Helen Klein Murillo  //  6/4/17  //  Topic Update

The Russia probe appears more squarely focused on the activities of President Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner in the wake of revelations that he attempted to set up a secret communications channel with the Kremlin during the transition (NYT).

  • President Trump defended Kushner’s alleged attempt to circumvent usual diplomatic channels, calling it a “good thing” (NYT).
  • In the New York Times, Jonathan Powell sheds light on the world of secret back channels.
  • Carrie Cordero at Lawfare breaks down the intersection between U.S. security interests and the back channel to Russia Kushner allegedly discussed establishing.
  • In a Washington Post op-ed, David Ignatius describes just how unusual this use of “back-channels” is for a president-elect.
  • In the Lawfare Podcast, Carrie Cordero, Susan Hennessey, and Benjamin Wittes discuss the supposed “backchannel” sought by Kushner (Lawfare). 
  • At ACS Blog, Dan Froomkin and Caroline Fredrickson discuss the legal status of Jared Kushner’s security clearance in the wake of reports of allegedly improper contacts with Russian officials.

Robert Mueller is off to a fast start in the Russia investigation (WSJ).

  • The appointment of a Special Counsel should not stop Congress from investigating Russian influence on the 2016 presidential electionwrites Daniel Van Schooten at POGO.
  • Similarly, in The Hill, former Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) argues that Congress must continue its investigation into Russian interference, despite the appointment of a special counsel.
  • In a series at Lawfare, Aditya Bamzai analyzes the special counsel regulations. In Part I, Bamzai argues that DOJ’s special counsel regulations aren’t a perfect fit for delegating, as here, a counterintelligence investigation. In Part II, he argues that the Acting Attorney General may have authority to delegate a counterintelligence investigation anyway, despite the confines of the special counsel regulations.

Questions are being asked about Jared Kushner’s meeting with a Russian banker weeks before President Trump’s inauguration (NYT).

  • The White House and a Russian state-owned bank offered contradictory accounts of why Jared Kushner conducted a secret meeting with the bank’s chief executing during the presidential transition (WaPo).
  • In the New York Times, David Brooks tries to make biographical sense of Kushner’s behavior.
  • In the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson argues that Kushner’s presence in the White House will only continue to worsen the Russia scandal for President Trump.
  • Meanwhile, CNN reports that Russian officials discussed during the presidential campaign whether they had “leverage” over President Trump’s inner circle.
  • While leaks of intelligence information related to the Trump administration have played an important role in keeping the public informed, they may also set a dangerous precedent that could undermine civil liberties protectionsargues Susan Hennessey at Lawfare 

Five investigations on Russian interference—four in Congress plus the special counsel investigation—are currently ongoing, as this Washington Post guide explains.

  • Congress is investigating whether Jeff Sessions may have had an additional private meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak (CNN).
  • In the New York Times, Carl Hulse highlights four Senators to watch in the upcoming investigations.
  • One of President Trump’s personal attorney’s, Michael Cohen, has refused a request to testify before Congress in connection with the Russia investigation (CNN).

Former FBI director James Comey will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next Thursday (WSJ).

  • It is not clear whether President Trump can block Comey from testifying because arguably President Trump already breached confidentiality by revealing their conversations, notes Noah Feldman at Bloomberg.
  • On Twitter, Jack Goldsmith wrote that President Trump will not be able to stop Comey from testifying.
  • Meanwhile, Nora Ellingsen offers an inside assessment of the mood among rank-and-file FBI employees following the Comey firing (Lawfare).

Several groups have written to the DOJ Inspector General urging an investigation into possible misconduct by senior DOJ officials related to the firing of former FBI Director James Comey (Brennan Center for Justice).

  • The letter is available here.

Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted at Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, a shift from his previous blanket denials (NYTThe Hill).

  • Meanwhile, the Trump administration is moving to return to Russia two diplomatic compounds that the Obama administration took control of in response to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election (WaPo).

The House Intelligence Committee has issued seven subpoenas as part of its investigation into Russian interference, including to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Trump attorney Michael Cohen, and former Obama administration officials as part of its investigation into allegedly improper “unmasking” (CNN, The Hill, Wall Street Journal).

  • Democrats are criticizing House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes for violating his recusal from the Russia investigation by issuing subpoenas relating to “unmasking” (The Hill).

The German government has declined the United States’ offer of assistance in preventing Russian interference in Germany’s upcoming election, in what may be a sign of growing mistrust between the U.S. and Germany (The Hill).

Whether a sitting President can be indicted is a constitutional puzzle, explains Adam Liptak in the New York Times.

Mike Dubke has resigned as President Trump’s communications director (WSJ).

  • In the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin argues that the administration’s problems are bigger than its communications team.


Updates | The Week of February 19, 2018

2/25/18  //  Daily Update

Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed a new charge against Paul Manafort while Richard Gates pled guilty. Meanwhile, President Trump's proposal to arm teachers drew controversy in Washington.

Jacob Miller

Harvard Law School

Updates | The Week of February 5, 2018

2/11/18  //  Daily Update

The Nunes memo set off aftershocks; agencies scrambled to implement the Trump Administration's policies to mixed effect; and Congress passes a budget after a brief overnight shutdown.

Updates | The Week of January 22, 2018

1/28/18  //  Daily Update

President Trump attempted to fire Special Counsel Mueller in June 2017 over his obstruction of justice probe, but refrained after White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit.