Do Rosenstein and Mueller Have Conflicts of Interest in the Trump Investigation?

Rod_Rosenstein_US_Attorney440px-Director_Robert_S._Mueller-_III-1For many weeks, I questioned the need for a Special Counsel in the Russian investigation because it seems like a coverup in search of a crime.   I still do not see the evidence of a crime and simply saying “collusion” does not supply an actual crime.  However, when President Donald Trump fired James Comey, I supported the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate obstruction of justice, even though I remained skeptical of the basis for an actual obstruction charge. I still fail to see the compelling basis for an obstruction case without stretching the criminal code to the breaking point.  Nevertheless, I continue to support the need for an independent investigation.

The investigation of a sitting American president however must itself be beyond question as to any bias or influence.  For that reason, I have been questioning the propriety of Rod Rosenstein to continue in his current position vis-a-vis the Russian investigation.  From the outset, Rosenstein seemed to me to be an inevitable and important witness.  Ironically, the recent leak magnified this problem.  The leak seemed calculated to protect Mueller from being terminated by publicly identifying Trump as a possible target. However, whatever benefit the leak brought Mueller, it undermined Rosenstein.  If Mueller is investigation Trump for obstruction, Rosenstein should immediately recuse himself.

It is not clear if Mueller has an equal conflict of interest. There is reason to be concerned.  If Mueller discussed the Comey’s termination with Trump as a candidate for the next FBI Director, he might also be considered a witness in any obstruction investigation. It would seem highly material to the investigation to learn of how Trump described his decision and what he said (if anything) to Mueller about the ongoing Russian investigation.  At a minimum, the Special Counsel should address what is a reasonable question about his own knowledge of (and participation in) any meetings with Trump on the Comey termination and the Russian investigation.  I do not agree with the campaign to discredit Mueller and strongly object to attacks on his character.  I believe Mueller to be a person of integrity and I hope that he recognizes that such a meeting raises some legitimate questions that should be addressed.

Here is the column:

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Report: NSA Deputy Wrote Memo Detailing Trump’s Effort To Get Agency To Exonerate His Campaign In Russia Investigation

Admiral_Michael_S._Rogers,_USNdonald_trump_president-elect_portrait_croppedAnother day, another leak.  The Wall Street Journal is reporting that it has seen a memo written by Rick Ledgett, the former deputy director of the NSA, detailing a phone call in which U.S. President Donald Trump NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers to state publicly that there is no evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia.  It is the latest high-level official reporting a concerted effort by Trump to dispel allegations of collusion.  While the Special Counsel is reportedly seeking to interview Ledgett, I still remain skeptical of the current facts being used as the basis for an obstruction case.  As I previously discussed, Robert Mueller has hired at least one senior lawyer known for his unsuccessful effort to expand the scope of obstruction.  However, this memo does not necessarily change the narrative on both sides of the controversy.  There remains an obvious defense to a conventional obstruction claim – assuming the definition of the crime is not stretched beyond recognition to change the meaning of “corruptly influence.”

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Roambust: Criminals Steal Over A Hundred Roambee Tracking Devices . . . Police Use Devices To Immediately Track and Arrest Suspects

imagesCriminals in Santa Clara have discovered the only thing worse than stealing a police cruiser with a GPS device.  Instead, they stole over a hundred of Roambee GPS trackers from the manufacturer.  When asked if they knew where the thieves went, Roambee employees said . . . well yeah.  They then turned on their tracker on the GPS devices and police immediately arrested the stunned criminals.

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New Lawsuits Could Determine Not Only The Legal Status Of The Comey Memos But The Legality of Comey’s Actions

200px-Cnn.svg440px-Comey-FBI-PortraitLast week, CNN filed a lawsuit seeking the famous Comey memos from the FBI, which is discussed in the column below in The Hill newspaper.  The lawsuit could produce an official characterization of the status of the memos as either personal or FBI information.  After this column was posted, Judicial Watch also filed a lawsuit seeking the memos which it maintained were the property of the FBI.  The lawsuit states “Upon learning that records have been unlawfully removed from the FBI, you then are required to initiate action through the Attorney General for the recovery of records.”  These lawsuits could prove vindicating or implicating for Comey. [Update: other news organizations have added additional lawsuits]

Here is the column:

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The Fault Is Not In The Stars: Protester Stops Controversial Julius Caesar Performance in Central Park

ht_protest_dc_061717_12x5_1600Laura Loomer from the conservative website The Rebel ran on to the stage on Friday of the controversial production of Julius Caesar in Central Park. The show has been criticized for its characters modeled on President Donald Trump and others.  Trump, as Caesar, is killed in the show to the delight of the crowd.  Many find the show to be distasteful and hateful.  However, for those of us who have actively criticized liberals who shutdown conservative speakers on campuses and other public events, this is an equally objectionable effort to stop free speech. Indeed, it seeks to prevent both artistic and political expression.

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Both Sessions and the Senators Were Right in the Fight Over Executive Privilege

jeff_sessions_official_portraitDemocrats are clamoring for the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week in the wake of his testimony before the Senate.  I fail to see the good-faith basis for these calls, particularly after his testimony.  Sessions shot down the claims of a third meeting with Russians that was the subject of breathless media reports for days.  He also did an excellent job in explaining the steps that he took in recusing himself, including declining to play any role in the Russian investigation long before his formal recusal.  He was also on good ground in declining to discuss conversations with the President in the Oval Office.  Despite the shock expressed by Democratic Senators, he is in a long line of cabinet members declining to disclose such presidential communications.  Nevertheless, the Democrats were right that you should have a formal invocation of executive privilege before declining to answer questions from Congress.  However, as discussed in the column below, that is not uncommon.

Yet, the Administration had just gone through a controversial hearing with top intelligence officials refusing to answer such questions and clearly knew that these questions were coming.  What did not make sense in the testimony of National Security Agency director Adm. Mike Rogers and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats was their refusal to answer on the ground that it would be “inappropriate.”  That makes no sense in isolation without an indication that the questions will be reviewed and addressed by White House counsel in whether executive privilege will be invoked.  The same problem arose with the testimony of Sessions (which was magnified by the fact that the White House has been pummeled over the earlier hearing).

The White House should have simply invoked the privilege with regard to presidential communications in the Oval Office in advance while stating an intention to try to answer as many of the questions of the Committee as possible within those long-standing constitutional confines.  It is not unheard of to decline to answer questions pending review but Sessions did not promise to have questions reviewed.  If he does not secure an invocation (or permission to disclose), he would simply be refusing to answer questions of Congress which constitutes contempt of Congress.  This is not necessary. The White House Counsel should have sent a letter in advance of the hearing either invoking or waiving privilege.  Alternatively, he needs to send a letter to address the outstanding questions.  Congress has a right to have its questions answered unless the White House claims privilege.  Even with an invocation, Congress can overcome the privilege with a proper showing to a court.  The process requires a firm answer from the White House on the basis for refusing to answer questions and it cannot be a categorical denial based on unease or discomfort.

Here is the column in the Hill Newspaper.

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