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Posts Tagged ‘ALEXANDER BUTTERFIELD’

HE WHO LIVES BY THE TWEET, DIES BY IT: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 19, 2017 at 12:05 am

When the Senate Watergate Committee learned that President Richard M. Nixon had installed a secret taping system in the White House, they immediately subpoenaed all of his tapes.

So did Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.

Nixon fired Cox in the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” on October 20, 1973.  But Cox was succeeded by another Special Prosecutor, Leon Jaworski–who also pursued the tapes.

The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court–which ruled, 8-0, that Nixon must give up the tapes.

One of the tapes revealed that Nixon had ordered the FBI to abandon its investigation of the Watergate break-in. When news leaked of this, Nixon resigned to avoid the disgrace of impeachment in the House and certain conviction in the Senate.

Image result for images of Richard M. Nixon

Richard M. Nixon

Now it appears that history is about to repeat itself–in the case of President Donald J. Trump.

And it has been touched off by his repeated use of Twitter as both a Presidential candidate and President.

When it was launched on July 16, 2006, Twitter was intended to be, according to Wikipedia, “an online news and social networking service where users post and interact with messages, ‘tweets,’ restricted to 140 characters.”

It was never intended as a weapon of slander and intimidation. Yet, as both a Presidential candidate and President, Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

Even before taking office as President, Trump was haunted by charges that members of his 2016 Presidential campaign colluded with Russian Intelligence agents to secure his election. 

Trump has furiously and repeatedly denied this.

Yet, on May 11, no fewer than six top American intelligence officials testified before Congress that Russia acted to influence last year’s election.

These officials were:

  • Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence;
  • Michael Pompeo, CIA director;
  • Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency;
  • Lieutenant-General Vincent Stewart (USMC), director of the Defense Intelligence Agency;
  • Robert Cardillo, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; and
  • Andrew McCabe, acting FBI director, installed after Trump fired the agency’s appointed director, James Comey.

Comey had been spearheading the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s “Russian connection.” In early May, 2017, he had asked the Justice Department to provide increased resources for the FBI’s investigation.

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FBI Headquarters

During a private White House dinner in January, Trump asked Comey to pledge his personal loyalty to him. Comey refused to do so.  

On May 9, Trump fired him.

Instead of doing so quietly and with dignity, Trump dispatched his longtime personal bodyguard, Keith Schiller, to FBI headquarters with the message: “You’re fired.” Comey was in the FBI’s Los Angeles field office speaking with agents when he learned of his dismissal in a TV news broadcast.

Not content with humiliating and dismissing Comey, Trump then threatened him in a May 12 tweet: “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

Having implied that he had secretly taped his conversation with Comey, Trump found himself besieged with the question: “Did you install a White House taping system similar to the one installed by President Richard Nixon?”

Trump has refused to answer–and so have his spokesmen and women.

Ironically, his latest use of a weaponized Twitter account may have doomed his Presidency. His threat to Comey has boxed him in with a series of dead-end scenarios.

Dead-end #1: If Trump taped the conversation without Comey’s consent, he broke the law.  (This has been explored in Part One of this series.)

Dead-end #2: If Trump admits he taped Comey, he provides Democrats–and even some Republicans–with reason to subpoena all existing White House tapes.

The House and Senate have competing investigative committees probing “the Russian connection.” And no doubt they will soon issue subpoenas for any secret tapes Trump may have made.

And so will newly-appointed Special Counsel Robert Meuller, III, who served for 12 years as FBI director under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the appointment on May 17, citing “the unique circumstances [of] the public interest.” 

(Attorney General Jeff Sessions has supposedly recused himself from involvement in the Russian investigation–because he lied to Congress about his past contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during 2016.)

If he refuses to release them, Trump will touch off another Watergate-style conflict between the White House and Congress.

Dead-end #3: If he claims that he didn’t tape Comey, many people will believe he’s lying.

Dead-end #4: If he claims that he didn’t tape Comey, many people will believe he is a punk–for trying to intimidate the former FBI director with a baseless threat.

Dead-end #5: It’s impossible to prove a negative. So if Trump doesn’t have secret tapes to turn over, it will be impossible for him to prove he isn’t stonewalling in defiance of the law.

Dead-end #6: Trump’s brutal and unwarranted firing of James Comey on May 9 has infuriated the FBI’s 35,664 employees, of which 13,778 are Special Agents.

By earning the hatred of the most powerful investigative agency in the Federal Government, Trump has all-but-guaranteed his removal from office.

What began for the Bureau as a professional investigation into Russian sabotage has become a personal vendetta.

HE WHO LIVES BY THE TWEET, DIES BY IT: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 18, 2017 at 12:15 am

Donald Trump’s tweet-first-and-never-mind-the-consequences approach to life has been thoroughly documented.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, he fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions. The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

Donald Trump

Among these targets were:

  • His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton
  • His fellow Republican Presidential candidates
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • News organizations
  • President Barack Obama
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • Obamacare
  • Singer Neil Young
  • The state of New Jersey
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And during his first two weeks as President, Trump attacked 22 people, places and things on his @realDonaldTrump account.

Then, on March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election:

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

Thus, without offering a shred of evidence to back it up, Trump accused his predecessor of committing an impeachable offense.

President Barack Obama

On May 9, Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey.

Reports soon surfaced that his reason for doing so was that Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump.

Trump had made this “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January.

After refusing to make that pledge, Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him.

But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief.

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James B. Comey

Just 72 hours after firing Comey, Trump issued a threat to him via Twitter:

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

This last tweet may have proved fatal to the man who has weaponized Twitter.

Trump’s implication that he taped his conversation with Comey immediately led White House reporters to ask if he, in fact, taped conversations in the Executive Mansion.

Trump’s response: No comment.

At a White House press conference, Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, was asked three times: Was tape recording occurring in the White House?

Spicer replied: “I’ve talked to the President. The President had nothing further to add on that.”

Asked on Right-wing Fox News–the only major network Trump willingly appears on–if he taped the Comey conversation, the President said: “That I can’t talk about. I won’t talk about that. All I want is for Comey to be honest. And I hope he will be. And I’m sure he will be – I hope.”

By implying on Twitter that he had illegally taped his conversation with Comey–and then refusing to say if this was true–Trump has boxed himself into a no-win situation.

Dead-end #1: If he taped the conversation without Comey’s consent, Trump broke the law.

According to a 2003 Congressional report, “Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping”:

“It is a federal crime to wiretap or to use a machine to capture the communications of others without court approval, unless one of the parties has given their prior consent.

“It is likewise a federal crime to use or disclose any information acquired by illegal wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping. Violations can result in imprisonment for not more than 5 years; fines up to $250,000 (up to $500,000 for organizations); in civil liability for damages, attorneys fees and possibly punitive damages; in disciplinary action against any attorneys involved; and in suppression of any derivative evidence.”

Dead-end #2: If Trump admits he taped Comey, he provides Democrats–and even some Republicans–with reason to subpoena all existing White House tapes.

In the summer of 1973, the Senate was investigating the bugging of Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel during the 1972 Presidential campaign.

In June, 1973, John W. Dean III testified before the Senate Watergate Committee. He had served as White House Counsel for Nixon from 1970 to 1973. And now he outlined a litany of crimes ordered by President Richard Nixon.

The White House adamantly denied these charges by attacking Dean as a malcontent. (He had been fired by Nixon in April.)

So–who was telling the truth: Dean or Nixon?  It was a classic case of He said/he said.

Then–unexpectedly–a way appeared to answer the question: “Who is telling the truth?”

Alexander Butterfield, who had served as the Deputy Assistant to Nixon from 1969 to 1973, was called as a witness before the Committee.

In a private meeting with Senate investigators, he unintentionally blurted out that Nixon had installed a secret taping system to record all conversations between him and Oval Office visitors.

Suddenly, the Watergate investigation took an entirely new direction–one that would prove fatal to Nixon’s Presidency.

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