Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America welcome Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein confirming that Attorney General Bill Barr is conducting due diligence in redacting classified information and grand jury information before releasing the Mueller report and that Barr’s letter to Congress accurately captured the conclusions in the report. They also scold Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for letting his personal animosity against former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli obstruct President Trump from possibly making a great choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security. And they react to former FBI Director Jim Comey’s pathetic claim that conducting electronic surveillance isn’t really spying.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are enjoying Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono getting so much television time. One week after telling all men to “shut up” and admitting she was fine keeping the Supreme Court seat vacant, she admits to CNN that she doesn’t believe Kavanaugh’s denials on sexual misconduct allegations because she doesn’t like the way he rules on cases and fears he would overturn Roe v. Wade. They also blast the “New Yorker” for actually publishing a story from a second “accuser,” despite the fact the accuser could not definitively name Kavanaugh for the misconduct, all named witnesses had no knowledge of the incident in question, and the accuser actually told former classmates in the past week that she wasn’t sure she was targeted by Kavanaugh. And they get dizzy from all the reports that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is on the verge of resigning or being fired.
A federal judge blasted the special counsel investigation of Robert Mueller Friday, accusing the former FBI director of assuming “unfettered” authority and maintaining control of the Paul Manafort prosecution solely to squeeze out incriminating information about President Trump.
And a former federal prosecutor says this was an “unprecedented rebuke” of Mueller and his team, as well as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe.
“This was a smashmouth takedown,” said Joe diGenova, a former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. “To question the integrity, in essence, of Mr. Mueller, because of the nature of the case that he has in front of him in federal court, is truly unprecedented.”
On Friday, District Judge T.S. Ellis strongly challenged the authority Mueller and his team have to veer off into prosecuting financial crimes, such as the ones lodged against one-time Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort.
Ellis specifically wanted to know why Mueller’s team had no trouble referring the Michael Cohen case to the Southern District of New York but continues to handle the prosecution of Manafort on financial allegations unrelated to Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.
“I don’t see what relation this indictment has with what the special counsel is authorized to investigate,” Ellis said Friday.
“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. … What you really care about is what information Mr. Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment,” he added.
Ellis also took aim at Mueller’s approach to the investigation.
“What we don’t want in this country, we don’t want anyone with unfettered power. It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special counsel has unlimited powers to do anything her or she wants,” said Ellis.
Ellis has been on the federal bench since 1987. diGenova says Ellis has a reputation for being a conservative but calm judge, which makes his comments on Friday all the more striking.
“I was absolutely stunned in a positive way that a judge, who was so fundamentally conservative in both his approach and his demeanor in court, was so appalled by what was happening in front of him. This is a very bad sign for Mueller,” said diGenova.
“This was a remarkable dressing down for Mr. Mueller,” he added.
“What it shows is that seeping out into the federal court system and judges is a sense that not only is the Mueller investigation out of control, but the supervision of it by Rod Rosenstein is either non-existent or out of control. That is a very bad sign for Mr. Mueller and Mr. Rosenstein,” said diGenova.
In addition to the specifics of the investigation, diGenova says the comments from Ellis mark an important moment.
“What we are watching here is the slow education of the American people through a civics lesson, which is being conducted through the media. People are discussing the law and the Constitution and the threat to our constitutional order that the Mueller investigation represents, because it started with no crime being investigated,” said diGenova.
“People are beginning to see that the original sin in the Mueller investigation was the outrageous memorandum signed by Rod Rosenstein appointing him, which mentioned no crime to be investigated,” said diGenova.
diGenova suspects the rebuke from Judge Ellis will likely quash any possibility of Mueller to subpoena President Trump.
“I don’t think he’s going to issue a subpoena because I think Bob Mueller knows he’s going to do something then which will take him down. That will be an act of suicide. But if he is arrogant enough to do it, it will destroy his investigation. It will take him down.
“This will be the kind of stupid overreach that frequently undoes constitutional officers,” said diGenova.
On Friday, Mueller’s attorney, Michael Dreeben, argued that prosecuting Manafort is within the scope of the investigation based on a letter signed by Rosenstein after the investigation began. Ellis demanded to see the letter within two weeks.
diGenova says Ellis will likely dismiss the case against Manafort if Mueller refuses to share the Rosenstein letter. Even if Ellis gets to see it, Manafort could soon get good news, given the timing of the letter.
“Remember, that letter came to Mueller from Rosenstein after the raid on Paul Manfort’s home in Virginia. That could be a very serious legal problem for Mr. Mueller,” said diGenova.
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.
The Justice Department announced the indictment of 13 Russians on charges of attempting to defraud the United States by meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, but a former federal prosecutor says the charges may have a chilling effect on free speech here at home and around the globe.
On Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the indictments handed down from a grand jury connected to the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian activities during the race for the White House.
While all 13 Russians face defrauding charges, some of them also face wire fraud and bank fraud charges as well.
However in addition to the indictments, Rosenstein also announced that any Americans participating in the operation did so unwittingly. Many media outlets immediately went wall-to-wall with breathless coverage of the news, but former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy isn’t sure what the bombshell is.
“I don’t think there was any doubt that the Russians were trying to meddle in our election because I think they meddle as much as they can in all our elections. In fact, this indictment says this particular scheme to meddle in the elections goes back about five years. So it’s long before there even was a Donald Trump campaign,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy further says there is a big gray area about what sort of foreign involvement in American politics is legal and what is not. In this case, he says the indictments suggest Mueller sees the Russian bot activity as an in-kind political contribution.
He also says the plan is deeply frowned upon by the Justice Department, which cannot properly register those involved in the plot as foreign agents since they operate anonymously. The State Department also has reason to be furious since the Russians came to the U.S. on visas, giving very different reasons for being here.
But while McCarthy urges the government to prosecute visa fraud as aggressively as possible, he says the Mueller indictments might create more problems than they solve.
“I don’t really understand the point of this. I don’t even know if these people are prosecutable. I don’t know that there’s a chance you actually get these people physically into a federal criminal court in the United States,” said McCarthy.
However, he says the long-term impact of this could create problems for the United States.
“It seems to sweep into it, potentially, a lot of behavior that Americans engage in and may result in retaliation on the part of foreign governments on activities that are pretty important to the spreading of American messages that we want to spread throughout the world,” said McCarthy.
And he says political involvement on the internet could also be greatly impacted by Friday’s actions.
“You’re talking about regulation of political expression of a variety that a lot of Americans engage in. It seems like they’re doing this as a sweeping prohibition on a theory that these government agencies have had their missions frustrated by the way that this scheme took place,” said McCarthy, noting that such freedom could be at risk all for a case that may never be tried.
McCarthy painted another unsettling scenario.
“Are we now saying that every time that somebody champions a candidate or a cause in social media that that’s an in-kind campaign contribution and that if you’re doing it anonynously or under a pseudonym that you’re defrauding the United States?” asked McCarthy.
“It would seem to me that that would be absurd, but it’s less absurd after reading this indictment than it would have been before,” said McCarthy.
In addition to the actual charges announced Friday, McCarthy says it is significant that Mueller and Rosenstein conclude that no Americans knowingly collaborated with Russian attempt to cause mischief in the campaign. They also pointed out that the bots stirred up partisans on both sides, certainly in the wake of the elections.
“It does say that to the extent Americans were involved in this it was “unwitting,” which means that if that’s the full extent of it, there obviously can’t be a collusion conspiracy because you can’t collude – I mean collusion is a nonsense word legally anyway.
“To be a criminal conspirator, you have to have an agreement to violate the law and that’s not something that someone can do unwittingly,” said McCarthy.
So much like every other development in this case, both sides of the Russia debate see vindication in Friday’s developments.
“Anybody who was interested in championing something that I think should have been beyond dispute – namely that the Russians tried to meddle in our elections – they get to say, ‘See, Russians meddle in elections.’
“And anybody who had a political interest in saying that Trump didn’t collude, they can now come away and say, ‘See, this thing shows there’s no collusion,'” said McCarthy.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of National Review welcome transparency about our government, most recently the disturbing revelations about the FBI’s allegedly sloppy and politically charged approach to obtaining a FISA warrant to conduct surveillance on Trump campaign figure Carter Page. They also roll their eyes as partisans on both sides react to the memo, including Democrats who see nothing wrong with the FBI allegedly using a dossier as evidence without confirming its veracity and not telling the FISA court it was paid for by Democrats and Republicans insisting this means the Mueller investigation must be shut down immediately when the memo’s author says that is not his conclusion at all. And they’re thrilled to see the New England Patriots lose the Super Bowl, but shake their heads in disgust as Philadelphia fans destroy property, flip cars, and engage in other revolting behavior.
Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe is abruptly leaving his position just weeks before his scheduled retirement, triggering a frenzy of speculation from the left and the right, but a former federal prosecutor says McCabe is just one part of a baffling approach to the Russia investigation by the FBI and the Justice Department.
Another Monday stunner is the revelation, reportedly in the FISA memo from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ordered surveillance former Trump campaign figure Carter Page based on the dossier compiled by former British agent Christopher Steele and funded for months by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Word of McCabe’s rapid exit was first reported Monday afternoon. Democrats and many mainstream media figures quickly wondered whether President Trump forced McCabe out given some critical tweets in the past. Conservatives quickly tied the news to FBI Director Christopher Wray viewing the highly touted FISA memo on Capitol Hill over the weekend.
So far, no concrete answers have been given, but former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Victoria Toensing strongly doubts Trump ordered this move.
“It’s all speculation as to whether it was Wray. I can’t imagine it was Trump because Trump probably wanted him out of there months ago. That’s my reaction. Why now? So little so late,” said Toensing.
Toensing notes that McCabe has amassed enough sick leave and vacation time that he can stop working now and still receive full retirement benefits, leaving her to conclude this development may have nothing to do with politics at all.
Toensing is highly critical of McCabe on multiple fronts, starting with his allegedly soft handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Even though McCabe recused himself from the probe while his wife was running as a Democrat for state office in Virginia, Toensing says the failure to record Clinton’s testimony or put her under oath was inexcusable.
She is also furious over what she’s sees as McCabe’s slick manner in getting former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to talk with the FBI.
“He called Flynn’s office and said, ‘The FBI would like to talk to you,’ and made it appear like the talk was going to be about personnel and background. Instead, the FBI showed up with Peter Strzok and surprised the general with, ‘What did you say to the Russian ambassador?'” said Toensing.
Strzok is the agent removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team for persistent Trump-bashing.
Toensing says the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email probe and the failure to put any guardrails on Mueller have deeply damaged the reputation of the FBI and the Justice Department.
“I’ve worked with the FBI and I’m such a great admirer of their professionalism. I’ve worked with them as recently as the last month at the local level,” said Toensing.
“But the hierarchy came in and took over. That’s a shame and it’s effecting their credibility. There’s a recent poll where 49 percent of the people think the FBI is hiding information from Congress. That’s not good. The FBI should be wanting to get it out, not hiding it,” she said.
What hierarchy is Toensing referring to? Specifically, she lists McCabe, former FBI Director James Comey, former President Barack Obama, and former Attorney General Eric Holder.
She says the revelations to date on “unmasking” of figures in the Trump campaign proves Obama was deeply involved in all of this.
“The new Trump administration people found evidence of the Obama White House unmasking the Trump campaign and listening in,” said Toensing.
“The Trump NSC staff found those documents and that’s how (House Intelligence Committee Chairman) Devin Nunes was called up to the White House to review documents that he them revealed and the Democrats went after him for revealing classified information,” said Toensing.
While McCabe’s departure cannot be tied to the FISA memo immediately following the reports of his departure, the memo is apparently the source for revealing that Rosenstein used the FISA powers of the United States to spy on Carter Page.
Toensing says that news demands answers.
“[Page] was an American citizen, traveling to Russia which is what he did. This is what he did. He had Russia as an interest. Why was he being surveilled in any way whatsoever?” asked Toensing.
Toensing says Rosenstein has even more to answer for, including how he based a decision to keep tabs on Page based on a dossier that has at least partly been discredited.
“I would have hoped that he would have looked behind that dossier and gotten some kind of cooperation, rather than just a document by a political adversary. I would have hoped that he would have asked, ‘What is the basis for this document saying all these things?'” said Toensing.
“I signed FISA warrants when I was at the Justice Department. I know how to go behind the facts. So I would have hoped he had done that,” said Toensing.
She also blames Rosenstein for allowing the Russia investigation to get diverted from its original purpose, virtually from the start.
“Whatever the Russians did to our election should have been investigated [as a counter-intelligence matter], not as a criminal prosecution. So by setting up a special counsel to make a criminal investigation, Rod really went off the reservation,” said Toensing.