The Alarm Is Sounded As Trump Uses DOJ As His Own Vendettas Law Firm

Ken AshfordPolitical Scandals, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

With the Justice Department in turmoil over the decision by higher-ups to downscale a sentencing recommendation for longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, Trump tweeted:

This is a straight-up celebration of the fact that in intervening for Stone — who was convicted of obstructing Congress and witness tampering in connection with investigations into Russian subversion of our election — Barr is doing the president’s political bidding.

In their original recommendation of a stiff sentence for Stone, prosecutors explicitly noted he’d obstructed an investigation designed to provide a full accounting of that attack on our political system.

But now Trump is openly declaring that in interfering, Barr is helping to delegitimize that investigation entirely. In short, Barr — who has tasked prosecutor John Durham with “reviewing” the investigation’s origins — is helping Trump make the Russian attack disappear.

This is extremely serious. The DOJ had to understand that filing a supplemental memo would undermine the line prosecutors and make the department look terrible. Yet they were willing to do that, apparently because that’s what the president wanted.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is demanding that Attorney General William Barr testify publicly over the Justice Department’s decision to reduce the recommended sentence for Trump associate Roger Stone.

Harris is asking Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to call Barr before the panel, of which she is a member.

“I request that you immediately schedule a hearing for Attorney General William Barr to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee so that the committee and the American people can understand the Justice Department’s decision to overrule its career prosecutors in this case,” Harris wrote in a letter to Graham.

But Graham has shut that avenue down:

And remember this?

I saw it live at the time, and the way he answered — I knew it was a significant and maybe even historic question, I still believe that…. even more.

But there is a larger picture. The war between Mr. Trump and what he calls the “deep state” has entered a new, more volatile phase as the president seeks to assert greater control over a government that he is convinced is not sufficiently loyal to him. With no need to worry about Congress now that he has been acquitted of two articles of impeachment, the president has shown a renewed willingness to act even if it prompts fresh complaints about violating traditional norms.

“The president is entitled to staffers that want to execute his policies, that he has confidence in,” said Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, who supervised Colonel Vindman and his brother, Yevgeny Vindman, also an Army lieutenant colonel, who was dismissed last week from the National Security Council staff even though he did not testify in the House hearings. “We’re not a banana republic where lieutenant colonels get together and decide what the policy is.”

The administration plans to withdraw the nomination for Pentagon comptroller of Elaine McCusker, a Defense Department official who questioned the aid freeze, The New York Post reported. While the Senate has not been notified of such a move, an administration official said it was likely to happen after budget hearings this week.

McCusker could not be reached for comment, and a Pentagon official referred questions to the White House, which had no comment. Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters that he had “a feeling everything is going to be fine with the nomination.” But friends of McCusker said she was aware that her nomination was in jeopardy.

Just Monday, McCusker was the one left explaining the wielding of another Trump administration ax. Appearing before reporters in her role as the Defense Department’s acting comptroller, she sought to describe why the Pentagon was proposing to eliminate the $7 million subsidy to Stars and Stripes, a newspaper for American troops.

“We have essentially, decided that, you know, kind of coming into the modern age, that newspaper is probably not the best way that we communicate any longer,” she told reporters.

But McCusker’s crime is quite literally having attempted to follow the law. Over the summer, the Office of Management and Budget was trying to hold up aid for Ukraine that Congress had passed into law, because it was trying to extort Ukraine to investigate Trump’s rivals. Defense Department officials, who were supposed to allocate the funds, attempted to implement the policy. Just Security obtained the email chain.

The emails show McCusker advising budget officials as to what the law said. She was not acting especially rigid about it. As Just Security’s summary notes, “The emails show officials bending over backwards to make every conceivable accommodation to keep the process moving without actually being able to obligate the funding.” One message shows McCusker writing to another official, “We need to continue to give the WH has [sic] much decision space as possible, but am concerned we have not officially documented the fact that we can not promise full execution at this point.” That is, she was trying to do everything in her power to give White House officials room to set the policy as they saw fit, without violating the law.

Importantly, the Government Accountability Office later examined the question, and found that McCusker was right. Holding up the aid was indeed illegal. (It’s not complicated: Congress passed a law providing the aid, so refusing to carry it out would obviously violate it.)

Another political appointee who may lose a nomination is Jessie K. Liu, who served as United States attorney for the District of Columbia when her office prosecuted Stone, Manafort and other high-profile cases.

She stepped down in December, when Mr. Trump nominated her to be the under secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial crimes. But yesterday, the White House withdrew her nomination, a person familiar with the matter said.

Then there is Victoria Coates. At the White House, Coates, a deputy national security adviser, has twisted in the wind amid feverish speculation about whether she would be pushed out. She has been the subject of a whisper campaign suggesting that she is the anonymous author of a book about being a member of the resistance inside the administration — which prompted the literary agents for the actual author to deny the claims.

Robert C. O’Brien, Coates’s boss at the National Security Council, rejected the speculation in an appearance yesterday at the Atlantic Council. “This town is amazing when it comes to whispers,” he said, adding he did not know who the author was. “I think writing ‘Anonymous’ is inconsistent with working at the White House or working at the N.S.C., so whoever wrote ‘Anonymous’ probably shouldn’t be there.”

But O’Brien is presiding over a broader housecleaning at the National Security Council. Since being appointed last fall, he has said he wants to shrink the staff to closer to what it was under President George W. Bush. At the Atlantic Council appearance, he said he would be finished “by the end of the week” reducing the staff of policy professionals to 115 or 120 from the 175 when he took over.

Which brings us back to Trump and Biden. Following Trump’s acquittal last week, Giuliani and his allies continued ramping up their probes into Hunter and Joe Biden and Ukraine matters. And on Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told CBS’s Margaret Brennan that the Department of Justice had established an “intake process” whereby Giuliani could pass off information he gathered from Ukraine to prosecutors. 

“I have no idea what he’s got. I have no idea if the information is credible or not,” Graham told The Daily Beast in a phone interview. “Anything that comes out of Ukraine needs to be run through intelligence. Rudy is also on TV saying he has the smoking gun. When somebody goes on TV and talks about what they got in Ukraine… that needs to be checked. Everyone should be suspicious.”

Graham went on to denounce the Democrats’ embrace of Lev Parnas, a former associate of Giuliani who recently pushed out recordings of President Trump advocating for the firing of former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. 

“You know, we have the Democrats who are embracing Parnas… putting people on TV to make outlandish claims. We should run him and that information through the system,” Graham said, adding that he was “skeptical” of any information emanating from Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Attorney General Bill Barr acknowledged that the department would evaluate Giuliani’s information but waved off any notion that the president’s personal attorney was being given special attention or priority. The Washington Post later reported the District Attorney’s office in Pittsburgh had been tapped to handle the case.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are actively working to gather additional information on the Bidens and Burisma. Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Graham, and Chuck Grassley—the Republican chairmen of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, the Judiciary Committee, and the Finance Committee, respectively—previously requested the State Department hand over any documents tied to the Bidens or Ukraine. 

A source briefed on the investigation confirmed to The Daily Beast that it is focusing on witnesses from Blue Star and the State Department who are seen as close to Biden: David Wade, the communications chief for the former vice president; former Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken; and Amos Hochstein, an envoy for energy policy in the Obama administration. 

As previously reported by BuzzFeed, Senate investigators have said they expect to soon get records from the National Archives about meetings in 2016 between Obama administration officials, Ukrainian representatives and the Democratic National Committee, the source said. Once the archive and State documents come through, investigators plan to set up witness interviews, the source said, adding that investigators have indicated the probe could extend into the summer.

“We don’t give our investigations artificial deadlines and we haven’t speculated on any timeframes,” a spokesman for Grassley said. “We follow the facts where they lead and each inquiry is done on a case by case.”

Andrii Telizhenko, a former Ukrainian diplomat who has long claimed the Ukrainian government meddled in the 2016 election to damage Hillary Clinton, has previously stated that he’s agreed to cooperate with the probe into the Bidens. He told The Daily Beast he shared additional documents with investigators on Monday. The lawmakers leading the investigation have sought to investigate claims related to Ukraine and 2016, including Telizhenko’s. Telizhenko said the documents included emails, and did not share further detail about the materials, which he said were in response to queries from the Senate investigators.

So that’s all the abuse of power in a nutshell, one week after impeachment acquittal.

UPDATE: Oh man…. here he goes.

UPDATE: A bit too late…

Shit..,,. even Ben Shapiro has issues with Trump/Barr/Stone: