Posts Tagged ‘Federal Bureau of Investigation’

Senators Ask Justice Department to Open Criminal Probe Into Trump Dossier Author

January 6, 2018

Republicans Grassley and Graham say Christopher Steele may have made false statements to federal investigators

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Image may contain: 1 person, suit

 Christopher Steele. Photographer Victoria Jones– PA Wire via AP

WASHINGTON—Two Republican senators have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether the author of a controversial research document on President Donald Trump lied to investigators.

Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said they have seen evidence that former British spy Christopher Steele made false statements to federal investigators about how he disseminated his research, which has taken center stage in the investigation into Russian activity during the 2016 election.

The two senators stressed on Friday that they were requesting “further investigation only, and is not intended to be an allegation of a crime.” They are senior members of the congressional panel that oversees the Justice Department and have access to classified, nonpublic information as part of their oversight responsibilities. They didn’t provide details on what evidence they had seen in deciding to make the referral.

“I don’t take lightly making a referral for criminal investigation. But, as I would with any credible evidence of a crime unearthed in the course of our investigations, I feel obliged to pass that information along to the Justice Department for appropriate review,” Mr. Grassley said in a statement.

The referral marks the latest twist in a political and legal drama over the origins and accuracy of a 35-page dossier, which contains salacious and unverified allegations about the president.

Mr. Steele, a former British intelligence official, wrote a series of memorandums during the 2016 election regarding Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia. The memos contained a number of unverified allegations concerning Mr. Trump’s business deals and his personal life. He also provided those documents to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in late 2016, and provided a copy of the report to Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.).

Mr. Steele has been sought out by the three congressional committees probing Russian interference during the 2016 election and whether Trump campaign associates colluded with Moscow, but people familiar with the matter say he hasn’t spoken to Capitol Hill investigators as part of their probes.

Those memos were compiled into a dossier that circulated widely in intelligence, law enforcement and media circles during the election. Mr. Trump has called it “fake” and “discredited,” and has denied any collusion by him or his campaign. Moscow has denied interfering with the election.

Mr. Steele was working for the nonpartisan research firm Fusion GPS when he wrote the memos. During that time period, Fusion was being paid by an attorney for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to conduct opposition research on Mr. Trump—a common election-year tactic of gathering incriminating or embarrassing information on a political rival.

Mr. Steele, who has made just one public statement since being identified as the dossier’s author, couldn’t be reached for comment. “I’m now going to be focusing my efforts on supporting the broader interests of our company here,” he told reporters in a brief statement last year, referring to his own firm.

U.S. investigators are looking into contacts between several current and former associates of Donald Trump and Russian individuals—some with direct ties to the Russian government or state-owned entities. WSJ’s Niki Blasina provides a who’s who of the Russians at the center of the investigations.

An attorney for Fusion GPS called for reporters to be “skeptical in the extreme” about Mr. Grassley and Mr. Graham’s referral.

“After a year of investigations into Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, the only person Republicans seek to accuse of wrongdoing is one who reported on these matters to law enforcement in the first place,” said Joshua Levy, an attorney for Fusion. “Publicizing a criminal referral based on classified information raises serious questions about whether this letter is nothing more than another attempt to discredit government sources in the midst of an ongoing criminal investigation.”

The two co-founders of the firm wrote in a New York Times op-ed this week that they were “extremely proud” of their work on the Trump dossier.

“Yes, we hired Mr. Steele, a highly respected Russia expert. But we did so without informing him whom we were working for and gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?” wrote Fusion co-founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, who are also former Wall Street Journal reporters. “What came back shocked us.”

Mr. Grassley serves as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel with oversight of federal law enforcement and the Justice Department. Mr. Graham serves as chairman of that panel’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism.

Write to Byron Tau at byron.tau@wsj.com

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Can a president obstruct justice?

December 11, 2017

Yes, but not by doing any of the things we know Trump to have done.

Speculation about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has turned toward obstruction of justice—specifically, whether President Trump can be criminally prosecuted for firing James Comey as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or for earlier asking Mr. Comey to go easy on onetime national security adviser Mike Flynn. The answer is no. The Constitution forbids Congress to criminalize such conduct by a president, and applying existing statutes in such a manner would violate the separation of powers.

The Constitution…

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/can-a-president-obstruct-justice-1512938781

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Editorial: Yes, the president can obstruct justice, said Senate GOP

  • Quad-City Times editorial board
Illustration

Yes, the president can obstruct justice. Just ask the nine Republicans still in the U.S. Senate, including Chuck Grassley, who voted “guilty” when then-President Bill Clinton was accused of obstruction in 1999.

And that’s true no matter how badly those very same Republicans now don’t want to talk about it.

The long-debated issue came to a head this past week when an attorney for President Donald Trump, John Dowd, summoned the ghost of Richard Nixon during an interview with Axiom.

 “… the president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer and has every right to express his view of any case,” Dowd told the news site.

Dowd’s provocative statement follows a slew of charges filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller against members of Trump’s inner circle, who just couldn’t seem to stop meeting with Russian operatives during the campaign. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a close Trump aide and political confident, recently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. In response, Trump basically admitted on Twitter that he knew Flynn wasn’t honest with investigators when he canned former FBI Director James Comey, who refused to acquiesce to the president’s request to back off on the Flynn investigation, according to Comey’s congressional testimony. 

The legality of Dowd’s position has been debated for decades. The U.S. Constitution does not clarify if a sitting president can face prosecution. During the Watergate scandal, Nixon was listed as an “unindicted co-conspirator” during the court proceedings. But obstruction of justice was the first and key charge in the list of impeachable offenses drafted in the House. Nixon left office before the House could actually impeach him.

In 1999, Clinton’s administration was ablaze with the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The GOP-run House sent two indictments against the Democratic president to the Senate, including an obstruction of justice charge. The Senate failed to convict Clinton on either charge, splitting 50-50 when a two-thirds majority was required. But that also means 50 senators — universally Republicans — determined that a U.S. president can obstruct justice.

Of those 50, nine still sit in the Senate. They are Mike Crapo, Mike Enzi, Thad Cochran, Jim Inhofe, Orrin Hatch, John McCain, Mitch McConnell and Pat Roberts. Two more — Jeff Sessions and John Ashcroft — are, or have been, attorneys general in GOP administrations. 

In both instances, presidents were tried in Congress, not the courts. Still, each case represents a moment when a sitting president was charged, in a legal proceeding, with obstructing justice. But, unlike the court system, impeachment is a wholly political event. 

What’s clear is that congressional Republicans don’t want to talk about Dowd’s under-construction defense amid Mueller’s probe. Grassley’s vote in 1999 is a testament in black-and-white that, at least when the other side is under investigation, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee believes a president can obstruct justice. Yet, this past week, a straight answer was not to be had when Grassley’s staff were asked about Dowd’s assertion that, like a king, a president is immune from the rule of law. That silence was made even more notable in the wake of Sen. Diane Feinstein’s allegations that Grassley — with his desire to remake the federal courts for a generation in Trump’s image — has no interest in probing Trump too deeply. Instead, he’s more concerned with yet another probe of Hillary Clinton, on Wednesday blasting Democrats on the Judiciary Committee for resisting his push for yet another diversion from Trump’s legal perils. 

But a direct rebuke of Dowd’s assertion from the likes of Grassley and his peers is necessary, regardless of how badly Republicans want to protect the White House. Silence sets precedents that are sure to outlive us all. It would further erode basic democratic norms that separate republic from monarchy. It would, in very real terms, be another example of a Congress willing only to stand for the rule of law when it suits partisan ends.

 http://qctimes.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-yes-the-president-can-obstruct-justice-said-senate-gop/article_e26e3dcb-e17c-5639-826a-54548c229003.html

Local editorials represent the opinion of the Quad-City Times editorial board, which consists of Publisher Deb Anselm, Executive Editor Autumn Phillips, Editorial Page Editor Jon Alexander, Associate Editor Bill Wundram and community representative John Wetzel.

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On whether the president can obstruct justice

  • New York Times

You know you have a problem when you’ve been president for less than 11 months and you’re already relying on Richard Nixon’s definition of what’s legal.

On Monday morning, Axios reported that Mr. Trump’s top personal lawyer, John Dowd, said in an interview that the “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer” under the Constitution and “has every right to express his view of any case.”

This will come as news to Congress, which has passed laws criminalizing the obstruction of justice and decided twice in the last four decades that when a president violates those laws he has committed an impeachable offense.

In 1974, the first article of impeachment drafted by the House of Representatives charged President Nixon with “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force.”

A quarter-century later, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House for, among other things, having “prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice” and for having “engaged personally, and through his subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or scheme designed to delay, impede, cover up and conceal the existence of evidence and testimony.”

Now let’s see if those descriptions apply to President Trump.

On Saturday morning, in the wake of the bombshell guilty plea by Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, for lying to F.B.I. agents about his communications with Russian officials late last year, Mr. Trump tweeted, “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.”

Recall that the original justification for Mr. Flynn’s firing was simply that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence; otherwise he had done nothing wrong. That’s the case Mr. Trump made the day after Mr. Flynn’s firing, when he allegedly tried to shut down the F.B.I.’s inquiry into his campaign’s connections with Russian officials by telling James Comey, who was then the F.B.I. director, in a private Oval Office meeting, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”

In May, Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey, telling Russian officials in the Oval Office the next day that firing Mr. Comey had relieved “great pressure” on him, and referring to Mr. Comey as a “nut job.” In an interview with NBC, Mr. Trump said, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’”

It was bad enough for the president to attempt to interfere in any way with a law enforcement investigation of one of his top aides. But with Saturday’s tweet, Mr. Trump admitted that he knew Mr. Flynn had committed a federal crime at the time he fired Mr. Comey for refusing to stop investigating him. To most people with a functioning prefrontal cortex, it sure sounds like Mr. Trump is admitting to “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations” and to “impeding the administration of justice.”

Mr. Dowd confused the country further by saying he had drafted Mr. Trump’s tweet himself — a bizarre claim for a lawyer to make about a statement that incriminates his client. Then he outdid himself with his assertion to Axios that it is not possible for the president to obstruct justice. The argument, as far as it goes, is that the president is the nation’s highest ranking law enforcement officer and has the constitutional authority to supervise and control the executive branch, which includes making decisions about investigations and personnel.

But Mr. Trump didn’t just try to shut down some random no-name case; he tried to shut down an investigation into his own campaign’s ties to the Russian government’s efforts to swing the 2016 election in his favor. As that investigation keeps revealing, Mr. Trump’s top associates have repeatedly been untruthful about their contacts and communications with Russian officials.

In Saturday’s tweet, Mr. Trump also wrote, “It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!” If there were truly nothing to hide, if these talks with Russians were all just part of a normal presidential transition process, then why all the lying?

Any child could tell you the answer: People lie when they know they’ve done something wrong. Mr. Flynn and others in Mr. Trump’s campaign and transition team were secretly trying to undermine United States foreign policy as private citizens — which is not just wrong, but a criminal violation of the Logan Act. Worse, the policy being undermined was President Barack Obama’s punishment of a foreign adversary for interfering in an American election, and the underminers — Mr. Trump’s team — were the very people who benefited most directly from that interference.

For some historical perspective, Richard Nixon once again proves useful. In the closing days of the 1968 presidential campaign, Mr. Nixon ordered H. R. Haldeman, later his chief of staff, to throw a “monkey wrench” into the Vietnamese peace talks, knowing that a serious move to end the war would hurt his electoral prospects. Mr. Nixon denied that he did this to the grave; Mr. Haldeman’s notes, discovered after his death, revealed the truth.

Meanwhile, as the evidence of both subterfuge and obstruction continues to grow, Mr. Trump’s tireless spinners and sophists are working to convince the American public that it’s all no big deal. This is an embarrassing and unpersuasive argument, but it’s not surprising. At this point, they have nothing else to work with.

Obstruction of Congress — Justice Department, FBI and the “Deep State”

December 8, 2017
 Mueller, the Justice Department and the FBI aren’t helping the lawmakers’ probe.
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Former FBI Director Robert Mueller departing Capitol Hill on June 21.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller departing Capitol Hill on June 21. PHOTO: ANDREW HARNIK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The media echo chamber spent the week speculating about whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller can or will nab President Trump on obstruction-of-justice charges. All the while it continues to ignore Washington’s most obvious obstruction—the coordinated effort to thwart congressional probes of the role law enforcement played in the 2016 election.

The news that senior FBI agent Peter Strzok exchanged anti-Trump, pro-Hillary text messages with another FBI official matters—though we’ve yet to see the content. The bigger scandal is that the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Mr. Mueller have known about those texts for months and deliberately kept their existence from Congress. The House Intelligence Committee sent document subpoenas and demanded an interview with Mr. Strzok. The Justice Department dodged, and then leaked.

The department also withheld from Congress that another top official, Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, was in contact with ex-spook Christopher Steele and the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS. It has refused to say what role the Steele dossier—Clinton-commissioned oppo research—played in its Trump investigation. It won’t turn over files about its wiretapping.

And Mr. Mueller—who is well aware the House is probing all this, and considered the Strzok texts relevant enough to earn the agent a demotion—nonetheless did not inform Congress about the matter. Why? Perhaps Mr. Mueller feels he’s above being bothered with any other investigation. Or perhaps his team is covering for the FBI and the Justice Department.

When Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mr. Mueller, he stressed that he wanted a probe with “independence from the normal chain of command.” Yet the Mueller team is made up of the same commanders who were previously running the Trump show at the Justice Department and the FBI, and hardly distant from their old office.

Andrew Weissmann, Mr. Mueller’s deputy, is chief of the Justice Department’s criminal fraud section and was once FBI general counsel. Until Mr. Strzok’s demotion, he was a top FBI counterintelligence officer, lead on the Trump probe. Michael Dreeben is a deputy solicitor general. Elizabeth Prelogar, Brandon Van Grack, Kyle Freeny, Adam Jed, Andrew Goldstein —every one is a highly placed, influential lawyer on loan from the Justice Department. Lisa Page —Mr. Strzok’s mistress, with whom he exchanged those texts—was on loan from the FBI general counsel’s office.

Does anyone think this crowd intends to investigate Justice Department or FBI misdeeds? To put it another way, does anyone think they intend to investigate themselves? Or that they’d investigate their longtime colleagues— Andrew McCabe, or Mr. Ohr or Mr. Strzok? Or could we instead just acknowledge the Mueller team has enormous personal and institutional interests in justifying the actions their agencies took in 2016—and therefore in stonewalling Congress?

The Strzok texts raise the additional question of whether those interests extend to taking down the president. Mr. Strzok was ejected from Team Mueller for exhibiting anti-Trump, pro-Clinton behavior. By that standard, one has to wonder how Mr. Mueller has any attorneys left.

Judicial Watch this week released an email in which Mr. Weissmann gushed about how “proud and in awe” he was of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates for staging a mutiny against the Trump travel ban. Of 15 publicly identified Mueller lawyers, nine are Democratic donors—including several who gave money to Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign. Jeannie Rhee defended the Clinton Foundation against racketeering charges, and represented Mrs. Clinton personally in the question of her emails. Aaron Zebley represented Justin Cooper, the Clinton aide who helped manage her server. Mr. Goldstein worked for Preet Bharara, whom Mr. Trump fired and who is now a vigorous Trump critic. The question isn’t whether these people are legally allowed (under the Hatch Act) to investigate Mr. Trump—as the left keeps insisting. The question is whether a team of declared Democrats is capable of impartially investigating a Republican president.

Some want Attorney General Jeff Sessions to clean house, although this would require firing a huge number of career Justice Department lawyers. Some want Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Mueller—which would be counterproductive. Some have called for a special counsel to investigate the special counsel, but that way lies infinite regress.

There is a better, more transparent way. Mr. Sessions (or maybe even Mr. Trump) is within rights to create a short-term position for an official whose only job is to ensure Justice Department and FBI compliance with congressional oversight. This person needs to be a straight shooter and versed in law enforcement, but with no history at or substantial ties to the Justice Department or FBI.

It would be a first, but we are in an era of firsts. Congress is the only body with an interest and ability to get the full story of 2016 to the public, thereby ending this drama quickly. But that requires putting an end to the obstruction.

Write to kim@wsj.com.

Appeared in the December 8, 2017, print edition.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/obstruction-of-congress-1512691791

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The Threat of a Deep State Is Real. No, Really.

POLITICS FEATURES DEEP STATE

The Threat of a Deep State Is Real. No, Really.

It wasn’t too long ago that if you saw something like this, you could write it off, because it came out of the mouth of someone like Alex Jones or G. Gordon Liddy—someone you’d have to make an active effort to discover and follow. Such rhetoric was so far underground that odds were you’d never come across it in the first place, but here we have it in primetime:

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To be clear, the FBI isn’t “out of control.” And the FBI isn’t “a threat to you, and every American.” What Mr. Tucker Carlson means is the FBI is a threat to the Trump administration.

So that’s the one hand: The FBI is a dark-handed, deep-state political op being run by [this part not made clear but I assume it involves Schumer, Podesta, Soros, and Hillary Clinton] in order to dismantle the Trump agenda at any cost. Not only that, but in Mr. Carlson’s world, the FBI has also already broken the law in its investigation of Trump.

(At this time, I’d like to point out to Mr. Carlson that the FBI isn’t actually investigating Donald Trump; Special Counsel Robert Mueller is, as an independent agent of the Department of Justice outside the FBI.)

A major news network that millions of people take as gospel is saying our existing federal law enforcement apparatus is a secret police force. And if we can’t trust the people in charge of administering the law, then we can’t trust those administrations. Everything the FBI (DOJ) does (against Trump) should be not merely questioned, but rejected outright with great urgency: The agency is out of control.

I don’t think we should accept everything a law enforcement official says as gospel, but I also don’t advocate peddling ego meth in the form of batshit conspiracies not so subtly intended to sow the seeds of legitimizing future violence against the state. The rhetoric might not lead to disastrous consequences, but there’s a good chance it might.

This is one of the consequences of electing a birther. Conspiracy theories have made it into the news. We’ve already seen a conspiratorial fascination with the “deep state,” which has branched this latest volley of insanity. That phrase, “deep state,” still sounds ridiculous to me, something a guy wearing a loupe says to you while he slides an inspirational poster off his basement wall to show off his safe full of commemorative moon landing coins, which he says he can sell you cheap because the moon landing was fake.

Or something this guy says to you.

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FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before House amid Trump criticism of bureau

December 7, 2017

By EMILY TILLETT CBS NEWS December 7, 2017, 10:22 AM

Last Updated Dec 7, 2017 11:37 AM EST

Christopher Wray is defending America’s top law enforcement agency before lawmakers amid public attacks from President Trump on Capitol Hill. His testimony before the House Judiciary Committee comes just one week after Mr. Trump’s weekend tweets calling the FBI biased, saying its reputation is “in Tatters — worst in History!” and urging Wray to “clean house.”

Following Mr. Trump’s public lambasting of the bureau, Wray sent an internal email to FBI employees amid concerns about morale.

Image result for Christopher Wray, photos

Wray said he was, “inspired by example after example of professionalism and dedication to justice demonstrated around the Bureau.” He told the staff, “It is truly an honor to represent you.”

He did not acknowledge the president’s criticism but he did write, “We find ourselves under the microscope each and every day — and rightfully so. We do hard work for a living. We are entrusted with protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution and laws of the United States. Because of the importance of our mission, we are also entrusted with great power,  and we should expect — and welcome — people asking tough questions about how we use that power. That goes with this job and always has.”

Wray echoed that sentiment in his prepared remarks for Thursday’s hearing. “The strength of any organization is its people,” he’ll tell senators. “The threats we face as a nation are as great and diverse as they have ever been, and the expectations placed on the Bureau have never been higher.”

He adds, “Each FBI employee understands that, to defeat the key threats facing our nation, we must constantly strive to be more efficient, effective, and prescient. Just as our adversaries continue to evolve, so must the FBI. ”

Wray on ousted FBI agent in Mueller investigation

At the outset of the hearing, Wray was asked about reports surrounding an FBI agent that was removed over allegations of anti-Trump text messages who was responsible for softening language about Secretary Hillary Clinton in the bureau’s investigation into her private email server.

Peter Strzok, who led the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, changed the language in former FBI Director James Comey’s description of how Clinton handled classified information, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Strzok had changed Comey’s earlier draft language describing Clinton’s actions as “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless.” That change in wording has significant legal implications, since “gross negligence” in handling classified information can carry criminal penalties.

Wray told lawmakers that while he agreed with the investigation into the handling of the server as well as the removal of the FBI agent, he said it would not be “appropriate” for him to speculate on the investigation.

“These matters are being looked at as they should be, when those findings come to me I’ll take the appropriate action necessary,” said Wray. He added that he would “leave it to others to figure out if ‘gross negligence’ and ‘extremely careless’ is the same thing.”

In a back-and-forth with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, over the agent removed, Wray answered the Congressman’s line of questions if the text messages exchanged were indeed a fireable action.

“Each question would have to be based on its own circumstances, I can imagine situations where it wouldn’t be and situations where it might be,” Wray said.

He explained however, that the “individual in question has not been dismissed”, clarifying that Strzork had been “reassigned away from the special counsel investigation which is different than disciplinary action.”

FBI Director on terrorism investigations 

Wray told the panel in his opening remarks to lawmakers that there are about 1,000 open domestic terrorism investigations in the U.S. and also about 1,000 open cases related to ISIS.

Over the last year, there have been 176 arrests in domestic terrorism cases, Wray told the committee.

When pressed on domestic terrorism particularly as it relates to any federal investigations of “extremist” groups, Wray explained that the bureau will only investigate acts of terrorism if there is credible information of federal criminal activity, credible information suggesting an attempt of use of force or violence, and use of force or violence in the furtherance of a political goal.

Wray explained that currently the FBI has 50 percent more white supremacist investigations than black identity extremist probes at the moment, but “it doesn’t matter if they’re right wing, left wing or any other wing,” said Wray of investigating extremist groups.

Wray on Trump’s “tatters” Tweets

Meanwhile, on the topic of President Trump, when asked if Director Wray was ever given a “loyalty oath” similar to that of Former FBI Director James Comey or if he was ever asked to “side step the chain of command”, the director replied, “no.”

Wray also said Mr. Trump has not spoken to him about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion or communications between Russia and the Trump campaign.

But when questioned on Mr. Trump’s tweets denouncing the bureau he leads, Wray delivered an impassioned speech in defense of his staff.

“There is no shortage of opinions out there but what I can tell you is that FBI that I see is tens of thousands of agents and analysts and staff working their tails off keeping Americans safe,” said Wray.

He called his staff “decent people committed to the highest principles of integrity and professionalism and respect.”

“Do we make mistakes? You bet we make mistakes just like anybody who’s human makes mistakes,” said Wray, applauding the work of independent investigations to keep the FBI accountable.

He went on, saying that the staff of the FBI are “big boys and girls, we understand we’ll take criticism from all corners and we’re accustomed to that” but it was in his assessment that the FBI’s reputation was “quite good.”

Asked how exactly he can keep the FBI from ever being in “tatters”, Wray replied, “The best way that I can validate the trust of the American people and the FBI is to ensure we bring the same level of professionalism and integrity and objectivity and adherence to process in everything we do.”

Wray went into his opinions on the president’s tweet, saying “I’m not really a Twitter guy” and that he has no plans to ever tweet or ever “engage in tweets.”

Wray on Mueller and Comey 

Director Wray called Former Director Comey a “smart lawyer” and a “dedicated public servant” when he worked with him in the early 2000’s. He said he enjoyed working alongside Comey on anti-terrorism endeavors and said all experiences with comey were “positive” but has since lost touch with the former director.

On Special Counsel Robert Mueller, he sad in his experience, Mueller is “very well respected within the FBI.”

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/fbi-director-christopher-wray-testifies-before-house-amid-trump-criticism-of-bureau/

Lawmakers press FBI on alleged bias in Clinton, Trump cases

December 7, 2017

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee lambasted the FBI on Thursday over how it handled an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, and questioned whether Justice Department officials gave her preferential treatment over President Donald Trump.

 Image result for FBI Director Christopher Wray, photos

FILE PHOTO FBI Director Christopher Wray 

During a routine oversight hearing before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Republicans questioned FBI Director Christopher Wray, who took over at the helm of the Federal Bureau of Investigation after Trump abruptly fired the previous head, James Comey, earlier this year.

Republicans, including Trump, have in recent weeks ramped up their attacks on the FBI and openly questioned its integrity.

“The FBI’s reputation as an impartial, non-political agency has been called into question recently. We cannot afford for the FBI – which has traditionally been dubbed the premier law enforcement agency in the world – to become tainted by politicization or the perception of a lack of even-handedness,” Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said.

Their criticism comes as Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged four people from Trump’s inner circle since October as part of an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Republicans had been frustrated with Comey’s decision not to charge Hillary Clinton for sending classified emails through her private email server.

With potential challenges looming for the party as it heads into the 2018 congressional elections, House and Senate Republican leaders have ramped up attacks on Comey, Mueller and the FBI in recent weeks with a fresh round of congressional inquiries.

Most recently, Republicans have questioned whether Mueller’s team has a political bias against Trump, after media reports said FBI agent Peter Strzok was removed from working on the Russia probe because he had exchanged text messages that disparaged Trump and supported Clinton.

Strzok was involved in both the Clinton email and Russia investigations.

Representative Jerrold Nadler told Wray he expected the attacks on the FBI to grow louder as the special counsel’s investigation continues and the “walls close in around the president.”

“Your job requires you to have the courage to stand up to the president, Mr. Director,” Nadler said. “There are real consequences for allowing the President to continue unchecked in this manner.”

Republicans have also separately accused the FBI of improperly basing wiretap requests on a dossier written by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence investigator who was hired by the firm Fusion GPS to do opposition research for the Democrats.

Steele’s dossier alleges collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign in the 2016 presidential election, and claims the Russians possess compromising information that could be used to blackmail Trump.

To date, however, there has been no evidence to suggest the FBI wiretaps were improperly obtained.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bernadette Baum

Trump tweets about Russia probe spark warnings from lawmakers — Trump could be wading into “peril” — Obstruction of justice?

December 4, 2017

Reuters

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – A series of tweets by U.S. President Donald Trump about the investigation into contacts between his 2016 campaign and Russia prompted concerns on Sunday among both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham saying Trump could be wading into “peril” by commenting on the probe.

“I would just say this with the president: There’s an ongoing criminal investigation,” Graham said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”

“You tweet and comment regarding ongoing criminal investigations at your own peril,” he added.

On Sunday morning, Trump wrote on Twitter that he never asked former FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser – a statement at odds with an account Comey himself has given.

That tweet followed one on Saturday in which Trump said: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President (Mike Pence) and the FBI.”

Legal experts and some Democratic lawmakers said if Trump knew Flynn lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and then pressured Comey not to investigate him, that could bolster a charge of obstruction of justice.

Trump’s attorney, John Dowd, told Reuters in an interview on Sunday that he had drafted the Saturday tweet and made “a mistake” when he composed it.

“The mistake was I should have put the lying to the FBI in a separate line referencing his plea,” Dowd said. “Instead, I put it together and it made all you guys go crazy. A tweet is a shorthand.”

Dowd said the first time the president knew for a fact that Flynn lied to the FBI was when he was charged.

Dowd also clouded the issue by saying that then-Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates informed White House counsel Don McGahn in January that Flynn told FBI agents the same thing he told Pence, and that McGahn reported his conversation with Yates to Trump. He said Yates did not characterize Flynn’s conduct as a legal violation.

Dowd said it was the first and last time he would craft a tweet for the president.

”I’ll take responsibility,” he said. “I’m sorry I misled people.”

Yates did not respond to an email seeking comment, and a lawyer for McGahn did not respond to requests for comment.

The White House also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

‘CONTINUAL TWEETS’

The series of tweets came after a dramatic turn of events on Friday in which Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations last December with Russia’s then-ambassador in Washington, Sergei Kislyak, just weeks before Trump entered the White House.

Flynn also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors delving into contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russia before the president took office.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she believed the indictments in the investigation so far and Trump’s “continual tweets” pointed toward an obstruction of justice case.

“I see it most importantly in what happened with the firing of Director Comey. And it is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. That’s obstruction of justice,” Feinstein said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“The president knew he (Flynn) had lied to the FBI, which means that when he talked to the FBI director and asked him to effectively drop this case, he knew that Flynn had committed a federal crime,” Adam Schiff, senior Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told the ABC program “This Week.”

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Adam Schiff,

The Russia matter has dogged Trump’s first year in office, and this weekend overshadowed his first big legislative win when the Senate approved a tax bill.

Flynn was the first member of Trump’s administration to plead guilty to a crime uncovered by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. election and potential collusion by Trump aides.

Russia has denied meddling in the election and Trump has said there was no collusion.

Comey, who had been investigating the Russia allegations, was fired by Trump in May. He told the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee in June he believed his dismissal was related to the Russia probe, and said Trump asked him to end the investigation of Flynn.

“I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!” Trump said on Twitter on Sunday.

On CBS, Graham criticized Comey, saying he believed the former FBI director made some “very, very wrong” decisions during his tenure. But Graham also said Trump should be careful about his tweets.

“I’d be careful if I were you, Mr. President. I’d watch this,” Graham said.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington and Karen Freifeld in New York; Additional reporting by David Morgan and Susan Cornwell in Washington; Writing by Roberta Rampton and Caren Bohan; Editing by Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney

Transcript and Video, Lindsay Graham on Face the Nation

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/transcript-sen-lindsey-graham-on-face-the-nation-dec-3-2017/

FBI didn’t tell US targets as Russian hackers hunted emails

November 26, 2017

Trump Says Putin Feels Insulted by Repeated Questions on Election Meddling

November 11, 2017

Leaders finalize aligned positions on Syria after meeting at APEC summit in Vietnam

U.S. President Donald Trump said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had several conversations on Saturday in which they aligned their positions on Syria, and appeared to share skepticism about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Speaking to reporters for nearly 30 minutes on Air Force One, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Putin is becoming irritated by repeated questions about Russia’s interference in his electoral victory.

“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Mr. Trump said on the flight from Da Nang to Hanoi. “I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.”

“There is nothing to investigate here,” Russian news agency Interfax quoted Mr. Putin as saying in Da Nang. “You can dig deeper in search of some sensation, but it’s not there.”

A report from the U.S. intelligence community in January concluded that Russia attempted to interfere in the presidential election through a campaign of disinformation, data thefts and leaks. The report concluded that the effort was aimed at boosting Mr. Trump and damaging his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Top intelligence officials in the Trump administration—the heads of the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency—all testified in May that they accepted the conclusion of the report. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has questioned the findings.

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Messrs. Trump and Putin met briefly at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation plenary session when the U.S. president entered the room and walked to his Russian counterpart. The two stood shaking hands and spoke briefly before taking their respective seats.

Mr. Trump said he and Mr. Putin had “two or three conversations” during the summit in which they discussed the situation in Syria. The two countries later issued a joint statement that underscored how close Moscow and Washington’s positions have grown around the war-torn country.

“It’s going to save a tremendous numbers of lives and we did it very quickly, we agreed very quickly,” Mr. Trump said. “We seem to have a very good feeling for each other, a good relationship considering we don’t know each other well. I think it’s a very good relationship.”

Interfax reported the statement as saying, “The presidents agreed there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria.”

World leader at the 21-country summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, on Saturday. Photo: Klimentyev Mikhail/Zuma Press

Though the statement reiterated Washington and Moscow’s broad policies on the country, Syria appears to be one of the few arenas in which Messrs. Putin and Trump, both of whom have advocated better ties between Moscow and Washington, can make a show of cooperation. Mr. Trump is largely limited in expanding ties with Russia as Congress has expanded sanctions against the country for meddling in the election.

Russian news agencies quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying the agreement had been finalized in talks between the two leaders on the sidelines of the conference.

Mr. Peskov said the text of the statement had been worked out between U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier in the day.

In the sharpest break with the U.S.’s traditional tone on Syria, the statement noted the adherence of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Geneva peace process, including constitutional reform and conditions for free and fair elections.

Unlike the previous U.S. administration, Mr. Trump has said Mr. Assad’s departure isn’t a precondition for starting peace talks. However, Mr. Trump personally authorized a volley of cruise missiles to strike a Syrian government base in April following a chemical weapons attack earlier this year.

Mr. Tillerson said last month that the reign of Mr. Assad’s family is coming to an end, adding “the only issue is how that should be brought about.

“He’s easy to talk to regarding cooperation.”

Mr. Trump, who returns to Washington on Wednesday after 10 days in Asia, said he believed it was a “great trip” so far. He touted his stamina—the entire trip, which started with a stop in Hawaii, will include 12 days away from Washington—and said he has improved relationships for the U.S. across Asia.

He said that Japan and South Korea, the first two countries he visited, are “now getting along much, much better.” He touted his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he met with on his third stop, and said the leader was “a strong person” and “very smart.”

Mr. Trump said he would like to see Mr. Xi put more pressure on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program

“I’d like to have [Mr. Xi] ratchet it up,” Mr. Trump said. “And I think he’s doing that. We had a long talk about it.”

But Mr. Trump said he has great relationships with leaders around the world. Noting the 21-country summit in Da Nang that he participated in, Mr. Trump said he has “a great relationship with every single one of them.”

He said he has the “potential” to be as close to Mr. Putin as he is with Mr. Xi.

“I don’t know him like I know President Xi because I spent a lot of time with President Xi,” Mr. Trump said. “I think we have the potential to have a very, very good relationship.”

Mr. Putin said he and Mr. Trump had much to talk about regarding their bilateral relations and that opportunities must be found for dialogue.

“We don’t know each other well, but the president of the United States behaves highly appropriately,” Mr. Putin said. “He’s easy to talk to regarding cooperation.”

He also said that time for a separate meeting with Mr. Trump hadn’t been found because of protocol issues the teams of the two presidents failed to solve.

“They’ll be punished,” he said, referring to those responsible.

Write to Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com and Thomas Grove at thomas.grove@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-putin-take-joint-stance-on-syria-1510394190

First Charges Filed in Russia Probe Led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller

October 28, 2017

At least one defendant is expected to be taken into custody as soon as Monday

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At least one person was charged Friday in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to people familiar with the matter.

That person could be taken into custody as soon as Monday, these people said. The number and identity of the defendants, and the charges, couldn’t be determined.

That person could be taken into custody as soon as Monday, these people said. The number and identity of the defendants, and the charges, couldn’t be determined.

A spokesman for Mr. Mueller, Peter Carr, declined to comment. The news of the charges, marking the first in Mr. Mueller’s investigation, was reported by CNN on Friday.

Appointed in May, Mr. Mueller and his team of prosecutors and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have been examining alleged Russian efforts to influence last year’s election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign or Mr. Trump’s associates colluded with the Kremlin.

Moscow has denied seeking to influence the election, and Mr. Trump has vigorously disputed allegations of collusion. The Republican president has called Mr. Mueller’s inquiry a “witch hunt.”

Mr. Mueller is also probing the separate business dealings of former aides to Mr. Trump, including former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is under investigation for alleged money laundering and tax issues, The Wall Street Journal has previously reported.

Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors have been presenting evidence before a federal grand jury in Washington.

A spokesman for Mr. Manafort declined to comment. Mr. Manafort has previously said he has done nothing wrong.

Write to Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com and Del Quentin Wilber at del.wilber@wsj.com

Appeared in the October 28, 2017, print edition as ‘Charge Is Filed In Mueller Probe.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/first-charges-filed-in-russia-probe-led-by-special-counsel-robert-mueller-1509161000

********************************************

Many other reports:

MSNBC

Congressional investigations into alleged Russian involvement in the presidential election are also underway.

CNN, citing sources, said that an arrest could happen Monday.

“Sealing is fairly common at the stage when you have an indictment that is issued or approved, as it may have been today,” former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said on MSNBC Friday.

 Charges filed in Trump Russia probe: Report 11:40

“And the reason is that law enforcement kind of wants its ducks in a row before they go out and arrest the defendant or even notify him — it may be that they don’t arrest whoever this defendant is because they’ve worked out a relationship with his or her defense attorney to bring them in to appear on the case,” she said.

Trump has repeatedly denied that any collusion with Russia took place. Trump has called the Russia probe a “witch hunt.”

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/grand-jury-approves-first-charges-mueller-s-russia-probe-report-n815246?cid=sm_npd_ms_tw_ma

U.S. lawmakers want to restrict internet surveillance on Americans

October 5, 2017

By Dustin Volz

Reuters

(Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers unveiled legislation on Wednesday that would overhaul aspects of the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program in an effort to install additional privacy protections.

The bill, which will be formally introduced as soon as Thursday, is likely to revive debate in Washington over the balance between security and privacy, amid concerns among some lawmakers in both parties that the U.S. government may be too eager to spy on its own citizens.

The legislation, written by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, is seen by civil liberties groups as the best chance in Congress to reform the law, known as Section 702 of the  Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, before its expiration on Dec. 31.

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Senior U.S. intelligence officials consider Section 702 to be among the most vital tools they have to thwart threats to national security and American allies.

It allows U.S. intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on and store vast amounts of digital communications from foreign suspects living outside the United States.

But the program, classified details of which were exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also incidentally scoops up communications of Americans, including if they communicate with a foreign target living overseas. Those communications can then be subject to searches without a warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A discussion draft of the legislation, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, partially restricts the FBI’s ability to access American data collected under Section 702 by requiring the agency to obtain a warrant when seeking evidence of a crime.

That limit would not apply, however, to requests of data that involve counterterrorism or counter-espionage.

The narrower restriction on what some have called a “backdoor search loophole” has disappointed some civil liberties groups. Several organizations sent a letter this week saying they would not support legislation that did not require a warrant for all queries of American data collected under Section 702.

The legislation would also renew the program for six years and codify the National Security Agency’s decision earlier this year to halt the collection of communications that merely mentioned a foreign intelligence target. But that codification would end in six years as well, meaning NSA could potentially resume the activity in 2023.

The spy agency has said it lost some operational capability by ending so-called “about” collection due to privacy compliance issues and has lobbied against a law that would make its termination permanent.

Republican senators introduced a bill earlier this year to renew Section 702 without changes and make it permanent, a position backed by the White House and

(Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers unveiled legislation on Wednesday that would overhaul aspects of the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program in an effort to install additional privacy protections.

The bill, which will be formally introduced as soon as Thursday, is likely to revive debate in Washington over the balance between security and privacy, amid concerns among some lawmakers in both parties that the U.S. government may be too eager to spy on its own citizens.

The legislation, written by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, is seen by civil liberties groups as the best chance in Congress to reform the law, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, before its expiration on Dec. 31.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials consider Section 702 to be among the most vital tools they have to thwart threats to national security and American allies.

It allows U.S. intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on and store vast amounts of digital communications from foreign suspects living outside the United States.

But the program, classified details of which were exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also incidentally scoops up communications of Americans, including if they communicate with a foreign target living overseas. Those communications can then be subject to searches without a warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A discussion draft of the legislation, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, partially restricts the FBI’s ability to access American data collected under Section 702 by requiring the agency to obtain a warrant when seeking evidence of a crime.

That limit would not apply, however, to requests of data that involve counterterrorism or counter-espionage.

The narrower restriction on what some have called a “backdoor search loophole” has disappointed some civil liberties groups. Several organizations sent a letter this week saying they would not support legislation that did not require a warrant for all queries of American data collected under Section 702.

The legislation would also renew the program for six years and codify the National Security Agency’s decision earlier this year to halt the collection of communications that merely mentioned a foreign intelligence target. But that codification would end in six years as well, meaning NSA could potentially resume the activity in 2023.

The spy agency has said it lost some operational capability by ending so-called “about” collection due to privacy compliance issues and has lobbied against a law that would make its termination permanent.

Republican senators introduced a bill earlier this year to renew Section 702 without changes and make it permanent, a position backed by the White House and intelligence agencies.

.