About thebellyofthebeast

Adjunct professor at Northwestern University's School of Law and its Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, contributing editor to ABA "Litigation" and "The American Lawyer," and author of "The Lawyer Bubble - A Profession in Crisis (2013), "The Partnership - A Novel" (2010), "Crossing Hoffa - A Teamster's Story" (2007) (A "Chicago Tribune" Best Book of the Year), and "Straddling Worlds: The Jewish-American Journey of Professor Richard W. Leopold" (2008). Recently retired after 30 years at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Graduated from Harvard Law School (magna cum laude) and Northwestern University (combined B.A./M.A. in economics, with distinction and Phi Beta Kappa).

A HEARING IN THREE ACTS: GLIMMER OF LIGHT IN A DARK DAY

For a brief moment, obstruction of the Russia investigation was last week’s big Trump scandal. For five hours, Corey Lewandowski’s Sept. 17 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee was tough to watch. But those who persevered to the end saw Lewandowski confirm facts proving that Trump had obstructed justice. The question now is what Congress, the media, and the country will do about it.

Here’s how it unfolded.

Act #1: Obstructing the Investigation into Obstruction

Prior to his appearance, Lewandowski promised belligerence toward Democratic members questioning him. He got an important 11th-hour assist from the White House counsel, who told Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) late on Sept. 16 that Trump had directed Lewandowski to limit his testimony to matters in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Lewandowski’s combative opening statement prompted an immediate tweet from Trump:

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1174017425068576769

When the Democrats started asking questions, Republican members interrupted with frivolous points of order, parliamentary inquiries, requests for roll call votes, and diversions to side issues. Their obstreperous conduct continued for the rest of the day.

During the first 10-minute break in the hearing, Lewandowski tweeted a link to a new Super PAC website that supports his increasingly likely candidacy for a US Senate seat in New Hampshire:

https://twitter.com/CLewandowski_/status/1174033997510381568

As the afternoon slipped away, many Democratic members of the committee used their allotted five minutes for self-satisfying speeches that no one wanted to hear. As Americans tuned out, cable news networks ended live coverage. The Lewandowski/Trump/GOP strategy — obstructing the investigation into Trump’s obstruction — seemed to be succeeding.

Act #2: The Truth Emerges

Viewers who watched C-Span for the final 30 minutes of the hearing observed a skilled trial attorney at work. He should have gone first. Barry Berke, a seasoned litigator on a leave of absence from his law firm, led Lewandowski through a cross-examination establishing that Trump obstructed justice.

Here’s the resulting narrative:

  • Lewandowski testified — as he had repeatedly throughout the hearing — that everything in Mueller’s report was “accurate.” (Although he says he’s never read it.)
  • Initially, Lewandowski invoked the White House letter to avoid answering questions about a late May 2017 meeting with Trump in the Oval Office. But his effort failed because Lewandowski had already disclosed the episode in his book, Let Trump Be Trump. (Among its notable lines about Trump world: “Loyalty is the currency of the realm.”)
  • Around the time of that Oval Office meeting, senior members of the Trump administration dangled before Lewandowski the possibility that he would become a White House senior adviser equal to Jared Kushner. In that role, he would “run the Russia investigation.”
  • Less than a month later, on June 19, 2017, Lewandowski was in the Oval Office again, where Trump dictated a message that he asked Lewandowski to deliver to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions was to give a speech announcing his “unrecusal” from the Russia investigation and limiting Mueller’s probe to future elections only.
  • Lewandowski agreed to deliver the message, but he didn’t want a public log of his visit to Sessions at the Justice Department.
  • Lewandowski then asked Trump’s deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn to deliver the message.
  • On July 19, 2017, Trump asked Lewandowski if he had delivered the message.

All of that adds up to presidential obstruction of justice. In fact, Berke implied that before speaking with Mueller, Lewandowski demanded immunity for his own potential criminal exposure arising from the episode. Lewandowski refused to answer those questions.

If you cherish truth and the rule of law, spend 30 minutes watching Berke’s cross-examination here:

https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4817196/house-judiciary-counsel-berke-questions-lewandowski

Act #3: The Media Aftermath

In any previous administration, first-hand testimony confirming that the President of the United States had obstructed justice — especially by attempting to interfere with a federal investigation into his winning campaign for the presidency — would generate front-page headlines. That didn’t happen.

The Sept. 18 print edition of The New York Times relegated its report on the hearing to page A-16: “Testimony, but No Details, That It Wasn’t ‘Anything Illegal.’” It didn’t include Berke’s withering cross-examination. (An online article added “Key Moments From Corey Lewandowski’s Testimony Before Congress.”) The Wall Street Journal print edition contained a short article on page A4: “Trump Aide Rebuffs Panel.” The Washington Post report on the hearing appeared on page A8: “Ex-campaign manager’s testimony frustrates House Democrats, delights Trump.”

As for television, Berke also confronted Lewandowski with his previous lies on national TV relating to Trump, Sessions, and the Russia investigation:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruKIfw5g55Y

Asked if he’d been a truth-teller in connection with one of the most important political scandals in American history, Lewandowski said, “I have no obligation to be honest with the media… I have no obligation to have a candid conversation with the media whatsoever.”

But Lewandowski — who wants to become the next US senator from New Hampshire — wasn’t just lying to the media. He was using the media as a vehicle for disseminating lies to the public. Yet only hours after his startling admission, CNN and Fox & Friends booked him to appear on their programs for the following morning.

Sometimes the purpose of a lie isn’t just to get an audience to believe it. The goal is to instill doubt about everything and render the truth elusive.

UPDATED: MUST-SEE TV: TRUMP TRIES TO LIMIT COREY LEWANDOWSKI’S TESTIMONY, BUT IT WON’T HELP

[This is an updated version of yesterday’s post. It incorporates letters that White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) on the evening of Sept. 16, 2019. The updated version appeared on Dan Rather’s News & Guts on Sept. 17, 2019]

On Tuesday, Sept. 17, Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. He says he’s happy to appear: “I want to explain that there was no collusion, there was no obstruction.”

That’s interesting because Lewandowski provided special counsel Robert Mueller with all of the evidence necessary to prove that Trump obstructed justice. (Vol. II, pp. 11-12, 92-93, 97-98) If Lewandowski lied to Mueller, he committed a felony. If he lies to Congress, that would be a crime too. And new House rules make it difficult for him to toe the party line without falling into one of those legal abysses.

Someone close to Trump must have seen the problem. On the eve of his testimony, White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote to the committee that “the White House has directed Mr. Lewandowski not to provide information about such communications [with Trump] beyond the information provided in the portions of the [Mueller] Report that have already been disclosed to the Committee.”

Trump’s last-minute invocation of “executive branch confidentiality interests” to limit Lewandowski’s congressional testimony won’t help Trump’s core problem: Lewandowski has already provided Mueller with an incriminating first-hand account of Trump’s obstruction. And even armed with the new White House letter, Lewandowski has no basis for refusing to repeat that story to the committee.

Lewandowski’s Foray Into Obstruction

The crime of obstructing justice requires: 1) corrupt intent; 2) an obstructive act; and 3) a connection to a pending or contemplated official proceeding. The law covers failed attempts as well as successful efforts. (Vol. II, pp. 9-12) Based on Lewandowski’s reported interviews with Mueller, Trump touched all the bases. (Vol. II, pp. 90-93, 97-98)

From the Trump-Russia Timeline:

June 19, 2017: Lewandowski — a private citizen — meets one-on-one with Trump in the Oval Office. He takes notes as Trump dictates a message to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he asks Lewandowski to deliver. It directs Sessions to give a speech declaring that Trump has done nothing wrong and that Mueller should forget about Russia’s 2016 election interference. Sessions is to limit the investigation to future elections only.

Lewandowski arranges a meeting with Sessions where he will deliver Trump’s message personally. But Sessions cancels at the last minute, so the message remains undelivered. Lewandowski leaves town and places his notes of Trump’s directive in a safe at home.

Later in June: Lewandowski asks Rick Dearborn, Trump’s deputy chief of staff (and Sessions’ former chief of staff), if he will pass a message on to Sessions. Not knowing what it says, Dearborn agrees to deliver it at a late July dinner with Sessions.

July 19: Trump meets again with Lewandowski alone in the Oval Office and asks if he has delivered the message yet. Lewandowski says that it soon will be. Trump tells Lewandowski to inform Sessions that if he refuses to meet, Sessions will be fired. After the meeting, Lewandowski gives Dearborn a typed copy of the message, which he’d asked Hope Hicks to type.

Dearborn later informs Lewandowski that he had handled the situation, even though Dearborn never actually delivered the message to Sessions. At least, that’s what Dearborn told Mueller.

At the same time that it directed Lewandowski not to answer certain questions from the House Judiciary Committee on Sept. 17, 2019, it also directed Dearborn and Rob Porter — another former White House aide with first-hand knowledge of Trump’s obstruction — not to appear at all. 

New House Rules

Lewandowski will be the first witness to testify under new rules that the House Judiciary Committee adopted on Sept. 12. As before, individual members will have their usual five minutes each to pose questions and/or make self-serving speeches. But then the committee’s majority and minority counsel will each get an additional 30 uninterrupted minutes to examine the witness.

That means lawyers with actual trial experience in controlling belligerent witnesses will have a chance to elicit a clearer and more complete narrative for the public to see and hear. Uncooperative witnesses will have difficulty evading, obfuscating, and grandstanding.

Lewandowski’s Moment

While watching Lewandowski, keep a close eye on Trump too. After receiving his subpoena on Aug. 15, 2019, Lewandowski appeared with Trump at a rally in New Hampshire where he is considering a run for the US Senate. Trump told the crowd that Lewandowski “would be fantastic.”

Fantastic can mean “spectacular and sensational.” It can also mean “without adherence to truth or reality.” What will it be? Watch Lewandowski as he plays to an audience of one. Trump may not like what he sees.

MUST-SEE TV: WILL COREY LEWANDOWSKI TESTIFY AGAINST TRUMP?

[This post first appeared on Dan Rather’s News & Guts on Sept. 16, 2019]

On Tuesday, Sept. 17, Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. He says he’s happy to appear: “I want to explain that there was no collusion, there was no obstruction.”

That’s interesting because Lewandowski provided special counsel Robert Mueller with all of the evidence necessary to prove that Trump obstructed justice. (Vol. II, pp. 11-12, 92-93, 97-98) If Lewandowski lied to Mueller, he committed a felony. If he lies to Congress, that would be a crime too. And new House rules make it difficult for him to toe the party line without falling into one of those legal abysses. 

Lewandowski’s Foray Into Obstruction

The crime of obstructing justice requires: 1) corrupt intent; 2) an obstructive act; and 3) a connection to a pending or contemplated official proceeding. The law covers failed attempts as well as successful efforts. (Vol. II, pp. 9-12) Based on Lewandowski’s reported interviews with Mueller, Trump touched all the bases. (Vol. II, pp. 90-93, 97-98)

From the Trump-Russia Timeline:

June 19, 2017: Lewandowski — a private citizen — meets one-on-one with Trump in the Oval Office. He takes notes as Trump dictates a message to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he asks Lewandowski to deliver. It directs Sessions to give a speech declaring that Trump has done nothing wrong and that Mueller should forget about Russia’s 2016 election interference. Sessions is to limit the investigation to future elections only.

Lewandowski arranges a meeting with Sessions where he will deliver Trump’s message personally. But Sessions cancels at the last minute, so the message remains undelivered. Lewandowski leaves town and places his notes of Trump’s directive in a safe at home.

Later in June: Lewandowski asks Rick Dearborn, Trump’s deputy chief of staff (and Sessions’ former chief of staff), if he will pass a message on to Sessions. Not knowing what it says, Dearborn agrees to deliver it at a late July dinner with Sessions.

July 19: Trump meets again with Lewandowski alone in the Oval Office and asks if he has delivered the message yet. Lewandowski says that it soon will be. Trump tells Lewandowski to inform Sessions that if he refuses to meet, Sessions will be fired. After the meeting, Lewandowski gives Dearborn a typed copy of the message, which he’d asked Hope Hicks to type.

Dearborn later informs Lewandowski that he had handled the situation, even though Dearborn never actually delivered the message to Sessions. At least, that’s what Dearborn told Mueller.

New House Rules

Lewandowski will be the first witness to testify under new rules that the House Judiciary Committee adopted on Sept. 12. As before, individual members will have their usual five minutes each to pose questions and/or make self-serving speeches. But then the committee’s majority and minority counsel will each get an additional 30 uninterrupted minutes to examine the witness.

That means lawyers with actual trial experience in controlling belligerent witnesses will have a chance to elicit a clearer and more complete narrative for the public to see and hear. Uncooperative witnesses will have difficulty evading, obfuscating, and grandstanding.

Lewandowski’s Moment

While watching Lewandowski, keep a close eye on Trump too. After receiving his subpoena on Aug. 15, 2019, Lewandowski appeared with Trump at a rally in New Hampshire where he is considering a run for the US Senate. Trump told the crowd that Lewandowski “would be fantastic.”

Fantastic can mean “spectacular and sensational.” It can also mean “without adherence to truth or reality.” What will it be? Watch and see.

RIGGING THE 2020 ELECTION? TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH SEPT. 9, 2019

[This post first appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts on Sept. 8, 2019:]

In December 2016, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that Russia’s attack on the US presidential election amounted to an “act of war.” A recap of summer highlights from the Trump-Russia Timeline reveals that it’s happening again — with Trump and his congressional allies aiding the assault.

Trump Solicits Foreign Dirt

Trump encourages foreign interference in America’s upcoming election — provided he’s the beneficiary.

  • May 7-10, 2019: Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani is planning to visit Ukraine with the intention of persuading its incoming government to pursue investigations that could help Trump’s re-election campaign. After advisers urge Ukraine’s new president not to meet with Giuliani, he abandons the trip.
  • During the week of May 20: Giuliani instead meets in New York with a former Ukrainian diplomat as part of an aggressive effort to get dirt on Trump’s US political opponents.
  • June 12: Trump declares publicly that he’s willing to accept a foreign government’s offer of dirt on a political opponent. He adds that FBI Director Christopher Wray is wrong in stating that a candidate receiving such an overture should call the FBI. The chair of the Federal Election Commission reminds all candidates that accepting foreign help is a crime.
  • June 14: Trump tweets praise for Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) after she blocks legislation that would have required all federal candidates to report a foreign government’s offer of election assistance.
  • June 28: At the G-20 summit in Osaka, a reporter asks Trump if he will tell Putin not to meddle in the US election. “Of course, I will,” Trump says. He turns to Putin, who is sitting next to him, and says with a smile, “Don’t meddle in the election.” Playfully, he wags his finger in the air and repeats, “Don’t meddle in the election.” Putin chuckles.
  • July 23: Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies, “The Russians are absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections….”
  • July 28: In a tweet, Trump announces the departure of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who has been outspoken in warning about Russia’s past and ongoing election interference.
  • Aug. 1: A reporter asks Trump about his July 31 phone call with Putin: “Mr. President, Robert Mueller said last week that Russia is interfering in the U.S. elections right now. Is that —
    Trump interrupts, “Oh you don’t really believe this. Do you believe this? Ok, fine. We didn’t talk about it.”
  • Aug. 20-22: Guiliani confirms that “over the past few weeks,” he has been pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s family and the DNC — and he asserts that the US State Department has been helping him.
  • Aug. 24-26, 2019: At the G-7 summit in France, Trump advocates on Putin’s behalf and says that he will invite him to the 2020 summit in the US. Other G-7 leaders object because Putin’s ongoing exclusion from the group has been retribution for Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
  • Aug. 26 2019: As Giuliani pressures the Ukrainian government to develop dirt on Biden and the DNC, Trump delays the release of US military aid that Congress has appropriated to help Ukraine’s ongoing battle against Russian aggression.
  • Sept. 2, 2019: After Mike Pence meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Warsaw, a reporter asks Pence whether he can assure Ukraine that Trump’s delay in military aid to that country is unrelated to Giuliani’s efforts to get dirt on Biden’s family from the Ukrainian government. Pence deflects: “[Zelensky and I] discussed America’s support for Ukraine and the upcoming decision the President will make on the latest tranche of financial support in great detail… As President Trump had me make clear, we have great concerns about issues of [Ukrainian] corruption.”

Senate Republicans Follow Trump’s Lead

Trump and his congressional allies — most notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — are blocking efforts to defend against attacks on US elections.

  • May 14: Ron DeSantis (R-FL) acknowledges that Russian hackers had gained access to voter databases in two Florida counties prior to the 2016 election, per a new briefing from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
  • June 7: McConnell continues to block Senate consideration of bipartisan legislation aimed at better securing American elections.
  • July 24: Special counsel Robert Mueller testifies that Russia is continuing its efforts to interfere with US elections. Later that evening, Senate Republicans block two election security bills and a cybersecurity measure, earning McConnell the Twitter moniker #MoscowMitch.
  • July 25: The Senate Intelligence Committee issues findings on Russia’s 2016 election attacks and the nation’s vulnerability to future attacks. The report observes that Russia targeted all 50 states and, in Illinois, “Russian cyberactors were in a position to delete or change voter data” in the voter database. It concludes, “Cybersecurity for electoral infrastructure at the state and local level was sorely lacking in 2016. Despite increased focus over the last three years, some of these vulnerabilities, including aging voting equipment, remain.”

A Founder’s’ Foresight

As Benjamin Franklin left the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a citizen of the new nation asked him, “Well, Doctor, what have we got — a republic or a monarchy?”

“A republic,” Franklin replied, “if you can keep it.”

He was speaking to all of us.

Here’s a complete list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline at Dan Rather’s News & Guts and at Just Security:

JUNE 19, 2017: Trump Gives Lewandowski Message for Sessions: Limit Mueller

JULY 19, 2017: Trump Follows Up With Lewandowski About Message to Sessions

AUG. 26, 2019: Trump Says He’ll Defy Previous Preconditions and Invite Putin to 2020 G-7 Summit

AUG. 26, 2019: House Subpoenas Porter

AUG. 26, 2019: House Moves to Expedite Subpoena Enforcement Action Against McGahn

AUG. 28-29, 2019: Trump Delays Military Assistance to Ukraine

AUG 29, 2019: Inspector General Issues Report on Comey; DOJ Declines to Prosecute; Trump Tweets

AUG. 30-SEPT. 1, 2019: Trump Continues Attacking Comey

SEPT. 2, 2019: Pence Parrots Trump Equivocating on Ukraine

SEPT. 3-4, 2019: Trump Tweets About IG Report on Comey and Mueller Report, Attacks FBI

SEPT. 6, 2019: Trump Tweets About ‘Witch Hunt’ and ‘Spygate’

SEPT. 7, 2019: Trump Tweets: ‘Lyin’ Leakin’ James Comey!’

GIULIANI, THE G-7, AND COLLUSION IN PLAIN SIGHT: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH AUG. 26, 2019

It may be occurring in plain sight, but it’s still collusion.

Last week, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani admitted that he has been pressuring Ukraine’s government to investigate what he calls “two alleged crimes” relating to Trump’s US political opponents. Even more stunning, he said that the US Department of State had been assisting his efforts.

According to The New York Times, “One is whether Ukrainian officials took steps during the 2016 election to damage Mr. Trump’s campaign. The other is whether there was anything improper about the overlap between former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s diplomatic efforts in Ukraine and his son’s role with a gas company there.”

Meanwhile, Trump himself spent much the G-7 summit clashing with the leaders of the world’s most industrialized nations over Vladimir Putin. Trump alone wants Putin back in the G-7, which was the G-8 until leaders unanimously disinvited him after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

And you probably thought the big news of the week was that Joe Walsh announced his Republican party primary challenge against Trump.

Here’s a complete list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline at Dan Rather’s News & Guts and at Just Security:

AUG. 15, 2019: House Subpoenas Lewandowski and Dearborn; Lewandowski Says He’s ‘Happy To Appear’; Trump Endorses Him For Senate

AUG. 18, 2019: Trump Tweets: ‘Mueller Report & His Testimony Were A Total Disaster’

AUG. 20, 2019: Trump Wants Russia Back in the G-7

AUG. 20-22, 2019: Giuliani Admits He’s Pressuring Ukraine to Investigate Biden and DNC

AUG. 22, 2019: Sarah Sanders Joins Fox News

AUG. 22, 2019: Trump Retweets About Ohr, ‘Clinton/DNC Spies At Fusion GPS’

AUG. 23, 2019: Trump Tweets About McCabe

AUG. 25, 2019: Trump Tweets and Retweets About Comey, Clinton, Steele, ‘Spygate’

 

 

WE KNEW A LOT; MUELLER KNEW MORE: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE FROM VOLUME ONE OF MUELLER’S REPORT

Thanks to investigative reporters, the public learned a lot about the Trump-Russia scandal long before special counsel Robert Mueller issued his report. But the report itself reveals that he knew much more. The latest update to the Trump-Russia Timeline at Dan Rather’s News & Guts and at Just Security. incorporates new information from Volume I of Mueller’s report.

Coming soon: Updates based on Volume II (Obstruction).

Here’s a complete list of the Volume I items. The individual entry titles alone tell a story. Interspersing them with the existing Timeline entries makes the saga even more fascinating. And it’s not a narrative of innocence.

NEW: MAR. 29-30, 2016: Manafort/Gates Memo to Ukrainian Oligarchs

NEW: MAR. 31, 2016: Kushner Finds a Venue for Trump’s First Major Foreign Policy Speech

NEW: BEFORE APR. 12, 2016: Russians Have Gained Access to DCCC Computer Network

NEW: MID-APRIL 2016: Simes Helps Miller Write Trump’s Foreign Policy Speech

NEW: APR. 18, 2016: Russians Gain Access to DNC Computers

NEW: BEGINNING APR. 19, 2016 to ELECTION DAY: Russians Purchase Social Media Ads Explicitly Endorsing Trump (in place of previous entry: APRIL TO NOVEMBER 2016: Russians Buy Pro-Trump Ads)

NEW: BY APR. 19, 2016: Russians Begin Planning Release of Stolen DCCC and DNC Documents

NEW: NEW: APRIL 25, 2016: GRU Exfiltrates Data from DCCC’s File On The 2016 Election

REVISED: APR. 25, 2016: Papadopoulos Informs Stephen Miller About Russia Contacts

REVISED: APR. 27, 2016: Papadopoulos Continues Reporting to Trump Campaign

REVISED: APRIL 27, 2016: Trump Delivers First Major Foreign Policy Speech

NEW: MAY 7, 2016: Manafort and Kilimnik Meet in New York

NEW: DAYS BEFORE JUNE 9, 2016: Don Jr. Says He Has a Lead on Negative Info on Clinton

NEW: JUNE 12, 2016: Assange Claims to Have Clinton Emails

NEW: JUNE 14, 2016: Russians Contact WikiLeaks About Coordinating Release of Stolen Emails

REVISED: JUNE 19, 2016: Papadopoulos’ Russia Push Continues

NEW: JUNE 22, 2016: WikiLeaks Contacts Guccifer 2.0 About Stolen Emails

NEW: JULY 14, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 Sends WikiLeaks Encrypted File

REVISED: ON OR SHORTLY AFTER JULY 22, 2016: Someone Directs ‘Senior Trump Campaign Official’ to Contact Stone About Additional WikiLeaks Releases; Trump Campaign Planning Strategy Based on Possible Releases

NEW: AFTER JULY 27, 2016: Trump Asks Individuals Affiliated With Campaign to Find Deleted Clinton Emails

NEW: AUG. 23, 2016: Millian Message to Papadopoulos Re: ‘Disruptive Technology’

NEW: AUG. 28, 2016: Smith Emails Clovis and Others About Search for Clinton Emails

NEW: OCT. 15, 2016: Smith Emails Flynn About Search for Clinton Emails

NEW: NOV. 14, 2016: Papadopoulos and Millian Meet in Chicago

REVISED: DEC. 28-29, 2016: Flynn Discusses New Sanctions With Kislyak

NEW: DEC. 30, 2016: McFarland Memo Summarizes Flynn Discussions With Kislyak

REVISED: JAN. 3-4, 2017: Erik Prince Meets with George Nader About Dmitriev

NEW: JAN. 8, 2017: Nader Says Bannon Designated Prince to Meet Dmitriev

REVISED: JAN. 11, 2017: Prince Meets With Putin Associate in the Seychelles; Then Tells Contradictory Stories

ABUSE OF POWER – THREE NEW LAWSUITS TO WATCH: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH AUG. 15, 2019

Lost in the chaos of mass shooting tragedies, Jeffrey Epstein’s death, the China trade war, and Trump’s curated media storm surrounding those and other events was the filing of three new lawsuits. They shine another spotlight on Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Russia investigation, require public servants to place personal loyalty to Trump over country, and abuse presidential power by punishing those who resist him.

Lawsuit #1: Strzok Sues Justice Department

Abuse of Power: On Aug. 6, 2019, Peter Strzok, who spent more than 20 years as a career professional at the FBI, sued the Justice Department for firing him wrongfully because of “unrelenting pressure from President Trump and his political allies in Congress and the media.” The campaign included “constant tweets and other disparaging statements by the President as well as direct appeals from the President” to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Trump-Russia Backstory: In July 2016, Strzok was deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division. He signed off on the document officially launching the Trump-Russia investigation and then helped lead it. The mere discharge of his job responsibilities made him a future Trump target.

Lawsuit #2: The House Judiciary Committee Sues McGahn

Abuse of Power: On Aug. 7, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee sued to enforce its subpoena against Don McGahn, who is currently following White House orders to defy Congress. The lawsuit described him as the most important witness in Congress’ investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment against Trump.

Trump-Russia Backstory: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report cited McGahn’s interviews with Mueller more than any other witness: 157 times. McGahn was a first-hand observer of key episodes when Trump attempted to block the Russia investigation, including:

  • Trump’s response when he learned that then-National Security Adviser Mike Flynn had lied to the FBI;
  • The termination of FBI Director James Comey;
  • Trump’s order that McGahn fire Mueller;
  • Trump’s effort to get McGahn to deny that he’d ever ordered him to fire Mueller;
  • Trump’s effort to get McGahn to prepare a false record hiding the fact that he’d ordered him to fire Mueller; and
  • Trump’s effort to get then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to unrecuse himself from the Russia investigation and limit the scope of Mueller’s investigative.

Although Trump ordered McGahn not to testify, McGahn’s attorney William A. Burck now says,“Don does not believe he witnessed any violation of law.” More than 1,000 former federal prosecutors who served in Democratic and Republican administrations reviewed the facts and disagree with his irrelevant belief.

Lawsuit #3: McCabe Sues Justice Department

Abuse of Power: On Aug. 8, 2019, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe sued the Justice Department for firing him wrongfully because he refused “to pledge allegiance to a single man” — Donald Trump.

McCabe claims that FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions demoted him for political reasons and that, “in response to Trump’s requests, pressures, and influence, they initiated and accelerated pretextual disciplinary proceedings in order to satisfy Trump’s unlawful desire” to remove him before his announced retirement date — thereby depriving McCabe of his full retirement benefits.

Trump-Russia Backstory: McCabe was among the handful of senior FBI officials in whom then-Director James Comey confided after Trump sought Comey’s personal loyalty and tried to interfere with the FBI’s ongoing Trump-Russia investigation. As a corroborating witness for Comey’s version of those events, he’s Trump’s enemy.

After Comey’s firing, McCabe opened the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Trump. So as with Strzok, the mere discharge of his job responsibilities also made McCabe a Trump target.

Mueller’s report does not include any findings relating to that counterintelligence probe. But this underreported passage alludes to them:

“From its inception, the [Special Counsel’s] Office recognized that its investigation could identify foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information relevant to the FBI’s broader national security mission… For more than the past year, the FBI also embedded personnel at the Office who did not work on the Special Counsel’s investigation, but whose purpose was to review the results of the investigation and to send — in writing — summaries of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information to FBIHQ and FBI Field Offices.” [Vol. I, p. 13]

What evidence do those summaries contain? To this day, the public doesn’t know. But we do know that Trump tried to stop the Russia investigation, punished those who pursued it, and still panders to Putin. The FBI’s counterintelligence evidence and findings might explain why — and that should trouble every American.

Here’s a complete list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline at Dan Rather’s News & Guts and at Just Security:

DEC. 10, 2015: Flynn Receives Money From RT (revision of previous entry)

JULY 29, 2019: Trump Retweets Papadopoulos

JULY 30, 2019:  Court Dismisses DNC Suit Against Wikileaks and Trump Campaign

JULY 30-31, 2019: Trump Misstates Reasons for Court Dismissal of DNC Case

AUG. 1, 2019: Trump Rebuffs Suggestions of Russian Election Interference; Trump and Putin Discuss Need for New US Ambassador to Russia

AUG. 1, 2019: Judge Refuses to Dismiss Stone’s Indictment

AUG. 2-8, 2019: Ratcliffe Withdraws as Trump’s DNI Nominee; Sue Gordon Retires as Deputy Director; Trump Names Joseph Maguire Acting Director

AUG. 2, 2019: Majority of House Democrats Favor Impeachment; Pelosi Responds

AUG. 6, 2019: Strzok Sues Justice Department and FBI

AUG. 7, 2019: House Sues To Enforce McGahn’s Subpoena

AUG. 8, 2019: McCabe Sues Justice Department and FBI

AUG. 8, 2019: Nadler: “This Is Formal Impeachment Proceedings”