It's Friday, March 22, 2019. It's been nearly two years since Robert Mueller was first appointed Special Counsel. Now, he's ready to submit a final report to the Attorney General. He has uncovered a sprawling and systematic effort by Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. And he's developed a mountain of evidence about the president's efforts to obstruct his investigation, things like witness tampering, ordering the creation of false records, and trying to fire Mueller himself. But Mueller's got a problem: a Department of Justice memo says he can't indict a sitting president. So what is he supposed to do with all this evidence? Mueller decides to just lay it all in the report, all 448 pages of it. It'll be someone else's problem to decide what to do about it: maybe a future prosecutor, maybe Congress, maybe the America electorate. That isn't really Mueller's concern. He's done what he was asked to do. Now his report can speak for itself. [more inside]
We're almost at the end of our story. This episode will cover the final set of activity that the Special Counsel examines for possible obstruction of justice: the president's behavior towards his long time attorney Michael Cohen. Unlike the other possible acts of obstruction in Volume II, which mostly occur after Trump takes office, the relevant conduct towards Cohen spans the entire time period at issue in the Mueller investigation. It starts all the way back before the campaign. To Trump Tower Moscow. [more inside]
It's January 2018. Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are in a whole lot of trouble. The past is catching up to them. Three months earlier, they'd both been indicted on multiple felony counts and now it looks like there might be even more charges coming. Gates is getting nervous--they're facing many years in prison. Manafort tells Gates to relax. He's talked to the president's personal counsel. He says they're going to "take care of us." Manafort tells Gates he'd be stupid to plead guilty now, "just sit tight, we'll be taken care of." Gates wants to be crystal clear on what exactly Manafort's getting at. So he asks: Is the president going to pardon them? [more inside]
It's February 6, 2018. Don McGahn is back in the Oval Office with President Trump and the new White House chief of staff John Kelly. The New York Times has just published a story reporting that, back in June of 2017, Trump had directed McGahn to have Mueller fired and that McGahn had threatened to resign rather than carry out the order. The story doesn't look good. Trump says: "You need to correct this. You're the White House counsel." Trump wants McGahn to say it never happened. But McGahn knows that it did happen. The White House Counsel is sticking to his guns. He's not going to lie. The president asks again. Is McGahn going to do a correction? McGahn feels Trump is testing his mettle, seeing how far he can be pushed. And so he answers: No. He's not. [more inside]
It's May 17, 2017. White House Counsel Don McGahn is in the Oval Office with the president. McGahn's job is to represent the office of the presidency, which isn't quite the same as representing the president personally. It's a delicate line to walk, and Trump hasn't made the job any easier. McGahn is supposed to act as the point of contact between the White House and the Department of Justice, to ensure all the rules are being followed. But the president has made clear, he's not interested in following the rules. Trump has already fired his FBI director. That's why McGahn is in the Oval that morning, they need to interview a new nominee for the position. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is there too.Sessions interrupts the meeting. He has an urgent phone call from the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, so he steps outside to take it. Sessions returns a moment later and relays the message: Rosenstein has appointed a Special Counsel to oversee the Russia investigation. It's the former FBI director, Robert Mueller. Trump slumps back in his chair. He says, "Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I'm fucked." [more inside]
It's March 7, 2017. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on the nomination of Rod Rosenstein to be the Deputy Attorney General. Rosenstein's whole career has been leading up to this moment. He's a non-partisan sort of guy. He's served under both President Bush and Obama. Now he's being elevated to the role of running the day to day at DOJ.But this hearing is about more than just confirming a new deputy attorney general. On March 2, five days earlier, Attorney General Jeff Sessions had announced his recusal from all investigations involving the 2016 election, a recusal which included the Russia investigation. And so, the moment he becomes deputy, Rosenstein will also become the acting attorney general for the purposes of the Russia investigation.Rosenstein is confirmed and he's sworn in on April 26, 2017. But his oath is about to be tested, like never before. Less than two weeks later, President Trump says he wants to fire the FBI Director and Rosenstein decides to help. [more inside]
It's January 26, 2017. Sally Yates is the acting Attorney General; she's leading the Justice Department until Jeff Sessions is confirmed by the Senate. Yates has just learned some alarming news. The new National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has lied to FBI agents. He's told them that he hadn't discussed sanctions in a call with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. But he had. And it looks like Flynn has lied to the vice president about it as well. Yates calls White House Counsel Don McGahn. She says they have to meet right away. Yates knows that the FBI has the tape to prove Flynn lied, which is a crime, but right now there's an even bigger problem: the Russians probably have the tape too. [more inside]
It's May 12, 2017. The FBI is still reeling from the sudden firing of Director James Comey. Andrew McCabe has only been the acting Director for 3 days. He's trying to talk to Rod Rosenstein about the issue weighing on his mind: how are they going to protect the Russia investigation? The FBI is already investigating whether the president has tried to interfere with that inquiry. But the Deputy Attorney General is distracted and upset; he can't believe the White House is making it look as if firing Comey were his idea. He says "There's no one I can talk to. There's no one here I can trust." McCabe urges Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel. The credibility of the FBI and DOJ are on the line; without a special counsel a firestorm threatens to destroy the nation's storied law enforcement institutions. It's five days later—Wednesday, May 17—when McCabe sits beside Rosenstein in the basement of the United States Capitol where they've assembled the Gang of Eight. Then Rosenstein announces that he's made a decision. He's appointed a special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation and the new inquiry into the president: Robert S. Mueller III. [more inside]
It's July 2016. Then-FBI Director James Comey gives a press conference explaining that, while he has recommended that the Justice Department not pursue charges against Hillary Clinton for her mishandling of classified information, Clinton's conduct was "extremely careless." Evidence has never surfaced that Clinton's account was compromised. But a Republican political operative named Peter Smith becomes obsessed with the idea that Russia might have gained access. He spends the next year trying to get ahold of Clinton emails that he thinks Russia has hacked. But he never gets to see what Special Counsel Robert Mueller makes of his efforts—because a year later, he dies by suicide. [more inside]
It's April 18, 2019, Attorney General Bill Barr summons reporters to the Department of Justice in Washington DC. Robert Mueller's report is about to be released. Before the press and the public finally see the document for themselves, Barr wants a chance to tell his own version of the story it contains. But is the bottom line according to Barr the same as the bottom line according to Robert Mueller? We'll let you decide. [more inside]
It's December 29, 2016. The Obama administration announces that it's imposing sanctions on Russia, as punishment for election interference. Michael Flynn has been tapped to become Trump's national security advisor when the new administration takes office in January, but it's still the transition period. Flynn is taking a few days vacation at the beach, when he sees the news. He grabs his phone and texts the transition team at Mar a Lago. He writes "Tit for tat with Russia not good" and says that the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak is reaching out to him today. Flynn calls Kislyak and asks that Russia not escalate in response to the sanctions. Apparently, it works. The next day, in a surprise move, Putin says that Russia won't retaliate. Trump tweets, "Great move on delay (by V. Putin). I always knew he was very smart." [more inside]
It's the morning of April 25, 2016. At a hotel in London, a Maltese professor meets with a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. The two have been in touch over the past few weeks; the professor has been helping the young man connect with Russian officials. Now, over breakfast, the professor lets him in on a secret. On a recent trip to Moscow, high-level government officials told him that the Russians have "dirt" on Trump's opponent. What was the "dirt" in question? "Emails," he says. They have "have thousands of emails."
Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.
Pod Save America only has one post here in fanfare and I was just wondering if there's any interest in a weekly post for it and the other Crooked Media pods? [more inside]
Okay, disruption 2.0: Chicago Police Department 2.0. Let's have a precinct that we don't tell anyone about. Let's have a precinct where we can take people, and we don't register them, we don't officially arrest them, we don't fingerprint them, we just take them to a room, and we disrupt.On this week's regular show, it's the original dry boys, Matt, Felix, and Will, recording from Felix's unsanitary new Greenpoint FOB. They're mostly stuck talking about Trump news like the rest of us. Fortunately, there's a B story about the show APB, on how drones and apps are the future of law enforcement, which will be live-streamed by Officer Pewdiepie.
Our new Hope in the Darkness nonfiction club kicks off with a discussion of Rebecca Solnit's 2004 book designed to give liberals fearful of an increasingly dark political climate hope and strength to fight back. "No writer has better understood the mix of fear and possibility, peril and exuberance that's marked this new millennium." —Bill McKibben
I am toying with this idea, in part because of chainsofreedom's new fictional "in these trying times" club and Miko's excellent recent ask. Except these days, most of what I read is nonfiction. Anyone up for a nonfiction #resisting club tackling useful works to know about? I'm thinking a mix of history, maybe some political thought, maybe some sociology kinds of things. Suggestions inside the cut. [more inside]
A simple-minded gardener named Chance (Peter Sellers) has spent all his life in the Washington D.C. house of an old man. When the man dies, Chance is put out on the street with no knowledge of the world except what he has learned from television. After a run in with a limousine, he ends up a guest of a Ben (Melvyn Douglas), an influential but sickly businessman, and his wife, Eve (Shirley MacLaine). Now called Chauncey Gardner, Chance becomes friend and confidante to Ben and an unlikely political insider.