Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

Trump To Plead the De Facto 5th

The Times is reporting that the President’s personal lawyers are recommending that he refuse to be interviewed or questioned by Robert Mueller’s investigators under any circumstances. Let’s be candid about what this means. The President is pleading the 5th while trying to avoid saying that’s what he’s doing. Let’s call it the de facto 5th. The constitutional law is clear cut. It’s not at all hypothetical. A sitting President has no blanket right to refuse to cooperate with a criminal investigation. Different dimensions of this question were litigated under Presidents Nixon and Clinton. The Courts were clear each time. The President has to comply with the law and with criminal investigations just like everyone else, though there may be certain areas of privilege. Presidents have been interviewed by special prosecutors, special counsels and independent counsels in numerous cases. The President is obviously guilty of obstruction of justice. He’s likely guilty of criminal conspiracy with a foreign power, though what if any statutes this would implicate is not clear to me. It makes perfect sense to refuse to talk. Perps do that all the time. It’s their right.

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We Know Devin Nunes Probable Collaborator at the White House: Michael Ellis

On the House side (and to some but a much lesser extent in the Senate) congressional oversight has been entirely focused on protecting President Trump. With so many key questions ignored and evidence covered up, that leaves an ample to do list of necessary investigations if the Democrats retake control of the House of Representatives in January 2019. Here’s another for the list – it’s about Committee Chair Rep. Devin Nunes and his probable collaborator in the White House.

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Very, Very Bad

I’d say we need to know more about. Quickly.

From a South Korean paper, flagged on Twitter by The Washington Post’s Tokyo Bureau Chief …

Indeed, White House National Security Council senior director for Asian affairs Matthew Pottinger was reported as saying in a recent closed-door meeting with US experts on Korean Peninsula issues that a limited strike on the North “might help in the midterm elections.”

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Hellfire And Damnation

Nunes Dirty Hands — Part Two?

I saw a fascinating interview just a few moments ago on CNN. It was with Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL). Great minds think alike, I guess. Here’s a bit of background before we get to the interview.

Over the last day or so I’ve been hearing these questions about whether the White House collaborated on writing the Nunes Memo. It seemed neither side – not Nunes or the White House – was giving a straight answer. After hearing this a few times, it clicked for me. Of course, they worked together! They have a history. This goes all the way back to the Spring of 2017 when Devin Nunes got caught up in that bizarre “un-masking” nonsense, working as the errand boy of the White House. Remember, that midnight visit to the White House, looking at supposedly highly classified documents that revealed a scandal about ‘un-masking’ and illicit Obama White House surveillance of the Trump 2016 campaign. The whole charade finally blew up in Nunes’ face and led indirectly to his what amounted to his forced recusal from the House intelligence committee investigation. So he’s got a history.

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Please Read

If you missed it last night in the run up to the speech, please take a moment to read my backgrounder post about the Inspector General’s investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Clinton emails probe in 2016. Big picture: what began as a probe into James Comey’s at best botched final-week intervention into the campaign appears to have been repurposed into a probe into whether the FBI didn’t intervene enough. It’s like entering bizarro world. Very troubling stuff. Take a look (Prime access).

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First Take on the Speech

What to make of this speech? I found it fairly conventional as Trump speeches go. In fact, in structural terms it was pretty conventional in general terms too. The first half of the speech – as I noted below – was a fairly standard recitation of President Trump’s goals and accomplishments aimed mainly at his core supporters and mainly focused on economic issues. At the level of structure, it was much like many State of the Union addresses in recent decades.

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