Clear and Unambiguous

The last several weeks have seen a steady drumbeat of wild allegations by a news organization and some Republican politicians that threaten the integrity of Special Counsel Robert Mueller III and his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In a speech, Donald Trump, Jr. appears to be part of a coordinated effort by suggesting a conspiracy in a startlingly irresponsible speech.

“There is, and there are, people at the highest levels of government that don’t want to let America be America,” Trump Jr. told a gathering of young conservative activists in West Palm Beach, Florida.

“My father talked about a rigged system throughout the campaign,” Trump Jr. added, “and people were like, ‘Oh, what are you talking about?’ “But it is. And you’re seeing it.”

Former Director of the National Security Agency, CIA, National Intelligence, and Republican, Michael Hayden, said of Trump Jr.’s speech:

“That’s more than just a little bit scary. That is a fairly coded attempt to say that America should be governed by the unchecked will of the executive.”

Before their Christmas break, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, addressed his colleagues in the Senate on Wednesday (Dec. 20), about a serious concern.

Warner makes a clear and unambiguous case warning the president not to take any action that would bring about a “constitutional crisis.” Here are some key excerpts:

“Over the last several weeks, a growing chorus of irresponsible and reckless voices have called for President Trump to shut down Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. At first these calls came from the fringes of our political discourse. … Earlier this year, many of my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, were right to push back on these misdirected calls and urge that the special counsel be allowed to do his job without interference.

“However, in recent weeks, those voices seem to be growing in stridency and volume. Just this weekend, one major news organization suggested that Special Counsel Mueller could be involved in a coup against the president. One has outrageously alleged that the fix was in against Donald Trump from the beginning. Those statements are reckless. They are inappropriate. And they are extremely worrying. They are at odds with the president’s own lawyers who have pledged to cooperate with the special counsel.

“Beyond being irresponsible, the seemingly coordinated nature of these claims should alarm us all. Particularly since in recent days these baseless accusations have been repeated by several members of the House of Representatives. I believe that it is up to every member of this institution, Republican or Democrat, to make a clear and unambiguous statement that any attempt by this president to remove Special Counsel Mueller from his position or to pardon key witnesses in any effort to shield them from accountability, or shut down the investigation would be a gross abuse of power and a flagrant violation of Executive Branch responsibilities and authorities. These truly are red lines and simply cannot allow them to be crossed. …

“The fact is that Robert Mueller has impeccable credentials as a man of the law. He’s assembled a team that includes some of the nation’s best investigators, and he’s leading the investigation with the professionalism it deserves. Mr. Mueller is a dedicated Vietnam War veteran and a lifelong republican appointed to his current role by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, also a republican. In fact, all of the major players to date in this investigation, former Director Comey, current F.B.I Director [Christopher] Wray and even Attorney General Sessions, who has had to recuse himself, are all republicans.

“The charges that some have made that somehow democratic political bias has crept into this investigation are baseless given the makeup of the leadership team.

“In recent weeks, much has been made of some political opinions expressed by an F.B.I. agent during the election last year. This specious line of argument conveniently ignores the fact that as soon as Mr. Mueller learned about these comments, he immediately removed that agent in question from the investigation. If anything, this incident only adds to Mr. Mueller’s credibility as a fair and independent investigator.

“Mr. President, I stand here as the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. We are in the midst of our own investigation into Russian incursion, and I’m proud of the way that Chairman Burr and our committee have taken on this very difficult task. … our committee has gone out of its way to ensure continued bipartisan backing for this effort. …

“However, it should be very clear that our committee cannot and will not stand as a substitute for Mr. Mueller’s investigation. … The F.B.I. is responsible in determining any criminal activities related to this inquiry. As such, Mueller has already moved to indict two individuals and has negotiated two additional guilty pleas. There’s an investigative path – this is an investigative path reserved solely for law enforcement, and it is essential that that it be permitted to go on unimbued.

“The country, no doubt, remains severely divided on the question of the last election. However, the national security threat facing us today should demand that we rise above partisan differences. No matter the political divide, surely each of us, and all Americans should want to know the truth of what happened during last year’s election, and no doubt we all want to know that as quickly as possible.

“Now the president has long called the investigation into the Russian meddling into the 2016 election a witch hunt, and he’s done much to discredit the intelligence community’s unanimous assessment of Russian interference in our election. The failure of this White House to lead a whole of government approach to prevent this type of election interference in the future either by the Russians or some other adversary defies understanding. The president’s refusal to accept the intelligence community’s assessment and [his disregard of plans] for ensuring that Russia never again infiltrates our election process has been unnerving and cause for significant concern.

“In recent days, the president has said he’s not considering removing Special Counsel Mueller, but the president’s track record on this front is a source of concern. I’m certain that most of my colleagues believed that he wouldn’t fire Jim Comey, either.

“Firing Mr. Mueller, or any other of the top brass involved in this investigation, would not only call into question this administration’s commitment to the truth but also to our most basic concept, rule of law. It also has the potential to provoke a constitutional crisis.

“In the United States of America, no one, NO ONE is above the law, not even the president.

“Congress must make clear to the president that firing the special counsel or interfering with this investigation by issuing pardons of essential witnesses is unacceptable and would have immediate and… significant consequences.

“I hope my concerns are unfounded. … It is critical that all of us, as elected officials and as citizens, speak up against these threats now before it’s too later.”

I will return after Christmas on December 28, 2017.

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