WASHINGTON (The Hill) — Legislation protecting special counsel Robert Mueller was blocked on Wednesday for a second time in the past month.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), joined by Sens. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), tried to get consent to schedule the long-stalled legislation for a vote.
Flake questioned why his colleagues weren’t “up in arms” after a string of tweets from President Trump bashing Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“With the president tweeting on a regular basis, a daily basis, that the special counsel is conflicted, that he is leading so-called 12 angry Democrats and demeaning and ridiculing him in every way, to be so sanguine about the chances of him being fired is folly for us,” Flake said.
Trump in a tweet hours before Flake’s request blasted Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference and possible collusion between the president’s campaign and Moscow as the “angry Mueller gang of Dems” and exclaimed that it is “our Joseph McCarthy era.”
But GOP Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) objected to voting on the legislation, arguing the bill had constitutional issues.
“As Justice Scalia explains, we cannot convert an office like this one … without creating a de facto fourth branch of government fundamentally undermining the principles of the separation of powers that is so core to our liberty,” Lee said.
Flake pledged that they would come back to the Senate floor to try to set up the bill for a vote again.
Under the upper chamber’s rules, senators can go to the floor to request a vote or passage of any bill or nomination. But any one senator can block their requests.
The floor drama comes after Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Republican leadership was measuring support for the bill to try resolve a standoff with Flake, who is voting against judicial nominees until the Mueller protection bill gets a vote.
“We’re whipping that to see where people are. I think the leader needs that information to decide how to manage all the competing demands on our time,” Cornyn said when asked about discussions within the Republican caucus about the legislation.
But there is still fierce opposition to the bill within the GOP caucus, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called it a “solution in search of a problem” on Tuesday.
The president has stepped up his Twitter attacks on Mueller’s probe in recent days amid several new revelations, including the special counsel’s charge that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had violated his plea agreement.
New reports emerged on Tuesday that Manafort’s attorney had been sharing information with attorneys for Trump on his former campaign aide’s cooperation with the Mueller probe.
Trump after the midterm elections forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign and named Matthew Whitaker, Sessions’s chief of staff, as acting attorney general. Whitaker, who has criticized the Mueller probe, is now overseeing it in place of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed legislation that would protect Mueller, or any other special counsel, in the event he is fired, but the bill has stalled amid opposition from GOP leadership.
The bill would codify Justice Department regulations that say only a senior department official could fire Mueller or another special counsel.
It would give a special counsel an “expedited review” of their firing. If a court determines that it wasn’t for “good cause,” the special counsel would be reinstated.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (The Hill) — Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly hiring additional prosecutors to work on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Several current and former U.S. officials said Mueller is adding prosecutors from U.S. attorney’s offices and the Justice Department headquarters, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
Officials added that this could be a sign that Mueller is prepared to step away from the probe and leave it in the hands of a larger team of prosecutors, officials said.
Mueller’s team, currently composed of 17 federal prosecutors, is handling a large amount of casework associated with the yearlong investigation into Russian meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
More money is being directed toward the Justice Department’s permanent investigations rather than Mueller’s temporary probe, according to recent expense statements.
Mueller’s team spent $7.7 million from May 2017 through March. The Justice Department has spent $9 million through the same time frame.
The Washington Post reported late last month that several additional Mueller team members were specifically assigned to the indictments of 13 Russian nationals.
Those cases are expected to continue long after the probe into Trump campaign collusion is finished, according to the report.
Mueller has already handed off the investigation into Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Bloomberg reported.
Investigators with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York are investigating Cohen for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations.
The special counsel has already issued 20 indictments and secured five guilty pleas from individuals.
One of the most notable defendants is former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, whom Mueller hit with a superseding indictment last month.
Manafort and his longtime aide Konstantin Kilimnik were accused of trying to coach two witnesses or prevent them from testifying.
A federal judge revoked Manafort’s bail and sent him to jail in June.
He is charged with multiple financial crimes, including obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
The allegations came from Mueller’s investigation. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
His trial is set to begin later this month.
Soloman Wisenberg, a former deputy independent counsel who investigated President Clinton, told Bloomberg that Manafort’s trial will require “all hands on deck.”
Washington, D.C. (The Hill) — President Trump on Friday once again made the claim that the FBI improperly spied on his presidential campaign, suggesting that the bureau used a top-secret informant to surveil his team long before it began investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“The Democrats are now alluding to the concept that having an Informant placed in an opposing party’s campaign is different than having a Spy, as illegal as that may be,” he tweeted. “But what about an ‘Informant’ who is paid a fortune and who ‘sets up’ way earlier than the Russian Hoax?”
“Can anyone even imagine having Spies placed in a competing campaign, by the people and party in absolute power, for the sole purpose of political advantage and gain?” he wrote in a second tweet. “And to think that the party in question, even with the expenditure of far more money, LOST!”
The tweets were Trump’s latest suggestion that the FBI planted a mole within his campaign to spy on his team under the guise that his associates were being influenced by Moscow.
No evidence has emerged that the FBI spied on Trump’s campaign. The informant, identified in media reports as Stefan Halper, an American academic, reportedly met with at least three advisers on Trump’s campaign in 2016.
It is not clear whether the FBI paid the informant at all for his work.
Trump’s tweets Friday came a day after select lawmakers met with top Justice Department officials for two highly classified meetings to discuss the FBI’s use of the informant in the early months of the counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s role in the election.
After the meetings, congressional Democrats said they saw “no evidence” that the FBI placed a spy in the Trump campaign.
Democrats were also concerned about White House lawyer Emmet Flood’s attendance at the two meetings, with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) noting that his presence “only underscores [that] the President’s legal team expects to use information gleaned improperly from the Justice Department or the President’s allies in Congress to their legal advantage.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — For the fourth consecutive day, President Donald Trump issued a slew of venom-filled tweets on his growing frustration over RussiaGate, many directed at former president Barack Obama.
“There is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even rig America’s elections, there’s no evidence that that has happened in the past or that it will happen this time, and so I’d invite Mr. Trump to stop whining and make his case to get votes” the president tweeted, utilizing a quote by former president Barack Obama.
Obama made the comment just weeks prior to the 2016 election when polls indicated that Trump’s then-Democratic rival Hillary Clinton was in the lead. The scolding came in response to questions surrounding allegations that voting machines had been altered in recent elections to sway outcomes in benefit of Democrats.
“….The President Obama quote just before election. That’s because he thought Crooked Hillary was going to win and he didn’t want to “rock the boat,” the president wrote in a follow-up tweet. “When I easily won the Electoral College, the whole game changed and the Russian excuse became the narrative of the Dems.”
President Trump’s latest round of tweets (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump) comes in response to a federal grand jury indictment on Friday in which Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for allegedly interfering in the process of the 2016 presidential election.
While Democrats claim the indictments prove the election results were tainted, Trump called out the fact that neither he nor any of his staff was included in the prosecution as proof of no wrongdoing.
“Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” Trump tweeted on Friday, shortly after the indictments were announced. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – October 26 may be Hillary Clinton’s birthday but it’s likely not a happy one, according to a legal analyst who says the former Secretary of State may be waist deep in pending charges.
In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity attorney Gregg Jarrett said the former Democratic presidential nominee may be facing at least 13 separate charges relating to her involvement in the Uranium One scandal and the TrumpGate dossier.
When asked by Hannity how many charges Clinton may be looking at Jarrett responded, “13 potential crimes committed by Hillary Clinton, she’d be charged for six anti-corruption – they were all felonies.”
“She could also be charged with racketeering for using her charity as a criminal enterprise and then you’ve got all of the email crimes – two of them under the espionage act and two additional,” Jarrett said.
Jarrett also added that Clinton could face additional charges relating to her funding of a dossier in which it was claimed that Trump was caught in a Russian hotel room with a bevy of prostitutes. Those allegations were later found to be untrue.
“You can’t pay a foreign national relative to a political campaign and it appears she also – and the DNC – hid it – in their disclosure reports, which could also be criminally charged,” said Jarrett.
Meanwhile, The Justice Department on Wednesday released a gag order that had been placed on a former FBI informant from a confidentiality agreement, allowing him to testify before Congress about his knowledge on the Russian government’s dealings with Clinton and key leaders of the Obama administration.
In a statement to The Hill (http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/357230-fbi-informant-in-obama-era-russian-nuclear-bribery-cleared-to-testify-before), Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores confirmed that a deal had been reached to clear the informant to talk to Congress for the first time, nearly eight years after he first went undercover for the FBI.
“As of tonight, the Department of Justice has authorized the informant to disclose to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as one member of each of their staffs, any information or documents he has concerning alleged corruption or bribery involving transactions in the uranium market, including but not limited to anything related to Vadim Mikerin, Rosatom, Tenex, Uranium One, or the Clinton Foundation,” Flores said.
The informant’s lawyer, Victoria Toensing, told The Hill on Wednesday night that she had received formal notification from the FBI saying it no longer had any reason to ask the informant to keep his work confidential, clearing the way for him to potentially testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“The FBI has informed me that they are releasing my client from his [nondisclosure agreement] so that he can testify to Congress about his work uncovering the Russian nuclear bribery case and the efforts he witnessed by Moscow to gain influence with the Clintons in hopes of winning favorable uranium decisions from the Obama administration,” Toensing said.
“He is now able and willing to talk with the congressional committees seeking his testimony, though I will be working with all parties to ensure his identity remains confidential to ensure his safety.”
In an interview given earlier this week, Hillary Clinton denied any legal wrongdoing.