The news yesterday that White House Counsel Don McGahn handed over documentation to Mueller (months ago) indicating that he’d informed Trump in the early days of the administration that Mike Flynn was in legal hot water. Now, as Rachel Maddow has noted on her show tonight so far Foreign Policy Magazine is the only outlet with sources making that claim. Still, it’s intriguing and given some of what is actually public (both from the White House and from Sally Yates) McGann did (inappropriately btw) asked her straight out about Flynn’s FBI interview. Yate’s testimony before Congress was that she refused to answer questions about whether Flynn had lied but let’s face it — seasoned attorney’s can figure out stuff that isn’t spoken openly. At the very least McGahn knew it was quite possible Flynn had lied and it makes sense that even a semi-competent attorney in his position would prepare for the worst.
But let’s not forget that Yates was concerned enough by the apparent inaction at the White House to her first warning about Flynn that she followed up. I for one don’t think it’s crazy that McGahn did in fact pull up some research to cite when talking to Trump and that Trump told him to drop the matter. And when Yates didn’t “let it go” Trump decided she had to go. I wrote about this back in June ( www.dailykos.com/… ) suggesting that the case of Obstruction of Justice didn’t begin with James Comey, but rather Sally Yates — that her firing after refusing to defend the illegal travel ban was simply an excuse to do what had been already decided. As in get rid of this Acting Attorney General that was making waves about Mike Flynn.
I am raising this (Yates, then Comey and later Bahara) because I believe the pattern I talked about makes a lot more sense if this reporting about McGahn having warned Trump early on is true. At the very least though I want to again suggest that firing high level people to cover his ass makes for a clear pattern of behavior of Obstruction of Justice. Comey’s contemporaneous memos (a form of “Field Reports” any FBI agent does after an interview) and discussions with colleagues at the FBI/DOJ provide supporting evidence. But if there is in fact documentation that was handed over to Mueller (again, months ago) that McGahn did some checking of specific statutes and then told Trump “uh oh” on Flynn then Yate’s firing can be credibly added to the Obstruction case. Trump and his second rate lawyers can make the claim that Yates was fired over the travel ban, but Mueller can counter with the information provided by McGann — AND the subsequent firing of Comey over Mike Flynn/Russia, with the firing of Preet Bahara (and settling that major case he had working instead of prosecuting the case Bahara had built) makes a structure a lot more sound than any building Trump ever built!
So once again I want to push people to, when talking about Trump being willing to fire someone to protect himself to start not with James Comey but with Sally Yates.
However, all that stuff with Yates went down during the last week of January, 2017. I want to go back six months to another matter — specifically what happens when someone is formally nominated for President by either major Party. They start getting intelligence briefings. Not the full on super highly classified details that go into a Presidential Daily Brief (or did before we had a guy who gets bored with something longer than one page of bulleted points — with a picture or two further reducing the written words on the page) or the stuff the (Intelligence) “Gang of Eight” ( en.wikipedia.org/… ) but they do get an overview. More on that Gang of Eight thing later.
One thing that’s also standard is a counter-intelligence presentation on the fact that foreign governments and their agents will try to insert themselves either overtly or covertly into campaigns. It’s a sort of “here’s the kind of stuff you should watch out for and here’s who you call if it happens” type of thing. What’s been in the news lately is that in the case of the Trump campaign there was some quite specific focus on Russia, and that (FBI) out counter-intelligence folks were concerned enough that Trump got the presentation more than once! It’s important to keep in mind that these briefings started in August, 2016. Six months before the
What’s MORE important to keep in mind is that the FBI’s counter-intelligence investigation into Russian attempts to influence the election started in July! Even more importantly is why that investigation started in the first place. The GOP would have you believe it’s all because of (and only because of) the Christopher Steele dossier. Which is bullshit. As of the end of July Steele had produced only one of the memos which would come to make up the infamous dossier — and it’s unclear whether it was created before or after the counter-intelligence investigation was actually opened. Or whether (doubtful) that the FBI was even aware of that memo at the time the investigation was launched.
No, the investigation was begun because the DNI (James Clapper) was raising the alarm about intel flowing all the way up to his Office. He was concerned enough that he did exactly what he was supposed to do — alert the appropriate people at DOJ so that the appropriate entity (the FBI Counter-Intelligence Division) could investigate. And they started doing so. Why does that matter? Let me count the ways……..
By the time they started briefing Trump (and others in the campaign structure?) on foreign attempts & especially Russia trying to worm their way in they already had information on various Russians interacting with various Trump people! Now, neither Trump or his Russia lawyers have first rate minds (to quote the old saying one feels that within their second rate minds a third rate mind is struggling towards the surface) but even they, or at least Trump and his campaign team should be terrified at what they might have said — or not said starting back last August!
As we all know, it is a crime to lie to a federal law enforcement agent an FBI/DOJ agent from the Counter-Intelligence Division qualifies. Which brings up an interesting question — as in a question one surely thinks was asked in those “watch out for this kind of stuff” briefings: “Is there anything you need to tell us at this point?” Or even “Has anyone from a foreign country (and especially Russia) reached out to you? It’s important to document it now to cover your butt — and of course try to avoid talking to them moving forward and to let us know if they keep reaching out.”
Stuff like that. What if Trump or anyone else on the campaign lied and said “No” back then? Given that those doing the briefings knew they were lying there are surely Field Reports about such questions and the (false) answers! And guess who surely has every last one of them?
It keeps getting pointed out that there is surely a ton of stuff that Mueller has that we don’t know about because he and his team don’t leak. What we do know comes from other sources. But since Mueller took over/absorbed the FBI Counter-Intelligence Division’s Russia investigation Obstruction of Justice isn’t the only area of inquiry he and his team are exploring. As the GOP keep pointing out “collusion isn’t a crime” and that’s true. There is no “Collusion Statute” in the Federal Criminal Code. There is however U.S. Code>Title 18>Part 1> Chapter 19> § 371 — Conspiracy to commit offense or defraud United States ( www.law.cornell.edu/… ). IOW, when it comes to “collusion” with Russia it’s not just straight up violation of Federal campaign finance law, but two or more people working together to do so also triggers Conspiracy! In the same vein, knowingly distributing hacked computer files (like emails) is a federal crime but two or people working together to do so is Conspiracy! Same with working with agents of a foreign government to arrange a quid pro quo to subvert Congressionally enacted federal policy like sanctions — and espionage can maybe get worked into that as well.
Remember when I mentioned the Intelligence Gang of Eight? Don’t forget that both McConnell and Ryan knew about the hacked emails and played at least some role in their use in certain Congressional/Senate campaigns and they knew all the details that Trump didn’t back during the summer and fall! And McConnell in particular kicked up a huge fuss over making an announcement to the public about the Russian attack on the election — even one that didn’t suggest what we knew at the time which was that it was geared to help Trump and hurt Clinton. But I digress. As far as we know neither of those two assholes have been paid a visit by Team Mueller.
But getting back to all the charges (Including and especially for Trump himself) that can begin with lying to the FBI starting back in August, 2016 the whole thing that kicked off the Special Counsel law being implemented and Mueller being brought in was Obstruction of Justice. It keeps being pointed out that the toughest part for a prosecutor to prove in an Obstruction case is “corrupt intent” which basically means the defendant knew damn well that they were covering up either their crime or someone else’s and gave it a try anyway. I think (and I see competent lawyers on TV with relevant knowledge who say the same thing) that with Comey alone a case could be made. Add in Yates and Bahara, and then add in all the lies the FBI has records of starting back in the summer and even one of Trump’s ambulance chasing New York legal hacks could turn prosecutor and make an Obstruction case!
Well, when not ranting over the bribe quid pro quo otherwise known as the GOP tax bill (their big donors are having themselves a Merry Christmas for sure) this is what’s been on my mind since yesterday. Two data points (Yates firing & the intelligence/counter-intelligence briefings that started last summer) separated by six months. For now I’d be satisfied it we (Democrats including out political leaders and talking heads) started talking about the Obstruction of Justice Case by using a “Three Strikes” mantra about firings — Yates, Comey & Bahara.