The Chicago Syndicate: Jeff Sessions
Showing posts with label Jeff Sessions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jeff Sessions. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics by Chris Christie

Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics - by Chris Christie.

From the outspoken former governor, a no-holds-barred account of Chris Christie's rise to power through the bare-knuckle politics of New Jersey and his frank, startling insights about Donald Trump from inside the president's inner circle.

After dropping out of the 2016 presidential race, Chris Christie stunned the political world by becoming the first major official to endorse Donald Trump. A friend of Trump's for fifteen years, the two-term New Jersey governor understood the future president as well as anyone in the political arena--and Christie quickly became one of Trump's most trusted advisers. Tapped with running Trump's transition team, Christie was nearly named his running mate. But within days of Trump's surprise victory over Hillary Clinton, Christie was in for his own surprise: he was being booted out.

In Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics, Christie sets the record straight about his tenure as a corruption-fighting prosecutor and a Republican running a Democratic state, as well as what really happened on the 2016 campaign trail and inside Trump Tower. Christie takes readers inside the ego-driven battles for Trump's attention among figures like Steve Bannon, Corey Lewandowksi, Reince Priebus, Kellyanne Conway, Jeff Sessions, and Paul Manafort. He shows how the literal trashing of Christie's transition plan put the new administration in the hands of self-serving amateurs, all but guaranteeing the Trump presidency's shaky start. Christie also addresses hot-button issues from his own years in power, including what really went down during Bridgegate. And, for the first time, Christie tells the full story of the Kushner saga: how, as a federal prosecutor, Christie put Jared Kushner's powerful father behind bars--a fact Trump's son-in-law makes Christie pay for later.

Packed with news-making revelations and told with the kind of bluntness few politicians can match, Christie's memoir is an essential guide to understanding the Trump presidency.


Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Why Does a Career Russian Organized Crime Expert Bruce Ohr Upset Donald Trump So Much?

Followers of President Donald Trump’s personal Twitter feed know him as a frequent critic of the U.S. Justice Department. Although his favorite targets remain special counsel Robert Mueller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, lately the president has pushed another, rather unknown name into his crosshairs: Bruce Ohr.

Here, we’ve saved you a lot of Googling.

Who is Bruce OhrBruce Ohr - Russian Organized Crime Expert?

Ohr has been with the Department of Justice (or “Justice” Department, as per the president) for nearly three decades. He started as a prosecutor in New York before transferring to Washington, D.C., where he was eventually named associate deputy attorney general.

His focus is international organized crime ― particularly Russian organized crime. Colleagues and family members told The New York Times he has an upstanding reputation as “a scrupulous government official.” CNN reported that Ohr was viewed as “a consummate government servant.”

In certain posts, Trump called him a “creep” and a “disgrace.”

Ohr was demoted in December 2017. In a statement provided to Fox News at the time, a Justice Department official suggested he was doing too much ― “wear[ing] two hats” ― and the new role will allow him to focus back on organized crime.

Is that all?

Not quite. Ohr knows Christopher Steele, the former British spy who authored the Trump dossier, because Steele once worked for the FBI as a “confidential human source” over an unspecified time. (The agency kept the receipts.) Ohr communicated with him as a Justice Department official.

When Steele shared information with Mother Jones magazine shortly before the 2016 election, reportedly out of frustration, the FBI stopped using him as a source. But Ohr continued to talk to him and pass his information along to the FBI, even though he wasn’t officially involved with any investigation pertaining to Trump.

The so-called Nunes memo ― a much-hyped document authored by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) ― claims Steele told Ohr he really, really did not want Trump elected president.

Additionally, Ohr is married to Nellie Ohr, who formerly worked for Fusion GPS, the company that used funding from Democrats to compile a dossier containing several appalling claims about Trump. He didn’t initially tell Justice Department leadership about the scope of his wife’s work or his continued interactions with Steele.

Why does this matter?

Thanks to his wife and to Steele, Ohr is loosely connected to the Russia investigation. For that he has found himself at the center of a theorized anti-Trump conspiracy. (Phrases such as “RIGGED!,” “WITCH HUNT!” and “Fake Dossier” tend to materialize in the president’s complaints about him on Twitter.)

On Tuesday, Republicans in the House brought him in for a closed-door interview about his contacts with Steele. He was also questioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee in December 2017.

To the right, Ohr’s behavior taints the Russia investigation into possible coordination between that nation and Trump’s campaign. But the idea misses one big point: The Russia investigation didn’t start because of the Trump dossier. It was prompted by the actions of George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser.

What could Trump do to him?

The president could revoke Ohr’s security clearance, as he has threatened to do in recent weeks. That would make it pretty hard for Ohr to do his job.

To fire Ohr, Trump would have to lean on Sessions, an ostensible Trump supporter in the doghouse for recusing himself from overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Why is this all coming up now?

Conservative media have seized on the Ohr story, implying that the Russia investigation was born out of partisan prejudice. The president’s channel of choice, Fox News, is particularly preoccupied with it lately, and Trump has on multiple occasions cited the news outlet’s coverage in his tweets.

Thanks to Sara Boboltz.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

In the Largest Increase in Decades, Attorney General Jeff Sessions of @TheJusticeDept, Selects District of Columbia to Receive Additional Resources to Combat Violent Crime and Fraud

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has selected the District of Columbia to receive three additional Assistant U.S. Attorneys to focus on violent crime and civil enforcement matters, part of a nationwide influx of federal resources to communities.

In the largest increase in decades, Attorney General Sessions announced on June 4, 2018 that the Department of Justice is allocating 311 new Assistant U.S. Attorneys to assist in priority areas. Those allocations are as follows: 190 violent crime prosecutors, 86 civil enforcement attorneys, and 35 additional immigration prosecutors. Nationwide, much of the civil enforcement work will support the newly created Prescription Interdiction & Litigation Task Force, which targets the opioid crisis at every level of the distribution system.

“Under President Trump's strong leadership, the Department of Justice is going on offense against violent crime, illegal immigration, and the opioid crisis—and today we are sending in reinforcements,” said Attorney General Sessions. “We have a saying in my office that a new federal prosecutor is ‘the coin of the realm.’  When we can eliminate wasteful spending, one of my first questions to my staff is if we can deploy more prosecutors to where they are needed. I have personally worked to re-purpose existing funds to support this critical mission, and as a former federal prosecutor myself, my expectations could not be higher. These exceptional and talented prosecutors are key leaders in our crime fighting partnership. This addition of new Assistant U.S. Attorney positions represents the largest increase in decades.”

“My office is grateful for the extra support being provided by the Justice Department to make our community safer,” said U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu. “We will put our new attorneys to work as quickly as possible on complex cases involving violent crime, drug trafficking, health care fraud, and other serious offenses that harm the citizens of the District of Columbia.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office already is working with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and other law enforcement partners on a Justice Department initiative called Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) that is generating additional cases focusing on violent crime. Under Project Safe Neighborhoods, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to a coordinated law enforcement approach and identifying and addressing the most violent locations in the District of Columbia and the offenders.

In the District of Columbia, two of the three new Assistant U.S. Attorneys will focus on violent crime and one will focus on civil enforcement. The new attorneys are in addition to an Assistant U.S. Attorney provided to the District of Columbia in an earlier initiative created by Attorney General Sessions to target cases involving violent crime.

On the violent crime front, the two new prosecutors will take on responsibilities including work on multi-agency investigations focusing on neighborhood crews and gangs in the Sixth and Seventh Police Districts. Much of the upcoming work will include coordinating federal and local law enforcement resources to combat the recent uptick in violent crime in these areas.  The additional Assistant U.S. Attorneys will supplement and increase efforts in executing the Office’s ongoing Project Safe Neighborhoods initiatives and MPD’s Summer Crime Initiatives.

On the civil enforcement side, the new attorney will join five current Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Office’s Civil Division in sharing responsibility for handling a large docket of complex fraud cases.  The District of Columbia ranks fourth in the nation in the number of whistleblower cases filed under the False Claims Act since 1987, and the number of new cases in this district in which the United States is the plaintiff increased on average by 76% during the period from 2013 - 2017.  Those cases primarily involve procurement fraud and health care fraud schemes that require substantial resources to investigate and prosecute.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

White Supremacist Gangs Including Aryan Circle, Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, Aryan Brotherhood, & Dirty White Boys; Run Violent Drug Rings via Organized Crime Groups

Dozens of white supremacist gang members were selling methamphetamine and other illegal narcotics across Texas in a violent organized crime ring, the Department of Justice announced Monday. Officials said they charged 57 members of white supremacist gangs with kidnapping and drug conspiracies. More than 190 kilograms of methamphetamine, 31 firearms and $376,587 in cash was seized during the investigation.

The suspects were members of such groups as Aryan Circle, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, the Aryan Brotherhood and the Dirty White Boys, officials said. The drug operation operated from October 2015 through April 2018. Officials said they took down 42 of the suspects in an operation last week, while nine others were already in custody at the time on unrelated charges. Six of the suspects remained at large.

“Not only do white supremacists gangs subscribe to a repugnant, hateful ideology, they also engage in significant, organized and violent criminal activity,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Under the Trump administration, the Department of Justice has targeted every violent criminal gang member in the United States. The quantities of drugs, guns, and money seized in this case are staggering."

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Very Persuasive Story that James Comey Has to Tell

In his absorbing new book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey calls the Donald Trump presidency a “forest fire” that is doing serious damage to the country’s norms and traditions.

“This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” Comey writes. “His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

Decades before he led the F.B.I.’s investigation into whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, Comey was a career prosecutor who helped dismantle the Gambino crime family; and he doesn’t hesitate in these pages to draw a direct analogy between the Mafia bosses he helped pack off to prison years ago and the current occupant of the Oval Office.

A February 2017 meeting in the White House with Trump and then chief of staff Reince Priebus left Comey recalling his days as a federal prosecutor facing off against the Mob: “The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.” An earlier visit to Trump Tower in January made Comey think about the New York Mafia social clubs he knew as a Manhattan prosecutor in the 1980s and 1990s — “The Ravenite. The Palma Boys. CafĂ© Giardino.”

The central themes that Comey returns to throughout this impassioned book are the toxic consequences of lying; and the corrosive effects of choosing loyalty to an individual over truth and the rule of law. Dishonesty, he writes, was central “to the entire enterprise of organized crime on both sides of the Atlantic,” and so, too, were bullying, peer pressure and groupthink — repellent traits shared by Trump and company, he suggests, and now infecting our culture.

“We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country,” Comey writes, “with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized and unethical behavior is ignored, excused or rewarded.”

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” is the first big memoir by a key player in the alarming melodrama that is the Trump administration. Comey, who was abruptly fired by President Trump on May 9, 2017, has worked in three administrations, and his book underscores just how outside presidential norms Trump’s behavior has been — how ignorant he is about his basic duties as president, and how willfully he has flouted the checks and balances that safeguard our democracy, including the essential independence of the judiciary and law enforcement. Comey’s book fleshes out the testimony he gave before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017 with considerable emotional detail, and it showcases its author’s gift for narrative — a skill he clearly honed during his days as United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The volume offers little in the way of hard news revelations about investigations by the F.B.I. or the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (not unexpectedly, given that such investigations are ongoing and involve classified material), and it lacks the rigorous legal analysis that made Jack Goldsmith’s 2007 book “The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration” so incisive about larger dynamics within the Bush administration.

What “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership" does give readers are some near-cinematic accounts of what Comey was thinking when, as he’s previously said, Trump demanded loyalty from him during a one-on-one dinner at the White House; when Trump pressured him to let go of the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn; and when the president asked what Comey could do to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation.

There are some methodical explanations in these pages of the reasoning behind the momentous decisions Comey made regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails during the 2016 campaign — explanations that attest to his nonpartisan and well-intentioned efforts to protect the independence of the F.B.I., but that will leave at least some readers still questioning the judgment calls he made, including the different approaches he took in handling the bureau’s investigation into Clinton (which was made public) and its investigation into the Trump campaign (which was handled with traditional F.B.I. secrecy).

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” also provides sharp sketches of key players in three presidential administrations. Comey draws a scathing portrait of Vice President Dick Cheney’s legal adviser David S. Addington, who spearheaded the arguments of many hard-liners in the George W. Bush White House; Comey describes their point of view: “The war on terrorism justified stretching, if not breaking, the written law.” He depicts Bush national security adviser and later Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as uninterested in having a detailed policy discussion of interrogation policy and the question of torture. He takes Barack Obama’s attorney general Loretta Lynch to task for asking him to refer to the Clinton email case as a “matter,” not an “investigation.” (Comey tartly notes that “the F.B.I. didn’t do ‘matters.’”) And he compares Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to Alberto R. Gonzales, who served in the same position under Bush, writing that both were “overwhelmed and overmatched by the job,” but “Sessions lacked the kindness Gonzales radiated.”

Comey is what Saul Bellow called a “first-class noticer.” He notices, for instance, “the soft white pouches under” Trump’s “expressionless blue eyes”; coyly observes that the president’s hands are smaller than his own “but did not seem unusually so”; and points out that he never saw Trump laugh — a sign, Comey suspects, of his “deep insecurity, his inability to be vulnerable or to risk himself by appreciating the humor of others, which, on reflection, is really very sad in a leader, and a little scary in a president.”

During his Senate testimony last June, Comey was boy-scout polite (“Lordy, I hope there are tapes”) and somewhat elliptical in explaining why he decided to write detailed memos after each of his encounters with Trump (something he did not do with Presidents Obama or Bush), talking gingerly about “the nature of the person I was interacting with.” Here, however, Comey is blunt about what he thinks of the president, comparing Trump’s demand for loyalty over dinner to “Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony — with Trump, in the role of the family boss, asking me if I have what it takes to be a ‘made man.’”

Throughout his tenure in the Bush and Obama administrations (he served as deputy attorney general under Bush, and was selected to lead the F.B.I. by Obama in 2013), Comey was known for his fierce, go-it-alone independence, and Trump’s behavior catalyzed his worst fears — that the president symbolically wanted the leaders of the law enforcement and national security agencies to come “forward and kiss the great man’s ring.” Comey was feeling unnerved from the moment he met Trump. In his recent book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” Michael Wolff wrote that Trump “invariably thought people found him irresistible,” and felt sure, early on, that “he could woo and flatter the F.B.I. director into positive feeling for him, if not outright submission” (in what the reader takes as yet another instance of the president’s inability to process reality or step beyond his own narcissistic delusions).

After he failed to get that submission and the Russia cloud continued to hover, Trump fired Comey; the following day he told Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office that firing the F.B.I. director — whom he called “a real nut job” — relieved “great pressure” on him. A week later, the Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

During Comey’s testimony, one senator observed that the often contradictory accounts that the president and former F.B.I. director gave of their one-on-one interactions came down to “Who should we believe?” As a prosecutor, Comey replied, he used to tell juries trying to evaluate a witness that “you can’t cherry-pick” — “You can’t say, ‘I like these things he said, but on this, he’s a dirty, rotten liar.’ You got to take it all together.”

Put the two men’s records, their reputations, even their respective books, side by side, and it’s hard to imagine two more polar opposites than Trump and Comey: They are as antipodean as the untethered, sybaritic Al Capone and the square, diligent G-man Eliot Ness in Brian De Palma’s 1987 movie “The Untouchables”; or the vengeful outlaw Frank Miller and Gary Cooper’s stoic, duty-driven marshal Will Kane in Fred Zinnemann’s 1952 classic “High Noon.”

One is an avatar of chaos with autocratic instincts and a resentment of the so-called “deep state” who has waged an assault on the institutions that uphold the Constitution.

The other is a straight-arrow bureaucrat, an apostle of order and the rule of law, whose reputation as a defender of the Constitution was indelibly shaped by his decision, one night in 2004, to rush to the hospital room of his boss, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, to prevent Bush White House officials from persuading the ailing Ashcroft to reauthorize an N.S.A. surveillance program that members of the Justice Department believed violated the law.

One uses language incoherently on Twitter and in person, emitting a relentless stream of lies, insults, boasts, dog-whistles, divisive appeals to anger and fear, and attacks on institutions, individuals, companies, religions, countries, continents.

The other chooses his words carefully to make sure there is “no fuzz” to what he is saying, someone so self-conscious about his reputation as a person of integrity that when he gave his colleague James R. Clapper, then director of national intelligence, a tie decorated with little martini glasses, he made sure to tell him it was a regift from his brother-in-law.

One is an impulsive, utterly transactional narcissist who, so far in office, The Washington Post calculated, has made an average of six false or misleading claims a day; a winner-take-all bully with a nihilistic view of the world. “Be paranoid,” he advises in one of his own books. In another: “When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades.”

The other wrote his college thesis on religion and politics, embracing Reinhold Niebuhr’s argument that “the Christian must enter the political realm in some way” in order to pursue justice, which keeps “the strong from consuming the weak.”

Until his cover was blown, Comey shared nature photographs on Twitter using the name “Reinhold Niebuhr,” and both his 1982 thesis and this memoir highlight how much Niebuhr’s work resonated with him. They also attest to how a harrowing experience he had as a high school senior — when he and his brother were held captive, in their parents’ New Jersey home, by an armed gunman — must have left him with a lasting awareness of justice and mortality.

Long passages in Comey’s thesis are also devoted to explicating the various sorts of pride that Niebuhr argued could afflict human beings — most notably, moral pride and spiritual pride, which can lead to the sin of self-righteousness. And in “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” Comey provides an inventory of his own flaws, writing that he can be “stubborn, prideful, overconfident and driven by ego.”

Those characteristics can sometimes be seen in Comey’s account of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, wherein he seems to have felt a moral imperative to address, in a July 2016 press conference, what he described as her “extremely careless” handling of “very sensitive, highly classified information,” even though he went on to conclude that the bureau recommend no charges be filed against her. His announcement marked a departure from precedent in that it was done without coordination with Department of Justice leadership and offered more detail about the bureau’s evaluation of the case than usual.

As for his controversial disclosure on Oct. 28, 2016, 11 days before the election, that the F.B.I. was reviewing more Clinton emails that might be pertinent to its earlier investigation, Comey notes here that he had assumed from media polling that Clinton was going to win. He has repeatedly asked himself, he writes, whether he was influenced by that assumption: “It is entirely possible that, because I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president, my concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in all polls. But I don’t know.”

He adds that he hopes “very much that what we did — what I did — wasn’t a deciding factor in the election.” In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3, 2017, Comey stated that the very idea that his decisions might have had an impact on the outcome of the presidential race left him feeling “mildly nauseous” — or, as one of his grammatically minded daughters corrected him, “nauseated.”

Trump was reportedly infuriated by Comey’s “nauseous” remark; less than a week later he fired the F.B.I. director — an act regarded by some legal scholars as possible evidence of obstruction of justice, and that quickly led to the appointment of the special counsel Robert Mueller and an even bigger cloud over the White House.

It’s ironic that Comey, who wanted to shield the F.B.I. from politics, should have ended up putting the bureau in the midst of the 2016 election firestorm; just as it’s ironic (and oddly fitting) that a civil servant who has prided himself on being apolitical and independent should find himself reviled by both Trump and Clinton, and thrust into the center of another tipping point in history.

They are ironies that would have been appreciated by Comey’s hero Niebuhr, who wrote as much about the limits, contingencies and unforeseen consequences of human decision-making as he did about the dangers of moral complacency and about the necessity of entering the political arena to try to make a difference.

Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani.

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