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Former US Attorney: Trump's Russia Statements 'Debilitating' To Morale Of Intelligence Community

Chuck LaBella, who served as US Attorney for the Southern District of California during the Clinton administration, is pictured on July 16, 2018.
Chuck LaBella, who served as US Attorney for the Southern District of California during the Clinton administration, is pictured on July 16, 2018.
Former US Attorney: Trump's Russia Statements 'Debilitating' To Morale Of Intelligence Community
Former US Attorney: Trump's Russia Statements "Debilitating" To Morale Of Intelligence Community GUEST: Chuck LaBella, former U.S. Attorney, Southern District of California

Our top story on Midday edition. Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday offered a bit of cooperation to the U.S. investigators into Russian election interference. During a press conference with President Trump he said he'd welcome the investigators to Russia to participate in the questioning of the 12 Russians indicted last week by Robert Mueller's team. This is what he said through an interpreter. We can actually permit official representatives of the United States including the members of this very commission headed by Mr. Mueller. We can lead them into the country and they will be present for this questioning. That offer has not been accepted by Robert Mueller's team. Meanwhile President Donald Trump continues to cast doubt on the entire investigative process for claiming that the Russia investigation has been a disaster for our country. So how does prosecutor Robert Mueller and his team proceed from here. Joining me is Chuck LaBella former U.S. attorney now in private practice in San Diego. And Chuck welcome. Thanks for having me. First of all what's your reaction to President Putin's invitation to U.S. investigators. His invitation is an empty glass. I mean it's it's really not an invitation at all. It's an invitation for for or for chaos. Nothing in it to help us prosecutors and everything in it to how the Russian the Russians who are trying to evade prosecution and indeed interviewing subjects that have already been indicted wouldn't happen in Russia or in any country. U.S. investigators just simply would not do that after an indictment has been issued. Isn't that right. No. I mean you know that the prospect of going first of all there's the Sixth Amendment issues whether they have a right to counsel after indictment and whether or not they agreed to waive the right to counsel you'd have to get a formal waiver and they'd have to agree to talk to prosecutors. And in this context you know after a grand jury has already determined that there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed and these people have committed the crime. Why would you go interview them to to lay your cards on the table to show them all the proof that you have. That's going to prove them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt because that's in essence what you'd have to do if you were interviewing them because they're not going to admit it. Do you see any chance Russia might agree to send those 12 indicted Russians to the U.S. for a trial. I can't imagine there are any circumstances under which that would do that because they are former or current government officials and it's just too dangerous a game for them to play. And I think they're just going to stonewall it and this offer of hey come on over and talk to these people is just an empty offer. Many commentators saw the timing of last week's indictments of alleged Russian hackers just days before Trump's meeting with Putin as a message sent by Robert Muller. Now I believe I remember that you worked with Robert Mueller for a while in the New York office is that right. Well I was in the Department of Justice when he was in Washington I was in New York so I've worked you know I know him. I know his techniques. I've met him several times and I have nothing but admiration for his abilities and his independence. And I can't I can't imagine and I know many of the men and women who are working for him because they're all people. Several of them are people I worked with in the Department of Justice. I can't imagine that they timed this for this for this summit. I think it just was fortuitous because they're not going to move until they have proof beyond them in order to indict they need probable cause. But I know I know these men and women and I know that the Department of Justice policy is on a case like this you're not going to move until you have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you think you've got the goods on these people that if they showed up for trial you could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that that they were committed the crimes and that a jury would convict them. The indictments against those 12 Russians they can contain specific references to the times and locations of their actions. How can Mullers team be getting such precise information about Russian intelligence activities. Well that's going to be the proof for trial and I suspect although I don't know that some of the intelligence agencies has given up some of the information they have given up some of the information. And in a normal case like this there is something called graymail. So off very often the defense will try to threaten the government with OK you have to tell us exactly how you know what you know and that's a very difficult bridge for the government to cross because we have things we want to protect. They've already made the decision in this case that the information that they're going to give up at trial is information they can give up. And it's not going to jeopardize anything because they've they've crossed that Rubicon before before now President Trump has been so vocal about his displeasure with the Russia interference investigation. Why do you think he hasn't taken action to stop it. I think it goes to indirectly impacts the legitimacy of his presidency and in his mind and in his mind he thinks this is a tack on the fact that he won the election and I think he can't divorce his own his own participation in this or his own his own ego from the fact that this is a legitimate you know criminal justice investigation and really the important message here is not whether or not Trump or anybody from the Trump campaign concluded with Russians. But the real messages somebody attacked our democratic system. It's under attack. It needs to be addressed. Put Trump aside put the Republican National Committee aside put everybody who's around him in the inner circle aside the real important messages here that we need to find out how it happened when it happened and how to prevent it in the future. You know Robert Mueller as we just established how do you think this constant criticism from the White House is effective. I don't think it affects him one bit. Robert Muller is a professional he's done many many difficult cases in which there's always there's always pressure. And I don't think he's ever gotten pressure from the White House like this but it's it's something that he's used to. And most seasoned prosecutors are used to. So you just you weather the storm. You just duck to keep your head down and you put one foot in front of the other and you get your evidence when you go to trial. And let me expand that question because in response to a question about whether he believes U.S. intelligence or Putin president Trump said today people came to me Dan Coats came to me and some others they said they think it's Russia. I have. President Putin he just said it's not Russian. I will say this I don't see any reason why it would be. What impact does a statement like that have on the intelligence community's ability to do its job. I don't think it affects its ability but it's debilitating. I mean I can't tell you how it impacts the men and women who work every day go to work every day try to do a good job for America and to have the leader of our country say that the FBI is tainted and that the intelligence agencies are wrong are wrong and that I believe Putin when he denies it as opposed to our own intelligence agencies who say no this happened and it happened from Russia. It's just I can't describe how it impacts the morale of these men and women who are professionals that again go to work every day trying to do the best they can for America. It's just remarkable to me and I couldn't imagine being in that situation how I would feel. I've been speaking with Chuck LaBella former U.S. attorney now in private practice in San Diego. Chuck thank you so much. Thank you.

Russian president Vladimir Putin Monday offered a bit of cooperation to the U.S. investigators into Russian interference in the 2016 election. During a press conference with President Trump, Putin said he would welcome the investigators to Russia to participate in the questioning of the 12 Russian intelligence officers indicted last week by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team.

Through an interpreter, Putin said, "We can actually permit official representatives of the United States, including the members of this very commission, headed by Mr. Mueller, we can let them into the country and they will be present at this questioning."

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That offer has not been accepted.

President Donald Trump continued to cast doubt on the entire investigative process. During the press conference, Trump said that the Russia investigation has been a "disaster for our country."

In response to a question from a reporter asking whether he would "denounce what happened in 2016" and warn President Putin "to never do it again" publicly, Trump said in part, "People came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others and said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be."

"It's debilitating," said Chuck LaBella, who served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California during the Clinton administration. "To have the leader of our country say that the FBI is tainted and that the intelligence agency is wrong and that I believe Putin when he denies it as opposed to our own intelligence agencies who say, 'no this happened and it happened from Russia,' I can't describe how it impacts the morale of these men and women who are professionals."

La Bella, who is now in private practice in San Diego, is a guest on Midday Edition Tuesday.

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