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Mueller Expands Investigation To Include Obstruction Of Justice

Trump Russia

Late yesterday, The Washington Post broke the news that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has expanded his investigation of Russian interference in the election and related issues to include the question of whether or not President Trump has acted to obstruct justice:

The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.

Trump had received private assurances from then-FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not personally under investigation. Officials say that changed shortly after Comey’s firing.

Five people briefed on the interview requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week. The investigation has been cloaked in secrecy, and it is unclear how many others have been questioned by the FBI.

The NSA said in a statement that it will “fully cooperate with the special counsel” and declined to comment further. The office of the director of national intelligence and Ledgett declined to comment.

The White House now refers all questions about the Russia investigation to Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz.

“The FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal,” said Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Kasowitz.

The officials said Coats, Rogers and Ledgett would appear voluntarily, though it remains unclear whether they will describe in full their conversations with Trump and other top officials or will be directed by the White House to invoke executive privilege. It is doubtful that the White House could ultimately use executive privilege to try to block them from speaking to Mueller’s investigators. Experts point out that the Supreme Court ruled during the Watergate scandal that officials cannot use privilege to withhold evidence in criminal prosecutions.

The obstruction-of-justice investigation of the president began days after Comey was fired on May 9, according to people familiar with the matter. Mueller’s office has taken up that work, and the preliminary interviews scheduled with intelligence officials indicate that his team is actively pursuing potential witnesses inside and outside the government.

The interviews suggest that Mueller sees the question of attempted obstruction of justice as more than just a “he said, he said” dispute between the president and the fired FBI director, an official said.

Investigating Trump for possible crimes is a complicated affair, even if convincing evidence of a crime were found. The Justice Department has long held that it would not be appropriate to indict a sitting president. Instead, experts say, the onus would be on Congress to review any findings of criminal misconduct and then decide whether to initiate impeachment proceedings.

Given all the news that has broken over the past month, the fact that Mueller has expanded his inquiry to include obstruction of justice is hardly surprising. In just the course of the past five weeks, we’ve seen a pattern of evidence unfold that, at the very least, seems to raise the suspicion that the President and those around him are trying to prevent a thorough inquiry into the events surrounding the 2016 election. It all started, of course with the somewhat surprising announcement on May 9th that Trump had abruptly fired Jame Comey as Director of the F.B.I., a decision that Comey himself didn’t even learn about until he saw a news report on cable television. At the time, the White House claimed that Comey’s dismissal was due to his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and her handling of classified information. Soon after the firing, though, it became apparent, though, that there may have been ulterior motives for the decision to fire Comey. Specifically, reports began to filter out that the firing may have been linked to a desire to hinder or halt the Bureau’s investigation into ties between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government. Perhaps not coincidentally, Comey had acknowledged was ongoing in testimony just a week before being fired. In a stream of news reports that seemed to drop on a daily basis, the pieces began to fall into place. For example, it was said that President Trump was becoming frustrated with the investigation, something that Trump himself later confirmed. Reports also began to leak out of conversations between Comey and the President regarding Trump’s efforts to get the Bureau to at least halt its investigation of Lt. General Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Adviser. In response to these reports, Trump made what can clearly be construed as a threat directed at Comey with the implication that there may be ‘tapes’ of the conversations between the two men.  Next, it was reported that Trump had told the Russian Foreign Minister and Russian Ambassador that he had fired Comey due to the Russia investigation when he met with them in the Oval Office the day after he fired Comey. Since then, there have been additional revelations, including reports that Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo to get Comey to “back off” the Flynn investigation.  Coats and Pompeo have declined to answer specific questions regarding their conversations with the President, but it is also being reported that Special Counsel Mueller plans to talk to both men and other top intelligence officials that Trump may have spoken to about this matter. Finally, last week Comey himself testified in detail about his conversations with the President and stated that he believed he was fired because of the Russia investigation and the President’s efforts to stop the inquiry into links between his campaign and Russia. While all of this is certainly not sufficient evidence to prove anything quite yet, it does seem to at least suggest that the President of the United States was seeking to hobble an investigation that was, at the very least, causing him political problems and making it difficult to advance his agenda. No doubt Mueller, who has a reputation for demanding thorough investigations from his twelve years serving as F.B.I. Director in his own right will investigate this matter as thoroughly as possible.

President Trump reacted to this news today on his favorite communications channel in the manner that you’d expect:

Trump’s protestations notwithstanding, the idea that this is some kind of “witch hunt” is, of course, absurd. First of all, there has already been enough information made public to make it clear that the Russian government was engaged in an effort to interfere in the 2016 Presidential election. This included both actively engaging in a cyber war that was directed at the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton adviser Tony Podesta and resulted in the leaking of email that was clearly intended to sow chaos on the Democratic side of the campaign. Reports also indicate that there were efforts to hack into the email servers of the Republican National Committee. Additionally, and potentially more ominously, it was reported last week that these same hackers either attempted or succeeded in hacking into the voting systems of at least thirty-nine states. While there’s no evidence that those efforts succeeded in tainting the vote in any way, the fact that it even happened is far more alarming than the fact that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was embarrassed by email leaks that showed how the DNC was putting its thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton during the campaign.

In addition to that, there appears to be plenty of evidence to call into question the relationship between the Russian government and several people that have been close to Trump and his campaign over the past two years. This includes people such as Lt. General Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Roger Stone, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. Additionally, there are a host of unanswered questions regarding alleged financial ties between Trump-owned businesses and Russian financiers with ties to President Putin.

Now, on top of all of that, we have the reports discussed above that seem to indicate that the President was attempting to influence the F.B.I. in its investigation of the other two matters.

To call this a “witch hunt” is, of course, the height of absurdity. Indeed, doing so while at the same time it is being reported that the President has considered firing Mueller makes the allegations of obstruction of justice seem even stronger. Even if Trump wasn’t directly aware of or involved any contact with Russian officials, the fact that he may have tried to stop legitimate investigations of those matters is as serious a matter as President Nixon’s efforts to cover-up the Watergate break-in despite the fact that he apparently wasn’t directly involved in it.

In any case, Trump’s tweets obviously aren’t going to stop Mueller at this point, and the talk about firing Mueller seems to have ended as soon as it began thanks to near-universal condemndation of the idea from both Republicans and Democrats. Where it leads is anyone’s guess. It’s clear, though, that this will be hanging over the Trump White House for some time to come.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    According to the NY Times, the investigation has been expanded beyond that to include money laundering by Trump associates.

    ReplyReply

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  2. KM says:

    Awww, somebody’s pissed. U mad, Donny boy? Be careful you don’t Twitter rage yourself into some future perjury – I hear they impeach you for that kind of thing.

    Don’t pick fights with the feds, they tend to call your bluff.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  3. michael reynolds says:

    I’ve said before and I think people assume it is hyperbole, that the Trump organization is a crime family. They are up to their necks in money-laundering for Russians and Ukrainians, taking bribes and pay-offs from the Chinese and the Arabs. I expect the final conclusion will show:

    1) Money-laundering.
    2) Tax evasion – it’s hard to launder money without evading taxes.
    3) Corruption both in terms of paying and receiving bribes.
    4) Collusion with a hostile power in undermining the US election.
    5) Obstruction of justice.
    6) Attempts to suborn perjury.

    What I expect Trump to do is to use his pardon powers (or promise them) to try and cover his tracks. Pardons for Flynn, Manafort and Jared in an effort to stop them flipping.

    The GOP will likely remain cowardly and complicit, a Vichy party of treason and collusion. But it is certainly interesting that Congress is boxing Trump in on Russia sanctions. Not exactly a spine, more of a small nerve bundle that might conceivably evolve into a spine.

    ReplyReply

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  4. Todd says:

    @CSK:

    According to the NY Times, the investigation has been expanded beyond that to include money laundering by Trump associates.

    As HavardLaw92 mentioned in the comments of another post a few days ago, obstruction of justice is really just the pretense for opening the investigation. If President Trump is going to be done in, it will likely be when they really start digging into his finances … which (perhaps a bit ironically) is probably the point where he will (at least attempt to) fire Mueller and dare Congress to hold him accountable for undisputable obstruction of justice.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  5. charon says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Pardons for Flynn, Manafort and Jared in an effort to stop them flipping.

    Which means they could then be compelled to testify, no?

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  6. James in Bremerton says:

    Well. There ’tis. Given Mueller’s recent hires, this is just tip of the spear stuff. Given man-baby’s mouth, Mueller will have every reason to investigate him for the remainder of the century, handed down to his children to prosecute Trump’s corrupt brood.

    Article one against Nixon was obstruction. A few Congressmen have their liberty trees watered, and the U.S. numbness to gun violence allows the widening criminal investigation into the White House to receive full coverage.

    RICO stuff. Barron will have to get a job.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  7. Pete S says:

    Trump went on TV and bragged that he fired Comey because of the Russian investigation, no matter what his spokespeople claimed. Jacques Clouseau should be able to prove obstruction. Unfortunately Congressional Republicans aren’t as smart or professional as him so they are not moving on it.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  8. @michael reynolds:

    I don’t know. Donald is no Vito Coreleone, or Michael for that matter.

    Although if you’re right, then I nominate Eric Trump for the Fredo of the family.

    ReplyReply

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  9. CSK says:

    @Todd:

    And Trump has a documented history of money-laundering for the Brooklyn Russian mob through the Trump Taj Mahal, FFS.

    ReplyReply

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  10. CSK says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Vito and Michael were both scary-smart, and even more important, they both knew how to keep their mouths shut, neither of which can be said of Mangolini. Imagine Michael on Twitter. Forget it. You can’t.

    ReplyReply

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  11. charon says:

    @charon:

    Which means they could then be compelled to testify, no?

    Maybe that does not work, considering they still would have exposure to NY State AG bringing charges.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  12. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Some important work has been done in this regard.

    I have Ivanka as Meadow Soprano, Jared as Christofuh, and Bannon as Janis Soprano.

    Trump isn’t clever enough to be Tony Soprano let alone Vito or Michael Corleone, I see him as a cross between Uncle June and Sonny Corleone – senile, confused, angry and impetuous.

    Kellyanne Conway is Big Pussy – she’s a huge leaker. (No boat rides with Trump, Kellyanne.)

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  13. bill says:

    so if/when this one strikes out, what kind of “investigation” will come after?

    ReplyReply

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 33

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK:

    expanded beyond that to include money laundering by Trump.

    Trump’s a dead man walking.

    Investigating Trump for possible crimes is a complicated affair, even if convincing evidence of a crime were found. The Justice Department has long held that it would not be appropriate to indict a sitting president.

    For the FBI the situation is normal. They investigate, they present evidence, someone else prosecutes. If they find evidence against Flynn, Manafort, Jared, etc. Justice has no legal bar against prosecuting, although it sure puts little Jeffie in an awkward position. Impeachment may be a stretch. It does, after all, rely on some sense of duty and public service from Republicans. But can assets be seized? Can criminal and civil actions be taken against his businesses and their managers? Can his tax audits be reopened? Can enough threats be generated to drive resignation?

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  15. JKB says:

    This isn’t going anywhere but the pages of the Democratic PR organs. Mueller has already given every appearance of impropriety. He’s staffed up with Democratic party operatives. His office, as this story reveals, is leaking like a sieve. And his buddy James Comey didn’t do him any favors by putting their close, personal friendship on the record which on its face appears to make Mueller ineligible for the Special Counsel position by the statute.

    It’s just burning credibility and legitimacy of many in DC and their institutions. And now, the constant calls for Trump’s head have inspired a Democratic campaign volunteer to attempt to slaughter Republican Congressmen.

    If you want Trump, first you’ll have to convince the Constitutional majority that is geographically dispersed around the country, that voted him in. And suspicious investigations from tainted DC insiders, just isn’t going to do it.

    ReplyReply

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  16. michael reynolds says:

    @bill:
    Gee, I don’t know. Maybe a dozen or so redundant, pointless, politically-motivated ‘investigations’ into Benghazi?

    ReplyReply

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  17. charon says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The GOP will likely remain cowardly and complicit, a Vichy party of treason and collusion.

    No one will want to be the first to bell the cat, but they will eventually get to a tipping point as they realize Donnie will eventually need to be let go. They can put it off, but not forever.

    The big problem is if Trump’s voters do not turn out, they lose in the general election. Rock, hard place, etc.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  18. Moosebreath says:

    Ezra Klein has a good take on Trump’s situation. The conclusion:

    “Trump’s resistance to taking responsibility for his actions is perhaps the single greatest threat facing his presidency. If he realized the damage he was doing to himself, he could perhaps stop doing it. But so long as he sees his problems as the product of an unfair “WITCH HUNT,” he will continue to see his reckless, enraged reactions as a reasonable response, and so will continue destabilizing his presidency.”

    ReplyReply

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  19. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    Thanks for vomiting up the latest Breitbart gruel.

    The propaganda lies and the opinions of the chronically dishonest like you, are no longer interesting. The investigation is coming. Trump is going down.

    ReplyReply

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 1

  20. Franklin says:

    Uh oh, Donny, the “deep state” is outta getcha!

    What a load. He brought all of this onto himself by hiring Flynn, knowing full well that the guy was already being investigated by the FBI. That part, we know beyond a reasonable doubt, is pure fact. And that happened months before the media got wind of it, so unfortunately for the Trump-kissers, they can’t blame the “lie-beral” media or anybody else for Donny’s incompetence.

    I’m less sure about the collusion and laundering stuff, but we’ll see how the evidence plays out.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @gVOR08:

    Corporations are people, my friend. Trump’s various shell companies are not president. They have no four year immunity.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  22. Franklin says:

    @JKB: Here’s some facts, in case you want to actually pay attention:

    -Mueller is a Republican, originally appointed to the FBI by a Republican (GWB).
    -Despite reports, his best investigator Michael R. Dreeben is not the same guy as Democratic donor Michael W. Dreeben (and furthermore, they are unrelated in any way). Don’t expect your favorite news site NewsMax to issue a correction.
    -The relationship between Mueller and Comey is, to the best of my understanding, irrelevant. Comey isn’t the one under investigation, he is but one of many witnesses.

    ReplyReply

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  23. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @bill:

    so if/when this one strikes out, what kind of “investigation” will come after?

    This from a guy that spent years screaming BENGHAZI!!!!

    ReplyReply

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  24. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @JKB:
    syc·o·phant
    ˈsikəˌfant,ˈsikəfənt/Submit
    noun
    a person who acts obsequiously toward someone important in order to gain advantage.
    synonyms: yes-man, bootlicker, brown-noser, toady, lickspittle, flatterer, flunky, lackey, spaniel, doormat, stooge, cringer, suck, suck-up

    ReplyReply

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  25. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Anyone hear the Australian PM mocking Dumb Donnie?
    Priceless.
    Not even W. was disrespected like this buffoon is being disrespected.

    ReplyReply

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  26. MarkedMan says:

    @charon:

    they will eventually get to a tipping point

    Read more: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/mueller-expands-investigation-to-include-obstruction-of-justice/#ixzz4k5U32YeV

    I hope that is true but I fear it is more likely that the republicans are simply chickens with a fox (Trump) in the henhouse. If they all went for him most would survive and they would certainly take him down. But it’s not in the nature of chickens. They know the first ones in would surely be destroyed (by their base more than by Trump himself) so they run around in a panic trying to hide, desperately hoping that he will eat his fill of the others. But my farming relatives tell me that a fox tends to go mad once inside and will kill every chicken, perhaps not even eating one whole one.

    ReplyReply

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  27. CSK says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Yeah, I heard Turnbull doing Trump. Loved it.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  28. Pete S says:

    @Doug Mataconis: @michael reynolds:

    I always imagine Trump as more of a John Gotti type. Believing himself to be invincible and above the law right up until the cell door slams shut behind him. I know, he is not a fictional character, but the parallels seem strong.

    ReplyReply

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  29. Gustopher says:

    @Doug Mataconis: They’re all Fredo.

    ReplyReply

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  30. charon says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I hope that is true but I fear it is more likely that the republicans are simply chickens with a fox (Trump) in the henhouse. If they all went for him most would survive and they would certainly take him down. But it’s not in the nature of chickens. They know the first ones in would surely be destroyed (by their base more than by Trump himself) so they run around in a panic trying to hide, desperately hoping that he will eat his fill of the others.

    You might be right, but my guess is not. Lots of dirt to come out, bear in mind there are state AG’s, not just the Feds.

    Some of them are themselves compromised and can not act. Others are overoptimistic because they believe what Fox Fake News puts out, do not realize how bad their situation is.

    Reality will bite eventually though, and November 2018 should be a wakeup. This can not go on, likely will not.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  31. TM01 says:

    Ooh. More anonymous sources. They’ve proven accurate so far.

    So, which statute did Trump violate again regarding obstruction of justice? Specifically please. And exactly how said statute is applicable, what he allegedly did, etc., especially WRT to the executive’s constitutional powers.

    Thanks!

    ReplyReply

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  32. Scott says:

    The Justice Department has long held that it would not be appropriate to indict a sitting president.

    Appropriate? That is odd phrasing.

    Regardless, I’m old enough to remembering the pardon of Richard Nixon. I understood the whole “we got to get past this and let the country heal” thing. However, after all these years, I have come to the conclusion that the pardon was a mistake. Other countries (Israel, South Korea, e.g.) managed to indict their leaders and survive. I think it is important for the US to do the same and bring the Presidency back to a balanced weight in our system of government.

    ReplyReply

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  33. Jen says:

    @TM01:

    18 U.S. Code, sections 1503 and 1505, potentially.

    ReplyReply

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  34. michael reynolds says:

    @TM01:
    Yes, actually, the sources have been amazingly accurate, as proven by how much Trump doesn’t even bother to contest.

    Every allegation of meeting with Russians – covered up by Trumpies – has now been acknowledged by the Trumpies. Comey’s account of the firing was validated by Trump himself, contra the manure people like you were spreading.

    It’s a good thing you use a nice, forgettable screen name – you’ll need to change it frequently if you’re going to defend Trump. Notice how few Senators and Congresspeople defend him? That’s because they’re real people and are stuck with their own words. The advantage of anonymity is that you can lie today, change your name and tell the opposite lie tomorrow. Right?

    ReplyReply

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  35. michael reynolds says:

    @Scott:
    I agree, and I followed your same path from pardon to regret.

    I now believe in the Horror Movie Rule: You can’t just knock the fwcker down, you have to behead him.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  36. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Nixon should have gone to prison. I remember the “let the country heal” stuff too. Didn’t work, did it? Cheney and Rumsfeld believed that Nixon was right and shouldn’t have quit. They were determined not to make the same “mistakes” again. Bleep that noise. Trump, or as he might well be known to history – Former President Convict #6959, should not get a pardon from President Pence.

    ReplyReply

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  37. MarkedMan says:

    The Republicans have made it clear they have no interest in defending the country, and will delay and obstruct any investigation, even a treasonous one. So they failed that test. (Spare me the nonsense that there are “some” Republicans that abhor Trump. Their abhorrence might make their consciences feel good but is worth nothing in the end.) But there is another test to come: when Trump pardons the first of his cronies. At that point any true American, anyone with any decency or love of country, would have to take him down.

    I’m not optimistic. W pardoned the criminal Scooter Libby, seemingly for his silence, and the Republican team closed ranks and did nothing.

    ReplyReply

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  38. TM01 says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Meeting with Russians is illegal?

    I had no idea.

    ReplyReply

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  39. Paul L. says:

    More hate speech. So much for the media & liberals turning down their heated rhetoric before they inspire anymore shooters. Their Rules.
    @michael reynolds:

    The GOP will likely remain cowardly and complicit, a Vichy party of treason and collusion.

    This is why we need a national conversation of heated political rhetoric.

    Five people briefed on the interview requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly

    I await confirmation for this from Special Counsel Robert Mueller who I was told is so beyond reproach he would never allow leaks from his investigation.
    I also await the firing of the leakers.

    ReplyReply

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  40. gVOR08 says:

    @Scott: @michael reynolds: I heard about the pardon on my car radio while driving to pick up my then girlfriend, now wife. I found her more outraged even than I was. The phrase that lit off both of us was “for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.” We wanted to know what crimes Ford knew about that we didn’t.

    A booking photo of Nixon would have done wonders for public morality, even if he’d only been held five minutes.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  41. Todd says:

    @charon:

    November 2018 should be a wakeup. This can not go on, likely will not.

    I would change the word “likely” to “hopefully”.

    As awful as things appear to be for Republicans right now, I see no evidence that would lead me to be confident that it will necessarily translate into (significant enough) Democratic gains in the next election.

    Watch the upcoming special election in GA. If I had to put money down right now, I’d bet that Handel wins by 5+%, and that has little to do with either her or Jon Ossoff. The shooting yesterday probably made it untenable for many Republicans to vote for a Democrat … even if they don’t like Trump, or Handel for that matter. I could be wrong, but my gut says probably not.

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  42. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @TM01:

    They’ve proven accurate so far.

    Way more accurate than all you clowns yelling Benghazi!!! and email servers!!!
    Dunning, meet Kruger.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  43. TM01 says:

    “In the main,” Comey continued, the Times story “was not true.”

    Okay, there’s a little wiggle room in there when you say “in the main.” But Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a member of th Senate Intelligence Committee, made sure there was no misunderstanding when he asked Comey: Would it be fair to characterize the story as “almost entirely wrong?”

    Comey answered, “Yes.”

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 13

  44. RM says:

    @michael reynolds:

    “Gee, I don’t know. Maybe a dozen or so redundant, pointless, politically-motivated ‘investigations’ into Benghazi?”

    Yeah, everyone knows that Benghazi was sparked by a video…

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  45. TM01 says:

    History, precedent and James Comey’s opening statement show that Trump did not obstruct justice

    But what do I know?

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/alan-dershowitz-history-precedent-and-james-comeys-opening-statement-show-that-trump-did-not-obstruct-justice/article/2625318

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  46. Paul L. says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
    I hope trump sets up an illegal FOIA dodging email server.

    ReplyReply

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  47. Jen says:

    @Paul L.:

    […] Five people briefed on the interview requests, […]

    […] I await confirmation for this from Special Counsel Robert Mueller

    I think it might be mistaken to assume that the interview requests are people on Mueller’s team. People on the receiving end of interview requests–the potential interviewees or staff members, or both–could have been the source of the leaks. Mueller’s office might even be keeping key Congressional members (or, again, their staffs) in the loop as to the broad outlines of the progress of the investigation. Something like that could well include a notification that interview requests have been made.

    Edit: Actually, in re-reading this, is highly unlikely that the leakers are members of his staff–why on earth would his own staff need to be briefed on interview requests that *they* are pulling together? That makes no sense.

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  48. Rusty Writer says:
  49. Rusty Writer says:

    @TM01: Nice try, but Trump’s own aides admit he is guilty, and that he has only himself to blame for the coming obstruction charges.. http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/even-trump%E2%80%99s-aides-blame-him-for-obstruction-probe-%E2%80%98president-did-this-to-himself%E2%80%99/ar-BBCGFaF?li=AA5a8k&ocid=spartanntp

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  50. michael reynolds says:

    @TM01:
    Lying about it is.

    Dude, if you’re going to be opining do the work, try to keep up. Your Breitbart babble is running several weeks behind the state of play. We’re past that stage now.

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  51. michael reynolds says:

    @TM01:

    History, precedent and James Comey’s opening statement show that Trump did not obstruct justice

    Which is why you and Trump welcome the investigation, right? And Trump will do everything he can to help the investigation along. Right?

    You’re as dumb as he is.

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  52. Paul L. says:

    Mueller’s office might even be keeping key Congressional members (or, again, their staffs) in the loop as to the broad outlines of the progress of the investigation.

    Who are the “key Congressional members”? What is the law that requires Special Counsel Robert Mueller brief Congress?

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  53. Paul L. says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Which is why you and Trump welcome the investigation, right? And Trump will do everything he can to help the investigation along. Right?

    Like Obama did with Fast and Furious, IRS Targeting and Benghazi?

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  54. michael reynolds says:

    @Paul L.:
    They have to de-conflict testimony. It’s a long-established precedent.

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  55. Jen says:

    @Paul L.: There isn’t, to my knowledge, any law. My statement is pure conjecture, based on the fairly obvious fact that members of Mueller’s own team wouldn’t need to be briefed on what they themselves are doing. Key Congressional leaders? Oh, I dunno…maybe Speaker Ryan, Mitch McConnell, or the Senate Intelligence committee, maybe? Or the group of eight who receive classified briefings? Use your imagination. Clearly someone OUTSIDE of Mueller’s team is being briefed, and that is where the leaks are coming from, by a plain-language reading of what you excerpted.

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  56. michael reynolds says:

    @Paul L.:
    Yes, actually, Hillary made no effort to impede the first Benghazi hearing. Or the second. Or the third. Fourth. Fifth. Sixth. Seventh. . .

    There is no moral parity here whatsoever. I know that’s the line-du-jour for Trumpies and their bots, but it won’t convince anyone outside the fever swamps, and it’s losing ground there.

    But hell, jump on that Titanic, baby. That iceberg’s probably nothing to worry about.

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  57. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan: Not sure about foxes but it’s definitely true of weasels. Which, come to think of it, is more appropriate.

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  58. wr says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I could see Ivanka as Michael, but the rest are Fredo all the way down…

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  59. CSK says:

    I’m assuming he’ll Tweet himself into a corner from which he can’t get out. The very fact that the investigation is expanding is going to make him rabid.

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  60. Paul L. says:

    @michael reynolds:
    @Jen:

    I would guess any de-conflict testimony is voluntary on the part any underlings of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. No Oversight hearing.
    Democrat loyalists working for the Special Counsel who told Ted Lieu, Adam Schiff and their staffs who leaked it to the Post.

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  61. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan:

    W pardoned the criminal Scooter Libby,

    No, Bush commuted his sentence. Wikipedia:

    After the sentencing, Bush stated on camera that he would “not intervene until Libby’s legal team has exhausted all of its avenues of appeal … It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to discuss the case until after the legal remedies have run its course.”[120] Ultimately, less than a month later, on July 2, 2007, Bush chose Otis’s ‘third option’ — “neither prison nor pardon” — in commuting Libby’s prison sentence.[19][20]

    It may seem like a distinction without a difference, but Libby still has a felony conviction on his record and because of that can no longer practice law. Not to worry tho, I’m sure he has been rewarded with a nice gig on the wingnut welfare circuit.

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  62. michael reynolds says:

    @Paul L.:
    The biggest identified leakers so far are Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon. They’re a running joke, people have worked out their ‘tells.’

    But of course the biggest loudmouth, the guy who confirmed that Trump fired Comey to stop the Russia investigation, is of course: Trump.

    Why don’t you want to get to the bottom of the Russian attack on our elections, Paul?

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  63. wr says:

    @JKB: “If you want Trump, first you’ll have to convince the Constitutional majority that is geographically dispersed around the country, that voted him in. ”

    What’s that Sam Spade line again? Oh, yeah: “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.”

    The Constitutional majority that is geographically dispersed. You might as well just say “I am desperate to change the subject.” Takes a lot fewer syllables.

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  64. wr says:

    @Gustopher: Beat me to it.

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  65. Jen says:

    @Paul L.: You are assuming an awful lot there–none of which is in evidence. You are alleging leaks on the Special Counsel’s team when that is not what the reporting said. The reporting says:

    Five people briefed on the interview requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week.

    Again: Mueller’s own team does not need to be briefed on the interview requests. The people who shared this information were aware that three separate people (Coats, Rogers, Ledgett) have agreed to be interviewed. Your conjecture that this was people on the Special Counsel team sharing with members of Congress (and only Democrats) is really reaching.

    Far more probable: the leaks are coming from people at DNI, NSA, or Congressional Leadership staff (and there, I’ve thrown you a bone–maybe they’ve looped Pelosi and/or Schumer in on who is being interviewed).

    Congress leaks like a sieve, it always has. Due to Trump’s constant crapping on the intel community and his own staff, there are leakers there too. Use Occam’s Razor on this–would anyone on Mueller’s team be risking the integrity of this investigation this early? No, no they wouldn’t. It isn’t in their interest to.

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  66. Pch101 says:

    The right-wing lexicon:

    “fake news” — Facts that Trumpsters don’t like

    “hate speech” — Speech that criticizes their Dear Leader

    “racism” — Any claims that minorities suffer from disadvantages or are the targets of discrimination

    “religious freedom” — The right to discriminate against gays and minorities in the name of Jesus

    And you wonder why I can’t take right-wingers seriously

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  67. michael reynolds says:

    @wr:
    Seriously, I had better criminal tradecraft at age 24 when I was a bloody idiot. As a long-retired member of the criminal brotherhood this level of incompetence offends me. The dumbest, most strung-out, toothless meth addict in a Las Vegas drunk tank could tell you to STFU when the Law is looking at you sideways. Lawyer up and shut up. It’s on page one of the handbook.

    Trump is a prosecutor’s dream – he thinks in tweets, they think in spreadsheets; he’s a jumpy little squirrel and they are a whole wolf pack of patient, professional hunters. Mueller is filling in his bingo card with Trump’s tweets, and every time Breitbart/Bannon come up with some propaganda counter it’s inevitably weeks behind the curve and promptly destroyed by Mangolini himself in some eruption of spite and impotent rage.

    There’s a reason John Oliver calls it “Stupid Watergate.” It’s all part of the general decline of professionalism in this country. (Sigh.) You just don’t get the kind of tradecraft that was standard back in my day.

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  68. HarvardLaw92 says:

    LOL, I see that the Breitbart internet lawyers are out in force today. :roll:

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  69. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jen: Paul doesn’t use Occam’s razor, he uses Trump’s razor as defined by Josh Marshall: “The stupidest possible explanation is usually correct.”

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  70. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Speaking bluntly, Nixon was neck deep in lawyers. Watergate barely happened, and that it happened at all is pretty much solely due to Mark Felt deciding to leak.

    I’m honestly still not convinced that his motivation for doing so was anything more than revenge against Nixon for appointing Gray as Hoover’s replacement instead of Felt, but had he kept his mouth shut, we’d never have gotten Dean, and without Dean, we’d never have gotten anywhere. Watergate barely happened – because Nixon’s staff was neck deep in lawyers.

    The Trump admin is staffed largely by non-lawyer fools and, as a result, it is a leaking like the Titanic in a hurricane clown show.

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  71. charon says:

    @michael reynolds:

    as you quoted …

    History, precedent and James Comey’s opening statement show that Trump did not obstruct justice

    Except obstruction is a gate that opens paths to investigating more serious and obvious stuff – money laundering, collusion as coerced by extortion, etc.

    Chait at NYMag

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  72. CSK says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    I was under the distinct impression that even his lawyers are fools.

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  73. Jen says:

    @michael reynolds:

    he’s a jumpy little squirrel

    Exactly. Down to the constant running back INTO traffic after he’s made it across the road.

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  74. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    Kasowitz isn’t what I’d call stupid. Slimy is probably a better term – he’s more of a bagman than an attorney. In this scenario, though, he is woefully out of his depth.

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  75. michael reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    And Nixon himself was a lawyer, not to mention being an old political hand. His greatest initial protection came from his reputation. I was living in DC during Watergate finding docs and books for Wilmer, Cutler. (Now Wilmer Hale and repping Jared.) The conventional wisdom was that Nixon was too smart to have made such stupid decisions. No one thinks Trump is too smart.

    And, as you say, Nixon’s team was tight. They barely leaked, even at the end. Trump’s regime leaks the way the Lusitania leaked after the Germans put a torpedo in her. It leaks the way Dillinger leaked blood after Hoover’s boys filled him with a whole Flint-load of lead. It leaks the way the Hindenburg leaked flaming hydrogen.*

    *Observing the 3-Part Comic Tautology Rule.

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  76. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Paul L.:

    Like Obama did with Fast and Furious, IRS Targeting and Benghazi?

    Please link to the articles about Obama firing the head of the FBI or anyone else during those investigations (11 of them for BENGHAZI!!!).

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  77. Pete S says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: You’re forgetting, the second a stupid idea for a scandal came out of the right wing fever swamps Obama did not break down and confess. Which was just further evidence of his guilt or something like that. Its really the same as firing the person investigating your team, then sending out your underlings to lie to congress and the press.

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  78. Steve V says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Why don’t you want to get to the bottom of the Russian attack on our elections, Paul?

    That really is the most jaw-dropping thing about this. They just want the whole episode to be forgotten, or something.

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  79. Mikey says:

    @Steve V: Three words that explain it all:

    Party. Over. Country.

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  80. TM01 says:

    @michael reynolds:
    I have a good source that says you still beat your wife.
    It must be true because you refuse to even contest it.
    And when you do contest it, you’re just lying. My source is VERY reliable.

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  81. Pch101 says:

    @TM01:

    Coming from the mouths of the Birther Brigade, that’s quite a tortured analogy.

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  82. Tony W says:

    @Steve V: That’s because Trump cares about Trump and the legitimacy of his election. He cares nothing for the security of our country’s elections. He cares nothing for governing. He cares nothing for anybody except those with a Trump last name (Jared gets an honorary Trump).*

    *Some sort of other tautology of threes

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  83. Tony W says:

    @TM01:

    It must be true because you refuse to even contest it.

    Dude, you missed a key point – Trump admits his failures and illegal activities, even while his White House staffers scramble to explain what he actually meant when he admitted it.

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  84. Mikey says:

    Something the idiot right doesn’t seem to get about “anonymous” sources:

    They’re only anonymous to the general public. The journalists know very well who they are.

    Does anyone think Woodward and Bernstein didn’t know they were talking to the Associate (now called Deputy) Director of the FBI? Of course they did. But they kept it secret until after he died. Because if they hadn’t, nobody would ever have talked to them again.

    But the idiot right seems to think these sources get interviewed behind a black screen with a voice distorter, or some such bullshit.

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  85. Pch101 says:

    @Mikey:

    The right also refuses to acknowledge that the NYT and Washington Post are real newspapers, while Breitbart, the Washington Times, Gateway Pundit, etc. aren’t even good enough to line a birdcage.

    These people are fundamentally dumb. The issue is not just one of a difference in opinion; they are attracted to the right because it markets itself to those who are devoid of logic.

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  86. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @James in Bremerton: Barron will have to get a job anyway. There’s no telling how much the real property of Trump Enterprises is leveraged to cover the steak, vodka, men’s wear, and other elements of the enterprise. Trump’s kids probably know–and realize that they will be lucky to inherit the proceeds of the checking account once all the shouting is over. It’s probably all monopoly money.

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  87. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @bill: You should have gone with just “when;” it would have sounded far more confident. Bigly more. This way, all you rate is a

    sad, pathetic, low energy.

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  88. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Take the cannolis; leave the gun.

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  89. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    It’s debt. It’s all a somewhat sad PR illusion which is sitting in front of a mountain of debt.

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  90. michael reynolds says:

    @TM01:
    Aww, look at wittle TM-01 trying to be clever. He’s so cute.

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  91. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK:

    I was under the distinct impression that even his lawyers are fools.

    Read more: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/mueller-expands-investigation-to-include-obstruction-of-justice/#ixzz4k7vMZO9N

    There’s a truism in business: “A” level people hire other A level people. B level hires C level people. Trump, though, is much farther down the alphabet himself and awesomely stupid. The people he hires are a stupid person’s idea of a smart person. And on top of that, he requires that they actually debase themselves in front of him. That leaves a lot of people who think they are cunning bastards, but are really just bastards. The reality is that Trump’s protectors, other than the Republican Party leaders, are desperate idiots themselves. He better hope the Republican leadership doesn’t decide to toss him overboard.

    There are two key elections: Georgia and Virginia (primary). The primary in Virginia has already happened and no doubt encouraged the Repubs to hold fast to their Orange Leader. An idiot Trump supporter, universally disparaged and with no hope of winning the general, came within a mandatory recount of unseating the establishment candidate. And in Georgia, after the baseball shooting, Ossof losing may be enough to convince the Republicans that their own seats depend on sycophantic sucking up, and wind up shutting down the investigations, even if it means that the Russians are running paid agents at the highest levels of our government.

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  92. MarkedMan says:

    @Pch101:

    they are attracted to the right because it markets itself to those who are devoid of logic.

    Read more: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/mueller-expands-investigation-to-include-obstruction-of-justice/#ixzz4k7ymwHDV

    I don’t think you are being cynical enough here. For the gold-hawkers and all the other scammers who advertise on Fox, Breitbart, etc the appeal is that the audience is by and large comprised of stupid, gullible people. Years ago I heard an interview with an FBI agent who was heading up a team investigating telephone scams perpetrated against the elderly. One of the most depressing things he said was that a list of people who had lost everything to scammers was actually a valuable commodity and worth a lot of money. “But if they don’t have money, why are they worth anything?”. The agent noted that they could be tricked into getting into further debt, and they had proven themselves completely gullible. To Fox News, the fact that studies have literally shown that their audience is more poorly informed than people who don’t listen to the news at all is not a source of shame. It’s a powerpoint slide in their marketing pitch.

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  93. Mark Felt says:

    @Mikey: But they kept it secret until after he died.

    Not quite.

    “I’m the Guy They Called Deep Throat”

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  94. Jen says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Ossof losing may be enough to convince the Republicans that their own seats depend on sycophantic sucking up,

    Ossof is the Democrat in that race. How would his losing do that? Did you mean win, or am I misunderstanding something in this comment–I would think that his winning the race would do as you describe.

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  95. grumpy realist says:

    @MarkedMan: And it looks like Trump’s latest appointee lied about having a law degree.

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  96. Jen says:

    If there’s anyone still following this thread…I’m a bit baffled by Rosenstein’s most recent statement. I get being cautious about anonymous sources, but what in the world is he trying to get at with a statement that includes:

    “Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch or agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated.”

    Emphasis mine–what on earth is going on here? Is he insinuating that the leaks are coming from other countries, or is this a precursor to something dropping later today? I’m confused. (And maybe that is the objective–to confuse and obfuscate.)

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  97. Bob@Younsgtown says:

    @Jen: Still following.
    I think he is suggesting that leaks maybe being generated (to the american media) by foreign entities that may not be friendly towards the US. In short, enemy propaganda being peddled (perhaps unknowingly) to american media outlets.

    IMO, our only safeguard is the credibility of members of the american press that they take every precaution to avoid being duped.

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  98. MarkedMan says:

    @Jen: My reading of the situation is that if Ossof,an anti-Trump Democrat, wins, thereby taking a safe Republican seat, it will encourage Republicans to distance themselves from Trump. On the other hand, if he loses it will show the strength of the Republican base. They will fall all over themselves to show their undying loyalty to their Dear Leader.

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  99. Jen says:

    @MarkedMan: Gotcha. I agree–thanks for clarifying.

    @Bob@Younsgtown: Makes sense…as much as any of this makes an iota of sense at all…

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  100. charon says:

    @MarkedMan

    The situation is complicated by possibility of election hacking, as Georgia is extraordinarily susceptible/vulnerable, and Georgia election officials are exhibiting total absence of concern or desire to do anything about that situation.

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  101. TM01 says:

    @michael reynolds:
    I’m as dumb as Alan Dershowitz too.

    Don’t forget him.

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  102. TM01 says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Gullible. LOL.

    Apparently you missed the Colbert audience reaction to news that Comey had been fired. Everyone cheered before Colbert corrected them and said that it was A Bad Thing Now.

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