Sunday, November 18, 2018

Just Regular Russiagate

Not much on this Sunday morning. AP: Trump says written responses go to Mueller team next week
President Donald Trump says he “very easily” answered written questions from special counsel Robert Mueller, though he speculated that the questions had been “tricked up” to try to catch him in a lie.

“They’re all done,” Trump told reporters at the White House early Saturday before leaving for California, adding that his responses will soon be submitted to Mueller’s team. “We do that next week,” he said, in what signals a new phase of the inquiry.

In a swipe the day before at the investigation into 2016 election interference and possible ties between Moscow and the Trump campaign, the president said that “you have to always be careful when you answer questions with people that probably have bad intentions.”

Mueller has signaled a willingness to accept written answers on matters related to collusion with Russia. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has said repeatedly the president would not answer Mueller’s questions on possible obstruction of justice.
Jonathon Swan at Axios calls it Trump's moment of truth
It’s evident that Trump is acutely aware of the high price he would pay if he lies to the special counsel. His concern about that is entirely grounded in fact, and that’s why the process has dragged on for many months.
  • We don't know what Trump has written as answers to these questions. But it’s hard to imagine Trump would tell Mueller anything that would incriminate himself or his family. Without direct knowledge of the contents of his answers, we feel on safe ground saying Trump isn’t handing Mueller any huge bombshells.
  • More than anything, for Trump, answering these questions — even though it’s in written form, and even though it dragged on — appears to be acquiescing to the legitimacy of the special counsel.
  • Once that letter gets sent, Trump will have accepted, in act if not in words, that Mueller is running a serious and important investigation, and that it behooves powerful people to give Mueller what he wants.
Between the lines: Rudy Giuliani told The Washington Post that Trump is only answering questions about events prior to his election. If that’s true, it would indicate a certain level of success for the president’s legal team in evading cooperation with inquiries into potential obstruction of justice.
Jonathon Turley at Da Hill hopes Mueller could turn easy Trump answers into difficult situation
If Trump believes these questions are really just about whether he personally colluded with the Russians, he has not been paying attention to the developments in the investigation. The list of Mueller indictments shows that collusion is largely immaterial to most of his prosecutions. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was prosecuted entirely for matters predating the election and separate from collusion allegations. Virtually all of the remaining American defendants were charged with unrelated crimes or with making false statements to investigators.

The point is that it was not easy for them to answer the questions, but it was relatively easy for Mueller to indict them. Lawyers for Trump evidently delayed submission of his answers due to concerns over possible “perjury trap” questions. If Trump answers with any specificity, his responses will be overlaid with the testimony of a host of cooperating witnesses, from former national security adviser Michael Flynn to former Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen. If statements by Trump do not match up, Congress will then be left with a stark choice over who is lying on the issue.
What Turley is saying is what Mueller detractors (like me) have asserted. It was never about finding and correcting the Russian interference in our elections, it was about fixing what the political class seems to think was an incorrect election outcome.

WaPo: Whitaker’s opponents take legal challenge to Supreme Court. Fine. Presidents down through history have made acting appointments of people not pre-confirmed to various posts. Let's settle this once and for all; but remember it will apply to Democrat acting appointments as well.
Concerns about Whitaker’s appointment stem partly from unanswered questions about what, if anything, the new acting attorney general may do to try to steer the ongoing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, the investigation is examining whether Trump’s campaign conspired with Moscow to influence the election’s outcome. On Thursday, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said that Whitaker told him he has no intention of recusing from the Russia probe, or shuttering it.

Goldstein has asked the Supreme Court to clear up any confusion about whether Whitaker or Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein has the legal authority to fill the job.

“This is the extraordinary case in which the identity of the successor is both contested and has important implications for the administration of justice nationally,” the filing argues. “This motion seeks to resolve the dispute.”

Goldstein said legal challenges to Whitaker’s appointment will keep popping up in various court cases around the country, and the Supreme Court should weigh in to settle the issue.

“This is turning into a mess,” he said. “These things are going to start boiling up.”
Jonathon Tobin at NR: Why the Senate Shouldn’t Grandstand on Mueller
While this will infuriate Republicans — and make any future plans he might have to challenge Trump in the 2020 Republican presidential primaries even more futile — a lot of Republicans agree with him about wanting to protect Mueller. The bill he’s supporting passed the Judiciary Committee earlier this year with some Republican support, including that of Chairman Chuck Grassley, Lindsey Graham, Thom Tillis, and Flake.

But the problem with the legislation isn’t that Flake can’t resist the impulse to grandstand or the question of whether firing Mueller would be a disaster. There is a broad bipartisan consensus that if Trump were so foolish as to attempt to quash the probe before Mueller is finished, it would set off a crisis that could endanger his presidency far more anything stemming from the fishing expeditions embarked upon by House committees that will be controlled by Democrats in 2019 will.

The problem with the bill, as Judiciary Committee members such as Mike Lee pointed out at the time, is that it’s unconstitutional.

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