Schumer warns of probe ‘cat­a­clysm’

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Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Charles Schumer said Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump would trig­ger “a cat­a­clysm” if he fires spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller or par­dons him­self, even as one of the pres­i­dent’s lawyers said par­dons aren’t be­ing dis­cussed.

Schumer said he can’t imag­ine his Repub­li­can col­leagues, in­clud­ing Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis­con­sin, “just stand­ing by” if Trump moves to dis­miss Mueller or par­dons him­self or some­one close to him who’s un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“It would be one of the great­est, great­est break­ing of rule of law, of tra­di­tional demo­cratic norms of what our democ­racy is about,” the se­na­tor from New York said Sun­day on ABC’s This Week. “It would cause a cat­a­clysm in Wash­ing­ton.”

While the pres­i­dent has the con­sti­tu­tional power to grant par­dons — though the U.S. Supreme Court prob­a­bly would have to de­cide whether he could par­don him­self — his le­gal team isn’t hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions with him about it, Jay Seku­low, one of Trump’s per­sonal at­tor­neys, said on ABC.

“We’re not re­search­ing the is­sue be­cause the is­sue of par­dons is not on the ta­ble,” Seku­low said. “There’s noth­ing to par­don from.”

Trump “in all like­li­hood” has the power to par­don him­self, but it’s not a good idea, Repub­li­can Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky said on CNN’s State of the Union. “In a po­lit­i­cal sphere, I would cau­tion some­one to think about par­don­ing them­selves or fam­ily mem­bers.”

The pres­i­dent and mem­bers of his in­ner cir­cle are fac­ing con­gres­sional and FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tions of pos­si­ble col­lu­sion with Rus­sia in its in­ter­fer­ence with the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Mueller is also ex­am­in­ing a broad range of trans­ac­tions in­volv­ing Trump’s busi­nesses and those of his as­so­ciates, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the probe said.

Trump sug­gested in an in­ter­view with The New York Times on Wed­nes­day that Mueller would cross “a red line” if he looked into those is­sues, and the pres­i­dent men­tioned par­dons as part of a series of early morn­ing Twit­ter posts on Satur­day.

“While all agree the U.S. Pres­i­dent has the com­plete power to par­don, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us,” Trump told his 34.3 mil­lion fol­low­ers on Twit­ter.

Seku­low’s com­ments seemed at odds not only with Trump’s tweet, but also with other mem­bers of his own le­gal team, as well as with An­thony Scara­mucci.

Scara­mucci, whom Trump named his new com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor on Fri­day, called the fo­cus on Rus­sia “overblown.” He said on Fox News Sun­day that the pres­i­dent brought up the is­sue of par­dons in the Oval Of­fice last week and said that he doesn’t need to use them.

“There’s no­body around him that has to be par­doned,” Scara­mucci said. “He was just mak­ing the state­ment about the power of par­dons.”

“The pres­i­dent does not need to par­don him­self,” the com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor added. “The rea­son that he doesn’t need to par­don him­self is he hasn’t done any­thing wrong.”

In an in­ter­view with The Wall Street Jour­nal, John Dowd, an­other Trump at­tor­ney, de­nied news re­ports that Trump’s le­gal team was work­ing to stymie Mueller’s probe by high­light­ing con­flicts of in­ter­est.

Dowd de­scribed Mueller as an “hon­est guy” do­ing a “good job” and said any ef­fort to un­der­cut him or his in­ves­ti­ga­tion was “col­lat­eral non­sense.”

Trump has sug­gested on Twit­ter that Mueller and mem­bers of his le­gal team have con­flicts of in­ter­est be­cause of do­na­tions to Demo­cratic po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates — some­thing Scara­mucci, daugh­ter Ivanka Trump, and the pres­i­dent him­self have done in the past.

Seku­low said that while the pres­i­dent’s le­gal team is mon­i­tor­ing po­ten­tial con­flicts, it hasn’t raised any with Rod Rosen­stein, the deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral who ap­pointed Mueller af­ter At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions re­cused him­self from the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“We’re go­ing to be con­stantly eval­u­at­ing that sit­u­a­tion,” Seku­low said on ABC. “And if an in­ves­ti­ga­tion were to arise and we thought that the con­flict was rel­e­vant, we would raise it with­out ques­tion.”

Only Rosen­stein can fire Mueller, and he’s said he won’t do it with­out “good cause.”

Trump is “clearly wor­ried” about what Mueller may un­earth about the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion and what’s con­cern­ing is “any­thing that could be held over the pres­i­dent’s head that could in­flu­ence U.S. pol­icy,” Rep. Adam Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, the top Demo­crat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said Sun­day on CBS’

Face the Na­tion.

Schiff said he’d also be wor­ried if Trump wants Ses­sions out so he can name a new at­tor­ney gen­eral to su­per­vise Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“If this is part of a longer-term strat­a­gem to de­fine or con­fine the scope of the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion, that would be very con­cern­ing,” Schiff said.

Repub­li­can Sen. Su­san Collins of Maine said that even if Trump is frus­trated by the Rus­sian probe, he should stop talk­ing about the spe­cial coun­sel, Mueller’s staff, or the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“I know it’s hard, but he needs to step back and not com­ment, and let Bob Mueller, who is an in­di­vid­ual with the ut­most in­tegrity, carry out the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and make his de­ter­mi­na­tion,” Collins said on CBS.

SE­NATE IN­VES­TI­GA­TION

Mean­while, Demo­cratic Sen. Al Franken of Min­nesota, a mem­ber of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, said on CNN’s State of the Union that he’s not sat­is­fied with an agree­ment an­nounced by the panel on Thurs­day. It would al­low Don­ald Trump Jr., the pres­i­dent’s son, and for­mer Trump cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort to dis­cuss hand­ing over doc­u­ments and be in­ter­viewed by the com­mit­tee mem­bers and staff in pri­vate, ahead of a pos­si­ble pub­lic hear­ing.

The panel pre­vi­ously had sched­uled a hear­ing Wed­nes­day and in­vited Trump Jr., Manafort and other wit­nesses. Trump Jr. has said he’s will­ing to tes­tify un­der oath.

“I think that they need to be un­der oath,” Franken said. “And they need to re­lease all the doc­u­ments.”

Franken also said he wants Ses­sions to ap­pear be­fore the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee to an­swer ques­tions about a Wash­ing­ton Post re­port that Ses­sions may have dis­cussed cam­paign-re­lated mat­ters with Rus­sia’s am­bas­sador to Wash­ing­ton last year.

Franken said on CNN he be­lieves Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Charles Grass­ley, R-Iowa, also wants Ses­sions to tes­tify on the mat­ter.

The Post re­ported Fri­day that Am­bas­sador Sergey Kislyak told his higher-ups in Moscow that he dis­cussed the cam­paign and Rus­sian pol­icy pri­or­i­ties with Ses­sions dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial race, de­spite pub­lic as­ser­tions to the con­trary by the at­tor­ney gen­eral. Kislyak’s ac­counts of the con­ver­sa­tions were in­ter­cepted by U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies.

The Rus­sian Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton an­nounced on Twit­ter that Kislyak’s ten­ure ended Satur­day. Kislyak’s suc­ces­sor has not been an­nounced.

“What I do know is what I read, which is that I guess some­one in Kislyak’s po­si­tion can some­times dis­tort what he says when he is re­port­ing back to build him­self up,” Franken said. “I also saw in those re­ports that Kislyak isn’t that type. And it seems to me that since At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ses­sions hasn’t been ter­ri­bly truth­ful re­gard­ing these things that it’s more likely that what Kislyak was say­ing was the case.”

Ses­sions, un­der ques­tion­ing from Franken in his Jan­uary con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, de­nied meet­ing with any Rus­sian of­fi­cials dur­ing the cam­paign. But the Post later re­ported that Ses­sions, who served as a top for­eign pol­icy ad­viser to the Trump cam­paign, met with Kislyak at least twice last year.

The rev­e­la­tion prompted the at­tor­ney gen­eral to re­cuse him­self from the FBI probe of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion and any ties be­tween that gov­ern­ment and the Trump op­er­a­tion. An­nounc­ing the de­ci­sion in March, Ses­sions said he had talked with Kislyak only in his ca­pac­ity as a se­na­tor, not as a Trump sur­ro­gate.

The Fri­day re­port came as Ses­sions faces new doubts about his stand­ing with Trump, who in an in­ter­view last week ex­pressed frus­tra­tion with the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s de­ci­sion to re­cuse him­self and said he re­gret­ted nam­ing him to his job.

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