The weekend in politics was highlighted by knowledge that Special Counsel Bob Mueller received 10,000 emails from 13 officials from the White House transition team. Mueller wrote a demand letter to the General Services Administration, and they sent him the emails, and those emails probably contain communications between folks like Kushner and Flynn, communications that could potentially be damning. Apparently, some of the information from those emails has already been used to question witnesses (and perhaps catch them in lies). Team Trump isn’t happy about it, and sent a letter to Congress voicing their complaints. From WashPo:
The letter from Kory Langhofer, counsel to Trump for America, alleged that career GSA employees improperly provided privileged communications to investigators working for Mueller, contending that transition documents are private property and not public records.
The special counsel’s office rejected the allegations.
“When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process,” said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s team.
OK. A few things. 1) I’m not sure how this is Mueller’s fault, if he sent a letter and the GSA complied. If anyone was in the wrong (and I don’t think anyone was), it was the GSA for complying (from what I understand, the lackey that Trump put in to head the GSA was sick (and later died) and it was a career staffer who complied). 2) There should be no expectation of privacy in those emails — they were on government servers, the Trump staff waived their right to privacy, and according to several Obama officials I’ve seen on Twitter over the weekend, they warned officials during their transition that no expectation of privacy should be assumed. Likewise, executive privilege does not come into play here because Trump was not yet an “executive.” 3) If Trump really had a legal problem here, they should have taken it to court. The fact that Trump’s lawyer sent a letter to Congress (and leaked it) shows that this is entirely political. In fact, Republican Trey Gowdy’s response to the letter was, “Uh, if you folks have a problem, take it up within the courts.”
Maybe Mueller should have issued a subpoena instead of a demand letter here, but I don’t see any major legal challenges for the Special Counsel. This is just another attempt by the Trump Administration to discredit the Special Counselor’s office in the hopes that the public will lose faith in their findings. A lot of people are concerned that Trump is laying the groundwork to fire Mueller, but Trump said yesterday that he has no intention of doing so (that doesn’t mean that he won’t). While saying he wouldn’t fire Mueller, he also continued to badmouth the probe, suggesting it a partisan attack.
However, according the the NYTimes and the Washington Post, Trump is more fixated on getting rid of Rod Rosenstein — who is the Deputy Attorney General, and in charge of the Special Counsel’s office.
Rather, Trump appeared to be contemplating changes in the Justice Department’s leadership. In recent discussions, two advisers said, Trump has called the attorney general “weak,” and complained that Rosenstein has shown insufficient accountability on the special counsel’s work. A senior official said Trump mocked Rosenstein’s recent testimony on Capitol Hill, saying he looked weak and unable to answer questions. Trump has ranted about Rosenstein as “a Democrat,” one of these advisers said, and characterized him as a threat to his presidency.
In fact, Rosenstein is a Republican. In 2005, President George W. Bush nominated him to be U.S. attorney in Maryland.
I’ve also seen speculation that Andrew McCabe — a top guy at the FBI — could get shitcanned as soon as this week, and Trump isn’t even happy with the new FBI director, Christopher Wray, who he just brought in to replace James Comey. Trump is apparently upset that Wray hasn’t completely cleaned house at the FBI and replaced everyone with Trump loyalists.
Anyway, it’s a mess. It’s got Democrats on edge, and fearful that Trump is going to wait until Friday — after Congress has left for the year — to fire Mueller. To do so, he’d probably need to fire Rosenstein and then find someone who will fire Mueller for him, which could mean a Saturday Night Massacre type situation (for the record, Rachel Brand — a Bush appointee who is in no way related to Russell Brand — is next in line).
I really don’t think that Trump is going to fire Mueller. It’s way too dangerous. I think he’s content to use Fox News to try and discredit Mueller and the probe by continuing to assert that the FBI is a KGB type organization trying to overthrow the government, arguments that are being made by people like Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro. Is it any wonder that even Fox News viewers’ approval of Trump is going down (it’s at 58 percent now among Fox News viewers)? Viewers who spend a few hours watching Fox News are probably surprised to walk out of their house and find that the world has not been set on fire.
Anyway, things are super weird and tense right now, and both sides are on edge. One side is afraid that Trump is about to fire Mueller, and the other side is afraid that Mueller is about to unload another series of indictments. Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans seem comfortable calling the Mueller probe partisan, but they stop short of calling for Mueller’s termination.
Meanwhile, according to CNN, Trump still thinks that Mueller will exonerate him soon, and he’s even got it into his head that he’ll get a “letter” to that effect.
Three sources familiar with the President’s recent conversations about the investigation said Trump has become convinced that he will receive a letter of exoneration, which would be unusual. One source worried Trump would have a “meltdown” if that doesn’t happen.
“He’ll try and fire Mueller and then be impeached,” this person predicted.
Hey guys, between you and me, I don’t think Mueller is working up a letter to exonerate Trump. I do look forward to that meltdown, however.