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Buried lede: “Mr. McGahn cautioned to investigators that he never saw Mr. Trump go beyond his legal authorities”

Buried lede: “Mr. McGahn cautioned to investigators that he never saw Mr. Trump go beyond his legal authorities”

Team Mueller, however, doesn’t care.

The NY Times has a story today that is making waves, concerning the cooperation of White House counsel Donald McGahn with Robert Mueller and his team, with the permission of Trump.

If true, it reflects an incredible naïveté on the part of Trump, and incompetence on the part of his first set of lawyers, as to how to deal with the Mueller investigation.

Here’s the lede, White House Counsel Has Cooperated Extensively With Mueller’s Obstruction Inquiry:

The White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, has cooperated extensively in the special counsel investigation, sharing detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice, including some that investigators would not have learned of otherwise, according to a dozen current and former White House officials and others briefed on the matter.

In at least three voluntary interviews with investigators that totaled 30 hours over the past nine months, Mr. McGahn described the president’s furor toward the Russia investigation and the ways in which he urged Mr. McGahn to respond to it. He provided the investigators examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice a clear view of the president’s most intimate moments with his lawyer….

For a lawyer to share so much with investigators scrutinizing his client is unusual. Lawyers are rarely so open with investigators, not only because they are advocating on behalf of their clients but also because their conversations with clients are potentially shielded by attorney-client privilege, and in the case of presidents, executive privilege….

Mr. McGahn’s cooperation began in part as a result of a decision by Mr. Trump’s first team of criminal lawyers to collaborate fully with Mr. Mueller. The president’s lawyers have explained that they believed their client had nothing to hide and that they could bring the investigation to an end quickly.

The story does not provide much detail as to what McGahn told Mueller, but rather, focuses on the topics covered and the unusual nature of such cooperation.

And indeed, if Trump and his first set of lawyers decided not to assert attorney-client and executive privileges, it’s almost incomprehensible.

For the one-millionth time, I’ll repeat that Robert Mueller and his team want Trump indicted (which would have to wait until he leaves office) or impeached. It’s that simple. Anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves.

Trump believing himself to be free of criminality or bad behavior will not sway Team Mueller.

Trump actually being free or criminality or bad behavior also will not sway Team Mueller.

I’m reminded of the scene from the fugitive, where the fugitive Dr. Richard Kimball wrongly accused of murder (Harrison Ford) is confronted by Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones).  The fugitive says “I didn’t kill my wife,” and the U.S. Marshal responds “I don’t care.”

The guilt or innocence of the fugitive was irrelevant to the task at hand — to capture the fugitive.

From day one Trump needed to proceed on the basis that Team Mueller didn’t care about his guilt or innocence, and that they wanted one thing only: To get Trump.

Trump’s reaction to the NY Times story seems to indicate he doesn’t yet get that.

The buried lede is in the 9th paragraph of the story in which some level of specificity is given as to what McGahn told Mueller (emphasis added):

In fact, Mr. McGahn laid out how Mr. Trump tried to ensure control of the investigation, giving investigators a mix of information both potentially damaging and favorable to the president. Mr. McGahn cautioned to investigators that he never saw Mr. Trump go beyond his legal authorities, though the limits of executive power are murky.

You know what else Team Mueller doesn’t care about? Don McGahn’s opinion as to the president’s innocence.


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Good lord. I stopped giving press interviews about cases 30 years ago and never a statement to the other side except in settlement discussions.

I wonder if most people even care about this nonsense. It is a legal/political meltdown. A frame up job.

Here is what I am betting: In the midst of this document dump and disclosure is a bunch of information that would be very detrimental to Team Mueller if it were to be made public. A deal will be struck, and shortly after the Labor Day holiday, there will be an announcement that a report will soon be issued and this dog-and-pony show will be closing.

Per the Times

He provided the investigators examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice a clear view of the president’s most intimate moments with his lawyer….

A ridiculous statement. There is no way in hell they can possibly know how “clear a view” they’re being fed unless they have video of these intimate moments, and if they did, they wouldn’t bother talking to this guy.

    Elzorro in reply to tom_swift. | August 19, 2018 at 6:33 am

    His point appears to be that a president using his Article II vested power can never obstruct or interfere with justice. I contend obstructing a criminal plot to overthrow and undermine an elected president is a virtue, not a criminal violation of the codes. A president obstructing Social Justice is the remedy to our problems. How can exercising a constitutional right be converted in to a crime?

    Arminius in reply to tom_swift. | August 20, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    Of course they’d talk to him. That’s how they got Flynn for lying to federal investigators. Kislyak, as the Russian ambassador, was clearly under surveillance. They had audio recordings of Flynn’s conversations with him, as Flynn at the time was a member of Trump’s transition team and designated to be Trump’s National Security Advisor.

    Lying to federal investigators, as in a perjury trap, is in the eye of the beholder. Specifically, the eye of the prosecutor. The FBI investigators didn’t think Flynn had lied to them. Remember, they had the audio recording so they knew exactly what Flynn and Kislyak discussed. But Flynn didn’t; he was working from memory, and there is no way Flynn, nor you, nor I could remember in perfect detail what we discussed in one of many hundreds of phone conversations over a period of a month or so.

    This is how Mueller and especially his deputy Weissman have operated for well over a decade when they first appeared on my personal radar screen. I think it’s fair to conclude that they’ve been operating unethically in a “win at any cost” manner for far longer than that. Some of their favorite tactics to gain convictions include go for the bogus process crime, invent crimes, dupe judges into manipulating jury instructions, bankrupt the accused, and threaten family members with further unjustifiable, financially destructive prosecution.

    In Gen. Flynn’s case these dishonorable men skipped the inventing crimes and duping the judge into manipulating jury instructions as they were able to coerce Flynn into pleading guilty. But they used all the other dirty tricks that I’m familiar with from Mueller’s anthrax investigation following 9/11 and Weissman’s disgraceful conduct during his tenure on the Enron prosecution team.

    Weissman really should have lost his law license over that, but apparently the New York bar association is as corrupt as these two. Instead of deciding the ethics complaint themselves, they surreptitiously handed it over the the DoJ to have their Office of Professional Responsibility decide the case. The OPR has limited ability to sanction their own attorneys and in any case can not suspend or revoke anyone’s law licenses. And, since the DoJ had been defending Weissman against the ethics chargers, the DoJ came to the exact conclusion you’d expect if a client’s lawyer is tasked with investigating a matter that they had been hired to defend their client against. They found him as pure as the driven snow.

    These are not honorable men. If they had a video of Trump’s “intimate moments” with McGahn they would be drooling and lunging at the chance to trip him up.

When will this farce end? Even the Democrats know it is nonsense, they just need it to go on for their base.

This entire sordid Mueller “investigation” was borne of crone Hillary’s infantile dirty tricks campaign op, aided and abetted by corrupt, self-serving and vainglorious Dumb-o-crat zealots in the Obama Administration and in the upper ranks of the intelligence apparatus. Partisans who are all-too-happy to embrace lawless and illegal tactics, like Soviet apparatchiks, in order to undermine and hobble domestic political opposition.

The Mueller fiasco cannot be separated from Hillary’s farcical “exoneration” and escaping of prosecution and punishment, and, the self-aggrandizing, rabid and unhinged antics of vile useful idiot and communist/jihadist sympathizer John Brennan, who should have been banned from holding any government job, much less that of CIA Director. Comey, Strzok, McCabe, Ohr, et al. are all cut from the same greasy, egotistical, self-serving and mendacious bolt of cloth as Brennan.

The anti-Trump zealots have caused irreperable damage to the country, and, have demonstrated that they have no intention of ever conceding political power when on the losing side in an election. Accordingly,they’ve further demonstrated that no Dumb-o-cat — at least, not one of the rabid, radical, America-flagellating, duplicitous and lawless contemporary mold — can ever be trusted to hold the reins of political power, ever again.

    Elzorro in reply to guyjones. | August 18, 2018 at 10:45 pm

    Will they be able to concoct some sort of criminal charge using the vast array of vague statutes covering obstruction or interference? With all the information Trumps legal team handed over on a silver platter how hard would it be?

      Close The Fed in reply to Elzorro. | August 19, 2018 at 7:52 am

      ElZorro: I would agree with you, except they apparently haven’t found what would make it colorable….. Very unexpected. Instead, they’re putting Manafort through hell trying to get something there to use.

      So, I’m surprised.

What we are going to need at the end of this is some payback for the things this group did to our nation’s honor. They have essentially turned our IC into a third world dictatorship. In my lifetime I don’t believe I will ever have any respect for the FBI or the CIA when they are questioned about any misdeed. In the past, both agencies have made horrible mistakes in judgment but this puts them at the level of greedy politicians where their wishes are more important than their country or the truth. Prison time is the only remedy for them or they will have destroyed valuable security assets of our government.

Just shut up President Trump! Good God I’m a lowly paralegal … whoever approving you tweets I’ll do it for half the price and be more clever. Call me.

My number is 908-463-1800. I can give you some good stuff.

Connivin Caniff | August 19, 2018 at 1:30 am

This is more than shocking. If McGahn is either this incompetent, or this despicably disloyal, or both, he should be fired and disbarred immediately. Even non-lawyer Trump can’t be this stupid, unless he is being set up by very clever betrayers.

“The NY Times has a story today – ”

The Fish Wife down the lane has a better story, more entertaining. But we pay no heed to gossip and party propaganda.

One day the NYTs will become irrelevant, just like she did once people stopped hanging on her every word.

“[whomever] cautioned to investigators…”

Whither the Grey Cnut’s layers and layers of editors.

Mired in their own murk, maybe?

Near the end of the NYT piece, Maggie Haberman and Mike Schmidt note wryly that “as the months passed on, it became apparent that Mr. McGahn and his lawyer had overestimated the amount of thought that they believed the president put into his legal strategy. This is evidenced in the latest Trump tweet on the matter:

“I allowed White House Counsel Don McGahn, and all other requested members of the White House Staff, to fully cooperate with the Special Counsel. In addition we readily gave over one million pages of documents. Most transparent in history. No Collusion, No Obstruction. Witch Hunt!”

Readers may be interested in visiting to read Marcy Wheeler’s takedown of the NYT’s slant.

DouglasJBender | August 19, 2018 at 5:35 am

Can’t we just dispense with the pretense of justice and truth behind the “investigation”, and turn it into a Best-of-7 World Championship or something?

    Here is a good comment on these matters I found to be so telling of our current predicament.

    “The last year of American freedom was 1905. In that year a man could walk down Bourbon Street with a bag of cocaine, a bag of heroin, a bag of pot, a gallon of Laudanum, $20,000 cash, and a Gatling machine gun, with dynamite. And the police would have only said , “Good Morning Sir.”

Steel cage death matcc between Mueller and Trump.

30 hours? For what other than setting a perjury trap with the hopes of flipping the counsel. Also, if Trump is gonna denounce the Russia probe as a which hunt, then why give it the credibility of presidential cooperation?

Close The Fed | August 19, 2018 at 8:07 am

No more of these “independent” so-and-soes.

Enough of the uncontrolled team of horses running amok with a wagon of unwilling passengers on it.

I remember from Iran Contragate thinking that the very best white collar defense attorneys never make any statements to the media. It is puzzling that Trump’s original legal team would not assert privilege but that must have been a political rather than a legal calculation. Also, in order to assert an “advice of counsel” defense, which may be available in an obstruction of justice prosecution, given that the so-called “obstruction” would have been the President carrying out his Constitutional duties (a paradox, I think I agree with Dershowitz on this point), McGahn would need to be able to provide the factual predicate for it. Just McGahn stating that Trump never exceeded his legal authority seems to make it clear that’s what’s going on here, even though the idiots at the NY Times don’t have a clue. Also–it is impossible to believe that McGahn himself would have cooperated with this strategy and remained White House counsel if he didn’t agree with Ty Cobb and the other Trump attorney about it. If I had a client who insisted I waive privilege in a manner that I thought was going to cut my client’s own legal throat, contrary to my own advice to the client, I would withdraw from the representation; I wouldn’t continue to be his lawyer. I.e. if McGahn actually disagreed with this strategy, he could have quit the White House entirely. Since all these conversations are being characterized as “voluntary,” he wouldn’t have had to participate, at all, if he had a fundamental disagreement with the Trump legal team strategy. Hence what we are reading in this article is just more NY Times distortion and stupidity.

Here is what I think, barring any actual evidence coming out of Mueller’s office:

1. I agree with Dershowitz that since Trump as Pres has Constitutional authority to fire Executive Branch officials like Comey, firing Comey, even if the reason Trump did it is because of personal ire over the way the Russia investigation was going, does not constitute obstruction of justice.

2. The mens rea for obstruction of justice has to be a specific intent to interfere with the investigation. Trump fired Comey not to interfere with the investigation, but because he believed Comey was mishandling it. At least that’s what all Trump’s tweets and twitters seem to suggest.

3. There is no actus rea here. Firing Comey did not actually interfere with the Russia investigation. Do we have a single FBI agent assigned to the Russia investigation quoted as saying that the firing of Comey in any way interfered with their carrying out of their duties?

4. I think moreover that obstruction of justice has to involve something more concrete, like giving false testimony to an investigator or actual concealment of evidence in a material way. There is no evidence that Trump did either. Since we now know the lead investigator on the Russia matter was Strzok, is there any proof that Trump lied to Strzok or gave Strzok false information with the intent of impairing Strzok’s investigation? I don’t think so.

5. Differences between Comey and Trump about what was said during a White House conversation shortly before Comey was fired as FBI director cannot possibly rise to the level of obstruction of justice of the Russia investigation. Rather, it’s a perjury trap should Trump voluntarily talk to the Muller team. The “crime” won’t be obstruction, it will be Martha Stewart-esque–Comey says “A”, you say “not A”, YOU must be the “liar.”

Trump should have short-circuited this from the first, by telling Comey explicitly to lay off Flynn. He had every right to do so, but seems not to have realized it.

    maxtrue in reply to Milhouse. | August 19, 2018 at 11:53 pm

    You seem particularly astute. I was fortunate to see Nekrasov’s movie before it was banned. It is quite powerful and claimed Browder’s translations of original Russian documents were false. Mueller will be forced to discuss Magnitsky once the Trump Jr meeting is attacked. What can be done by lawyers here to start investigating whether Nekrasov is correct which would send a shock wave through the investigation, one reason perhaps it was banned. Can Putin hire lawyers to sue? A number of Russians were murdered in this case and Browder may in fact been a major party to felony fraud and conspiracy to commit murder. Why has it been banned?

Trump, as most people outside the political spectrum, was simply naive, with regard to how the established governmental/political apparatus worked. he followed the advice of his advisors and ended up in deep doo-doo.

As both a practical and political matter, Comey should have been replaced immediately upon trump assuming office. Based solely upon his handling of the Servergate investigation, such action would been harder for the Democrats to complain about. This did not happen. However, Comey’s tenure was tenuous, and everyone in government circles knew it. So, Sessions, not wanting to get involved, recuses himself from the Russia Collusion fantasy and appoints Rod Rosenstein, who is up to his eyeballs in the illegal actions against the Trump campaign and administration, as well as a slew of other partisan actions over the years, to head the investigation. He gets Comey fired, which affords Comey protections which he did not have as a serving Director of the FBI and allows Rosenstein to move the “investigation” out of the DOJ and into the hands of a, supposedly, independent investigator, Mueller. The investigation had to continue to protect the conspirators, including Rosenstein, by putting pressure on Trump to stop pushing the investigations into illegal activity by government employees during the Obama years. And, Mueller used the same methods perfected by organized crime, threatening family and friends of the target.

However, Trump is not stupid and he learns quickly. His response to this was to ratchet up the pressure on the conspirators, from the last administration, using the Congress. He has been wildly successful and now these people are getting more and more desperate.

With White House counsel Don McGahn’s cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller, why would Mr Mueller need to ask any questions of Mr Trump ? Mr Mueller already has all the answers.
This will make proving the “need” to interview Trump harder to prove if Mueller attempts to pull Trump before a grand jury.