1/ The House Judiciary Committee launched a broad investigation into possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power by Trump and his administration. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler sent letters demanding documents from more than 80 family members, business associates, political confidants, and entities tied to Trump, including the Trump Organization, the Trump campaign, the Trump Foundation, the presidential inaugural committee, the White House, Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Jared Kushner, Hope Hicks, Steve Bannon, Sean Spicer, the National Rifle Association, and others. The Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over impeachment, and any hearings that explore whether Trump committed "high crimes and misdemeanors" would take place before the panel. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Wall Street Journal / ABC News / CNN / NBC News / Daily Beast)
Roger Stone on Sunday suggested he has been “framed” by special counsel Robert Mueller in an Instagram post that appeared to run afoul of a judge’s barely week-old gag order barring President Donald Trump’s longtime friend from criticizing the prosecutors in the criminal case against him.
Stone deleted the only image in that multi-image post that included “Who framed Roger Stone” language shortly after CNBC emailed his lawyer to ask about it…
In her gag order in U.S District Court in Washington, D.C., Jackson barred Stone from "making statements to the media or in public settings about the Special Counsel’s investigation or this case or any of the participants in the investigation or the case."
The gag extends to “posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other form of social media.” If Stone violates the order, Jackson could order him jailed without bail until his trial.
Here’s the post. IMHO it clearly violates the gag order. I’m sure Stone will be hearing from Judge Jackson soon – will she throw his patootie in the clink? Can’t wait to find out. Next week is already queued up with a boat load of Trump-related debacles. So many scandals, so little time.
And also, there’s the book that is soon to be published, which will be another way Stone can violate the gag order. Stone is sly, and cunning like a fox, so I believe he will ‘test’ the system again.
He’s in for some jail time methinks.
Republican operative and longtime Trump friend Roger Stone faced fresh legal trouble Friday after a federal judge ordered his attorneys to explain why they failed to tell her before now about the imminent publication of a book that could violate his gag order by potentially criticizing the judge or prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Here they come…81 letters to individuals which would investigate “abuses of power, corruption and obstruction of justice”. Nadler is laying the groundwork for impeachment, but not using that incendiary word, just getting the evidence out there.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, opened his much-anticipated probe with letters to 81 individuals, companies and government entities seeking a wide range of materials that go to the heart of allegations against the president — including abuses of power, corruption, and obstruction of justice.
The list of letter recipients reads like a who’s who of people in and around the president’s orbit, notably all of Trump’s senior 2016 campaign leaders, including Corey Lewandowski, Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner and Brad Parscale, the current campaign manager for the 2020 re-election effort.
Three key House chairmen on Monday formally asked the White House and the State Department for documents and witness interviews related to President Donald Trump’s communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The leaders of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight Committees are giving White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo until March 15 to turn over “all documents and communications, regardless of form and classification, that refer or relate to any communications between President Trump and President Putin, including in-person meetings and telephone calls.”
They are also demanding that the White House and the State Department make employees with knowledge of the Trump-Putin talks available for interviews with the committees.
It’s about time we find out what went on in the one-on-one meetings between Trump and Putin. Having such meetings is unprecedented, and for good reason. Normally, top officials are also present to bear witness to what was discussed – this is to prevent the other leader from recording the meeting and using the recording as possible blackmail against our President. It’s also done so that the President can assure our nation that everything he’s coordinating with the foreign leader is above board. The meetings do not need to be public, but they at least need to be witnessed by other top officials. This is a precaution taken in all meetings with foreign agents and is taught in Spy Craft 101, but Trump recklessly ignored it. We demand to know why.
Mmmm… Well, it is what it is. If Barr does try to cover up Mueller’s report, there will be a huge backlash. And he’s well aware that investigations in SDNY and in the House may make some findings that are similar to what will be in Mueller’s report – if Barr tries to suppress those findings by limiting the scope of what he passes on to Congress, he knows that could queue him up for being investigated as well. But it sure would be nice if we could be assured that we will see everything in Mueller’s report except for text that must be redacted for national security purposes.
I’d like to know more about the ethics officials who handed him a favorable decision – just to have some confidence that their decision was not biased.
The Justice Department announced Monday that Attorney General Bill Barr will not step aside from overseeing the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, as anticipation grows over when Robert Mueller will deliver his report to the department.
“Following General Barr’s confirmation, senior career ethics officials advised that General Barr should not recuse himself from the Special Counsel’s investigation,” Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement Monday. “Consistent with that advice, General Barr has decided not to recuse.”
Prior to his Senate confirmation last month, Democrats had raised concerns about a 19-page memo Barr authored in June 2018 as a private citizen, detailing why he believed President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey a year earlier should not constitute obstruction of justice. He also previously offered mixed opinions about the Russia investigation, having praised Mueller but also publicly criticized political donations that several members of the special counsel’s team had made to Democrats.
The fact that Barr wrote that memo makes it appear like he “auditioned” for the job – similar to the way Whitaker did.
This is newly released evidence that provides additional support for Cohen’s recent testimony before Congress. Cohen described how he visited Trump in the Oval Office where Trump told him that he would soon be receiving two checks as part of the repayment for the hush money he had paid out on Trump’s behalf. A short time later Cohen received this check for $70,000 which represents two monthly payments of $35,000 each, combined into a single check. It’s signed by Allen Weisselberg and Trump Jr. This is the third check we’ve seen that proves Cohen was receiving regular reimbursement payments (Cohen produced the first two during his testimony). Monico describes the check and holds it up starting at 3:50.
Two other important takeaways:
Monico points out that the check is written on the Trump Revocable Trust and says the trust was set up so the “President would have separation between his life as a politician and his life as a civil servant.” Monico leaves the conclusion unspoken so I’ll add it: the Trust, as we always suspected, is bogus and Trump knows perfectly well what the Trust is doing. The Trust has done nothing to mitigate the multitude of conflicts of interest under which businessman Trump is functioning in his role as President.
We see a clip (at 5:30) of Cohen’s testimony when he is asked if “there is any other wrong doing or illegal act regarding Donald Trump” that he is aware of. Cohen responds by saying he can’t comment because “those are part of the investigation that’s being looked at by the Southern District of New York.” The big revelation this evening is that Monico tells us Cohen is assisting not only the SDNY, but also the New York Attorney General. We don’t know if those two entities are investigating the same alleged crime(s) or different ones, but this once again assures us that powerful investigative forces are at work digging for the truth about Trump.
Cohen’s lawyer, Michael Monico, holding up the third hush money reimbursement check that we have seen. The $70,000 check (representing two payments) is written on the Trump Revocable Trust and is signed by Allen Weisselberg and Donald Trump Jr. This is the repayment that Cohen testified Trump promised him when he visited him in the Oval Office.
The WSJ released this story, but since they are subscriber-based, I’m linking to a summary by The Hill. Here’s the story in a nutshell as The Hill describes it:
An attorney representing Michael Cohen broached the idea of a pardon for the longtime Trump associate during a conversation last year with lawyers for the president, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The news outlet reported that Stephen Ryan allegedly discussed the possibility of a pardon with Trump attorneys Jay Sekulow, Rudy Giuliani and Joanna Hendon. The conversations reportedly took place in the weeks after the FBI raided Cohen’s home, hotel room and office while the group reviewed seized files that may have qualified for attorney-client privilege.
Ryan hinted that Cohen would consider cooperating with prosecutors if he did not receive a pardon, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Trump’s attorneys rejected the idea of pardoning Cohen at the time, The Journal reported, but Giuliani left the door open to a pardon down the road.
Several questions arise:
Is this story true? So far just one news outlet has sourced the story (WSJ) and other outlets are simply repeating WSJ’s reporting. Haven’t heard of any independent corroboration yet. Until we do, we should probably take this with a grain of salt. It could even represent a leak from Trump’s camp, trying to get out in front of something bigger related to pardons (pure speculation on my part).
If we assume this story is true, how much trouble could Stephen Ryan be in for inquiring about a pardon for his client? I’ve been looking for an opinion on this from a legal analyst, but haven’t found any who have weighed in so far.
How much trouble could Giuliani be in for leaving open the possibility of a pardon? Is this what’s meant by “dangling a pardon”? But even Trump seemed to be bargaining with pardons when he was asked if he would pardon Manafort and he replied, “It was never discussed, but I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?” If Trump isn’t in legal jeopardy for that statement, it seems like Giuliani wouldn’t be either. Again, looking for expert legal opinions here.
Did Trump know about these pardon discussions? Did he know that Giuliani left open the possibility of a pardon?
Did Cohen know that his lawyer asked Trump’s lawyers about a pardon? In his opening statement for his recent testimony, Cohen said, “I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from President Trump.”
In his testimony before the House Oversight Committee, on February 8, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said “I am aware of pardons related to individuals.” Could he be referring to these pardon discussions? They reportedly occured in April and Whitaker didn’t come on board until November, but maybe he heard about them at that time or saw documents related to them. Interesting that he suddenly left the DOJ just before this story was released.
An attorney for Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, raised the possibility of a pardon with attorneys for the president and his company after federal agents raided Mr. Cohen’s properties in April, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Conversations among those parties are now being probed by congressional investigators, according to document requests issued Monday by the House Judiciary Committee to dozens of Trump associates, including one of the president’s current lawyers and Mr. Cohen.
Mr. Cohen’s attorney at the time, Stephen Ryan, discussed the possibility of a pardon with lawyers for Mr. Trump in the weeks after the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Mr. Cohen’s home, office and hotel room, the people said. The pardon discussions occurred while Mr. Ryan was working alongside lawyers for Mr. Trump to review files seized from Mr. Cohen’s premises by the FBI to determine whether they were protected by attorney-client privilege.
The president’s lawyers, including Jay Sekulow, Rudy Giuliani and Joanna Hendon, dismissed the idea of a pardon at the time, these people said. But at least one of them, Mr. Giuliani, left open the possibility that the president could grant Mr. Cohen one in the future, they said.
Mr. Ryan also brought up the subject of a pardon with Alan Futerfas, an outside lawyer for the Trump Organization, and the company’s general counsel, Alan Garten, some of the people familiar with the matter said.
Mr. Ryan left the impression that if Mr. Cohen couldn’t rely on a pardon, he might cooperate with prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office investigating Mr. Cohen, the people said.
In testimony before the House Oversight Committee last week, Mr. Cohen said: “I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from Mr. Trump.” There is no indication Mr. Cohen personally asked for a pardon or that he was aware of any discussion on the topic.
:Mr. Cohen stands by his testimony before the House Oversight Committee,” a spokeswoman for Mr. Cohen said in response to questions for this article.
When lawyers have approached Mr. Giuliani about a presidential pardon for their client, “I always give the same answer which is, ‘The president is not going to consider any pardons at this time and nobody should think that he is,’” Mr. Giuliani said. He added that he also tells lawyers, referring to the president: “Whatever happens in the future, that is his prerogative.”
Mr. Giuliani declined to say whether any lawyers for Mr. Cohen had contacted him, though he said “I would assume ones representing Cohen” were among the several lawyers he said have asked him about pardons for their clients.
After the document review was completed, Mr. Cohen hired a new attorney and publicly broke with the president, saying in an ABC News interview that his “first loyalty” was to his family and country. He has since spoken extensively to investigators in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which is now probing the Trump Organization, the president’s real-estate company, and to special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, which is investigating whether Mr. Trump or any of his associates colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Mr. Trump has denied collusion and Russia has denied meddling.
In testimony before the House Oversight Committee last week,
Mr. Cohen said he couldn’t discuss his most recent communications with Mr. Trump
or anyone acting on the president’s behalf. “Unfortunately, this topic is actually something that is being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York and I’ve been asked by them not to discuss it,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Southern District declined to comment.
In August, Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges, including two campaign-finance violations for arranging hush-money payments during the 2016 election to two women who alleged sexual encounters with Mr. Trump. He said during his plea hearing that Mr. Trump had coordinated and directed the payments. Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to a ninth charge, lying to Congress, in November. In December, federal prosecutors in New York for the first time directly implicated the president in the payoff scheme. That month, Mr. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison, starting May 6.
Mr. Trump has said Mr. Cohen was reimbursed for paying one of the women but has denied the alleged sexual encounters with either woman.
Congressional investigators have requested information about conversations between attorneys for Mr. Cohen and the president. In letters sent Monday to dozens of Trump associates—including Mr. Sekulow; former White House counsel Don McGahn; and Mr. Cohen—the House Judiciary Committee sought documents related to “possible pardons” for Mr. Cohen, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Mike Flynn.
Dangling the prospect of a presidential pardon to discourage someone from assisting prosecutors in a criminal investigation could constitute witness tampering or obstruction of justice, according to former federal prosecutors.
The Constitution gives the president an unreviewable pardon authority, and the courts in several cases have found that even Congress cannot put restraints or limits on the presidential power to pardon or commute sentences. Traditionally, presidents have tried to depoliticize the pardon and clemency process by insisting that most requests go through a special office in the Justice Department. But Mr. Trump has shown he is willing to bypass the traditional Justice Department review when he feels it is necessary, and has issued a number of pardons to popular conservative figures in the last two years.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly declined to rule out pardoning his former aides being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller and New York federal prosecutors. Asked in November whether he would pardon Mr. Manafort, who was convicted in August of eight counts of fraud and in September pleaded guilty to another two federal crimes, Mr. Trump said it was “very sad what’s happened to Paul” but said he hadn’t offered to pardon him. But, the president added: “I’m not taking anything off the table.”
Mr. Trump hasn’t pardoned any of his associates charged in continuing investigations, and Mr. Giuliani has said the president won’t consider pardons while the investigations are still under way. But, Mr. Giuliani said in an interview late last year, Mr. Trump “reserves the power to do it if and when it’s appropriate.”