Showing posts with label Mueller Investigation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mueller Investigation. Show all posts

November 13, 2018

Drafter of Cousel Law: " The installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general isn’t just unconstitutional it is unconstitutional"


The installation of Matthew G. Whitaker as acting attorney general isn’t just unconstitutional — although it is unconstitutional. Even if Whitaker’s appointment ever survived a court challenge on constitutional grounds for most of his day-to-day duties at the Justice Department, the fact that he’ll now be performing the sensitive work of supervising Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation raises other deep problems. Putting Whitaker in charge of the inquiry is sharply at odds with the special counsel regulations governing Mueller’s work and with the Justice Department’s rules about who may oversee an investigation.
I had the privilege of drafting the special counsel rules 20 years ago when I was at the Justice Department. Recall the setting: The independent counsel statute was expiring in June 1999, and there was a robust debate about what should take its place. After the multitude of investigations of the Clinton administration, many in Washington clamored for renewal of the supercharged independent prosecutor in the act. Others, seeing what they believed were abuses by then-independent counsel Ken Starr (and prior independent counsel Lawrence Walsh, who oversaw the earlier Iran-contra investigation of the Reagan administration more than a decade before Starr), believed that something more accountable and less independent had to be created instead. 
My Justice Department colleagues and I, along with a bipartisan group on Capitol Hill, worked through many possible scenarios before we settled on the rules that now govern Mueller’s investigation. Everyone in the debate recognized that any enhancement in the special counsel’s accountability had to come from additional supervision by the attorney general. After all, the power to supervise is the power to destroy. The attorney general can stop a special counsel from investigating altogether or stop them from taking a specific step (such as subpoenaing a president). He can read every file of the councel, and he may even attempt to give information about the investigation to the president in real time. And he plays a crucial role in determining what report by Mueller, if any, is given to Congress and ultimately the public.
But no one — and I mean no one — ever thought the regulations we wrote would permit the president to install some staff member of his choice from the Justice Department to serve as acting attorney general and thereby oversee the special counsel. Such a proposal would have been laughed off Capitol Hill within a nanosecond as fundamentally at odds with the most cardinal principle that no one is above the law.
It simply cannot be that the president can name his own temporary attorney general to supervise an investigation in which he and his family have a direct, concrete interest. The Constitution itself underscores this — even assuming Trump’s defenders are right that under the Appointments Clause, an acting attorney general doesn’t always need to be Senate-confirmed. Ordinarily, “Principal Officers,” which Cabinet secretaries undoubtedly are, must have Senate confirmation under Article II of our Constitution. The most eloquent defenders of Trump’s action say that Whitaker is serving in a temporary capacity, as an inferior officer, and therefore he can serve without confirmation. But they cite precedents that do not apply, because they concern emergency situations in which no one else has been confirmed by the Senate in the line of succession. In this case, the Senate has confirmed two officials who could continue to oversee Mueller: Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who has been supervising the case ever since former attorney general Jeff Sessions recused himself, and Solicitor General Noel Francisco. Notably, Congress’s succession statute for the Justice Department lists those people as next in line, not a handpicked mere staff member from the bowels of the department. 
But even if the defenders’ claims were true, all that would mean is that Whitaker is an inferior officer who doesn’t need to be confirmed by the Senate. In that situation, someone else, a principal officer, would still need to be in place to supervise Mueller — who is also an inferior officer. That responsibility would fall once again to Rosenstein under the succession statute Congress authorized. 
Sometimes, an inferior officer has to supervise other inferior officers with no principal — say, if no one else has been confirmed at the start of an administration. Or in a more hypothetical scenario, imagine a military conflict in which casualties meant there were no Senate-confirmed officials in a department. But fortunately, today’s Justice Department isn’t dealing with challenges anything like those. There are Senate-confirmed officials at the helm.
And regardless of those issues, there is yet another problem, specific to the Mueller investigation. In an emergency situation where an acting head is named, the president is, ultimately, the responsible official who supervises temporary, unconfirmed stand-ins. The idea is that there would at least be someone accountable to the public above the acting officer in those situations — and as Harry Truman put it, the buck always stops with the president. 
Here, though, the idea that the president could be trusted to supervise Whitaker as he oversees Mueller’s work is absurd. The potential for self-dealing, not selfless sacrifice, is rampant. Trump could secretly order Whitaker to do his bidding and terminate an investigation of his or his family’s wrongdoing, and Whitaker would take the blame for it. Trump could shield his actions from public scrutiny, and Whitaker, who depends entirely on the president’s support for his job and later advancement, would have no standing to complain. This is fundamentally at odds with the core principle of American law, going back to the early 1600s, that no one can be a judge in their own case.
The problems don’t end there. Because even if you think that Trump could surmount that obstacle and supervise an investigation of himself, it cannot be that he can install the compromised Whitaker to the task. Justice Department ethics rules forbid someone from participating in a criminal investigation if they have “a personal or political relationship” with “anyperson … which he knows has a specific and substantial interest that would be directly affected by the outcome of the investigation.” That fits this case to a T. Whitaker indeed campaigned for the job, first on TV, and then reportedly with the White House privately, casting aspersions on the Mueller investigation, even saying “the truth is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign,” writing an op-ed called “Mueller’s investigation of Trump is going too far” and insinuating that he was part of Trump’s team. He evidently even interviewed for a job to defend Trump against Mueller. And Whitaker ran a past political campaign by Sam Clovis, a Trump confidant who has been subpoenaed by the grand jury as part of the Russia inquiry.
Given all of that, it is no wonder that Trump has told people that Whitaker would be “loyal.” 
In some cases, Justice Department leaders can supervise investigations despite having personal knowledge about the entities involved. After all, the president nominates every senior official there, so relationships will often exist. But there is a big difference between those garden-variety cases and this one. The department’s ethics rules define a “personal relationship” as “a close and substantial connection of the type normally viewed as likely to induce partiality.” And it’s here where the temporary nature of Whitaker’s appointment boomerangs. Like Supreme Court decisions that are tickets “good for one day only,” when an appointment is made for only one reason, it looks more suspect. That suspicion is exacerbated further because Whitaker has not been confirmed by the Senate. No independent body has signed off on his ethics or his integrity — and bypassing the Senate makes his appointment appear to be an attempt to put a Trump lackey in charge of the investigation. And finally, the ethics rules ask whether a substitute official can be found easily. In this situation, two can step in. One, in fact, is already acting as attorney general for the purposes of Mueller’s investigation — yet another reason it looks as though Whitaker has been installed simply to change the way the special counsel’s work is handled.
Our founders recognized that “men were not angels” and that checks and balances in government were critical to avoiding threats to the rule of law. The Whitaker installation does violence to our most basic principles — enshrined in the Constitution, laws enacted by Congress, the ethics rules that govern our prosecutors and the special counsel regulations themselves.
It is lawless and unprincipled.
It must be stopped.
Neal Katyal  is the former acting solicitor general of the United States and presently serves as a partner at Hogan Lovells and the Saunders professor of national security law at Georgetown University.

November 10, 2018

We Are At The Precipice But Mueller is Got Minions of Prosecutors Out of Reach of Trump

By Richard Ben-Veniste and George Frampton
Mr. Ben-Veniste and Mr. Frampton worked on the Watergate cover-up task force of the special prosecutor’s office~~~The New York Times

In a stunning move on the heels of the midterm election, President Trump has forced the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appointed an outspoken critic of the Mueller investigation — Matthew Whitaker — as acting attorney general, shunting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to the sidelines. This raises the specter of a fearful president attempting to muzzle Special Counsel Robert Mueller or hinder him from revealing whether his 18-month-long grand jury investigation has turned up evidence of criminality implicating Donald Trump or his immediate family.
But a 44-year-old “road map” from the Watergate prosecution shows a potential route for Mr. Mueller to send incriminating evidence directly to Congress. The road map was devised in 1974 by the Watergate special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, with our assistance. We wrote the road map — actually a report — to be conveyed to Congress; it was called “Report and Recommendation” and served as a guide to a collection of grand jury evidence contained in a single document. That evidence included still-secret presidential tape recordings that had been acquired through grand jury subpoena — but which had been withheld from Congress by President Nixon. 
The recent decision by Washington’s Federal District Court chief judge, Beryl Howell, to release the document from the National Archives provides a historic legal precedent that could be a vehicle for Mr. Mueller and the grand jury assisting him to share the fruits of their investigation into possible criminal conduct within the Trump presidential campaign and subsequent administration.
In all the discussion about Mr. Mueller’s options when he concludes his investigation, little attention has been paid to the potential role of the grand jury. Chief Judge Howell’s decision unsealing the Watergate road map brings new focus on the role the grand jury might play in the dynamics of the endgame. Although the grand jury is a powerful tool for federal prosecutors, it has historic and independent power and operates under the supervision of the federal judiciary. Following the Oct. 20, 1973, “Saturday Night Massacre” — in which President Nixon forced the Justice Department to fire the original special prosecutor, Archibald Cox — the Watergate grand jury played a critical role in forcing the president to back down, hand over the subpoenaed tapes and appoint a new special prosecutor.

Although Mr. Cox had been fired, his staff — duly appointed federal prosecutors — had not. The grand jury, as an arm of the judicial branch, could not be fired by the president. Indeed, Judge John Sirica of the United States District Court immediately summoned the grand juries (there were two) to his courtroom and exhorted them to continue to pursue their investigations and assured them that they could rely on the court to safeguard their rights and preserve the integrity of their proceedings. 

In the face of Congress’s inability to obtain evidence that the grand jury well knew incriminated the president, we prepared the grand jury report to Judge Sirica and requested that he use his plenary authority to transmit that evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, which had already commenced a proceeding to consider Mr. Nixon’s impeachment. It was carefully written to avoid any interpretations or conclusions about what the evidence showed or what action the committee should take. The report contained a series of spare factual statements annotated with citations to relevant transcripts of tapes and grand jury testimony. Copies of those tapes and transcripts were included as attachments. 
Judge Sirica was convinced that the materials contained in the report should be made available to the House Judiciary Committee. His decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. This evidence formed the gravamen of Article I (obstruction of justice) of the impeachment resolution adopted by the Committee.
Much note has been made of the fact that the Justice Department regulations under which Mr. Mueller was appointed actually require him to submit a report to the attorney general. Importantly, nothing in the department regulations prohibits Mr. Mueller’s Department of Justice superior, now Mr. Whitaker, from refusing to release the report

What if Mr. Mueller concludes that the president has committed a crime? The question of whether a sitting president can be indicted remains a subject of vehement debate among scholars. But assuming that Mr. Mueller follows what many regard as “current Justice Department policy” based on several past internal legal opinions that an indictment is inappropriate, then the appropriate place for consideration of evidence that the president has committed crimes rests definitively and exclusively with Congress.

If Mr. Mueller has obtained such evidence, his responsibility and the correct operation of our system of government compel the conclusion that he and the grand jury can make that evidence available to Congress through a report transmitted by the court. 
With the fox now guarding the henhouse, there is sufficient precedent for the grand jury and Special Counsel Mueller to seek the chief judge’s assistance in transmitting a properly fashioned report to Congress.
Richard Ben-Veniste, an attorney in Washington, was the chief of the Watergate cover-up task force of the special prosecutor’s office and was a member of the 9/11 Commission. George Frampton is the chief executive of the Partnership for Responsible Growth and was an assistant special prosecutor on the cover-up task force.

November 9, 2018

With Jeff Sessions Fired What is Next For Special Counsel Robert Mueller

By Greg Walters            
 President Trump spent a chunk of time during Wednesday’s post-midterms press conference bemoaning Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into his 2016 campaign. 
Then he parted ways with one of the key men responsible for it: Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 
With the beleaguered AG’s resignation in hand, Trump welcomed a much friendlier face to his ranks: Matt Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney from Iowa who’s been far from shy in his criticism of Mueller’s probe. The hiring of Whitaker spells trouble for special counsel Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia, legal experts told VICE News. 
Whitaker, who has accused Mueller of "going too far," is now expected to assume oversight of the the special counsel's investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Bloomberg and NBC reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation. Rosenstein appointed Mueller 18 months ago and has quietly defended the probe from Trump and his allies in Congress ever since. 
“The president’s move to demand Sessions resign, and put Whitaker in his place, is obviously part of a strategic effort to limit the Mueller investigation,” said David Kris, who served as assistant attorney general for national security under former president Barack Obama. 
Mueller’s new boss at the Department of Justice can dismiss him for “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause,” according to the special counsel regulations. But he doesn’t need to fire Mueller to change the shape and scope of the investigation, and Whitaker seems abundantly clear in this regard. “I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced,” Whitaker told CNN in July 2017. “It would recess appointment and that attorney general doesn't fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.”
Jeff Sessions is gone. Here's what that means for Robert Mueller.
 President Donald Trump announced in a tweet that he was naming Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general after Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pushed out Nov. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File.But Whitaker’s ability to assume full oversight of the Mueller probe may be in question, said Kris, founder of the Culper Partners consulting firm.)

 Whitaker could potentially be advised to recuse himself by DOJ ethics officials, on the grounds that he was appointed by Trump, who is a subject of the investigation. Whitaker’s appointment could also be legally challenged by outside groups, including newly-empowered Democrats in the House, Kris said. 
Mary McCord, the former DOJ official who oversaw the department’s investigation into foreign meddling in the 2016 election before Mueller’s appointment, shared Kris’s skepticism. 
“It’s not obvious, from the regulations, that Whitaker will automatically and immediately take over the Mueller investigation,” said McCord. “I think that at a minimum he’d need to do the conflicts of interest check. That’s in the very first line of the special counsel regulations.”
Barring such a recusal, however, a new Trump-friendly official has considerable power to simply bog down the probe by refusing new investigative steps or blocking prosecutions outright.
“Whitaker could withhold resources, or approval for charging decisions,” said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.  
Whitaker’s critical view of Mueller was likely on Trump’s mind when he selected his new acting AG, observers said.
“Mr. Whitaker has been critical of the Mueller investigation, and it’s hard to imagine those critical comments weren’t at least part of the reason why Trump chose him,” said Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor turned white-collar defense attorney. 
Whitaker has been called the White House’s “eyes and ears” in the Justice Department by Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly, according to an earlier report in The New York Times. 
“This is a disturbing development,” said Jens David Ohlin, vice dean of Cornell Law School. “The eyes of history are on Mr. Whitaker and will judge him accordingly, as hero or villain, as the case may be.”
Whitaker’s appointment immediately stirred alarm among Democrats who’ve long sought to protect Mueller through bipartisan means.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer called on Whitaker to “recuse himself from” the Russia investigation, citing his critical comments of the special counsel. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking member on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, warned Trump against attempting to obstruct the Mueller probe.
“No one is above the law, and any effort to interfere with the special counsel’s investigation would be a gross abuse of power by the president,” Warner said in a statement to VICE News. “While the President may have the authority to replace the Attorney General, this must not be the first step in an attempt to impede, obstruct or end the Mueller investigation.”
Sessions’ firing is also likely to raise fresh questions surrounding obstruction charges, which already falls under Mueller’s core mandate. Legal analysts said that Trump has the right to fire Sessions, but doing so with the express intent of flummoxing Mueller’s probe could put him in legal jeopardy.  
“The president has the right to remove a member of his cabinet,” said Sandick. “But if he takes official action with the clear objective of upending the investigation, then it seems to me that could indeed be construed as the obstruction of justice.” 
Rosenstein has been widely seen as a protective buffer between Trump and Mueller. He has allowed Mueller to expand the probe beyond the narrow question of Trump and Russia, while sticking up for the special counsel’s integrity under withering criticism from skeptical Republican Congressmen. 
While the special counsel regulations give Mueller’s boss at the Department of Justice the power to deny specific investigative steps, Rosenstein approved the prosecution of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a move that resulted in Manafort’s conviction. Manafort then flipped, and agreed to a sweeping cooperation agreement to tell Mueller everything he knows, including about Trump and Russia.
Despite the looming threat to Mueller, analysts have said Trump will find it difficult to stuff Mueller’s genie back in its bottle.
Mueller has already scored convictions against four Trump aides, turning them into cooperating witnesses. Tangential investigations have been farmed out to other districts, giving them a life of their own far beyond his purview. 
Cover image: Then-FBI director Robert Mueller speaks during an interview at FBI headquarters on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, in Washington. 

November 1, 2018

Tea Leaves, A Court's Clerk and Politico Believes Trump is Been Subpoena For Mueller's Grand Jury

By Nelson W. Cunningham 

A careful reading of court filings suggests the special counsel hasn’t been quiet. Far from it.
These months before the midterm elections are tough ones for all of us Mueller-watchers. As we expected, he has gone quiet in deference to long-standing Justice Department policy that prosecutors should not take actions that might impact pending elections. Whatever he is doing, he is doing quietly and even farther from the public eye than usual.
But thanks to some careful reporting by Politico, we may have stumbled upon How Bob Mueller Is Spending His Mid-Terms: secretly litigating against President Trump for the right to throw him in the grand jury.
As a former prosecutor and Senate and White House aide, I predicted here last May that Mueller would promptly subpoena Trump and, like Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr back in 1998, bring a sitting president before his grand jury to round out and conclude his investigation. What Trump knew and when he knew it, and what exactly motivated his statements and actions, are central to Mueller’s inquiry on both Russian interference and obstruction of justice.
As the summer proceeded, we certainly heard a great deal from Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, about purported negotiations with Mueller’s office about the propriety and scope of Trump’s potential testimony. On August 15, Giuliani said Trump would move to quash a subpoena and went so far as to say, “[W]e’re pretty much finished with our memorandum opposing a subpoena.”
And then—nothing. Labor Day came and went without a visible move by Mueller to subpoena the president, and we entered the quiet period before the midterms. Even the voluble Giuliani went quiet, more or less. Mindful of the time it would take to fight out the legal issues surrounding a presidential subpoena, and mindful of the ticking clock on Mueller’s now 18-month-old investigation, many of us began to wonder if Mueller had decided to forego the compelling and possibly conclusive nature of presidential testimony in favor of findings built on inference and circumstantial evidence. A move that would leave a huge hole in his final report and findings.
But now, thanks to Politico’s reporting (backed up by the simple gumshoe move of sitting in the clerk’s office waiting to see who walks in and requests what file), we may know what Mueller has been up to Since mid-August, he may have been locked in proceedings with Trump and his lawyers over a grand jury subpoena—in secret litigation that could tell us by December whether the president will testify before Mueller’s grand jury.
The evidence lies in obscure docket entries at the clerk’s office for the D.C. Circuit. Thanks to Politico’s Josh Gerstein and Darren Samuelsohn, we know that on August 16th (the day after Giuliani said he was almost finished with his memorandum, remember), a sealed grand jury case was initiated in the D.C. federal district court before Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell. We know that on September 19, Chief Judge Howell issued a ruling and 5 days later one of the parties appealed to the D.C. Circuit. And thanks to Politico’s reporting, we know that the special counsel’s office is involved (because the reporter overheard a conversation in the clerk’s office). We can further deduce that the special counsel prevailed in the district court below and that the presumptive grand jury witness has frantically appealed that order and sought special treatment from the judges of the D.C. Circuit—often referred to as the “second-most important court in the land.”
Nothing about the docket sheets, however, discloses the identity of the witness. Politico asked many of the known attorneys for Mueller witnesses—including Jay Sekulow, another Trump lawyer—and every one denied knowledge of the identity of the witness. (What, of course, would we expect a lawyer to say when asked about a proceeding the court has ordered sealed?)
But for those of us who have been appellate lawyers, the brief docket entries tell a story. Here’s what we can glean:
At every level, this matter has commanded the immediate and close attention of the judges involved—suggesting that no ordinary witness and no ordinary issue is involved. But is it the president? The docket sheets give one final—but compelling—clue. When the witness lost the first time in the circuit court (before the quick round-trip to the district court), he unusually petitioned for rehearing en banc—meaning he thought his case was so important that it merited the very unusual action of convening all 10 of the D.C. Circuit judges to review the order. That is itself telling (this witness believes his case demands very special handling), but the order disposing of the petition is, even more, telling: President Trump’s sole appointee to that court, Gregory Katsas, recused himself.
Why did he recuse himself? We don’t know; by custom, judges typically don’t disclose their reasons for sitting a matter out. But Judge Katsas previously served in the Trump White House, as one of four deputy White House counsels. He testified in his confirmation hearings that in that position he handled executive branch legal issues, but made clear that apart from some discrete legal issues, he had not been involved in the special counsel’s investigation. If the witness here were unrelated to the White House, unless the matter raised one of the discrete legal issues on which he had previously given advice, there would be no reason to recuse himself.
But if the witness were the president himself—if the matter involved an appeal from a secret order requiring the president to testify before the grand jury—then Judge Katsas would certainly feel obliged to recuse himself from any official role. Not only was the president his former client (he was deputy counsel to the president, remember) but he owes his judicial position to the president’s nomination. History provides a useful parallel: In 1974, in the unanimous Supreme Court decision, US v Nixon requiring another witness-president to comply with a subpoena, Justice William Rehnquist recused himself for essentially the same reasons.
We cannot know, from the brief docket entries that are available to us in this sealed case, that the matter involves President Trump. But we do know from Politico’s reporting that it involves the special counsel and that the action here was filed the day after Giuliani noted publicly, “[W]e’re pretty much finished with our memorandum opposing a subpoena.” We know that the district court had ruled in favor of the special counsel and against the witness; that the losing witness has moved with alacrity and with authority; and that the judges have responded with accelerated rulings and briefing schedules. We know that Judge Katsas, Trump’s former counsel and nominee, has recused himself. And we know that this sealed legal matter will come to a head in the weeks just after the midterm elections.
If Mueller were going to subpoena the president—and there’s every reason why a careful and thorough prosecutor would want the central figure on the record on critical questions regarding his knowledge and intent—this is just the way we would expect him to do so. Quietly, expeditiously, and refusing to waste the lull in public action demanded by the midterm elections. It all fits.
Nelson W. Cunningham has served as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York under Rudolph Giuliani, general counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee under then-chair Joseph R. Biden, and general counsel of the White House Office of Administration under Bill Clinton. He is now president of McLarty Associates, an international strategic advisory firm based in Washington.

September 26, 2018

If Rod Bernstein Goes The Russia Probe Could Be in Jeopardy. Showdown Thursday

Rod Rosenstein, the US deputy attorney general, is set for crunch talks with Donald Trump on Thursday, amid doubts over his future in the job.
The two already spoke on Monday to discuss reports that Mr Rosenstein had talked last year about ousting the president and secretly taping him.
Mr Rosenstein oversees the inquiry into alleged collusion by the Trump team with Russia during the 2016 election.
The president said Thursday's meeting would be "determining what's going on".
"We want to have transparency, we want to have openness and I look forward to meeting with Rod at that time," he added, speaking in New York where he is attending the annual UN General Assembly. 
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein seen after meetingImage copyright
Image captionChief of Staff John Kelly (left) and Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (right) had a previously scheduled meeting at the White House on Monday

What happened on Monday?

America's second most senior law official was summoned to the White House on Monday amid a report that he had verbally resigned to the president's chief of staff in the expectation that he was going to be fired.
But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said afterwards: "At the request of the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he and President Trump had an extended conversation to discuss the recent news stories.
"Because the President is at the United Nations General Assembly and has a full schedule with leaders from around the world, they will meet on Thursday when the President returns to Washington DC."
Monday's meeting between Chief of Staff John Kelly and Mr Rosenstein had been previously scheduled, US media later reported.

What happens if Rosenstein leaves?

If Mr Rosenstein did lose his job, another Department of Justice official, the solicitor general, would be in line to take over supervision of the Russia investigation.
Mr Rosenstein assumed oversight of the inquiry after his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, recused himself when it emerged he had been in contact with Russia's ambassador to Washington while serving as a Trump campaign adviser.
The furore around Mr Rosenstein's position comes as mid-term elections are looming on 6 November, when the president's party will try to keep control of the US Congress. 
What did the report on Rosenstein say?
Mr Rosenstein and Mr Trump are believed to have discussed Friday's report in the New York Times that the deputy attorney general had discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke a US constitutional clause that provides for the removal of a president if deemed unfit for office. 
According to the newspaper, Mr Rosenstein had also suggested surreptitiously recording the president in order to expose the chaos in the White House.
He denied the claims, and a Department of Justice spokesperson told the BBC the secret recording remark was just a joke.
The deputy attorney general was said to have made the comments after Mr Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. 
Without Rosenstein, Russia inquiry in doubt
Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC Washington
If Rod Rosenstein goes, by resignation or firing, the future of Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation would be very much in doubt. 
Mr Rosenstein is the reason there is a special counsel investigation, and he has given Mr Mueller a wide mandate to pursue that inquiry wherever it may lead. 
It has resulted, for instance, in the successful prosecution of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and a plea deal from Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen - both for activities tangential to the Russia probe.
A different person in charge might have nipped those moves in the bud.
Whoever took over if Mr Rosenstein departed - at the moment, Solicitor General Noel Francisco - could decide to curtail the scope of the investigation or push for a speedy resolution. 
At the very least, Mr Francisco would assume the oversight duties knowing full well the president is watching very closely and has no hesitation going on the attack - even against members of his own administration - if he feels in any way slighted or wronged.
As Mr Rosenstein will surely attest, it is an unenviable position. 

From left: Mr Rosenstein, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Mr McCabeImage copyright

Image captionFrom left: Mr Rosenstein, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Mr McCabe

What's the reaction?

Mr Trump said over the weekend he had not made up his mind whether to fire the deputy attorney general in the wake of the New York Times report.
"We will make a determination," the Republican president told Fox News in the radio interview, which aired on Monday. "It's certainly a very sad story.
"I haven't gotten all the facts, but certainly it's being looked at in terms of what took place - If anything took place." 
Sean Hannity, a Fox News host and friend of Mr Trump, has urged him to not fire Mr Rosenstein, warning he would fall into a trap laid by his political enemies.
Mr Trump has repeatedly referred to the special counsel's Russia investigation as a political witch hunt.
Andrew McCabe, the former acting director of the FBI who was fired by Mr Trump in March, said on Monday that he was "deeply concerned" about rumours of Mr Rosenstein's departure as it would put the Russia investigation "at risk".

August 28, 2018

Mueller Team is Forced to go Into the Swamps Under NYC Looking for DDT Connections


 A foul-mouthed taxi kingpin with a history of defrauding state government. A salon owner who ran a prostitution ring before running for governor. A comedian who was the voice of H.R. Pufnstuf. 

They’re all longstanding New York fringe characters, and they’ve all been pulled into Robert Mueller’s web, giving the wide-ranging investigation that has Washington on edge a distinctly New York tinge.  

“They’re kinda exactly the trio you would expect at the New York politics version of the Star Wars bar,” said Neal Kwatra, a Democratic political consultant, referring to the Mos Eisley Cantina on the fictional planet of Tatooine. “Weird, wild and par for our current course.” 

Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is forcing the special counsel and his colleagues to wade into a New York tabloid swamp, a habitat where outlandish behavior flourishes, particularly if it’s accompanied by amb

Medallion "MAVERICK"

Evgeny Freidma

Freidman, a self-described “ short, little, insecure, chubby, Jewish guy from Jackson Heights,” rose to local fame and fortune through his ownership and management of taxi medallions. In May, he pleaded guilty to criminal tax fraud for failing to pay some $5 million in state taxes. He reportedlycooperated with the federal investigation into his former business associate, Michael Cohen. 

Freidman made his money on taxi medallions — a business interest he shares with Cohen. Before Uber wreaked havoc on yellow taxis, Freidman parlayed that wealth into political power and low-level prestige. He bundled money for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and considered him a friendPage Six wrote up his daughter’sbabynaming ceremony and a barbecue at his French Riviera estate.
He had “manic energy,” recalled David Yassky, who was New York City’s taxi commissioner when Freidman was still riding high on the hog. The man was ”charming,” he said, “but could turn on a dime to aggressive, verging on nasty and bullying.” Were it not for his force of personality, “he would just look like an oddball.”
“U talking about me or POTUS?” Freidman emailed, when asked about Yassky’s comments and the thrust of this article. 
In a subsequent email, Freidman called Yassky an unprintable profanity, and said he “turns tricks on the corner and brings daddy the money! There is no respect and honor in that!” (Yassky responded with a “Ha Ha” bitmoji.)
Like Freidman, Kristin Davis has a penchant for self-promotion. Earlier this month, she reportedly met with Mueller’s team and testified before a grand jury. She leveraged the news into TV appearances on CNN and Fox.


Kristen Davis

In the aftermath of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s fall from grace, Davis earned the “Manhattan Madam” sobriquet by insinuating (without apparent proof) that she provided him with prostitutes. It was a move straight out of the playbook of Roger Stone, the godfather to her son who advised her subsequent gubernatorial bid (she lost). She recently leveraged her appearance before a Mueller-related grand jury D.C. into a national TV tour. “I tried to make my appearance in Washington with as little fanfare as possible and to avoid a media circus,” she says. “I do feel I was treated badly and bullied by the special counsel and said so in a limited number of interviews because it needed to be said.”

In the early aughts, she claimed she’d provided former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer with prostitutes through her call-girl company, Wicked Models, although no law enforcement sources verified her claim. She ran novelty campaigns for governor and New York City comptroller on a platform of legalizing drugs and sex work and was arrested in 2013 for dealing Adderall and Xanax to an undercover FBI agent. Her child’s godfather is Roger Stone, the Trump adviser with the Nixon tattoo who a New Yorker writer called “the sinister Forrest Gump of American politics.”
“As Cindy Adams would say ‘only in New York,’” said Davis in an email.
Finally there’s Randy Credico, another Stone satellite and a fixture around New York’s capitol who once smoked a joint inside of the Albany Times-Union’s capitol bureau, interrupted a state ethics board meeting wearing a rubber mask and claiming he was a long-dead Greek philosopher (Diogenes) and is infamous in certain circles for his impressions of New York political figures. He does an entirely unconvincing Al Sharpton and tested out his Rudy Giuliani on a reporter in a follow-up interview for this story.


Randy Credico

“A lot of people describe me as a ‘character,’” Randy Credico told POLITICO. He describes himself in other terms. “I’m a showbiz person,” he says. He’s also a political provacateur, a gadfly, a New York political fixture, and, since 2002, an associate of Roger Stone (they met during Rochester billionaire Tom Golisano’s failed campaign for governor of New York State, Credico says). He’ll testify before a grand jury in the Mueller probe in September. In the meantime, he’s writing a book. “I am co-writing a book about this whole experience,” he says, “and that will explain a lot more about the relationship with Stone.”

When Credico received a subpoena last fall to testify before the House Intelligence Committee about Russian interference in the 2016 election, he appeared astounded by his sudden elevation to the realm of the nationally relevant.
“I’m in the middle of this quagmire that features people like Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, ‘Papa-lop-o-lous’ or however you pronounce his name, and others,” Credico told the NY1 cable news channel.“So my name is now out there with those names.” He also insisted he wouldn’t travel to Washington to testify without his therapy dog, Bianca.
What people know about Credico’s background is largely threaded together from apocryphal stories and a 2003 documentary — he is a comedian who flirted with success before his career stalled.m More recently, Credico has fashioned himself a radio journalist. He managed to score an interview with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Stone, in turn, has said Credico was his backchannel to Assange, and Credico has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in the Mueller probe on Sept. 7.
When POLITICO reached Credico for an interview, he described his current predicament as “Kafkaesque” and said he is growing a beard so fewer people will recognize him. He very much considers himself a made-in-New York product.
“Thirty-seven, 38 years here have certainly turned me into the type of person that only this state or this city could possibly come up with, you know?” he said. “Same as a guy who does 38 years in prison becomes either very good at prison art or breaking and entering.”
Freidman and Davis rejected the idea that they fall under some sort of archetypal New York “character” rubric.
“Sorry will not indulge in u stereotyping people and boxing them in My parents brought me here to the USA from Russia so we can avoid having ‘Jew’ or ‘Chechen’ or ‘tarter’ etc stamped in our passports!” Freidman emailed.
“Please don’t put me in a category with Randy Credico!!!” emailed Davis.
But they do share a certain commonality, argued Steven Cohen, a former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who now serves as general counsel at Ronald Perelman’s MacAndrews & Forbes.
“They’re all people who wannabe, and are brash and want to push their way in, and have managed one way or another — with enough money or relationships to get closer to the flame — but never close enough,” Cohen said, in an interview. 
Until recently, that description could have applied to Trump, too. In New York, he was never the towering real estate titan he subsequently made himself out to be. The New York real estate titans preferred to build buildings, not brand them. They metered their interactions with the press. They manipulated the levers of power behind closed doors, not on TV.
“We always thought he was kind of a nice guy but a joke, light, a dilettante,” said Darren Dopp, who attended fundraisers that Trump hosted for his then-boss, Eliot Spitzer. “You couldn’t not have that feeling, because you’d walk into his home, and he’s got a picture of himself on his own wall. We’d look at each other and say who the hell has a picture of himself on his own wall?”
Now he is president of the United States of America — and Freidman, Davis and Credico have been drawn into a federal investigation that is likely to the country’s future.
Dopp said he wonders: “What do the decent people of St. Louis think when they see (these folks) saying and doing things that really don’t comport to any notion of fair play or common decency?”
POLITICO illustration/Getty and iStock photos.
ition and greed. It’s all very New York — “the irresistible destination of all those who insist on being where things are happening” that Tom Wolfe wrote about in `The Bonfire of the Vanities’ and Donald Trump helped popularize. 

That habitat is populated by those who have been nationally prominent for months now — Michael Cohen and Roger Stone, two of Trump’s closest confidants — as well as more local celebrities like one-time taxi overlord Evgeny Freidman, former flesh-peddler Kristin Davis and comedian Randy Credico. In recent months, they’ve gotten a taste of national fame too. 

Freidman, for one, reportedly cooperated with the federal investigation into the business dealings of his former colleague Michael Cohen.  

Trump’s former lawyer pleaded guilty this week to eight felony counts and implicated the president in helping to orchestrate hush money payments to two women who alleged they’d had affairs with Trump. 

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