• A balanced analysis of Mueller and his team by a leading conservative

    Amid strenuous conservative criticism of the Mueller team (the best of it by Trey Gowdy and Tucker Carlson), and equally strenuous pushback from progressives (led by Adam Schiff), Andrew McCarthy offers a serious analysis of what should–and shouldn’t–concern the public about the investigation’s fairness.

    McCarthy is a former federal prosecutor with considerable experience. His stance is conservative but not doctrinaire, and his analysis is not a prosecutor’s case against Mueller.

    The op-ed was published in the Washington Post (link here).

    Key excerpts:

    Is special counsel Robert S. Mueller III running an impartial investigation?

    That this is a fair question to ask is itself troubling.

    In Mueller’s case, there are various grounds for worry. Mueller’s investigation was triggered when former FBI director James B. Comey, no fan of the president who dismissed him, leaked a memo of a meeting with President Trump. Comey admitted hoping this revelation would lead to appointment of a special counsel….

    Furthermore, the investigative team Mueller has assembled includes Democratic donors and supporters, including one lawyer who represented the Clinton Foundation and one who represented a subject in the Hillary Clinton email investigation. This month, moreover, it came to light that two members of the team, who had also worked on the Clinton email investigation, were having an extramarital affair and exchanged text messages expressing partisan political views — favoring Clinton and depicting Trump as “loathsome.”

    Worse, in one August 2016 text, one of them, FBI agent Peter Strzok, asserted that the FBI “can’t take that risk” that Trump could be elected, equating some unspecified action against this seemingly unlikely possibility to “an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.” Dismayingly, this text, which crosses the line between political banter and tainted law enforcement, refers to a meeting in the office of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, then (and now) the bureau’s No. 2 official.

    McCarthy praises Mueller for his results (which “so far appear free of political taint”) and for removing Strzok from the investigation. He is not alarmed that Mueller’s staff has strong political views, but is concerned about Andrew Weissman for a specific reason.

    A gifted career Justice Department lawyer, Weissmann sent former acting attorney general Sally Yates an effusive email shortly after Yates was fired for insubordinately defying Trump on enforcement of the so-called travel ban. The obstruction aspect of Mueller’s investigation calls for an objective evaluation of how much independence law-enforcement officials have from the chief executive. Weissmann’s lauding of Yates suggests he is not objective on this point.

    McCarthy’s conclusion: Remove Weissman to ensure the public perception of fairness.

  • Memo to Trump: Fire your lawyer. He’s clueless when he says the President cannot obstruct justice

    When your lawyer says, “The President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer,” (Axios), here’s a quick tip:

    Fire him immediately. Maybe sooner.

    Your personal lawyer, John Dowd, is wrong thrice over.

    First, he’s wrong about the law (say I, as a non-lawyer). The sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer in a county, but that doesn’t mean he can legally tear up his parking tickets. The point is that the law should apply equally. It should apply equally to citizens, regardless of race, creed, and so on. And it should apply to government officials as much as it applies to the rest of us.

    Second, he’s wrong about the politics, as the ghost of Archibald Cox will remind you. When the public and their elected representatives think the President is obstructing justice, they will seriously consider the remedy offered by the Constitution.

    Third, even if Dowd thinks the president cannot obstruct, he is wrong to say it out loud. The blowback will be fierce. See item #2.

    In the meantime, I’d check to see if Dowd is working for FusionGPS or the Podesta Group.

     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, November 8

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Democrats win big in off-year elections. The most important: a surprisingly large victory in the Virginia Governor’s race

    Comment: NJ returning to a Democratic governor is not surprising. In Virginia, which is shifting from purple to a blue state because of the DC suburbs, the surprise is not Ralph Northam’s win but his 9-point margin over a good Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie.

    Northam’s margin tells me Democrats are motivated, even after a divisive primary. Hillary won Virginia by 5 points. Down-ballot Democrats are also doing very well.

    President Trump’s begins his biggest stop: Beijing

    There are three major issues on the table: North Korea, China’s expansion in the South China Sea, and China’s asymmetrical trade relations with the US.

    Comment: More on this stop as news emerges.

    Texas Mass Killing: “Botched Air Force handling of Texas shooter’s criminal history may be ‘systemic’ issue” (Fox News)

    The 2015 Department of Defense Inspector General report analyzed a sample of 1,102 convictions, including felonies, handled in the military court system and found the Navy, Air Force and Marines failed to send criminal history or fingerprint data to the FBI in about 30 percent of them. –Fox News

    Ratcheting up the financial sanctions on Chinese banks doing business with North Korea (Reuters)

    Senate Finance Committee votes unanimously on these sanctions, just as Pres. Trump lands in Beijing.

    The U.S. Senate Banking Committee unanimously backed new sanctions targeting Chinese banks that do business with North Korea on Tuesday, just before President Donald Trump visits Beijing for the first time since taking office….

    Washington so far has largely held off on imposing new sanctions against Chinese banks and companies doing business with North Korea, given fears of retaliation by Beijing and possibly far-reaching effects on the world economy.–Reuters

    ◆ Curiouser and Curiouser: Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr also met with FusionGPS before and after the Trump Tower meeting (Fox News)

    The story about Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson and Russian attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, comes from one of our best investigative reporters, Catherine Herridge.

    The co-founder of Fusion GPS, the firm behind the unverified Trump dossier, met with a Russian lawyer before and after a key meeting she had last year with Trump’s son, Fox News has learned. The contacts shed new light on how closely tied the firm was to Russian interests, at a time when it was financing research to discredit then-candidate Donald Trump….

    Simpson and Fusion GPS were hired by BakerHostetler, which represented Russian firm Prevezon through Veselnitskaya. –Catherine Herridge for Fox News

    Comment: So, Fusion GPS was simultaneously working for this Russian firm and the Clinton campaign. That could be an innocent coincidence . . . or it could lead to some “synergies.”  So far, Fusion GPS has taken the 5th before Congressional investigative committees and fiercely resisted subpoenas for any records of their financial transactions.

    “Oh, what a tangled web we weave . . . ”

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, November 6

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Trump in Asia: What Matters about the Trip (a comment)

    The trip has three main goals, all important but in tension with each other

    • Contain or eliminate North Korean nuclear threat to US and US allies (depends on China’s cooperation)
    • Reduce China’s trade surplus with US, ideally by opening China’s domestic market to US exports
    • Deter an expanding Chinese threat in South China Sea (reinforce America’s partnership with nations surrounding China)

    Trump is also likely to meet with Putin, with North Korea, Syria, and Iran as major topics

     Texas church shooting: A crazed, well-armed guy furious with his former in-laws, who worshipped at the church he attacked

    That’s the report from local news outlets in the San Antonio area (KSAT in San Antonio)

    Comment: Some commentators will stress his beliefs (“he was an atheist”). That is not what drove him. Anger and crazed impulsiveness, not ideology, are the drivers here.

     Mueller Leaking: NBC reports he has enough evidence to charge Mike Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Adviser

    Special ZipDialog commentary here

    Another college attack on free-speech: Vassar students smear Wm. Jacobson (of Legal Insurrection blog) because he supports free speech (USA Today)

    Comment: Vassar, like so many small, elite colleges, is suffused with hard-left ideology.

    They should call these schools “Illiberal Arts Colleges.”

    Chicago nearing 600 homicides, most since 2003 (Chicago Tribune)

    How bad is it? The city has instituted a new program to show people how to stop bleeding from gunshot wounds (Chicago Tribune)

    Comment: N

    Investigators suspect US journalists were paid to spread materials from the Clinton/FusionGPS/Russian Dossier (Washington Times)

    In U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Fusion GPS, the dossier’s financier via the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign money, is fighting a House committee chairman’s bid to find out if the opposition research firm paid journalists.

    In U.S. District Court in Florida, a self-described dossier victim wants a judge to order the news website BuzzFeed, which published the dossier in full, to disclose who gave it to them. –Washington Times

    Comment: Fusion GPS is fighting so tenacious to prevent any disclosures of their receipts and expenditures, you can’t help but think they might have something to hide.

    Pleading the 5th Amendment before Congress was also a hint.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Tim Favero for the Vassar, William Jacobson story

     

  • Leaks from Mueller’s Office: What They Mean

     Mueller Leaking: NBC reports he has enough evidence to charge Mike Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Adviser

    Comment: This leak is informative–mostly about the tactics Mueller’s office is using to gain indictments.

    First, notice that they kept the guilty plea from George Papadopoulos completely secret for a month. That tells us this leak is deliberate and purposeful.

    Second, the purpose is to put pressure on Flynn before the charges. They want him to flip, probably by threatening Flynn’s son with heavier charges.  These are standard, hard-nosed prosecutorial tactics.

    Third, the Mueller office’s strong-arm tactics are now clear. The pre-dawn raid on Manafort was one indication. The Manafort and Gates charges of “conspiracy against the United States” are another. There is no such crime. It is simply “criminal conspiracy.” The point was to con gullible journalists–and they succeeded.

    Fourth, the charges about failure to register as a foreign agent seem both legitimate and illegitimate. Legitimate because we have laws that say you have to register. Illegitimate because the DOJ has failed to enforce this law as a criminal violation for years and years. Under those circumstances, the felony charges against Manafort and Gates seem like selective prosecution.

    Finally, notice that no charges of conspiracy between Russia and the Trump Campaign have been filed as yet. They may be forthcoming, but, so far, none have been made. Those were the central purpose of the appointment of a Special Counsel.

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, October 30

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Today’s legal developments: Separate post at ZipDialog

    • Paul Manafort indicted by Special Counsel Mueller
    • Low-level figure in Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, pleads guilty to making false statement about Russian contacts

    Tony Podesta, top Democratic lobbyist, resigns from his self-named firm amid Mueller investigations (Politico)

    [Tony] Podesta has long been a larger than life figure on K Street, growing his business from a boutique firm into a massive lobbying and public relations operation. He is well known for his flashy dressing, vast art collection, generous campaign donations across all levels of Democratic politics and, of course, for his brother John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. –Politico

    Experts say Manafort charges under foreign-agents law could spell trouble for Mike Flynn, Tony Podesta (Washington Examiner)

    The main allegation is that Manafort was working for a Kremlin-backed group in Ukraine.

    Two key points here:

    1. FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, has been used for criminal indictments less than 10 times since 1966
      • I believe there has only been one conviction
    2. So, its use by Mueller against Manafort should frighten Flynn, Podesta, and other lobbyists

     

     

     John Podesta, Debbie Wasserman Schultz told Senate Intel they didn’t know of dossier funding: report (The Hill)

    The interviews took place before it was disclosed that Clinton’s campaign and the DNC had paid for the research. It is against the law to make false statements to Congress. –The Hill

    Comment: They’ve gone full Sgt. Schultz. They know nothing.

    And, of course, Hillary has gone mute.

    By the way, her Democratic Party frenemy, Sen. Elizabeth Warren uses a different test pattern when she goes silent:

    House of Cards collapses: Netflix cancels series after this year’s production is completed amid sex charges against star Kevin Spacey (Daily Mail)

    This comes after ‘Rent’ star Anthony Rapp gave an interview claiming that a then-26-year-old Spacey tried to sexually assault him when he was 14 in 1986

    Spacey responded to that allegation with a rambling statement in which he said he did not recall the incident, apologized to Rapp and then came out as gay.

    ‘I am sorry that Kevin only saw fit to acknowledge his truth when he though it would serve him — just as his denial served him for so many years,’ said Zachary Quinto. –Daily Mail

     

    Comment: There are two separate issues here.

    One is despicable, if Spacey actually did what he is accused of, namely sexual assaults, especially against children.

    The other is openly gay actors attacking Spacey for not coming out earlier as gay. That is a completely distinct issue. They want to build support for open declaration of their sexual orientation. On the other hand, he has a personal right to privacy.

    The privacy versus openness issue is interesting and debatable.

    The sexual assault allegation are not. They should be investigated for criminal activity. Spacey gave a non-denial apology, saying he didn’t remember, might have been drunk, etc. (I would note that, if he did indeed proposition youngsters, there may well be other instances, which can be investigated.)

    Those who say “we all knew” were morally (if not legally) complicit if they knew about assault allegations.

    Coming out as gay at a moment when he is being accused seems like throwing dust in the air, trying to obscure the truly serious allegation.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • Manafort Indictment and More: What They Mean

    Paul Manafort indicted by Special Counsel Mueller

    The charges against Manafort and his business associate are that they should have registered as foreign agents for a pro-Russian Ukrainian entity, for which he did work until 2015.

    Those dates are well before he worked for the Trump Campaign, and the indictment itself has nothing to do with the 2016 Presidential Campaign.

    Comments: If Manafort has any information to implicate Trump or Trump associates, the Special Counsel now has leverage to acquire it.

    Second, even if Manafort’s indictment had nothing to do with Democrats’ allegations of “Trump’s Russian collusion,” it is never good when your campaign manager is swept up in such indictments. At the very least, it suggests the Trump Campaign hired him without knowing about these connections.

    Third, the indictments show the long-term efforts of the Kremlin and its allies, such as those in Ukraine, to insinuate themselves in the American political process.

    Fourth, if other lobbying firms did this kind of work for foreign entities–and I’m sure some well-connected firms did–they must read this indictment with a shudder.

    Low-level figure in Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, pleads guilty to making false statement about Russian contacts

    The contacts yielded nothing and the Trump campaign wasn’t interested in what he had to offer.

    As CNN describes (and then spins) it:

    Papadopoulos “falsely described his interactions with a certain foreign contact who discussed ‘dirt’ related to emails” concerning Hillary Clinton. Records also describe an email between Trump campaign officials suggesting they were considering acting on Russian invitations to go to Russia.

    Comment: The last sentence is mostly spin. The actual response was that the Trump campaign was not interested in what Papadopoulos was pushing to them.

    Comment #2: The White House notes that Papadopoulos was a volunteer with little activity and later said that the Mueller information about Papadopoulos was provided by the White House itself.

    Comment #3: This guilty plea came several weeks ago. Why did Mueller’s office wait to release the information? The most plausible explanation (to me) is that they wanted to show that the Manafort, which is unrelated to Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign (so far as we know), was accompanied by investigations that did involve the campaign.

    Tony Podesta, influential Democratic lobbyist and brother of Hillary’s campaign chair, stepping down from his firm amid Mueller probe (Politico)

    The investigation into Podesta and his firm grew out of investigators’ examination of Manafort’s finances. Manafort organized a PR campaign on behalf of a nonprofit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. Podesta Group was one of several firms that were paid to do work on the PR campaign to promote Ukraine in the U.S.

    Podesta Group filed paperwork with the Justice Department in April stating that it had done work for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine that also benefited the same Ukrainian political party that Manafort once advised. Podesta Group said at the time it believed its client was a European think tank untethered to a political party. –Politico

    Comment: The sleazy connections between Democratic and Republican insiders with lobbying firms is exactly why Americans think Washington is a swamp.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • Democrats Go Full Sgt. Schultz: DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz say they knew nothing about payments to Fusion GPS for Russian Dossier

    Here’s The Hill’s story, reported by Jonathan Easley.

    And here’s the key point.

    Current and past leaders of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) say they had no knowledge that the national party was helping to fund a dossier compiled by a British spy that contained scandalous accusations about President Trump.

    The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC paid millions to the law firm Perkins Coie, where Democratic lawyer Marc Elias worked with the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to construct the memo, which was compiled by British spy Christopher Steele. –The Hill

    Since that story posted, John Podesta also denied knowledge. (CNN) He headed Hillary’s campaign.

    Comment: They pinned the meter.

    Their scrambling shows they know how toxic the story is for them personally, as well as for their institution.

    What we don’t know is whether they will tell the same tale under oath, whether there are documents (including Hillary’s missing emails) that would shed light on the purchase of scurrilous information from Kremlin agents, done through three cut-outs (the law firm, which paid Fusion GPS, which then subcontracted with Glenn Steele), with Hillary’s campaign covering up the money trail.

    On Federal election disclosure forms, they simply said it was payment for “legal services.”

    Another crucial point: since the FBI itself was the recipient of the document and may have used it in their own investigation, as well as for search warrants, the FBI and DOJ themselves have conflicts of interest and cannot investigate this. Nor (IMO) can Mueller, since his close personal ties to Comey and his staff’s financial support for Hillary’s campaign constitute obvious conflicts of interest.

    This, my friends, is a fecal hurricane, Cat 3 and expected to rise.