Judge denies Rick Gates’ bid for Thanksgiving break from house arrest

Former Donald Trump campaign staffer Rick Gates, who’s facing charges in Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, lost his bid Thursday to get out of strict home confinement rules so he can travel for Thanksgiving and Christmas and drive his four children to school and extracurricular activities, as well as continue his lobbying work.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson denied Gates’ request and instead urged his attorneys to finish negotiating a bail package with prosecutors, who last month charged the former Trump campaign aide and his longtime boss, Paul Manafort, with money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent. Both Gates and Manafort have pleaded not guilty.

“The court is well aware that a house full of busy children comes with constant and competing transportation demands, and that the burden shouldered by many mothers is exacerbated in this case by defendant’s current bond conditions,” Jackson, an appointee Continue reading “Judge denies Rick Gates’ bid for Thanksgiving break from house arrest”

Hope Hicks may hold the keys to Mueller’s Russia puzzle

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is preparing to interview the woman who’s seen it all: Hope Hicks.

She’s been part of Donald Trump’s inner circle for years, first at Trump Tower and then as an omnipresent gatekeeper and fixer who could get emails or other communications directly to the boss during the 2016 campaign.

As a senior White House adviser and now as communications director, she’s been in the room for moments critical to Mueller’s probe, which has grown to include the president’s response to the Russia investigation itself.

Hicks’ history with Trump makes her one of the more useful witnesses for Mueller as he looks for insights into the president’s habits and moods. She also is one of the few people well positioned to recount the president’s reactions at various moments as the Russia scandal has sidetracked his presidency — including the Mueller appointment itself.

Mueller’s decision to request Continue reading “Hope Hicks may hold the keys to Mueller’s Russia puzzle”

Sessions casts doubt on need for Hillary Clinton special counsel

Attorney General Jeff Sessions threw cold water Tuesday on Republicans clamoring for the Department of Justice to appoint a special counsel to investigate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) pressed Sessions on why it had taken the Justice Department months to hint, as it did Monday, at the prospect of considering a special counsel to probe years-old matters connected to Clinton.

Jordan said he thought evidence unearthed in the last year about how FBI decided not to charge Clinton over her handling of classified information at the State Department appeared to be enough to warrant a special counsel.

"’Looks like’ is not enough basis to appoint a special counsel," Sessions responded.

Sessions’ message won’t just be heard by lawmakers. President Donald Trump has badgered Sessions and the Department of Justice to launch further probes of Clinton, his rival in the 2016 election, and has lamented Continue reading “Sessions casts doubt on need for Hillary Clinton special counsel”

What Mueller’s org chart reveals about his Russia probe

Special counsel Robert Mueller has not publicly uttered a single word about the direction of his high-stakes Russia probe.

But the way he’s assigned the 17 federal prosecutors on his team — pieced together by POLITICO from court filings and interviews with lawyers familiar with the Russia cases gives insight into how he’s conducting the investigation and what might be coming next.

His most experienced attorneys have discrete targets, such as former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and current White House aides. Mueller’s longtime chief of staff is coordinating all the lawyers, including some who cover multiple topics. Select FBI special agents have been tapped to question witnesses.

Spearheading the criminal case against Manafort and his longtime deputy Rick Gates are three prosecutors schooled in money laundering, fraud, foreign bribery and organized crime: Andrew Weissmann, Greg Andres and Kyle Freeny.

And at Continue reading “What Mueller’s org chart reveals about his Russia probe”

Judge issues gag order in Manafort, Gates case

The federal judge overseeing the criminal case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates has issued a gag order limiting comments to the media and the public by lawyers, defendants and witnesses in the case.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s directive released Wednesday doesn’t ban such statements outright, but prohibits any remarks that "pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case."

At a hearing last week, Jackson urged lawyers to make their arguments in court and "not on the courthouse steps." She also appeared to criticize a statement one of Manafort’s lawyers made outside court calling the charges against his client "ridiculous."

"This is a criminal trial, and it’s not a public relations campaign," the judge warned.

Jackson offered both defendants and the government a chance to weigh in about the order before she issued it. Continue reading “Judge issues gag order in Manafort, Gates case”

Judge issues gag order in Manafort, Gates case

The federal judge overseeing the criminal case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates has issued a gag order limiting comments to the media and the public by lawyers, defendants and witnesses in the case.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s directive released Wednesday doesn’t ban such statements outright, but prohibits any remarks that "pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case."

At a hearing last week, Jackson urged lawyers to make their arguments in court and "not on the courthouse steps." She also appeared to criticize a statement one of Manafort’s lawyers made outside court calling the charges against his client "ridiculous."

"This is a criminal trial, and it’s not a public relations campaign," the judge warned.

Jackson offered both defendants and the government a chance to weigh in about the order before she issued it. Continue reading “Judge issues gag order in Manafort, Gates case”

Trump’s push for inquiries challenges Justice Dept. independence

President Donald Trump is putting his Justice Department in an impossible spot by demanding that it investigate his political opponents.

With his forceful pleas via Twitter and recent media interviews to launch inquiries into everything from Hillary Clinton’s e-mails to an Obama-era uranium deal, the president is essentially setting the department up for a major breach of protocol if it actually follows through on his requests, according to former government attorneys and prosecutors.

“There is a reason why we have a norm against presidential interference in criminal investigations,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a former George W. Bush-era Homeland Security official and senior counsel from the Kenneth Starr investigation into President Bill Clinton. “President Trump is the living, breathing proof-case for that norm.”

Trump’s calls for both the Justice Department and the FBI to dig into a series of purported Democratic scandals have been widely dismissed as a way to deflect Continue reading “Trump’s push for inquiries challenges Justice Dept. independence”