|Donald Trump and Robert Mueller|
According to a report at bloomberg.com, Mueller is examining a wide range of business transactions involving Trump and his associates. From Bloomberg:
FBI investigators and others are looking at 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, the person said.
The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Trump, summoning his inner Don Corleone, issued a warning that Mueller would be wise to avoid scrutiny of family finances. From thehill.com:
President Trump warned special counsel Robert Mueller from investigating his family’s finances beyond the scope of the probe into ties between his administration and Russia in an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday.
“I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia,” Trump told the Times.
Trump during the interview said he wasn’t ruling out firing Mueller as special counsel on the probe into Russian meddling in the presidential election.
He did not say that he would order the Justice Department to fire Mueller or under what circumstances he would fire him, but he indicated Mueller investigating his family's finances would cross a line.
It's not like there isn't a mountain of evidence pointing to shady financial dealings involving Trump, as splendidly reported by Craig Unger in a New Republic piece titled "Trump's Russian Laundromat." Writes Unger:
A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics.
Where does hypocrisy enter the picture? Republicans who want to rein in the Mueller investigation of Trump, were more than happy when Ken Starr ran wild with his investigation of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. From a recent CNN report, comparing the Starr and Mueller probes:
Ken Starr had been appointed by a three-person panel of judges in 1994 to investigate a scandal involving land development deals in Arkansas from the time before Clinton became president.
Starr, a conservative Republican who had served as Solicitor General of the United States, took over from Robert Fiske and proved to be an aggressive prosecutor. Over time, Starr broadened the scope of the investigation to include a number of issues, including accusations that had been brought against the President about sexual harassment. In the course of the investigation, Starr's team asked President Clinton about whether he had an affair with a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky who was about half his age. Clinton, seeking to protect himself and his marriage, lied under oath. He also lied to the nation when he said "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky."
The most damaging information against Clinton came after Starr had expanded his investigation multiple times, to include issues that went way beyond the probe's original focus -- the Whitewater land deals and the death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster.
As the CNN report notes, Whitewater happened years before Clinton became president. In fact, Bill Clinton was not even governor of Arkansas when the Whitewater deal commenced. But Republicans, at the time, gave "thumbs up" to a probe that had nothing to do with Clinton's role as president, or even his campaign for president. And they were fine when Starr expanded the probe to include issues that were far removed from Whitewater and Vince Foster.
So try to wrap your head around the hypocrisy present in this press release yesterday from a group called Americans For Limited Government:
July 20, 2017, Fairfax, Va.—Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning today issued the following statement urging the scope of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to be limited:
“Robert Mueller was originally tasked to investigate Russia’s supposed interference in the 2016 U.S. election campaign. His appointment was directly tied to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ original recusal on all matters related to the 2016 campaign. The Attorney General’s recusal does not include reported ongoing investigations conducted by the Department of Justice unrelated to the election. As a result, Attorney General Sessions should bind the Special Counsel to only pursuing matters for which Sessions has recused himself from overseeing as the nation’s top cop. If Robert Mueller has not found any criminal matters to investigate pursuant to Russian interference in the election, then his tenure as special counsel should end.”
Who in the hell is Rick Manning? His bio indicates he once served in the George W. Bush administration and was an NRA lobbyist for nine years. I don't know where Rick Manning was during the Whitewater probe, but it's hard to imagine him having any problems with Ken Starr's activities going way beyond their original focus.
One difference between the Starr and Mueller investigations should be noted: Starr was an independent counsel, and Mueller is a special counsel. The differences between the two roles is explained in this recent article by Frank Bowman at Slate.
Still, Trump's inflammatory words about Mueller have raised concerns, even among those on the right, who are knowledgeable about government ethics. From an article at thehill.com:
The former White House ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush on Thursday said that Congress needed to make it clear to President Trump that firing special counsel Robert Mueller would mean his impeachment.
In a Twitter post Thursday evening, Richard Painter, who also serves as vice chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said that if Trump fires Mueller, it should be "bye-bye" Trump or "bye-bye" Congress.
"Congress must make it very clear: Bye-bye Mueller, bye-bye Trump. Otherwise bye-bye Congress 2018. Americans are fed up," Painter tweeted Thursday.
Painter was not the only GOPer to voice concerns about Trump:
Others besides Painter warned Trump not to fire Mueller on Thursday. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said firing the former FBI director would be a "mistake."
“It would be a mistake to fire Bob Mueller," Rubio told reporters Thursday.
Rubio, of course, is the guy who raised the supposed correlation between hand size and penis size during the Republican presidential primaries of 2016. When Rubio becomes a voice of maturity and reason, Trump likely is on shaky ground.
The notion of Republicans griping about an expansion of Robert Mueller's Trump investigation should be seen as a joke -- sort of like Marco Rubio's presidential campaign. But now it seems many GOPers are so encrusted with dishonesty and hypocrisy that they can't even get the joke.