Thursday, March 29, 2018

Last Call For Russian To Judgment

You probably don't know the name Jason Roberts but you should: he's the Senate GOP staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee who has been sabotaging the Trump/Russia investigation since day one, as ProPublica's Robert Faturechi reports.

For the last year, Foster — empowered by his boss, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the committee’s chairman — has been the behind-the-scenes architect of an assault on the FBI, and most centrally its role in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to interviews with current and former congressional aides, federal law enforcement officials and others. 
With Foster in charge of his oversight work, Grassley has openly speculated about whether former FBI director James Comey leaked classified information as Comey raised alarms about President Donald Trump’s possible interference in the Russia probe. Grassley and the other Republicans on the committee have questioned the impartiality of a former member of Mueller’s team, cast doubt on the credibility of the FBI’s secret court application for permission to surveil a Trump campaign associate and called for a second special counsel to investigate matters related to Hillary Clinton. A firm that conducted opposition research on Trump has made clear in court it believes Grassley’s committee, with Foster as its lead investigator, had leaked sensitive information about its business. 
Most recently, many of those interviewed by ProPublica said, Foster engineered Grassley’s highly unusual public announcement asking federal authorities to consider criminal charges against Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy who compiled the dossier warning of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. 
For Foster’s critics, and they include Republicans as well as Democrats, his provocative work on the Trump-Russia investigation is just the latest chapter in the career of a partisan combatant willing to discard norms and indulge in conspiratorial thinking as he pursues investigations favorable to Republicans. 
Foster — who cut his teeth on Capitol Hill working on the staff of former Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., who fueled the theory of foul play in a Clinton aide’s suicide and called for required AIDS testing for all Americans — drew the ire of many for his role in various Judiciary Committee investigations of the Obama administration. 
“That’s the way it seemed to go every time with Jason, conspiracy to the point it was ridiculous,” said one Democratic aide who had dealt with Foster. The aide was one of several interviewed by ProPublica, Democrat and Republican, who would not be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the inner workings of Congress. 
Foster’s career, including his work on the committee’s Russia investigation, has caught the attention of the Trump administration. Foster has twice been approached about a possible job, an inspector general role, with the administration, a situation that some say should have required his recusal from work on the collusion inquiry.

It gets far worse than a simple case of Trump wanting to reward one of his champions in the investigation of the White House. Foster is a dangerous ideologue and partisan bomb-thrower.

In examining Foster’s role in the committee’s Trump-Russia investigation, ProPublica discovered that a decade ago he had written an anonymous blog, using the handle “extremist.” The posts by Foster, who was then working for Grassley on the Senate Finance Committee, made clear he was some sort of D.C. insider, and he came across as a knowing observer as the country navigated the thorny political fights of the Bush and Obama eras. 
But there were also plenty of times “extremist” lived up to his chosen name. 
He warned of an Islamic takeover. He wrote that homosexuality was akin to incest. He questioned whether waterboarding really amounted to torture. He derided Obama’s proposal to negotiate with the Taliban, and was particularly galled that the president doing so had the middle name Hussein. Liberals? They were anti-American. 
He even mused about whether Sen. Joseph McCarthy, condemned as a demagogue for his 1950s anti-Communist crusade, should be remembered more kindly.

And this guy is the chief investigative counsel on the committee, meaning he's running the fieldwork for the Senate Judiciary on this.  If you want to know why the Senate Judiciary hasn't done anything but attack the FBI and Mueller for the last year, now you know why.

The Shulkin Shuffle's Sinister Secret

As Luke Barnes over at Think Progress notes, David Shulkin's tenure as Secretary of Veterans Affairs was on thin ice for months now, but the real reason he was let go is because Trump wants to privatize health care for veterans.

Shulkin was the only holdover from the Obama era in Trump’s cabinet, having been appointed in 2015 to lead the V.A.’s health system. His replacement is the current White House physician who previously lauded the president’s health, but has no experience running a major bureaucratic agency. 
Shulkin’s tenure as V.A. secretary had reportedly been in peril for months. In February, his chief of staff resigned after being accused of “serious derelictions” in expenses during a 10-day trip to Europe in 2017 — including improperly accepting tickets to the Wimbledon tennis championship. Later in February, reports surfaced that senior aides within the V.A. were actively conspiring to have him removed. 
But the major controversy within the V.A. centers around the Trump administration’s plans to offer veterans more privatized medical care at the expense of taxpayers. During his confirmation hearing, Shulkin vowed to resist any privatization efforts, which had been a Trump campaign promise. 
V.A. is a unique national resource that is worth saving,” Shulkin told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee last February during his confirmation hearing. “The Department of Veterans Affairs will not be privatized under my watch.” 

And it's no longer his watch, now is it?

During the 2016 presidential election, Trump labeled the V.A. “the most corrupt agency in the United States.” But after he won the presidential election, major veterans groups banded together to ask Trump to keep Obama’s secretary, Robert A. McDonald.
“We all want McDonald,” Joe Chenelly, executive director of Amvets, told the New York Times in December 2016. “He has a good business mind, he is experienced and we feel we can trust him.” Trump replaced him anyway
Democratic lawmakers warned Wednesday night that Shulkin’s removal paved the way for Trump to move forward with his goal of privatizing the agency. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the removal was “a troubling step towards the Trump Administration’s ultimate goal of V.A. privatization,” while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said that “the struggle at the Veterans Administration is about Trump’s desire to privatize the VA and his belief that Secretary David Shulkin is not moving fast enough in that direction.” 
Veterans groups have also been adamantly opposed to privatization. “We can’t see the number of veterans that VA sees on a regular basis if we’re going to pay the same rates that other health care industries pay in the community,” Verna Jones, executive director for the American Legion, said earlier in March. “One of the things we’re most concerned about is an increased contracting out, when we should be able to do that on VA campuses that will deplete the amount of money that’s available to see veterans.”

So yes, as with Medicare and Medicaid, expect to see a lot more "public-private partnerships" to bring health care to the nation's nine million veterans: steep cuts in benefits, quality, and longer wait times as caring for our military veterans becomes an issue of profit motive rather than a duty to serve those who served this country.

Shulkin took to the NY Times this morning to remind us that Trump and the GOP will do this unless we stop them.

Until the past few months, veteran issues were dealt with in a largely bipartisan way. (My 100-0 Senate confirmation was perhaps the best evidence that the V.A. has been the exception to Washington’s political polarization). Unfortunately, the department has become entangled in a brutal power struggle, with some political appointees choosing to promote their agendas instead of what’s best for veterans. These individuals, who seek to privatize veteran health care as an alternative to government-run V.A. care, unfortunately fail to engage in realistic plans regarding who will care for the more than 9 million veterans who rely on the department for life-sustaining care.

The private sector, already struggling to provide adequate access to care in many communities, is ill-prepared to handle the number and complexity of patients that would come from closing or downsizing V.A. hospitals and clinics, particularly when it involves the mental health needs of people scarred by the horrors of war. Working with community providers to adequately ensure that veterans’ needs are met is a good practice. But privatization leading to the dismantling of the department’s extensive health care system is a terrible idea. The department’s understanding of service-related health problems, its groundbreaking research and its special ability to work with military veterans cannot be easily replicated in the private sector.

I have fought to stand up for this great department and all that it embodies. In recent months, though, the environment in Washington has turned so toxic, chaotic, disrespectful and subversive that it became impossible for me to accomplish the important work that our veterans need and deserve. I can assure you that I will continue to speak out against those who seek to harm the V.A. by putting their personal agendas in front of the well-being of our veterans.

Trump is about to wreck the VA with Ronny Jackson and our veterans are the ones who will pay for it.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

In a story that should surprise nobody, the NY Times is reporting that outgoing Trump lawyer John Dowd brought up the issue of presidential pardons for Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn last year as Mueller came down on them like the hammer of the gods.

A lawyer for President Trump broached the idea of Mr. Trump pardoning two of his former top advisers, Michael T. Flynn and Paul Manafort, with their lawyers last year, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions. 
The discussions came as the special counsel was building cases against both men, and they raise questions about whether the lawyer, John Dowd, who resigned last week, was offering pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation
The talks suggest that Mr. Trump’s lawyers were concerned about what Mr. Flynn and Mr. Manafort might reveal were they to cut a deal with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in exchange for leniency. Mr. Mueller’s team could investigate the prospect that Mr. Dowd made pardon offers to thwart the inquiry, although legal experts are divided about whether such offers might constitute obstruction of justice. 
Mr. Dowd’s conversation with Mr. Flynn’s lawyer, Robert K. Kelner, occurred sometime after Mr. Dowd took over last summer as the president’s personal lawyer, at a time when a grand jury was hearing evidence against Mr. Flynn on a range of potential crimes. Mr. Flynn, who served as Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, agreed in late November to cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation. He pleaded guilty in December to lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations with the Russian ambassador and received favorable sentencing terms. 
Mr. Dowd has said privately that he did not know why Mr. Flynn had accepted a plea, according to one of the people. He said he had told Mr. Kelner that the president had long believed that the case against Mr. Flynn was flimsy and was prepared to pardon him, the person said. 
The pardon discussion with Mr. Manafort’s attorney, Reginald J. Brown, came before his client was indicted in October on charges of money laundering and other financial crimes. Mr. Manafort, the former chairman of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, has pleaded not guilty and has told others he is not interested in a pardon because he believes he has done nothing wrong and the government overstepped its authority. Mr. Brown is no longer his lawyer. 
It is unclear whether Mr. Dowd discussed the pardons with Mr. Trump before bringing them up with the other lawyers.

This is pretty much the standard legal definition of Nixonian obstruction of justice, discussing pardons with potential co-conspirators and witnesses to Trump's misdeeds.   In the last couple of days we've seen a story all but proving collusion between Trump's campaign manager and Russian intelligence, and now we see all but proof of obstruction of justice.

No wonder then that the Trump regime is now laying the groundwork for firing Robert Mueller and soon.

When President Donald Trump lashed out against Robert Mueller by name earlier this month, the president’s supporters sprang into action — treating the chief Russia investigator to political campaign-style opposition research. 
Within hours, the Drudge Report featured a story blaming Mueller, the special counsel leading the Justice Department’s Russia probe, for the FBI’s clumsy investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks when Mueller ran the bureau. The independent pro-Trump journalist Sara Carter posted a story charging that Mueller, as a federal prosecutor in Boston in the mid-1980s, had covered up the FBI’s dealings with the Mafia informant Whitey Bulger. Carter was soon discussing her findings in prime time with Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Meanwhile, Trump supporters on Twitter circulated video of testimony Mueller gave to Congress ahead of the 2003 Iraq War in which he endorsed the view, later proved false, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. 
To some, the barrage looked coordinated among pro-Trump allies and media outlets, a concerted effort to tarnish Mueller’s reputation as part of a political strategy to undermine, or even eventually fire, the Russia investigator. 
“It looks like the beginnings of a campaign,” a source familiar with Trump’s legal strategy said. “It looks like they are trying to seed the ground. Ultimately, if the president determines he wants to fire Mueller, he’s going to want to make sure there’s ample public record that he can fall back on.”

Up until the last month or so, leaks out of the Mueller team were few and far between, especially when it came to coming indictments.  Now we're getting leaks fast and hard as we've seen this week, along with the end of the House investigation into Trump/Russia and the public plan to discredit Mueller, both in response to Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner finding himself to be a major target for Mueller's probe, and subpoenas by Mueller for Trump Organization documents.

Remember that Trump considered Mueller's investigation moving into Trump's finances as crossing a red line.  Mueller jumped all over that line and everything since then has been Trump reacting.

On Mueller's side, there appear to be forces trying to keep him from being fired and these leaks are now appearing regularly, particularly on issues that took place last year.  I don't think it's Mueller himself, but the man's not stupid, either.

We'll see which side wins soon.  Trump is going to need to play his cards before the election season heats up, if he is going to try to fire Mueller it will have to happen very soon.  It's already April practically, it'll have to happen before Congress disappears for six months for recess so they can get their marching orders for the campaign trail.

Stay tuned.  Things are going to start moving fast now.  Trump isn't ruling out pardons either.

The White House on Wednesday refused to rule out the possibility that President Trump would issue pardons to former senior aides facing charges from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. 
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a statement from lawyer Ty Cobb saying that there has been no discussion or consideration of pardons “at this time.” 
“There's no discussion or consideration of that at this time,” Sanders told reporters. “The president has the authority to pardon individuals, but you're asking me about a specific case in which it hasn't been discussed.”

It's not obstruction of justice when it's destruction of justice.


Related Posts with Thumbnails