Sessions argued in Clinton impeachment that presidents can be guilty of obstructing justice

Politico reports: Donald Trump’s personal lawyer argued Monday that, as the nominal head of federal law enforcement, the president is legally unable to obstruct justice. But the exact opposite view was once argued by another senior Trump lawyer: Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In 1999, Sessions – then an Alabama senator – laid out an impassioned case for President Bill Clinton to be removed from office based on the argument that Clinton obstructed justice amid the investigation into his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

“The facts are disturbing and compelling on the President’s intent to obstruct justice,” he said, according to remarks in the congressional record.

Sessions isn’t alone. More than 40 current GOP members of Congress voted for the impeachment or removal of Clinton from office for obstruction of justice. They include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – who mounted his own passionate appeal to remove Clinton from office for obstruction of justice – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, who was a House member at the time.

In all, 17 sitting senators supported the obstruction of justice charge against Clinton in 1998 and 1999. [Continue reading…]

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McFarland contradicted herself on Russia contacts, congressional testimony shows

The New York Times reports: An email sent during the transition by President Trump’s former deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland, appears to contradict the testimony she gave to Congress over the summer about contacts between the Russian ambassador and Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.

Ms. McFarland had told lawmakers that she did not discuss or know anything about interactions between Sergey I. Kislyak, who had been Moscow’s ambassador to the United States, and Mr. Flynn, according to Senate documents.

But emails obtained by The New York Times appear to undermine those statements. In a Dec. 29 message about newly imposed Obama administration sanctions against Russia for its election interference, Ms. McFarland, then serving on Mr. Trump’s transition team, told another transition official that Mr. Flynn would be talking to the Russian ambassador that evening. [Continue reading…]

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How the Republicans broke Congress

Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, write: In the past three days, Republican leaders in the Senate scrambled to corral votes for a tax bill that the Joint Committee on Taxation said would add $1 trillion to the deficit — without holding any meaningful committee hearings. Worse, Republican leaders have been blunt about their motivation: to deliver on their promises to wealthy donors, and down the road, to use the leverage of huge deficits to cut and privatize Medicare and Social Security.

Congress no longer works the way it’s supposed to. But we’ve said that before.

Eleven years ago, we published a book called “The Broken Branch,” which we subtitled “How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track.” Embedded in that subtitle were two assumptions: first, that Congress as an institution — which is to say, both parties, equally — is at fault; and second, that the solution is readily at hand. In 2017, the Republicans’ scandalous tax bill is only the latest proof that both assumptions are wrong.

Which is not to say that we were totally off base in 2006. We stand by our assessment of the political scene at the time. What is astounding, and still largely unappreciated, is the unexpected and rapid nature of the decline in American national politics, and how one-sided its cause. If in 2006 one could cast aspersions on both parties, over the past decade it has become clear that it is the Republican Party — as an institution, as a movement, as a collection of politicians — that has done unique, extensive and possibly irreparable damage to the American political system.

Even today, many people like to imagine that the damage has all been President Trump’s doing — that he took the Republican Party hostage. But the problem goes much deeper. [Continue reading…]

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The odds of impeachment are dropping

Peter Beinart writes: Now that Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I., and agreed to dish on his former boss, some Trump-watchers are suggesting that impeachment may be around the corner. “It’s time to start talking about impeachment,” announced a Saturday column on CNN.com. The Flynn deal, declared former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman in Friday’s New York Times, “portends the likelihood of impeachable charges being brought against the president of the United States.”

That may be true. But bringing impeachment charges against Trump, and actually forcing him from office, are two vastly different things. And while the former may be more likely today than it was half a year ago, the latter is actually less likely. Since Robert Mueller became special counsel in May, the chances of the House of Representatives passing articles of impeachment—and the Senate ratifying them—have probably gone down.

That’s because impeachment is less a legal process than a political one. Passing articles of impeachment requires a majority of the House. Were such a vote held today—even if every Democrat voted yes—it would still require 22 Republicans. If Democrats take the House next fall, they could then pass articles of impeachment on their own. But ratifying those articles would require two-thirds of the Senate, which would probably require at least 15 Republican votes.

That kind of mass Republican defection has grown harder, not easier, to imagine. It’s grown harder because the last six months have demonstrated that GOP voters will stick with Trump despite his lunacy, and punish those Republican politicians who do not. [Continue reading…]

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Is it too late for Robert Mueller to save us?

Dahlia Lithwick writes: In our ongoing national nightmare of creeping authoritarianism, we talk a good amount about normalization and the numbing effects of a barrage of shocking daily news. But I have also tried to be vigilant about all the ways in which magical thinking about law and lawyers—this is a nation of laws, not men, we’re told—can also numb us, and lead to a declining sense of agency or ownership.

Democrats don’t like giving up on their institutions easily, and the Mueller investigation has served as both the best and the worst manifestation of that alluring Democratic reasonableness. So long as he is working away, filing documents and convening grand juries, nobody needs to take to the streets. But as the year has progressed, it’s become clear that absolutely nothing will persuade Trump supporters and Republicans in Congress that it’s time to disavow the president—not lying, not spilling state secrets, not abject failure in crisis management, and not openly performed corruption. Given that reality, it often feels like it wouldn’t be enough for Mueller to hand us a smoking gun and an indictment. What if they threw a conviction and nobody came?

It seems as though truth and law are forever losing ground in the footrace against open looting and overt totalitarianism. The more abjectly deranged Trump’s behavior and the more Republicans in Congress cover for him, the less likely it is that anything Mueller can magic up in his underground hall of justice will matter. Trump’s legal antagonists like to think that the next legal “tick, tick, tick, boom” will be the one that ends all this chaos. But with every passing day, as Trump escapes consequences and attacks the courts and the press, the chances that a “tick, tick, tick, boom” will be played off as #fakenews also increase. [Continue reading…]

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The self-destruction of American democracy

Thomas B. Edsall writes: President Trump has single-handedly done more to undermine the basic tenets of American democracy than any foreign agent or foreign propaganda campaign could.

“Trump is a political weapon of mass self-destruction for American democracy — for its norms, for its morality, for sheer human decency,” Henry Aaron, a senior fellow at Brookings, wrote by email:

So if Putin backed him, and if he did it to damage the United States, then he dropped one extremely smart bomb in the middle of Washington.

For the moment, let’s put aside the conclusion of “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections,” the F.B.I., C.I.A. and N.S.A. joint report that was released in January, which said that:

The Kremlin sought to advance its longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, the promotion of which Putin and other senior Russian leaders view as a threat to Russia and Putin’s regime.

This determination, disputed by Trump and others, pales in comparison to the ruinous record of Trump’s 10 months in office.

First and foremost, Trump has gravely damaged the premises and procedures that undergird American democracy.

Partisan polarization, which helped give rise to Trump in the first place, is getting worse as discord intensifies with every slur and insult Trump hurls.

On Oct. 5, the Pew Research Center reported that partisan conflict on fundamental political values

reached record levels during Barack Obama’s presidency. In Donald Trump’s first year as president, these gaps have grown even larger. And the magnitude of these differences dwarfs other divisions in society, along such lines as gender, race and ethnicity, religious observance or education.

In the introduction to their forthcoming book, “How Democracies Die,” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, political scientists at Harvard, write:

Over the past two years, we have watched politicians say and do things that are unprecedented in the United States — but that we recognize as having been the precursors of democratic crisis in other places. We feel dread, as do so many other Americans, even as we try to reassure ourselves that things can’t really be that bad here.

Their attempt at reassurance is not comforting:

American politicians now treat their rivals as enemies, intimidate the free press, and threaten to reject the results of elections. They try to weaken the institutional buffers of our democracy, including the courts, intelligence services, and ethics offices. American states, which were once praised by the great jurist Louis Brandeis as ‘laboratories of democracy,’ are in danger of becoming laboratories of authoritarianism as those in power rewrite electoral rules, redraw constituencies, and even rescind voting rights to ensure that they do not lose. And in 2016, for the first time in U.S. history, a man with no experience in public office, little observable commitment to constitutional rights, and clear authoritarian tendencies was elected president.

In an email, Levitsky argued that “it is important that we understand that the U.S. has largely been doing these things to itself,” before adding, “obviously we should investigate Russian meddling to the fullest, but to blame Putin for the mess we are in today would be ridiculous. We Americans created this mess.” [Continue reading…]

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Trump pressed top Republicans to end Senate Russia inquiry

The New York Times reports: President Trump over the summer repeatedly urged senior Senate Republicans, including the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to end the panel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a half dozen lawmakers and aides. Mr. Trump’s requests were a highly unusual intervention from a president into a legislative inquiry involving his family and close aides.

Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, the intelligence committee chairman, said in an interview this week that Mr. Trump told him that he was eager to see an investigation that has overshadowed much of the first year of his presidency come to an end.

“It was something along the lines of, ‘I hope you can conclude this as quickly as possible,’” Mr. Burr said. He said he replied to Mr. Trump that “when we have exhausted everybody we need to talk to, we will finish.”

In addition, according to lawmakers and aides, Mr. Trump told Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri and a member of the intelligence committee, to end the investigation swiftly.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who is a former chairwoman of the intelligence committee, said in an interview this week that Mr. Trump’s requests were “inappropriate” and represented a breach of the separation of powers.

“It is pressure that should never be brought to bear by an official when the legislative branch is in the process of an investigation,” Ms. Feinstein said.

Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, said on Thursday that the president had not acted improperly. Mr. Trump, he said, “at no point has attempted to apply undue influence on committee members’’ and believes “there is no evidence of collusion and these investigations must come to a fair and appropriate completion.’’ [Continue reading…]

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I’m a Depression historian. The GOP tax bill is straight out of 1929

Robert S. McElvaine writes: “There are two ideas of government,” William Jennings Bryan declared in his 1896 “Cross of Gold” speech. “There are those who believe that if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.”

That was more than three decades before the collapse of the economy in 1929. The crash followed a decade of Republican control of the federal government during which trickle-down policies, including massive tax cuts for the rich, produced the greatest concentration of income in the accounts of the richest 0.01 percent at any time between World War I and 2007 (when trickle-down economics, tax cuts for the hyper-rich, and deregulation again resulted in another economic collapse).

Yet the plain fact that the trickle-down approach has never worked leaves Republicans unfazed. The GOP has been singing from the Market-is-God hymnal for well over a century, telling us that deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, and the concentration of ever more wealth in the bloated accounts of the richest people will result in prosperity for the rest of us. The party is now trying to pass a scam that throws a few crumbs to the middle class (temporarily — millions of middle-class Americans will soon see a tax hike if the bill is enacted) while heaping benefits on the super-rich, multiplying the national debt and endangering the American economy. [Continue reading…]

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Congress secretly paid nearly $100,000 to settle harassment claims against disgraced congressman

ABC News reports: The Congressional Office of Compliance secretly paid close to $100,000 in taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims from at least two young male staffers who worked for disgraced former Congressman Eric Massa, multiple sources with direct knowledge of the matter told ABC News.

The claims were settled after Massa, a Democrat from upstate New York, resigned in 2010 amid a pending ethics investigation into allegations he groped and sexually harassed members of his staff.

“This is exactly why there should be transparency,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., who blasted the payouts in an interview with ABC News. Rice, who is co-sponsoring legislation that would remove secrecy from the payouts, added, “There is no reason why these settlements, these accusations should be done in secret once they’re adjudicated.”

When asked for comment on the specific settlements paid to Massa’s staffers, a spokesman for the Office of Compliance would neither confirm nor deny any of the terms, saying they are required by law to keep those records secret.

The Office of Compliance, now in the spotlight amid new bombshell accusations of sexual harassment by sitting members of Congress, says it has paid out more than $17 million in taxpayer dollars over 20 years to settle workplace complaints in the halls of Congress. [Continue reading…]

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New York radio personality was Roger Stone’s WikiLeaks contact

CNN reports: President Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone was in contact with a New York radio personality who had conversations with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the 2016 campaign season, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The radio host, Randy Credico, is the individual Stone referred to as an intermediary between him and Assange. Stone initially declined to reveal his name to the House Intelligence Committee because he said they had an “off-the-record” conversation, though he insisted there was nothing untoward about their conversation. Stone later did privately disclose the identity of the individual to the panel.

Credico received a subpoena this week to appear Dec. 15 before the House Intelligence Committee, something Credico’s attorney Martin Stolar says he “certainly” plans to comply with. Credico tweeted out a copy of the subpoena on Tuesday. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s tax plan ‘is at every turn carefully engineered to deliver a kiss to the donor class’

The New York Times reports: The tax plan has been marketed by President Trump and Republican leaders as a straightforward if enormous rebate for the masses, a $1.5 trillion package of cuts to spur hiring and economic growth. But as the bill has been rushed through Congress with scant debate, its far broader ramifications have come into focus, revealing a catchall legislative creation that could reshape major areas of American life, from education to health care.

Some of this re-engineering is straight out of the traditional Republican playbook. Corporate taxes, along with those on wealthy Americans, would be slashed on the presumption that when people in penthouses get relief, the benefits flow down to basement tenements.

Some measures are barely connected to the realm of taxation, such as the lifting of a 1954 ban on political activism by churches and the conferring of a new legal right for fetuses in the House bill — both on the wish list of the evangelical right.

With a potentially far-reaching dimension, elements in both the House and Senate bills could constrain the ability of states and local governments to levy their own taxes, pressuring them to limit spending on health care, education, public transportation and social services. In their longstanding battle to shrink government, Republicans have found in the tax bill a vehicle to broaden the fight beyond Washington.

The result is a behemoth piece of legislation that could widen American economic inequality while diminishing the power of local communities to marshal relief for vulnerable people — especially in high-tax states like California and New York, which, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democratic.

All of this is taking shape at such extraordinary velocity, absent the usual analyses and hearings, that even the most savvy Washington lobbyist cannot be fully certain of the implications.

Mr. Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress — stymied in their efforts to repeal Obamacare, and short of legislative achievements — have signaled absolute resolve to get a tax bill passed by the end of the year. As the sense has taken hold that Washington is now a trading floor where any deal is worth entertaining so long as it brings votes, interest groups have fixed on the tax bill as a unique opportunity to further their agendas.

“There’s a Christmas-tree aspect to the bill,” said C. Eugene Steuerle, a Treasury official during the Reagan administration and now a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. As an example, he cited the provisions in the House bill designed to appeal to the religious right.

“People want to add certain things, and if they don’t cost a lot, it’s a way to buy in agreement,” Mr. Steuerle said.

Economists and tax experts are overwhelmingly skeptical that the bills in the House and Senate can generate meaningful job growth and economic expansion. Many view the legislation not as a product of genuine deliberation, but as a transfer of wealth to corporations and affluent individuals — both generous purveyors of campaign contributions. By 2027, people making $40,000 to $50,000 would pay a combined $5.3 billion more in taxes, while the group earning $1 million or more would get a $5.8 billion cut, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office.

“When you put all these pieces together, what you’re left with is we are squandering a giant sum of money,” said Edward D. Kleinbard, a former chief of staff at the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation who teaches law at the University of Southern California. “It’s not aimed at growth. It is not aimed at the middle class. It is at every turn carefully engineered to deliver a kiss to the donor class.”

In a recent University of Chicago survey of 38 prominent economists across the ideological spectrum, only one said the proposed tax cuts would yield substantial economic growth. Unanimously, the economists said the tax cuts would add to the long-term federal debt burden, now estimated at more than $20 trillion. [Continue reading…]

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Flynn’s promotion of nuclear-plant project went deep into the White House

The Wall Street Journal reports: Private-sector backers of a controversial Middle East nuclear-power plan worked with former national security adviser Mike Flynn to promote it inside the White House, to the point of sending him a draft memo for the president to sign authorizing the project.

At issue was a proposal to build dozens of nuclear reactors, billed by its backers as a “Marshall Plan for the Middle East.” Before joining the White House, Mr. Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, had advised some of the U.S. companies involved in the plan in his capacity as a consultant.

Mr. Flynn’s efforts to promote the plan included telling a National Security Council staffer to create an official directive detailing the plan for President Donald Trump to sign, according to people familiar with the matter. He also brought the project to the attention of a key administration ally, these people say. The plan was projected to generate $250 billion in revenue for U.S. companies, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Details of Mr. Flynn’s promotion of the project inside the White House first became public in September. Evidence now is surfacing about how far it progressed inside the administration, and how Mr. Flynn’s former staffer continued to promote it after Mr. Flynn left office in February. [Continue reading…]

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Twitter facing serious questions over its efforts to deal with disinformation

BuzzFeed reports: BuzzFeed News has uncovered a new network of suspected Twitter propaganda accounts – sharing messages about Brexit, Donald Trump, and Angela Merkel – that have close connections to the Russian-linked bot accounts identified by the social media platform in its evidence to the US Congress.

The 45 suspect accounts were uncovered through basic analysis of those that interacted or retweeted accounts cited by Twitter to Congress, yet none of them appeared on the company’s list.

The relative ease of discovery raises serious questions as to just how many Russian-linked bots may still be active on Twitter, how the company identifies and removes such accounts, and whether its process for identifying accounts for its evidence was inadequate.

Until BuzzFeed News approached Twitter on Tuesday afternoon with details of the accounts, they all remained active on the platform, though dormant. But within 24 hours, all 45 had been suspended. [Continue reading…]

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Mark Zuckerberg’s latest fig leaf for his Russian propaganda problem

Justin Hendrix writes: Since Facebook disclosed that at least 150 million Americans were exposed to Russian propaganda on Facebook in the run up to the 2016 election, pressure has been growing for the company to demonstrate transparency and notify its users. During testimony by Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch on Capitol Hill at the beginning of November, members of Congress called on the social media giant to do just that. At the same time, I started a public petition calling for notification that swelled to nearly 90,000 signatories.

Stretch argued such a disclosure would be technically difficult, but lawmakers pressed the company to explore it. It was remarkable that he did not come prepared and willing to offer any specifics of such difficulties, and appeared to be saying more that it would be difficult to reach every person rather than difficult to do a lot of the job. In a strongly worded follow up letter, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) gave the company an explicit assignment.

“Consumer service entities like yours have long understood their duty to inform their users after mistakes are uncovered,” Senator Blumenthal wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “You too have an obligation to explain to your users exactly how Russian agents sought to manipulate our elections through your platform.” Blumenthal set November 22nd as the deadline for a response from Facebook.

On Nov. 22, the company announced its plan in a blog post entitled “Continuing Transparency on Russian Activity.”

“We will soon be creating a portal to enable people on Facebook to learn which of the Internet Research Agency Facebook Pages or Instagram accounts they may have liked or followed between January 2015 and August 2017,” the company said. “This tool will be available for use by the end of the year in the Facebook Help Center.”

Certainly, this proposal is a step in the right direction, especially for a company that has been slow to divulge details of what ultimately may go down in history as one of the most extensive and effective propaganda campaigns by a foreign adversary against the United States, and also for a company that has in fact made it harder for independent researchers to investigate the problem. But is it enough? Did Facebook answer Congress’s call to notify users?

On balance, the answer is clearly no. [Continue reading…]

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‘So much about working in Washington is about loyalty’

The Washington Post reports: A high-profile Washington lawyer specializing in congressional ethics said Wednesday that Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) harassed and verbally abused her when she worked for him on Capitol Hill in the 1990s and that her repeated appeals for help to congressional leadership were ignored.

“There was nothing I could do to stop it,” Melanie Sloan said in an interview. “Not going to leadership, not going to my boss, not going to a women’s group, not going to a reporter. I was dismissed and told I must be mentally unstable.”

Sloan, the former executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), was hired by Conyers in 1995 as minority counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, where he served as the ranking Democrat. She held the job until 1998.

During that time, Sloan said, she witnessed and experienced behavior by Conyers similar to episodes described in claims against him that on Tuesday prompted the House Ethics Committee to open an investigation.

In addition to accusations of sexual misconduct, the claims against Conyers included “mistreatment of staff.” Sloan said she did not believe she was sexually harassed by the congressman, but she said his behavior toward her was inappropriate and abusive. She said she was speaking publicly after seeing Conyers dismiss former staff members’ accounts of misconduct.

Sloan said that Conyers routinely yelled at and berated her, often criticizing her appearance. On one occasion, she said, he summoned her to his Rayburn Building office, where she found him in his underwear.

“I was pretty taken aback to see my boss half-dressed,” she said. “I turned on my heel and I left.”

Arnold Reed, Conyers’s legal counsel, denied Sloan’s allegations and said Conyers will address complaints about his conduct after Thanksgiving. “Representative Conyers has never done anything inappropriate to Melanie Sloan,” he said.

Sloan is the first former Conyers staff member to speak on the record about the 88-year-old congressman, the longest-serving member of the House and the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. She said she kept quiet about the incidents for 20 years because her earlier complaints were not taken seriously. She agreed to speak about her experience with Conyers after a Washington Post reporter contacted her.

“The reason I decided to go on the record is to make it easier for other people,” she said. “People are afraid to come forward. So much about working in Washington is about loyalty, and you are supposed to shut up about these things.” [Continue reading…]

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Congressman, on tape, threatened woman he would report her to Capitol Police

The Washington Post reports: In the 2015 phone call, [Rep. Joe] Barton confronted the woman [to whom he had sent sexually explicit photos, videos and messages] over her communications with the other women [who engaged in relationships with Barton], including her decision to share explicit materials he had sent. In that context, he mentioned the Capitol Police, a comment the woman interpreted as an attempt to intimidate her.

“I want your word that this ends,” he said, according to the recording, adding: “I will be completely straight with you. I am ready if I have to, I don’t want to, but I should take all this crap to the Capitol Hill Police and have them launch an investigation. And if I do that, that hurts me potentially big time.”

“Why would you even say that to me?” the woman responded. “The Capitol Hill police? And what would you tell them, sir?”

Said Barton: “I would tell them that I had a three-year undercover relationship with you over the Internet that was heavily sexual and that I had met you twice while married and had sex with you on two different occasions and that I exchanged inappropriate photographs and videos with you that I wouldn’t like to be seen made public, that you still apparently had all of those and were in position to use them in a way that would negatively affect my career. That’s the truth.”

In a statement late Wednesday, Barton said a transcript of the recording provided by The Post may be “evidence” of a “potential crime against me.” [Continue reading…]

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Mueller probes Jared Kushner’s contacts with foreign leaders

The Wall Street Journal reports: Robert Mueller’s investigators are asking questions about Jared Kushner’s interactions with foreign leaders during the presidential transition, including his involvement in a dispute at the United Nations in December, in a sign of the expansive nature of the special counsel’s probe of Russia’s alleged meddling in the election, according to people familiar with the matter.

The investigators have asked witnesses questions about the involvement of Mr. Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, in a controversy over a U.N. resolution passed Dec. 23, before Mr. Trump took office, that condemned Israel’s construction of settlements in disputed territories, these people said.

Israeli officials had asked the incoming Trump administration to intervene to help block it. Mr. Trump posted a Facebook message the day before the U.N. vote—after he had been elected but before he had assumed office—saying the resolution put the Israelis in a difficult position and should be vetoed.

Mr. Trump also held a phone conversation with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, whose government had written a draft of the resolution. Egypt proceeded to call for the vote to be delayed, but the resolution passed the following day, with then-President Barack Obama’s administration declining to block it.

Israeli officials said at the time that they began reaching out to senior leaders in Mr. Trump’s transition team. Among those involved were Mr. Kushner and political strategist Stephen Bannon, according to people briefed on the exchanges.

The White House referred questions to Mr. Kushner’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, and to a White House lawyer.

The motivation for the Mueller team’s questions about the U.N. is unclear. [Continue reading…]

It seems likely that the focus here is not the legality of these diplomatic exchanges but instead a pattern of deception — Kushner’s apparent habit of withholding information and providing false or deceptive answers while being questioned under oath.

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Russia regarded Rep. Dana Rohrabacher as an intelligence source worthy of a Kremlin code name

The New York Times reports: For two decades, Representative Dana Rohrabacher has been of value to the Kremlin, so valuable in recent years that the F.B.I. warned him in 2012 that Russia regarded him as an intelligence source worthy of a Kremlin code name.

The following year, the California Republican became even more valuable, assuming the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee that oversees Russia policy. He sailed to re-election again and again, even as he developed ties to Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia.

Then came President Trump.

As revelations of Russia’s campaign to influence American politics consume Washington, Mr. Rohrabacher, 70, who had no known role in the Trump election campaign, has come under political and investigative scrutiny. The F.B.I. and the Senate Intelligence Committee are each seeking to interview him about an August meeting with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, Mr. Rohrabacher said. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is said to be interested in a meeting he had last year with Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s short-lived national security adviser.

At the same time, fellow Republicans — questioning his judgment and intentions — have moved to curtail his power as chairman of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats. And back home in Southern California, where Democrats and Republicans alike smell blood, the 15-term congressman is facing his toughest re-election contest in decades, with well-funded candidates from both parties lining up to unseat him. [Continue reading…]

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