BREAKING: Special Counsel Named in Russia Investigation

The investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to and alleged collusion with Russia just heated up. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that former FBI Director Robert Mueller will act as special counsel in the ongoing Russia investigation. The New York Times provided further details:

 

“The appointment of Mr. Mueller dramatically raises the stakes for President Trump in the multiple investigations into his campaign’s ties to the Russians. It follows a swiftly moving series of developments that have roiled Washington, including Mr. Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and the disclosure that the president urged Mr. Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.”

 

It is the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein making this announcement, and not the Attorney General Jeff Session himself making it, likely because AG Sessions had previously recused himself from the Russia investigation due to misstatements related to his meetings with the Russian ambassador Kislyak. In his carefully-crafted statement quoted by the Washington Post, Deputy AG Rosenstein made it clear that this was a very big deal, but also emphasized that this move should not be considered proof of any sort of guilt:

 

“In my capacity as acting attorney general I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter … My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.’’

 

Robert Mueller is a highly-respected former director of the Bureau, serving as its head from 2001 to 2013. He guided the agency through the attacks of September 11, 2001 (becoming Director of the FBI just one week before 9/11) and he shaped its critical role during the Global War on Terrorism for over a decade. He is just about as serious and credible a person for this role as can be imagined.

Chuck Schumer: Democrats Could Block the New FBI Director

Chuck Schumer, who doesn’t know how to anything but pose for cameras, suggested this weekend that Democrats will block Donald Trump’s pick to head the FBI until the Department of Justice agrees to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Schumer spoke with Jake Trapper on meet the press, where Trapper asked about a potential plan to force the DOJ to appoint a special prosecutor by blocking the new FBI Director.

“As you know, the Justice Department would have to appoint a special prosecutor. Senator Mark Warner, he’s the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, he wants the Democratic Party to refuse to vote on the nomination of a new FBI director until [a special prosecutor] is appointed. Do you support that move?”

Schumer, not wanting to waste an opportunity to get some free press, suggested Democrats may continue to play obstructionist in the Senate.

“I think there are a lot of Democrats who feel that way. We’d have to discuss it as a caucus, but I would support that move.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Schumer took an equally crazy stand on Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Schumer wagered that public outcry would prevent Republicans from nuking the filibuster, and he lost. The gamble here is an equally long shot.

The American people are getting tired of this obstructionist nonsense. There’s a reason Jon Ossoff, the democratic candidate in Georgia’s 6th District, is running to the middle and agreeing to work across the aisle. Luckily, establishment Democrats are doing Ossoff no favors. For whatever reason, Democrats in Washington remain completely detached from reality. They honestly believe blocking Trump at every turn is a recipe for success.

At this point, we don’t know who, if anyone, will be appointed. What if Donald Trump follows Mike Lee’s lead and nominates Merrick Garland? It would be absolutely glorious to watch Schumer squirm as he decides whether to block Garland or give Trump his nominee. A reasonable statesman would at least wait on a nominee before threatening to block the President 7 months removed from an election, but then again, nobody has ever accused Schumer of being a reasonable statesman.

Even with the current turmoil in the Trump administration, the Democratic Party can’t seem to get their act together. High profile Democrats like Schumer and Warren are absolutely determined to cause gridlock with pointless political theater. It was abysmal failure and incompetence by the Clinton campaign that put Trump in the White House, and Schumer’s crazy political theater may just keep Republicans in control of Congress. It’s almost like Democrats want to lose.

BREAKING: “You’re Hired”? Leading Candidates to Replace Comey at FBI Report For Job Interview on Saturday

Ever since now-former FBI Director Jim Comey’s abrupt firing that shocked Washington D.C., a number of questions have swirled: Why was Comey fired? Was Comey really asked to pledge his loyalty to the President? Why does the White House keep changing its story? Will this lead to some sort of independent commission or special prosecutor? And what does this mean for the variety of investigations surrounding Russia?

 

But there is another immediate & pressing question that needs addressing as well: Who will replace Comey as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (our nation’s premiere law enforcement agency)? Well, in an exclusive from sources inside the White House, Fox News reports that it has obtained a list of the first four leading contenders, all of whom will be interviewing with the Attorney General & Deputy Attorney General on Saturday (May the 13th). From the report:

 

“The four candidates meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy Rod Rosenstein are: Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher, who used to work in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; the acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who recently testified before Congress about the agency’s Russia collusion investigation; Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the current Senate Majority Whip and former attorney general of Texas who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee; Judge Michael J. Garcia of the New York Court of Appeals, who previously served as Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York. The administration is considering nearly a dozen candidates – a list that includes top current and former lawmakers as well as law enforcement figures – to replace fired FBI Director James Comey, a White House official briefed on the matter told Fox News on Friday.”

 

Whoever takes over will be stepping into a media firestorm and into a bright-as-the-sun spotlight with confirmation hearings that are assured to be full of high drama (both real and manufactured). Not to mention the fact that they will be put in charge of winning the trust of and guiding the 35,000 employees of the FBI, handling some of our nation’s most important investigations, enforcing the law, and safeguarding our national security. So who are these candidates, anyway?

 

THE FIRST FOUR BEING INTERVIEWED SATURDAY

 

Former Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher: She’s had a wide-ranging legal career and is currently a Managing Partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Latham & Watkins LLP, the nation’s highest-grossing firm with business & political clients all over the world, where she focuses on criminal investigations, white collar crime, sanctions compliance, fraud, & international security law. She served as an Assistant Attorney General during the Bush administration starting in 2005 (most notably obtaining the Jack Abramoff plea deal) and she’s considered one of the best & most powerful female lawyers in the nation’s capital.

 

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe: He became the Deputy Director of the FBI on January 29, 2016 and assumed the role of Acting FBI Director when Comey was fired on Tuesday. He is dogged by a number of issues, however, including the fact that he contradicted the Trump administration to some extent during his testimony in front of the Senate intelligence committee on Thursday as well as the fact that he is under investigation by DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General over the fact that his wife received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from Clinton allies while he failed to recuse himself from the Clinton email server investigation. Prior to his roles as a deputy & an acting head, he worked out of the FBI’s New York Field Office as well as its Washington Field Office, and he held roles in the Counterterrorism Division and the National Security Branch, as well as leading the High-Value Interrogation Group that was formed in 2009 after the election of President Obama.

 

Texas Senator John Cornyn: He is the senior Senator from the state of Texas, serving in that capacity since 2002. He’s a current member of the Senate Judiciary Committee (including its Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, & Homeland Security where he had a recent run-in with former DNI James Clapper & former Acting AG Sally Yates). Prior to being a Senator, Cornyn served as the Texas Attorney General from 1998 til 2002. Before that, he was an Associate Justice for the Texas Supreme Court from 1991 til 1997, and before that he was a District Court Judge in Texas from 1985 til 1991. His legal experience spans nearly two decades as either a judge or attorney general plus over a decade and a half in the Senate working on issues related to law enforcement and national security.

 

New York Judge Michael J. Garcia: He has served as an Associate Judge on the New York Court of Appeals since February 8, 2016, after being appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Prior to that he had nearly a decade-long stint in private practice. His previous government experience is pretty extensive though: Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1992 til 2001, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement in 2001 & 2002, Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in 2002 & 2003, Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement from 2003 til 2005, and then back to the Southern District of New York but this time as its lead US Attorney. He might be most widely known recently for his role as FIFA’s ethics prosecutor (a position he’d eventually resign), where he investigated massive allegations of corruption with soccer’s global body (it’s an incredibly fascinating & disheartening story, and the so-called “Garcia Report” still hasn’t been released).

 

OTHER LEADING CANDIDATES

 

A number of other potential candidates being mentioned who themselves won’t be at Saturday’s job interview with Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein include: Representative Mike Rogers (a former FBI agent himself); Mayor John Suthers (a former federal prosecutor and now-mayor of Colorado Springs); George Terwilliger (a former deputy attorney general under George HW Bush, Comey-critic, and Republican activist); former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly (who directed the first World Trade Center bombing investigation in the 1990’s); Representative Trey Gowdy (who led the House Benghazi investigation); Paul Abbate (Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI); Chuck Rosenberg (the current head of the DEA); J. Michael Luttig (Executive VP of Boeing & a former judge on the appellate court); Ken Wainstein (the very first head of DOJ’s national security division); Larry Thompson (a Comey-critic and former deputy attorney general under George W. Bush); Mark Filip (also a former deputy attorney general as well as a federal judge and Scalia law clerk); Frances Townsend (a Bush homeland security adviser and former NY prosecutor); Michael Anderson (Chicago FBI agent-in-charge); Adam Lee (Richmond FBI agent-in-charge); Kelly Ayotte (former Senator from New Hampshire); Rudy Giuliani (former Mayor of NYC, Trump ally, & 2008 candidate in the Republican presidential primary); Chris Christie (current Governor of New Jersey and early Trump supporter); and even Merrick Garland (Obama’s former Supreme Court nominee for the seat left open by Antonin Scalia that has now been filled by Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch).

 

PICKING A SUCCESSOR

 

Over at National Review, they offer the following advice to President Trump as he decides who will succeed James Comey as head of the Bureau: “Trump now has the similar task of finding a new Justice Department official to succeed Comey. Trump can put to rest the allegations that Comey’s removal obstructs the investigation into the Russian connection by nominating a figure of impeccable credentials and personal integrity who will pledge to continue the investigation no matter where it leads. For that reason, we think that nominating a former elected politician would be a mistake, because that nominee’s every move would raise doubts about partisan motivation – fairly or not. Instead, Trump should pick a former prosecutor or Justice Department official with a reputation for independence and long experience in law enforcement, with few if any ties to the Trump campaign or the administration.” Whoever the pick ends up being, they will certainly have a monumental task in front of them as they work to restore faith & confidence as well as protect the nation. So let’s hope that they are a man or woman of superb skill & redoubtable integrity. The Bureau, and indeed the nation itself, deserves nothing less.

Comey Firing Is Lose-Lose For Trump

The controversial decision to abruptly fire FBI Director James Comey has mired President Trump in a political morass from which it will be very difficult to extricate himself. Handled differently, Comey’s ouster could have been supported by both Democrats and Republicans, but the timing and execution of Trump’s decision throws Trump’s motive and competence into question.

There has been bipartisan agreement that Comey bungled the handling of the Clinton email investigation during the campaign albeit for different reasons. Republicans point to Comey’s press conference and decision not to recommend that charges be filed against Ms. Clinton last July. Democrats believe that his eleventh-hour letter to Congress on October 28 probably cost Clinton the election. In recent months, Democrats in particular have been calling for Mr. Comey’s head.

President Trump was justified in firing Comey, but the manner of the dismissal has caused more problems that it has solved. An easy way to handle the problem of Comey’s performance would have been to simply ask for Comey’s resignation as the new administration moved into Washington. Instead, Trump, who had alternately berated and praised Comey on both the email investigation as well as the accusations of Russian interference in the election, invited him to stay on as head of the FBI for the remainder of his 10-year term. Trump then waited four months before firing Comey in a very abrupt manner. Trump’s letter dismissing Comey and letters recommending the dismissal from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are all dated May 9, suggesting that the firing was high priority that was handled quickly.

Comey was not given any advance warning and was not even in Washington to receive the president’s letter. The Los Angeles Times reports that Comey learned of the president’s decision while speaking with FBI agents in Los Angeles. The news was announced on a television screen in the room where the meeting was taking place.

“He was caught flat-footed,” a source said.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CNN that the decision to remove Comey was not made hastily. “The President has lost confidence in Director Comey and, frankly, he’d been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected,” she said. Sanders added that the decision was based on concerns that Rosenstein had raised on Monday, prompting the president to ask him to put a recommendation in writing.

Sanders said that the “big catalyst” for the decision was last week’s congressional testimony in which Comey discussed holding the July 2016 press conference without notifying his superiors. “Director Comey made a pretty startling revelation that he had essentially taken a stick of dynamite and thrown it into the Department of Justice by going around the chain of command,” she said. “That is simply not allowed.”

Nevertheless, Comey’s comments were not an unexpected revelation and dealt with an event that occurred 10 months ago. There was seemingly no reason to execute the firing in such a hurried and haphazard manner, especially since Comey’s boss at the time, Obama Administration Attorney General Loretta Lynch, had ample time to take disciplinary action of her own after the incident.

If not the Clinton press conference, then what other pressing reason would there be to fire Comey? The obvious answer for many people is the investigation of Russia ties to members of the Trump campaign. Even though Trump somewhat strangely thanks Comey as he fires him “for informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation,” the same was not true of other members of Trump’s campaign staff.

Far from being behind the president, the Russia investigation seemed to be ramping up. CNN reported that federal prosecutors had issued subpoenas to associates of Michael Flynn, the National Security Advisor and campaign advisor that Trump fired earlier this year for lying about his communications with the Russian ambassador. The Washington Post reported Comey had requested more funds for the Russia investigation from Rod Rosenstein, the same Justice Department official who recommended that the president fire him.

While the evidence that the firing was an attempt to short-circuit the Russia investigation is purely circumstantial, the clumsy manner in which the edict was handed down has fueled suspicion and criticism of both Trump and the Justice Department. If Trump should dismiss Andrew McCabe, the current Acting Director of the FBI who has deep connections to the Democrats and the Clintons, as some rumors suggest, he would appear all the more guilty of a cover-up.

At this point, regardless of whether he fired Comey to stop the Russia investigation or not, the president seems to have been inept in his handling of the situation. If Trump did want to stifle the investigation, the firing was a transparent act that was unlikely to accomplish its goal. Comey’s firing may even make it more likely that a special prosecutor or independent congressional panel is established to investigate the matter.

If quashing the investigation was not Trump’s goal, then he certainly made it appear as though he had something to hide with the abrupt timing and the callous way that Comey learned that he was out of a job. A more discreet way of making the announcement, such as privately demanding that Comey resign to spend more time with his family, would have benefitted Trump as well as the FBI director.

Handled differently, the replacement of Comey could have been a unifying act that would have won President Trump praise from both parties. As it is, the president has further alienated even members of his own party and ensured that the Russia scandal will not go away anytime soon.

Did the president attempt a clumsy cover-up of an investigation that was getting too close to home or did he fire Comey for the right reasons in a rushed and awkward manner. Neither possibility is a good one, but one is considerably worse and more dangerous than the other.

 

Shut The Hell Up, Mr. President

Rod Rosenstein wrote an excellent and articulate memorandum explaining the need to fire his direct report, James Comey. Comey had, on several occasions, overstepped his bounds. Most recently, Comey testified under oath to Congress and much of what he said was not true. The FBI, embarrassingly, had to retract his testimony.

The Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General recommended Comey be fired. They cited Comey’s several missteps, the bipartisan complaints about him, and the recent testimony. President Trump fired him.

Vice President Pence and the entire White House apparatus swung into defense to defend the decision. The decision was made with consideration and consultation and was not made lightly.

The press ran with a report that Rod Rosenstein was angry at being made the man responsible. The press said Rosenstein was going to quit as a result. Turns out that was not true.

The press ran with a report that James Comey had asked for additional funds for the FBI’s investigation into Russia shortly before his firing. That was not true either.

The press ran with a report that Rod Rosenstein asked for and was granted an emergency meeting with the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Turns out the meeting was scheduled prior to Comey’s firing.

Everything made sense and was justified, despite the partisan outrage. It was defensible, even if the timing looked bad.

But God help us all, the President felt overshadowed. He was subservient to checks, balances, systems, and recommendations. So what did the President do? He lashed out and said he’d made up his mind to fire James Comey even before the Department of Justice recommendation. On top of that, he said he would have fired Comey regardless of Justice’s recommendation.

In one short interview, the President made liars of every single person who mounted a credible defense of the decision — a decision that remains defensible.

But the decision is not defensible if the President did it just because Comey wasn’t loyal to him personally. The decision was not defensible if the President did it because he felt personally offended by the FBI Director.

The President’s behavior is juvenile and asinine. He undermines his Vice President, his communications team, and the very foundational reasons for firing Comey. He can’t help but make it about himself and in so doing he undermines his own integrity in the process.

The President needs to shut the hell up. He does himself and those around him absolutely no favors. He has done more harm than good. And the kicker is I think he is lying to boot. Donald Trump has an overwhelming need to make it all about himself. And if he fired Comey based on someone else’s advice, it would not be about him and his brilliant skills.

Our President is an idiot.

This is Why You Don’t Have to Worry About Trump Interfering With the FBI

Andrew McCabe is testifying before the Senate. He is the interim Director of the FBI. He is a Democrat and his wife was backed by friends of the Clintons when she ran for the Virginia state legislation. He is not exactly a Trump friendly interim director.

McCabe told the Senate, “You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing, protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.”

Partisanship aside, McCabe is known by both parties as a straight shooter who will not let the partisan machinations of the White House get in the FBI’s way. In fact, McCabe, not Comey, is the canary in the coal mine. If McCabe is tossed by Trump while acting as interim director, then we need to talk about impeachment.

The Senate’s investigation will proceed as will the FBI’s. There is no constitutional crisis. Calm down.

BREAKING: Comey Releases Farewell Letter to FBI Employees (“It is done and I will be fine.”)

In a letter obtained by CNN just a few minutes ago, now-former FBI Director James Comey – fired by President Donald Trump on Monday afternoon – released the following heartfelt farewell to the employees of the FBI, urging them not to focus on his firing but instead to continue to put their energies toward the safeguarding of our nation:

To all:

I have long believed that a President can fire an FBI Director for any reason, or for no reason at all. I’m not going to spend time on the decision or the way it was executed. I hope you won’t either. It is done, and I will be fine, although I will miss you and the mission deeply. I have said to you before that, in times of turbulence, the American people should see the FBI as a rock of competence, honesty, and independence. What makes leaving the FBI hard is the nature and quality of its people, who together make it that rock for America. It is very hard to leave a group of people who are committed only to doing the right thing. My hope is that you will continue to live our values and the mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution. If you do that, you too will be sad when you leave, and the American people will be safer.

Working with you has been one of the great joys of my life. Thank you for that gift.

Jim Comey

 

James Comey was not fired in person, but rather found out about his firing while giving a speech to fellow FBI agents at the Los Angeles field office. Reactions to Mr. Comey’s firing by President Trump have run the gamut — from strongly supportive to reluctantly supportive to extremely opposed and some nuanced reactions in between. The current word on the Hill is that the freshly unemployed former director has been invited to testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee as early as next week.

Comey Chameleon

James Comey has joined a rather exclusive club:  FBI directors who have been fired by the President of the United States.  Up until yesterday, only one other director has held that distinction–William Sessions, who was fired by Bill Clinton back in 1993 when allegations were raised that Sessions had abused his office.

For those of you who were around in those days, you’ll recall that the Clinton administration–much like the Trump administration now–was dealing with its share of legal headaches that were being investigated by the FBI.  In Clinton’s case, the trouble stemmed from a shady real estate deal known as Whitewater that happened when the future president was Arkansas attorney general in the late 70’s.  The particulars of it were pretty convoluted, but it involved a fair sum of money, a collapsed savings & loan, shredded documents and culminated in the suicide of Clinton confidante Vince Foster.  Sessions, a holdover from the previous Bush administration, was in the middle of investigating Whitewater when Bill Clinton fired him.

Republicans naturally howled over the move, and suggested that the firing had less to do Sessions’ wrongdoing and more to do with covering up Clinton’s.  Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole even called it a “potentially worrisome precedent” that could put the FBI’s independence in doubt.  If all that sounds familiar, it’s because Democrats are using almost exactly the same language to throw shade on President Trump’s decision to fire James Comey amid the FBI’s proble into supposed ties between members of the current administration and Russia.  History is known for repeating itself, but rarely this verbatim.

So does the opposition have a point?  Sure.  In Bob Dole’s case, he was certainly correct to point out that the timing of Session’s firing looked bad.  But it’s also true that politicians tend to cast the other guy’s actions in the worst possible light, while glossing over all the valid reasons that action was taken.  There was credible evidence that Sessions had misused Bureau resources, which included billing the FBI for personal expenses–like a $10,000 fence around his house–and having agents act as personal chauffeurs for his wife.  Sessions also had a key card made so that his wife, who did not have any clearance, could access his office without escort any time she liked.  This was a flagrant violation of security protocols, and by itself was enough to get Sessions in a lot of trouble.  Clinton was more than justified in firing him.

The same, however, goes for James Comey.  Yes, the optics of firing him during an active probe into Russia/White House ties are pretty bad, and I would fully expect Democrats to seize on that–politics ain’t beanbag, after all.  At the same time, there were plenty of valid reasons to sack Comey, chief among them the way he asserted the authority to not prosecute Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information–a decision that was not his to make–and his bungling of the testimony he gave to Congress last week.  Comey has undermined public faith in the FBI, and if I had to guess I would also say that he has lost the confidence of a lot of the FBI agents he was supposed to lead.  It was President Trump’s prerogative to fire him, well within his authority–and justification.

What’s really stuning, though, is how quickly all of the pundits who called for Comey’s head last October after he reopened Hillary’s email investigation are now holding him up as a model public servant.  As I recall, nobody in the media attempted such a radical transformation for Bill Sessions when he got the boot.  They were just happy to see him fizzle, like so many of the bimbo eruptions that dogged Slick Willy on his way to the White House.  But I would imagine that by the time the media are done with him, Comey will morph, chameleon-like, into whatever they need him to be–so long as they can use him to inflict maximum damage on Trump.

And if that means forgetting all about Hillary’s accusations that he cost her the election?  Well, that’s just a price she’s going to have to pay, isn’t it?  The narrative was only useful so long as it maintained the illusion of a stolen election, and distracted the Democrat rank-and-file from realizing how terrible a candidate Hillary really was.  But if the Democrats think they have something better now, does anybody doubt they’ll sacrifice Hillary to get it?

If I were her, I’d start working on some new excuses.  I have the feeling she’s going to need them.