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Tag: trump

The Case For Prosecutors Going After Trump

By Greg Stejskal

Last Saturday Former President Donald Trump was acquitted on one article of impeachment charging him with inciting an insurrection.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is capitol-Alex-Gakos-Shutterstock.com_.jpg
Alex Gakos/Shutterstock.com

Many aspects of the impeachment process are foreign to me, but during my career as an FBI agent, I was mostly involved with investigating and prosecuting federal crimes. I wondered if the incitement of an insurrection charge against former President Trump could be prosecuted criminally, and if there had been analogous prosecutions.

In August 1969, on successive nights, seven people were murdered in Los Angeles. Five people were killed at the home of film director Roman Polanski and his actress wife Sharon Tate. Polanski was out of town but Tate, who was pregnant, and four friends were brutally murdered. The following night, Leno and Rosemary LaBlanca were stabbed to death.

There did not seem to be any connection between the victims. But the crime scenes were both horrific. The principal weapons used were knives. The scenes were very bloody and there was graffiti on the walls, made with blood, including the words “Helter Skelter.”

We know these events today as the Manson Family murders. Four members of the group, three women and one man, along with Manson, were charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. 

At trial, which lasted nine and a half months, no evidence was presented that Manson participated in the murders or ever instructed any of the defendants to murder any of the victims. (Manson stayed at the Spahn ranch, where the family lived, during the first night of the murder spree.) Manson was a charismatic leader of the cult and preached an eclectic philosophy grounded in white supremacy and from various sources – principally from his reading of the Book of Revelations that he believed foretold the coming of the Beatles. Manson told his followers that the Beatles’ song “Helter Skelter” denoted acts of mayhem and violence that would bring on an apocalyptic race war. 

The murders were meant to be attributed to Blacks and precipitate the race war. The three women and Manson were convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder despite Manson never directly ordering the violence. The prosecution contended his convincing the cult of his bizarre philosophy constituted an overt act that propelled the conspiracy.

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Flie photo

This is obviously an imperfect analogy as to what Trump did up to and following the election, which ultimately culminated in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But Trump does seem to be a cult leader, with a significantly larger cult than Manson’s.

A certain segment of his supporters has unquestioning loyalty to him. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, characterized it this way: “Politics is not about the weird worship of one dude.”

Trump, since the beginning of his campaign, has preached that mail-in balloting is inherently fraudulent, and if he were to lose, it could only because the election was “rigged.”

Trump did lose the election, by about 7 million votes and a 306-232 electoral votes. Despite the results, Trump claimed that he had won the election, that it had been stolen from him due to massive fraud – the “Big Lie.”

No proof of substantial fraud has been produced by Trump or any of his supporters. In addition to lying, Trump has refused to denounce the white nationalist militia groups and QAnon conspiracy aficionados – conspiracies that are every bit as loony as anything Manson dreamed up. These groups were well represented among the insurrectionists who visited so much violence on the Capitol and its defenders.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, one the House managers prosecuting the impeachment trial, summed up the cult psychology of both Trump and Manson with a quote from Voltaire: Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

‘Trial by combat’

When Trump and his surrogates called for the “Stop the Steal” rally Jan. 6, it was becoming clear that it was a last-ditch effort to delay finalization of the election. Congress would certify the states’ electoral votes that day, and Vice President Mike Pence would preside. Trump had been trying to persuade Pence to disqualify the votes from some states where voting had been close but were carried by Joe Biden. Pence had told Trump that he had no constitutional authority to disqualify electoral votes. Trump reportedly told Pence he was being a “pussy.”

At the rally, several speakers warmed up the crowd with bellicose language. Rudy Giuliani told the crowd: “There needed to be a trial by combat.” When Trump took the stage, he thanked and praised the previous speakers, specifically naming Giuliani and in effect, endorsing their message.

Trump’s speech was also bellicose, with phrases like “fight like hell” and not being “weak if you want to take back your country.” He did temper his rhetoric somewhat, saying they would march to Capital in a “peaceful” and “patriotic” manner. He also said he would march with them. He didn’t. He went back to the White House and watched the insurrection on television. As a former reality TV star, Trump might have thought watching it on TV was the same as being there.

So, did Trump and his surrogates intend to incite an insurrection at the Capitol?

No limit to presidential actions

Trump had shown he was willing to do anything to avoid relinquishing the presidency. He knew his last chance was to stop or disrupt Congress’ certification of the electoral votes. If that could be achieved by an insurrection at the Capitol, so be it. Probably the best indication of Trump’s intent was that, after learning the Capitol had been breached and senators, members of the House and the vice president were under siege, he made no effort to stop it.

During the insurrection, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy called Trump and asked the president to tell the insurrectionists to stop. Trump first replied he had no control over the mob; they were “antifa.” McCarthy said that wasn’t true; they were Trump supporters. Trump replied: “Well Kevin, I guess they must care more about the election than you do.”

If a criminal prosecution of Trump and others were contemplated, much more investigation would be needed — unlike the impeachment trial, witnesses would be necessary. Some investigation is currently being done by the FBI, and the House managers have produced a comprehensive timeline documented with video and audio recordings. I think incitement of an insurrection, conspiracy, aiding and abetting are all viable prosecutable offenses that should be pursued.

Trump has sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind.

Stejskal: Why the FBI Was Right to Launch the Russia-Trump Probe and Investigate Flynn

The writer, an FBI agent for 31 years, retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office in 2006.

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com


Greg Stejskal: “When Flynn was interviewed, he did lie.”

I first met Bill Priestap (Edward William Priestap) in the mid-90s. I had been talking to University of Michigan football teams every Fall since 1982. I would bring along other agents and federal prosecutors, and we would talk about illegal sports gambling, drugs and other things that college players should avoid. Bill Priestap was head coach Lloyd Carr’s director of operations, responsible for arranging the FBI talks.

Bill and I became friends, and he expressed interest in becoming an FBI agent. He had a master’s degree in educational administration and business administration, and a law degree. He also had the experience of running a major college football program. I encouraged him to apply. 

He did and was accepted, entering duty in 1998. Bill opted to pursue administrative advancement and in 2015 became assistant director of counterintelligence at FBI HQ.

In July 2016, Bill Priestap faced probably the most consequential decision of his career. 

On July 22, Wikileaks released emails that had apparently been hacked from the Democratic National Committee, specifically from John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager. This resulted in the FBI initiating an investigation of the cyber intrusion of the DNC.

Five days later, the Australian government advised American intelligence services that in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a Trump presidential campaign advisor, had told the Australian High Commissioner to Britain that the Russian officials were in possession of politically damaging information relating to Hillary Clinton.


FBI Agent Bill Priestap

Presented with this information, Priestap authorized the opening of an investigation of possible Russian hacking and any connection to the Trump presidential campaign. The case was code-named Cross Fire Hurricane from the opening line in the Rolling Stones song, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” (The so-called Steele dossier played no role in the opening of the investigation. CFH investigators didn’t learn of the Steele dossier until September of that year.)

The FBI was careful not to make this investigation public, to avoid election influence. (Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal server for some emails involving Department of State business was already public information and was being investigated separately.)

Priestap continued to supervise the case. Following the election, the efforts of the Russian government to interfere and influence the election became public, and President Obama imposed significant sanctions on Russia.  

Michael Flynn and the Ambassador

Retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, who had been a close campaign advisor to President Trump, was named to be national security advisor in the new administration. Flynn had several telephone conversations with Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, prior to the inauguration.

The substance of these calls was known to the FBI through established electronic surveillance of Kislyak. Among other things, Flynn asked Kislyak to advise the Russian government to not retaliate for the new sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. Flynn indicated that the sanctions would be mitigated by the Trump administration.


President Trump and Michael Flynn

When it became publicly known that Flynn had spoken with Kislyak prior to the inauguration, Vice President Pence made a public statement saying that Flynn had not discussed the Obama sanctions with Kislyak.  Apparently, Flynn had lied to Pence about his conversation with Kislyak. This was a big concern for the FBI and attorneys at the Department of Justice.

It was decided by Priestap and others in the FBI and DOJ that Flynn should be interviewed regarding his conversations with Kislyak. Any time an interview of this nature is contemplated, a pre-interview strategy is prepared. Priestap and others were involved in that strategy. 

Read more »

Trump Dishes Out Clemencies to Rod Blagojevich, Bernie Kerik, Michael Milken and More

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

President Donald Trump, apparently emboldened by his acquittal in the Senate, is dishing out clemencies to some big-time names.

On Tuesday, a White House press release said:

Today, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency granting Full Pardons to the following individuals: Edward DeBartolo, Jr., Michael Milken, Ariel Friedler, Bernard Kerik, Paul Pogue, David Safavian, and Angela Stanton.  In addition, President Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency granting commutations to Rod Blagojevich, Tynice Nichole Hall, Crystal Munoz, and Judith Negron.

Trump granted a pardon to Michael Milken, who was charged with insider trading in the 1980s and to Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers football team, who pleaded guilty two decades ago for failing to report a felony.

Blagojevich, a Democrat, began serving a 14-year sentence in 2012 for corruption that included selling Barack Obama’s senate seat.

“He served eight years in jail – a long time,” Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews, according to USA Today. “Many people disagree with the sentence.”

Kerik and Milkin are no longer in prison. DeBartolo paid and fine and was put on probation.

DeBartolo Jr. pleaded guilty to failing to report a bribe, testifying in a gambling fraud and corruption case against former Louisiana governor Edwin W. Edwards (D) in 1998 that the governor extorted him for $400,000 in exchange for approval of a riverboat casino license. DeBartolo paid the money and the state licensing board unanimously approved his project, according to the Washington Post. 

DeBartolo, a billionaire, had to pay $1 million in fines, was placed on two year’s probation and handed the NFL team over to his sister.

Read full White House press release below:

Today, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency granting Full Pardons to the following individuals: Edward DeBartolo, Jr., Michael Milken, Ariel Friedler, Bernard Kerik, Paul Pogue, David Safavian, and Angela Stanton.  In addition, President Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency granting commutations to Rod Blagojevich, Tynice Nichole Hall, Crystal Munoz, and Judith Negron.

Edward DeBartolo, Jr., is a successful businessman, real estate developer, and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  During the 23 years that he owned the San Francisco 49ers, the team won an unprecedented 13 division titles and 5 Super Bowl Championships.  In 1998, he was convicted for failing to report a felony regarding payment demanded for a riverboat casino license, and he was sentenced to 2 years’ probation.  Mr. DeBartolo did not allow his conviction to define his life.  He remained a generous philanthropist and passionate supporter of numerous charitable causes, including charter schools like the Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School, and anti-gang violence initiatives.  His exceptional compassion and warmth define his character to this day.  Mr. DeBartolo treated players and coaches as part of his family.  Many prominent individuals from the National Football League have strongly advocated for this pardon, including Joe Montana, Jim Brown, Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley, Derrick Brooks, Fred Dean, Robert Kraft, Jerry Jones, and Roger Goodell.  They have been joined in their support by other notable figures and organizations, including Pastor Darrell Scott, Kareem Lanier, Paul Anka, and the Urban Revitalization Coalition.

Read more »

NBC Exclusive: Comey Wonders Why Mueller Didn’t Subpoena Trump

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Ex-FBI Director James Comey, speaking out for the first time since the Robert Mueller report was completed, say he’s glad the investigation was undertaken, saying there was enough smoke to justify it.

Comey said he’s not clear why Robert Mueller didn’t come to a conclusion on the obstruction of justice question, or why he didn’t subpoena President Trump.

Below is part of the interview.

Trump Attacks Ex-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Who Just Authored a Book

President Trump

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

No surprise here.

President Donald Trump came out swinging Thursday, on Valentine’s Day, after ex-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired, talked about his new book in an interview with 60 Minutes.


McCabe says top officials were looking into invoking the 25th amendment to get rid of Trump after he fired FBI Director James Comey, Forbes magazine reports.

He also confirmed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested wearing a wire in meetings with Trump.

The Justice Department a statement disputing McCabe’s remarks and restated its position that it and Rosenstein find “no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”

McCabe’s full interview will air Sunday on 60 Minutes.

 

Lengel: Rudy Giuliani’s Fear of a Perjury Trap With the President Is Pure B.S.

Donald Trump, via Wikipedia

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Former N.Y. Mayor and Rudy Giuliani, who served as U.S. Attorney from 1983-89, is going around telling everyone who will listen that he fears Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III is trying to set a perjury trap for President Donald Trump.

“The reality is we’re not going to sit him down if it’s a trap for perjury,” Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, tells Fox News.  “And until we’re convinced of that … we’re just going to have to say no.”

“Let me emphasize,” Giuliani added, “he wants to explain that he did nothing wrong.”

Let’s simply say this: You can’t be guilty of perjury if you tell the truth.

The truth is that Trump has had a problem at times distinguishing between truth and alternative facts.

All the president has to do is tell the truth.

Simple as that.

Perjury is charge for people who lie.

The truth is a great defense against perjury.

More Blurry Lines: John Kelly to Attend DOJ Briefings on Controversial Informant

President Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The lines continue to get blurred in the Trump era.

White House chief of staff John Kelly plans to attend two briefings at the Justice Department on Thursday about an FBI informant who interacted with the Trump campaign in the 2016 election.

Kelly’s presence comes despite previous White House assurances that no member of the president’s team would attend the Justice Department gathering, Politico notes.

It’s unclear if the briefings will include documents or details about the informant’s work for the FBI or whether they’ll cover the intelligence community’s reluctance to share the highly classified information with members of Congress, the publication writes.

 

Justice Department Directs IG to Investigate Trump’s Claim of FBI Spying on HIs Campaign

President Trump, via White House

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Here’s the latest political storm in Washington.

The Justice Department on Monday directed, a the behest of President Donald Trump, the Inspector General to probe the president’s allegation that his campaign had been “infiltrated or surveilled” by the FBI, NBC News reports.

“The Department has asked the Inspector General to expand the ongoing review of the FISA application process to include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation of persons suspected of involvement with the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 presidential election,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.

As always, the Inspector General will consult with the appropriate U.S. Attorney if there is any evidence of potential criminal conduct,” she added.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein weighed in saying “if anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”

While some see this as legitimate, others see it as a tactic by the Trump camp to try to discredit the Robert Mueller investigation.