Posts Tagged ‘Attorney General — Jeff Sessions’

Sessions defends firing Comey, warns DOJ report could prompt more terminations

June 14, 2018

On the eve of the release of a potentially explosive new report, Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the termination of the FBI’s top two former executives and warned that the forthcoming report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton probe could result in more people being fired.

In an exclusive interview with The Hill’s new TV show “Rising,” set to air Thursday morning, Sessions defended the decision to fire ex-Director James Comey, who he said “made a big mistake” that belied a “serious breach of discipline.”

Sessions also made clear that he is open to firing more employees if the Justice Department inspector general’s soon-to-be-released report warrants it. 

The Hill

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

“I think it will be a lengthy report and a careful report,” he told “Rising” co-host Buck Sexton. “I think it will help us better fix any problems that we have and reassure the American people that some of the concerns that have been raised are not true.”

“If anyone else shows up in this report to have done something that requires termination we will do so,” he added.

Sessions spoke to Rising just hours before DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz is expected to release a report on Comey’s handling of the Clinton email case in 2016 and his subsequent firing by President Trump in 2017.

Published reports have said the report concludes Comey was insubordinate as FBI director when he refused DOJ advice and announced a re-opening of the Clinton email case just days before the 2016 general election.

Sessions said he is certain that Comey’s firing was justified.

“It was the right thing to do. The facts were pretty clear on it. He made a big mistake and he testified only a few weeks before that termination that he would do it again [announce reopening the Clinton probe] if he had the opportunity. So we felt like there was a serious breach of discipline within the department if we allowed him to continue.”

Trump has indicated various motives for firing the former FBI director. The termination was recommended in a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that referenced Comey’s “handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails.”

Sessions also said the termination earlier this year of Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for allegedly lying to investigators about his media contacts was also “the right decision.” McCabe’s termination resulted from a separate report from Horowitz charging Comey’s former deputy with unauthorized leaking.

You can watch Session’s full interview Thursday at 8 a.m. at



US healthcare to provide Democrats with Trump weapon

June 11, 2018

White House efforts to undermine Obamacare sets up battle for midterm campaigns

By Barney Jopson in Brownsville 

Democrats are seeking to revive healthcare as a political weapon against Republicans ahead of elections this year after the Trump administration signalled it was ready to expand its efforts to undercut Obamacare.
Six months after Donald Trump applauded Congress for knocking out one pillar of Obamacare, his administration has said it will not seek to defend another essential component, which requires insurers to cover everyone regardless of their health.

Democrats, who are seeking to win back at least one chamber of Congress in November elections, accused the Trump administration of engaging in “sabotage” by abandoning a requirement that insurers cover people who are already unwell.

Jeff Sessions, the US attorney-general, said in a letter to Congress last week that the US justice department would argue in an existing court case that the ban on denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions was “unconstitutional”.


Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and closeup

Sessions explains to Congress rationale for not defending ObamaCare
© Greg Nash


Mr Sessions acknowledged he was breaking a tradition of administrations defending the constitutionality of enacted laws. “I have concluded that this is a rare case where the proper course is to forgo defence of [the law],” he wrote.

Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, tweeted a letter he sent to Mr Trump with three other senior Democrats, which said: “Mr President, it is time to stop the sabotage. We are a country of laws and the law must be respected, defended and enforced regardless of the person occupying the Oval Office.”

The Trump administration’s move was also criticised by the health insurance industry.

Healthcare has been a contentious issue in four consecutive rounds of elections since Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, became law in 2010.

Mr Schumer’s letter said as many as 133m Americans had pre-existing medical conditions, excluding the elderly. “Taking this position could render millions of Americans uninsurable or facing higher premiums,” the letter said.

In a nod to the midterm elections, Gerald Connolly, a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives from Virginia, told Republicans “you’ve handed us an issue we will ride into the sunset”, according to the Washington Post.

Many Republican voters have blamed Obamacare for pushing up monthly premiums for health insurance policies, as insurers seek to cover the costs of customers who are filing more claims.

During his campaign Mr Trump said he would retain protections for people with pre-existing conditions, but he has subsequently supported various Republican efforts to remove them.

Although Obamacare tends to divide Americans along partisan lines, the ban on denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions is one of the most popular parts of the 2010 law.

Mr Sessions argued that the provision on pre-existing conditions would be unconstitutional as soon as another change to Obamacare comes into effect next year: the abolishment of a tax penalty for people who do not have health insurance.

That change, which effectively eliminated another core Obamacare requirement, was included in the tax reform bill that Republicans passed at the end of last year.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group for health insurers, said scrapping the provision on pre-existing conditions “will result in renewed uncertainty in the individual market, create a patchwork of requirements in the states [and] cause [premium] rates to go even higher for older Americans and sicker patients”.

Mr Trump has continued trying to undo Obamacare — a key part of his predecessor’s legacy — since Republicans in Congress failed to pass new legislation to dismantle it last year.

Additional reporting by Kadhim Shubber in Washington


Sessions explains to Congress rationale for not defending ObamaCare

June 8, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Thursday defending the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) rationale for not defending the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.

“As you know, the Executive Branch has a longstanding tradition of defending the constitutionality of duly enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense,” Sessions wrote.

Image may contain: one or more people, eyeglasses and closeup

Sessions explains to Congress rationale for not defending ObamaCare
© Greg Nash

“But not every professionally responsible argument is necessarily reasonable in this context,” he continued, adding this is “a rare case where the proper course is to forgo defense” of the law.

The department argued in court on Thursday that key components of the Obama-era law are unconstitutional, siding in large part with a challenge to the law from 20 GOP-led states.

The DOJ points to the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2012 that upheld ObamaCare’s individual mandate – that people have insurance or face a tax penalty – as constitutional under Congress’s taxing power.

After Congress repealed the mandate penalty as part of last year’s tax bill, the GOP-led states and DOJ argue the mandate itself is no longer a tax and is now invalid.

They also argue that key pre-existing condition protections cannot be separated from the mandate and should be invalidated, while the remainder of the law can stay.

Sessions’s move marks a break for the DOJ, which typically defends federal laws when they are challenged in court.

The move shows the Trump administration is not willing to defend the law, which it strongly disagrees with.

However, this is not the first time an administration has broken with precedent.

Former President Obama’s Justice Department declined to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, in 2011.

– Peter Sullivan contributed


Justice Department Won’t Defend Affordable Care Act in Lawsuit Brought by States — Health care and immigration remain two major areas of Trump’s unfinished business

June 8, 2018

Filing creates uncertainty for insurers now setting rates for 2019

The Justice Department’s decision not to defend major provisions in the Affordable Care Act was approved by President Donald Trump, according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The Justice Department’s decision not to defend major provisions in the Affordable Care Act was approved by President Donald Trump, according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. PHOTO: RICHARD B. LEVINE/NEWSCOM/ZUMA PRESS

The Justice Department won’t defend major provisions in the Affordable Care Act and is asking a federal court to strike down key elements of the law, a new blow to the health law and the stability of the individual insurance market.

The department, in a brief it filed Thursday in a lawsuit brought by 20 state attorneys general, asks the court to halt ACA protections that Republicans in Congress sought to preserve when they attempted to repeal the health law.

The provisions targeted by the Justice Department include the bans on insurers denying coverage and charging higher rates to people with pre-existing health conditions. The department is also seeking to roll back limits on how much insurers can charge people based on gender and age.

The decision to attack the ACA in this way involves a legal, political and policy gamble by the Trump administration, suggesting how much the president still wants to dismantle his predecessor’s signature health law after a failed ACA repeal effort by Republicans a year ago. The move could rattle the insurance markets and shake up the GOP message on health care months before the midterm elections.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a letter to congressional leaders, said the department won’t defend the constitutionality of provisions in the ACA and the decision was made with the approval of President Donald Trump. It is highly unusual for the Justice Department not to back a federal law, though the Obama administration took a similar approach with the Defense of Marriage Act.

“Of all the things the Trump administration has done to destabilize the market, this may be the most major,” said Timothy Jost, an emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. “What’s an insurer that is setting rates now supposed to do, because the court will not have a decision until early summer or late fall.”

The Supreme Court ruled in a landmark 2012 opinion that the health law, and specifically the requirement that Americans have health insurance, was constitutional because the penalty for not having coverage was handled by the Internal Revenue Service and fell within Congress’s taxation powers.

But Congress repealed the penalty for not having insurance last year. Republican attorneys generals are arguing in the lawsuit that the ACA and its mandate is unconstitutional now that Congress has repealed that tax-based penalty. The Justice Department agreed with that stance in its brief in asking the court to halt certain provisions of the ACA.

That case, filed in federal district court in the Northern District of Texas, focuses on the individual mandate, which is the ACA’s requirement that most people have health coverage or pay a penalty. Congressional Republicans late last year ended the penalty starting in 2019, but the requirement to have insurance technically remains. It is unenforceable without a penalty, however.

The Justice Department, in its brief, said certain ACA provisions, such as banning insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, are invalid as of Jan. 1 with the mandate-penalty repeal. The U.S. agreed with the plaintiffs that sections “must now be struck down as unconstitutional,” according to the Justice Department brief.

Mr. Sessions, in the letter to congressional leaders, said: “The department in the past has declined to defend a statute in cases in which the president has concluded that the statute is unconstitutional and made manifest that it should not be defended, as is the case here.”

Democrats quickly decried the move as an improper action likely to harm numerous Americans, especially those who are older and less healthy.

“Tonight, the Trump Administration took its cynical sabotage campaign of Americans’ health care to a stunning new low,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “Once again, Republicans are trying to destroy protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.”

Image result for nancy pelosi, photos

Nancy Pelosi

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia sought to intervene in the case to defend the ACA. The court has granted their request.

The move is likely to rattle insurers who are now setting rates for 2019 based on the belief that they must abide by the ACA consumer-protection requirements. Some legal and health experts said the administration’s decision could destabilize markets.

The department didn’t say other aspects of the ACA, such as its expansion of Medicaid and its exchanges, should be halted.

University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley said three Justice Department attorneys withdrew their names from the brief.

“For the administration to cast aside the ACA in a brazen political move, I’m afraid,” he said. “We don’t want the DOJ to take frivolous arguments and make it into law killers.”

For insurers, the Trump administration stance changes nothing immediately, but raises the likelihood of yet another year of far-reaching uncertainty in the ACA markets. As with other significant legal changes and threats to the ACA over the years, the court proceeding will leave insurers and, particularly, state insurance regulators in the hot seat, unsure how to proceed with decisions on pricing and plan designs.

Insurers are currently filing their rates and plans for the 2019 ACA marketplaces, based on the current rules, which require them to sell plans to all applicants and ban them from tying premiums to consumers’ health conditions. State regulators have begun reviewing the proposed rates, which are set to be completed over the next few months.

Now, insurers and state regulators will have to consider the possibility that insurers will be allowed to go back to pricing plans based on health conditions, a change that would in many ways turn back the clock to how individual coverage was sold before the ACA. It would strike down the central assumptions undergirding the filings the insurers are currently making.

Write to Stephanie Armour at

Appeared in the June 8, 2018, print edition as ‘DOJ Says It Won’t Defend Health Law.’

Nunes wants to hold Sessions in contempt of Congress

May 7, 2018

A top Republican ally to President Trump said Sunday he’ll push to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and GOP members of House Intelligence Committee are frustrated the Department of Justice hasn’t turned over documents related to the conduct of Justice Department and FBI officials in their handling of an investigation during the 2016 presidential election.

“On Thursday we discovered that they are not going to comply with our subpoena,” Nunes said on “Fox and Friends Sunday.”

“The only thing left to do is we have to move quickly to hold the attorney general of the United States in contempt and that is what I will press for this week.”

Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has been investigating whether the Justice Department and FBI abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor a member of the Trump campaign as part of the Russia probe.

It’s unclear if the GOP-led House of Representatives would have the votes to hold Sessions, a fellow Republican, on contempt of Congress charges.

At least one leading Republican Sunday said he’s not even clear what Nunes and the Justice Department “are arguing about” and expressed caution on resorting to “very extraordinary measures.”

“I think all members of Congress are going to need more information on what the request was and what the response from the Justice Department is. We don’t have that,” said Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”

He’s a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

The GOP House voted in 2012 to hold President Obama’s attorney general Eric Holder in contempt of Congress by the vote of 255-67 related to his handling of the Operation Fast and Furious gun-running operation.

Trump has routinely berated Sessions for recusing himself in the Russian probe that has been closing in on the president.

Nunes and some conservative members of the House have been pressing the Justice Department for detailed information related to the Russia investigation but feel stonewalled.

Democrats believe Nunes and others are trying to undercut special counsel Robert Mueller ‘s probe and muddy the waters.

Nunes said he sent a classified memo seeking information from the DOJ, which was ignored, and then he sent a subpoena.

The Justice Department responded that providing Nunes information on a “specific individual” could pose grave implications for national security, according to a letter obtained by CNN.

“Disclosure of responsive information to such requests can risk severe consequences, including potential loss of human lives, damage to relationships with valued international partners, compromise of ongoing criminal investigations, and interference with intelligence activities,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd, who heads the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs.

Trump Plans to Send National Guard to the Mexican Border

April 4, 2018

The New York Times

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The White House said Tuesday night that President Trump planned to deploy the National Guard to the southern border to confront what it called a growing threat of illegal immigrants, drugs and crime from Central America after the president for the third consecutive day warned about the looming dangers of unchecked immigration.

Mr. Trump’s advisers said Monday that he was readying new legislation to block migrants and asylum seekers, including young unaccompanied children, from entering the United States, opening a new front in the immigration crackdown that he has pressed since taking office. But in remarks on Tuesday that caught some of his top advisers by surprise, he suggested the more drastic approach of sending in the military to do what immigration authorities could not.

Speaking to reporters during a news conference with the presidents of three Baltic nations, Mr. Trump described existing immigration laws as lax and ineffective, and called for militarizing the border with Mexico to prevent an influx of Central American migrants he said were ready to stream across it.

“We have horrible, horrible and very unsafe laws in the United States,” Mr. Trump said. “We are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States.”

While the president couched his idea as an urgent response to an onslaught at the nation’s southern border, the numbers do not point to a crisis. Last year, the number of illegal immigrants caught at the border was the lowest since 1971, said the United States Border Patrol. Still, Mr. Trump seized on what has become an annual seasonal uptick in Central American migrants making their way north to make his case.After the president’s remarks, White House aides struggled for hours to decipher his intentions.

Late in the day, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Trump had met with Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense, and members of the national security team to discuss his administration’s strategy for dealing with “the growing influx of illegal immigration, drugs and violent gang members from Central America,” a problem on which she said the president had initially been briefed last week.

That strategy, she said, included mobilizing the National Guard — though Ms. Sanders did not say how many troops would be sent or when — and pressing Congress to close what she called “loopholes” in immigration laws. Also present at the meeting were Jeff Sessions, the attorney general; Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security; Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff.

Read the rest:



See also:

White House Unveils New Immigration Push in Effort to Make Sense of Trump’s Tweets


Trump Plans to Deploy Troops to Mexican Border to Thwart Immigrants

FILE - A U.S. border patrol agent escorts men being detained after entering the United States by crossing the Rio Grande river from Mexico, in Roma, Texas, May 11, 2017.
FILE – A U.S. border patrol agent escorts men being detained after entering the United States by crossing the Rio Grande river from Mexico, in Roma, Texas, May 11, 2017.

Troops are to be dispatched to America’s border with Mexico to thwart further illegal immigration, U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters on Tuesday.“I think that it’s something that we have to do,” the president said in response to a question from a reporter at the afternoon event in the White House East Room.

The president and several cabinet members, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Nielsen, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, received a briefing Tuesday to examine his administration’s strategy.

The discussion included the mobilization of the National Guard and the need to pressure Congress to urgently pass legislation to close legal loopholes exploited by criminal trafficking, narco-terrorist and smuggling organizations.

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Baltic leaders in the East Room of the White House, April 3, 2018.
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Baltic leaders in the East Room of the White House, April 3, 2018.

The Pentagon responded to Trump’s plan to use military to guard the borders:

“We are still consulting with the White House,” a senior defense official said, promising more information.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray Caso said on Twitter his government has asked the United States to clarify Trump’s announcement. He wrote Mexico will define its position based on that clarification, and always in defense of its sovereignty and national interests.

Luis Videgaray Caso


México ha solicitado a EUA, por los canales oficiales, que clarifique el anuncio de @POTUS sobre el uso del ejército en la frontera. El gobierno de México definirá postura en función de dicha clarificación, y siempre en defensa de nuestra soberanía e interés nacional.

Two of Trump’s predecessors — George W. Bush and Barack Obama — sent National Guard units to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support for border patrol agents.

It is not immediately clear whether Trump intends to dispatch the National Guard, which is a reserve military component composed of members or units from the individual states and territories, or regular military forces.

An opposition Democratic Party senator, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, who serves on the defense subcommittee of the Senate’s appropriations committee, quickly criticized the idea, stating on Twitter that “Our military has more important things to do than to be mobilized to fulfill” a campaign promise of Trump’s.

Brian Schatz


Our military has more important things to do than to be mobilized to fulfill a politicians campaign promise. Also, spending money on a wall or guarding a wall would require a new law, which would fail spectacularly in the Senate.

In the United States, the active-duty military is generally restricted from domestic law enforcement functions, which would include capturing people who have come across the borders.

At the news conference, the president also spoke of a “caravan” of more than 1,000 migrants from Central America that has been making a 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) journey from the Mexico-Guatemala border to the United States. He has mentioned the procession several times on Twitter in recent days, vowing that it must be stopped.

Dozens of Central American migrants, traveling with the annual "Stations of the Cross" caravan, sleep at a sports club in Matias Romero, Oaxaca State, Mexico, April 3, 2018.
Dozens of Central American migrants, traveling with the annual “Stations of the Cross” caravan, sleep at a sports club in Matias Romero, Oaxaca State, Mexico, April 3, 2018.

In the past several days, the caravan has been mentioned numerous times on the Fox News Channel, which is Trump’s preferred source of broadcast news.

Those in the caravan “thought they were going to just walk right through Mexico and right through the border” into the United States, Trump said. Trump praised a quick response from Mexico, who he said was acting to ensure it is “all being broken up.”

Mexico has reportedly offered refugee status to some of the migrants.

Trump earlier had warned Mexico that its free trade agreement with its northern neighbor would be jeopardized if it did not stop the caravan before it reached the U.S. border.

Central American migrants prepare food as they take a break from traveling in their caravan on their journey to the U.S., in Matias Romero, Oaxaca, Mexico, April 3, 2018.
Central American migrants prepare food as they take a break from traveling in their caravan on their journey to the U.S., in Matias Romero, Oaxaca, Mexico, April 3, 2018.

Securing the southern border was a centerpiece of Trump’s platform during his 2016 campaign for the presidency, and something he mentions frequently.

“The Mexican border is very unprotected by our laws,” Trump asserted Tuesday. “We don’t have laws. We have catch and release. You catch and then you immediately release. And people come back years later for a court case, except they virtually never come back.”

Trump has continually emphasized the need for a border wall — which on Tuesday he said must be “700 [1,127 kilometers] to 800 miles [1,287 kilometers] long.” He previously has demanded that Mexico pay for the wall, but that has not been emphasized recently by Trump in public remarks.

“We need the wall. We’ve started building the wall, as you know,” said Trump, adding that $1.6 billion has now been appropriated by Congress toward “building the wall and fixing the existing wall that’s falling down or was never appropriated in the first place.”

Sessions Says ‘No’ To Republican Requests For A Second Special Counsel

March 30, 2018


Attorney General Jeff Sessions attends a law enforcement roundtable at the White House on March 20, 2018.

Pool/Getty Images

Updated at 10:09 p.m. ET

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he is not appointing — for now — a second special counsel to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by the FBI and Justice Department, telling Republican lawmakers that he has already asked a veteran prosecutor to look into the matter.

Republicans on Capitol Hill, including the chairmen of the Senate and House judiciary committees, have ramped up their push in recent weeks for a second special counsel to investigate what they say was misconduct by the FBI and Justice Department in 2016 and 2017.

But, in a four-page letter sent to lawmakers Thursday, Sessions said a special counsel is reserved for extraordinary circumstances, and argues that the GOP allegations do not rise to that level. Sessions does not rule out the possibility of appointing another special counsel in the future, but says for now he has assigned the U.S. attorney for Utah, John W. Huber, to look into the claims.

“I am confident that Mr. Huber’s review will include a full, complete and objective evaluation of these matters that is consistent with the law and the facts,” the attorney general said in his letter.

Sessions said he receives regular updates from Huber. Once Huber concludes his review, he will provide recommendations about new areas of possible investigation as well as whether new resources are required and “whether any matters merit the appointment of a Special Counsel,” Sessions said.

Huber is a veteran prosecutor who has been confirmed twice by the Senate as U.S. attorney for Utah — once in 2015 after he was nominated by President Obama, and again in 2017 after he was nominated by President Trump.

Sessions said Huber is conducting his work in cooperation with Justice Department Inspector General, Michael E. Horowitz.

Horowitz announced on Wednesday that he is launching a review to examine whether the department and the FBI violated legal requirements or procedures when applying for court approval for surveillance orders on a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.

While Republicans welcomed the inspector general’s review, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at least, said it did not preclude the need for a special counsel to “ensure the investigation is thorough and complete.”

Republican lawmakers have also made allegations of political influence on decisions made at senior levels of the Justice Department and FBI in 2016. Democrats say all of the GOP allegations are an attempt to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Those Republican calls for another special counsel have come from several powerful members of Congress, including Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and John Cornyn, R-Texas, as well as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.

Goodlatte and Gowdy said in a statement they were “encouraged” by the designation of Huber. “While we continue to believe the appointment of a second Special Counsel is necessary, this is a step in the right direction,” the two chairmen said. “We expect that U.S. Attorney Huber, given his reputation, will conduct an independent and thorough investigation.”

The two Republican lawmakers added: “We applaud the Attorney General for demonstrating his commitment to this investigation by selecting an individual outside of Washington, D.C. to lead the review. We think it is important that Mr. Huber report directly to the Attorney General since the Attorney General, as the head of the Justice Department, reserves the right to appoint a special counsel in the future. In the meantime we intend to continue our investigation into the decisions made and not made by DOJ in 2016 and 2017.”

NPR Justice Correspondent Carrie Johnson and NPR White House Correspondent Tamara Keith contributed to this report.

See also:

Sessions does not appoint second special counsel to review FBI misconduct claims



Trump Tightens Screws on Putin But Says He Wants to Get Along

March 25, 2018


By Jennifer Jacobs and Nick Wadhams

  • President likely to expel Russian diplomats on Monday
  • Move would align Trump with European allies critical of Putin

President Donald Trump is poised to take his most aggressive actions yet against Russia on Monday, when he’s likely to announce the expulsion of dozens of diplomats in response to the nerve-gas attack on a former Russian spy living in the U.K.

The move, all but certain to provoke retaliation by President Vladimir Putin’s government, comes as Trump has tried to maintain at least the semblance of a constructive relationship with the Russian leader.

But the expulsions will align Trump with European allies who feel threatened by Russia and have had a turbulent relationship with the U.S. president, including U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Several European countries are expected to announce their own expulsions of Russian diplomats in concert with the U.S.

While U.S. policy toward Russia has gradually grown more strident in recent months, the president’s critics say he has been slow to respond to Putin’s provocations. Some have drawn a connection to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible collusion between Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Russian government as well as Trump’s past business relationships with Russian figures.

‘Good Thing’

Trump has denied any campaign collusion and as recently as Wednesday advocated for an amicable relationship with Russia. “Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he said on Twitter.

The U.S. considers the diplomats it plans to expel to be spies, carrying out intelligence activities under cover as embassy staff, one person familiar with the matter said. Trump’s action would follow a similar move by May, who ordered 23 Russians that she said were spies to leave Britain over the attack on the former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter.

“The United States stands firmly with the United Kingdom in condemning Russia’s outrageous action,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said in a statement on Saturday. “The president is always considering options to hold Russia accountable in response to its malign activities.”

But Putin has proven expert at exploiting even the slightest divisions among Western allies, and Trump is concerned that European capitals may not follow through on promises to tighten the screws on the Kremlin. The president regards Germany, in particular, as wobbly because of its dependence on Russian fuel supplies.

NSC Recommendations

Trump’s National Security Council reached recommendations for a U.S. response to the U.K. attack at a meeting on Wednesday and presented the proposals to him on Friday. Trump discussed the issue that day with U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, FBI Director Chris Wray, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, outgoing National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and others, two people familiar with the talks said.

Jon Huntsman

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

All of the people who discussed the president’s deliberations asked not to be identified. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment.

A division within the White House over how to confront Putin flared this week after Trump called the Russian president on Tuesday and congratulated him for winning an election regarded in the West as largely fraudulent. The praise drew criticism from Congress and ran contrary to written talking points for the call that advised Trump not to congratulate the Russian leader, a person familiar with the matter said. Trump didn’t read the guidance.

Trump meanwhile has reshaped his national security staff. On Thursday, he announced he would replace McMaster, who favored a tougher public posture toward Putin, with John Bolton, the former ambassador to the United Nations who has promoted military action against Iraq, Iran and North Korea. That move came just a week after the president fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had also adopted a more confrontational stance toward Russia, and nominated Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, to replace him.

Mike Pompeo

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Congress has pressured Trump to get tougher on Putin and passed legislation in August giving lawmakers the power to block the president from lifting punitive U.S. measures imposed after Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. Substantively, Washington’s policy toward Russia has become tougher in recent months, though Trump’s critics say he has dragged his feet in responding to Putin’s provocations.

Personal Relationship

The president places a priority on maintaining a personal relationship with the Russian president, won’t publicly attack him, and doesn’t see any benefit to the U.S. in confronting Putin in one-on-one encounters, one administration official said Thursday. But Russia’s brazen aggression is compelling a U.S. response.

The attack against Skripal employed a nerve agent called “Novichok” manufactured by the Soviet Union, according to the U.K. government. May earlier this month condemned Russia for the apparent assassination attempt, which critically injured the former Russian spy and his daughter. A British police officer was also hospitalized.

Regardless of Trump’s rhetoric, his administration regards the Kremlin as a threat.

A national defense strategy assembled by the Pentagon under Mattis and publicly summarized in January described China and Russia as the top global adversaries of the U.S. Earlier this month, the administration slapped financial sanctions against a St. Petersburg-based internet “troll farm” and its alleged owner — a close Putin ally — whom Mueller indicted over a covert social media campaign to influence the 2016 election.

— With assistance by Margaret Talev, and Ilya Arkhipov


Trump Expected To Join UK — Expel dozens of Russian diplomats from the US next week

March 24, 2018


President Donald Trump is preparing to expel dozens of Russian diplomats from the US in response to the nerve-agent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK, two people familiar with the matter said on Saturday.

Trump agreed with the recommendation of advisers and the expulsions are likely to be announced on Monday, the people said, though they cautioned that Trump’s decision may not be final. Trump is prepared to act but wants to be sure European allies will take similar steps against Russia before doing so, aides said.


The advisers reached recommendations for a US response to the UK attack at a National Security Council meeting on Wednesday and honed the proposals on Friday. Trump discussed the issue Friday with US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, outgoing National Security Adviser HR McMaster and others, two people said.

All of the people familiar with the discussions asked not to be identified. White House spokespeople declined to comment.


Sessions Fires FBI Official McCabe Two Days Before He Was to Retire

March 17, 2018


ByChris Strohm

 Updated on 
  • Bureau veteran became a favorite target of Trump, Republicans
  • McCabe says his dismissal tied to testimony on Comey firing
Andrew McCabe Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired the FBI’s former deputy director, Andrew McCabe — a favorite target for President Donald Trump and Republicans — on Friday night, two days before he was to retire.

Sessions made the politically explosive decision after the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility recommended that McCabe be dismissed for not being forthcoming about authorizing discussions with a reporter about a pending investigation. Sessions said he relied on internal assessments that McCabe lacked candor on multiple occasions.

The move by the attorney general appeared to open a new episode in the criminal investigation into Trump being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

McCabe responded to the decision with a combative statement saying he was the target of a political attack by Trump and that he has knowledge of events that took place after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May.

McCabe said he had been “singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey. The release of this report was accelerated only after my testimony to the House Intelligence Committee revealed that I would corroborate former Director Comey’s accounts of his discussions with the president.”

Michael Bromwich, a former Justice Department inspector general who is representing McCabe, said the efforts to investigate and eventually fire McCabe came after disclosures that McCabe would be a “corroborating witness” against the president.

McCabe, a 22-year veteran of the bureau, already had stepped down from the No. 2 position and went on leave in January. He planned to retire officially from the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Sunday, when he turns 50 and would become eligible for his full government pension.

‘Lies and Corruption’

By firing McCabe, Sessions may have averted an intense backlash from Trump, who has used his Twitter account to criticize Sessions as well as McCabe. Shortly after midnight, Trump praised McCabe’s dismissal in a tweet.

“Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy,” the president wrote. “Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”

Sessions said the decision to fire McCabe was the proper response to an investigation into his actions.

“Pursuant to Department Order 1202, and based on the report of the Inspector General, the findings of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility, and the recommendation of the Department’s senior career official, I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately,” Sessions said in a statement.

Sessions also said: “The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and accountability.”

But Bromwich said the decision process was unfairly rushed.

Pension Question

McCabe’s dismissal may put his pension in jeopardy, either reducing or eliminating it. He became the FBI’s acting director after Trump fired Comey last May. He served in that role until Aug. 2 when Christopher Wray took charge.

“This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally,” McCabe said in the statement.

He also said that his dismissal was part of an attempt by the Trump administration to undermine both the bureau and Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. “Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel’s work,” McCabe added.

The bureau’s professional responsibility office found that McCabe misled Justice Department officials about his role in letting bureau officials talk to a reporter about the FBI’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation in October 2016, according to a person familiar with the matter.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders attacked McCabe on Thursday, a day when he was meeting with Justice Department officials to appeal his case.

‘Bad Actor’

“We do think it is well-documented that he has had some very troubling behavior and by most accounts a bad actor and should have some cause for concern,” Sanders saidin a briefing for reporters.

Trump and Republicans railed against McCabe for his role in the FBI’s decision against charging Democrat Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information in her use of private email when she was secretary of State.

They also questioned McCabe’s involvement in the FBI’s continuing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether anyone around Trump helped in the meddling. The probe is now being run by Mueller.

McCabe became a Republican target partly because he helped oversee the Clinton email investigation in 2016 even though his wife had accepted donations from Democratic political organizations for an unsuccessful campaign for the Virginia state Senate the previous year.

McCabe joined the FBI in 1996 and held management positions in the counterterrorism division and the Washington field office.

The Justice Department’s inspector general also has investigated decisions made in the department and FBI before the 2016 election, including events and actions involving McCabe, and plans to release its findings in the coming weeks.