Trump says Flynn’s actions during presidential transition were lawful

From today’s Reuter’s News Service:

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday that actions by his disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn during the presidential transition were lawful and said that there was no collusion between his 2016 White House campaign and Russia.

Flynn was the first member of Trump’s administration to plead guilty to a crime uncovered by special counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible collusion by Trump aides.

Flynn, a former Defense Intelligence Agency director, held his position as Trump’s national security adviser only for 24 days. He was forced to resign after he was found to have misled Vice President Mike Pence about his discussions with Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak..

“What has been shown is no collusion, no collusion,“ Trump told reporters as he departed the White House for the New York trip. ”There’s been absolutely no collusion, so we’re very happy.”

As part of his plea on Friday, Flynn agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

The retired U.S. Army lieutenant general admitted in a Washington court that he lied to FBI investigators about his discussions last December with Kislyak.

In what appeared to be moves undermining the policies of outgoing President Barack Obama, the pair discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia, and Flynn asked Kislyak to help delay a United Nations vote seen as damaging to Israel, according to prosecutors.

Flynn was also told by a “very senior member” of Trump’s transition team to contact Russia and other foreign governments to try to influence them ahead of the vote, the prosecutors said.

Sources told Reuters the “very senior” transition official was Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor. Kushner’s lawyer did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Watch the video here.

Robert Mueller, Former FBI Director, Is Named Special Counsel for #RussiaGate

From today’s New York Times by Rebecca Ruiz:

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has appointed Robert S. Mueller III, the former F.B.I. director, to serve as a special counsel to oversee its investigation into Russian meddling in the election, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced on Wednesday.

The appointment of Mr. Mueller dramatically raises the stakes for President Trump in the multiple investigations into his campaign’s ties to the Russians. It follows a swiftly moving series of developments that have roiled Washington, including Mr. Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and the disclosure that the president urged Mr. Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.

“I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authorities and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,” Mr. Rosenstein said in a statement. “My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination.”

While a special counsel would remain ultimately answerable to Mr. Rosenstein — and by extension, the president — he would have greater autonomy to run an investigation than a United States attorney would. Mr. Mueller will be able to choose to what extent to consult with or inform the Justice Department about his investigation as it goes forward.

Mr. Mueller is viewed by members of both parties as one of the most credible law enforcement officials in the country. He served both Democratic and Republican presidents, from 2001 to 2013, and was asked by President Barack Obama to stay on beyond the normal 10-year term until Mr. Comey was appointed.

Read the full article here.

In tweet, Nixon Library clarifies that Comey’s firing was, in fact, much worse than “Tricky Dick”

Yesterday’s abrupt dismissal of FBI Director James Comey by President Donald Trump has understandably raised comparisons between Trump’s actions and those of former President Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon, who tried to force his attorney general to fire the special prosecutor who had been appointed to investigate the White House’s role in the Watergate scandal.

Here is an article that places the comparison in historical context, after the Richard Nixon Presidential Library trolled President Trump and cast light on the comparison. Spoiler alert: Trump comes out looking worse than Nixon, which is not an easy accomplishment.

From today’s LA Times by Michael Schaub:

President Trump‘s sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday was nearly unprecedented. Some observers compared the dismissal to Richard Nixon‘s infamous “Saturday Night Massacre,” in which Nixon had Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox fired. But the Richard Nixon Presidential Library doesn’t appreciate the comparison.

On Tuesday, after the news of Comey’s firing broke, the Nixon Library tweeted from its official account “FUN FACT: President Nixon never fired the Director of the FBI #FBIDirector #notNixonian.”View image on TwitterCox was fired on Oct. 20, 1973, after the special prosecutor attempted to subpoena the president, seeking tapes of conversations recorded in the Oval Office. Nixon refused, and asked Atty. Gen. Elliot Richardson to fire Cox.

Richardson declined to fire Cox, and resigned. William Ruckelshaus, the deputy attorney general, also refused to dismiss Cox, and also resigned. Cox was then fired by Robert Bork, the solicitor general at the time.

The Nixon Library, using the hashtag #SaturdayNightMassacre, reiterated on Twitter that Richardson and Ruckelshaus resigned, and were not fired.

Presidential libraries don’t often get involved in contemporary politics. Many Twitter users were delighted by the library’s tweet, including writer and editor Ted Genoways and Washington Post opinion writer Jonathan Capehart.

At the New Yorker, Jeffrey Frank tried to explain how Comey’s firing both is and isn’t like the Saturday Night Massacre. Frank quoted John Dean, Nixon’s White House counsel and a witness for the prosecution in the Watergate hearings, as saying, “If they think they can influence the Russian investigation by removing Comey, they are naïve. I learned from my own experience that you can’t put in the fix by removing somebody.”

Read the entire article here.