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.
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.
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Roy Moore abandoned by national Republicans as more women accuse him
Comment: With such a thin margin in the Senate, Republicans need the Alabama seat to pass legislation (not that they have done so, yet), but individual office holders cannot afford to back him. And they are absolutely right, ethically, to back away from this sleazebag.
Unfortunately for Republicans, Moore owes them nothing, so they have no leverage to force him out of the race.
Trump and his Press Secretary will have to answer the question, an awkward prospect.
A write-in candidacy might win, but it’s a long shot.
That would mean immediate and nasty hearings to unseat Moore, with the prospect of further public humiliation. When he contemplates that, he might decide to back out. If he does, the Governor would probably postpone the election–over strenuous Democratic objections and lawsuits.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, showed selective recall on the Trump campaign’s Russia contacts.
Mr. Sessions said he had “no reason to doubt these women” who have accused the man who wants his old Senate seat, Roy S. Moore, of seeking sexual or romantic favors from them as teenagers. –New York Times
Comment: There seems to be enough smoke here to warrant a serious investigation. If so, then it should be conducted by a Special Counsel, not the DOJ for several reasons. The most important, by far, is this:
Any investigation of political opponents by law enforcement carries the heavy burden of perceived unfairness. Supporters of the opposing party (or candidate) will fear that the state’s power to investigate and punish is being used to crush opposition. That should never happen in a democracy. Even if the investigation is fair, it must be perceived as fair.
While Sessions and other political appointees could–and would–say that the task has been delegated to “career professionals,” they would have to sign off on any recommendations to charge. Again, their opponents could not be confident the process was fair and impartial.
Bottom line: Appoint a Special Counsel to investigate Uranium One, the Clinton Foundation, and the botched FBI investigation of the Clinton email server, including James Comey and Loretta Lynch’s roles.
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
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.
[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
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.
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ There are three stories today about Russia’s involvement in US politics, and all three are bad for the Democrats
How big the stories become–how serious the resulting scandals–depends on additional investigation and investigative reporting.
◆ Story #1: That scandalous, largely-discredited “Russian Dossier,” which led to the federal investigations of the Trump Campaign, was financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary’s Campaign
The Washington Post broke the story (link here) They report that the Clinton campaign, using a Washington lawyer as a cutout, retained Fusion GPS to do the dirty work. Fusion GPS has fought strenuously to prevent any disclosure of who paid them and invoked their 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Congress.
The Clinton campaign, like others, used a lawyer to hire these contractors so their communications would be protected by attorney-client privilege.
The Clinton people have never acknowledged a connection to Fusion GPS or the dossier.
◆ Story #2: Mueller’s Russia Probe turns toward key Democratic insiders
Paul Manafort is also a major target but, according to reports, this top Republican operative worked closely with the Podesta Group, closely aligned with the Clintons.
A thus-far-reliable source who used to be involved with Clinton allies John and Tony Podesta told Tucker Carlson that press reports appearing to implicate President Trump in Russian collusion are exaggerated.
The source, who Carlson said he would not yet name, said he worked for the brothers’ Podesta Group and was privy to some information from Robert Mueller’s special investigation.
While media reports describe former “Black, Manafort & Stone” principal Paul Manafort as Trump’s main tie to the investigation, the source said it is Manafort’s role as a liaison between Russia and the Podesta Group that is drawing the scrutiny.
The “vehicle” Manafort worked for was what Carlson called a “sham” company with a headquarters listed in Belgium but whose contact information was linked to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. –Fox News
Comment: National news media have not reported this news.
◆ Story #3: Russian bribery, money-laundering, speaker fees to Bill Clinton, and over $100 million to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Sec. of State and the Russians were federal approval to buy US uranium assets
Actually House Republicans announced two new investigations (link here):
In the first of two back-to-back announcements, the top Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees said they would formally examine the Obama Justice Department’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails. Less than an hour later, Republicans from the Intelligence and Oversight Committees said they were opening a separate inquiry into the administration’s approval of a 2010 agreement that left a Russian-backed company in control of much of the United States’ uranium. –New York Times
Comment: The NYT story downplays the significance and suggests it is all simply partisan squabbling about a now-departed administration.
I think they underestimate the possible ramifications of both investigations.
The Uranium One deal is a particularly thorny issue for the Clintons and the Obama Administration because Obama’s FBI and DOJ knew of Russian bribery and other criminal activity before the deal was approved. Congress was not informed, as it should have been. Their objections might have blocked the deal. The public was kept completely in the dark. Mueller was head of the FBI at this time. One of the Russians reportedly involved in this illegal activity was given a US visa twice during this period by Hillary’s State Department. One major question is whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from these Russia issues, will appoint a Special Counsel to investigate this and perhaps the Clinton emails, where then FBI-director Comey wrote a memo clearing Hillary long before key witnesses had been interviewed.
The most important implication: The FBI (under Mueller) looks to be deeply compromised.
◆Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will not run for re-election. He and Sen. Bob Corker (D-TN), who is also retiring, lacerated Pres. Trump in speeches, interviews, and social media. Their rebukes are reported here(Reuters)
Flake’s attack was on Trump’s conduct and dishonesty. Flake’s actual voting record is very supportive of Trump legislation.
Flake, who has very high disapproval numbers in his home state, was likely to lose his primary contest.
All seven members of the Party’s Standing Committee were in their 60s. Rising stars in their 50s were not included.
Comment: The absence of an heir-apparent, Xi’s cult of personality, and his name’s inclusion in the party constitution all raise speculation he might eventually seek a third-term, which had been ruled out after Mao’s death.
“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” [Prof. Rochelle] Gutiérrez argued [in a book aimed at K-12 math teachers].
Truly, you cannot make this up. Here’s what the professor writes:
If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she says, adding that there are so many minorities who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”
To fight this, Gutiérrez encourages aspiring math teachers to develop a sense of “political conocimiento,” a Spanish phrase for “political knowledge for teaching.”
Comment #1: Please note, Prof. Gutiérrez thinks it is rank racism to judge people in a math class on whether they can reason abstractly. In fact, math is abstract reasoning.
Comment #2: Why, Professor, does all this whiteness and white privilege in math not seem to hold back Asians and Asian-Americans in US math classes? This is not a trivial issue or mere debating point. Note, too, that many of the Asian-American students come from lower-income families. Hmmmm.
Comment #3: Gutiérrez is a professor of education, where this kind of political blather, masquerading as scholarship, is commonplace. Poor scholarship and political propaganda are major problems in Ed Schools across the country. So is the soft curriculum, which leads to adverse selection (namely, compared to other students, those who major in education consistently have some of the lowest SATs and lowest GPAs outside their majors).
I remember all the justified complaints by feminists when a Barbie doll said, “Math is hard.” They said, rightly, that the comments were demeaning to women and sending the wrong message to girls. Sorry to see Prof. Gutiérrez sending the same message to minorities and dressing up in the costume of social justice.
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Pres. Trump’s speech to the UN was blunt and aimed squarely at North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela
It combined two main elements:
A traditional Republican assertion of US military strength and global engagements
Trump’s own nationalist, anti-globalist agenda, praising “strong sovereign nations” (not international institutions) as the basis of global order
The blunt language attracted a lot of attention. Conservatives (including many who don’t support Trump) were positive. Liberals cringed, longing for Obama’s soft tone, soft policies, and strategic patient.
He called the nuclear deal with Iran “an embarrassment” and “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the US has ever entered into.” He spoke of Iran’s aggressive support of terror and expansion in the Middle East. He specifically spoke about the threat from “Radical Islamic Terror,” words his predecessor never used (and that Trump himself has used less often in recent months).
He said nothing about “democracy promotion,” a centerpiece of George W. Bush’s foreign policy.
His comment on Venezuela was equally blunt, saying they had turned a rich country into an impoverished failure and done so not because it misapplied socialist policies but because it applied them exactly as they were intended.
Without using the term “axis of evil,” his speech clearly echoed those themes from Pres. Bush’s War on Terror.
As someone said on Twitter, never before has been there so much murmuring of “holy sh**” in so many different languages.
◆ Two natural disasters:
Cat 5 Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico with 175 mph winds, the second major hurricane within a month
Mexico suffers a 7.1 magnitude quake.
Numerous casualties and fatalities from both, unfortunately.
Comment: The best way to keep up with news about each is with your favorite breaking-news site online. The cable channels will show you the gritty aftermath but take hours to give you the hard news you can get in a few minutes reading.
Senate Republicans, abandoning a key fiscal doctrine, agreed on Tuesday to move forward on a budget that would add to the federal deficit in order to pave the way for a $1.5 trillion tax cut over the next 10 years.
The Republican lawmakers, under mounting pressure to score a legislative win on taxes, say a tax cut of this magnitude will stimulate economic growth enough to offset any deficit impact.
Yet critics say a deficit-financed tax cut is at odds with longstanding Republican calls for fiscal discipline, including that tax cuts not add to the ballooning federal deficit.
Comment: Tax bills must originate in the House, which is dribbling out some information but not the key details. Those should come in the next week or so.
He and his gang of corrupt officers were tripped up in 2001 when they tried one ripoff while the dealer happened to be on the phone with his girlfriend. She mistakenly thought another drug dealer was the robber and called the cops. Honest cops showed up, saw what was happening, and that was the beginning of the end.
◆Turkey increasingly uses its thuggish, dictatorial tactics in Western democracies. It did it again this week
They did it in May, 2017, when Turkish security officers assaulted peaceful demonstrators in Washington, DC. (New York Times report here.)
This week, they tried to stop a speaker at a conference in Philadelphia. The event was hosted by the Middle East Forum (MEF) for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, known as NATO-PA.
NATO PA organizers asked that MEF remove a speaker, Emre Çelik, from the program in response to a demand issued by the office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. MEF removed the speaker from the program, but invited him to address the gathering anyway.
When Çelik rose to speak, the Turkish delegation grew visibly agitated and acted quickly to shut down the event. –Middle East Forum
Daniel Pipes, who heads the Middle East Forum, spoke plainly about the incident, which was captured on video:
President Erdoğan’s attempt to stifle free speech at a Middle East Forum event today was despicable. We did not accept it. –Daniel Pipes
“If true, it is a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA warrant, regardless of the fact that no charges ever emerged,” [Manafort’s spokesman said].
“The U.S. Department of Justice’s Inspector General should immediately conduct an investigation into these leaks and to examine the motivations behind a previous administration’s effort to surveil a political opponent,” he said.
The special counsel’s office and the FBI both declined to comment on Maloni’s statement. They also did not comment on CNN’s original report about surveillance of Manafort. –Reuters
Comment: There are several disturbing aspects of this story, all requiring serious investigation. Manafort’s role is obviously one. So is the apparent release of secret information, the presence of a government wiretap on the manager of a political campaign, the possibility President Trump was picked up on the surveillance, and the statements by several Obama administration intelligence officials that they knew of no such surveillance. It is unclear if those officials made false statements under oath.
The president has vowed to speed deportations and cut down on the growing backlog of cases. He issued an executive order in January calling for a national crackdown.
After Trump issued the order, the Justice Department dispatched dozens of immigration judges to detention centers across the country and hired an additional 54 judges. The agency said it has continued to hire more immigration judges each month. –Fox News
Why such an aggressive move against a white-collar suspect who is already cooperating? The NYT offers some ideas:
The search is a sign that the investigation into Mr. Manafort has broadened, and is the most significant public step investigators have taken since the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was appointed in May. Investigators are expected to deploy a wide array of similar measures — including interviews and subpoenas — in the coming months as they move forward with the intensifying inquiry. . . .
Legal experts said that Mr. Mueller might be trying to send a message to Mr. Manafort about the severity of the investigation, and to pressure him into cooperating. –New York Times
The disease is caused by the body destroying cells in the pancreas that control blood sugar levels. The immunotherapy – tested on 27 people in the UK – also showed signs of slowing the disease, but this needs confirming in larger trials. Experts said the advance could one day free people from daily injections.
Patients given the therapy did not need to increase their dose of insulin during the trial. However, it is too soon to say this therapy stops type 1 diabetes and larger clinical trials will be needed. And further types of immunotherapy that should deliver an even stronger reaction are already underway.–BBC
Comment: Promising but larger studies needed. Note that it slows the progression of the disease; it does not reverse it.
Based on the leaked documents, The Washington Post reported new details Thursday about Trump’s tense phone calls in late January with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. In the former, Trump reportedly told the Mexican leader to stop publicly saying his government would not pay for a border wall.
The newspaper said the transcripts had notes indicating they had been classified by the chief of staff on the National Security Council. The Post said it obtained full transcripts, which were “produced by White House staff” and based on records kept by White House note-takers. –Fox News
Comment: My guess: holdover staff from the last administration or people who have just been fired.
They already had one in Virginia, so this is really not new, just a more convenient location for Mueller’s office, which now has 16 full-time prosecutors.
Comment: It means the investigation is
Clearly a criminal one, not limited to counter-intelligence
Not limited to Mike Flynn, who was the subject of the Virginia panel
Likely to last many more months
Who should be worried? Anybody in Trump’s circle who has extensive business dealings with Russia or Russian-sponsored entities and, of course, anybody who lies to Federal agents. Lying to the media is not a crime, but a pattern of lying could indicate intent to cover up and prompt further inquiry.
West Virginia, once reliably Democratic, has voted for Republicans in each presidential race since 2000, and dramatically last year. Four of the state’s five Congressional seats have flipped to Republican.
The most important elected Democrat in the state is now centrist Joe Manchin, who said he will remain a Democrat.
Comment:Democrats now control only 15 governorships and the fewest state legislatures in the party’s history.
Sticking with Bernie and Nancy is not going to help, but the ineptitude of the current Congress will.
Comment: Yes, it helps that they are both former generals. But the main point is that they are both experienced at high-level Washington bureaucratic politics.
McMaster has been cleaning house in his operation, putting his own people in place.
The problems: McMaster has a violent temper, often on display in staff meetings, and is frequently pitted against Steve Bannon, who is an important link to Pres. Trump’s populist constituency–and who would be harder on the Trump Administration outside the tent than inside.