Over at the Washington Post, Greg Sargent asks the million-dollar question on Trump and Russia: when Mueller issues his expected scathing report on the Trump administration, to what extent was the collusion aided and abetted by congressional Republicans?
As we head into 2018, one big, looming unknown is this: Just how far will congressional Republicans go to prevent a full accounting of Russia’s interference in our election and any possible Trump campaign conspiracy with it?
Certain House Republicans are already working to frustrate the House Intelligence Committee’s ongoing investigation. Do Democrats have any recourse? The answer is yes — but within limits.
In an interview with me, Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut — the No. 2 Democrat on the House intel committee — said that Democrats are seriously exploring the possibility of issuing a minority report that details (among other things) the degree to which Republicans tried to impede a full investigation, should that end up happening. In this scenario, the public would at least have a clear sense of just how far Republicans went to protect President Trump and his top officials from accountability.
“It’s in both the Democrats’ and the Republicans’ interests to … write a report based on a common set of facts,” Himes told me. “It would be a tragedy if the report has a minority section that says, ‘Look, we wanted to talk to these two dozen witnesses and weren’t able to do so.'”
The focus is on GOP House Intel Chair Rep. Devin Nunes of California, who recused himself on the Russia investigation only to try to start a new investigation of the FBI and Clinton. Nunes has been killing Democratic subpoenas.
Democrats want to ask Trump Jr. about a phone call he held with his father about his June 2016 meeting with the Russian lawyer, which he took in the expectation of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton supplied by the Russian government. Trump Jr. and his dad discussed this meeting just after news of it broke in July 2017. When questioned about this call by committee Democrats, he invoked attorney-client privilege. Democrats want to subpoena Trump Jr. to compel his testimony, which could shed light on what happened at that meeting and how far Trump has gone to prevent the truth about it from coming out.
It appears Nunes may have killed that effort. Meanwhile, Nunes’s investigative zeal is directed elsewhere: Politico recently reported that Nunes is quietly leading a group of House Republicans in an effort to build a case that senior Justice Department and FBI officials improperly handled the explosive “Steele dossier,” which describes links between Trump and Russia.
These are pretty explosive allegations, intimating that Nunes is part of an effort to obstruct justice by preventing investigations into the Trump regime. The problem for Nunes is the Mueller probe. If Mueller finds out the information that House Intel Democrats are looking for and were blocked by Nunes from getting, it's not going to look good for Nunes in particular from a, you know, legal standpoint.
Meanwhile, over in the NY Times, the founders of Fusion GPS, the political opposition research firm that gave us the Steele Dossier, have penned a scathing op-ed demanding Congress release their testimony on Trump.
In the year since the publication of the so-called Steele dossier — the collection of intelligence reports we commissioned about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia — the president has repeatedly attacked us on Twitter. His allies in Congress have dug through our bank records and sought to tarnish our firm to punish us for highlighting his links to Russia. Conservative news outlets and even our former employer, The Wall Street Journal, have spun a succession of mendacious conspiracy theories about our motives and backers.
We are happy to correct the record. In fact, we already have.
Three congressional committees have heard over 21 hours of testimony from our firm, Fusion GPS. In those sessions, we toppled the far right’s conspiracy theories and explained how The Washington Free Beacon and the Clinton campaign — the Republican and Democratic funders of our Trump research — separately came to hire us in the first place.
We walked investigators through our yearlong effort to decipher Mr. Trump’s complex business past, of which the Steele dossier is but one chapter. And we handed over our relevant bank records — while drawing the line at a fishing expedition for the records of companies we work for that have nothing to do with the Trump case.
Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right. It’s time to share what our company told investigators.
We don’t believe the Steele dossier was the trigger for the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian meddling. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.
The intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign. Yet lawmakers in the thrall of the president continue to wage a cynical campaign to portray us as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation.
It's the second-to-last paragraph that's the doozy. If the Steele Dossier corroborated what the FBI investigators already had, rather than instigating the investigation, the Republicans are in far more trouble than previously reported.
We suggested investigators look into the bank records of Deutsche Bank and others that were funding Mr. Trump’s businesses. Congress appears uninterested in that tip: Reportedly, ours are the only bank records the House Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed.
We told Congress that from Manhattan to Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and from Toronto to Panama, we found widespread evidence that Mr. Trump and his organization had worked with a wide array of dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering. Likewise, those deals don’t seem to interest Congress.
We explained how, from our past journalistic work in Europe, we were deeply familiar with the political operative Paul Manafort’s coziness with Moscow and his financial ties to Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin.
Finally, we debunked the biggest canard being pushed by the president’s men — the notion that we somehow knew of the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower between some Russians and the Trump brain trust. We first learned of that meeting from news reports last year — and the committees know it. They also know that these Russians were unaware of the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele’s work for us and were not sources for his reports.
Yes, we hired Mr. Steele, a highly respected Russia expert. But we did so without informing him whom we were working for and gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?
What came back shocked us. Mr. Steele’s sources in Russia (who were not paid) reported on an extensive — and now confirmed — effort by the Kremlin to help elect Mr. Trump president. Mr. Steele saw this as a crime in progress and decided he needed to report it to the F.B.I.
Again, very explosive allegations. Fusion GPS is saying that the Steele Dossier (and their testimony to Congress about it) confirms that the Trump regime was working with the Russians in order to get Trump elected. That's about as big as it gets, guys.
Oh, but it gets worse for the Trump regime. Today the Guardian unlimbered their preview of Michael Wolff's tell-all book of the Trump campaign, and it's nothing short of amazing.
Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon has described the Trump Tower meeting between the president’s son and a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”, according to an explosive new book seen by the Guardian.
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, reportedly based on more than 200 interviews with the president, his inner circle and players in and around the administration, is one of the most eagerly awaited political books of the year. In it, Wolff lifts the lid on a White House lurching from crisis to crisis amid internecine warfare, with even some of Trump’s closest allies expressing contempt for him.
Bannon, who was chief executive of the Trump campaign in its final three months, then White House chief strategist for seven months before returning to the rightwing Breitbart News, is a central figure in the nasty, cutthroat drama, quoted extensively, often in salty language.
He is particularly scathing about a June 2016 meeting involving Trump’s son Donald Jr, son-in-law Jared Kushner, then campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York. A trusted intermediary had promised documents that would “incriminate” rival Hillary Clinton but instead of alerting the FBI to a potential assault on American democracy by a foreign power, Trump Jr replied in an email: “I love it.”
The meeting was revealed by the New York Times in July last year, prompting Trump Jr to say no consequential material was produced. Soon after, Wolff writes, Bannon remarked mockingly: “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers.
“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people”. Any information, he said, could then be “dump[ed] … down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication”.
Bannon added: “You never see it, you never know it, because you don’t need to … But that’s the brain trust that they had.”
Where we go from here, I don't know, but the House and Senate investigations into the Trump regime just got turned up to 11. And Bannon is now running around covering his ass and throwing Donald Jr. and Jared Kushner under the bus.
Bannon certainly believes there's something to the Russia collusion story. He just admitted to the massive long con that he was using Breitbart to cover for Trump's denials for months.
This just got real interesting. Welcome to 2018, Day 3.