January 26, 2018

A REASONABLE CERTAINTY:

It's Now Likely Mueller Thinks Trump Obstructed Justice : Thursday's bombshell news points toward one conclusion: The special counsel has the goods on the president. (RENATO MARIOTTI January 26, 2018, Politico)

[L]ast spring, Trump reportedly asked Sessions if the government could drop the criminal case against former Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, whom Trump later pardoned. According to the Washington Post, Sessions told Trump that would be inappropriate, and Trump decided to let the case go to trial and pardon Arpaio if he was convicted. Mueller could argue that this suggests that Trump is serious about killing investigations of his friends. A pattern of behavior is always a stronger indicator of intent than a one-off action.

We also learned that, according to the New York Times, in March--two months before Trump fired Comey--he ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to stop Sessions from recusing himself. When McGahn was unsuccessful, Trump reportedly erupted in anger, saying he needed Sessions to "protect him" and "safeguard" him, as he believed other attorneys general had done for other presidents. These are very odd statements by Trump that Mueller could argue indicate that Trump wanted Sessions to impede or even end the Russia investigation to "protect him."

Then, according to the New York Times, Trump erupted at Sessions after Mueller was appointed, accusing him of "disloyalty" for recusing himself from the Russia investigation at the recommendation of career Justice Department staff. On its face, it corroborates Comey's testimony that Trump wanted "loyalty" from him. It is also a very odd reaction by Trump to recusal, which Sessions was advised to do and is a routine practice when there is a potential conflict of interest or an appearance of a conflict. Mueller could argue that Trump's intense anger was due to his fear of the investigation and desire to impede it.

After Comey was fired and was temporarily replaced by Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Trump asked McCabe whom he voted for in the presidential election, according to the Washington Post, and complained to staffers that McCabe was a Democrat, once again corroborating Comey's testimony regarding loyalty. Trump then pushed Sessions to pressure new FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire McCabe, which caused Wray to threaten to resign, according to Axios. McCabe told Congress that Comey recounted his conversations with Trump, including the "loyalty" conversation, which makes him a witness in the obstruction case. Mueller could use Trump's desire for loyalty from McCabe, and later desire to remove McCabe, as evidence that Trump wanted to undermine the Russia investigation.

Then, according to Politico, in August, Trump called Senator Thom Tillis and told him that he was unhappy with the legislation he was working on with Democratic Senator Chris Coons that was designed to protect Mueller from an attempt by Trump to fire him. That legislation--and other legislation designed to protect Mueller--stalled in the Senate after Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that there was no "need" to protect Mueller.

As we learned Thursday in the New York Times, there was indeed a need to protect Mueller back in June, when Trump ordered the firing of special counsel due to "conflicts of interest" that were not actually conflicts and appear to be thinly veiled excuses to get rid of Mueller. Trump also considered firing Rosenstein and replacing him with Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the No. 3 Justice Department official, so she could oversee Mueller. According to the Times, Trump has wavered for months about whether he wants to fire Mueller, which is an "omnipresent concern among his legal team and close aides."

This is an important piece of evidence because it comes after Trump fired Comey and learned that he was under investigation for obstruction of justice.

Posted by at January 26, 2018 6:50 PM

  

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