Russia Monitor: The Legal Contortions Of ‘Howdy Rudy’ And The Constitutional Crisis Already In Motion


“In Jan 2017, I gave a Putin’s Wish List” to explain what he most wanted from Trump. Lifting sanctions was #1, but Flynn got caught & blew it up. A trade war with NATO allies was #2.”

— Russian dissident Garry Kasparov tweet (6/1/18).


By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (6/4/18)

Dear Fellow Readers,

Trump and his lawyer, Giuliani, set out each day to convince us of two things: Trump has now advanced beyond no collusion with Russia, to; Clinton and Democrats colluding with Russia.

In complete absence of evidence, Trump tweets: There was No Collusion with Russia (except by the Democrats). When will this very expensive Witch Hunt Hoax ever end?” (6/2/18)

But Trump lawyer Giuliani (or ‘Howdy Rudy’ as offered by one Commoner Call reader) is the creative one.

Giuliani offers a cornucopia of answers to any question; just pick the one that makes you feel good at the moment. When asked about Trump’s involvement with the statements explaining’ Donnie Jr.’s campaign meeting with Russians in Trump Tower where he said of reported “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, “I love it”, Giuliani has spun a new version. As we’ll see in a few paragraphs, after repeated denials Trump now admits he dictated Jr.’s statement in response to the New York Times. Giuliani’s evolving explanations follows right along, changing from denial to, it’s just ‘confusing’, in the ‘big picture’. And this, Giuliani explains, is why you don’t let Trump testify. You see – it’s not lies, it’s big picture stuff that contributes to confusion:

“This is the reason you don’t let the president testify. Our recollection keeps changing, or we’re not even asked a question and somebody makes an assumption.”

Giuliani might be on to something in his blind-squirrel kind of way. There are other times where Trump’s “world’s greatest memory” failed him. As an example, when Trump was deposed for a lawsuit against Trump University there we 35 times when he offered, “I don’t remember”. Or poor long-time Trump business partner Felix Sater, who worked so hard to land a Trump Moscow deal and when asked by Trump to join Ivanka and Donnie Jr., agreed to, “…looking after them while they were in Moscow.” That is the same guy, when asked in a 2013 deposition, Trump said, “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.”

Big picture stuff

Trump says he really wants to testify. But now we have to believe Giuliani’s latest version of why his best friends just can’t let him – for his own good, you understand. You’ve noticed how helpful and empathetic Trump tends to be: certainly he’d politely and respectfully want Mueller to wrap up, and if he could help, well…

Meanwhile Trump and Howdy Rudy throw out another ‘assertion’ for our entertainment: Trump’s Lawyers, in Confidential Memo, Argue To Head Off A Historic Subpoena.

Somehow, someone, managed to leak a 20-page “assertion of presidential power”, that Trump’s lawyers had sent to Mueller. In a nutshell , the letter argues Trump, “…cannot be compelled to testify and arguing in a confidential letter that he could not possibly have committed obstruction because he has unfettered authority over all federal investigations.”

The full letter, annotated, is here.

To paraphrase some of the arguments, all within a context of unfettered authority:

  • I could have shut down any investigation, any time, of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who plead guilty, so whatever was said to former FBI Director James Comey is irrelevant.
  • A threatening reminder to Mueller that the “burden” imposed on Trump interferes with his ability to govern when the real issue is “the astounding public revelations about the corruption within the FBI and Department of Justice”.
  • A warning that a Mueller subpoena would be met with legal pushback, offered as “under our system of government, the President is not readily available to be interviewed”.
  • And given all the cooperation to date, an interview with the President is unnecessary.
  • Flynn is thrown under the bus given the argument that the President did not obstruct and should be credited with firing Flynn.
  • “…a President can fire an FBI Director at any time and for any reason”. Though the (legal) question is whether it is unlawful to fire and FBI Director for corrupt reasons.
As a potential harbinger of things to come, the letter states, “A President can also order the termination of an investigation by the Justice Department or FBI at any time and for any reason”. The safeguard against abuse of power is potential impeachment by Congress.

Donald throws Junior under the bus

Trump also managed to throw Donnie Jr. under the bus alongside former adviser Michael Flynn. Trump’s lawyers do finally admit, in spite of previous denials, that Trump “dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump Jr.”. (Highlight by the New York Times.)

This subject is a private matter with the New York Times. The President is not required to answer to the Office of the Special Counsel, or anyone else, for his private affairs with his children. In any event, the President’s son, son-in-law, and White House advisors and staff have made a full disclosure on these events to both your office and the congressional committees.57

Trump lied on behalf of his son. And in defense of Trump, this amounts to, “lying to the media is not a crime”, as we’ve heard Giuliani say many times recently.

But Donnie Jr. is now ‘outedas having lied to Congress. There is also precedent for Trump’s role to be construed as obstruction of justice. David Corn, writing for Mother Jones, offers this

“On Saturday afternoon, the New York Times revealed a 20-page private letter that President Donald Trump’s lawyers had sent special counsel Robert Mueller in January in which they contended that it was impossible for Trump to commit obstruction of justice because he, as president, has authority over all federal investigations and the power to do whatever he wants with them. The letter is a brazen declaration of executive power, and legal experts immediately challenged its premises and assertions. The missive also raised a possible problem for Donald Trump Jr.: it suggested he had not told Congress the whole truth—and might have even misled the body—regarding the cover story he put out when it was revealed that during the campaign he, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort had met with a Russian emissary after being told she would share with them dirt on Hillary Clinton, as part of a Kremlin operation to help Trump.”

It is Corn’s closing comment that is the most troubling:

“Now the question is will either committee, both led by Republicans, give a damn and examine whether Trump Jr. tried to stonewall them.”


Trump says he is above the law. So is he?

This is likely the key argument to be decided. The Trump legal stance is this, as interpreted by Charles Savage from the annotated letter:

“Even if Mr. Trump did order an investigation shut down and fire the F.B.I. director as part of a cover-up of wrongdoing, his lawyers say he still did not violate the law because he was exercising powers the Constitution has granted exclusively to him. Under this view, it would be unconstitutional to apply obstruction-of-justice statutes enacted by Congress to limit how a president chooses to use his power to supervise the executive branch.”

Said another way, even if Trump fired Comey as part of a cover-up – he has the authority to do just that. Trump sees himself as being above the law.

For an even more enlightened defense of Trump, here’s Giuliani again: President Trump ‘probably does’ Have The Power To Pardon Himself.

Giuliani claims the president has the power to pardon himself:

“In an interview Sunday with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week,” Rudy Giuliani discussed special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the president may have tried to obstruct justice in the probe of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“When Stephanopoulos asked if the president has the power to pardon himself, Giuliani said he “probably does.””

Given Trump can pardon himself, what’s the point? It truly is a “witch hunt” if Trump is above the law.


Tee Time for government waste

And should you find yourself mired in a ‘discussion’ about the Mueller investigation as an example of government waste don’t hesitate to mention this: Trump’s Spent Far More Going To Mar-a-Lago Alone Than The Mueller Probe Has Cost.

The cost of the Mueller investigation has cost just under $17 million. Not to dismiss the importance of $17 million, but to build a bit of context:

“In the grand scheme of government spending, $16.7 million is … not a lot. The federal government is expected to spend about $4.1 trillion in fiscal 2018. To put it into more tangible terms, spending $16.7 million of $4.1 trillion is like making $50,000 a year and spending 20 cents.”

A better comparison is Trump’s golf trips to Mar-A-Lago versus the Mueller investigation.

…each trip to Mar-a-Lago cost about $1 million, including only Air Force One travel and Secret Service protection.

Guess what. Trump has been to Mar-a-Lago 17 times, for a grand total of $17 million in flight and protection costs.

As we all know, these trips are a small part of the picture with Trump having golfed in one year, more than Obama did in three years.

As we all know, these trips are a small part of the picture with Trump having golfed in one year, more than Obama did in three years.


Get ready for the Russians to be in the mix for midterm elections

As McClatchy reported Friday, the Russians are never far away:

“A new Russian influence operation has surfaced that mirrors some of the activity of an internet firm that the FBI says was deeply involved in efforts to sway the 2016 U.S. elections, a cybersecurity firm says.”



The Russians are back. The Russians have never been far way and Trump has done nothing — NOTHING — to dissuade ongoing interference in U.S. elections by Russia.

Mueller’s charge is to investigate Russian tampering in the 2016 election. As reported here, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says he has “no doubt”, the Russians swung the election to Trump.

Mueller’s investigation has cost the equivalent of Trump’s travel costs to Mar-A-Lago to play golf. Putting aside what Trump would say, given these two choices, which is more central to U.S. democracy – investigating Russian influence that swung the election in favor of Trump – or Trump golfing at Mar-A-Lago?

Trump’s defense is ‘so what?’ He admits he lied on behalf of Donnie Jr. about the meeting with Russians to collude for dirt on Hillary. For Trump, lying to the media is not a crime and even if it was, Hey, I could pardon myself. But Donnie Jr. lying to Congress, which is now acknowledged, is another thing.

Even if Donnie Jr. lied as made clear by Trump, do the Russpublicans care?

Giuliani creatively suggests Trump can’t be subpoenaed, can obstruct justice if need be, can lie to the media as needed, can’t be held accountable for anything he’s done because he is president and if need be, he could even pardon himself.

Giuliani even comes up with a creative vindication for any lies told by Trump.

Maggie Haberman‏Verified account @maggieNYT

FollowingFollowing @maggieNYT


Giuliani on ABC: “For every one of these things he did, we can write out five reasons why he did it. If four of them are completely innocent and one of them is your assumption that it’s a guilty motive, which [Trump] would deny, you can’t possibly prosecute him” or impeach 6:39 AM – 3 Jun 2018

But which version is true? If you tell the truth four times and only lie once, you are innocent. Or, if you lie once, regardless of how many times you didn’t lie – you are guilty. Apply Giuliani’s lack of logic to anything – your fire alarm is fine even it only comes on four out of five times there’s a fire.

Russians are back interfering in our elections. Trump is above the law. And Russpublicans help make that so. Never forget the complicity of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), without which none of this would be possible.

Make no mistake: The Constitutional Crisis Is Already Underway.

“For most of Donald Trump’s presidency, the specter of a coming constitutional crisis has loomed over the Russia investigation. The newly leaked memo by Trump’s lawyers, obtained by the New York Times, suggests that such a crisis is not merely a likelihood, but that it has already begun.

The memo proposes several tendentious interpretations of the publicly available facts of Trump’s behavior, along with some legally questionable and amateurish citations of precedent. But the most important passage is its sweeping assertion of presidential authority.

““The President not only has unfettered statutory and Constitutional authority to terminate the FBI Director, he also has Constitutional authority to direct the Justice Department to open or close an investigation, and, of course, the power to pardon any person before, during, or after an investigation and/or conviction,” they write, “Put simply, the Constitution leaves no question that the President has exclusive authority over the ultimate conduct and disposition of all criminal investigations and over those executive branch officials responsible for conducting those investigations.”

“They did indeed put it simply. The implications of this authority are breathtaking.”

Mid-term elections — and the Russians — await.