Monday, November 20, 2017

Mueller Focusing on DOJ Role in Comey Firing


While Roy Moore's much younger wife has been saying that Donald Trump should be thanking her teenage girl loving husband for distracting the media from coverage about Russia, the reality is that the legitimate media is still paying close attention to Robert Mueller's relentless investigation that seems to be moving closer and closer to Der Trumpenf├╝hrer himself.  A case in point, a piece in New York Magazine that looks at Mueller's focus on the Department of Justice involvement in the firing of James Comey.  Another in Politico looks at Mueller's possible closing in on Michael Flynn who could conceivable be flipped to aid the investigation of Trump himself.  First these highlights from the New York Magazine piece:
Just before firing James Comey, President Trump reportedly drafted a multi-page letter in which he laid out his issues with the FBI director. According to the Washington Post, Trump expressed the he was upset that Comey wouldn’t publicly deny that the FBI’s Russia probe wasn’t focused on him personally.
Now the special counsel’s team is requesting documents that make it sound a lot like they’re looking into whether Trump himself obstructed justice by firing Comey, in addition to all the Russia contacts former campaign officials can’t quite remember.
ABC News reported that in the last month, Mueller’s team requested Justice Department emails and other documents related to the firing of Comey, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from all investigations related to the Russia matter. Muller already sought White House documents related to the FBI director’s dismissal, but this would be the first time he’s directed a records request to the Justice Department – the department in charge of his entire probe. That would include discussions between Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who laid out the reasons Comey should go, and their contacts with the White House.
This, coupled with a recent report that Mueller was preparing to interview Trump’s communications director, Hope Hicks, led some to conclude that the probe is reaching a pivotal moment. . . . . Anytime you can get someone who is the right-hand person or who’s been around the primary target of an investigation, under oath, answering detailed questions, means you’ve progressed very far along in the investigation,” Adam Goldberg, a former Clinton White House lawyer, told Politico.
Sources close to Muller suggested there’s still much work to be done, and legal experts said they expect the probe could last through 2018, and maybe even longer. They note that the trials of two of the three people charged so far, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates, won’t start for months.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to believe this is almost over,” said Randall Eliason, a former federal prosecutor turned George Washington University law professor. “Based not just on what we’ve seen but also what we know about white-collar investigations generally, this seems to me like it is just getting started.”
As for the Politico piece, here are excerpts:
What appear to be obscure details in a court filing against Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, may actually provide clues about what’s next for another target in the special counsel’s Russia investigation: former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates were charged late last month with a variety of crimes, including violation of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or FARA, even though such a charge is rare.
“While criminal charges under FARA are not often brought,” the prosecutors wrote in the passage about why Manafort and Gates were charged with violating the statute, “the facts set forth in the indictment indicate the gravity of the violation at issue based on the dollar volume of earning from the violation, its longevity, its maintenance through creation of a sham entity designed to evade FARA’s requirements, and its continuation through lies to the FARA unit.”
Jeff Cramer, a former federal prosecutor, said: “It’s odd language to have in there. This language could be a precursor to explain any future FARA violation charge, especially Flynn. If Flynn didn’t exist, you wouldn’t need that language in there. … You wouldn’t have to go through a lot of the machinations.”
Flynn’s work could meet part of the Manafort standard that refers to a “sham entity” fronting for a foreign government. . . . Given the criteria set out in the Manafort filing, many lawyers say they expect that if Mueller moves against Flynn, it will involve more sensational charges than simply failing to file a lobbying registration — a charge that jurors might regard as technical even if it survived scrutiny from a judge.
One eye-popping potential charge against Flynn that any juror could readily understand is kidnapping. Reports in The Wall Street Journal and elsewhere last week said Flynn attended meetings in September and November in which there was discussion of removing a Turkish dissident, Fethullah Gulen, from the United States, perhaps by force.
A sum of as much as $15 million was allegedly offered to arrange Gulen’s delivery to the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The alleged kidnapping plot was never carried out, but legal experts said charges could be brought under conspiracy laws if any substantial step was taken toward forcibly snatching the dissident.
If prosecutors cut a plea with Flynn, it’s possible the FARA charge could emerge as a relatively mild offense for him to plead guilty to, although it’s still a felony that carries a potential term of up to five years in prison.

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