Russia Probe

  • December 11, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Andrew Wright, Associate Professor, Savannah Law School

    Michael Flynn is cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The plea agreement requires that Flynn “shall cooperate fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly with this Office and other Federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities identified by this Office.” Flynn’s statement of the offense ominously announces that “[t]hese facts do not constitute all of the facts known to the parties concerning the charged offense.” There is some debate about whether this agreement signals that Flynn has significant incriminating information about senior-most White House advisors, or President Trump himself. Only Flynn, Mueller, and the others whom Flynn might implicate on matters related to the investigation are in a position to know the quality of his cooperation.

    But what if President Trump started using his pardon power to end the Russia investigation? What would be the effect, if any, if President Trump pardoned Flynn now? What about pardons of others that might be implicated by Flynn in his cooperation? Pardons raise a number of important questions after Flynn’s plea.

  • December 6, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Conor Shaw, Counsel to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

    This report examines why President Trump cannot easily bring an end to the Russia investigation by firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Authors Noah Bookbinder, Norman Eisen, and Caroline Fredrickson explain that Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein, not President Trump, is the one who has authority to fire Mueller.  While President Trump might compel others to do so on his behalf or instruct the attorney general to revoke DOJ’s special counsel regulations, the risks of doing so are prohibitive.  History warns that he would be risking his presidency, not to mention increasing his exposure to charges of obstruction of justice. In addition, we explain that any firing could be subject to court challenge by Special Counsel Mueller, his staff, and possibly other parties.  Mueller's dismissal also would not necessarily bring an end to the investigation that he is leading. Finally, we review the ways in which Congress might make it even harder for President Trump to end the Russia investigation by codifying the special counsel regulations and pre-committing to a course of action that would deter interference with the Russia investigation.

  • December 5, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Dan Froomkin

    Federal prosecutors – even those not working on cases of major public interest – may well uncover facts in the course of their investigations that if made public would have explosive political ramifications.

    But Justice Department rules are extraordinarily strict: Neither prosecutors nor the FBI can tell anyone what they've discovered unless it's in the fulfillment of their official duties.

    That's important: the process of investigation often turns up things that are not true, or do not amount to crimes, but that could nevertheless ruin reputations. (The November 2017 update of the U.S. Attorney's Manual includes new language about the "General Need for Confidentiality" that is different, but consistent, with the previous version.)

  • November 16, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Victoria Bassetti

    *Victoria Bassetti is leading ACS' analysis of US Attorneys.

    ** View the full graphic here.

    If Donald Trump tried to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, it could be a lot harder than people think.

    White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders says he won’t do it.

    Last Monday, she was asked: “Is the President going to rule out, once and for all, firing [Special Prosecutor] Robert Mueller.” 

    “There's no intention or plan to make any changes in regards to the special counsel,” she replied.

    Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn), fresh off warning that the President might start World War III, can’t imagine he’ll do it.

    Last Tuesday, a reporter cornered the president’s harshest Senate critic in a hallway and posed the following: “There are stories that the President is thinking about firing Mueller. Do you think that’s appropriate?”

    The tired-looking Corker replied: “I can't imagine there’s any truth or veracity to the president thinking that he would consider firing Mueller. ... Hopefully the question being asked is a question about something that cannot possibly be reality.”

  • November 3, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Kristin Amerling, Managing Director of Lanthorn Strategies, consultant to ACS, former chief counsel to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and former chief investigative counsel to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

    Recently a bipartisan group of congressional oversight experts issued a set of principles titled “Benchmarks for Congressional Investigations into Russian Interference with U.S. Elections and Related Matters.” This initiative is an important tool for evaluating the credibility and rigor of ongoing investigations into alleged election malfeasance. 

    The document describes four major oversight goals:

     

    (1) a publicly defined investigation scope that includes commitment to follow the facts where they lead;

    (2) comprehensive bipartisan cooperation;

    (3) transparency on developments and findings; and

    (4) regular public reporting on investigative activities.

    It also outlines specific ways for Congress to demonstrate commitment to these principles, such as by holding hearings in public unless there is a compelling reason for a closed session.