Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America applaud the Justice Department for prosecuting a Treasury Department employee for giving sensitive information to the media. They’re also pleasantly surprised to see Mexico getting serious about screening the caravan of Hondurans hoping to reach the United States. And they slam Twitter for it’s absurd double standards, as conservatives get suspended or banned on a regular basis but Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan gets no punishment for referring to Jews as “termites.”
After venting about their run-ins with government bureaucracy, Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America dive into three crazy martinis related to the Justice Department’s Inspector General report. They marvel at the mountain of obvious political bias inside the FBI during the 2016 campaign and that the IG does not believe that bias affected the Hillary Clinton investigation. They also shudder at the lack of ethics that the media used to obtain classified information from FBI officials. And they find it really difficult to comprehend that former FBI Director James Comey didn’t know that Clinton’s former top aide Huma Abedin is married to disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner.
The House Freedom Caucus is increasingly frustrated with the Justice Department refusing to hand over documents critical to the investigation into the 2016 campaign and with its own Republican leadership on issues ranging from immigration to spending and more.
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., is a member of the House Freedom Caucus and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He says the Justice Department is dragging its feet on turning over documents related to many different aspects of the 2016 campaign and the ongoing Mueller probe.
“(It’s) everything to be quite honest with you because the investigations into Hillary Clinton as well as the presidential campaign have shown there is egregious overreach here. but one of the key points is what the scope of this (Mueller) investigation actually is.
“We see Mr. Mueller on a fishing expedition, trying to get anybody and everybody tagged into a crime that they create,” said Gosar.
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C, is leading the charge for a second special counsel to be named so that person could impanel a grand jury and bring possible criminal charges on a range of issues.
However, Gosar says that is unlikely to happen since he believes the Justice Department is trying to “wait out the clock.” When asked whether that meant letting the Mueller investigation play out or see if Democrats win a majority in one or both chambers of Congress, Gosar suggested it was both.
“A Pelosi-borne House cancels all these processes,” said Gosar, noting that his goal is to make sure “the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C, aren’t being held to a different standard than people out in the real world.”
Gosar and other House Freedom Caucus members are also furious with how Republican leaders are handling the immigration issue as proponents of a DACA amnesty near the 218 signatures needed to force the issue on the House floor.
The congressman blasts leadership for repeatedly promising to put the far more conservative Goodlatte bill on the floor for a vote but never making good on the vow. That plan would only grant legal status to DACA enrollees, rather than a path to citizenship. It would also limit chain migration to the immediate family, cancel the visa lottery, mandate E-Verify for all hires in the U.S. and beef up border security.
He also says leaders have reneged on promises to bring a bill to the floor focused solely on scrapping the visa lottery.
“Trust is a series of promises kept. Leadership has drug its feet repeatedly on this aspect,” said Gosar.
GOP leaders are pleading with members not to sign the discharge petition, but Gosar says the alternative offered by leadership is equally unacceptable.
“We were presented with an idea. They would go forward with the Goodlatte bill but we had to agree to a rule vote that not only brought up the Goodlatte bill but brought up an immigration bill to be named later as well. No one in their right mind actually does that,” said Gosar.
Freedom Caucus members held up the latest farm bill in protest of the leadership’s performance on immigration but also to protest what they expect to be significant watering down of the farm bill in the Senate.
Gosar says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has no intention of fighting to keep welfare work requirements in the legislation but does plan to push hard for legalizing industrial hemp.
Gosar says it’s another example of leaders unilaterally deciding what legislation will look like, just as House and Senate leaders hammered out an agreement for the $1.3 trillion omnibus earlier this year.
The congressman says new GOP leadership is desperately needed but there will be no leadership elections anytime soon because current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy cannot get 218 Republicans to support him.
A former federal prosecutor says Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s threat to subpoena President Trump shows a Justice Department in need of “adult supervision” and says the Mueller questions leaked to the media show that Mueller still hasn’t found a crime to prosecute.
Mueller’s prosecutors and Trump lawyers have been negotiating the terms of a voluntary interview, but Mueller is now threatening a subpoena if Trump does not commit to the session.
Andrew C. McCarthy served as a prosecutor in the Southern District of New York and led the case against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and others for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and plots against other New York City landmarks.
McCarthy says the subpoena threat shows this process is off the rails.
“We’re not having adult supervision in the Justice Department,” said McCarthy, who asserts that proper oversight would not allow the subpoena of lesser figures without clear evidence of a crime.
“You’d have to go through hoops at the Justice Department for permission to serve (a subpoena to), say, a journalist.
“With a president, the prosecutor should not be permitted to even ask for an interview, much less coerce the appearance of the president with a subpoena unless he can show there is a serious crime that Trump is implicated in and that can’t be accessed through any other source, like Nixon with the tapes,” said McCarthy.
“If you don’t have that kind of a scenario, then you as a prosecutor don’t have any business asking the president to answer some questions because you think it would be interesting. The Justice Department is supposed to be the body that steps in and makes sure that kind of stuff doesn’t happen,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein established Mueller as special counsel “in a panic” after the Trump administration “completely botched” the firing of FBI Director James Comey by offering conflicting reasons for his termination.
Nonetheless, DOJ guidelines are clear on this matter.
“The appointment was not in compliance with Justice Department regulations for appointing a special counsel because you’re supposed to have a basis for a criminal investigation, which they didn’t. They assigned Mueller a counterintelligence investigation
“But [Rosenstein] also, according to published reports, committed to congressional Democrats that Mueller would have carte blanche to take the investigation wherever Mueller decided the facts went,” said McCarthy.
So what is Trump to do if Mueller does subpoena his testimony? McCarthy says there are strong grounds for executive privilege.
“This is a prosecutor. He doesn’t work for Congress. He’s an inferior executive official who has a very narrow license to ask questions and conduct investigations in furtherance of probing a crime. And if you don’t have a crime, he doesn’t get to ask superior executive officials a bunch of questions,” said McCarthy, likening a Mueller subpoena to a subordinate military officer making demands of a superior officer.
McCarthy says it’s also clear to him that Mueller still hasn’t found a crime based on the questions Mueller reportedly passed along to Trump. Instead, he sees Mueller hunting for a motivation to obstruct justice in Trump’s actions to fire Comey, etc.
McCarthy says a sitting president can be targeted if he commits an illegal act but cannot be probed for why he committed a legal act.
However, the strongest defense for Trump against any allegations of obstruction is that no investigations have been obstructed.
“If you look at what happened here, whether you’re thinking about him weighing in on the (Michael) Flynn case or him firing Comey, there was no obstruction whatsoever. The Russia investigation has never been sidetracked. It continued apace.
“After Trump weighed in with Comey on the merits of prosecuting Flynn, Comey has testified that the FBI ignored what the president said. We now know that Mueller picked up the investigation, ran with it and ultimately prosecuted and convicted Flynn. So there was no obstruction here,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy says there is damage to the presidency from Mueller hunting down sinister motives by Trump.
“It’s a frivolous basis to conduct an investigation under circumstances where it really hurts the country to have the president under the cloud of suspicion,” said McCarthy.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America enjoy two good martinis today, starting with the Justice Department referring former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe for criminal prosecution after the inspector general accused McCabe of “lacking candor” under oath four times. They also applaud North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp for backing the nomination of Mike Pompeo for secretary of state. It may be an election year ploy, but it’s still the right decision. And they shake their heads as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls himself an undocumented immigrant who was raised by poor immigrants, none of which is true. It’s reminiscent of Cuomo declaring himself black, Muslim, Jewish, gay, and a woman not long ago while also stating there is no room for pro-life, pro-gun, or pro-traditional marriage conservatives in New York.
The memo alleging major missteps by the FBI and Justice Department will not likely result in criminal charges, but a former federal prosecutor says that doesn’t mean the issues at stake are any less serious and he says law enforcement officials have done a terrible job explaining the Russia investigation to the American people.
On Friday, the memo from Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee accused FBI and Justice Department officials of obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance, or FISA, warrant on American Carter Page based on a discredited dossier. They also allege officials failed to tell the FISA judge that the contents of the dossier had not been verified and that it had been paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
The GOP memo also quotes former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe as testifying the warrant never would have been issues without presenting the dossier as probable cause.
But is any of this likely to result in criminal prosecution?
“I doubt that they’ve committed a criminal offense. More likely, what they’ve done is violate court rules and norms for the Justice Department’s performance when it refers evidence to the court and asks for use of the court’s processes like warrants,” said Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor and a contributing editor at National Review.
McCarthy says prosecution in these cases is unlikely unless it rises to “an egregious level” of obstructing or perverting justice. But he says these allegations are still serious and could carry some major repercussions.
“It’s a very serious matter and can be grist for all kinds of administrative discipline and even impeachment,” said McCarthy.
He says it’s the difference between abuse of power and criminal conduct.
“There are some varieties of abuse of power that we address in the criminal law but there are many we don’t. That doesn’t mean that the abuses are less serious than crimes,” said McCarthy.
One of McCarthy’s greatest frustrations lies in what he sees as the FBI and Justice Department needlessly confusing the American people on what the Russia investigation led by Robert Mueller is all about.
McCarthy does not believe that the memo is grounds for scrapping the Mueller probe, but he says it’s understandable why people are reaching that conclusion.
“It’s the fault of the FBI and the Justice Department that they’re taking that position,” said McCarthy, who says the government announced a counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 campaign and that part of the probe would look at any Trump campaign officials who had improper ties to the Kremlin.
“That was a completely inappropriate thing to say publicly because the FBI and the Justice Department should never comment on whether investigations are going on and if they are going on what the focus on them is. The government’s not supposed to talk about investigations,” said McCarthy.
“The real problem is that by doing it the way they did it, they conflated in the public mind the overarching Mueller mission…with this whole idea of a Trump-Russian collusion angle.
“And since in the public mind those two things are the same, then it’s perfectly understandable that people would say that if the Trump-Russia collusion angle is a complete fabrication and that a lot of it was built on this dossier, that Mueller’s investigation is illegitimate. I don’t think that’s true but I can see how they feel that way.
They feel that way because of what the FBI and Justice Department said about this investigation, which was very misleading and very wrong,” said McCarthy.
The Democrats’ counter-memo is likely to be the next development in this political drama. But McCarthy remains skeptical of their motivation in this investigation.
“What I’m afraid of is that it’ll just be a partisan political attack. The reason I say that is not just because they’re Democrats and that’s what they do, although I must say on some level I do believe that.
“The other reason I’m fearful is that they were invited by the majority of the intelligence committee to make additions or changes to the [GOP] memo. They really didn’t want to cooperate in it. I think they just wanted to attack it in a partisan way,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy says there are only two possible reasons for Democrats not to cooperate and try to add the context to the memo that they claim is sorely missing.
“The fact they didn’t do that suggests to me either that it doesn’t exist or they would rather package it in a way that was more of a partisan attack than an effort to get out one document that more fully explained what we’re dealing with,” said McCarthy.
He also cautions Americans following the story to be prepared for frustrations at how difficult it is to make more information public, noting that intelligence investigations are necessarily secretive so as not to damage national security and intelligence interests.
In addition to the response from Democrats, McCarthy says the significance of the memo and more will depend on exactly the role the dossier played in securing the FISA warrant.
“If they had other information that would have supported the issuance of a FISA warrant, then the use of the Steele dossier is much less important.
“But if the Steele dossier was critical to getting the warrant issued, that means the government brought to a court information that was unverified and uncorroborated to get surveillance authority – in essence to spy on one presidential campaign with what turns out to be opposition research that was provided to the government by the other presidential campaign,” said McCarthy.
Rep. Jim Jordan says the connection between the Democrats and an anti-Trump dossier is well established and he says the big questions now are whether the dossier was the grounds for a FISA warrant to conduct surveillance on the Trump campaign and whether the FBI and Justice Department used it as an “insurance policy” against a Trump presidency.
Last week, Jordan and other lawmakers grilled Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team, with a special emphasis on recently fired FBI official Peter Strzok and recently demoted Justice Department official Bruce Ohr.
Strzok was fired by Mueller, allegedly for his barrage of anti-Trump text messages to his mistress, FBI attorney Lisa Page. However, in addition to the political chatter came a Strzok text suggesting he expected Trump to lose the election but was planning to take action if the GOP nominee won.
“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” texted Strzok. “It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40,” he added in a text dated Aug. 15, 2016.
Jordan thinks there is a major story behind that text and likely explains why Mueller kicked Strzok to the curb in the Russia probe.
“Remember, Peter Strzok is Mr. Super Agent Guy at the FBI. He ran the Clinton (email) investigation, interviewed (Cheryl) Mills, (Huma) Abedin, and Sec. Clinton. He’s the guy who did the famous exoneration letter that changed the term ‘gross negligence’ – a crime – to ‘extreme carelessness.’ He’s also the guy who ran the Russia investigation and interviewed Mike Flynn.
“So he gets kicked off the Mueller team and we’re told it’s because of anti-Trump text messaging and Lisa Page. My belief is it’s got to be more than that. Because as I said in committee a couple of weeks ago, if you kicked everyone off the Mueller team who is anti-Trump, you wouldn’t have anybody left,” said Jordan.
So what might be the real reason for Strzok’s dismissal?
“It has to be something more and my contention is it goes to the dossier, the dossier that I believe was used for securing the warrants to spy on Americans, the dossier that was put into the application that was taken to the FISA court to get warrants to spy on Americans associated with the Trump campaign.
“I believe Peter Strzok, who was the deputy head of counterintelligence at the FBI and ran both the Clinton and Russia investigations, probably has his fingerprints all over that application,” alleged Jordan.
While Strzok’s direct involvement with the dossier has yet to be proved, Jordan says the FBI’s connection to the dossier seems pretty clear.
“Did they pay Christopher Steele, the guy who wrote the dossier? It’s been reported that he was reimbursed by the FBI. Why are they paying the guy who was paid at the same time by the Clinton campaign. If the answer to that question is yes, I think that shows that this took place,” said Jordan.
He says the rest of the money trail is very well established.
“The Clinton campaign and the DNC paid Russians to influence the campaign. They paid the law firm, who paid Fusion GPS, who paid Christopher Steele, who took that money and paid Russians to get false information that was used to go get warrants to spy on Americans.
Jordan adds that if the FBI did pay for the dossier, the other lingering question is even more troubling.
“If that in fact happened, that definitely shows there was an effort to go after the Trump people and the Trump campaign with this ridiculous report the Clinton campaign paid for that we call a dossier,” said Jordan, who is stunned that Mueller is spending all his energies looking at possible crimes on the GOP side of this campaign.
“[The Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee] paid Russians with campaign dollars to influence the election and what’s Mueller’s investigation looking at? The other campaign,” said Jordan.
When it comes to Bruce Ohr, at first blush there appears to be circumstantial evidence of impropriety, as a result of Ohr’s consultation with Fusion GPS Co-Founder Glenn Simpson and the revelation that Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS during the final months of the campaign.
Jordan says it goes a lot deeper than that.
“His wife not only worked there, she was hired specifically for the Russian project. Second, Bruce Ohr met with Christopher Steele during the campaign. So at the same time the DNC is paying Christopher Steele to put together this dossier, he’s also meeting with a top Justice official. That’s kind of strange,” said Jordan.
But he says the unlikely coincidences keep coming, mostly notably the post-election meeting between Ohr and Simpson.
“Did they meet to get their story straight and get their story straight and figure out, ‘We did this. What do we have to do to correct it and get our story straight.’ Or – maybe and – did they meet to say, ‘Maybe it’s time to double down. Maybe it’s time to go after President-Elect Trump,” said Jordan.
Jordan is increasingly confident his suspicions are correct given that the “unmasking” of Trump campaign officials began during the transition period.
“Never forget, it was during the transition, from Election Day until Inauguration Day, that we started to see all of this unmasking and all of these leaks from the intelligence community,” said Jordan, suggesting that timeline alone requires detailed testimony from Ohr.
Jordan says Congress will continue to pursue answers, beginning with deposing Strzok, Ohr, Page, and Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. He also wants to see the FISA application and what evidence was submitted to obtain warrants. He also wants all of this to take place in public so the American people can evaluate the facts for themselves.
The congressman also demands a second special counsel to look into all this since – if there’s any fire to the smoke – the Justice Department and FBI are incapable of investigating the matter.
“I don’t like special counsels. I never have. But I don’t know any other remedy,” said Jordan.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America react to a new Fox News report showing another link between the Justice Department and Fusion GPS, the firm that compiled the campaign dossier on Donald Trump. They also react to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand insisting President Trump resign, Trump blasting Gillibrand on Twitter, and many on the left accusing Trump’s tweet of being sexual harassment. Jim says the whole spectacle shows that Trump and Gillibrand deserve each other. And they have little sympathy for the family of the Port Authority bomber, as they gripe about the aggressiveness of the investigation into the attempted terrorist attack.