As its trail of arrests gets closer to U.S. President Donald Trump, the Russia investigation is facing a multi-front assault. The attacks have ramped up following news that Trump’s close confidant Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty and become an informant.
The president’s defenders are now seeking to poke holes in, and undermine, the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller. Here are six avenues of attack:
1. Mueller is biased: “It’s so disturbing and troubling,” Trump aide Kellyanne Conway told Fox News on Monday. She was speaking about weekend news that the Mueller probe removed a top investigator over the summer, after the discovery of texts to a lover blasting the president. This is atop reports that the same FBI investigator, Peter Strzok, was a key figure in the emails investigation that yielded no charges against Hillary Clinton. And there’s more: a paper trail of political donations shows several senior probe employees have a history of donating to Democrats. Another report said Strzok was involved in interviewing Flynn. Said Republican lawmaker Ron DeSantis: “It was almost as if they bent over backwards not to make the case on Hillary. With the Mueller probe, they’re just scorching the earth finding whatever little ticky-tack charge they can find on anyone… (Strzok’s role) undercuts the legitimacy of both those investigations.”
2. Presidents can’t be charged for obstructing justice: This is potentially a key question. There’s evidence Trump tried thwarting an investigation into Flynn. The argument here is he’s allowed to. Trump lawyer John Dowd expressed it via the Axios website: “The president cannot obstruct justice.” Harvard scholar Alan Dershowitz says Trump has constitutional power — to pardon Flynn himself, to fire the FBI director, and to issue instructions to the Justice Department. So what’s the legal problem if he orders the FBI to lay off Flynn, Dershowitz asks: “We’d have a constitutional crisis (if Trump is charged with obstruction),” he told Fox News. “You cannot charge a president with obstruction of justice for exercising his constitutional power.” He says presidents can only be charged with obstruction that involves innately illegal acts — like the Nixon White House destroying evidence and paying hush money. Other legal scholars call this a laughable, quasi-regal, anti-democratic argument. One headline on the Vox website said, “Trump’s lawyer: the president can’t obstruct justice. 13 legal experts (say): yes, he can.” A list of law professors cited legal precedents, and the fact that the president’s power comes from the Constitution — the same Constitution that says he must faithfully execute the law. Peter Shane of Ohio State University called the Dershowitz-Dowd argument “nonsense.”
3. It’s a nothing-burger: They say this investigation is built on a flawed foundation. Mueller’s probe was struck to examine collusion with Russia — during the election. His critics note that four people are now charged — two for financial crimes predating the election, two for lying to the FBI after the election. This view is articulated in a Washington Examiner piece, “Was it all about the Logan Act?” In this narrative, the root of the probe is a dust-gathering, never-used law from 1799, the Logan Act, which forbids people from undermining U.S. foreign policy: Flynn spoke with Russians during the presidential transition; the FBI then questioned him about it; Flynn lied; he and Comey were forced out; Flynn was charged; now he’s a co-operating witness against Trump. A closely related argument involves the notorious Steele dossier — a document filled with jaw-dropping allegations that the Russians spent years recruiting Trump as an asset, and collecting blackmail material on him. The document was gathered by a former British spy and handed to the FBI. But his original customers were Trump campaign opponents. Critics now argue that any evidence stemming from this dossier is illegitimate. Others say this entire line of attack is wishful thinking — there are already several documented communications during the campaign with Russians, or suspected Russian intermediaries like Wikileaks, and some other investigation targets, like Paul Manafort, had reportedly been under surveillance for years.
4. Cut off funding: This is reportedly the route suggested by Steve Bannon. Trump’s ex-staffer, and still-ally, doesn’t want him to fire Mueller. He’s publicly said so. What he’s urging, reports say, is that Congress slash Mueller’s funding. That view is articulated by pro-Trump senator Steve King, who told Politico: “For them to say to us, ‘Vote for an open-ended appropriation into a Mueller witch hunt,’ I think you’ll see significant objection.”
5. Fire Mueller: Canadian friend of Trump Conrad Black suggests how to make this happen. Deriding the investigation as a “never-ending fishing expedition,” Black proposed a chain-reaction of moves, starting with Rex Tillerson’s removed as secretary of state — shift the CIA director to the State Department; appoint to the CIA Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from Russia-related matters; have Dershowitz replace Sessions; have Dershowitz kill the probe.
6. Rally the base: Ultimately, politics could decide all of this. Trump’s fate could eventually rest with Congress, given the legal realities — the president’s power to pardon; doubts about whether a sitting president can be charged; and the aforementioned debate about obstruction of justice. Impeachment, the ultimate political punishment, requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress. That’s 290 in the House, 67 in the Senate. It means more than 100 Republicans would have to turn on their president. And the full-throated assault on Mueller — from Trump’s Twitter feed, Fox News, and conservative news outlets — provides a daily rallying cry for the ranks to remain united.
Republican Block Investigation into NRA’s Illegal Russian Donations
Late last week, the two Republican FEC commissioners blocked an investigation into whether Russians used the National Rifle Association (NRA) to pump millions of dollars into the effort to help Donald Trump get elected in 2016.
Early last year, McClatchy DC reported that the FBI was investigating whether Russian banker Alexander Torshin, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, had illegally donated large sums to the NRA to get Trump elected.
In March, the FEC launched a preliminary investigation into the matter. Now, however, the commission’s Republicans have blocked the agency from investigating further.
“This is an abandonment of the Commission’s basic duty to investigate wrongdoing, and is contrary to law,” commented FEC chairwoman Ellen Weintraub in a statement.
“All our lawyers had to do was pick up the phone, call the FBI, and ask: Are you, in fact, investigating the Respondents for the violations alleged? But when I suggested that the Commission instruct OGC to do so, the Republican commissioners refused,” Weintraub wrote. “We still do not know the answer to this foundational, eminently knowable, question.”
Her Republican colleagues rejected the accusations. Commissioner Caroline Hunter told Newsweek that Weintraub’s “statement is long on conjecture and short on the evidence and the law.”
“Some allegations are too serious to ignore,” Weintraub stated, “Too serious to simply take Respondents’ denials at face value. Too serious to play games with.”
By voice and vote, Communications Workers censure Trump’s racism
By voice and by vote, in statements from leaders and members and in a blistering resolution, the Communications Workers convention strongly censured GOP President Donald Trump’s racism.
Trump’s “naked appeal to white supremacy” is “dividing the country in ways we haven’t seen in half a century and probably haven’t seen since the Civil War,” union President Chris Shelton declared during his keynote address on July 29 to the convention’s 2,000 delegates.
The blast at Trump was one of several highlights of opening day of the union convention, held in Las Vegas. Another was exhortations to build on past political momentum, and victories, in the run-up to the 2020 national election.
“It’s not just the president,” Shelton explained, after citing the need to beat Trump next year. “We also have to hold the (U.S.) House. And nationally, Senate races won’t be easy. But the road to a majority runs through North Carolina, Maine, Georgia, Arizona, and Colorado.”
Vulnerable GOP senators from those states, along with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., and 16 other Republican senators, are up next year. Democrats hold 45 Senate seats, plus two Democratic-leaning independents, and are defending 12. A five-seat Democratic gain would turn over the Senate.
“We must do everything we can to win the Senate and ask American politicians to serve the American people again.”
And the union’s women’s committee – whose report noted a dearth of women in top posts at CWA, in unions and in politics — pledged to put a woman in the White House and add so many women into top ranks that CWA would have to set up “a men’s committee” to tackle their problems.
But Trump’s racism, especially his vitriolic “go back where you came from” attacks against progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City, Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, Ayanna Pressley of Boston and Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis, were the focus of ire, and not just from Shelton.
“In times like these, we need to be united as a union and as a country,” said Diane Bailey of Local 4310 in Columbus, Ohio, during the brief discussion. “Division only works against us. We must not go backward; we can only move forward.”
“White nationalism is wrong. Racism is wrong,” declared Local 4123 President Charles Daniels of Pontiac, Mich. “The president of the United States telling four women of color to ‘go back where they came from’ is wrong.”
“We stand up to bullies and we have to stand up now because it is the president of the U.S., so it’s incumbent on us to say ‘no.’ As powerful as he is, it’s wrong,” Daniels said of Trump’s statements.
The resolution was in a similar vein.
After citing the Statue of Liberty’s poem by Emma Lazarus, the resolution said, “that is the America we believe in. Apparently, the president of the United States does not share that belief.”
The resolution says Trump’s attacks on the four first-year lawmakers, all women of color and all Democrats, are “offensive, demagogic, dangerous and racist.” Trump’s language “poses a particular danger to Omar, given the barely hidden networks of armed white supremacists whose hatred of Muslims hardly needs to be stoked by” Trump.
Omar and Tlaib are the first two Muslim American women ever elected to Congress. Omar is a refugee from the Somalian civil war. Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez, and Pressley are native-born.
CWA not only denounced Trump but demands other unions, legislatures and community groups do so, too. Earlier in July, the National Education Association, the nation’s largest union, did so. But CWA also demanded Trump’s GOP colleagues to “denounce his un-American rhetoric.”
“All too many have been silent in this controversy,” it notes. As a matter of fact, the number of elected GOPers nationwide – senators, representatives, and governors – who have blasted Trump’s racism can be counted on fewer than the fingers of two hands.
Though the delegates censured Trump, impeaching him did not come up in either in the convention resolutions committee or on the floor. That seemingly runs counter to continuing grass-roots sentiment among rank-and-file Democrats. But the party’s leaders, in Congress and in organized labor, either oppose the move (Congress) or are silent so far (labor).
The union’s denunciation of Trump “is about his racism, not necessarily his policies,” one speaker said, attempting to reassure those CWA members, and other workers, who voted for Trump in 2016.
“Real leaders unite us so we can move forward, build unity around the American dream and fulfill the bold promise of the Statue of Liberty: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free,’” quoted Shelton, a New Yorker and former New York Telephone lineman, whom delegates re-elected that afternoon by acclamation. They also re-elected Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens, a News Guild member, by acclamation to the union’s #2 post.
Inside Candace Owens’ $37,500 Reparation Check
Months after graduating Stamford High in Connecticut, Candace Owens received $37,500 from the government after Owens received racist voice mails. This is the same woman who claims that racism doesn’t exist– and that she “made it on her own.”
The supposed ringleader was fellow student Evan Kopek, who “had a shouting match” with Owens two days before the incident in February 2007. Kopek was suspended, but the school refused to “discipline him and the other boys for an incident committed off school grounds unless the police made an arrest.” This decision caused Owens to miss school for six weeks because “it was traumatic to attend with the alleged callers.”
The NAACP even offered its support.
Years later, during a 2019 appearance at CPAC, the annual conservative conference, Owens had this to say about racism in America (via Daily Beast). “Stop selling us our own oppression,” she said. “Stop taking away our self-confidence by telling us that we can’t because of racism, because of slavery. I’ve never been a slave in this country.”
- Republican Block Investigation into NRA’s Illegal Russian Donations
- By voice and vote, Communications Workers censure Trump’s racism
- FBI to Investigate Gilroy as Misogynistic Domestic Terrorism
- Inside Candace Owens’ $37,500 Reparation Check
- Gallery: Inside Melania Trump’s Extreme Forced Plastic Surgery