×
April 17, 2018

It's not Perry Mason or Law & Order, but there's plenty of drama in federal Judge Kimba Wood's Manhattan courtroom over which of Michael Cohen's seized files federal prosecutors will be able to see, and when. In court on Monday, President Trump's lawyer Joanna Hendon asked Wood to allow Trump first review of the materials, and when Wood rejected the stay — she is considering a neutral "special master" or a "taint team" of federal prosecutors — Hendon said she has no idea what to tell Trump about what's in Cohen's files. "You're getting into areas that we don't need to address now," Wood replied, according to Bloomberg News. But what's in Cohen's files is very much on the minds of Trump and his allies, Axios reports.

"Cohen is a potential Rosetta stone to Trump's final decade in private life," Axios' Mike Allen writes. "Cohen knows more about some elements of Trump's life than anyone else — because some stuff, Ivanka doesn't want to know."

"The guys that know Trump best are the most worried," a former Trump campaign official told Axios. "People are very, very worried. Because it's Michael [effing] Cohen. Who knows what he's done? ... People at the Trump Organization don't even really know everything he does. It's all side deals and off-the-books stuff. Trump doesn't even fully know; he knows some but not everything."

"The media is excited about what might emerge from Cohen's legal travails, and for good reason," Tim O'Brien, who wrote a book about Trump, counters at Bloomberg View. But nobody should "assume that his evident downfall portends doom for Trump's presidency." Cohen has only worked for Trump since 2006, and he never had a leadership role at Trump's business. If prosecutors ever become interested in Jason Greenblatt, Trump's company's general counsel who signed off on almost every significant deal, or CFO Allen Weisselberg, O'Brien writes, then Trump is in serious trouble. Peter Weber

8:41 a.m.

A former Justice Department lawyer who helped write the regulations for special counsel investigations in 1998 and 1999 has added his name to the list of those calling for Attorney General P. William Barr to make the Mueller report, which was handed over to Barr on Friday, available to the public.

Neal Kumar Katyal, who is now a law professor at Georgetown University, wrote in The Washington Post that he and his colleagues drafted regulations for special counsel investigations following the Starr investigation into former President Bill Clinton. They wanted to avoid similar investigations in the future which might "produce a lurid document going unnecessarily into detail about someone's intimate conduct."

But he also wrote that the regulations serve as "a floor, not a ceiling" on the amount of transparency that the Attorney General can provide to Congress and the public after the special counsel completes an investigation.

"The canard that some Trump allies are floating, that a public release would violate the special counsel regulations, is false," Katyal wrote. "They require transparency and an 'explanation of each action' at the end of the special counsel investigation, but they don't forbid more transparency on top of that."

Katyal argued that Barr "has all the latitude in the world" to make the Mueller public and that he should, indeed, do so. Read the full article at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

8:06 a.m.

New Zealand continues to act swiftly in its response to the mass shootings that claimed 50 lives at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand last week.

The manifesto, believed to be written by Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian who has been charged with the murder of 50 people, is now illegal in the country, New Zealand's Office of Film and Literature Classification announced on Saturday. The manifesto, which is more than 80 pages long, is rife with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim content. It was made public online before the shootings occurred and was also sent to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office just minutes before Tarrant carried out the attack.

"Others have referred to this publication as a 'manifesto', but I consider it a crude booklet that promotes murder and terrorism. It is objectionable under New Zealand law," New Zealand's Chief Censor David Shanks said. "It crosses the line."

The decision follows another one made earlier this week which banned footage of the shootings, including edited clips and still images. The New Zealand government also banned semi-automatic rifles and accessories just six days after the shooting. Tim O'Donnell

7:47 a.m.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency shared private data, including banking information, of millions of hurricane and wildfire survivors, The Department of Homeland Security inspector general said in a memo that surfaced on Friday.

The unlawful disclosure places the survivors at "increased risk of identity theft and fraud."

The data was shared with an unidentified federal contractor that was helping the 2.3 million survivors from Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria, as well as the 2017 California wildfires find housing. It included 20 "unnecessary" fields such as electronic funds transfer numbers, bank transit numbers, and addresses.

FEMA said in a statement that it has already begun filtering the data to ensure it cannot be shared with the public, and the organization has said that there is so far no indication that the information has been compromised. But, per CNN, a more permanent fix may not be finalized until June 2020. Tim O'Donnell

March 22, 2019

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report is here, and pretty much no one knows what's in it.

The Justice Department announced Friday that Mueller had finished his investigation into potential ties between President Trump's campaign and Russian election interference. And within minutes, even the most unexpected lawmakers started calling for Attorney General William Barr to release it to the public.

First up came a wave of Democratic voices. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a joint call for public report, while 2020 candidates chimed in with some variation on the theme. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also surprisingly called for a public release, saying it was needed to "put an end to the speculation and innuendo that has loomed over the administration."

Those calls reflected a 420-0 House vote last week on a non-binding resolution to make the report public. Heck, even Trump said Tuesday that he wouldn't mind if Congress saw what Mueller had to say. But there's still one major holdout: Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). In his Friday statement, Graham reflected Barr's language in simply calling for "as much transparency as possible, consistent with the law." Graham also blocked the House's popular resolution from a vote in the Senate earlier this week.

Grassley did pointedly note Friday that he was in Graham's committee position just last year — perhaps something he's regretting giving up right about now. Kathryn Krawczyk

March 22, 2019

A senior Justice Department official said Friday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will not recommend any further indictments, ABC News reports.

Mueller, whose inquiry into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian election interference was completed late Friday afternoon, had issued indictments for more than three dozen individuals over the nearly two-year investigation, including for former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

While the lack of new indictments may come as a disappointment to those who saw Mueller's report as a potentially crippling blow to the Trump administration, it is still unclear what the completed report contains — and NBC News notes that evidence uncovered by the special counsel's probe could be used in other investigations, like in the Southern District of New York. But the spectacle of former Trump associates being led into court as a result of Mueller's investigation appears to have come to an end. Jacob Lambert

March 22, 2019

Although Special Counsel Robert Mueller missed his chance to deliver his report to Attorney General William Barr on the Ides of March, he picked another significant date to finish the long-awaited conclusion.

On March 22, 1973, a conversation between former President Richard Nixon and his former attorney general, John Mitchell, was recorded — a conversation that was later used to indict Mitchell on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury for his role in the attempted cover-up of the Watergate scandal of 1972. In this recording, Nixon can be heard instructing Mitchell to "stonewall" the ongoing Watergate trial and "save the plan."

Comparisons between Presidents Nixon and Trump have been endlessly drawn since Trump assumed office in 2017, which makes this historical coincidence particularly noticeable. But we won't know if a conspiracy on the scale of Nixon's has occurred in the Trump White House unless the conclusions of Mueller report are made public — which could happen as soon as this weekend.

Read the full transcript of the Nixon tape in question here, or listen to all of the tapes played during the Watergate trial here, courtesy of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Shivani Ishwar

March 22, 2019

News that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had submitted his final report to the Justice Department on Friday fueled speculation that President Trump could be in for a very rough weekend, but several pundits weren't so sure.

While Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) warned that the Democratic-controlled House has "subpoena power" and promised "the American people will see every word, every comma, every period" of the report on whether the Trump campaign was involved with Russian election interference, but CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin thought eager viewers should cool their jets.

While Attorney General William Barr wrote that he could brief Congress on the report's conclusions "as soon as this weekend," Toobin said that if he does share the findings, "it's going to take a while," not come within days. Several agencies will have to weigh in on whether aspects of the report can be declassified, said Toobin, though he acknowledged the process was going quicker than he expected.

Toobin also asserted that Mueller was "never told no" during his investigation, something ABC News' Terry Moran agreed with, saying Mueller had "free reign" and still opted not to bring any more charges against Trump campaign officials. However, Moran said "it's possible that we will learn a conclusion, the broad conclusion, very quickly," suggesting no further indictments and a completed investigation will speak for themselves, forming a de facto "no collusion" conclusion. Summer Meza

See More Speed Reads