We pick up on today's BradCast, somewhat near where we left off on Friday, following BuzzFeed News' blockbuster report charging that Donald Trump directed his former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to federal investigators in order to obscure their work on a project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow even as Americans were voting during the 2016 Presidential election. [Audio link to today's show is posted below.]
The explosive reported allegations that the President of the United States had suborned perjury led to calls on Friday for Trump's impeachment, only to be dampened by a very rare --- and very carefully worded --- response from Robert Mueller's office, disputing "Buzzfeed's description of specific statements to the Special Counsel's office" and the "characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office."
My guest today, legal and national security journalist MARCY WHEELER of Emptywheel, says those words were carefully selected by Mueller's office and for a very specific reason. Given all the confusion following both the report and Mueller's unusual statement late last week --- not to mention conflicting remarks from Trump's TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani over the weekend --- Wheeler helps us try to make sense of what is now known and unknown on all of this, why Mueller's office chose to speak out in response to it, and whether or not he was encouraged to do so directly by Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, the White House or someone else on Trump's legal team.
"Buzzfeed offered some particular details that match exactly with details that Mueller has offered," Wheeler explains, while noting that the news outlet "made a news claim that Trump had ordered this lie. What Mueller is pushing back against is a legal claim." She tells me how the two interests are different, even as they may be describing much of the same events and documentation.
Moreover, she argues, "there's abundant evidence that Trump has ordered people to lie, and that subsequent to his orders to tell lies, his people have continued to tell those lies...and that's illegal. That should be a no-brainer and the press needs to start telling that story."
Wheeler, who has long been covering all things related to the Trump/Russia probe as close --- or closer --- than virtually anybody in the nation, offers much insight today on all of the above, including details on Buzzfeed's sourcing for their report (which they continue to stand by "100%"), based on information from two unnamed "federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter," as well as "multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents."
Also today, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 vote, allows Trump's ban on transgender members of the military to move forward, even as ongoing cases in several lower courts have blocked his cruel directive, and even as at least one legal obstacle remains.
In slightly more encouraging --- and certainly less cruel --- news from SCOTUS today, despite pleas from the Administration the Court made no announcement of plans to hear argument on any of the many ongoing lower court cases challenging Trump's reversal of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Obama's DACA order was meant to help prevent the deportation of more than a million undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents as children many years ago. Should the Court decide to hear one of the cases, it would now most likely not happen until the session that begins in October, with an opinion coming months later. Temporary protection under DACA for so-called "Dreamers" was used over the weekend as an attempted bargaining chip by Trump, as part of an offer to Democrats in exchange for the $5.7 billion he has demanded for a border wall, leading to the longest (and still ongoing) federal government shutdown in U.S. history.
And, finally today, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report, with news on the tragic pipeline explosion in Mexico over the weekend, toxic coal ash groundwater contamination discovered in 22 states, and how the government shutdown is setting the table for a dangerous wildfire season, even as its temporarily protecting aquatic wildlife from seismic testing during offshore drilling exploration in the Atlantic...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)