It was a busy news week, starting with the federal government shutdown and ending with reports that in June, President Donald Trump ordered Special Counsel Robert Mueller fired, but ultimately changed his mind after White House Counsel Donald McGahn threatened to resign. Just Security editorial board members weighed in on these issues and other national security developments on Twitter. Below are tweet threads that we think might be of particular interest to our readers. Click on each tweet to access the entire thread.
Trump Reportedly Ordered Mueller Fired, But Waved Off When McGahn Threatened Resignation
On Thursday night, the New York Times reported that in June, the president ordered the firing of Mueller, “but ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive.” Following the Times report, other news organizations were able confirm it. Renato Mariotti analyzed the development and its implications for the Russia investigation, particularly with respect to obstruction of justice.
THREAD: How does today’s news that Trump tried to fire Mueller back in June help Mueller make an obstruction case against Trump?
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) January 26, 2018
Flynn’s Interview with the FBI
Mariotti also dissected the NBC News report about retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s initial interview with the FBI on Jan. 24, 2017. The report states that the White House was not made aware of Flynn’s interview until after it happened. It notes that Flynn failed to notify National Security Council counsel before the interview, and that the White House only learned about the interview when Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed McGahn about it, two days later. NBC News also reported that McGahn did not “conclude” that Flynn had lied to the FBI until after Flynn had been fired.
THREAD: What does today’s @NBCNews report about Flynn’s FBI interview tell us about Mueller’s obstruction investigation? (Short answer: Quite a bit.)
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) January 24, 2018
Reports that the Mueller Investigation is Seeking to Interview Trump
Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor himself, noted that federal prosecutors typically wait until the end of an investigation to interview the highest-level target, and thus the reports that Mueller is trying to arrange an interview with Trump could suggest the obstruction-related aspect of the investigation is nearing a close, but other aspects of the Russia investigation could still be prosecuted in the future.
THREAD: What does the timing of Mueller’s interview of Trump tell us about the state of Mueller’s investigation?
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) January 23, 2018
Mueller’s Interview of Attorney General Jeff Sessions
In a separate thread, Mariotti highlighted the topics that were likely discussed during the Special Counsel’s hours-long interview of Sessions:
THREAD: What can we expect from the interview of Attorney General Sessions?
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) January 23, 2018
Controversy Over House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)’s Memo
Julian Sanchez weighed in on the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign, which appears to be part of an effort to allege political bias at the FBI and tarnish the Russia investigation.
I doubt the memo has much that’s particularly sensitive; it was fairly clearly written for eventual release. The idea is to smear the Russia inquiry in a way that renders the FBI unable to defend itself, because the info NOT in the memo is what’s sensitive. https://t.co/9pNUZUeRob
— Julian Sanchez (@normative) January 24, 2018
In a related thread, Sanchez pointed out that if Trump were to declassify the FBI’s FISA application for Carter Page, it could compromise the various investigations in Russian interference in the 2016 election.
I’ve also pointed this out, but it’s worth noting that, without redactions, that would correctly be viewed as compromising the investigations by disclosing sources & methods. If he exposed either a technical access or a human asset he’d rightly be roasted. https://t.co/PQmTsFNaj9
— Julian Sanchez (@normative) January 19, 2018
Sessions’ Pressure on FBI Director Christopher Wray to Clear Out FBI Leadership Team
Former FBI Special Agent Rangappa wrote about the implications for the Russia investigation of the alleged pressure by Sessions on Wray to reassign or fire FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (who has announced he will retire) and General Counsel James Baker (who has been reassigned).
THREAD. Some quick thoughts on how this relates to the mysterious “reassignment” of former FBI GC, Jim Baker, in December, in light of the news today that AG Sessions had pressured FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire both Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Baker: https://t.co/4c8RxjxvGw
— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) January 23, 2018
Facebook Acknowledges Mistakes in Its Response to Misinformation During 2016 Election
Ryan Goodman discusses blog posts written by Facebook executives that acknowledge the social media company’s mistakes with respect to misinformation during the 2016 election campaign:
Topic: Unpacking Facebook executives’ acknowledging mistakes about Russian election interference today
FB’s @samidh refers to “the elephant in the room”—Russian interference in 2016, and says FB later “discovered” Russian content, referencing Sept 2017 FB release…
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) January 22, 2018
Can Trump Claim Executive Privilege With Respect to the Russia Investigation?
In this thread, Rangappa explored whether the president could invoke executive privilege to prevent disclosure of memos relating to the firing of his senior aides.
THREAD. I know that the whole executive privilege stuff is old news now since it happened four days ago, but in light of the real potential that it will be litigated I’m interested in exploring how POTUS could argue a colorable claim, and I see two areas. https://t.co/8nomMnmTNi
— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) January 20, 2018
New York Times Story on Cyberattacks
In this thread, Jennifer Granick, Surveillance and Cybersecurity Counsel at ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, wrote about a recent New York Times report on state-sponsored cyber attacks.
Some thoughts: “The most talented state sponsors of attacks — mostly Russia, China, Iran and North Korea…” The article downplays hacking by the US, France, and Israel.
— Jennifer Granick (@granick) January 21, 2018
Image: (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)