This Week In Russiagate, July 23, 2017 Edition

Letting their love of all things Russia flow, we now know more about the June 9, 2016 meeting at the boss’s Manhattan Tower.  The meeting must have been crowded as it now appears to have included a few more participants than originally reported, and was followed by a subsequent addition. Things are getting ready to explode on This Week In Russiagate, as the players are set to start talking to Congress.

Is Eight Enough?

We now know that there were at least eight people in the meeting with the 45th*’s then campaign team and the Russians. The eighth person has been identified as Ike Kaveladze who,

Attended the meeting as a representative of Aras and Emin Agalarov, the father-and-son Russian developers who hosted the Trump-owned Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow in 2013, according to Scott Balber, an attorney for the Agalarovs, who said he also represents Kaveladze.”

These are the eight people: Donald Junior; Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya; the British music agent Rob Goldstone; Jared Kushner; Paul Manafort; Rinat Akhmetshin, the Russian born now American citizen and lobbyist; the US citizen Anatoli Samochornov, who was there as a translator; and Ike Kaveladze representing the Algarov family.  As Junior might say,

That’s everything”,

for now.

But then there was that meeting that Donald Junior’s father had with Vladimir Putin without a translator, for what is believed to have been about one hour at dinner during the G-20 conference.

We also learned last week about a meeting between the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who is believed to have met with our State Department’s Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Thomas Shannon. Their discussion was on the return of two diplomatic compounds seized by the Obama Administration in response to the Russian intervention in the 2016 United States elections.

Meanwhile, Donald Junior, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort are set for interviews before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee in closed sessions with Committee staffers. According to a statement released on July 19, 2017, by attorney Abbe Lowell, Jared Kushner will sit down in closed session with the Senate Committee on July 24, 2017.  He will then meet in closed session with the House Committee the next day. Moreover, there has been another amendment to Jared’s SF-86 filing, this time adding 77 assets his lawyers say were inadvertently omitted from his previous filings.

Donald Junior and Paul Manafort, who were originally expected to testify in public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, have agreed to provide documents and to be interviewed behind closed doors on July 26, 2017. This does not mean that they will not eventually be questioned in public, according to a tweet from Senator Diane Feinstein, (D-CA),

“The Judiciary Committee will talk to Trump Jr. & Manafort before they testify in public, but we will get answers.”

Also of interest last week was the decision by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, Richard Burr, (R-NC)  refusing to attend a White House luncheon on July 19, 2017, for Republican Senators intended for a discussion on the Trumpcare Bill now stalled in the Senate. Chairman Burr said that,

“I’ll make it a habit while this investigation is going on that I don’t go down to the White House.”

This is a smart move by Senator Burr who probably does not to want to see his chairmanship jeopardized as was done by Congressman Devin Nunes, (R-CA), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, by virtue of his private meetings with the White House.

Comings And Goings On The Legal And Communications Teams 

The happenings surrounding the Russiagate investigation seemed to have effected the  President’s legal and communications teams.

Attorney General Sessions is back in two ways.  First, his boss, the 45th* President of the United States, began to openly question his choice of Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General because of the decision by Attorney General Sessions to recuse himself. The President said in an interview with the New York Times on July 19, 2017, that,

“How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”

Second, is news of intercepted communications from Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, to the Kremlin, that are purported to relate to two discussions with then Senator Sessions acting in his role as a foreign policy advisor to 45th*’s campaign. Sessions has previously denied the fact of these meetings or any recollection of ever having discussed campaign matters with Kislyak.

The White House is believed by many to be the source of the leaked communications between Kislyak and the Kremlin, yet the Twitterer In Chief is hard at work turning the tables back onto the press saying,

“A new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post, this time against A.G. Jeff Sessions.These illegal leaks, like Comey’s, must stop!”

The investigation under the direction of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, is now believed to be targeting a variety of financial transactions between the President, his businesses, his family, and his associates with Russian interests. The transactions include,

“Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008.”

Special Counsel Mueller is also believed to have taken over the federal grand jury investigation into,

Money laundering and the business dealings of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.”

45th* is now warning Mueller to stay away from investigating his financial history outside of Russia. Responding to a question from the the New York Times on if that would cross a red line, the President said,

“I would say yes…I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”

The 45th* President also thinks that Special Counsel Mueller and Congress should be investigating the Hillary Clinton and the the Democratic Party connections to Russia, not his.

There was also the shake up announced late last week in the President’s legal team as the former head of his personal legal team, Marc E. Kasowitz, accepted a reduced role. Jim Dowd and Jay Sekulow will take over as lead attorneys for the President himself with newly hired Ty Cobb, taking over as head of legal communications for the White House.The spokesperson for the legal team, Mark Carolla, also resigned last Friday, because he

Disagreed with the alleged strategy of Mr Trump’s lawyers to discredit or limit the team directing the investigation.”

Long speculated but now a reality, Sean Spicer has resigned from his role as White House Press Secretary. Spicer’s  resignation was in protest of the hiring of Anthony Scaramucci as the new White House Communications Director.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders gets a promotion into Spicer’s old job as Press Secretary.

Fans of Saturday Night live are crushed by the news that Spicy is out but be assured that the show will go on.  Anthony Scaramucci might prove to be every bit as rich a source of comic entertainment.

Pardon Me?

Pay no attention to that pardon talk revealed by the Washington Post, says Jay Sekulow, 45th*s spokes-lawyer, and newly minted Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, as pardons are not being discussed. The Twitterer In Chief seemed to indicate otherwise, tweeting that,

“While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS”

Legal opinion on the matter is split. According to Jonathan Turley, the sitting President does have the power to pardon himself. But 45th* is wrong, according to Lawrence Tribe of Harvard University School of Law, a leading Constitutional law expert, who says no because of,

“The fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case.”

Here is what the Constitution has to say on the power to pardon giving the President the power,

Shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”

The Constitution is silent as to who the President can pardon. The Constitution is silent as to any standards for judicial review of a pardon. We can find no record of any pardon granted by a United States President being challenged in Court. What is clear is that a pardon cannot be used to avoid impeachment. Further, the issue would come up in the Courts only in the event that a future Department of Justice decided to indict the former 45th* President of the United States.

A challenge to a pardon granted by the sitting President, to the sitting President, would be rendered moot if the successor to the 45th* President of the United States were to pardon his predecessor. This would cure any possible problems related to the previous pardon. There is also the issue of predicting a ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States, as presently constituted, on the issue. The Court might move even further to the right in the event that the 45th* President or the 46th President gets the opportunity to appoint a new Justice before the case comes before the Court for review. We have no reason to believe that the Court then or now would rule against the 45th* President, but we do agree with attorney Jay Sekulow, if 45th* pardons himself, the issue

“Would probably have to be adjudicated by the Supreme Court to determine constitutionality.”

Before visiting the issue of a presidential pardon issued by 45th* to himself, the question of whether a sitting President can be indicted, must be examined. The New York Times has published a legal memorandum authored by conservative law professor and member of the Federalist Society, Ronald Rotunda, who was hired as a consultant, by the Office of Kenneth Starr, the Special Prosecutor, appointed to look into the affairs of President William Jefferson Clinton. According to Professor Rotunda,

“It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties.”

A 1973 memorandum authored by a former head of the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, Robert G. Dixon Jr.,  came to a contrary conclusion, opining that,

“The Constitution’s “structural principles” make the President immune from indictment.”

Watergate Special Prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, received an opinion from his staff  in a 1974 memorandum that set forth the arguments for and against indicting the sitting President. We note that both Leon Jaworski and Kenneth Starr were operating under the 1978 Special Prosecutors Law, which was,

“The first generation of the statutory independent prosecutor scheme. Congress reviewed, debated, and revised the statutory procedures in 1983, 1987, and 1994.”

The Special Prosecutors Law reauthorized on July 1, 1994, ironically signed into law by President Clinton, referred to the law as,

“A foundation stone for the trust between the Government and our citizens.”

The Special Prosecutors Law gave Kennth Starr the power to indict as it granted,

“Full power and independent authority to exercise all investigative and prosecutorial functions and powers of DOJ and the Attorney General.”

Clinton partners, James and Susan McDougal, along with Arkansas Governor, Jim Guy Tucker, were indicted and convicted in 1996 as part of the Whitewater affair. Both Leon Jaworski, the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate affair, and Kenneth Starr, decided to,

“Let congressional impeachment proceedings play out and did not try to indict the presidents while they remained in office.”

Robert Mueller has been appointed Independent Counsel under the regulations of the United States Department of Justice. Mueller has less autonomy and power than that which was available under the Special Prosecutors Law that expired on June 30,1999, in that Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, who appointed Mueller,

“Must be notified of any specific actions the special counsel intends to take, and has the ability to countermand those proposed actions.”

The old Special Prosecutors Law did not grant the Attorney General, or in this case, the Deputy Attorney General, the power to overrule the decision to seek indictments. Does anyone really believe that this Department of Justice would permit Robert Mueller to indict this President?  We don’t believe that would ever happen, even if the law permitted the indictment of the sitting President.

There is a long and well documented history of love for all things Russian flowing to the present first family of the United States. Slowly but surely we are learning of more meetings, more Russian connections, and more previously hidden disclosures from the President and his gang. The comings and goings before the various Congressional Committees looking into the ever expanding investigations will continue to make things interesting for an American public looking for all of the answers. Please continue to follow The Democratic Road as we continue to follow This Week In Russiagate.

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