The White House counsel reportedly almost resigned amid concerns over Trump-Kushner meetings and the Russia probe

Donald Trump Jared Kushner

  • White House staffers were reportedly worried that White House counsel Don McGahn would resign this summer
  • McGahn was said to have been frustrated over President Trump’s frequent meetings with Jared Kushner
  • Trump and Kushner are subjects in Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and McGahn was reportedly worried their meetings could be seen as an effort to coordinate stories

West Wing staffers were concerned that White House counsel Don McGahn would quit earlier this summer because of his frustration over meetings between President Donald Trump and his senior and adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. 

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election is focusing on both Trump and Kushner, and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the election in his favor.

Kushner invited scrutiny after he met with two Russian officials — Russia’s former ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, and the head of a sanctioned Russian bank, Sergey Gorkov — during the transition period. Kushner was also present during a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between top members of the Trump campaign and several Russians, including a lawyer with ties to the Kremlin who had offered compromising information on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.  

Mueller’s focus on Trump appears to center primarily around his decision to fire former FBI director James Comey in May and his motivations for doing so. The White House initially said Comey had been dismissed because of his handling of the Clinton email investigation, but Trump later told NBC’s Lester Holt that “this Russia thing” was a factor in his decision. 

Given their proximity to the Russia probe, McGahn was reportedly concerned that the frequency with which Trump and Kushner met could be seen as an attempt to coordinate their stories, three officials familiar with the matter told The Journal. 

Don McGahn

The White House counsel was so frustrated that then chief of staff Reince Priebus and then chief strategist Steve Bannon had to urge McGahn not to resign. He ultimately decided to stay after learning that Trump had hired a legal team, headed by white-collar defense attorney Ty Cobb, tasked with handling the White House’s response to Mueller’s investigation, according to the report. 

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti wrote on Friday that part of McGahn’s concern regarding meetings between Kushner and Trump could center around the fact that both men were witness to McGahn’s thought process surrounding Comey’s firing. 

The weekend before he fired Comey on May 9, Trump put together a draft letter laying out his reasons for dismissing the FBI director at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey. Kushner, who reportedly argued strongly for Comey’s firing, was also at the club that weekend, as was top policy adviser Stephen Miller and Trump’s daughter, Ivanka. Cobb confirmed to Business Insider earlier this month that the letter is in Mueller’s possession. 

After the letter was drafted, McGahn reportedly advised Trump against sending it to Comey and gave Miller a marked-up copy of the letter, highlighting several sections that he believed could be problematic and needed to be struck. McGahn is one of the White House staffers Mueller is interested in interviewing, likely because of his involvement in the events leading up to Comey’s firing. 

It’s unclear what, if any, role Kushner had in crafting the letter. But if both he and Trump were witness to McGahn’s thought process around Comey’s firing, their statements to one another could be “fair game” for Mueller to dig into as part of his investigation, Mariotti wrote. If the president met frequently enough with Kushner, Mueller could probe into their conversations and find inconsistencies in their stories, he added. 

McGahn is doing what any good defense attorney would do in these situations–create a protocol to ensure there is a ‘prover’ in the room for these conversations so that the third person could verify that issues relating to the investigation were never discussed,” Mariotti wrote. 

SEE ALSO: Tillerson says the US has a ‘direct line’ of communication with North Korea over nuclear tests

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Local artwork shows up on 'Criminal Minds' – Florida Weekly

Naples fiber artist Leigh Herndon at work in her home studio. COURTESY PHOTO

Naples fiber artist Leigh Herndon at work in her home studio. COURTESY PHOTO

Fans of the CBS’ “Criminal Minds” will catch the work of local fiber artist Leigh Herndon featured on a South Florida-based episode of the crime drama airing Wednesday night, Oct. 4.

Set directors for the show contacted the Naples Art Association earlier this summer, asking for artist submissions whose work would be featured in a local location for the episode. They selected the work of Ms. Herndon, a longtime NAA member and specialist in the Japanese dyeing technique called rozome.

“I am a proud member of the NAA, so having my work selected, in part, because I am a member artist is a nice bonus,” Ms. Herndon said. “It’s also refreshing to know that a show as popular as ‘Criminal Minds’ takes the time to utilize local artwork in keeping with its designated locale for its set designs,” she added. “I had a lot of fun working with the ‘Criminal Minds’ team in their selection of my work, and I can’t wait to see how they incorporate it into the show.”

“Luminous” COURTESY PHOTO

“Luminous” COURTESY PHOTO

Ms. Herndon has a master’s degree in fiber arts from Southern Illinois University and has been a longtime student of rozome, which she learned from Betsy Sterling Benjamin, one of the country’s foremost practitioners of the kimono dyeing technique. The layering of waxes and dyes on silk — a process that can take days — allows Ms. Herndon to create colors and depth not possible in other dyeing mediums. It’s a wonderful medium for depicting the landscapes of Southwest Florida and The Everglades.

“It’s a pretty fascinating environment that isn’t replicated on Earth,” the artist said, adding her imagery comes from her own kayaking adventures. “Parts of it are from photos I take when I’m out, and other parts are from memory,” she said. “It’s all influenced by the environment.”

NAA is also very proud that not only is Ms. Herndon’s work being showcased on network television, but she is also an active and productive member.

“Leigh is very committed to the rozome process, and she’s been showing here for at least 15 years and won numerous awards,” said curator Jack O’Brien. “She’s a very educated and committed artist who has extreme dedication … she’s always very happy to share her process with people and has done many presentations for us.”

NAA aims to gain more attention for its member artists in exactly the same way it did for Ms. Herndon.

“That’s one of the things we do as the community art center,” said Executive Director Aimee Schlehr. “We’re working for our artists and trying to get them out in the public and visible so people can see what they do in the community. This is only the second time (a television show) has looked at an artist and chosen them.”

The “Criminal Minds” episode featuring Ms. Herndon’s work airs at 10 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4. For more information about her work, visit www.leighherndon.com. For more information about Naples Art Association, their membership benefits and requirements, call 262-6517 or visit www.naplesart.org. ¦

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Every year, millions try to navigate US courts without a lawyer – Salon

Our center recently published a map of Georgia’s legal deserts. In our state, there are five counties without any lawyers at all and another 59 with 10 lawyers or fewer.

To make matters worse, in many of those counties, public transportation and internet access are sparse, and a significant percentage of the population doesn’t even have access to a vehicle.

The Self-Represented Litigation Network, a nonprofit focused on reforming the system to help those representing themselves, has also used mapping tools to depict how access to the justice system can vary across the country and sometimes even within the same state.

Changing the statistics

So, what do we do about the fact that the legal system is, for many people without a lawyer, nearly impossible to navigate? We believe that it will take a variety of different approaches to solve this issue.

Some experts, like John Pollock with the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, have focused on expanding the right to counsel in civil cases implicating basic human needs. Others have advocated for expansion of the right to counsel in lower-level criminal cases where the consequences — including obstacles to housing or employment, or deportation — can still be incredibly high.

In Washington, nonlawyers can be trained and licensed to offer legal support to those unable to afford the services of an attorney.

Still others, like Self-Represented Litigation Network founder Richard Zorza, emphasize simplification of legal processes, including changing or eliminating the procedural and evidentiary rules that make the process so difficult. For example, the Tennessee Supreme Court has approved plain-language forms and instructions, written at a fifth- to eighth-grade reading level, for use in uncontested divorces between parties with minor children.

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