Enjoy the holiday season!
Meanwhile, the Trump-Russia scandal marches onward.
The theme of this week’s Trump-Russia Timeline Update: Obstruction of justice is a team sport.
The Republican party has become the Trump Team, and it is working diligently to save him.
Ever since special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment in May, the White House has paid lip-service to cooperation while systematically undermining his investigation. At first, GOP members of Congress embraced Mueller. The decorated Vietnam War veteran and former US attorney received unanimous consent from the Senate to serve as President George W. Bush’s FBI director. President Obama then reappointed Mueller — with the Senate’s unanimous consent — to extend his 10-year term.
Mueller’s fellow Republicans hailed him as above reproach, fair-minded, and possessing unquestionable integrity. They declared that Mueller’s conclusions about the Trump-Russia issue would satisfy skeptics on both sides of the political aisle.
Mueller is still who he was. But now that he is generating results — including two quick guilty pleas from cooperating witnesses and an indictment of Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort (and deputy Rick Gates) — congressional Republicans have reversed course. No longer seeking the truth, they are soldiers in Trump’s war to impede the investigation that imperils the Trump presidency.
Last week, congressional Republicans pursued a flanking maneuver — an attack from the rear aimed at discrediting witnesses whose testimony bolsters Mueller’s obstruction of justice case — while Trump launched a frontal assault.
The Trump Team’s Targets
In June 2017, Vox reported that shortly after Trump had asked then-FBI Director James Comey to “let Flynn go” at a time when Flynn was under FBI investigation, Comey recounted those conversations to three FBI senior leaders:
Deputy Director Andrew McCabe
Chief of Staff Jim Rybicki, and
General Counsel James Baker.
That meant Comey had at least three formidable corroborating witnesses to supplement his contemporaneous memoranda about Trump’s efforts to obstruct justice. The evidence provided a powerful rebuttal to Trump’s accusation that Comey had committed perjury in testifying before Congress on June 8. Trump was the liar.
Take a look at what happened to those three wise FBI-men during the week before Christmas.
The Complicit GOP
— Dec. 18: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) reiterates his call that FBI Director Christopher Wray should remove McCabe.
— On Dec. 19: According to CNN, McCabe tells the House Intelligence Committee that Comey had, indeed, informed him of his conversations with Trump.
— Also on Dec. 19: The GOP chairmen of the House Committees on the Judiciary (Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)) and Oversight and Government Reform (Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC)) request that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein produce McCabe, Chief of Staff Jim Rybicki, and FBI counsel Lisa Page for interviews. The topics of interest include “among other things,” the FBI’s handling of its investigation into Secretary Hillary Clinton.
— Dec. 20: Politico reports that, for weeks, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) (a former Trump transition team member) has been leading a secret effort to “build a case that senior leaders of the Justice Department and the FBI improperly — and perhaps criminally — mishandled the contents” of the Steele dossier, which describes alleged ties between Trump and Russia.
— Dec. 22: Politico publishes a story based on “GOP sources” that, during the weeks before the election, FBI General Counsel James Baker had communicated with David Corn of Mother Jones. On Oct. 31, 2016, Corn first reported on what would become known as the Steele dossier. Corn denies that Baker was a source for his story.
— Two hours later, former FBI Director Comey reacts to the hit job on Baker:
The Trump Team’s MVP
Obstruction of justice may be a team effort, but a star player can have an impact. Trump is distinguishing himself by compounding his efforts to obstruct justice with what sure looks like witness tampering — another federal offense.
As CBS reported that McCabe, 49, was now expected to retire from the FBI by March, Trump remained relentless:
Then he turned to another of Comey’s corroborating witnesses: And he continued his McCabe rant on Christmas Eve:
This Is Not A Drill
On Dec. 26, Trump joined the GOP’s broader offensive directed at the entire FBI:
In Trump’s FBI, personal loyalty to Trump has become a litmus test surpassing loyalty to the country’s fundamental principles. That is dangerous terrain.
Intimidating witnesses, destroying their reputations, and attacking the world’s leading law enforcement agency comprise only one battle in the ongoing war against special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Make no mistake: the forces attacking democracy and the rule of law are formidable, and they are playing for keeps. The historical precedents are alarming, and the final outcome for America remains uncertain.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) described the recent assault on special counsel Robert Mueller as “reckless, inappropriate,” and “extremely worrying.”
“Beyond being irresponsible,” Warner continued, “the seemingly coordinated nature of these claims should alarm us all. Particularly since, in recent days, these baseless accusations have been repeated by several members of the House of Representatives.”
The following day, Warner said that based on what he has seen and heard behind closed doors, the Russia investigation is “the most important thing I will ever work on.”
Running a fool’s errand, GOP members of Congress are aiding and abetting Trump’s destruction of the Republican brand. Hopefully, Trump’s reverse-King Midas touch will catch up with all of them. That’s what happens when you play for keeps and lose. Just ask Mike Flynn.
Happy New Year!
Here is list of this week’s Timeline updates:
Late July or Early August 2016: FBI Warns Trump About Russian Election Interference
JAN. 26, 2017: DOJ Says Flynn Lied; McGahn Informs Trump (revision of earlier entry)
JUNE 7, 2017: Vox: Comey Has Corroborating Witnesses
JUNE 8, 2017: Comey Testifies Before Senate Intelligence Committee (revision of earlier entry)
MID-NOVEMBER 2017: Prosecutors Seeks Documents On Deutsche Bank-Kushner Cos. Loan
DEC. 12, 2017: Trump Wins PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year”
DEC. 18, 2017: Trump’s National Security Speech Glides Past Russia
DEC. 19, 2017: McCabe Corroborates Comey; GOP Responds
DEC. 20, 2017: Warner Issues Warning To Trump
DEC. 20, 2017: Politico: Nunes Leading Effort To Discredit FBI and DOJ
DEC. 20, 2017: Congressman Talks To White House About Mueller Investigation
DEC. 20, 2017: FBI General Counsel Baker Reassigned
DEC. 21, 2017: Sessions Orders DOJ To Look Again At Uranium One Deal
DEC. 21, 2017: Sarah Sanders Hopes Mueller’s “Hoax” Investigation Wraps Up Soon
DEC. 22, 2017: Politico Publishes Dubious Story
DEC. 22, 2017: Comey Responds to Politico Story About Baker
DEC. 23, 2017: Trump Tweets
DEC. 23, 2017:McCabe To Retire
DEC. 24, 2017: Trump Tweets
DEC. 24, 2017: The Guardian: Mueller Seeking Info About Defunct Bank
DEC. 26, 2017: Trump Tweets
For context, see how they fit in the complete Trump-Russia Timeline..