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Claiming Obama Targeted Flynn, Furious Trump Charges ’Treason’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump is baselessly accusing the Obama administration of "treason," following the news the Dept. of Justice has dropped all charges against his former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, despite Flynn having pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

"The Obama administration Justice Department was a disgrace, and they got caught, they got caught," Trump claimed, which is false. "Very dishonest people, but much more than – it's treason, it's treason."

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If Trump Weren’t POTUS, He Would Be Under Indictment

If Donald Trump were the president of any private or public entity — if he were the president of anything, that is, except the United States — he would be under indictment today for obstruction of justice, intimidating witnesses, and conspiracy at a minimum. That is what the Mueller Report, even in redacted form, tells us in no uncertain language.

“No obstruction”? That’s merely another ridiculous Trump lie, repeated by his public relations flack, Bill Barr, who operates in the guise of the U.S. attorney general.

The rules that govern the Justice Department prohibit criminal prosecution of a sitting U.S. president. Fortunately for him, but unfortunately for our country, that means Trump will escape the usual consequences of nearly a dozen instances of felonious behavior outlined by Mueller.  Ordering around his subordinates like an old-time mob boss, the president repeatedly attempted to curtail Mueller’s investigation.

Anyone who has been paying attention saw several of these interventions unfold, starting with his attempt to prevent the prosecution of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and his dismissal of James Comey, the uncooperative FBI director, and his public efforts to bully Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who showed surprising backbone by insisting on his own recusal from the Russia probe). But Trump’s malfeasance went far beyond those more-or-less public incidents.

Based on extensive, credible, and corroborated testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn, Mueller reveals several attempts by Trump to have the special counsel fired and end the investigation. On a June Saturday in 2017, McGahn recalled the president phoning him from Camp David and ordering him to call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with instructions to fire Mueller. Instead McGahn wisely called Reince Priebus, then chief of staff, and lamented that the president had told him “to do some crazy sh*t.”

So insistent was Trump —  barking “Mueller has to go” and “you gotta do this, you gotta call Rod” — that McGahn considered resigning. He didn’t want to be remembered in history as a pawn in a crooked president’s Saturday Night Massacre.

When everyone thought the president just spent all his time watching Fox News, tweeting, and eating burgers, he was apparently occupied with incessant attempts to disrupt or end the Russia probe. As the report notes:

Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations. The incidents were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels. These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General’s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony.

Like McGahn, several of the others caught up in Trump’s obstruction efforts, including former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, deflected his bullying — which probably saved them from indictment.

But the notion that the president’s failure to derail the probe somehow mitigates his obvious guilt is wrong. Obstruction doesn’t have to succeed to be worthy of indictment. It is just as wrong as the notion, articulated by the hackish Barr, that if there was no underlying crime of conspiracy with the Russians, there could be no obstruction charge. In fact, nearly every legal expert dismisses that theory as pure nonsense. Many people have gone to prison for obstruction without any underlying crime.

Were there underlying offenses of conspiracy with a hostile foreign power? The report’s first part details many shameful instances of collusion between Russians and the Trump inner circle, which “expected” help from that foreign adversary. According to Mueller, however, no crime could be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

But consider what we now know Trump himself said to Sessions when first told of the special counsel’s appointment. He knew what his son Don Jr. and his son-in-law Jared Kushner had done; he knew that he had lied about Trump Tower Moscow, and many other things. He knew what Manafort — whom he succeeded in silencing with a promised pardon — had done.

“Oh my God. This is terrible,” he said. “This is the end of my Presidency. I’m f**ked.”

He had motive, method, and many opportunities to obstruct justice, exactly as Nixon did. The question that every honest member of Congress now faces is whether he has earned the same fate.

Danziger: Off Thin Ice

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

Why Trump Must Think Twice Before He Gives A Pardon To Mike Flynn

Ever since Michael Flynn departed the Trump White House under a cloud of disgrace last February, speculation has mounted that the president might pardon his former national security adviser. With Flynn’s guilty plea in federal court and disclosure of his cooperation agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller, conjecture about such a pardon is rampant. And for Donald Trump, who clearly assumes that he can get away with anything, the appeal of silencing a potential witness with the pardon power must be almost irresistible.

But he should hesitate before pardoning anyone who might testify about him or members of his family.

By now it must be obvious even to Trump that a pardon for Flynn – or any Mueller defendant or target — would put the final touch on an obstruction of justice brief against him. It would complete a damning timeline that began when he fired FBI director James Comey, after he tried unsuccessfully to suborn Comey into dropping the nascent investigation of Flynn. Such a blatantly criminal abuse of power might even compel the cowardly House Republicans to consider impeachment.

If Trump thinks he would escape impeachment anyway, he should mull the problems he might face after leaving the White House. Regardless of his immunity from prosecution as president, a suspicious pardon would leave him legally vulnerable as soon as his presidency ends.

And if his lawyers doubt that, they should ask Bill Clinton about what happened after he pardoned Marc Rich, the infamous fugitive financier.

There was nothing corrupt about the Rich pardon, which President Clinton signed on January 20, 2001, his final day in office. But Clinton’s critics in the media, Congress, and his own Justice Department, and many Americans who followed the news coverage, suspected he had issued that writ in return for millions of dollars in campaign and foundation contributions from Rich’s ex-wife Denise. Actually, Clinton pardoned Rich because Ehud Barak, then Israel’s prime minister, had requested that favor three times during the final months of their protracted Mideast peace negotiations (as reported in Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton, my book about his post-presidency, now in a paperback edition with a new afterword).

Among those most infuriated by the pardons was Mary Jo White, a Clinton appointee then serving as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Less than a month later, on February 15, 2001, White announced that she had opened a criminal investigation. On ABC News’ Good Morning America, Washington correspondent Jackie Judd interviewed a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and former prosecutor who offered the prevailing theory of the case.

According to then-Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (R-AL): “If a person takes a thing of value for themself [sic] or for another person that influences their decision in a matter of their official capacity, then that could be a criminal offense.” Now that Sessions is attorney general, perhaps he will explain to his apopleptic boss how such a theory of corruption would apply to the matter of a Flynn pardon – or any pardon Trump grants in a scheme to hinder the special counsel.

Three days after White’s announcement in February 2001, Clinton published a 1600-word New York Times op-ed denying any corrupt motive and defending the Rich pardon (without mentioning the entreaties from Barak, which only emerged as a result of the parallel Congressional investigation). Evidently the prosecutors were unpersuaded by Clinton’s argument, since they continued to investigate him as well as Denise Rich and other donors to the Clinton Foundation for more than three years.

By the time that the pardon probe officially folded – without any wrongdoing uncovered – its demise was quietly announced by White’s successor, a George W. Bush appointee named James Comey. Under the Clinton rules, which unofficially stipulate that any finding favorable to the former First Family receives little or no media attention, that announcement got almost no news coverage.

Yet despite the fact that federal prosecutors could make no case against Clinton, what remains is a bipartisan principle articulated by Mary Jo White and Jeff Sessions and pursued rigorously by Jim Comey: a corrupt pardon issued by a former president is fair game for criminal prosecution.

Trump can only ignore that jeopardy at his peril.