Friday, April 13, 2018

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Looks like the Mueller investigation will move forward without Mueller interviewing Donald Trump as the Trump lawyer Michael Cohen raid on Monday means the White House is now refusing to make Trump available to talk.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office and President Donald Trump’s legal team are now proceeding with strategies that presume a presidential interview will likely not take place as part of the Russia investigation, after months of talks between the two sides collapsed earlier this week, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

On Monday Trump’s lawyers were discussing a possible interview with Mueller's team and had begun to hash out the final sticking points, including the timing, scope and length, according to people familiar with the discussions. One person familiar with the strategy said the president’s lawyers had over the weekend sought to expand his legal team to include individuals who would prepare him for an interview. Another person familiar with the matter, however, said preparations had not yet gone that far. 
But the prospects for a presidential interview dramatically dimmed once the FBI raided the home, office and hotel room of Trump’s long-time personal lawyer, Michael Cohen on Monday, these people said. The president criticized the raid as out of bounds in Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump aides.

So, petulant, petty Trump is picking up his ball and going home.  That's fine, Mueller never really needed to interview Trump to make his case, especially now that he's holding all the cards from the Cohen raid.  But now that the White House has told Mueller to go pound sand, Mueller can just smile and say "Well, we gave Mr. Trump the option to present his side of the story and he refused to do so."

It'll make it all the more damning when the truth all comes out.  And that truth could come faster than expected with the Washington Post revelation that Michael Cohen liked to record his clients...and his only client right now is Donald Trump.

President Trump’s personal attorney Michael D. Cohen sometimes taped conversations with associates, according to three people familiar with his practice, and allies of the president are worried that the recordings were seized by federal investigators in a raid of Cohen’s office and residences this week.

Cohen, who served for a decade as a lawyer at the Trump Organization and is a close confidant of Trump, was known to store the conversations using digital files and then replay them for colleagues, according to people who have interacted with him.

“We heard he had some proclivity to make tapes,” said one Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. “Now we are wondering, who did he tape? Did he store those someplace where they were actually seized? . . . Did they find his recordings?”

Cohen did not respond to requests for comment. Stephen Ryan, an attorney for Cohen, declined to comment. A White House spokeswoman referred a request for comment to Cohen and his attorney.

If Donald Trump wasn't seething before, he is now.  Again, Mueller is holding all the cards and Trump damn well knows it.

Somebody else who has quite a handful of cards?  Former FBI Director James Comey, whose tell-all book A Higher Loyalty is out next week.  The reviews and excerpts are out now, and dear lord, is Donald Trump going to be extra pissed this weekend.

Former FBI Director James Comey blasts President Donald Trump as unethical and “untethered to truth” in a sharply critical new book that describes Trump as fixated in the early days of his administration on having the FBI debunk salacious rumors he insisted were untrue but could distress his wife.

In the forthcoming book, Comey compares Trump to a mafia don and calls his leadership of the country “ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

He also reveals new details about his interactions with Trump and his own decision-making in handling the Hillary Clinton email investigation before the 2016 election. He casts Trump as a mobster-like figure who sought to blur the line between law enforcement and politics and tried to pressure him personally regarding his investigation into Russian election interference.

The book adheres closely to Comey’s public testimony and written statements about his contacts with Trump and his growing concern about Trump’s integrity. It also includes strikingly personal jabs at Trump that appear sure to irritate the president.

The 6-foot-8 Comey describes Trump as shorter than he expected with a “too long” tie and “bright white half-moons” under his eyes that he suggests came from tanning goggles. He also says he made a conscious effort to check the president’s hand size, saying it was “smaller than mine but did not seem unusually so.”

Now Comey's tale is self-serving to a point, as far as I'm concerned Comey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg are about as responsible as it comes for putting Trump in the White House in the last 30 days of the 2016 campaign, and both men are searching for absolution that will never come.  But the revelations here are guaranteed to make Trump volcanically furious.

And now Trump will absolutely need to lash out and punish someone. Trump and company are now seriously going after Rod Rosenstein as the base is being tilled and seeded for his inevitable firing.

The White House is preparing talking points designed to undermine Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's credibility, according to sources familiar with the plan. 
The plan calls on President Donald Trump's allies to cast Rosenstein as too conflicted to fairly oversee the Russia investigation
The talking points are still in their preliminary form, and not yet finalized, people familiar with their preparation said. The White House and the Justice Department declined to comment. 
Already, a number of Trump's associates have called for Rosenstein's firing in appearances on television and in public remarks over the past few days, but not all of them did so at the request of the White House.

Again, there's no need to do this unless the plan is to put pressure on Rosenstein to convince him to resign or to prep the narrative for his firing.  Note that Trump did the same for pushing Jeff Sessions into firing Andrew McCabe.  Something similiar and much more sinister is happening here, as of course this is deliberately interference in the investigation against Trump and at worse, clearly obstruction of justice.

Efforts to undermine Rosenstein in the media come as the President is weighing whether to fire the top official overseeing the Russia investigation. 
Trump is still livid about the raid on his private attorney Michael Cohen -- "He'll be pissed about it until he dies," another source said -- and he and his allies are increasingly convinced that Mueller and Rosenstein have overstepped their bounds. 
One area of conflict the White House wants its surrogates to highlight: Rosenstein's role as a key witness to the Comey firing, sources said. Rosenstein wrote the memo justifying Comey's dismissal. It centered on his conduct in investigating Hillary Clinton's use of private email. 
The White House is also hoping Trump's defenders will paint Rosenstein and Comey as close colleagues and argue that Rosenstein is approving an ever-expanding investigation against Trump and his associates as retribution.

This is what the White House wants.  Trump wants Rosenstein gone, and with him, Robert Mueller.  There should be no doubt that the move will be made in the next few weeks, if not days. Whether or not Congress or the American people act as a result, we'll see.

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