* The cover up effort continues while the Mueller Investigation progresses. Rather than wait what could be many more months and allow this piece to grow even larger, I thought it was time to post. I will update accordingly down the road as we learn more.
There is overwhelming evidence from multiple U.S. intelligence agencies as well as from allied intelligence agencies that prove Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. They did it to us and they did to many others, all to undermine democracy. The evidence also demonstrates Russia’s actions in 2016 aimed at helping candidate Trump and hurting candidate Clinton. There is also clear evidence that members of the Trump campaign had meetings with Russian officials wherein they discussed campaign related issues as well as Trump business matters that include significant financial ties. These are proven facts with no contrary evidence.
There is a critical issue concerning the intent of Trump campaign officials who met with the Russians, whether these connections amount to collusion with respect to the campaign, whether the Russia coordination rises all the way to President Trump, and whether any of the actions rise to the level of a crime. Wherever the truth and the facts take us, we the American people must have answers and at a minimum we must move forward to protect our electoral systems from ongoing Russian attacks. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies know many of the answers but cannot share what they know because much of the information is classified or part of ongoing investigations.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team are learning much of the truth and collecting existing evidence. Despite desire for speed and finality, this is an essential investigation that must be conducted objectively, thoroughly, and independent of any external or political influence. The public must learn the truth, hold individuals accountable (as appropriate based on the findings), and have a meaningful opportunity to learn from the experience. Thus far, Mueller and his team have conducted themselves professionally, remarkably leak free, and seemingly isolated from the swirling politics and effort to obstruct justice surrounding them.
President Trump and those in his inner circle fear the Mueller investigation more than anything else on the planet. While the public does not yet know the extent of what Mueller will find, it is soundly believed that there will be evidence of at least some impropriety involving the campaign and Trump business connections with questionable Russian entities. They have a lot to lose, even beyond the distant possibility of impeachment. Therefore, Trump and his forces are conducting an immense, disgraceful effort to cover up what appear to be significant contacts between Trump and Russia, whether focused on questionable finances or his presidential campaign. The Trump team is desperate to ensure that neither law enforcement nor the American public learn the truth.
President Trump has personally endeavored to prevent any investigation into not only his campaign’s connections to Russia, but also any Russian interference in the 2016 election itself. Many observers were startled that he would thwart real investigation into Russia’s hostile election interference, but it makes sense from one perspective – any investigation into Russian election interference would likely lead to information about Russian connections to the Trump campaign and to Trump businesses, even if they were not the intended focus. There is just too much.
The cover up began during the campaign. Trump was the first candidate in over fifty years to refuse to disclose his tax returns. People initially speculated this was a matter of pride because the returns showed he was not as wealthy or charitable as his public relations touts. That proved true. However, it was more likely that his finances demonstrated long-term connections with questionable Russian businesses, financiers, and oligarchs. Experts credibly predicted the existence of money laundering by Trump businesses for these Russian interests. There is a reason Putin and Russia wanted Trump to win and it was only in part about influencing U.S. policy and weakening NATO. They believe they can significantly leverage Trump over these ties.
Therefore, to preserve our national security and proper functioning of the government, there must be a proper investigation to determine the extent of Trump-Russia connections, both campaign and financial, or any other impropriety related to the campaign. The American people deserve the truth and the country must be able to take appropriate corrective action, especially concerning safeguarding our elections and vetting candidates.
It is unconscionable that any President or Congressional leader would ever refuse to hold a foreign adversary accountable for interfering in our election or even refuse to investigate bona fide claims of such hostile acts. We find ourselves with the previously unfathomable reality that these “leaders” chose personal and partisan power over the nation and over the integrity of our democracy. Let that sink in for a moment, as we have never before experienced such a gross departure of leadership. Nevertheless, President Trump’s brazen efforts to prevent the facts from emerging continued soon after his inauguration, once he had power over the FBI and all federal agencies.
President Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey when he refused to shut down the FBI’s Russia investigation or protect Michael Flynn. Trump feigned concern over Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, but that was a ruse. Comey’s decisions to go public twice concerning the Clinton emails all the while concealing and deflecting media attention away from the Trump-Russia investigation clearly hurt Clinton, benefitted Trump, and greatly contributed to his election. Trump, a pronounced admirer of such “loyalty” fired Comey under the belief that by replacing him as FBI Director he could eliminate the investigation into his Russia connections and rid himself of the “boy scout” that would not react properly to his interference.
Firing Comey failed in the short term (only time will tell in the long term) because shortly thereafter, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate Russian election interference and related Trump-Russia connections. The Trump Administration and Republican Congressional leaders have tried to thwart, minimize, discredit, undercut, and prevent Mueller’s Investigation ever since. Their efforts have been incredibly brazen and despicable, rising to a new level of impropriety for our elected officials. President Nixon initially attempted to cover up Watergate and prevent a proper, independent investigation. After the facts became clear, he lost the support of Congressional Republicans. The truth emerged, and Nixon resigned when faced with impeachment and probable removal from office. That was then, this is now. Republicans show no sign of adhering to principles.
Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan continued to hurt the country by their calculated silence. The consequences of their silence and refusal to act or to stop the Trump cover up serve to enable his ongoing activity. When pressed, most Congressional Republicans state they believe Mueller should be allowed to complete his work without interference, but those are hollow words. There are ongoing nefarious efforts by multiple Congressional Republicans to stop, minimize, and discredit Mueller’s work. Many of these actions are so serious that they should themselves result in investigation of wrongdoing. In any case, these efforts work against the interests of the nation and the American people. McConnell and Ryan are singularly focused on maintaining power that they care not at all about the needs of the country or despicable nature of the unprecedented cover up enterprise.
Perhaps the most contemptible and serious of the endeavors is led by Representative Devin Nunes, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Nunes has completely disgraced himself, his office, and Congress by his blatant activities to cover up for the President. A key supporter of the Trump Campaign and member of the Trump Transition Team, his bias is pronounced. Whereas he should have recused himself from his Committee’s investigation of Trump matters, instead he openly supported Trump’s cover up. Speaker Ryan initially asked Nunes to recuse himself, but under pressure from Trump he relented and by acquiescence supported Nunes’ reprehensible actions. Ryan has the ability, and certainly the responsibility, to corral Nunes and end his interference. Yet Ryan remains silent.
When the House Intelligence Committee first obtained evidence that implicated Trump, including classified information, Nunes secretly ran over to the White House to improperly disclose the information. As part of an ongoing investigation, this information was required to be protected against disclosure or dissemination. Nunes gained access via his official responsibility, trusted to safeguard the information. The President, as subject of the investigation for his and his campaign’s activities, would never have been given access to the evidence at that time, thus allowing he and his team to react with advanced knowledge. Disclosure was entirely inappropriate, likely obstruction of justice, and Nunes well knew it. He chose protecting President Trump over his responsibilities to Congress and the nation.
Additionally, Nunes led a rogue effort involving secret meetings of Republican committee members, completely excluding the Democratic members, to limit the ongoing investigations. These improper efforts were designed to protect the President, undermine the official Mueller investigation, and usurp the work of his own committee. He transformed it into an effort to protect the president rather than fulfill his duty to find the truth concerning Russian interference and possible Trump connections. As Chair, he refused to subpoena necessary and relevant witnesses and limited the testimony of other witnesses, all to protect against information unfavorable to President Trump from coming out on the record. His actions defied Congress’ role as a separate, equal branch of government, clouded the work of his committee, and significantly interfered with ongoing investigations.
Nunes and Republican House Oversight Committee members Mark Meadows, Trey Gowdy, Jim Jordan, Louis Gohmert, Ron DeSantis, and other Trump devotees, with great support from Fox News, are also leading an effort to undermine the FBI and DoJ. Their plan is quite simple – knowing that evidence of Trump impropriety will eventually surface, they want to create an atmosphere of distrust in the investigations and the investigators. They believe such a climate will lead the American people to reject the findings and help Trump escape the consequences of his misconduct. This group has promulgated entirely false claims of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) abuses, corruption, and bias against the FBI. Their ongoing barrage of knowingly baseless attacks on career professionals who selflessly protect our country may be the grossest departure of decorum by elected officials of all time.
The group took every opportunity to grandstand during committee hearings, pushing an agenda of falsity, engaging in grossly unprofessional and unwarranted attacks on the FBI, et al, all to hurt the Mueller investigation and protect Trump. This cabal has repeatedly demanded DoJ provide them with thousands of documents related to the Russia investigations and demanded the immediate and premature halt to the investigations. Their nefarious aim was to prevent discovery of the evidence of Trump personal and campaign criminality. They knew these documents were all part of open criminal or intelligence investigations and thus required to be protected until the investigations closed. They knew Congress has never been entitled to receive documents like this. They knew that sharing these documents with the President and his legal team seriously jeopardized the investigations and caused irreparable harm for many reasons. But that was exactly what they intended.
DoJ should have refused to provide any of the documents, citing law, precedent, the sanctity of ongoing criminal and intelligence investigations, and the fact that the documents were improperly shared with Trump and his legal team. They have never before provided such documents and even more rarely ever been asked to do so. However, to cooperate, and after continual harassment and threats of impeachment by the Nunes/Gowdy/Jordan group, FBI Director Wray and Deputy AG Rosenstein provided thousands of documents in a completely unprecedented acquiescence to this Congressional interference. They tried to cooperate despite the gross impropriety and extreme risk of production. The group pressed further, demanding even more documents, falsely accused the FBI and DoJ of contempt, refusing to provide information, and continued to berate these career professionals (and loyal Republicans!) during hearings called strictly to put on a show for the Trump base.
The group was undoubtedly trying to set conditions to impeach Rosenstein or Wray or for President Trump to fire them. The plan was that successors in these positions would be more cooperative of the cover up efforts by firing Mueller, stopping the investigation, and protecting the President. By forcing Rosenstein and Wray into a corner, subjecting them to incredible harassment, and making demands for information to which they cannot possibly accede, the group could orchestrate their removal for their nefarious purposes and against the nation’s interests.
On June 28, 2018, Gowdy (and the others) continued to call for an end to the Mueller investigation because it had gone on too long and had produced nothing. This was reprehensible hypocrisy and dishonesty. Gowdy’s own led Benghazi investigation went on for over two and a half years, significantly longer than Mueller’s 400 days thus far, and produced nothing. Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the integrity, albeit after the 2016 election, to publicly admit that the Benghazi investigation was little more than a Republican contrived political effort to hurt Hillary Clinton, who they had seen as unbeatable. Other similar type investigations took over thousands of days. Mueller’s investigation, in under 400 days, already resulted in grand jury indictments of over 20 defendants, four key Trump campaign and policy advisors having entered guilty pleas, and campaign chair Paul Manafort sitting in jail awaiting trial on multiple indictments. If this is a “witch hunt” as the President and his cabal like to claim, there is a scary number of witches out there, many of whom already admitted their misconduct, all in such a relatively short time by investigation standards.
While denying requests by Democrats on both committees for witnesses and subpoenas to uncover the truth, Nunes and Gowdy subverted the official business and process of their committees in support of the Trump cover up. They focused entirely on preventing or at least hindering the investigation from producing results negative to President Trump. The group assailed the character and performance of many career professionals in the FBI and DoJ, all of whom worked selflessly and diligently in the country’s best interests and under the supervision of multiple layers of Republican appointed supervisors. Congressional Republicans chose a new extreme of partisan politics over duty and country. Gowdy, likely recognizing he sacrificed his integrity for the President, opted not to run for reelection this year. Nunes should do the same and if not, he should be expelled from Congress for his own misconduct.
These same House Republican leaders were conducting entirely baseless witch hunts of their own to discredit the impeccable professional teams in the DoJ and FBI and prevent action against President Trump. With the full support of Speaker Ryan, they have repeatedly raised deceitful claims of corruption against the FBI for bias, FISA abuses, and spying on the Trump campaign. Despite each claim being proven as thoroughly false, they continued to assert the issues knowing that doing so weakens the ongoing investigation into Trump-Russia misconduct.
The cover up’s favorite vehicle is the text messaging between FBI Agent Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who had been having a romantic relationship. As part of their relationship, they exchanged improper text messages wherein they shared their negative feelings towards a Trump Presidency. Robert Mueller immediately removed them from his team upon learning of the texts, leaving in place a strong team of untainted, dedicated professionals. The FBI referred the matter to the Office of Professional Responsibility to determine the appropriate disciplinary action. They deserve sanction and rebuke, but thankfully this matter has no lasting impact on the team or the investigation.
Republicans grossly exaggerate the matter, claiming this is bias against Trump, taints the entire investigation, and should result in the whole thing being thrown out. That is an incredible distortion. There is absolutely no evidence that Strzok and Page’s views in any way influenced their own work and certainly not the rest of the Mueller team, who regardless of any views they may hold, have a proven record of independent, dedicated and professional results. Even if they were Democrats biased against Trump, their work was directly supervised by layers of Republican appointees, thus safeguarding the product. Strzok demonstrated that his views did not inject into his work because he was involved in the Clinton email investigation, pushed for more action against her, and supported Comey’s decision to publicly comment on that case while remaining silent and concealing the Trump investigation. Strzok and Page could easily have leaked the Trump investigation to influence the election but had the professionalism not to do so, even in the face of damaging releases concerning Clinton.
The cover up also enjoyed repeating the false claim that the FBI was routinely abusing the FISA to help the Clinton campaign and spy on the Trump campaign. There is zero evidence whatsoever of any such intent or effort. The FBI opened a counter-intelligence investigation into Trump-Russia connections after receiving competent information supporting the inquiry. Not only did some of the information trace back to the Trump campaign itself, the campaign admitted that members, including Donald Trump, Jr., met with Russians. If the intent was to hurt Trump, the agents would have released information about it publicly before the election to discredit the campaign.
More importantly. it would be virtually impossible to abuse the FISA process in such a manner. The FISA process was carefully crafted with sufficient safeguards and thus far has not had any identified abuses. There is a multi-layer review process involving high level, non-political offices that ensure a thorough investigation, adequate basis, and proper review by carefully selected judges. All four of the FISA judges happened to be Republican appointees. FISA warrants require incredibly thorough, detailed memoranda of support where the evidence has multiple sources of verification and validity. These memos tend to be 50-60 pages long and often take over a month to prepare. These are reliable documents based on layers of evidence.
Although technically possible, it would be exceedingly difficult to successfully subvert the FISA process, even more so to sustain an ongoing effort as foolishly suggested by the Trump cover up. Not only would this conspiracy need to pass through a series of dedicated, career professionals in the FBI and DOJ, it would also have to involve carefully screened and selected judges and their staffs in the judiciary who work the FISA cases. It is a whimsical notion at best that such a conspiracy was ongoing to abuse the FISA process to influence the election, especially without any disclosure that the investigation existed.
The cover-up specifically claims that the FBI had an improper basis to obtain a FISA warrant on Carter Page which was used to spy on the Trump campaign. This claim is also easily disproven. The surveillance on Page began prior to him joining the Trump campaign. He had been a counter-intelligence target ever since 2013, well before there was a Trump campaign, because of his association with known Russian spies. During and after the campaign, Page made several trips to Russia. In a speech he gave there, he made anti-U.S. statements, praised Russian oppressive leaders, including Putin, and engaged in other activity that properly placed him under FBI scrutiny. The Republican cover up also cites the now infamous Trump-Russia Dossier prepared by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, a proven reliable source, detailing improper personal behavior and financial dealings between Trump and Russia. The original FISA warrant predates the Dossier, thus the Dossier was only used for subsequent warrants. The FBI properly listed it and characterized it in the supporting documentation before the FISA Court. Four separate times an independent court approved FISA warrants, each with its own justification documentation.
Some of the independent intelligence supporting allegations of improper Trump-Russia connections came from Ukraine. The Trump Administration quietly warned Ukraine to stop cooperating or else the U.S. would not sell them Javelin anti-tank missiles and other items they desperately wanted to buy (ironically to defend against Russian aggression). Ukraine had been investigating Paul Manafort for several questionable business dealings, some involving former Russian military intelligence officials, as well as cooperating with Robert Mueller. The Trump administration had been opposed to selling Ukraine the Javelins for over a year. However, once Ukraine cancelled the Manafort investigations and stopped cooperating with Mueller, the Trump administration abruptly changed position and agreed to sell Ukraine the Javelins.
The cover up effort extends to Fox News as well. Sean Hannity has disgraced himself and his nightly show, which he made into nothing more than cheap entertainment and an all-out effort to protect President Trump at any cost. Even some of his fellow Fox News personalities have dismissed his show as propaganda. Hannity speaks privately with President Trump nightly, apparently coordinating efforts and helping to arrange Hannity’s show while Hannity influences White House personnel and policy decisions. During the show, he shamelessly engages in ongoing disgusting, false distortions of Robert Mueller, Deputy AG Rosenstein, et al, while viciously disparaging the brave, dedicated professionals of the FBI, all without proper cause. He is front and center in the ongoing cover up efforts.
Then there is Trump ally Newt Gingrich, who has also engaged in some of the most reprehensible conduct on behalf of the cover up. He truly knows Robert Mueller’s impeccable history of dedicated, selfless, courageous service to the nation, including truly heroic service in Vietnam and his multiple decorations therefor. He, Gingrich, found ways to avoid military service during Vietnam, and he, Gingrich, cheated on one of his wives while she was undergoing cancer treatment. Nevertheless, he viciously disparages Mueller’s character, all without any evidence or basis. For him to repeatedly denigrate Mueller and levy what he knows to be false, baseless attacks is beyond hypocrisy. This is all an effort to help protect President Trump at the cost of the nation he once served in Congress.
Most recently President Trump hired Rudy Giuliani as his personal attorney in the next phase of the cover up scheme. Giuliani, a former and once respected U.S. Attorney, understood full well the nature of the Special Counsel Investigation. He understood that the investigation was a legitimate process led by a professional, dedicated, trustworthy individual under the oversight of Trump Republican appointees. Nevertheless, Giuliani chose to disgrace himself to defend his friend Donald Trump, blanketing the airwaves with what he knew to be baseless attacks on the investigations and investigators. He even admitted their strategy. They knew they could repeat a string of lies and through such repetition the Trump base would believe the lies, enabling Congress to avoid taking any action with the completed investigation.
During the 2016 campaign, Giuliani manipulated his connections and obtained improperly leaked information from the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office to help Trump and hurt Clinton. These leaks, along with James Comey’s decisions to publicly discuss the Clinton email investigation while concealing and deflecting attention away from the Trump-Russia investigation completely disprove the assertions of bias against Trump. Recently, the Republican cover up team forced the DoJ to conduct a classified briefing wherein they disclosed significant portions of the evidence to Republican members of Congress, who allowed Trump representatives to attend. This information should never have been shared with the Trump team, but they chose to disclose the extremely sensitive and protected information in an entirely unprecedented manner. The cover up group will stop at nothing and violate any law or standard.
Considering such an extensive cover up campaign, how could anyone believe Trump’s claim that the investigation is a “fake witch hunt” designed to “frame President Trump.” If he did nothing wrong, he has nothing to fear. If he did nothing wrong, why is a group of his supporters in Congress going to such disgraceful lengths to protect him? If there is nothing to investigate, why is a team led and supervised by lifelong loyal Republicans continuing to investigate? Why would a grand jury indict over 20 defendants if there was no evidence of criminality? Does anyone believe Michael Flynn would plead guilty to these serious offenses if he believed he was not guilty? And of course, there are several other guilty pleas from other co-conspirators in the campaign. Most tellingly, why is President Trump afraid to answer questions? Because other than invoking his 5th Amendment rights, Trump either must admit to wrongdoing or lie to investigators. His attorneys have warned him that lying under oath in such a proceeding would have real consequences. While none of us can know exactly what Mueller will find or whether it will include Donald Trump himself, Mueller must be allowed to complete the investigation, so we can all learn the truth. The nation and our security depend on it.