Thursday, January 25, 2018

Last Call For Almost Wasn't Mueller Time

The NY Times reporting tonight that Donald Trump actually did order Robert Mueller be fired way back last June, but White House counsel Don McGahn said flat out that he would resign rather than deliver Trump's message.

President Trump ordered the firing last June of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, according to four people told of the matter, but ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive.

The West Wing confrontation marks the first time Mr. Trump is known to have tried to fire the special counsel. Mr. Mueller learned about the episode in recent months as his investigators interviewed current and former senior White House officials in his inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice.

Amid the first wave of news media reports that Mr. Mueller was examining a possible obstruction case, the president began to argue that Mr. Mueller had three conflicts of interest that disqualified him from overseeing the investigation, two of the people said.

First, he claimed that a dispute years ago over fees at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., had prompted Mr. Mueller, the F.B.I. director at the time, to resign his membership. The president also said Mr. Mueller could not be impartial because he had most recently worked for the law firm that previously represented the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Finally, the president said, Mr. Mueller had been interviewed to return as the F.B.I. director the day before he was appointed special counsel in May.

After receiving the president’s order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead, the people said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation.

Mr. McGahn disagreed with the president’s case. He also told senior White House officials that firing Mr. Mueller would have a catastrophic effect on Mr. Trump’s presidency and would incite more questions about whether the White House was trying to obstruct the Russia investigation. Mr. McGahn also told White House officials that Mr. Trump would not follow through on the dismissal on his own. The president then backed off.

“We decline to comment out of respect for the Office of the Special Counsel and its process,” Ty Cobb, the president’s lawyer who manages the White House’s relationship with Mr. Mueller’s office, said in a statement.

This is pretty much the realm of "holy crap" territory.   Pretty much everything Trump has said about awaiting Mueller's swift conclusion of the investigation since July has been a lie.  Trump's reasoning for firing Mueller were all nonsense, and his lawyer agreed to the point where he would not carry out the President's direct order.

Don McGahn may have at least saved the Mueller investigation.  It would have been over in six weeks otherwise.  But the leak of this story is a major, major problem for Trump.  June was when the investigation turned to Trump's obstruction of justice involving the Comey firing.  In July Trump gave his interview to the NY Times without his lawyers present and said that he would consider firing Mueller.

He had already tried to fire Mueller when he gave that interview, guys. And lets remember, he did fire James Comey, and he wanted to fire FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, too.

There's also a 100% chance that Mueller knew Trump tried to fire him, a knew some time ago.

Trump is guilty as sin, guys.

Because it gets worse.

Another option that Mr. Trump considered in discussions with his advisers was dismissing the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, and elevating the department’s No. 3 official, Rachel Brand, to oversee Mr. Mueller. Mr. Rosenstein has overseen the investigation since March, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.

Mr. Trump has significantly ratcheted back his criticisms of Mr. Mueller since he hired Mr. Cobb in July. A veteran of several high-profile Washington controversies, Mr. Cobb has known Mr. Mueller for decades, dating to their early careers in the Justice Department.

He advised Mr. Trump that he had nothing to gain from combat with Mr. Mueller, a highly respected former prosecutor and F.B.I. director who has subpoena power as special counsel. Since Mr. Cobb’s arrival, the White House has operated on the premise that the quickest way to clear the cloud of suspicion was to cooperate with Mr. Mueller, not to fight him.

Nonetheless, Mr. Trump has wavered for months about whether he wants to fire Mr. Mueller, whose job security is an omnipresent concern among the president’s legal team and close aides. The president’s lawyers, including Mr. Cobb, have tried to keep Mr. Trump calm by assuring him for months, amid new revelations about the inquiry, that it is close to ending

It's not close to ending.  And he's still thinking about firing Mueller because his legal team keeps having to talk him down, something that the notoriously thin-skinned Trump has to be screaming about in Davos this weekend.

Stay tuned.

Make America Irrelevant Again

Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are at the Wolrd Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week pitching "America First", and the rest of the planet apparently could not care less.

President Trump is arriving at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to explain his “America First” approach at a moment when the world is moving ahead with a trade agenda that no longer revolves around the United States. 
The world marked a turning point in global trade on Tuesday, when 11 countries agreed to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, announcing they had finalized the pact and expected to sign a deal on March 8 in Chile. It was a remarkable moment for a beleaguered agreement that was conceived and constructed by the United States, then abandoned by Washington when Mr. Trump took office last year. 
As the world’s largest economy and architect of many international organizations and treaties, the United States remains an indispensable partner. But as the global economy gains strength, Europe and countries including Japan and China are forging ahead with deals that do not include the United States. 
Thirty-five new bilateral and regional trade pacts are under consideration around the world, according to the World Trade Organization. The United States is party to just one of them, with the European Union, and that negotiation has gone dormant. The United States is also threatening to withdraw from one of its existing multilateral agreements — the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada — if it cannot be renegotiated in the United States’ favor.

“Maybe there was some sort of presumption on the part of the president and his team that if the U.S. said stop, this process would come to a halt,” said Phil Levy, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an economist in the George W. Bush administration. “What this shows is that’s not true. The world just moves on without us.”

In July, Japan signed a wide-ranging new trade deal with the European Union — a step the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, referred to as hoisting “the flag of free trade high amidst protectionist trends.” The European Union pushed ahead with a major update to its agreement with Mexico, while China pursued a pan-Asian agreement, among other deals. 
Business interests in the United States are watching with alarm as other countries strike agreements that exclude American exporters. For example, ranchers in Canada and Australia will be able to sell beef at lower prices in Japan than their American competitors, who will be subject to higher tariffs because the United States is not party to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. 
Kent Bacus, the director of international trade and market access for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said Tuesday that the United States’ withdrawal was “a missed opportunity for the United States to gain greater access to some of the world’s most vibrant and growing markets.

When the full effect of this kicks in -- particular should Trump withdraw from NAFTA -- it's going to get very ugly, very fast.  The only question is how much worse than the Great Recession of 2008 will it be, and how many millions more jobs will be lost.

And this time, we won't have a stimulus package or, you know, a competent administration, to get us out of the deep hole we're going to be in for the next decade.  The damage will be catastrophic. And the rest of the world?

They'll pick up the pieces without us and just move on.

Trump Will Get Journalists Killed And Soon

When you are the titular leader of the United States and you call the free press "Fake News" and an "Enemy of the People", raging at them as the source of all the problems in the country, don't be surprised when your cult followers take that to heart and plot terrorist attacks against news outlets.

On Jan. 9, an operator in Atlanta manning the public contact number for CNN received a phone call. According to a federal arrest affidavit unsealed Monday, the male caller launched into a threat. 
“Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down. F‑‑‑ you, f‑‑‑ing n‑‑‑‑‑s.” The caller then clicked off. 
Three minutes later, the same caller, dialing from the same number, again rang the CNN line. “I am on my way right now to gun the f‑‑‑in’ CNN cast down. F‑‑‑ you,” the caller said. The operator asked the caller his name. “F‑‑‑ you,” he responded. “I am coming to kill you.” 
Thirty minutes later, the caller again reached the CNN public switchboard. He whispered his threats. “I’m coming for you CNN. I’m smarter than you. More powerful than you. I have more guns than you. More manpower. Your cast is about to get gunned down in a matter of hours.” 
According to federal law enforcement, the man on the other end was Brandon Griesemer of Novi, Mich. 
In an arrest affidavit released Monday, FBI agent Sean Callaghan wrote that Griesemer “made approximately 22 total calls to CNN” between Jan. 9 and Jan. 10. Four of the calls resulted in threats. In the last message, the caller made disparaging remarks about Jewish individuals, before stating: “You are going down. I have a gun and I am coming to Georgia right now to go to the CNN headquarters to f‑‑‑ing gun every single last one of you. I have a team of people. It’s going to be great, man . . . You gotta get prepared for this one, buddy.” 
Court records indicate Griesemer was arrested on a charge of interstate communications with intent to extort, threaten or injure. He made an initial appearance in court on Jan. 19. 
Griesemer is currently free on a $10,000 unsecured bond. 
On Monday night, a man who identified himself as Griesemer’s father told The Washington Post that “this whole thing has been a mistake. He really didn’t mean any of it.” Griesemer’s father added: “He didn’t know what he was saying, the seriousness of it. We’re not even gun owners or anything like that. We don’t have any, neither does he.” 
The father declined to comment further. “More will come out later. Hopefully, this can be settled.”

The threats were made public less than a week after President Trump unveiled his “Fake News Awards.” The term, trumpeted by the president in his frequent clashes with the press, has become a popular rallying cry among Trump’s base. CNN has been a regular target of the president’s “fake news” attacks; the president has also shared violent images featuring the cable news giant, including pictures of the CNN logo crushed under a shoe and a GIF of the president personally attacking the CNN logo.

The next time, it won't be a angry young guy from Michigan calling in threats because the President condoned this violence.  It'll be a blown-up or shot-up newsroom, or an ambushed news team, or something worse.

And they'll laugh and cheer when it happens.


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