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Aug 20 2018

The Russian Connection: Without A Clue

The prime reason the media is fixated on Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Russian interference of the 2018 election is Donald Trump’s narcissistic fueled paranoia and inept members of his legal team and administration. They just don’t know how to remain silent
Over the weekend the New York Times published a puff piece on White House counsel Donald McGahn had given over 30 hours of testimony to Mueller’s investigators and has been voluntarily cooperating with them over the last nine months.

In at least three voluntary interviews with investigators that totaled 30 hours over the past nine months, Mr. McGahn described the president’s fury toward the Russia investigation and the ways in which he urged Mr. McGahn to respond to it. He provided the investigators examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice a clear view of the president’s most intimate moments with his lawyer.

Among them were Mr. Trump’s comments and actions during the firing of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and Mr. Trump’s obsession with putting a loyalist in charge of the inquiry, including his repeated urging of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to claim oversight of it. Mr. McGahn was also centrally involved in Mr. Trump’s attempts to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, which investigators might not have discovered without him.

For a lawyer to share so much with investigators scrutinizing his client is unusual. Lawyers are rarely so open with investigators, not only because they are advocating on behalf of their clients but also because their conversations with clients are potentially shielded by attorney-client privilege, and in the case of presidents, executive privilege.

A couple of points here that the Saturday Times article was either incorrect or not clear. First, McGahn in not Trump’s personal lawyer. He does not represent Trump. His position as White house Counsel is to defend the office of the presidency.

The Office of Counsel to the President was created in 1943, and is responsible for advising on all legal aspects of policy questions, legal issues arising in connection with the President’s decision to sign or veto legislation, ethical questions, financial disclosures, and conflicts of interest during employment and post employment. The Counsel’s Office also helps define the line between official and political activities, oversees executive appointments and judicial selection, handles Presidential pardons, reviews legislation and Presidential statements, and handles lawsuits against the President in his role as President, as well as serving as the White House contact for the Department of Justice.

The White House Counsel offers legal advice to the President, the Counsel in the President’s official capacity but does not serve as the President’s personal attorney. The scope of the attorney–client privilege between the Counsel and the President, applies to official and not strictly personal matters. It also does not apply to legislative proceedings by the U.S. Congress against a President due to allegations of misconduct while in office, such as formal censures or impeachment proceedings. A President relies on a personal attorney for confidential legal advice.

Typical of his ignorance of how the office he holds functions, Trump does not understand this.

Second, Trump gave McGahn his full permission for McGahn to speak with Mueller, that McGahn may not have needed it, see second paragraph above. However, by granting that full permission, Trump waved any privilege he may have had leaving the door open for Mueller to ask which Trump and his lawyers are just now waking up and realizing may have been a huge mistake.

That McGahn has been cooperating with the investigation was not new news. Buried in the Saturday article was a paragraph acknowledging that we have known about it since September of last year. None the less, it set Trump off on another of his twitter tantrums while he was sequestered in his Bedminster, New Jersey resort over the rainy weekend and sent his personal lawyer Rudolph Guiliani into an incoherent rant claiming that the “truth is not the truth” on Sunday’s Meet the Press.

What is news is that today the Times is reporting that Trump or his lawyers know very little about what McGahn has told Mueller.

The president’s lawyers said on Sunday that they were confident that Mr. McGahn had said nothing injurious to the president during the 30 hours of interviews. But Mr. McGahn’s lawyer has offered only a limited accounting of what Mr. McGahn told the investigators, according to two people close to the president.

That has prompted concern among Mr. Trump’s advisers that Mr. McGahn’s statements could help serve as a key component for a damning report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, which the Justice Department could send to Congress, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

In other words, they have no clue.