President Donald Trump appears to be using the powers of his office and the fear surrounding the coronavirus pandemic to help him win re-election.
On Tuesday the President met with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill. Bloomberg News reports Trump told GOP lawmakers “that he wants a payroll tax holiday through the November election so that taxes won’t go back up before voters decide whether to return him to office.”
Trump first announced the idea of payroll tax cuts Monday evening, and promised he would have a “major” and “dramatic” economic program to unveil before the American people in just 24 hours. His remarks “stunned” White House staffers, because had been no such plan.
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‘Retaliatory Abuse’: Legal Experts Slam Barr DOJ for Opening ‘Politically-Motivated’ Criminal Inquiry Into John Bolton
The Dept. of Justice is opening a criminal inquiry into John Bolton, allegedly to determine whether or not he disclosed classified information in his book, which discusses his 17 months serving as President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor.
“The department has convened a grand jury, which issued a subpoena for communications records from Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Mr. Bolton’s memoir, ‘The Room Where It Happened,'” The New York Times reports.
Legal experts, many of whom oppose Bolton for not warning the public about Trump when he was in the administration but waiting so he could publish his book, nevertheless say it looks like “retribution” and a political prosecution of the President’s critics.
The Trump administration tried to stop publication of the book, claiming Bolton had not been granted notice that his pre-publication review had been completed. Bolton has claimed he went through proper procedures and denies he published any classified information.
“Mr. Trump has made clear that he wants his former aide prosecuted,” The Times notes. “He said on Twitter that Mr. Bolton ‘broke the law’ and ‘should be in jail, money seized, for disseminating, for profit, highly Classified information.’ He has also called Mr. Bolton ‘a dope,’ ‘incompetent ‘and the book ‘a compilation of lies and made up stories, all intended to make me look bad.'”
Trump has tweeted about Bolton more than two dozen times.
Washed up Creepster John Bolton is a lowlife who should be in jail, money seized, for disseminating, for profit, highly Classified information. Remember what they did to the young submarine sailor, but did nothing to Crooked Hillary. I ended up pardoning him – It wasn’t fair!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 23, 2020
….Bolton broke the law and has been called out and rebuked for so doing, with a really big price to pay. He likes dropping bombs on people, and killing them. Now he will have bombs dropped on him!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 20, 2020
Wacko John Bolton’s “exceedingly tedious”(New York Times) book is made up of lies & fake stories. Said all good about me, in print, until the day I fired him. A disgruntled boring fool who only wanted to go to war. Never had a clue, was ostracized & happily dumped. What a dope!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2020
Legal experts are weighing in.
MSNBC Justice & Security Analyst, former chief spokesperson for the DOJ:
Given the way the administration gamed the review system to prevent the book from being published and then Trump repeatedly called on Bolton to be prosecuted, it’s hard to see this as anything other than direct retaliation. https://t.co/eBTdBds9Hj
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) September 15, 2020
Former federal prosecutor:
This sure looks like retaliation against Bolton for speaking out against Trump. But Bolton put himself at risk and had to expect this was a potential outcome. https://t.co/1Z7jfAoxVh
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) September 15, 2020
CNN legal analyst, former federal and state prosecutor:
Using the power of DOJ to protect political allies is unforgivable. But using it to go after perceived political enemies is worse. https://t.co/IKlAv5QPDx
— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) September 15, 2020
Former attorney in the Office of General Counsel of the National Security Agency, now Executive Editor of Lawfare:
This is speculation but my guess based on USG affidavits and Bolton’s book text is that DOJ investigates but doesn’t ultimately charge him. The investigation itself is retaliatory abuse, but the existence of clear criminal predicate will help those at Main Justice sleep at night.
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) September 15, 2020
Founder and award-winning editor at Talking Points Memo:
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) September 15, 2020
Professor in Law at the University of Texas School of Law, CNN contributor:
Bolton deserves nothing but scorn for how he’s behaved, but this is a transparent effort to retaliate against a former senior official for exercising his First Amendment rights and to chill those thinking about similarly coming forward.
It’s going to take a long time to fix DOJ. https://t.co/XtrSiGTDLR
— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) September 15, 2020
Attorney, analyst, author:
It’s a classic Trump witch-hunt but it couldn’t have happened to a better person. https://t.co/05qwcgGRux
— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) September 15, 2020
Former Deputy Legal Director at ACLU, current director, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University:
John Bolton is an unlikely poster boy for the First Amendment but his (possible) prosecution will highlight many of the constitutional problems with the prepublication review system and the Espionage Act. Re-upping this, from last year. https://t.co/lzNzQgPu4Q
— Jameel Jaffer (@JameelJaffer) September 15, 2020
Former CIA intelligence officer, current Georgetown University School of Foreign Service lecturer and NBC News national security and intelligence analyst:
Trump is, once again, proving his worst critics correct.
John Bolton, who detailed Trump’s willingness to intervene in criminal investigations, now finds himself on the receiving end of what sure looks like a politically-motivated criminal investigation. https://t.co/oTnhbqAF3F
— Ned Price (@nedprice) September 15, 2020
Trump Fires Another Inspector General During Latest Friday Night News Dump: Report
On Friday, Politico reported that Steve Linick, the inspector general of the State Department, has been fired.
Linick, a former official of the Justice Department, was appointed to the inspector general position by President Barack Obama in 2013. According to Politico, “he played a minor role in the House of Representatives’ impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, ferrying a trove of documents to lawmakers that had been provided to the State Department by Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer.”
He will be replaced by Ambassador Stephen Akard, who previously headed the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions.
In recent months, Trump has fired several inspectors general, particularly those who have been involved in investigating misconduct accusations against his administration, sparking fears of retaliation.
‘We May See an Accomplice’: Ex-FBI Official Warns Barr Could Try to Indict Obama Team to Win the 2020 Election
MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace poured cold water on the latest Republican talking points about the tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory they’ve concocted called Obamagate.
Speaking with former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence, Frank Figliuzzi and former White House acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, Wallace noted that if the Trump team tries to go after Barack Obama, they’re going to end up taking down some Republicans along with them.
“The person who warned Donald Trump not to put Mike Flynn on any of the lists on key national security posts wasn’t a Democrat, it wasn’t Obama,” recalled Wallace. “It was Chris Cristie, Chris Christie was fired as head of the transition for not putting Mike Flynn on the list for any important national security position. Fact, Chris Christie was punished by Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon, they dumped the transition books which didn’t have Mike Flynn’s name on any of the lists because he, too, shared concerns about whether Mike Flynn was suitable for a national security position. So, there’s a pretty inconvenient little wrinkle in Donald Trump’s fantastical delusions about Mike Flynn and Chris Christie didn’t think he belonged in a national security post, either.”
In an NBC News editorial, Figliuzzi wrote that the president is likely headed into a campaign where he will be flinging conspiracy theories aimlessly in effort to save his own skin.
“We’re heading toward a period of time that’s going to be quite ugly. Where he’s going to certainly imply and want people to infer that President Obama and Vice President Biden engaged in a conspiracy against him to gin up the Russia hoax and the case against Flynn,” said Figliuzzi. “On a worst-case scenario, we may see an accomplice in this mess, the attorney general of the United States who might go to attempt to charge or smear in some official way, perhaps even to call a grand jury, where we see former officials, prior administration officials attacked, in an attempt to ruin them.”
While there’s no precedent of a new president indicting the previous president, that would set a complicated precedent if former Vice President Joe Biden wins in 2020. If Trump tries to indict Obama, it would open the door for Biden to indict Trump if he wins.
He went on to explain how important to focus on the “fact vs. fiction” aspect of the story and call out the conspiracy theories. Both the Federalist article and Trump are clutching their pearls about “the notion that because the intelligence community was briefing the Obama administration” while he was still president, explained Figliuzzi. Because “Obama said this concerns me because we’re about to give classified briefings to the incoming administration, please tell me whether we can trust Flynn to give them the intelligence briefings, the intel community went out and looked at this.” That’s the so-called “scandal” the White House thinks is such a problem.
Meanwhile, the latest Harvard-Harris poll shows that 53 percent of Americans still believe what the Christopher Steele Dossier said was accurate. A Pew poll cited 72 percent of Americans anticipate Russia or some other foreign government will likely try to hack the 2020 election. That while 51 percent of the Americans surveyed who said Trump had encouraged election interference, the NPR/PBS/Marist Poll revealed.
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