Local News: Asheville and HendersonvilleNews StoriesPete Zamplas

Trump team pumps up probe counter-punching

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows navigates political waters and counter-attacks Democrats over the Russian dossier triggering the Trump probe. Archived photo.

By Pete Zamplas – Political whirlwinds are swirling on both sides of investigations into alleged Russian meddling in U.S. elections two years ago, with attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Alan Dershowitz firing salvos about the validity of the probe and partisanship of FBI moves.

The probe Trump calls a “witch hunt” by special counsel Robert Mueller entered its second year last Thursday. Trump’s fiery fellow seasoned New Yorkers’ counter attacks are joined by those by his allies in Congress. U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows and House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) challenge the probe on such grounds as it stemmed from the “Russian dossier” arranged by associates of Hillary Clinton, whom Trump beat in the 2016 presidential election, and thus is politically-charged.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Clinton’s campaign reportedly funded the dossier on Trump and his main advisors. British ex-spy Christopher Steele investigated, reportedly relying on Russian intelligence officials for what actually happened.

“Much of the dossier contained claims that have either not been verified or have been directly refuted,” Meadows charged. The dossier in turn triggered court authorization for FBI surveillance on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and then many other Trump officials. A GOP House memo reportedly lashes out at Steele for misleading information, that escalated the current probe.

Meadows recently told The Tribune in person that various evidence is “conclusive,” convincing him the probe is ill-guided and stemmed from dubious sources and motivations. He serves on the House Intelligence Committee, which in late April vindicated the Trump team in its four-page memo. The committee ripped the Mueller probe, in what Democrats tabbed as a diversion to a legit investigation.

Mueller was the longest-serving (in 2001-13) FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover, and appointed by G.W. Bush. Some see him as objective and with integrity, but others as an anti-Trump Republican enabling Democrats’ politicking.

“From day one, the ‘Russian collusion’ investigation into the Trump campaign was an empty case. It is a house built on sand,” Rep. Meadows stated. “The Intelligence Committee report confirms—as we’ve known for nearly a year—there is no evidence of any collusion. The stark lack of evidence raises serious concerns as to whether there was any legitimate foundation to begin an investigation in the first place.”

Worse, he said, is the apparent “political project targeting then-candidate Donald Trump” in ’16 and the probe since he took office. Meadows said, “We now know more information about the nefarious role the Clinton campaign and Obama intelligence officials appeared to have played, in using the ‘salacious and unverified’ Russian dossier to both spy on the Trump campaign and to leak unfounded allegations to the media. There is far more evidence of wrongdoing on the part of James Comey, James Clapper, and the Obama Justice Department than there ever has been in the collusion case.”

Specifically, Meadows said, Steele was hired by D.C. research firm Fusion GPS with law firm Perkins Coie an agent for Democrats to enlist Fusion GPS in April of ‘16, Rep. Meadows further explained. He cited a conflict of interest, as in that same month Pres. Obama’s campaign war chest started paying more than $900,000 to Perkins Coie.

Under Obama the “FBI attempted to pay (and later reimbursed) costs for a Russian dossier that was being orchestrated by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign,” Meadows said. “Why was President Obama’s FBI involved in paying for a political project the Clinton campaign was orchestrating?…Strangely, the FBI has refused to answer questions and resisted any transparency on this issue.”

Meadows said congressional inquiry further uncovered that since-fired FBI Dir. Comey and other intelligence officials briefed Pres.-elect Trump on the dossier contents early last year, and within four days later its unverified contents were leaked to CNN and published by Buzzfeed. Comey later testified to a Senate panel the lea was done by his “good friend” Dan Richman, whom he hired as a special-projects FBI worker. Meadows call it “odd” and suspicious “that Comey would offer a special job and give a high-level clearance and full access to his friend, when there are 35,000 employees at the FBI.”

Meadows concluded “it is time for the special counsel investigation to end. Robert Mueller must wrap this up and bring it to a close. It is time to put the focus back on what’s actually important in America.”

New twists include that an FBI informant during the Obama Administration infiltrated Trump’s presidential campaign, to at least get information from Trump aides. Meadows and Nunes have also urged release of the memo detailing alleged surveillance abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department.

Muddling of the mud-slinging is forecast by many political analysts to steer more of the independent public to feel ambivalent about accusations about Trump. His staunchest supporters are seen as riled up and extra eager to vote in mid-term elections, perhaps as much as Democrats upset with Trump style and policies and wanting their party to seize control of one or both congressional chambers. Democrats likely want the probe to linger into the Nov. 8 election.

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein — who many see on the hot seat more than Mueller — appointed Mueller of the FBI as special counsel. This is to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. federal elections. This includes possible collusion with Trump election representatives, and supposedly related improprieties.

Republicans have charged the probe is a partisan election vendetta, and has veered off course too much into Trump’s pre-presidential and personal life such as supposed hush money for his affair with porn star Stormy Daniels. Many observers say the Stormy angle is to get records of Trump attorney Michael Cohen, fishing beyond her for payoffs and memos that may apply to more pertinent election collusion.

Further, Trump tweeted that new insights that Donald Trump Jr. and other aides met with Saudi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) reps (such as about using social media) in the ’16 election campaign signal a dead-end about Russians and turning over another rock.

“Things are really getting ridiculous,” Trump tweeted to the public Sunday. “The Failing and Crooked (but not as Crooked as Hillary Clinton) @nytimes has done a long & boring story indicating that the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt has found nothing on Russia & me so now they are looking at the rest of the World!”

Of course, looking also elsewhere does not mean nothing is found about Russians. So far, 19 Russians have been indicted including 13 by Mueller’s staff.

Most analysts agree it is much more likely Trump Jr. and the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner are forced to testify than Pres. Trump himself. Kushner reportedly met during the ’16 campaign with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow.

Russians seem to have reached out to both sides of the U.S. aisle, reportedly meeting also with Democratic operatives about helping their party but without reaching any deal. The DNC headquarters was reportedly more easily hacked than the GOP’s center, enabling Russians to offer campaign secrets more to Republicans.

Dershowitz hammered down several points Sunday, spiritedly debating ABC News chief legal analyst Dan Abrams on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” Dershowitz reportedly dined with Pres. Trump in the White House a month ago, and thus could be in Trump’s camp. The noted civil rights lawyer is a Harvard law professor emeritus.

Showing foresight and prioritization, Dershowitz called for seeking “the truth, the facts, changing the law, and making sure it (foreign meddling) doesn’t happen again.” He said laws on foreign representatives need to be clarified, but as are they are less restrictive than portrayed.

It is legal for Russians and/or Arab allies to have backed Trump (or Clinton) for president, but not to donate money clearly for campaign use, Dershowitz said. He said several U.S. Supreme Court rulings allow foreign interests to “intrude into elections, if they have an interest in the outcome.”

Abrams’ interpretation is beyond money donations, foreign interests “can’t provide anything of value, which has been interpreted to mean of ‘substantial assistance’ in connection with an election” to help win it.

Ironically, the Clinton Foundation was notorious for getting humungous donations from foreign representatives and others while Hillary was secretary of state. On the surface, they went to the family’s non-profit.

But allegations are they were “pay to play” bribes, to influence American foreign policy. Republicans have wanted a probe into several such facets of Hillary’s time as secretary of state, including her using a more public and hackable email instead of an official one allegedly to delete incriminating emails confirming “pay to play.”

Rep. Meadows wants the probe renewed on those emails, and one to heat up on an alleged bribe to the Clintons ironically by Russians to get to buy U.S. uranium. Meadows sees a double standard of the FBI dragging on the probe of Trump, after short-circuiting in mid-’16 the one of Hillary Clinton and the then-secretary of state’s leaky private emails with some with classified information.

Loretta Lynch, attorney general under Obama, notoriously met with Bill Clinton. Lynch also apparently conferred with Comey shortly before Comey publicly stated he recommended against referring Hillary Clinton for DOJ prosecution, Meadows stated.

Meadows asserts Comey lied under oath to Congress in denying he colluded with Lynch, and asks “Did Comey and his FBI improperly coordinate with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Department of Justice during the height of the Clinton email investigation?”

Now, for the Uranian One deal. House panels on intelligence and reform are investigating it. Hillary Clinton was on the board of federal officials that approved the 2010 deal that gave Russia control of 20 percent of American uranium, which can be used for nuclear power.

The FBI was reportedly checking into a possible bribe and kickback in that case, and that probe needs to be revived, Meadows said. He stated that “Russian nuclear officials routed millions of dollars to benefit the Clinton Foundation, the organization set up by former President Bill Clinton, his wife Hillary, and their daughter Chelsea.”

Further, he is among those urging Mueller to recuse himself from his Russian probe for being allegedly compromised by his inaction in the Uranium One sale.

Meanwhile, Dershowitz said it was overkill to appoint a special counsel since such a high-profile investigator tends to go hog wild “looking to try to find crimes by people” that may not truly exist. Instead, he prefers a “non-partisan, independent” commission such as the three-person panel that looked into 9/11 terrorism.

Too many in the FBI have it out for Trump, including allies of James Comey whom Trump fired as FBI director, Dershowitz asserted. He noted Comey praised Mueller in Comey’s book, and questioned if Mueller wants revenge for Comey’s firing. Abrams countered there is no proof of bias. FBI Deputy Dir. Andrew McCabe, for one, stepped down four months ago amidst charges of his political bias including going easy on Hillary Clinton’s leaky emails.

Dershowitz pointed to FBI agent Peter Strzok‘s strongly anti-Trump texts. Abrams contended Strzok also texted unfavorably about Hillary Clinton.

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