President Trump is reportedly not thrilled with William Barr’s close relationship with Robert Mueller. In recent testimony as he seeks the Senate’s OK as the next attorney general, Barr mentioned his close ties with the special counsel, a longstanding friendship. Sources cited by CNN don’t think the president’s reaction will jeopardize Barr’s path to the job.
Attorney General nominee William Barr faced the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, answering a barrage of questions in a calm and cool manner. Barr, President Trump’s choice to replace Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, said he supports letting Robert Mueller finish his investigation. Under intense grilling by Democrats, Barr also insisted he won’t be bullied into changing how he would do the job and said he will not recuse himself from the Russia probe.
ABC’s Jon Karl believes Robert Mueller’s much-hyped report could hit with a thud. Karl on Sunday told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that people close to the Mueller investigation are telling him the upcoming report is “certain to be anti-climactic” and contain no bombshell revelations. The comments come days after a New York Times article about the FBI’s investigation into President Trump shortly after he fired James Comey—an investigation that also went nowhere.
President Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, William Barr, will let Robert Mueller finish his investigation if confirmed to the post. That’s according to prepared remarks he’ll deliver at Tuesday’s confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The country needs a credible resolution of these issues,” he will say. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are preparing to grill Barr over the Mueller issue, afraid Trump is only nominating Barr—who also served as AG under President George H.W. Bush—because he’ll be a presidential stooge.
Some Democrats in Congress are starting to get concerned about Robert Mueller’s probe. They’re worried that Mueller’s upcoming report—more than a year and a half in the making—won’t be thorough enough. Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat, says he’s worried Mueller isn’t investigating President Trump’s private business dealings as much as they want.
President Trump’s legal team is working to block parts of the forthcoming report by special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump attorney Rudy Guiliani says no decision has been made yet, but the White House could claim executive privilege to keep portions out of public view. There is no legal requirement that the entire report be made public, just that it be submitted to Justice Department leaders.
Attorney General nominee William Barr criticized Robert Mueller’s tactics in a memo sent to the Department of Justice. In particular, President Trump did not commit obstruction of justice by firing FBI Director James Comey—because Comey serves at the pleasure of the president. Barr sent the memo to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller investigation—and the memo shouldn’t come as any surprise, because it tracks with his previous opinions on such matters over the years, including during his time as AG for President George H. W. Bush.
—QUOTABLE: “As I understand it, [Mueller’s] theory is premised on a novel and legally insupportable reading of the law…It is time to travel well-worn paths; not to veer into novel, unsettled or contested areas of the law; and not to indulge the fancies by overly-zealous prosecutors.” -Barr memo
A federal judge has delayed the sentencing of former National Security Adviser to President Trump, Michael Flynn. Judge Emmett Sullivan unloaded on Flynn at a Tuesday sentencing hearing, saying Flynn arguably sold his country out by his activities on behalf of foreign countries like Turkey. The judge walked back several accusations during the bizarre proceedings, including noting that some of his comments shouldn’t be taken too seriously and admitting Flynn’s crimes were not treasonous. Nonetheless, the judge reprimanded Flynn for patterns of being less than loyal to the U.S. and his role as National Security Adviser.
—QUOTABLE: “All along, you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the National Security Adviser to the President of the United States. That undermines everything this flag over here stands for. Arguably you sold your country out.” -Judge Sullivan
MEANWHILE—Robert Mueller on Monday released a memo detailing Michael Flynn’s interview with the FBI in which he repeatedly lied about his contact with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The memo came after Flynn’s supporters claimed that the former national security adviser was railroaded by the FBI because the agency didn’t tell him it was illegal to lie to the FBI.
A reporter who played a central role in publicizing the infamous Steele Dossier isn’t so sure anymore that the document is to be believed. Journalist Michael Isikoff was asked by Mediaite columnist John Ziegler if he agrees that much of the salacious anti-Trump document has been vindicated. Isikoff flatly said no, and that many of the allegations it contains are “likely false.” The Dossier fueled early accusations that President Trump’s campaign has colluded with Russia to rig the 2016 election. But as Robert Mueller’s probe into those charges wraps up, Isikoff—one of just a few reporters to write about the Dossier before the election—now says Mueller probably won’t turn up much after all.
—QUOTABLE: “All the signs to me are that Mueller is reaching his end game, and we may see less than many people want him to find…When you actually get into the details of the Steele dossier, the specific allegations, we have not seen the evidence to support them, and in fact, there is good grounds to think that some of the more sensational allegations will never be proven and are likely false.” -Isikoff to Ziegler
Michael Cohen is going to the clink. The former Trump Organization insider and lawyer was sentenced on Wednesday to three years in prison for his role in what U.S. Judge William Pauley III called a “smorgasbord of criminal conduct.” Cohen, the fourth person to go down in the wake of Robert Mueller’s investigation, landed behind bars for lying to Congress and for campaign finance violations after orchestrating hush money payments to two porn stars who claimed to have had affairs with President Trump a decade ago.
—QUOTABLE: “The charges portray a pattern of deception of brazenness and of greed…Mr. Cohen has eroded faith in the electoral process and compromised the rule of law.” –New York prosecutor Nicholas Roos
ALSO—Cohen once famously claimed he would “take a bullet” for his former boss, President Trump. But commenting during his sentencing, he completely threw Trump under the bus. “It is my own weakness and blind loyalty to this man [Trump] that led me to pursue a path of darkness,” said Cohen, who once relished his nickname within the Trump Organization, ‘Tom Hagen,’ a reference to Robert Duvall’s mob lawyer-fixer character in The Godfather. “History will not remember me as the villain of this story,” he said.
Alan Simpson has apparently had it with CNN and the media’s gotcha tactics. The former GOP senator from Wyoming and bipartisan icon told CNN host Alisyn Camerota to stop giving politicians proctology exams over old sins when she asked about President Trump’s transgressions and told her to find a new job. She played a clip of Sen. Orrin Hatch saying he doesn’t care about special counsel Robert Mueller’s forthcoming report and tried getting Simpson to trash his former colleague, the president, or really any Republican. Camerota should “find some new work,” and “stop picking old scabs,” Simpson said to the dismay of the drive-by journalist.
—QUOTABLE: “Orrin — I care deeply for. I care deeply for [former Vice President] Joe Biden. I loved them all. And I got along with them all and we made it work. So, if you want to pick old scabs, you better pick a new guy to get on the show…Go back and look into Professor [Anita] Hill and [Supreme Court Justice] Clarence Thomas…Why don’t you leave people alone and go find some new work?” -Simpson
As Robert Mueller starts wrapping up his probe, damning details are starting to leak out. Mainly, the probe will connect President Trump with directing hush money payments prior to the 2016 election, which if true would be a federal crime. While it doesn’t look like there’s proof Trump knowingly and purposely directed his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to pay porn stars Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to keep quiet about their affairs with Trump a decade earlier, prosectors in Cohen’s case clearly believe Trump knew about the payments.
MEANWHILE—Rep. Adam Schiff says President Trump might be facing the “real prospect of jail time” after prosecutors last week indicated he may have directed illegal hush money payments during the 2016 presidential campaign. That may not happen until he leaves office, Schiff said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” But it could also fuel Dems’ calls for impeaching the president.
—QUOTABLE: “There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him. That he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time.” -Schiff
Former FBI Director James Comey says the FBI’s probe of Russia initially looked into the activities of four Americans. In newly released closed-door testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Comey said the counterintelligence investigation probed the four Americans with Trump campaign connections and their possible connections with efforts by Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, but he did not name who they were. Those investigations happened before the Steele Dossier came to light. Comey also denied having any personal connection with special counsel Robert Mueller, despite the insistence by President Trump that they’re practically golfing buddies.
—QUOTABLE: “I admire the heck out of the man [Mueller], but I don’t know his phone number, I’ve never been to his house, I don’t know his children’s names…” -Comey said, adding he has “never hugged or kissed the man…A relief to my wife.”
ALSO—Comey told the congressional panel during closed-door testimony on Friday that he ordered a leak probe into the FBI’s New York field office after he suspected agents were leaking top-level information to Trump supporter Rudy Guiliani. He suspected the leaking was happening after Guiliani made public statements indicating he had inside knowledge of the FBI probe at the time.
As the clock winds down on a Republican-controlled Congress, House members are rushing to load down critical spending bills with their own priorities. Proposals including a farm bill, Saudi sanctions, and prison reform are being considered as add-ons to a massive spending bill that would keep dozens of departments and agencies funded through the next year. But Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby said, “You don’t want to overload the truck,” but he might consider the farm bill. Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham is pushing for a prison and sentencing reform proposal favored by President Trump, and the Democrats are insisting on a measure that would protect Robert Mueller from being fired by Trump—even though the Mueller investigation is in its final stages as we speak.
MEANWHILE—The GOP has passed just five of 12 spending bills necessary to keep the government funded, setting up another government shutdown showdown that will come to a head just before Christmas. Democrats are refusing to entertain even a red cent of spending on a border wall, even rejecting a “DACA” fix in exchange. Lawmakers need to pass seven spending bills covering NASA and the Justice, Commerce, Agriculture and Homeland Security departments to stave off a partial shutdown right before Christmas. Trump is insisting on $5 billion in funding for the border wall.
—QUOTABLE: “Over my dead body will we provide another nickel for these folks to do what they are doing here.” -DEM Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro of Connecticut
—QUOTABLE: “We want to protect Bob Mueller, and I’m not going to vote for any spending bill that doesn’t protect Bob Mueller.” -DEM Rep. Eric Swalwell
Former lawyer and top confidante to President Trump, Michael Cohen, is probably providing information to special counsel Robert Mueller…but it likely has nothing to do with Russian collusion in the 2016 election. Although that’s what Mueller is supposed to be confined to investigating, Cohen is on the record time after time denying any involvement in such a scheme. And Cohen was indicted for lying to Congress, but not for when he made those denials. Which means Cohen—who has worked for the Trump Organization since long before he became president—could be telling Mueller where the bodies are, figuratively speaking, buried.
Andrew Napolitano said Wednesday he expects President Trump’s son to be indicted by Robert Mueller. In an interview on SiriusXM, the senior judicial analyst for Fox News told host Dan Abrams that he expects the “substantial assistance” Mueller got from former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn likely means Donald Trump Jr. will be facing an indictment for comments he made to the FBI and Congress about a June 2016 meeting he took part in at Trump Tower involving several Russians. Trump Jr. has been telling friends he expects to be indicted, too, Napolitano said.
Robert Mueller is sparing the whip when it comes to Michael Flynn. The special counsel is recommending no prison time for Flynn, the former national security adviser to President Trump. Mueller cited Flynn’s “substantial assistance” with his investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 elections. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI last year about his conversations with a former Russian ambassador, but agreed to fully cooperate with the Mueller probe.
Right wing conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi explains in a new book why he has a legal arrangement with President Trump. Corsi, who is a target of Robert Mueller’s probe, says he entered into a legal defense deal with Trump because he wanted the president to have a feel for what special council Mueller was up to. The joint defense agreement with Trump means Corsi gives the Trump legal team inside information about how Mueller is operating—possibly giving the president’s lawyers an edge. Corsi, who is suspected of being a middleman between Trump aides and WikiLeaks in 2016, denies that he struck the bargain with Trump’s lawyers because he’s angling for a pardon. He will continue supporting the president regardless of whether he gets a pardon, Corsi said.
—ON A PARDON: “I don’t expect one. I’m not angling for one. I’m not strategizing for one. I’m not asking for one…A pardon was not the objective of the talks. It was not the anticipation of the pardon, and I still do not anticipate a pardon.” -Corsi
—ON THE JOINT DEFENSE AGREEMENT: “I felt the information would be beneficial to the president’s attorneys in preparing their defense of Donald Trump.” -Corsi
Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer for President Trump, pleaded guilty to one charge in the Robert Mueller investigation Thursday. Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress about his efforts to build a Trump property in Moscow, and working on it through June 2016, much later than he’d previously admitted. Cohen has also pleaded guilty to tax evasion and campaign finance violations as a result of the Mueller probe. Cohen’s plea puts a dent in Trump’s claims he has no financial ties in Russia.
MEANWHILE—President Trump is lashing out at Cohen. While denying his longtime lawyer’s claim Thursday that he was pursuing a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, Trump said Cohen is weak and not very smart. Cohen pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to Congress about his involvement in the development project.
—QUOTABLE: “He’s a weak person, and not a very smart person…He’s lying about a project that everybody knew about.” -Trump
President Trump retweeted a fan account’s meme showing all his political rivals behind bars. The photoshopped pic showed failed former president Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Robert Mueller, John Podesta, and others in goofy poses behind bars. The tweet was part of a twitter storm where the president fumed about the Mueller investigation. Let the liberal outrage begin.
—QUOTABLE: “The Mueller Witch Hunt is a total disgrace. They are looking at supposedly stolen Crooked Hillary Clinton Emails (even though they don’t want to look at the DNC Server), but have no interest in the Emails that Hillary DELETED & acid washed AFTER getting a Congressional Subpoena!” -Trump twitter rampage
President Trump is keeping the option of pardoning Paul Manafort on the table. While he never discussed it with his former campaign chairman, the president told the New York Post there is no reason he would take the option off the table and expressed his displeasure with special counsel Robert Mueller. Anyone who tells Mueller the truth gets thrown in jail, while those who lie in plea deals are rewarded, Trump complained. He compared the Mueller probe with the McCarthy witchhunts.
—QUOTABLE: “It was never discussed, but I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?” -Trump to the New York Post
—QUOTABLE: “While the disgusting Fake News is doing everything within their power not to report it that way, at least 3 major players are intimating that the Angry Mueller Gang of Dems is viciously telling witnesses to lie about facts & they will get relief. This is our Joseph McCarthy Era!” -Trump tweet
President Trump is denying any knowledge of two key events being investigated by Robert Mueller. In written answers submitted to Mueller’s Russia probe on November 20, Trump said he did not know about his son’s infamous meeting with Russians at Trump Tower in June of 2016, and he was not told by longtime confidant Roger Stone that WikiLeaks planned to dump unflattering information about the Hillary Clinton campaign. Both events are important if Mueller is going to prove that the Trump campaign was working with outside players like WikiLeaks and the Russians to influence the election’s outcome.
Robert Mueller is a “conflicted prosecutor gone rogue,” President Trump said Monday in a Twitter storm. Mueller’s horrible treatment of people will eventually come out, Trump said. The comments were apparently in response to Mueller’s team accusing former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort of violating his plea agreement by lying to investigators—an accusation that could terminate the plea deal and worsen the charges against him. Jerome Corsi, a right wing conspiracy theorist with ties to former Trump adviser Roger Stone, also claims Mueller has been trying to get him to sign onto a plea deal containing lies.
—QUOTABLE: “Wait until it comes out how horribly & viciously they are treating people, ruining lives for them refusing to lie…He is doing TREMENDOUS damage to our Criminal Justice System, where he is only looking at one side and not the other.” -Trump tweet
Jerome Corsi says he has a joint defense agreement with President Trump and was given limited immunity by Robert Mueller. The right wing author and associate of Trump adviser Roger Stone is a target of the Mueller probe for allegedly brokering deals with the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, which he has denied. But in a new book, Corsi details a cover story he hatched with Stone to explain a 2016 tweet Stone sent out saying it would soon be Podesta’s “time in the barrel.” Not long after, WikiLeaks dumped hacked emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign manager’s account. Mueller gave Corsi limited immunity for describing that under oath, testimony which undercuts Stone’s claims that he did not collude with WikiLeaks to release the emails.
Roger Stone associate Jerome Corsi will not take a plea deal if Robert Mueller offers one. Corsi, suspected of being an intermediary between Stone and WikiLeaks, said Monday he’d rather go to prison than sign his name to a lie. He maintains that he had no contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange—Mueller’s team thinks he played a go-between role as Trump adviser Stone and the website conspired to publish hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. Corsi denies he had any part in it.
—QUOTABLE: “They can put me in prison the rest of my life. I am not going to sign a lie.” -Corsi in an interview with CNN
—QUOTABLE: ”It is inconceivable that in America someone would be prosecuted for refusing to swear to a false narrative pushed on him by the Muller investigators.” -Stone