The Knives Are Out for Rosenstein. And Now There’s a Plan – and a Path.
Conservatives in the House of Representatives are pushing forward with a plan to get rid of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, even after he announced Friday afternoon the indictment of 12 Russian government officials for hacking during the 2016 election. Those indictments were the result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, which Rosenstein oversees.
“House conservatives are preparing a new push to oust Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, according to three conservative Capitol Hill sources — putting the finishing touches on an impeachment filing even as Rosenstein announced the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for interfering in the 2016 election,” Politico reports Friday.
“Democrats contend Republicans’ fixation on Rosenstein is really an effort to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller, who reports to Rosenstein and has been making inroads in his investigation of the Russian election interference plot.”
This time, if they’re successful in ousting Rosenstein, either via impeachment, firing, or holding him in contempt of Congress as a first step, it might mean the end of the Mueller probe.
Right now, Rosenstein is the only person who directly can fire Robert Mueller.
Should Rosenstein be removed, Attorney General Jeff Sessions could not fire Mueller, because he has recused himself from the Russia probe.
But the person under Rod Rosenstein could fire Mueller.
And just Wednesday Senate Republicans, by a 51-48 vote, confirmed Brian Benczkowski to become the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Should Rosenstein be fired, Benczkowski could be promoted to become Deputy Attorney General. And that makes Rosenstein’s job less secure.
Benczkowski, prior to joining the DOJ, recently worked in private practice, and also worked for far right wing Republicans. As an attorney he represented Alfa Bank, which has disturbing ties to the Trump organization and the Trump campaign.
Alfa Bank, one of the largest banks in Russia, has been under investigation by the DOJ.
“Questions surrounding Alfa Bank first arose in 2016 when a group of computer scientists raised concerns about Internet records that showed that Alfa Bank servers repeatedly looked up the unique internet address of a Trump Organization computer server in the United States,” CNN reports.
Democrats, in addition to raising concerns over his ties to a Russian bank under investigation, have expressed concern that Benczkowski simply does not have the credentials for the job.
And, as Politico just reported, “House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has made clear that he doesn’t consider Rosenstein out of the woods yet.”
Chairman Goodlatte is largely responsible for Thursday’s disastrous hearing featuring FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok.
“Goodlatte said he blamed Rosenstein for limiting Strzok’s ability to reveal details of his work,” Politico adds.
“Rosenstein, who has oversight over the FBI and of the Mueller investigation is where the buck stops,” Goodlatte says. “Congress has been blocked today from conducting its constitutional oversight duty,” he claimed Thursday, after Strzok refused to answer several questions, based on direction from the FBI.
The knives are out for Rosenstein. And now there’s a path.
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Putin Attacked US 2020 Election to Help Trump Says Just-Released US Intel Community Report
Russian President Vladimir Putin once again attacked the United States, this time during the 2020 election cycle, in order to help President Donald Trump win re-election, according to a just released declassified report from the U.S. National Intelligence Council, which is part of the broader United States Intelligence Community (IC).
“President Putin authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the U.S.,” one of the report’s key judgments reveals.
The Wall Street Journal adds “Iran carried out a multipronged covert influence operation intended to undercut Mr. Trump’s re-election chances but didn’t directly promote his rivals,” according to the report. China did not actively interfere, the report also states.
“Despite the various foreign campaigns, however, the report said there were no indications any foreign actor had attempted to alter ‘any technical aspect of the voting process in the 2020 U.S. elections,’ including voter registration systems, individual ballots, vote tabulation systems, or the reporting of results.”
This is a breaking news and developing story.
‘Putin Told Me’: Former White House Officials Say Russian President Convinced Trump of Ukraine Conspiracy Theory
Former top officials from the Trump White House say they “feared” Vladimir Putin convinced President Donald Trump of a widely-debunked conspiracy theory – that Ukraine, and not Russia, attacked the U.S. 2016 election.
“Almost from the moment he took office, President Trump seized on a theory that troubled his senior aides,” The Washington Post reports, that “Ukraine, he told them on many occasions, had tried to stop him from winning the White House.”
That conspiracy theory, debunked and decimated by a now-famous Intelligence Community unanimous consensus that Russia attacked the 2016 election, apparently got into Trump’s head via President Putin.
“The strong belief in the White House was that Putin told him,” one former official said.
One former senior White House official said Trump even stated so explicitly at one point, saying he knew Ukraine was the real culprit because “Putin told me.”
Apparently it was Trump’s first meetings with Putin, at the July, 2017 G20 Summit in Hamburg, that “were a turning point,” the Post reports.
Another former Trump White House official “said the President would say: ‘This is ridiculous. Everyone knows I won the election. The greatest election in the world. The Russians didn’t do anything. The Ukrainians tried to do something.’ ”
Read the entire Washington Post report here.
Putin’s ‘Long Game’ Is to ‘Destroy Western Democracies’ — and the GOP Is Helping Him: Former CIA Officer
As articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump move forward in the U.S. House of Representatives, pro-Trump Republicans continue to insist that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election — a claim that foreign affairs expert Fiona Hill described as total nonsense during her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last month. Regardless, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina recently told an NBC News reporter that in 2016, “Every elected official in the Ukraine was for Hillary Clinton. Is that very different than the Russians being for Donald Trump?” And former CIA officer Alex Finley, in a December 10 article for Just Security, explains why Burr’s assertion is a “false equivalence” that “completely and dangerously mischaracterizes the threat we are facing” from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In 2016, Finley explains, some “Ukrainian officials publicly expressed a dislike for candidate Trump” and “looked to hold” some “corrupt” associates of former President Viktor Yanukovych “accountable” — and one of those associates “happened to be Trump’s campaign chairman” (Paul Manafort). But, Finley quickly adds, “Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, is aiming to destroy western democracies.”
Those who think that statement about Putin sounds “overblown,” Finley asserts, should consider what Putin told the Financial Times: “The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.”
Putin, Finley stresses, is opposed to the very ideal of liberal democracy.
“Russia has been running, and continues to run, a covert intelligence operation aimed at duping westerners and inflaming internal divisions, in order to break down our democratic institutions,” Finley observes. “Putin aims to bring down the western liberal order, which — with the United States at the helm — has generally brought peace and stability to the west for 70 years.”
Republicans, Finley warns, “should ask themselves why Putin sees them as a good partner” in his anti-U.S. goals.
Finley goes on to list some things that the Russian government under Putin’s leadership did in 2016, from hacking Democratic e-mails to running an “influence campaign” through websites like WikiLeaks to infiltrating “the NRA and GOP circles with Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin.”
Moreover, Finley writes, Putin’s government is not only trying to undermine western liberal democracy in the United States, but also, in Italy, France, Germany and other countries that have long been U.S. allies.
“Congressional Republicans have become pansies of Putin in a much larger game,” Finley warns. “This is not about one election or even two elections. Putin is playing a long game aimed at changing the international system in his favor, and Republicans are aiding and abetting him. Does the party of Ronald Reagan really want to be an accomplice to the destruction of the U.S.-led liberal world order?”
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