Mueller and Comey have had a long, close relationship.
Comey talked with Mueller’s team ahead of testimony. ‘Robert Mueller won’t be surprised’ about his testimony, according to one Comey associate. Friends of James Comey said they expected this.
Former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony was one of the most highly anticipated hearings in recent memory — but his words were unlikely to surprise special counsel Robert Mueller, whose team has been in contact with Comey, according to two of his associates.
One Comey friend said “there had been conversations” between Comey and Mueller’s team before the testimony and “Mueller won’t be surprised.”
The special counsel appointed to lead Russia investigation and Mueller to oversee said of the investigation.
The man tasked with investigating possible meddling by Russia in the 2016 presidential election – a probe that will likely encompass President Trump’s recent firing of FBI Director James Comey – once called Comey “one of the finest people I’ve ever met.”
Robert Mueller, Comey’s predecessor at FBI from 2001-2013, has a lengthy, close and somewhat controversial history with the man suddenly at the center of investigations swirling around Trump. Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election and related issues.
Trump’s critics contend several of his top campaign aides – including onetime campaign chair Paul Manafort, adviser Carter Page and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn – had suspicious, if not illicit, contacts with Kremlin-linked officials. Trump has denied any collusion with the Russian government and no evidence has been publicly presented to show such collusion.
Trump fired Comey May 9, in part, Trump said later, because the Russian investigation was dragging on.
“In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,'” Trump said. “It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”
Press leaks, later established that Comey had a supposed written memo to himself detailing at least one meeting with Trump where the president had suggested he would like to see any investigation of Flynn ended.
With growing calls from largely Democratic lawmakers that the Trump administration could no longer credibly conduct any investigation into Russia in the midst of Comey’s ouster, Mueller was thrust into the picture.
But Mueller and Comey have been longtime allies dating back to at least 2003 when the men both worked in Washington, D.C., Mueller as FBI Director and Comey as Deputy Attorney General.
The men were a memorable cast – mostly via Comey’s 2007 testimony – as honorable men standing against government overreach when they talked former President George W. Bush out of pushing ahead the renewal of a controversial surveillance program. That episode included a supposedly dramatic hospital bedside encounter when Bush aides tried to get ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft to sign off on the program’s renewal. But Ashcroft, and in Comey’s telling, Comey himself stood firmly athwart the pressure and prevailed.
Robert Mueller and James Comey are Buddies
Mueller was a confidante of Comey during the initial incident, backing him up and reportedly offering to resign alongside him should the need arise. After Comey’s testimony in 2007, Mueller’s notes were subpoenaed by Congress as a way of verifying the account (which Bush and then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez offer a differing version of).
“I hung up, called Director Mueller, with whom I’d been discussing this particular matter and had been a great help to me over that week — and told him what was happening,” Comey testified. “He said, ‘I’ll meet you at the hospital right now.'”
He later told senators of Mueller: “He’s one of the finest people I’ve ever met.”
According to a lengthy Washingtonian article published on the eve of Comey succeeding Mueller as FBI head, Mueller was the “one person in government in whom [Comey] could confide in and trust.”
As the showdown with Bush was going on, Comey, riding with Mueller to the White House, reflected on the impending fight that could be bearing down on the men. “At least Bob Mueller will be standing on the tracks with me,” Comey thought, according to The Washingtonian.
When Comey was initially called to Ashcroft’s bedside, his first call was to Mueller who reportedly responded: “I’ll be right there.”
Now he’s tasked with evaluating Comey’s accounts and recollections as he tries to play arbitrator in a mushrooming saga that’s clouded Trump’s Presidency?
Special Counsel Robert Mueller Must Recuse from Comey Part of Inquiry
The law is clear: Special Counsel Mueller must recuse from any Comey-part of his special counsel inquiry. As the Department of Justice itself promises the world, “No DOJ employee may participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation or prosecution, or who would be directly affected by the outcome.” A personal relationship “means a close and substantial connection of the type normally viewed as likely to induce partiality.” This requirement derives directly from section 45.2 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The law reads the requirements of recusal as mandatory: Mueller “shall” recuse from the Comey part of the inquiry if Mueller has a “personal relationship” with Comey.
This is where the ethical concern arises: a partial prosecutor will favor one party over another due to their personal relationship with one of those parties. To assess the Comey-connected issues requires review of Comey’s behavior, assessment of Comey’s intent, and judgment of Comey’s credibility. According to published media reports and near unanimity of those who know both, Mueller enjoys an “unusual friendship” with Comey in their closeness. Their actions as public servants particularly “deepening a friendship forged in the highest levels of the national security apparatus.” To many Trump supporters, that sounds like a Deep State alliance forged in the fires of another more unearthly place. The public articles read more like a modern bromance, that “stretches back over a decade” of closeness and simpatico sentiments toward and for one another’s “shared” perspectives.
Five separate sets of standards govern the conduct of special counsel for the Department of Justice. First, the conflict of interest laws imposed by Congress in sections 201 through 209 of Title 18 of the United States Code. Second, the executive orders of the White House, including Executive Order 12674, 12731, and 13490, all amended and updated by President Barack Obama. Third, the integrity restrictions of section 423 of Title 41 of the United States Code governing procurement policy. Fourth, the standards of conduct governing appointed officials under section 2635 of Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Fifth, and finally, the Department of Justice’s standards of conduct for Department appointees under section 3801 of Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations and section 45 of Title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Mueller, as an attorney licensed in California (and, apparently, elsewhere), the ethical standards governing California counsel also govern Mueller’s conduct.
At the outset, it is not clear that this order authorizes Mueller to conduct any inquiry into any Comey concerned issues. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, as the then acting Attorney General for matters Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from, retained special counsel Robert Swan Mueller III to “conduct the investigation” purportedly “confirmed by then-FBI Director James B. Comey” concerning “any links and/or coördination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Comey’s testimony was that he felt Trump fired him for not telling the world what Comey knew and told Trump and others — that Trump was not under investigation. Comey’s only other testimony concerned the post-election conduct of Mike Flynn communicating with the Russian ambassador, which the FBI already publicly cleared Flynn of wrongdoing. As such, neither would fit under the limited inquiry authorized by the special counsel order of Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein or the limited recusal of Attorney General Sessions, which shapes the limits of the special counsel authorization authority from Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and concerns “the campaign” and not post-election matters. Comey’s testimony, though, suggests otherwise, implying that Mueller has included any Comey-connected issues within his purview, despite the jurisdictional limitations of Mueller’s limited-by-law order authorizing his appointment, and the circumscribes terms of that order of appointment.
Mueller’s unwillingness to recognize the limits of his authority raises precisely the concerns Professor Dershowitz and others have raised with the appointment of any special counsel in this matter. Independently, it gives rise to a greater concern in this context: the close personal friendship and the public association between Mueller and Comey, which far exceeds any of the kind that led Attorney General Sessions to recuse from this inquiry in the first instance.
Additionally, concern over Comey reached new levels after Comey’s testimony, due to Comey’s dubious choice to drama-queen the main stage. (There is a reason lawyers tell their clients to keep their mouth shut.) Separate analysis — several by liberal-leaning Democratic law scholars and lawyers — identified four different grounds to potentially criminally prosecute and bring legal actions against Comey from his own words before the committee:
Perjury for saying he had never memorialized any prior Presidential conversation, when evidence from a published book strongly suggests otherwise; Perjury for saying he had never received notice of the particular scope of Sessions’ recusal, when the Department of Justice’s own emails to Comey strongly suggests otherwise; Perjury for saying he only released details of his memos after President Trump tweeted about taped conversations, when a New York Times story from the day before the tweet strongly suggests otherwise; Violating various records and employment related laws in removing and leaking FBI memos to the New York Times, memos Comey cannot seem to now find;
How can Mueller believe anyone will see his actions as impartial when it requires reviewing all matters of credibility concerning Comey, including possible criminal charge consequences for Comey, when Mueller has been identified as friends of a “unique” “deep” and “close” kind with Comey for more than “a decade”? As important, for the integrity of the legal proceedings, it is essential the public at large see Mueller’s actions as impartial. After all, that is the entire point of a special counsel appointment: a prosecutor above reproach, by action and public perception. Does anyone think Mueller’s actions from now on will be seen that way? Especially, after Comey conceded publicly he orchestrated the leaks to get a special counsel appointed, and that special counsel turned out to be his deep, close, personal friend, Mueller?
Trump critics, ask this question: Would you be OK with Trump’s counsel Michael Cohen as special counsel? How about any other long-time Trump friend and ally? Trump-critics cannot demand Sessions’ recusal on the one hand, and then ignore the more glaring conflict at the center of Mueller’s role in this now Comey-dominated matter. The best legal rule of all time is a simple one: “what is good for the goose is good for the gander.” So it should be here. Session recused; so must Mueller.
This hunt of President Trump can defiantly be defined as a Witch Hunt! The Democrats can not believe the reality that Mr. Donald Trump is now Mr. President Donald Trump! They cannot accept the outcome of the 2016 elections. There are two main reasons the Democrats lost, the main one being Americans lost all faith and credibility in them, second because Hillary Clinton their chosen candidate was a complete failure, being exposed at every turn!
“In the same way that the witch hunt against Clinton found the email thing, which was really what damaged her.”: It was not a witch hunt in Hillary’s case; she deliberately used an illegal private e-mail server mainly to prevent all her e-mails from being archived at the State Dept. She first denied, then claimed it was allowed and then tried to pin Colin Powell, etc. She also had deleted thousands of classified official e-mails and also destroyed the server using an outside contractor with no security clearance and also destroyed a dozen hand-held devices that were used by her for official business. BTW, her use of the private server was reported in March 2015 by NY Times, from where the hunt (NOT witch hunt) took off!
Mueller Must Recuse!