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3 months ago

Four takeaways from report that Trump is a ‘subject,’ not a ‘target’ of Mueller probe

Both haters and defenders of President Donald Trump seized on this week’s bombshell Washington Post report that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team told the president’s lawyers he is not a “target” of the long-running Russia probe.

Trump’s supporters contend it is evidence that breathless media speculation about “collusion” is overblown.

Trump critics counter that Trump’s status as a “subject” rather than a “target” makes little difference and that the president is not in the clear.

Both sides are right.

Here are four takeaways on the big revelation:
1. The Post’s reporting suggests strongly that Mueller does not have compelling evidence that Trump conspired with Russian agents to fix the 2016 presidential election.

If Mueller had the goods, presumably Trump already would be a target.

There almost certainly would be other tells, as well. It is hard to believe that a smoking-gun piece of evidence would remain secret for long in leak-happy Washington.

Beyond that, it seems reasonable to assume that there would be some indication of a campaign conspiracy in the prosecutions Mueller’s team already is conducting.

CNN, MSNBC and other news outlets have made much hay over the indictments brought by the special counsel’s office, often conflating the the prosecutions with the unproven collusion narrative.

The fact is, the only case brought by Mueller that has anything to do with the 2016 election is the indictment naming 13 Russian nationals and three companies. And in announcing those charges, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made a point of telling reporters that no American was implicated in the case.

The rest of the defendants in the Mueller probe face charges for conduct unrelated to the election — conduct by advisers predating the campaign — or for lying to the FBI during the investigation.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz put it best Wednesday night during an appearance on “Hannity” on Fox News.

“I have to tell you, if after a year of very thorough investigation and going after all the low-hanging fruit and getting people not only to sing but some of them even, perhaps, to compose — if they couldn’t have shifted him from a subject to a target, there’s nothing there,” he said.

Much has been made of the fact the defendants ensnared in the probe have agreed to cooperate with the investigation. Many assume that means they are giving up information about a conspiracy. But such cooperation agreements are standard in federal prosecutions, and one would think that if Mueller had evidence against Trump aides who have been charged, he would have included a campaign-related count.

That would only increase pressure on a defendant to give up bigger fish.

2. Trump is not in the clear. As Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) pointed out on CNN on Wednesday, carrying the label of “target” offers no guarantee against prosecution.

“One witness can take you from being a subject to a target,” he said.

It is true that Mueller could make a late Eureka discovery that puts Trump in the crosshairs, although the chances of a new witness at this stage of the game seem low. But Trump could get into trouble the same way his aides have — perjury.

The Post reported that Mueller’s communication to the president’s lawyers that he was not a target came in the context of negotiations over taking Trump’s testimony.

Trump reportedly is eager to testify, but Mueller’s record in the investigation should make the president tread carefully. An untruthful or conflicting statement well could bring a perjury allegation.

Mueller’s threshold does not appear particularly high. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about a meeting with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period after the 2016 election.

Mueller did not accuse Flynn of any underlying crime. The meeting was legal — there is nothing wrong with an incoming national security adviser talking with foreign diplomats. Even from a country that has become Public Enemy No. 1. According to court records, Flynn acknowledged that he spoke with Kislyak.

But Flynn told the FBI that he did not ask Kislyak to delay or defeat a vote in the United Nations on a resolution sponsored by the outgoing administration. Flynn also told agents that he did not recall Kislyak telling him about Russia’s decision to moderate its response to sanctions imposed by the outgoing administration.

Those were lies, according to prosecutors.

George Papadopoulos, a low-level volunteer adviser to the campaign, also pleaded guilty to lying about otherwise-legal conduct, misstating the date he spoke to a London professor with contacts to Russia about getting dirt on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the campaign.

Papadopoulos told investigators that he spoke with the professor before joining the campaign; in fact it was after. Authorities also contended that he lied when he downplayed the importance he placed on the professor’s information.

Perhaps the biggest danger to Trump is the Mueller writes a scathing report about the president’s conduct, particularly his behavior after taking office. Such a report might offer plenty of grist for articles of impeachment.

That could happen whether Trump testifies or not.

3. Mueller seems to think he could indict Trump. In the kerfuffle over whether Trump is a target or merely a subject, some people missed an important revelation.

In assigning the label, the special counsel seems to be signaling that he could indict Trump. That is noteworthy because the Justice Department’s position dating to Richard Nixon’s presidency is that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime.

Legal scholars have debated that, and it has never been tested in the Supreme Court.

But if Mueller thinks the president could potentially be a prosecution target, that would be significant.

4. The fact that Trump is a subject is really not all that surprising. But you wouldn’t know that if you watched cable news on Wednesday.

The talking heads treated the news that Mueller told Trump’s lawyers the president was a subject as earth-shattering revelation.

To be sure, it is unusual and significant that the president of the United States is the subject of a high-profile criminal investigation.

But at this point, it hardly is a surprise.

From the time Rosenstein appointed Mueller, it’s been pretty transparent that the entire endeavor has been about trying to find out if Trump conspired with the Russians.

This is not like Watergate, which began as — in the words of Nixon press secretary Ronald Ziegler — a “third-rate burglary” and slowly escalated toward the president.

From day one, the trajectory has been clear — either Trump conspired or it didn’t.

@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”

32 mins ago

Man arrested in connection to triple murder in Alabama

Police say a man has been arrested in connection to a triple murder in Alabama.

Guntersville Police told WAFF-TV that 52-year-old Jimmy O’Neal Spencer was arrested Tuesday on four counts of capital murder.


The bodies of 74-year-old Marie Kitchens Martin and her 7-year-old great-grandson, Colton Ryan Lee, were found in a home on Friday, and 65-year-old neighbor Martha Reliford in her home.

Spencer was taken to the Marshall County Jail.

The body of a missing man, James Michael Baker, was found near the crime scene. Investigators have not determined his death to be connected.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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3 hours ago

President Trump congratulates Rep. Martha Roby on her runoff victory

President Trump took to Twitter Wednesday to congratulate Rep. Martha Roby in her House District 2 primary runoff victory against former District 2 congressman Bobby Bright.

Trump expressed that his endorsement contributed to Roby’s “landslide victory.”


There were questions, particularly among national news commentators, about whether Roby would be able to overcome the stigma of de-endorsing President Trump in the 2016 election, but his support for her put that question largely to bed.

“I’m honored and humbled that the people of Alabama’s Second District have again placed their trust and confidence in me, and that I will have the opportunity to continue to do this job on their behalf,” Roby said in a statement, in part. “On behalf of my family and me, thank you to each person who went out to the polls today to support me.”

“Over the last year and a half, it’s been a great privilege to be a part of the conservative momentum and to work alongside my colleagues in Congress and the Trump Administration to push some very important priorities over the finish line. We are in a unique position to accomplish even more, and I’m eager to continue the fight,” she also said.

Roby faces Democrat Tabitha Isner in November.

4 hours ago

Rex Lumber Co. to build new facility, bring more than 100 jobs to Alabama

A lumber company is investing $110 million in a new facility in Alabama’s Pike County, bringing more than 100 new jobs.

WSFA-TV reports Rex Lumber Co. announced Tuesday at a groundbreaking ceremony that the new facility will be located 5 miles (8 kilometers) north of Troy in the Harmony Community. It expects to employ around 110 people.


Officials say the Southern Yellow Pine sawmill is expected to be operation by June 2019.

Currently, Rex Lumber Co. operates sawmills in Graceville and Bristol, Florida. They also have a site in Brookhaven, Mississippi.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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About last night: Three takeaways from Alabama’s Runoff Election

With Alabama’s primary election runoffs now in the books, here are three takeaways from the results.

North Alabama has spoken.
When this election cycle began, it became evident that north Alabama saw a window of opportunity to increase its influence.  The results from the Republican primary runoff have shown the electorate in that area of the state was eager to flex its muscle.

Will Ainsworth pulled out an impressive come-from-behind victory in the Lt. Governor’s race. Steve Marshall enjoyed a resounding win in his bid to retain the Attorney General’s office.


Both candidates hail from Marshall County and both effectively energized their bases in the Fourth and Fifth Congressional Districts. This is particularly evident when you look at their margins of victory in those north Alabama counties compared to the performances of their opponents in their own base counties. Ainsworth and Marshall won big at home.

With Ainsworth and Marshall the presumptive winners in November (more on that below), north Alabama could have the Speaker of the House, the Lt. Governor and the Attorney General in positions of power.

Keep an eye on this dynamic in the 2020 race for the U.S. Senate.

Several months ago, a fashionable narrative developed among some that Democrats were going to move the needle in November 2018. In fairness to the delusional, much of this was borne out of the bizarre circumstances surrounding the Moore-Jones election.

However, these runoff elections are a culmination of months now during which no one is seriously talking about Democrats — let alone their chances in November.

Even the ultra-liberal New York Times, which is an arm of the Democratic Party, posted this statement as part of its updated Alabama primary election results on June 11:

“In deep-red Alabama, the Republican primary almost certainly determined the general election winner.”

Democrat candidates up and down the ballot — from Walt Maddox in the Governor’s race to Democrat legislators like Johnny Mack Morrow — will tilt at their windmills. But they won’t be able to escape Nancy Pelosi and their own party’s dysfunction.

Expect big Republican wins in November.

It’s time to change Alabama’s runoffs.
South Carolina holds their runoffs three weeks after the primary. Alabama puts six weeks between its primary and its runoff.

In South Carolina’s top race, there were only 24,000 fewer votes in the runoff than there were in the primary. That was only a 6.5% decrease.

In Alabama’s top runoff race, there was a nearly 200,000 total vote difference between the primary and the runoff. That’s a 37.5% decrease in participation. Undoubtedly, those three extra weeks, which bring the runoff deep into the summer, contribute significantly to voter apathy.

South Carolina has established an efficient process for handling military absentee ballots within its three-week runoff. Alabama should do the same.

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5 hours ago

7 Things: Trump backtracks on trusting Putin, election results, new permanent tax cuts, and more …

1. President Donald Trump backtracks and tells an absurd lie 

— After stating he believes Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence officials, President Trump backtracked. He received intense criticism from within his own party, from Democrats and from a deranged media.

— In a statement read by the president of the United States, and believed by no one, he states, “The sentence should’ve been: ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.'”

2. And the winners are…


— Attorney General Steve Marshall crushes former AG Troy King in a race that wasn’t even close.  Marshall will face former Democrat AG and Governor’s son Joseph Siegelman.

— State Rep. Will Ainsworth squeaks by in the Lt. Gov. race, barely beating the more well-known candidate Twinkle Cavanaugh to be the odds-on on favorite to win the job in November. (Quick: Who is the Democrat candidate for Lt. Gov.?)

3. New tax cuts

— A second round of tax cuts, and a move to make the tax cuts permanent, are being discussed by the White House and Congressional Republicans. The fact they expired was a major part of the complaints by Democrats on the issue.

— Democrats, who still don’t want tax cuts, have filed a frivolous lawsuit with the federal government because blue states taxes are so high and the 1st round of tax cuts capped deductions on state taxes that could be deducted.

4. Toyota CEO continues to sound the alarm on Trump’s tariffs and how they will impact Alabama

— Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama President wrote that a 25% tariff on foreign automobiles will have a devastating impact on manufacturing.

— This is exactly the argument Kay Ivey made earlier this summer when she said, “Import tariffs, and any retaliatory tariffs on American made goods, will harm Alabama, the companies that have invested billions of dollars in our state, and the thousands of households, which are dependent upon those companies for a good-paying job.”

5. After a hate-love relationship with Trump, Congresswoman Martha Roby survives in Alabama’s only real contested Congressional race

— Roby absolutely destroyed former Democrat turned Republican Bobby Bright. Bright was possibly the worst GOP primary candidate if the goal is to point out the divisions in the GOP because he has a vote for Nancy Pelosi on his resume.

— The “can she overcome talking bad about Trump?” narrative should die — it will not.

6. More details emerge about Governor Bentley’s past and present with Rebekah Caldwell Mason

— Bentley continues to deny the affair with his former aide was sexual, which really stretches the bounds of believability.

— The former governor’s love-interest is apparently still working with Bentley at his dermatology office in Tuscaloosa. She is not listed in the staff section of the website.

7. There is a silly notion working its way through the media and Democrats that anyone upset with Trump’s comments must abandon the GOP

—  A Republican Party county chairman in Ohio resigned on Monday after watching President Donald Trump’s press conference with Vladimir Putin, calling it a “matter of conscience”

— While this continues to be a theme, many Republicans continue to support the GOP because as I wrote for Yellowhammer yesterday, “The economy matters, the Supreme Court matters, controlling our borders matters”.