Mueller Sets Russia Investigation Sights On Republican Congressman

It was bound to happen sooner rather than later, but now there are reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller III is expanding the Russia investigation to include a Republican congressman allied with Trump, Michael Flynn and the Russians. It appears to be the first time the Russia investigation has went outside of Trump’s immediate circle and it doesn’t bode well for Russian sympathizer Dana Rohrabacher. Rohrabacher is a House Republican the Federal Bureau of Investigation took the time to warn that he was being recruited by Russian spies. It is highly likely the FBI’s warning was too late according to Rohrabacher’s long-standing love affair with Vladimir Putin and Russia.

Rohrabacher has made no secret he is enamored with the Russians, or that he was Hell-bent and duty bound to have sanctions against the Russians lifted. However, Mueller is looking carefully at Rohrabacher because of meetings he had with disgraced Michael Flynn and high-level Russian officials in Moscow last year during the presidential campaign.

According to a report by NBC, Mr. Mueller’s team is investigating a meeting between Trump’s treasonous and former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Representative Rohrabacher who is renowned for expressing pro-Putin views on a number of America’s policies, but especially policies regarding sanctions on Moscow.

Mueller’s team is reportedly looking at emails sent from Flynn’s lobbying group to Rohrabacher thanking the congressman for his role in the meeting. One of the meetings between Flynn and Rohrabacher occurred in Washington in September of last year while Flynn was an advisor to Trump’s campaign. That particular meeting was organized by Flynn’s lobbying group and attended by Flynn’s son and two of Flynn’s business partners. No source was willing to confirm whether Rohrabacher and Flynn discussed American policy towards Russia during the September meeting, but it doesn’t take a genius to intuit that it was likely the primary reason for arranging the meeting.

About a month ago an article in the Wall Street Journal reported that Rohrabacher offered Trump a “sweet deal” to protect WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange from “legal peril” regarding his connection to the Russians and their attack on American democracy. Apparently Rohrabacher had a plan devised to help Russia and Trump involving Assange who would contradict 17 American intelligence agencies’ proof that Russia was the source of hacked emails that WikiLeaks used to damage Hillary Clinton.

According to a July story in The Atlantic about Rohrabacher’s trip to Moscow:

“Rohrabacher’s 2016 Moscow meeting has been revisited in recent days because of the document’s connection to the anti-Magnitsky campaign that formed part of the Trump Tower meeting. Last week, Donald Trump Jr. acknowledged that he met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian attorney he believed was prepared to hand him compromising information on Hillary Clinton as part of a broader Russian government effort to help his father’s candidacy. During the meeting, Trump Jr. said that Veselnitskaya was focused on repeal of the Magnitsky Act.

Rohrabacher has not been shy about pushing for “better relations with Moscow” like Trump, and his trip to Russia to was to meet with Putin officials about how to successfully overturn the Magnitsky Act the Russians despise like the plague.

The Magnitsky Act (2012) froze assets of Russian investigators and prosecutors and it is no surprise that Rohrabacher traveled to Russia to meet with  and assist the prosecutors and investigators under sanction by the United States. In fact, the Russians handed Rohrabacher a document marked “confidential” at the top that was chock full of accusations against Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian lawyer who died in prison in 2009 and Bill Browder, the Hermitage Capital CEO Magnitsky worked and was a driving force behind the Magnitsky Act legislation.

According to a report in the Financial Times, the person who handed Rohrabacher the “confidential document” in Moscow was the top aide to Russia’s prosecutor general with whom the lawyer in the now infamous Trump Tower meeting with Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort is close to. It explains why Trump Junior, Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner were excited to meet with her for information to help Trump’s campaign.

The lawyer,  Natalia Veselnitskaya, is the Russian Trump Jr. expected to hand over compromising material on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia’s effort to elect Trump.” Trump Jr. “claimed” that Veselnitskaya was only there to get assurances that Trump would repeal the Magnitsky Act in return for Russia’s assistance. Junior’s assertion, coupled with the confirmed reports that the Russians handed confidential documents in Moscow about repealing the Magnitsky Act, now put Rohrabacher in a very perilous position.

It is worth noting that congressional Republicans were aware of Rohrabacher’s intimate relationship with the Russians during the presidential campaign. Barely a month before Trump secured the Republican nomination, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told colleagues, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, that There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” Ryan attempted to play off McCarthy’s comment as “a joke,” but it is clear now that his remark was not a joke and likely as true a statement as saying the Sun will rise in the East.

Although this is good news that Mr. Mueller is going beyond Trump’s inner circle like one expected from a comprehensive investigation, it is still too early to celebrate the end of another pro-Putin Republican. However, what it reveals is that despite what Trump said today, that Putin told him he definitely wasn’t involved in tilting the election for Trump, a claim Putin denies ever saying, there is a mountain of evidence proving otherwise. One can only hope that Mr. Mueller is allowed to complete his investigation without interference from Trump because if  he follows every alleged connection between the Russians and Trump, there is a very real possibility that he will end up investigating more congressional Republicans than avowed Russian sympathizer Dana Rohrabacher.

Trump Rejects House Oversight Demand For Private Email Records

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign Donald Trump made as big an issue of Hillary Clinton’s emails as he did pledging to make America white and evangelical, going so far as calling on his Russian facilitators to find and release illegally hacked documents. However, in what is a blatant display of hypocrisy Trump is renowned for, on Monday the White House officially designated Trump administration players’ email records off limits to the House Oversight Committee; the reason given was that Trump’s people “endeavor” to comply with all relevant laws. Apparently Trump regards the House Oversight Committee’s demands “irrelevant” to his administration.

The bipartisan request came from Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Elijah Cummins (D-MD), and for their trouble they received a “terse” letter from Trump’s congressional liaison Marc Short. The request was for information “regarding the use of personal email and encrypted messaging apps for government work by White House staff.” Mr. Short also refused to hand over records Messers Gowdy and Cummings demanded regarding the use of expensive private air travel by administration officials.

In a two-page response to the Oversight Committee, Short said “The White House and covered employees endeavor to comply with all relevant laws.” It is noteworthy that Short said the Trump cabal only “endeavored” to comply with “relevant” laws, and if that were the case there was nothing to hide if they were really “trying” to comply with the laws.

The Trump response did not sit well with members of the Oversight Committee prompting member Gerry Connolly (D-VA) to remark:

These were bipartisan requests to the White House related to the Administration’s private travel and email usage, and the White House has completely blown off the Committee. The Committee needs to assert its jurisdiction and authority immediately to get this information. If the White House won’t provide documents to permit basic oversight, the Chairman should send subpoenas.”

An aid to the Committee’s chairman said the Committee’s members “are currently in the process of evaluating whether there has been compliance, partial compliance or non-compliance” by Trump’s White House and other administration officials. The aide added “We expect full compliance.

The requests from Gowdy and Cummings for details about the extent of the administration’s use of private email came after a report in POLITICO that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in particular was relying on his private email account to conduct official White House business.  It was also revealed that Steve Bannon, Gary Cohn, Ivanka Trump and Reince Priebus used private email accounts for “public business;” it leads any thinking human being to believe the practice was widespread in the West Wing. Apparently Trump’s cohorts using private email accounts is different than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton using a private email account.

The Committee’s September 25th letter to White House counsel Don McGahn specifically asked for the names of any Trump senior official who “had ever used a personal email account to conduct official business.” They also asked for “the individual, cellular number and account used” by any White House officials who communicated using “text-messages, phone-based message applications, or encryption software to conduct official business.” Trump said no; his administration “endeavors” to comply with the law and as usual he is not going to release anything showing his people violated the law. It is the only reason to blow off a House Oversight Committee request.

The White House gave a similar reply to the demand for details on administration officials use of charter jets, but didn’t even bother to lie that they were “trying” to abide by the law. Instead, Short claimed the committee’s inquiry was addressed to the White House chief of staff and since “not all components” of the White House “are under the supervision of the President’s Trump’s Chief of Staff,” the Committee is getting nothing.

The Committee asked fora detailed breakdown of every flight on a government-owned aircraft” or a “private, non-commercial aircraft” used by “senior White House officials.” Of course the inquiry came on the heels of an investigation into costly flights taken by Tom Price, the former Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary who was forced out after reports he was fleecing the taxpayers. Since Price left his post, there have been several other Trump cabinet officials facing questions over chartering jets for expensive trips; like Trump’s weekly golf outings.

Trump’s congressional liaison wrote:

The White House seeks to ensure employee travel is conducted through the most economic and expeditious means of transportation available.”

According to Washington Post writer Eugene Robinson, Trump’s liaison is lying.  There is a fairly complete list of senior staffers and cabinet officials who are more concerned about “living large,” than they are “economic and expeditious means of travel.”

It is not out of line to assert that the only reason the Trump White House is refusing to “comply with the law” that gives the Oversight Committee authority to examine anything it deems necessary is because they have plenty to hide. If their communications and travel were in compliance with the law, they would have handed over everything the Committee demanded.

This is just another signal that although Trump is a dunce of epic proportions, he is also a dirty hypocrite and corrupt. He railed on the debunked Hillary Clinton email “controversy” non-stop to great effect, including calling on his Rusky comrades to do his bidding. Now he’s flouting the authority of the sole check on his dirty corrupt administration. And instead of drafting articles of impeachment, the Republican Chair of the Oversight Committee hopes they will issue a subpoena.

Republicans Block Effort to Revoke Jared Kushner’s Security Clearance

 

It has become increasingly obvious that Republicans are about as interested in national security as they are raising taxes 90 percent on their wealthy donors. Oh sure they feigned interest in security when a Democrat was Secretary of State and used a private email server, but they pretended to be interested in a rash of issues because they weren’t in power. However, when a most senior advisor to a Republican in the White House deliberately lied and omitted over 100 contacts with foreign agents on a national security clearance form, including agents that waged cyber warfare against America, even questioning the perjury is a “political stunt.

By now most Americans have at least heard that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, lied on the first two Standard Form 86 (SF-86) security clearance documents he submitted to earn a high-level security clearance to work in a place he doesn’t belong – the White House.

Kushner was even “inclined” to “revise” a third SF-86 to add over a hundred additional contacts with foreign agents he “forgot” to mention the second time he “revised” his SF-86 clearance. Of course just meeting with foreigners isn’t an issue, but Kushner met with Russian agents actively waging “cyber warfare” against an American institution, and he lied about those meetings at least twice and still has a high security clearance; something House Republicans do not have a problem with.

However, Democrats in the House do take a dim view of committing perjury on a security clearance document and although they are virtually impotent to do anything about it, they made an effort to get a risk to national security out of the Trump administration’s decision making chain.

One amendment introduced by Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) was to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill that banned any funds from being used “to issue, renew, or maintain a security clearance for any individual in a position in the Executive Office of the President who is under a criminal investigation by a Federal law enforcement agency for aiding a foreign government.”  Jared Kushner meets that standard of “being under criminal investigation” by a Federal law enforcement agency but Republicans don’t care; that Amendment failed along a party line vote 22-30.

The second amendment sought to revoke the security clearance of any White House staffers who deliberately fail to disclose (lie about) meetings with foreign nationals (agents) or foreign nations (Russia) on the SF-86 questionnaire for national security positions. That amendment, like the first one, was defeated along a party line vote and it is telling that all Republicans are protecting yet another Trump administration actor regardless the threat they pose to national security.

Ms. Wasserman Schulz argued that both amendments were crucial to “safeguard the country’s most sensitive national security information.” Most Americans would agree and likely add that it is just as crucial to safeguard the nation from an administration that knowingly employs several national security risks; and it is a security risk by Trump Sr. to bring in corrupt actors who lie to conceal their contacts with foreign agents.

While the Democrats were attempting to protect national security, Republicans said the amendments were political maneuvers and unnecessary. Texas Republican John Culbertson said both amendments were just political stunts because national security decisions should be left up to the security professionals appointed by Donald Trump. Culbertson said:

The use of funding prohibitions to deny or remove security clearances is just simply a political stunt and unnecessary, because security clearances can already be denied or revoked because criminal conduct.”

No matter what Culbertson says, the national security “professionals” Trump appointed have already revealed they definitely are not “denying or revoking” security clearances for anyone in Trump’s administration despite that there is powerful evidence that there was “criminal conduct.”

According to SF-86 under the heading Penalties for Inaccurate or False Statements, it plainly states:

The U.S. Criminal Code (title 18, section 1001) provides that knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact is a felony which may result in fines and/or up to five (5) years imprisonment. In addition, Federal agencies generally fire, do not grant a security clearance, or disqualify individuals who have materially and deliberately falsified these forms, and this remains a part of the permanent record for future placements. Your prospects of placement or security clearance are better if you answer all questions truthfully and completely. You will have adequate opportunity to explain any information you provide on this form and to make your comment.” (author bold)

It is noteworthy that under 18 U.S.C. § 1001 a fair number of “notable Americans” have been convicted for “making false statements” including Martha Stewart, Rod Blagojevich, Scooter Libby, Bernie Madoff, and Jeffrey Skilling to name a few.  Republicans or anyone in the Trump administration can never claim that the law is archaic or obscure, or has never been enforced. It has, and it probably would be enforced today if the entire Trump administration wasn’t run by criminals like Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions is not going to prosecute Kushner or make any attempt to deny his security clearance because he also “knowingly falsified and concealed a material fact” on his SF 86 and during sworn testimony before the United States Senate.

These amendments by Democrats are a continuing effort to clear out known national security risks, and felonious “advisors” from the Trump White House and it is crystal clear Republicans are now, and have been, obstructing efforts to protect critical national security secrets. No small number of Democrats have been calling for Kushner’s security clearance to be revoked, or at least suspended. This is particularly true since the revelation that he was in attendance with Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort when they met with the Russian lawyer in a clandestine meeting at Trump Tower that Kushner failed to report on his security clearance form.

That latest “revelation” is in addition to Kushner’s meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and the CEO of a Russian state-run bank during the transition.  If, as Republicans claim, criminal conduct is justification for denying or revoking security clearances, and Trump’s national security team or his attorney general refuse to do their jobs, then it is left to Congress to step in – something Democrats did attempt with the two separate amendments that only failed because like Trump, Sessions, Kushner, Trump Jr., and likely the majority of the Trump administration, Republicans are criminals for covering up a federal crime. It makes them co-conspirators in criminal conduct that should send the entire lot of them to a federal penitentiary for up to five (5) years.

Image: Credo

 

The United States Is Run By A Criminal Organization

Once upon a time America was renowned as “a nation of laws.”  Most Americans comprehend that no matter if they like or dislike certain laws, they are in place to protect the general population and the security of the federal government. Republicans generally cannot comport laws because they prevent their wealthy donors from fleecing the population and destroying the environment, among many other atrocities. But over the past year or so, Republicans have not only violated laws regularly, they have broken other laws to cover their criminality with no expectation of ever being brought to justice, with good reason.

A couple of days ago Howard Dean said what a few Americans already know after six months of the Trump administration; “A criminal enterprise is running the country now.” Mr. Dean said the people will never get the truth out of Trump and he is spot on; pathological liars never tell the truth. However, it is not just Trump who is a criminal liar, it is the entire Republican Party and they are just as culpable as Trump for violating an increasing number of laws; the least of which is collusion to conceal crimes against the people and the United States.

Mr. Dean said of Trump:

He doesn’t tell the truth. Everybody knows he doesn’t tell the truth. Even his supporters know he doesn’t tell the truth. But they like him anyway. I think at this point, Trump is Trump. He’s going to lie. He’s going to do all these things he does. And the real savior for democracy is going to be Robert Mueller. He’s going to find out what the truth is.

Whether or not Special Counsel Robert Mueller can “save democracy” and prosecute the criminals is highly doubtful, although he likely will find out what the truth is. The hurdle for Mueller is the criminal posing as the nation’s top law enforcement official, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the Republicans in Congress that are going to great lengths to protect their powerful criminal organization.

It is a depressing prospect, but Americans have to face facts that with a Justice Department under sway of a criminal, and a criminal Congress complicit in covering up the administration and its own criminal activities, the chances of holding any of the felons to account is slim to none. It is just what happens when criminals have total control over every part of America’s government and criminal justice system.

It is getting to the point that Americans have to come to grips with the reality that everyone in the Trump administration is corrupt, and that the GOP is fine with a criminal administration running the country as long as they are entrenched in the organization. The latest sign that Republicans support their crime boss and his lieutenants was no outrage over a slew of revelations that most, if not all, of Trump’s cabinet and inner circle committed felony perjury on federal national security forms. Yesterday, the nation’s top law enforcement official, bible-thumper Jeff Sessions, finally acquiesced to a federal court order and handed over documents that were fully redacted.

Sessions, like Trump’s son, his son-in-law, and several insiders deliberately omitted meeting with foreign players on their Standard Form 86 (SF86); the federal document required to obtain a national security clearance. Reports are that Kushner omitted over 100 meetings with foreigners leading him to revise the original SF86 three times. Sessions had resisted a freedom of information act request (FOIAR) to hand over a copy of his SF86 that he lied on and prompted a federal judge to order him to produce the document. Session did finally release the form a day after the Judge’s deadline, but he may as well have not turned over any document  at all; the form he did release was completely redacted.

Of course Sessions handed over a veritable blank document; the FOIR was to determine if he lied on the SF 86 about “all communications Sessions has had with any official of the Russian government.” Remember, then-attorney general designee Sessions committed felony perjury in front of the United States Senate during his confirmation hearing to be the nation’s top law enforcement official. A crime the Republican Congress pretended never happened; but why should they make an exception for just one of Trump’s criminal lieutenants. In total there were five of Trump’s cabinet nominees who committed perjury under oath. And even after their crimes were exposed Republicans in Congress pretended perjury wasn’t really a crime; just an inconvenient and persistent memory lapse.

As Heather ‘Digby’ Parton explained in a Salon article, Republicans were well aware of Russia’s hacking and criminal aid to Trump beginning in late 2015. According to Reuters, the Republican leaders in Congress, the so-called Gang of Eight, not only benefitted from Russian interference in the election like Trump, they never said a word about a foreign adversary committing cyber warfare against the United States and there is a sick reason why. Congressional Republicans used information gleaned from that “Russian cyber warfare attack” in some Republicans’ 2016 campaigns for Congress. Any common American caught receiving stolen property would be summarily arrested and tried in a court of law, but in Trump’s criminal enterprise Republicans are above the law.

Ms. Parton also noted that during a conversation between Republican congressional leaders, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told a “roomful of Republican leaders” that he knew Trump and another Republican was being paid by Vladimir Putin; a story confirmed by the Washington Post. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan quickly shepherded the assembled Republicans away from the media’s prying ears and pretended nothing was wrong; making him as much a criminal as any other Trump administration culprit.

As Howard Dean said, Special Counsel Robert Mueller will get to the truth in due time, but there is a monumental issue over whether he has any prosecutorial power whatsoever. That task normally falls to the Department of Justice and the nation’s top law enforcement official; in this instance it is bible-toting criminal liar Jeff Sessions. And the Republican Congress is not going to do anything because they are just as guilty for covering up certain cases of felony perjury and being aware and beneficiaries of Russia’s attack on America’s democracy.

America is still a nation of laws, but with a criminal enterprise (entire Republican movement) running the country, those laws only apply to regular Americans. The people shouldn’t get too excited at the weekly revelations that yet another Trump administration criminal was exposed, or think that there is any law enforcement or prosecutorial agency willing to stop the criminals. Because although America is a nation of laws with a robust criminal justice system, the criminals are running more than the government, they run the criminal justice system like they run Congress and the White House.

h/t HeatherDigbyParton/Salon