national security,” the report says. “His tax returns and those of his business entities could provide evidence of foreign business connections that jeopardize his independence.”

“Obtaining the president’s tax returns is not some fishing expedition,” said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness. “The public has a right to know if the policies the president advocates are what he believes are in the best interest of the country or in the best interest of his personal finances.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment by NBC News.

Legal experts tell NBC News that Special Counsel Robert Mueller almost certainly already has obtained President Trump’s tax returns and other private business information as part of his investigation into whether Trump or his campaign coordinated with the 2016 Russian election interference operation.

But Mueller would not be able to make that information public unless it was relevant to a criminal case.

Research contact: @KenDilanianNBCAmericans

Flynn sentencing delayed following combative hearing

December 19, 2018

The former (and fleetingly ensconced) national security adviser for the Trump administration, Michael Flynn, is not off the hook yet.

Flynn—who admitted lying to the FBI in January 2017 about a conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in which he promised to relax U.S. sanctions; and who served as a foreign agent for Turkey concurrently with his day job at the White House—was scheduled to be sentenced on December 18 by Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

However, the sentencing for crimes investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team was postponed, Politico reported, after Judge Sullivan suggested that all sides wait until Flynn had finished cooperating with the Russia probe.

The surprise outcome came after an uncommonly combative hearing, during which Sullivan repeatedly admonished Flynn, telling him, “Arguably, you sold your country out.”

The court had been expected to go easy on Flynn, after sentencing guidelines by the Mueller team noted that his “history and characteristics,” along with his contributions to the investigation, presented “mitigating” circumstances. “The defendant deserves credit for accepting responsibility in a timely fashion and substantially assisting the government,” the document said.

“All along you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser to the president of the United States,” Sullivan said at Tuesday’s hearing. “Arguably, that undermines everything that flag over here stands for.”

According to Politico, after about an hour of back and forth with Flynn and his lawyers, as well as Mueller’s team, Sullivan called an abrupt recess to give Flynn and his lawyers more time to reconsider whether they wanted to proceed with the sentencing, indicating he was not always comfortable sentencing those who are still cooperating with authorities.

Sullivan also noted that he was not obliged to follow Mueller’s recommendation that Flynn get little or no prison time for pleading guilty.

“This is a very serious offense,” said Sullivan, who noted Flynn’s crime involved a high-ranking official of the government making false statements to the FBI “while on the physical premise of the White House.”

After the recess, the news outlet said, Flynn attorney Robert Kelner said they would accept Sullivan’s offer to postpone sentencing so they can “eek” out every drop of cooperation benefit. “We do not take it as a wink-wink, nod-nod,” Kelner said.

“I’m not promising anything,” Sullivan replied.

For his part, Politico said, Flynn initially had said he didn’t want to take Sullivan up on his offer to postpone his sentencing hearing. “I appreciate that, but no your honor,” the former Trump official said.

After running through some housekeeping issues related to the Flynn case, including setting the March 13 date for the next status conference, Sullivan adjourned the hearing with a “happy holidays.”

Research contact: @dsamuelsohn

Trump: Contacts with Russia are just ‘peanut stuff’

December 18, 2018

The president admits that he sees “the elephant in the room”—that is, his campaign associates’ frequent contacts with Russian oligarchs, lawyers, and government officials. However, Donald Trump told Reuters last week during an interview, it was all just “peanut stuff,” despite his earlier blanket denials of any such interactions.

Indeed, during a February 2017 news conference covered by Breitbart, President Trump said, “Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia …. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.”

Now—more than two years after the 2016 election and about 18 months into the Mueller investigation—court filings, public statements, and news reports indicate that at least 16 Trump associates had contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign or transition.

It has been thoroughly demonstrated that the president and his associates reached out to Russia in many ways:  via face-to-face meetings; direct phone calls, text messages, emails, and video chats; and through a host of intermediaries.

However, as CNN reports, all of those who made the contacts—from former White House officials, to his personal lawyer, to his own son and daughter—uniformly deny participating in any “collusion” with the Russians.

The Reuters interview came a day ahead of the sentencing hearing in New York’s Southern District Court for Trump’s personal lawyer and “fixer,” Michael Cohen—who was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in hush-money cover-ups during the campaign, as well as for other felonies. What’s more, Cohen’s testimony to Robert Mueller about the president’s involvement with Russia represents a ticking time bomb that could explode within weeks, doing damage to everyone in Trump’s inner circle.

Trump, during the Reuters interview, criticized Cohen for cooperating with prosecutors and called for his former personal lawyer to receive a long sentence.

Research contact: @maeganvaz

Feds look at Trump inaugural fund and super PAC for illegal foreign donations

December 17, 2018

When President Donald Trump was sworn in on January 22, 2017, his first instinct was to place his right hand on his own book, The Art of the Deal, rather than the Bible. Looking back, some might say that the how-to book would have been the better choice, in light of the financial machinations that allegedly took place leading up to that day.

Federal prosecutors in New York now are investigating whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to Trump’s inaugural committee and to a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of “buying influence” in the administration, The New York Times reports.

That would pose a big problem for the White House, because U.S. law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees, and inaugural funds.

The inquiry has focused in on money emanating from nations in the Middle East—including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Prosecutors are interested in finding out if entities from those nations used “straw donors” to disguise their donations to the two funds.

Thomas Barrack Jr., a billionaire financier and a longtime associate of Trump’s, raised money for both funds—but his spokesperson, Owen Blicksilver, told the news outlet, “Tom has never talked with any foreign individual or entity for the purposes of raising money for or obtaining donations related to … the campaign, the inauguration, or any such political activity.”

The super PAC, Rebuilding America Now, was formed in June 2016—during a period when the Trump presidential campaign reportedly was short of cash and out of favor with Republican donors. While Trump was adamant that he could finance his own campaign, he refused to dig too deeply into his own pockets.

According to several Times sources, Paul Manafort, the campaign manager at the time, suggested that Barrack step in to raise funds for the PAC, which could collect unlimited amounts of money as long as it avoided coordinating closely with the candidate.

However, in an interview with investigators a year ago, the Times said, Barrack commented that Manafort seemed to view the political committee as an arm of the campaign, despite laws meant to prevent such coordination, according to a person familiar with the interview.

In fact, Manafort asked two campaign aides, Laurance Gay and Ken McKay, to help run the operation. A press officer said at the time that the committee violated no rules because the campaign never paid the two men. Neither man returned repeated phone calls from the Times seeking comment.

According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, the committee raised $23 million and provided funds for Trump advertisements, polls, and other political expenditures. While most of the money came from U.S. donors, prosecutors have asked witnesses whether anyone from the Middle East also contributed to the kitty, perhaps using American intermediaries to cover the transactions.

After the election, the Trump campaign had money rolling in, raising an astounding $107 million for the inauguration—four times as much as the pro-Trump PAC and twice as much as the amount raised for President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.

Today, the question remains, how was that money used for Trump’s much smaller-scale inaugural event—and what happened to any unspent dollars?

Last week, for the first time, Ivanka Trump became publicly involved in the POTUS’s election probe.  According to reports by Newsweek and ProPublica, she hiked the rates for the meeting rooms and the ballrooms at the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC specifically during the days that visitors to the inauguration would be in the city. Any extra profits would have gone straight to the Trump Organization.

The inaugural committee complied with all laws and “has not been contacted by any prosecutors,” Blicksilver, who is also a spokesman for the fund, told The New York Times. Its finances “were fully audited internally and independently,” and donors were fully vetted and disclosed to the Federal Election Commission, as required, he said.

That remains to be seen. If there has been an audit, there is no external evidence of it. Although many news outlets, including the Times, have requested a copy of the financial analysis, none has been made available.

However, prosecutors certainly would be able to obtain those documents, if they exist.

Research contact: @nytimes

CNN poll: 50% of Americans think probe will implicate the president

December 12, 2018

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election focuses in on the denizens of the White House, approval of the president’s conduct has dwindled—matching its all-time low in CNN polling, the cable news network reported on December 11.

In the new poll, Trump’s approval rating for handling the Russia investigation has dipped to 29%, matching a low previously hit in June of this year.

The findings, from a poll fielded on behalf of CNN by SSRS, come as half of Americans say they think it is likely that the Mueller investigation will implicate the president in wrongdoing.

The survey was conducted December 6-9—at a time when court filings in cases against Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen revealed the alleged lies that Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and former personal lawyer, respectively, told either publicly or to the special counsel’s investigators.

President Trump claimed last weekend that the filings by the SCO and the federal court in the Southern District of New York cleared him of any wrongdoing and called for the investigation to end, CNBC reports.

However, the news outlet says, the Cohen filing implicates Trump in the scheme to pay off at least two women who alleged they had had affairs with Trump in order to keep them silent during the campaign; and the Manafort filing suggests the former campaign chair continued to lie about his contacts with the White House this year.

Interestingly enough, Mueller’s approval rating also is down in the poll: 43% approve and 40% disapprove. That compares to a 48% approve to 36% disapprove split in early October. The dip in Mueller’s numbers comes almost entirely among Independents, among whom approval has fallen 10 points to 36%. Among partisans on both sides, Mueller’s approval holds about even with where it was in an October survey: 71% of Democrats approve as do 21% of Republicans.

Trump’s approval rating drop, however, comes among his own partisans as well as among independents. Among Republicans, 51% approve of Trump’s handling of the investigation, a new low by one point, while among independents, 26% approve, also a new low. Just 15% of Democrats approve of the president’s handling of the investigation, up from October but about on par with the level who felt that way earlier this year.

Overall, a majority (54%) continue to say that most of the things Trump has said publicly about the Russia investigation are false, while just over one-third say they are mostly true (36%). That’s largely unchanged since August.

There has also been no meaningful change on whether the investigation itself is a serious matter or mainly an effort to discredit Trump’s presidency: 59% say it’s a serious matter, 35% an effort to discredit Trump.

Half of Americans think it is very or somewhat likely that the Mueller investigation will implicate Trump personally in wrongdoing. That figure is higher among Democrats (78% say it’s likely), but still, nearly a quarter of Republicans think Trump is likely to be personally implicated (23%) as do about half of independents (47%). Aside from partisanship there’s a stark divide here by education among whites, with 58% of whites with college degrees saying they think Trump is likely to be implicated vs. 43% of whites without degrees.

Looking at Michael Cohen’s recent revelation that work continued on a potential project in Russia during the 2016 campaign, 44% believe Trump acted unethically in considering projects in Russia during the campaign, 26% say it was unwise but not unethical, and 23% say there was nothing wrong with Trump’s action.

Trump’s overall approval rating for handling the presidency matches its pre-election level just about exactly, 39% approve and 52% disapprove. Trump’s favorability rating is also steady at 40% favorable to 55% unfavorable.

Research contact: @jennagiesta

In 2016, Manafort held secret talks with Wikileaks’ Assange in Ecuadorian embassy

November 28, 2018

President Donald Trump’s former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he had sought asylum—and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, The Guardian reported on November 27.

Manafort’s March 2016 visit to Assange lasted about 40 minutes, a source told the news outlet. Just two months later, in June 2016, WikiLeaks emailed Russian intelligence (the GRU) via an intermediary—seeking DNC materials. After failed attempts, Vladimir Putin’s spies sent the Democrats’ documents in mid-July to WikiLeaks as an encrypted attachment.

What’s more, this was not Manafort’s first visit to Assange. The Guardian’s “well-placed” source said that Manafort previously had visited Assanage at the embassy in 2013 and 2015.

Indeed, The Guardian reported, Manafort’s acquaintance with Assange goes back at least five years, to late 2012 or 2013, when the American was working in Ukraine and advising its Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych.

However, it is the 2016 encounter that is especially likely to come under scrutiny by Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Just this week, Mueller said that Manafort had “repeatedly lied to the FBI” after he promised to cooperate with the probe in mid-September. The former campaign manager now has been referred by Mueller to the court for sentencing. Whether the secret tête-à-tête in London already has been investigated Mueller’s team is unknown.

According to The Guardian’s report, Manafort, 69, denies involvement in the hack and says the claim is “100% false”. His lawyers declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about the visits.

His defense team says he believes what he has told Mueller to be truthful and has not violated his deal.

One key question is when the Trump campaign, itself, became aware of the Kremlin’s hacking operation—and what, if anything, it did to encourage it. President Trump repeatedly has denied collusion

One person familiar with WikiLeaks said Assange was motivated to damage the Democrats campaign because he believed a future Trump administration would be less likely to seek his extradition on possible charges of espionage. This fate had hung over Assange since 2010, when he released confidential U.S. State Department cables. It contributed to his decision to take refuge in the embassy.

According to the dossier written by the former MI6 Officer Christopher Steele, The Guardian reports, Manafort was at the center of a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the Trump campaign and Russia’s leadership. The two sides had a mutual interest in defeating Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Steele wrote, whom Putin “hated and feared.”

Research contact: @lukeharding1968

In court filing, Mueller reveals how he may use Trump’s Twitter feed against him

November 23, 2018

In a seven-page court document filed on November 21 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia—which recommends denying the motion of defendant George Papadopoulos for continued bail—Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller sent a clear message that if, the targets of his investigation post messages on Twitter, those tweets will come back to haunt them, Inquisitr reported.

Mueller’s team is monitoring their Twitter feeds. That message that could spell danger for President Donald Trump, whom, experts say, is the author of many tweets that could incriminate him.

As Inquisitr reported (and the court document detailed), Papadopoulos was told in April 2016 by a Russia-linked academic about “thousands” of hacked Democratic emails containing “dirt” on opposition candidate Hillary Clinton that were in the Russian government’s possession, a fact about which he lied to FBI investigators.

Papadopolous pled guilty last year to lying to the FBI in connection with the Russia investigation, and is scheduled to start serving a 14-day sentence on November 26. The short sentence resulted from a plea deal the Papadopoulos struck with Mueller, in which he agreed to cooperate with the Russia probe.

But, the Inquisitr said, in recent weeks, Papadopoulos has taken to Twitter to claim that he was “framed.”

Mueller cited Papadopoulos’s tweets specifically in his filing, saying, “For example, on October 25, 2018, the defendant publicly tweeted that his prosecution constituted ‘the biggest case of entrapment.’”

The court document went on to detail that, several days later, the defendant publicly tweeted: “I have been sentenced to prison in our country while having exculpatory evidence hidden from me. If I knew what I knew today, I would have never plead guilty.”

On November 9, 2018, the defendant tweeted, “Biggest regret? Pleading guilty.”

In Mueller’s filing, he noted that tweets posted by Papadopoulos since he was sentenced on September 8 “appear to be inconsistent with his stated acceptance of responsibility at sentencing.

Mueller specifically cited a Twitter post in which the former Trump campaign adviser stated that pleading guilty constituted his “biggest regret.”

The use of Twitter as substantiation of guilt by the Russia investigation does not bode well for President Trump. For example, in his tweet on 8:35 a.m. on August 5, the president tried to defend the June 2016 meeting with Kremlin-connected Russians who claimed to have “dirt” on Clinton that they hoped the campaign could use.

“Fake News reporting,” the Trump tweet said, continuing, “…a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it.”

What’s more, the list of questions for Trump drawn up by Mueller’s team may have been based directly on a number of Trump’s tweets.

Perhaps most notably, the questions also suggest that Mueller has been paying close attention to Trump’s Twitter feed,” Quartz reported at that time, adding, “Trump has already tweeted about many incidents relevant to Mueller’s inquiries, which might make it that much more difficult for Trump (and his lawyers) to skirt the questions.”

Research contact: @jonvankin

 

Democrats file suit impugning Whitaker appointment

November 20, 2018

Three Democratic senators filed a lawsuit on November 19 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the appointment of Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, and in doing so, ratcheting up the court effort to declare his placement atop the Justice Department as unconstitutional, CNN reported.

Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii filed the suit, represented by the groups Protect Democracy and the Constitutional Accountability Center.

The lawsuit is only the latest challenge to Whitaker’s appointment to replace former AG Jeff Sessions after President Donald Trump fired his attorney general the day after the election.

In a joint statement, the senators said, “On November 7, President Trump appointed Whitaker to oversee the Department of Justice–including the Special Counsel’s investigation—in violation of the Constitution’s Appointments Clause. The Senators’ complaint asks the Court to declare Whitaker’s appointment unconstitutional and to enjoin him from serving as, or carrying out the duties of, Acting Attorney General.”

Senator Blumenthal personally commented, “Installing Matthew Whitaker so flagrantly defies constitutional law that any viewer of School House Rock would recognize it. Americans prize a system of checks and balances, which President Trump’s dictatorial appointment betrays.”

He said. “President Trump is denying Senators our constitutional obligation and opportunity to do our job: scrutinizing the nomination of our nation’s top law enforcement official. The reason is simple: Whitaker would never pass the advice and consent test. In selecting a so-called “constitutional nobody” and thwarting every Senator’s constitutional duty, Trump leaves us no choice but to seek recourse through the courts.”

For his part, Senator Whitehouse noted, The stakes are too high to allow the president to install an unconfirmed lackey to lead the Department of Justice – a lackey whose stated purpose, apparently, is undermining a major investigation into the president.  Unless the courts intercede, this troubling move creates a plain road map for persistent and deliberate evasion by the executive branch of the Senate’s constitutionally mandated advice and consent.  Indeed, this appointment appears planned to accomplish that goal.”

Senator Hirono, an outspoken opponent of the administration, stated, “Donald Trump cannot subvert the Constitution to protect himself and evade accountability. We want the court to make clear that the Senate must confirm Matthew Whitaker’s appointment as Acting Attorney General—otherwise this temporary appointment violates the Constitution’s Appointments Clause. Without exception for President Trump’s allies, principal officers who report directly to the president must be subject to a hearing and confirmed by the Senate.”

Last week, the Justice Department issued a memo defending Whitaker’s appointment, concluding that it was legally justified under the Vacancies Reform Act.

The Senate Democrats’ lawsuit, however, argues that his appointment his unconstitutional under the Constitution’s Appointments Clause requiring Senate confirmation of high-level federal appointees, CNN reported.

In addition to the lawsuit filed Monday, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh filed suit last week asking a federal judge to replace Whitaker with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Research contact: @jeremyherb

Standoff on Special Counsel Act persists between Flake and McConnell

November  19, 2018

Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona)—who is leaving the U.S. Congress in December, but flirting with a primary run against President Trump in 2020—has everything to win and little to lose. Last week, he pushed that advantage by taking to the Senate floor with across-the-aisle colleague Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware.) in an attempt to secure immediate passage of S. 2644, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act.

The bill, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in April by a bipartisan vote of 14-7, once again was blocked by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who continues to say that the legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is not necessary because the probe is not under pressure.

However, following the president’s removal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions one day after the midterm elections—and subsequent appointment of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, a White House acolyte—Flake asserted, “The president now has this investigation in his sights and we all know it.”

And he backed that assertion with two threats: One further note on this unanimous consent request: because it has failed today, Senator Coons and I are prepared to raise it again and again, until there is a vote on this vital bipartisan legislation on the Senate floor. And I have informed the Majority Leader that I will not vote to advance any of the 21 judicial nominees pending in the Judiciary Committee, or vote to confirm the 32 judges awaiting a confirmation vote on the floor, until S. 2644 is brought to the full Senate for a vote.”

At a closed-door lunch on the following day, November 15, both Flake and McConnell were equally implacable. “It’s a standoff,” said a Republican senator who attended the lunch, in an interview with The Hill.

According to the political news outlet, McConnell argued at the lunch meeting that the legislation would chew up precious floor time during the lame-duck session and leave less time for must-pass bills such as the unfinished spending bills and the farm bill, according to sources familiar with the conversation.

Flake, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, didn’t buy that argument. Flake argued that the bill could be dealt with in a day as long as other members of the GOP conference didn’t object to it and force McConnell to waste time getting through a filibuster.

Some Republican senators floated the compromise of crafting some kind of non-binding resolution that would express support for protecting Mueller and future special counsels from unjustified dismissal. But Flake rejected that option, too, The Hill reported.

Asked Thursday if fellow GOP senators are unhappy with his hardball approach to getting a vote, Flake said, “That’s a safe assumption.”

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) held over 15 judicial nominees at a committee business meeting Thursday after Flake declared he would block them. Speaking to reporters afterward, Grassley said he didn’t think he could move any more nominees without Flake’s support, unless he can convince Democrats on the panel to vote with him.

As the impasse continued, a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey found that 40% of likely U.S. voters believe Mueller’s investigation should be closed. Fifty-one percent (51%) think the probe of Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election should continue.

Research contact: @alexanderbolton