Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Rep. Issa calls for Trump/Russia special prosecutor

Pressure is building for the appointment of a special, independent prosecutor to investigate the connection between Donald Trump, his campaign staff and his administration with Russia.   Various reports have said that members of his campaign were in contact with "Russian security" or "Russian intelligence" officials during the campaign.

We know that Gen. Flynn had inappropriate contact with the Russian ambassador during the transition and conveyed a message not to react to the sanctions because things would be different after Trump became president.    Flynn lost his job as National Security Adviser to Trump, not for the meeting, but for lying about it to VP Pence.

Now Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), a Republican in a tight race for reelection to the House, has raised the level of pressure by saying on "Real Time With Bill Maher" that "You're going to need to use the special prosecutor's statute and office."   It can't be overseen by the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, because he was on the Trump campaign and was appointed to his office by Trump, Issa explained.

This is particularly significant coming from Issa, who was the Republican chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform from 2011 to 2015.   This is the committee that investigates other government officials and committees.   Issa was relentless in pursuing Democrats.   So for him, a Republican, to say we need a special prosecutor and that Jeff Sessions must recuse himself, is a big deal.

Now the need for an independent investigation has become even more glaringly important.  Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has acknowledged that he had contact with an assistant director, as well as with Director Comey, of the FBI and asked them to make a statement to the media that there was nothing to the reports about Trump campaign staff being in contact with the Russians all during the campaign.   That would ordinarily be considered highly improper for the president's chief of staff to try to influence an ongoing investigation -- or any matter, much less one that is investigating the president's own team.

There is no evidence that anyone from the FBI has done what Priebus asked.   However, someone from the administration also talked with the chairs of the House (Rep. Nunes) and the Senate Intelligence Committees (Sen. Burr), both of whom are conducting investigations of the Trump connections with Russia.

And both Rep. Nunes and Sen. Burr have reportedly spoken with multiple media representatives to convey this message minimizing this aspect of their investigations.   These are the committees that were supposedly going to do the investigation instead of having a special prosecutor, with the expectation that they would conduct a fair, bipartisan investigation.

Obviously, they have proved that they cannot be trusted to withstand pressure from the Trump administration to do a fair and impartial investigation that involves the president.  Even if they are correct that there is nothing sinister to the story about Trump campaign members in contact with Russian intelligence officials during the campaign, that is only a small part of their overall investigation.

They have now set a precedent of speaking to the media about an ongoing investigation.  This is clearly a violation of the principle that investigators do not comment on ongoing investigations.   How can we trust that they will not be influenced by White House pressure in the future?

And having gotten away with it once, does anyone think the WH would not try to pressure them again?   That's a classic tactic of corrupting a potential source -- get them to violate a principle over some very small, relatively meaningless thing, then when you need something bigger and more consequential, you've already got strings on them that you can pull, dragging them in a little more.

So let the protest movements take up the war cry and demand an independent, special prosecutor to investigate the Trump connections with Russia, the effect on the election, and what's behind it all.   Trump debt?  Blackmail?  Scandal?   Or simply an ideological sympatico? -- which may be the worst of all.


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