By Robert A. Vella
In double blows to President Trump’s obstructionism, a federal judge has ordered the Department of Justice to release secret grand jury evidence collected during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and has ruled that the impeachment inquiry being conducted in the House of Representatives is legal. More Trump administration witnesses are testifying or might be testifying soon in the impeachment inquiry including State Department official Philip Reeker, former national security advisor John Bolton, former deputy national security advisor Charles Kupperman, former White House counsel Don McGahn, and others. A coalition of government Inspectors General have slammed the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) for initially refusing to submit the official CIA whistleblower complaint to Congress regarding Trump’s communications with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump’s “personal lawyer” Rudy Giuliani butt-dialed a journalist a couple of weeks ago and accidentally left an intriguing message on the reporter’s phone which was part of an in-person conversation he was having with an unidentified individual. What a doofus! Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has put himself into a political dilemma pitting the impactful guidance of his longtime friend – the late Senator John McCain – versus the pressure he’s getting from Trump to act aggressively against impeachment. Maybe that’s why he has been so conflicted and hypocritical over the past 2-3 years. We’ll cover lots more news today too.
DOJ must release secrets
A federal judge on Friday ruled that the Justice Department must turn over former special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, a groundbreaking victory for Democrats in their effort to investigate whether President Donald Trump should be impeached for obstructing the long-running Russia probe.
In a double victory for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Judge Beryl Howell — the chief federal judge in Washington — ruled that the impeachment inquiry Democrats have launched is valid even though the House hasn’t taken a formal vote on it. The decision rejects arguments by DOJ and congressional Republicans that a formal vote is necessary to launch impeachment proceedings.
Lawyers for former national security adviser John Bolton have been in touch with officials working on House committees about possibly testifying in the impeachment probe of President Donald Trump, a person close to Bolton told NBC News on Friday.
The news comes more than a week after the White House’s former top Europe expert, Fiona Hill, reportedly testified to Congress that Bolton was so disturbed by efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political opponents that he called it a “drug deal.”
Hill said Bolton told her he did not want to be part of that push, which involved White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, according to reports of her testimony.
Hill also reportedly testified that Bolton had called Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, a “hand grenade.”
Philip Reeker, the acting Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian affairs, is scheduled to appear Saturday for a closed-door interview with the three congressional committees leading an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Reeker would be the ninth official to appear for testimony as part of the inquiry and the latest in a line of career diplomats who have complied with a House subpoena and defied White House orders not to comply.
As the top U.S. diplomat for Europe, Reeker was communicating with key officials who were either part of the efforts of Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to have Ukraine launch investigations that would favor him politically, or were swept up in that effort. Reeker also was communicating with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his top aides and may be able to shed more light on what Pompeo knew.
WASHINGTON — House impeachment investigators met on Saturday for a rare weekend session to question a high-ranking State Department official about his knowledge of what other witnesses have described as a shadow foreign policy intended to pressure Ukraine for President Trump’s personal political gain.
The official, Philip T. Reeker, is acting assistant secretary in charge of European and Eurasian Affairs. He oversaw officials who interacted directly with Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani on Ukraine matters, at a time when Ukraine was being pressed to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and unproven theories about Democratic collusion with Ukrainians in the 2016 presidential election.
Mr. Reeker, who is answering questions behind closed doors, should be able to provide investigators with additional details about at least one aspect of the unfolding story: the ouster this spring of Marie L. Yovanovitch, a career foreign service officer, as the ambassador to Ukraine.
IGs slam DOJ
A coalition of Inspectors General is urging the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to withdraw or modify its opinion that the whistleblower complaint regarding President Donald Trump’s communications with Ukraine was not of “urgent concern,” a determination that initially blocked the allegations from reaching Congress.
In a new letter sent to Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel this week, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, which is composed of federal government inspectors general, slammed an OLC memo that “effectively overruled the determination by the ICIG regarding an ‘urgent concern’ complaint” that the ICIG concluded was “credible and therefore needed to be transmitted to Congress.”
“This letter from the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, on behalf of the undersigned federal Inspectors General (IG), expresses our support for the position advanced by the ICIG and our concern that the OLC opinion, if not withdrawn or modified, could seriously undermine the critical role whistleblowers play in coming forward to report waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct across the federal government,” it states.
“Is Robert around?” Giuliani asks.
“He’s in Turkey,” the man responds.
Giuliani replies instantly. “The problem is we need some money.”
The two men then go silent. Nine seconds pass. No word is spoken. Then Giuliani chimes in again.
“We need a few hundred thousand,” he says.
It’s unclear what the two men were talking about. But Giuliani is known to have worked with a Robert who has ties to Turkey.
His name is Robert Mangas, and he’s a lawyer at the firm Greenberg Traurig LLP, as well as a registered agent of the Turkish government.
Giuliani himself was employed by Greenberg Traurig until about May 2018.
Mangas provided an affidavit in the case of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish gold trader charged in the United States with laundering Iranian money in a scheme to evade American sanctions.
Giuliani was brought on to assist Zarrab in 2017. He traveled to Turkey with his former law partner Michael Mukasey and attempted to strike a deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to secure the release of their jailed client, alarming the federal prosecutor leading the case.
In one of their last conversations, John McCain told Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) that he should continue trying to help President Trump, up to a certain point.
“Help him where you can,” the late Republican senator from Arizona told his longtime friend. “Just don’t get sucked into all this bull—-.”
“Right,” Graham responded.