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‘I Don’t Know’: Kushner Won’t Say He’ll Call FBI If Russians Again Offer Campaign Help

In a Sunday night interview with “Axios on HBO,” Jared Kushner defended attending a 2016 meeting between Trump’s top campaign staff and Russian operatives who were offering dirt on Trump’s political opponent.

“The reality is, we were not given anything that was salacious,” Kushner told Jonathan Swan of Axios.

Whether or not “salacious” information was passed to the Trump campaign or not does not negate the fact that Kushner, along with the rest of the Trump team, were willing and eager to accept assistance through such shady means.

Kushner’s comment on the meeting came right after he flatly refused to say he would call the FBI if Russia tried to help the Trump campaign again in 2020.

“Would you call the FBI if it happened again?” Swan asked.

“I don’t know. It’s hard to do hypotheticals,” Kushner responded.

Kushner’s refusal to say he would notify law enforcement agencies of a foreign government’s attempt to interfere with an American election is not the standard. In fact, it is the opposite of the advice from Trump’s hand-picked leader of the FBI, Christopher Wray.

“I think my view is that if any public official or member of any campaign is contacted by any nation state or anybody acting on behalf of a nation state about influencing or interfering with our election, then that’s something that the FBI would want to know about,” Wray said in a May 7 congressional hearing.

U.S. intelligence teams and special counsel Robert Mueller all agree that Russia made concerted, illegal efforts to help place Trump in the White House. But even though Russia attacked all Americans in 2016 by criminally interfering in the election, Republicans on the whole have refused to rebuff any future attacks.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the arm of the Democratic Party working on House races, issued a pledge not to use any hacked or stolen materials in upcoming elections, but the Republican counterpart has adamantly refused to sign the pledge.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, planned a trip to Ukraine specifically to collude with government officials in an attempt to help Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign.

In his press conference, Mueller warned: “There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.”

Yet faced with the possibility of additional interference in 2020, Kushner, and many other Republicans, seem more concerned with political power than protecting America’s democratic institutions.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

 

What Mueller Really Knows About Trump (And Russia)

Reprinted with permission from DCReport.

Robert S. Mueller knows a great deal more than he put in his richly detailed 448-page report.

He says so again and again right in the report.

Two crucial words he put into the report at least eight times are messages to our Congress and the rest of us about how his investigation was hamstrung by rules from telling all that he and his team learned.

Those two words: “admissible evidence.”

The federal courts have developed ever more detailed rules about what evidence is admissible and what is not. The Justice Department has expanded its manual for prosecutors to adapt to these rules.

Only one group has benefitted more from these rules than white-collar criminals, who have lawyers like Roy Cohn and Michael Cohen to advise them on how to lie, cheat and steal without much risk of being indicted and much less risk of being convicted.

Our federal government makes only a minimalist attempt to pursue white-collar criminals. For example, during tax season in February only 71 criminal tax cases were filed in the whole country. Most of them involved drug dealers or bribe-taking politicians, not flat-out tax cheats. And there were just 52 convictions, half of the level of five years ago.

But the one group that benefits even more than white-collar crooks from court rules on admissible evidence are foreign agents and spies. That’s because they are beyond the reach of American law enforcement in most cases, Russian spy Maria Butina being a notable exception.

Mueller indicted 25 Russians, half of them military officers, and three Russian companies, but he has no way to bring them to trial unless they do something incredibly stupid like set foot on American soil. Capturing just one of them, and making him flip, would terrify Trump—and for good reason, based on the Mueller Report findings.

Congress, however, is not burdened by the evidence rules that constrained Team Mueller.

Our Congress can go wherever the facts point. That freedom can be abused, which Trump is sure to continually complain is the case. But the freedom to look for the truth also means that Congress can see past the smoke and spot the fires causing it.

Mueller, in closed-door sessions and in public testimony, will be free to tell what evidence he had, but that did not meet the standards of his charter, of the Justice Department manual governing its prosecutors, or federal court rules.

Attorney General William Barr, who lied through his teeth at his gratuitous press conference just before he gave the report to Congress, said that Mueller would be free to testify to Congress. We’ll see, but don’t count on Barr having been honest — because his actions over the years show he is not honest.

The report, in the language below from Page 18 of Volume 1, is pregnant with a message to Congress about evidence the special counsel could not include:

The investigation did not always yield admissible information or testimony, or a complete picture of the activities undertaken by subjects of the investigation. Some individuals invoked their Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination and were not, in the Office’s judgment, appropriate candidates for grants of immunity. The Office limited its pursuit of other witnesses and information-such as information known to attorneys or individuals claiming to be members of the media—in light of internal Department of Justice policies. See, e.g., Justice Manual§§ 9-13.400, 13.410. Some of the information obtained via court process, moreover, was presumptively covered by legal privilege and was screened from investigators by a filter (or “taint”) team. Even when individuals testified or agreed to be interviewed, they sometimes provided information that was false or incomplete, leading to some of the false-statements charges described above. And the Office faced practical limits on its ability to access relevant evidence as well-numerous witnesses and subjects lived abroad, and documents were held outside the United States.

Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated-including some associated with the Trump Campaign—deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records. In such cases, the Office was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.

Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.

Mueller also notes, at page 182, that his office found significant evidence of involvement with Russians linked to the Kremlin, but brought charges in only some cases because of the admissible evidence rule.

Mueller said his team “determined that the contacts between Campaign officials and Russia-linked individuals either did not involve the commission of a federal crime or, in the case of campaign-finance offenses, that our evidence was not sufficient to obtain and sustain a criminal conviction. At the same time, the Office concluded that the Principles of Federal Prosecution supported charging certain individuals connected to the Campaign with making false statements or otherwise obstructing this investigation or parallel congressional investigations.”

At page 193, Mueller wrote that his office “considered whether to charge Trump Campaign officials with crimes in connection with the June 9 meeting [at Trump Tower]… The Office concluded that, in light of the government’s substantial burden of proof on issues of intent (‘knowing’ and ‘willful’) , and the difficulty of establishing the value of the offered information, criminal charges would not meet the Justice Manual standard that ‘the admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction.’ Justice Manual§ 9-27.220.”

He explains further on the next page that “the Office did not obtain admissible evidence likely to meet the government’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these individuals acted ‘willfully,’ i.e., with general knowledge of the illegality of their conduct; and, second, the government would likely encounter difficulty in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of the promised information exceeded the threshold for a criminal violation.”

In other words, wrongful acts took place, but court rules and Justice Department policies together with missing, destroyed or unavailable (from the Kremlin agents in the meeting) evidence are too strict to make a criminal case, which requires convincing 12 jurors beyond a reasonable doubt of criminal intent.

And despite the axiom that ignorance of the law is no defense, it actually can be for white-collar crimes, as Mueller wrote at page 194. He focuses on the word scienter, a legal term that means knowledge of wrongdoing.

“Most significantly, the government has not obtained admissible evidence that is likely to establish the scienter requirement beyond a reasonable doubt. To prove that a defendant acted ‘knowingly and willfully,’ the government would have to show that the defendant had general knowledge that his conduct was unlawful,” Mueller wrote.

Think of that as the “too stupid to be guilty of a crime” defense.

Even if a fully un-redacted version of the Mueller Report becomes available –and it will, even if it not until some distant future day – it is vital that Mueller and his team testify before Congress.

Mueller almost shouts to us and our Congress that the full Mueller report is far from the full report on what his team learned about our president and his embrace of Kremlin help to get into the Oval Office.

We need to hear all the facts.

Former Top SDNY Prosecutor Says Don Jr. ‘In Jeopardy’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

During a Tuesday morning appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” author and former federal prosecutor Preet Bharara was asked to weigh in on possible legal problems that Donald Trump Jr. could be facing—and he responded that from a legal standpoint, the president’s son might be in “jeopardy.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as part of his Russia probe, has been investigating a June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting in New York City that included Trump Jr. as well as the Trump Organization’s Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort (President Trump’s former campaign manager), and several others, including Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya. Subsequently, Trump Jr. testified about his Russian contacts when he testified before the House Intelligence Committee in December 2017.

Co-host Joe Scarborough asked Bharara, “Given what you know about Donald Trump Jr., his testimony before Congress, would you bring charges of perjury against Donald Trump Jr.?” And the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York responded, “I haven’t seen all the evidence. As a former prosecutor, I don’t like to second-guess decisions and anticipate necessarily. I don’t know enough about what his intent was.”

Bharara added, however, “But I do think, though, based on his testimony and some other things, that Donald Trump Jr. is in jeopardy.”

Bharara (author of the new book Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment and the Rule of Law) went on to say that if Trump Jr. were to face legal peril, “we’re all in jeopardy, because if something were to befall, in a criminal sense, Donald Trump Jr., I don’t know what his father is capable of.”

In December 2017, Trump Jr. testified that in June 2016, his father knew nothing about the Trump Tower meeting. But Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, has disputed that clam.

Let’s Just Stop Pretending Trump Will Ever Testify

Can’t we please, please put one piece of Fake News to bed?
Spare us the interviews with Rudy Giuliani and the endless debates among cable TV lawyers about the terms and conditions of Donald Trump’s testimony to special counsel Robert Mueller.
There’s never going to be any testimony. It’s all a charade. Come what may, Trump will never appear under oath in the Russia investigation. No defense attorney worth his law license would allow it.
Those tales New York Times reporters pass along about how the president’s confident he can talk his way out of anything? He’s stalling, playing for time. If push comes to shove, Trump will plead the Fifth Amendment, political consequences be damned.
He’ll just keep calling the Mueller probe a partisan witch hunt, invoke the privilege against self-incrimination, and brazen it out.
Short of provoking a constitutional crisis, it’s his only real play.
How many votes would the president lose that he hasn’t lost already? Courtesy of a recent Facebook exchange, here’s what dedicated Trumpists already believe: “I call the NY Times conspiring with the FBI and DOJ, and the Hillary Clinton campaign to fix the 2016 election and to cripple the president with the Russia collusion nonsense the behavior of the ‘enemies of the people.’”
That’s not quite the QAnon conspiracy, but it’s in the ballpark.
But I doubt it will come to that. Mueller can issue all the subpoenas he wants, if he wants. But what for? He’d actually be doing Trump a favor, helping him to stall with tedious Supreme Court theater. Already, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent is warning us to “Get ready for this nightmare scenario involving Trump, Mueller and [Supreme Court nominee Brett] Kavanaugh.”
Far better for Mueller to let the question of the president’s testimony simmer on the back burner while proceeding with widely-anticipated indictments of Trump campaign officials for “conspiracy to defraud the United States” along with Russian military hackers. Maybe the president could be persuaded to testify in defense of his son Donald, Jr., although I doubt it.
The president basically convicted himself as an accessory after the fact on Twitter last weekend anyway.  He condemned as “Fake News” a report that he was “concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower.  This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics—and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!”
            In short, virtually everything Trump has previously stated about the ill-fated June 2016 meeting between Donald, Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a passel of Kremlin-connected Russians was a lie. Supposedly it was about Russian adoptions, remember? That was the gist of the scripted denial Trump dictated aboard Air Force One and falsely attributed to his son.
A few weeks later, the New York Times obtained a series of emails between Donald Jr. and Rob Goldstone, the British-born publicist who helped arrange the Trump Tower get-together by promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
“If it’s what you say,” Donald Jr. replied “I love it.”
No mention of Russian orphans.
Meanwhile, two days before the ill-fated meeting that Trump insists he knew nothing about, he’d promised a “major speech” on June 13 regarding “all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons.” Evidently because the Russian “dirt” was of low quality, that speech was never delivered.
Nevertheless, it’s clear that an offer had been made and a price agreed upon. The Russians wanted repeal of the Magnitsky Act, a law making it hard for Kremlin oligarchs to launder money.
U.S. election law makes it a crime to receive from foreigners “a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value…in connection with a Federal, State, or local election.” “Dirt,” aka opposition research, can be an expensive commodity. (Also contrary to Trump, hiring an agent like Christopher Steele to do opposition research is perfectly legal. It’s a question of who’s paying: the candidate or a hostile foreign government.)
Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum puts it succinctly as possible:
“They knew they would be meeting with representatives of the Russian State.
“They knew they were being offered Russian state intelligence.
“They intended to use Russian intelligence offered by Russian agents against American opponents.
“They did not alert the FBI.”
Even former Trump sidekick Steve Bannon, scourge of the “Deep State,” thought meeting Russian agents inside Trump Tower was at best deeply stupid. “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s***,” he said, “and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.” 
And if it weren’t all those things, the White House wouldn’t have had to lie about it for so long.
So no, Trump will never testify.