The Trump attorney argued that special counsel Robert Mueller’s office has “extensively used the materials in question” during its investigation even though its some of the materials were subject to protections. | Alex Wong/Getty Images
A lawyer for President Donald Trump’s transition team alledges special counsel Robert Mueller unlawfully obtained tens of thousands of private emails during its investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election.
According to an Axios, exclusive special counsel Robert Mueller confiscated thousands of e-mails and communications from President Donald J. Trump’s transition team, including emails from notable figures such as Jared Kushner and other high profile aides.
“Trump officials discovered Mueller had the emails when his prosecutors used them as the basis for questions to witnesses, the sources said. The emails include 12 accounts, one of which contains about 7,000 emails, the sources said.
The accounts include the team’s political leadership and the foreign-policy team, the sources said.”
Kory Langhofer, an Arizona-based attorney representing Trump for America, spelled out the complaint in a seven-page letter sent Saturday to the main House and Senate oversight committees where he accuses Mueller’s team of potential violations of attorney-client privilege and the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unlawful search and seizure.
Mueller’s obtained the records earlier this summer from the General Services Administration, the government agency charged with holding all transition materials, even while it was “aware that the GSA did not own or control the records in question,” Langhofer wrote.
The Trump attorney also argued that Mueller’s office has “extensively used the materials in question” during its investigation even though its prosecutors were aware some of the materials were subject to claims of attorney-client privilege and other protections.
Mueller spokesman Peter Carr defended the special counsel’s work in a statement issued just past midnight on Sunday, several hours after this story first posted. “When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process,” he said.
The Trump team’s complaint – which a source close to the transition said it intends to elevate by filing a formal letter to Mueller — is the latest in a series of legal maneuvers seeking to challenge the special counsel’s authority. The effort to rein in the probe is expected to increase as the Russia prosecutors continue their work while they simultaneously prepare for a criminal trial next year against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates.
Several former Justice and national security officials and experts in federal criminal law cast doubt Saturday that the Trump transition team’s complaint amounted to a serious breach.
“I seriously doubt there is anything here to taint the Mueller investigation,” according to William Jeffress, a white-collar defense attorney who represented Vice President Dick Cheney’s senior aide, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, during the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation. Jeffress added the letter included no evidence to prove any privileged information had been obtained by Mueller’s team and that even if it were, there are procedures for retrieving them.
Democrats and Trump critics erupted after news of the letter broke, warning that the allegations against Mueller smacked of a pretext for Trump firing him. White House attorney Ty Cobb on Saturday declined comment about the transition team’s specific complaint, but he insisted to POLITICO that an ouster of Mueller isn’t in the offing.
“As the White House has repeatedly and emphatically said for months, there is no consideration at the White House of terminating the special counsel,” Cobb said.
According to Langhofer’s letter, the Trump transition team first learned that the special counsel had obtained the emails from GSA earlier this week. It took those concerns to Brandon Van Grack, a Mueller prosecutor, who confirmed the special counsel’s prosecutors had obtained laptops, cell phones and at least one iPad from GSA.
“But he assured us that the Special Counsel’s investigation did not recover any emails or other relevant data from that hardware,” Langhofer said.
The Trump attorney added that, during the conversation, Van Grack “failed to disclose the critical fact that undercut the importance of his representations, namely, that the Special Counsel’s Office had simultaneously received from the GSA tens of thousands of emails, including a very significant volume of privileged material, and that the Special Counsel’s Office was actively using those materials without any notice to TFA.” Van Grack also declined to identify the 13 transition officials whose materials the special counsel’s office had obtained.
In subsequent conversations, Van Grack declined to spell out what procedures the special counsel’s office had undertaken to protect the transition’s privileged communications and he also acknowledged Mueller hadn’t set up the kinds of ethical reviews required to protect the evidence and “instead simply reviewed the privileged communications contained in the PTT materials,” Langhofer said.
Trump’s transition lawyer also took aim in its letter at GSA, which it accused of “unlawful conduct” that undermines the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, a law that spells out the procedural rules for a change in power from one president to the next.
After learning in March that Russia investigators were seeking its records, Langhofer said he contacted GSA to get assurances that the transition’s lawyers would be the conduit for the materials. Then-GSA General Counsel Richard Beckler in June explained to him that all requests for the transition’s communications would indeed be routed through its lawyers and that GSA would hold all of the material in secure facilities.
In August, while Beckler was in the hospital and incapacitated, Mueller’s office and FBI agents approached GSA twice for Trump transition materials, Langhofer said. GSA career staff, he added, produced the materials without making exceptions for attorney-client, deliberative process or presidential communications privileges.
Beckler died in September, and career GSA staff didn’t consult or inform his successor of what Langhofer called “the unauthorized production of PTT materials.”
Ken Nahigian, the Trump transition’s executive director and trustee, said in an interview that GSA’s decision to share the emails with Mueller’s office would have a long-term detrimental effect for future transitions. “Future transitions will have to re-examine this relationship,” he said. “Justice by any means isn’t justice.”
The latest complaint against Mueller comes amid a barrage of criticism from Trump allies that the special counsel investigation itself is tainted on multiple fronts. Republicans have increasingly urged Trump to fire Mueller regardless of the political consequences.
Mueller taking on the role since mid-May, has already obtained a guilty plea and cooperation from former national security adviser Michael Flynn. That followed criminal indictments against Manafort and Gates on charges that include money laundering and tax evasion. Both men have pleaded not guilty and a trial is expected next year. The special counsel has also obtained a guilty plea from former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI.
As the Trump transition complaint surfaced Saturday, several Democrats and former Justice officials cautioned that it may be an additional attempt at casting doubt on Mueller’s integrity.
“’Private documents’ on a US Government, public email system? What are they afraid was found? Baloney. This is another attempt to discredit Mueller as his #TrumpRussia probe tightens,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat and member of the House Judiciary and Intelligence panels, posted on Twitter.
“Private documents” on a US Government, public email system? What are they afraid was found? Baloney. This is another attempt to discredit Mueller as his #TrumpRussia probe tightens. https://t.co/VZTkwiGmoB… https://t.co/q0HTbwpQRK
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) December 16, 2017
“Why are Trump’s lawyers upset that Mueller obtained transition emails from a government agency? (Hint: They’re just playing politics, but this is a bad sign for them.),” added former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti on Twitter.
THREAD: Why are Trump’s lawyers upset that Mueller obtained transition emails from a government agency? (Hint: They’re just playing politics, but this is a bad sign for them.)
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) December 16, 2017
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, questioned why Trump officials would be taking issue with an attempt by GSA to cooperate with investigators.
“Our committee has direct jurisdiction over the Presidential Transition Act, and it simply does not support withholding transition team emails from criminal investigators,” the Maryland Democrat said. “The president’s lawyers have said they want to fully comply with special counsel Mueller’s investigation, so it is odd that they now suggest they would have withheld key documents from federal investigators.”
Axios and Politico contributed to this report.
LeNora Millen 12-17-17
Medicare Takes Aim at Medical Identity Theft: Protecting Seniors From Fraud
Criminals are increasingly targeting people age 65 or older for personal identity theft. In 2014 alone, there were 2.6 million such incidents among seniors, according to the Department of Justice.
A growing offshoot of identity theft is healthcare fraud, which can result when someone unlawfully uses another person’s Medicare number. Medical identity theft can lead to inaccuracies in medical records, which in turn can result in delayed care, denied services and costly false claims.
That’s why Medicare works with the Department of Justice, taking aim squarely at would-be thieves. In the largest law enforcement action against criminals fraudulently targeting the Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare programs, 412 people around the country, including 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, were charged in 2017 with bilking U.S. taxpayers out of $1.3 billion.
New Medicare Card for 2018. (Video Courtesy of YouTube)
The next big fraud-fighting push is well underway — and its focus is protecting the personal information of senior citizens by removing their Social Security numbers from Medicare cards.
People with Medicare don’t need to take any action to get a new Medicare card. Beginning in April 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will mail out newly designed Medicare cards to the 58 million Americans with Medicare. The cards will have a new number that will be unique for each card recipient. This will help protect personal identity and prevent fraud because identity thieves can’t bill Medicare without a valid Medicare number. To help with a seamless transition to the new cards, providers will be able to use secure lookup tools that will support quick access to the new card numbers when needed.
Healthcare fraud drives up costs for everyone, but healthcare consumers can be an effective first line of defense against fraud. Follow these tips to help protect yourself:
- Treat your Medicare number like a credit card.
- When the new card comes in the mail next year, destroy your old card and make sure you bring your new one to your doctors’ appointments.
- Be suspicious of anyone offering early bird discounts, limited time offers or encouraging you to act now for the best deal. That’s an indicator of potential fraud because Medicare plans are forbidden from offering incentives.
- Be skeptical of free gifts, free medical services, discount packages or any offer that sounds too good to be true.
- Only give your Medicare number to doctors, insurers acting on your behalf or trusted people in the community who work with Medicare, like your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).
- Report suspected instances of fraud.
- Check your Medicare statements to make sure the charges are accurate.
- Don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by telephone, email or approaches you in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance. Medicare will never contact you uninvited and request your Medicare number or other personal information.
- Don’t let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number.
- Don’t allow anyone, except your doctor or other Medicare providers, to review your medical records or recommend services.
- Don’t let anyone persuade you to see a doctor for care or services you don’t need.
- Don’t accept medical supplies from a door-to-door salesman.
Learn more about how you can fight Medicare fraud at Medicare.gov/fraud, or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). You can also visit a local SHIP counselor, who can provide free, one-on-one, non-biased Medicare assistance.
With a common sense approach to protecting health information, senior citizens can be effective partners in fighting Medicare fraud.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Trump Children’s Health Insurance Tweet Contradicts White House Administration
Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump contradicted his own administration on Thursday when he tweeted that funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) should not be included in a short-term plan to fund the government.
Trump’s tweet sent on Thursday morning, seemingly undercut the “Stopgap Spending Bill,” leaving many confused at what could be construed as an “Anti-Chip” tweet.
What If a Government Shutdown Occurs? Five Things to Know
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base BARRIE BARBER/STAFF
The federal government faces a partial federal shutdown threat Friday without a $1.1 trillion appropriations spending budget or a temporary stopgap spending measure in place.
Here’s what could happen in the Miami Valley if a shutdown occurs:
FURLOUGHS: A Wright-Patterson Air Force Base spokesman said this week the base had not received guidance on what actions to take. But the last time a federal government shutdown occurred in 2013, thousands of Wright-Patterson civilian employees were furloughed temporarily. Among those exempted were police, fire, medical and airfield operations. Military service members remained on the job.
MUSEUM: The region’s biggest tourist attraction, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, would close until a funding deal is reached, according to a spokesman.
MAIL SERVICE: The U.S. Postal Service, which is considered self-funded, would continue operations, including home delivery and post offices, would stay open, a spokesman said.
DAYTON VA: The Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities would remain open. The VA operates on a two-year budget cycle, exempting the department from the latest funding skirmish in Washington.
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: NPS sites in the Dayton region closed during the last shutdown in 2013. An NPS directive issued in September 2017, said parks would close if a lapse in federal government appropriations occurs.
Source: Dayton Daily News
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