Fusion GPS: Trump-appointed judge has conflicts, should recuse

Judge Trevor McFadden is pictured. | Getty Images

President Donald Trump nominated Trevor McFadden, a former partner at Baker & McKenzie, to the U.S. District Court in Washington last June. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The private investigation firm behind the so-called Trump dossier — Fusion GPS — is arguing that a Trump-appointed federal judge has so many conflicts of interest that he should recuse himself from a legal case stemming from BuzzFeed’s publication of the dossier earlier this year.

Fusion’s lawyers say the impartiality of U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden is open to question because he represented a firm owned by a Russian businessman who claims he was libeled by publication of the dossier and he was a top lawyer at the Justice Departments Criminal Division last year when Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley requested an investigation into Fusion.

Fusion’s attorneys also say that “perhaps” the most significant conflict is McFadden’s work as a “vetter” on Trump’s transition team. That service is problematic because of repeated comments Trump has made on Twitter challenging the accuracy of the dossier, calling for release of details on how it was funded and suggesting that Fusion was involved in wrong doing.

“President-elect Trump began making public statements expressing his animosity toward Fusion GPS and its work related to the Trump Dossier during the transition,” Fusion GPS lawyers William Taylor, Steven Salky and Rachel Cotton wrote in a letter to McFadden last week urging recusal. “Mr. Trump has continued making such statements on a regular basis as President, until the president day. Indeed, the President’s adversity to Fusion has been repeatedly expressed by his spokesperson and has become an element of his political agenda.”

Fusion also alluded to financial donations McFadden made to the Trump campaign. Federal Election Commission records show a total of $1,000 McFadden gave to Trump’s presidential bid last October.

Fusion’s letter to McFadden was not immediately placed in the court’s public files, but McFadden released it Monday and said he “would welcome briefing regarding potential recusal.” He said if Fusion or any other party wants him to recuse it should file a motion to that effect by next Monday.

Trump nominated McFadden, a former partner at Baker & McKenzie, to the U.S. District Court in Washington last June. He was confirmed in October and serves as one of three Trump-appointed judges on the district court in the nation’s capital.

The dossier, a compilation of intelligence reports about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, was assembled by British intelligence operative Christopher Steele at the request of Fusion GPS during the 2016. Some of Steele’s initial research was paid for by a conservative news outlet, the Washington Free Beacon. Fusion and Steele continued on the project with funding from lawyers working for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The compendium became the focus of attention from the FBI last year. In recent months, Republicans have grown convinced that the FBI used the dossier’s accurate, inaccurate, unverified, and, in some instances, salacious, claims to seek surveillance warrants and take other investigative steps that led to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

While the dossier has spawned a morass of lawsuits in Washington, Miami, New York and London, the litigation before McFadden is an offshoot of a case pending in federal court in Miami where a Russian internet entrepreneur mentioned in the dossier is suing BuzzFeed over its publication of the documents.

The Russian businessman, Aleksej Gubarev, has subpoenaed Fusion GPS for records and testimony related to the dossier. Fusion, which is based in Washington, chose to move in federal court in D.C. to quash the subpoena.

Fusion’s letter doesn’t allege that McFadden or Baker & McKenzie worked for Gubarev, but says they did represent a company called VimpelCom in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation. That firm is controlled by Mikhail Fridman, who is suing Fusion GPS and one of its co-founders, Glenn Simpson, for libel stemming from production and dissemination of the dossier. That suit, separate from the Florida one, is pending before U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon in Washington. Leon was appointed by former President George W. Bush.

The dossier-related subpoena dispute McFadden is being pressured to recuse from was originally before a judge appointed by President Barack Obama, Tanya Chutkan. She recused from the case in December without public explanation and the matter was randomly reassigned to McFadden.

Josh Gerstein is a senior reporter for POLITICO.


Senate bill to reverse net neutrality repeal gains 30th co-sponsor, ensuring floor vote

A Senate bill that would reverse the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to repeal net neutrality received its 30th co-sponsor on Monday, ensuring it will receive a vote on the Senate floor.

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocrats turn on Al Franken Trump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting The Hill’s 12:30 Report MORE (D-Mo.) announced her support for the bill on Twitter, putting it over the top of a procedural requirement to bypass committee approval.

The bill, which is being pushed by Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyNet neutrality supporters predict tough court battle over FCC’s repeal plan Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Driverless car bill hits Senate speed bump MORE (D-Mass.), would use Congress’s authority under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to reverse the FCC’s rollback of its popular net neutrality rules.


“We’ve reached the magic number of 30 to secure a vote on the Senate floor, and that number will only continue to climb,” Markey said in a statement Monday. “Republicans are faced with a choice — be on the right side of history and stand with the American people who support a free and open internet, or hold hands with the special interests who want to control the internet for their own profit.”

Under the CRA, if a joint resolution of disapproval bill has enough support it can bypass committee review and be fast-tracked to a floor vote. If the bill is passed and signed into law, it would vacate the FCC’s vote last month and prohibit the agency from ever trying to repeal the rules in the future.

Lawmakers have 60 legislative days after the FCC submits its regulations to Congress to pass the CRA. The repeal order is currently awaiting approval from the Office of Management and Budget.

With Republicans in control of both the House and Senate, the bill faces long odds to win the simple majorities it needs to reach the president’s desk. But Democrats and activists see a clear upside in forcing GOP lawmakers to take an official stance during an election year on the consumer protections, which polls have shown to be popular among voters.

“Today’s news shows that lawmakers from both parties cannot hide from their constituents on this issue,” said Evan Greer, an activist with the group Fight for the Future, which has promised to rally voters around the issue in the midterm elections. “Every member of the U.S. Senate will have to go on the record, during a tight election year, and either vote to save the Internet or rubber stamp its death warrant.”


Don’t believe Michael Wolff’s book about Trump if you want the truth

When I worked in the White House, I was viewed as strange by many of my colleagues on Sean SpicerSean Michael SpicerSpicer: CNN ‘doing a disservice’ by boycotting White House Christmas party DNC attorneys allowed to depose Spicer over election night presence in Trump Tower Sean Spicer to judge DC dance-off MORE’s press team. Although, as a deputy assistant to President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE, I could regularly be seen on the major news networks, standing on the North Lawn of the White House and discussing some aspect of the administration’s latest policy, I maintained a rather different relationship with the press than all of my other politically-appointed colleagues.

Unless we had a preexisting relationship, I didn’t trust any journalist. And if you came from an outlet that belonged to what President Trump calls #FakeNews, I really wasn’t interested in becoming your friend. To those few persistent journalists from news organs like the Washington Post who wouldn’t give up, I was upfront: Sorry, I don’t do “deep background” and I’m using my phone to record this conversation.


As a result, you’d never see Jim Acosta coming out of my office or Maggie Haberman buying me an espresso at Peet’s around the corner from the West Wing. So, when I met Michael Wolff in Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusScaramucci announces details for news site Trump: ‘I call him chief’ John Kelly Scaramucci going on Stephen Colbert’s show Monday MORE’ office, where he was waiting to talk to Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonOwner of Bannon’s DC house requests fence ‘for security reasons’ Bannon: Roy Moore accusers ‘trying to destroy a man’s life’ Billionaire Trump backer cuts ties with Milo Yiannopoulos MORE, and after I had been told to also speak to him for his book, my attitude was polite but firm: “Thanks but no thanks.” Our brief encounter reinforced my gut feeling that this oleaginous scribe had no interest in being fair and unbiased.

Now, the chattering classes are gripped in an hysterical fever over Wolff’s tell-all book, “Fire and Fury,” with Wolff actually saying that its publication will bring down the duly-elected president of the United States.

I refuse to buy the book of a man who so avowedly holds what, in a previous age, we would have called treasonous goals, but I have read the publicly released excerpts and therefore feel that we can all draw some practical conclusions.

First, Wolff is a partisan self-promoter with credibility issues the likes of which we haven’t seen in a very long time. We are used to Washington being divided, but the contents of this politically-motivated publication are so obviously false that the “swamp” has descended to a new unimaginable low with its release.

Not only is it replete with simple “mistakes,” such as President Trump having no idea who John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerJohn Feehery: A political forest fire Trump’s pick for Federal Reserve chief is right choice at right time The two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery MORE is when they were previously golfing partners, it is built upon assertions that go counter to all that we know about the president.

The most obvious of these is that a man whose reputation for 50 years has been defined around the concept of winning, at everything he set out to do, had no intention of winning the election to the highest office in the land.

(An accusation that, ironically and critically, undermines an additional outrageous assertion that the book is being used to support, that there was in fact “collusion” between team Trump and the Russian government. What is the logic of conspiring with Moscow in an election, if you never intended to win?)

Second, at a time when the credibility of the inappropriately termed “mainstream” media is in tatters, its leading lights and editorial masters are doubling down on their hysterical counterfactual coverage instead of pausing to examine just how professionally and morally bankrupt they have become and what can be done about rebuilding their reputations.

Wolff actually admits on page 10 of his prologue that he cannot verify anything that he details in his book, and that what he has provided is a “notional truth,” the merits of which the reader will have to decide upon by themselves. With this one statement, Wolff has done more to illuminate the political left writ large than any right-wing op-ed writer ever could.

For Wolff and all the Trump haters who buy his book and endorse what is, in practice, a smear campaign, the philosophy is crystal clear: Facts don’t matter. It’s the narrative that is king. Trump must be incompetent or mentally unwell because, well, we want him to be. “Notional truth” is another phrase for my ideological “reality,” a phrase that George Orwell would have recognized instantly.

Lastly, and most important, by tying together a tissue of lies and half-truths which will progressively be debunked in the coming days and weeks, the author of “Fire and Fury” will in fact strengthen the position of President Trump and reinforce the public’s already remarkably high distrust of the media.

When CNN devotes almost all of its domestic coverage to the absurd accusations in the book, and Jake Tapper shuts down White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller on live television, while the Dow breaks 25,000 and young protesters are being killed on the streets of Iran, then the name #FakeNews is no longer just a rhetorical device.

We are just one week into 2018, yet it is clear that those who expected Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE to win the presidential election still do not fully comprehend what happened in America on Nov. 8, 2016. This especially includes the majority of the American press. Their willful blindness and intransigence will empower President Trump, as he proceeds to implement the “Make America Great Again” agenda.

As he does so, I would like to remind my colleagues still inside the White House: You don’t have to be friends with each and every journalist who seeks you out. But if you do engage, remember that smartphones make excellent recording devices.

Sebastian GorkaSebastian Lukacs GorkaGorka contracted to deliver Heritage Foundation speeches Sebastian Gorka joins Fox News as contributor Gorka: NYC attack reinforces president’s work on reforming immigration MORE Ph.D. is the author of the New York Times bestseller “Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War” and former deputy assistant and strategist to President Trump. Follow him on Twitter @SebGorka.


Steyer to target Ryan, GOP incumbents in $30M midterms push

Billionaire hedge fund manager and philanthropist Tom Steyer is pictured. | Getty Images

Tom Steyer plans to use his NextGen America political group to juice millennial voting numbers in ten states | Win McNamee/Getty Images

Tom Steyer, the Democratic hedge fund manager-turned-activist, won’t run for either senator or governor of California in 2018, instead investing $30 million in an effort to flip the House, he told reporters on Monday.

“My fight is not just in California, my fight is in removing Donald Trump from office, and from power,” said Steyer, whose announcement won’t dispel speculation that he might run for president in 2020.

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Steyer plans to use his NextGen America political group to juice millennial voting numbers in ten states, he said. He singled out House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) and Reps. Darrell Issa (Calif.), and Barbara Comstock (Va.) as targets.

The billionaire Steyer has been Democrats’ biggest donor in recent election cycles, to the tune of nearly $200 million. His national stature has grown recently with a series of straight-to-camera ads calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. That campaign will continue, Steyer said, adding that he will be delivering copies of “Fire and Fury,” the Michael Wolff book infuriating Trump’s White House, to all congressional offices.

“We now know that the Oval Office cannot reshape a man who does not believe in constitutional democracy. We now know that the Republican Party will not cross a president who controls their base no matter what he says or does,” he said at a news conference blocks from the Capitol. “By my count Donald Trump has committed at least eight impeachable offenses.”

Steyer has collected more than 4 million signatures during his impeachment petition drive — a push that some Democratic leaders have urged him to stop, calling it premature. That’s given him a massive email list that could be converted into significant political influence. He has also urged individual Democratic leaders and candidates to stand for Trump’s impeachment.

But his 2018 investment partially answers critics’ questions about whether his money would be better spent on individual races.

Steyer has been playing heavily in races across the country in recent years, largely through his NextGen political group that was initially focused on climate politics. The group relaunched in 2016 with a broader mandate, not zeroing in on any one issue.

“We have taken a disastrous turn and now we need to get back to a path to a just and prosperous future,” he said.