Posts Tagged ‘Michael Flynn’

Giuliani: ‘Truth isn’t truth’ (This is a good lawyer)

August 19, 2018

Rudy Giuliani declared “truth isn’t truth” on Sunday while expressing his concerns over having President Trump sit down for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Giuliani, who’s representing Trump in the investigation, said the president’s legal team has been negotiating with Mueller’s investigators for months about the ground rules for the president to testify.

“I’m not going to be rushed into having him testify so that he gets trapped into perjury,” Giuliani said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And when you tell me he should testify because he’s going to tell the truth – that he shouldn’t worry – that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth, not the truth.”

“Truth is truth,” anchor Chuck Todd immediately shot back.

“No, no, it isn’t truth,” Giuliani said. “Truth isn’t truth.”

“Mr. Mayor, the truth is the truth,”Todd repeats. “This is going to be a bad meme.”

“Don’t do this to me,” Giuliani says, as he grabs his forehead. “Donald Trump says I didn’t talk about Flynn with Comey.

Comey says you did talk about it. So tell me what the truth is.”

He was referring to a conversation former FBI Director James Comey said he had with Trump in the White House in February 2017.

Comey, according to notes he took of the meeting, said the president asked him “I hope you can let this go,” referring to the investigation into Michael Flynn.

Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, stepped down the month before when news reports revealed he had contact with a Russian ambassador during the campaign but did not inform the White House.

He pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with Mueller’s probe.


President Trump is flouting the law in plain sight

August 2, 2018

There are so many smoking guns in the Russiagate scandal that it can be hard to clearly discern what’s going on amid all the haze. But clear away the confusion and what you see is the president flouting the law, not (as usually happens) behind closed doors but in plain sight.

On Wednesday, President Trump proclaimed that Attorney General Jeff Sessions “should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further.” Sessions recused himself from the investigation last year, but Trump would dearly love for that decision to be reversed so Sessions could shield him from justice.

By Max Boot

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting

President Trump in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Wednesday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

That Trump would lash out now is due, no doubt, to the pressure he is feeling from the start of the trial of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is closely linked to the Kremlin. Manafort’s trial comes shortly after reports that Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is prepared to testify that Trump both knew and approved of the June 2016 meeting between Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Russian emissaries offering to help the Trump campaign.

Trump’s team, on cleanup duty, claimed the president is offering an opinion, not issuing a formal order. But when a boss tells a subordinate he “should” do something, it’s not just an innocent opinion like “that’s a nice shirt.” Last year, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the president’s tweets are “official statements.” Indeed, the president fired then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by tweet. If Trump was just expressing a nonbinding opinion, why isn’t Tillerson still on the job?

When the president tells his attorney general he “should” stop an investigation of his alleged misconduct, that is strong evidence of obstruction of justice. It doesn’t matter, from a legal perspective, whether the directive is whispered in secret or shouted for all to hear. It doesn’t even matter whether the investigation is actually stopped or not. A crime is still a crime even if it’s not carried out to a successful conclusion.

Trump’s habit of committing obstruction in public dates back more than a year. On May 11, 2017, shortly after firing FBI Director James B. Comey, he admitted to Lester Holt of NBC News that he did so to stop the investigation of “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia,” which he called a “made up story.”


We have since learned a great deal from Comey’s public testimony about the circumstances leading to his firing. Comey testified that Trump sought to extract a pledge of personal loyalty that Comey would not give, and that the president asked him to end the investigation of his fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn — “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” the president told Comey, according to Comey’s notes of the meeting. Trump’s lawyers argue, preposterously, that he did not break the law because he didn’t know that Flynn was under FBI investigation. Then why did he make the request at all? Furthermore, according to investigative reporter Murray Waas, “a confidential White House memorandum, which is in the special counsel’s possession, explicitly states that when Trump pressured Comey he had just been told by two of his top aides — his then chief of staff Reince Priebus and his White House counsel [Donald] McGahn — that Flynn was under criminal investigation.”

Waas’s scoop, assuming it is accurate, adds to the mountain of existing evidence about Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice. A great deal of this incriminating material is available to anyone with a Twitter account. Here is Trump quoting an attack against his own attorney general: “The recusal of Jeff Sessions was an unforced betrayal of the President of the United States.” Attacking the special counsel: “Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!” Attacking Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein: “Mueller is most conflicted of all (except Rosenstein who signed FISA & Comey letter). No Collusion, so they go crazy!” Attacking the FBI and the Department of Justice: “the DOJ, FBI and Obama Gang need to be held to account.”

Little wonder that Mueller is reportedly investigating Trump’s tweets, which form the most public confession of official misconduct in U.S. history. Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, may call “obstruction by tweet” a “bizarre and novel theory,” but what’s truly “bizarre and novel” is Trump’s behavior. The president is engaged in a cynical and all-too-successful campaign to diminish public support for the Mueller investigation, potentially setting the stage for Mueller to be fired and the inquiry terminated. On at least two occasions (in both June and December of 2017), Trump tried to fire Mueller, only for alarmed aides to dissuade him.

Note that to be convicted of obstruction of justice under 18 U.S. Code § 1503 , you don’t have to be successful in stopping a federal investigation — you just have to “endeavor” by “any threatening letter or communication” to “influence, intimidate or impede” an officer of the court. Prosecutors do, however, have to prove “corrupt intent.” Trump’s tweets and tirades provide a gold mine of such corroboration.

The impeachment proceedings would have already started if congressional Republicans weren’t colluding with Trump to obstruct justice.

Mueller Poised to Zero In on Trump-Russia Collusion Allegations

June 26, 2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is preparing to accelerate his probe into possible collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russians who sought to interfere in the 2016 election, according to a person familiar with the probe.

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Robert Mueller

Mueller and his team of prosecutors and investigators have an eye toward producing conclusions — and possible indictments — related to collusion by fall, said the person, who asked not to be identified. He’ll be able to turn his full attention to the issue as he resolves other questions, including deciding soon whether to find that Trump sought to obstruct justice.

Suspicious contacts between at least 13 people associated with Trump’s presidential campaign and Russians have fueled the debate over collusion.

Some of those encounters have been known for months: the Russian ambassador whose conversations forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation and led Michael Flynn to plead guilty to perjury. The Russians who wangled a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in July 2016 after dangling the promise of political dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Other encounters continue to emerge, including a Russian’s chat with veteran Trump adviser Roger Stone at a cafe in Florida.

‘Warning Lights’

Signs of suspicious Russian contacts first surfaced in late 2015, especially among U.S. allies who were conducting surveillance against Russians, according to a former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

By the spring of 2016 the frequent contacts set off alarm bells among U.S. intelligence officials, according to James Clapper, who was director of national intelligence at the time. The FBI’s Russia investigation officially began that July.

“The dashboard warning lights were on for all of us because of the meetings,” Clapper said in an interview this month. “We may not have known much about the content of these meetings, but it was certainly very curious why so many meetings with Russians.”

On three occasions, Russians offered people associated with Trump’s campaign dirt on Democrat Clinton — all before it was publicly known that Russians had hacked the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman.

Mueller has interviewed or sought information about many of the people known to have met with Russians during the campaign. But it’s not known publicly whether the barrage of Russian contacts was instigated or coordinated by the Kremlin. Trump, for his part, has repeatedly denied any such plotting, tweeting on June 15, “WITCH HUNT! There was no Russian Collusion.”

Here are the players and their known interactions, with links to previous news stories:

Michael Cohen

Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer started working on a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow in September 2015 with Felix Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer who’s a felon and previously had helped collect intelligence for the U.S. government. Cohen said the Trump Organization signed a nonbinding letter of intent in October 2015 with Moscow-based I.C. Expert Investment Company.

The project ultimately fizzled. Cohen said he stopped working on it in January 2016, around the time he reached out to a Kremlin spokesman asking for help with the project. Yahoo News reported that in May Sater and Cohen were still talking about the tower, including a possible trip to Russia to have a meeting with government officials. Just before and after Trump’s inauguration, Cohen met with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg and Andrew Intrater, who invests money for Vekselberg. Shortly after, Intrater’s private equity firm, Columbus Nova, awarded Cohen a $1 million consulting contract.

Russian Oligarch Tied to Trump Lawyer in Stormy Bombshell

Michael Flynn

The retired Army lieutenant general attended a December 2015 dinner in Russia where he sat at a table with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Several months later, Flynn started working as an informal adviser to the Trump campaign and in August attended Trump’s first intelligence briefing with the FBI. After the election he was named Trump’s national security adviser. During the presidential transition he had multiple contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in which they discussed U.S. sanctions. Flynn resigned as national security adviser after it become known he had lied about the nature of his conversations with Kislyak. He was later indicted by Mueller for making false statements to investigators and agreed to become a cooperating witness.

Flynn’s Side Deals, Link to Trump Aides Offer Clues for Mueller

George Papadopoulos

Shortly after being named a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign in March 2016, Papadopoulos met with a London professor he believed had connections to the Russian government. That month, Papadopoulos suggested he could help arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin, an offer that was rejected by Sessions, who led the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team. In April, the professor told Papadopoulos that Russian officials had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. Papadopoulos also was in contact with a Russian who said he represented the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Papadopoulos was arrested in July 2017 and in October pleaded guilty to misleading investigators.

Trump Says He Has Little Memory of Meeting With Papadopoulos

Jared Kushner

The president’s son-in-law met briefly with Kislyak at an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington in April 2016 in what he has described as an exchange of pleasantries. In December, after the election, Kushner met again with Kislyak and Russian banker Sergey Gorkov, who’s close to Putin.

Kushner Denies Improper Russia Contacts as He Meets With Senators

Michael Caputo

The Republican political strategist — who lived for a time in Moscow and worked for the campaign of the late President Boris Yeltsin — worked briefly as an adviser to the Trump campaign. He was contacted by a Russian business partner who asked him to help facilitate a meeting between the Trump campaign and a Russian national who identified himself as Henry Greenberg. Caputo directed him to veteran Republican operative Stone, with whom Caputo has worked for decades.

Caputo Says He Never Heard Campaign Talk of Russia Collusion

Roger Stone

The longtime Trump political adviser confirmed for the first time this month that he met at a Florida cafe in May 2016 with Greenberg, who claimed to have information that would be “beneficial” to the Trump campaign but demanded $2 million in exchange. Stone — who says he’d forgotten about the 20-minute meeting when he failed to disclose it in interviews with a congressional committee — said he rejected the deal. Stone says he thinks the meeting was part of an FBI plot to entrap him in light of indications that Greenberg had worked in the past as an informant for the bureau.

Stone also told people during the campaign that he was in contact with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which published Democratic National Committee emails believed to have been stolen by Russian operatives. Stone has since denied that he communicated directly with Assange. Stone also exchanged private messages on Twitter with an online persona called Guccifer 2.0, believed to be linked to the Russian government.

Mueller Turns His Focus to Longtime Trump Adviser Roger Stone

Paul Manafort

While serving as Trump’s campaign chairman, Manafort was in contact with Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI has described as having ties to Russian intelligence. In July 2016, Manafort offered to give a campaign briefing to another business associate, Oleg Deripaska, who’s closely aligned with the Kremlin. Manafort was charged in October with a series of financial crimes and for failing to register as an agent of Ukraine. His bail was revoked and he was jailed after prosecutors claimed he tried to tamper with witnesses.

Manafort Judge Rejects Bid to Toss Money-Laundering Charge

Donald Trump Jr.

The president’s son helped arrange the meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist. Kushner and Manafort also were there. While the Russians billed it as a chance to share damaging information on Clinton, participants have said nothing of value was offered.

Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting at the request of a pop star in Russia whose family has ties to Putin and has known the Trump family for several years. The meeting also has led to controversy over President Trump’s role in drafting a statement that falsely described the topic of the meeting as adoptions of Russian children.

In addition, Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank, has said he had shared a dinner table with Trump Jr. at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in May. Torshin, a former senator in Putin’s United Russia party directed dirty-money flows for mobsters in Moscow, according to investigators in Spain.

Trump Jr. Declines to Detail Talk With Father, Democrat Says

Carter Page

After being named a foreign policy adviser to the campaign in March 2016, Page traveled to Moscow that July for a speech and meetings. Page said he met briefly with Arkady Dvorkovich, then the deputy prime minister of Russia. Page said he also met Dvorkovich again at a dinner in December, after he was no longer affiliated with the Trump campaign. Page also met in July with Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations for the Russian energy company Rosneft. And Page met with Kislyak briefly at the Republican convention in July. U.S. intelligence agencies indicated Page was a target of Russian intelligence as early as 2013.

Page Tells Russia Probe He’s ‘Biggest Embarrassment’ to Trump

Jeff Sessions

The attorney general, who took an early role in Trump’s campaign while serving in the Senate, had conversations with Ambassador Kislyak at the Republican convention and in September in his Senate office. The Washington Post reported that U.S. intelligence intercepted Kislyak telling Russian officials that they discussed campaign-related issues. Session recused himself from the Russia investigation — a move for which Trump has repeatedly vilified him because Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then appointed Mueller as special counsel.

Trump Laments Picking Sessions as GOP Ally Undercuts Spying Claim

J.D. Gordon

As a campaign foreign policy adviser, Gordon met briefly with Kislyak at the Republican convention. Page contacted Gordon, a former Pentagon spokesman, and others on the campaign in July to praise them for a change in the Republican Party platform that softened the party’s support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. Gordon also has said Page went around him to secure permission to make a trip to Russia.

Trump’s Campaign Foreign Policy Team Under Mueller’s Microscope

Rick Gates

In September and October, Gates communicated directly with Kilimnik, according to court filings. Gates was a right-hand man to Manafort and worked as a campaign aide until he was fired by Trump in August. Even after being fired, Gates remained involved with the campaign through the Republican National Committee, and he worked on the presidential transition. Gates pleaded guilty in February to conspiring with Manafort to defraud the U.S. in charges not directly related to the Russia probe.

Gates Guilty Plea Strengthens U.S. Hand Against Manafort

Erik Prince

The founder of Blackwater, a provider of private security forces in trouble spots such as Iraq, served as an informal adviser to Trump’s transition team. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is now education secretary. After Trump’s election but before the inauguration, Prince met Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian-government controlled wealth fund who’s close to Putin, during a visit to the Seychelles islands.

Prince told congressional investigators he was meeting with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates to discuss topics including Middle East tensions and bauxite mining when the prince’s brother casually suggested that he go downstairs to chat with “this Russian guy.” The New York Times has reported that the meeting was arranged in part to explore the possibility of a back channel for discussions between the incoming Trump administration and the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the meeting it didn’t identify.

Erik Prince’s Seychelles Meeting With Russian Draws New Scrutiny

— With assistance by Billy House, and Steven T. Dennis


James Comey isn’t above the law

June 3, 2018

There they go again. For the one millionth time, anti-Trumpers are horrified, aghast, stupefied.

The president’s latest offense against their sensibilities is a pointed use of his pardon power. So far, he has pardoned just five people, including Jack Johnson, the legendary black boxer whose conviction a century ago was an act of pure racism.

But four others involve recent, politically-tinged cases, including that of conservative provocateur Dinesh D’Souza. Most alarming for the usual critics, the president hints that he is just getting started and cites a possible pardon of Martha Stewart, whose conviction came under James Comey, the former FBI boss and Trump’s archenemy.

The things Comey didn’t mention are astonishing when you remember that Trump would take the oath of office in just two weeks. The new commander in chief was deliberately being kept in the dark by the outgoing administration.

So what was Comey up to with that very limited briefing? It’s possible the sole purpose was to mention the prostitutes, then give CNN the story as a way to inject the dossier into the political bloodstream and hope Trump would step aside.

Or perhaps the goal was to monitor how Trump reacted. Recall that the investigation was still secret, Page was still being surveilled and other campaign players, including Flynn, were being picked up “incidentally” on other wiretaps. Maybe Trump was, too.

In his book, Comey writes that Martha Stewart was prosecuted for lying about a stock sale to “reinforce a culture of truth-telling.”

Fair enough, but to truly “reinforce a culture of truth-telling,” those who enforce the laws must be held to at least the same standard as everyone else.

That’s the most important message Trump is sending with the pardons of people prosecuted by Comey and his cronies. Even the FBI is not above the law.

Lisa Page resigns — FBI agent who bashed Trump in texts, and damaged the FBI’s reputation

May 6, 2018

Lisa Page, who was implicated in the Department of Justice Inspector General’s probe into official misconduct during the Clinton and Trump investigations, stepped down on Friday. She’d been reassigned to a less powerful position in recent months.

Donald Trump’s better off litigating: Alan Dershowitz

May 4, 2018

In my experience, subjects of criminal investigations rarely help themselves by speaking to prosecutors or testifying before a grand jury. Far more often, they hurt themselves by falling into a perjury trap carefully set by prosecutors.

When prosecutors invite a subject to talk to them, they are not trying to help the subject. They are trying to bolster their case against him. Subjects can become targets and then defedants even if they tell the truth.

Image result for Alan Dershowitz, photos

By Alan Dershowitz

They can fill gaps or make statements that are contradicted by other witnesses who the prosecutors chose to believe. That is why, in my half-century of practicing criminal law, I have never advised a client to speak to prosecutors unless the alternative is worse.

OUR VIEW:No obstruction? No collusion? Then why not testify?

In this case, the alternative may well be a grand jury subpoena, which is worse in that the subject must appear without his lawyer and without limitations of time and subject matter. But it is better in that it can be challenged legally. A negotiated appearance cannot.

There are several grounds on which President Trump’s lawyers could challenge a subpoena. The broadest ground would be that a sitting president cannot be compelled to appear before a grand jury and answer questions. The courts are likely to reject so broad an argument, as they rejected President Clinton’s claim that he could not be required to sit for a deposition.

A somewhat narrower objection would be to answering any questions that relate to the exercise of his presidential authority under Article 2 of the Constitution. Just as members of Congress and the judiciary cannot be questioned about the exercise of their constitutional powers, so, too, a president cannot be required to explain why he fired FBI Director James Comey or national security adviser Michael Flynn.

President George H. W. Bush was not questioned about why he pardoned Caspar Weinberger and others on the eve of their trials, even though it was obvious to everyone, especially the special prosecutor, that he pardoned them for the improper purpose of shutting down the Iran-Contra investigation, which might well have pointed a finger of accusation at him.

I think that President Trump would have a good chance of prevailing on this issue.

Finally, he could challenge questions that go beyond the scope of the special counsel’s mandate. Even if he prevailed on that challenge, it would only be a Pyrrhic victory, since the same questions could be put to him by a grand jury in the Southern District of New York.

All in all, I think the president is probably better off litigating than testifying, though he might end up doing both.

Alan Dershowitz is professor of law emeritus at Harvard University andauthor of Trumped Up: How Criminalization of Political Differences Endangers Democracy.

Trump Said Flynn Had ‘Judgment Issues’ But Made Him National Security Advisor Anyway?

April 20, 2018

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President Trump and Michael Flynn in happier times during the campaign. Photo by George Frey, Getty Images

President Trump pointed his fingers at his own head and said then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had “serious judgment issues,” according to a redacted, unclassified version of then-FBI Director James Comey’s original memo about his fateful dinner with Trump.

That’s one new detail included in copies of the memoranda sent by the Justice Department to Congress on Thursday evening in response to a request from the leaders of the Judiciary and intelligence committees.

Redacted copies of the documents were obtained by NPR.

Trump questioned Flynn’s judgment while telling an anecdote about the foreign leaders who had called Trump to congratulate him after his inauguration. Flynn hadn’t told Trump about one call and hadn’t scheduled a response until six days afterward, according to Comey’s memo — for which Trump upbraided Flynn. The leader and the country are not identified in the redacted version of the document.

Trump fired Flynn because he said he’d lied to Vice President Mike Pence, although the full circumstances remain unclear. Comey writes in his memos that Trump stressed to him that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in his conversations with Russia’s ambassador about sanctions.

The memos also describe Comey warning Trump about the danger of appointing someone too close to him to run the Justice Department — about how that was more of a source of problems for presidents than when someone with more distance becomes attorney general.

Comey writes that Trump asked him to compare former Attorney General Eric Holder to former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Holder was “smarter and more sophisticated and smoother,” Comey writes, although he thought Lynch was “a good person.”

When Trump observed how close Obama and Holder had been, Comey writes that he told the president that relationship exemplifies a common mistake of presidents:

“Because they reason that problems for a president often come from Justice, they try to bring Justice close, which paradoxically makes things worse because an independent DOJ and FBI are better for a president and the country. I listed off [former attorneys general] John Mitchell, Ed Meese [and Alberto] Gonzales … and he added [Robert F.] Kennedy.”

Comey also describes the difficulty he says he had following Trump’s monologue-like conversation.

“It really was conversation-as-jigsaw puzzle in a way, with pieces picked up, then discarded, then returned to,” Comey wrote.

Trump denies the accounts of events Comey has given and has sandblasted him on Twitter this week. Trump’s Republican allies in the House have “referred” Comey to the Justice Department because they say he should be prosecuted.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., charged on Thursday night that the Comey memos showed Trump’s “contempt for the rule of law.”

Twice-told tales

Overall, the documents confirm much of what has become a familiar narrative about the president and the onetime top G-Man:

Trump asks Comey for “loyalty,” which the FBI director declined to pledge; Trump clears the Oval Office to talk with Comey about Flynn and ask him to “let this go;” and Trump urges Comey to announce publicly that the FBI isn’t investigating him personally as it looked into whether the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian attack on the 2016 election.

Other top officials also appear in the Comey memos, including Flynn himself — with whom Comey had a relationship dating to Flynn’s time in charge of the Defense Intelligence Agency — and former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

Mostly, though, the accounts are about Trump, drafted soon after Comey had concluded each meeting or conversation with him. In the case of the first document, Comey describes how he had just come from seeing then-President-elect Trump in New York City and decided to draft an account of their conversation “less than five minutes after the meeting” in his official FBI vehicle.

Trump, in Comey’s telling, gave extensive denials about the salacious allegations about him in the infamous dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British spy. He was obsessed with press leaks about the goings-on in the White House and his phone calls with foreign leaders.

And he frequently mentioned to Comey “your guy” Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, whom Trump had made a political target in the 2016 campaign.

Trump eventually fired Comey and has given several reasons, including Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton investigations and the Russia matter.

The Justice Department’s submission of the memos to Congress on Thursday followed a week of saturation news about Comey and McCabe. Comey has been appearing on TV and radio nearly constantly talking about his book, which draws upon the accounts he drafted in the memos.

And McCabe, a spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday, is aware that he could be facing criminal charges after the Justice Department referred his case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. The inspector general’s office says McCabe improperly directed an aide to leak information to The Wall Street Journal and then “lacked candor” about it to investigators.

McCabe’s camp says he was well within his rights to authorize the release of information to the press and he told the truth about the matter afterward.

NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis contributed to this report.

Comey Memos Reveal Trump’s Early Doubts About Flynn

April 20, 2018

Documents provide ex-FBI director’s account of meetings with new president and staff at a time when he faced uncertainty over whether he would be retained

Former FBI Director James Comey testified about Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill on June 8.
Former FBI Director James Comey testified about Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill on June 8. PHOTO: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

WASHINGTON—Former FBI Director James Comey revealed in a series of private memos that President Donald Trump and his then-chief of staff had doubts within days of taking office about national security adviser Mike Flynn, who subsequently left the administration after misleading officials about his contacts with Russia and later pleaded guilty to lying to law enforcement.

Mr. Comey’s previously unreported account of their take on Mr. Flynn was part of seven memos spanning 15 pages that were authored by Mr. Comey over a four-month period in 2017 and shared with Federal Bureau of Investigation leadership.

The memos were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday after being handed over to several congressional committees by the Justice Department.

Much of the material in the memos has been previously disclosed. Mr. Comey has previously said he documented several encounters with the president in contemporaneous written memos. He also testified in Congress that he eventually provided several of them to reporters through an intermediary.

Together, the memos provide Mr. Comey’s account of several meetings with the new president and his staff at a time when the FBI director faced uncertainty over whether he would be retained in his job by Mr. Trump.

They also provide a look at how the new president and administration grappled with a series of surprises, such as the leak of transcripts of Mr. Trump’s phone calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia and salacious claims made in an unverified dossier that Mr. Comey brought to the president’s attention.

The documents are also part of the wide-ranging probe being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well into whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice when he fired Mr. Comey last year, which Mr. Trump denies. Russia has denied interfering in the election.

Mr. Trump late Thursday tweeted, “James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?’

Donald J. Trump


James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?

The memos reveal that Mr. Trump expressed concerns about Mr. Flynn’s judgment just eight days after becoming president. Mr. Comey recounts a Jan. 2017 dinner with the president during which Mr. Trump said about Mr. Flynn: “The guy has serious judgment issues.” At issue was the fact that Mr. Flynn hadn’t told the president about a phone call from an unspecified foreign leader.

People familiar with the matter say that the call was from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was the first foreign leader to call the White House to congratulate Mr. Trump after his inauguration. The call wasn’t brought to Mr. Trump’s attention until he was in the middle of a lunch with British Prime Minister Theresa May and was thanking her for being the first to call him.

Mr. Flynn piped up and explained that it was Mr. Putin, not Ms. May, who the first to call and that Mr. Trump was expected to return Mr. Putin’s call soon, the people said. According to the memo, Mr. Trump was furious “because six days was not an appropriate period of time to return a call.”

Another memo documents Mr. Comey’s meeting with then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus on Feb. 8, 2017. In that meeting, Mr. Priebus asked if Mr. Flynn was being surveilled under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Surveillance under that law is reserved for suspected agents of a foreign government. Mr. Comey’s answer is redacted.

An attorney for Mr. Flynn declined to comment. Mr. Priebus didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Comey testified for several hours last year in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee shortly after he was fired, telling lawmakers that he believed he was receiving an order when Mr. Trump said he “hoped” he would be able to end the FBI’s inquiry into Mr. Flynn.

“It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Mr. Comey said.

Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying about calls he had with Moscow’s ambassador a month before Mr. Trump’s inauguration. In a court hearing, Mr. Flynn admitted he misled FBI agents about a series of calls he had last December with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in which they discussed sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration and a United Nations resolution critical of Israel.

Mr. Flynn resigned in February 2017, acknowledging that he hadn’t been truthful about his contacts with Mr. Kislyak.

The memos also give Mr. Comey’s account of what he saw as Mr. Trump’s fixation on salacious and unverified rumors that he had engaged prostitutes in a Moscow hotel in 2013. A dossier compiled by an ex-British spy alleges that Mr. Trump watched as Russian prostitutes urinated on a bed where former President Barack Obama and his wife had slept.

Mr. Comey’s memos recall a February encounter in which Mr. Trump “brought up the ‘Golden Showers thing’ and said it really bothered him if his wife had any doubt about it.” Mr. Comey added: “The president said ‘the hookers thing’ is nonsense,” but also that Mr. Putin had told him that Russia had “some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.”

Capitol Hill Republicans—who had been pushing for the memos to be released publicly—said that the memos vindicated Mr. Trump, who has long argued that there was no collusion with Russia and that he didn’t obstruct justice in firing his FBI director.

“Former Director Comey’s memos show the president made clear he wanted allegations of collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between his campaign and Russia fully investigated,” Reps. Trey Gowdy, Bob Goodlatte and Devin Nunes said in a joint statement. The three Republicans chair the House Oversight, Judiciary and Intelligence committees, respectively.

Four of the memos were deemed to have classified information, while three are unclassified. Mr. Comey testified to Congress that they were his “unclassified memorialization” of conversations with the president. They were released to Congress with the classified information redacted. Unredacted versions will be available to members of Congress in a secure facility, according to the Justice Department.

Mr. Comey himself appeared to recognize that one of his memos contained information that was potentially classified. The memo, which was written in email form to three other FBI officials, contained a passage from Mr. Comey where he wrote: “I am not sure the proper classification here so I have chosen SECRET. Please let me know [if] it should be higher or lower than that.”

Mr. Comey is in the middle of a book tour for his memoir “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” which is deeply critical of Mr. Trump.

In a series of tweets over the weekend, Mr. Trump accused Mr. Comey of telling lies in a “badly reviewed” book.

Write to Byron Tau at and Michael C. Bender at

Appeared in the April 20, 2018, print edition as ‘Comey Memos Reveal Flynn Doubts.’


In Comey memos, Trump fixates on ‘hookers,’ frets over Flynn

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a series of startlingly candid conversations, President Donald Trump told former FBI Director James Comey that he had serious concerns about the judgment of a top adviser, asked about the possibility of jailing journalists and described a boast from Vladimir Putin about Russian prostitutes, according to Comey’s notes of the talks obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday night.

The 15 pages of documents contain new details about a series of interactions with Trump that Comey found so unnerving that he chose to document them in writing. Those seven encounters in the weeks and months before Comey’s May 2017 firing include a Trump Tower discussion about allegations involving Trump and prostitutes in Moscow; a White House dinner at which Comey says Trump asked him for his loyalty; and a private Oval Office discussion where the ex-FBI head says the president asked him to end an investigation into Michael Flynn, the former White House national security adviser.

The documents had been eagerly anticipated since their existence was first revealed last year, especially since Comey’s interactions with Trump are a critical part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the president sought to obstruct justice. Late Thursday night, Trump tweeted that the memos “show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION.”

The president also accused Comey of leaking classified information. The memos obtained by the AP were unclassified, though some portions were blacked out as classified. Details from Comey’s memos reported in news stories last year appear to come from the unclassified portions.

In explaining the purpose of creating the memos, which have been provided to Mueller, Comey has said he “knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened” to defend not only himself but the FBI as well.

The memos cover the first three months of the Trump administration, a period of upheaval marked by staff turnover, a cascade of damaging headlines and revelations of an FBI investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The documents reflect Trump’s uneasiness about that investigation, though not always in ways that Comey seemed to anticipate.

In a February 2017 conversation, for instance, Trump told Comey how Putin told him, “we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world” even as the president adamantly, and repeatedly, distanced himself from a salacious allegation concerning him and prostitutes in Moscow, according to one memo.

In another memo, Comey recounts how Trump at a private White House dinner pointed his fingers at his head and complained that Flynn, his embattled national security adviser, “has serious judgment issues.” The president blamed Flynn for failing to alert him promptly to a congratulatory call from a world leader, causing a delay for Trump in returning a message to an official whose name is redacted in the documents.

“I did not comment at any point during this topic and there was no mention or acknowledgment of any FBI interest in or contact with General Flynn,” Comey wrote.

By that point, the FBI had already interviewed Flynn about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and the Justice Department had already warned White House officials that they were concerned Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail.

Flynn was fired Feb. 13, 2017, after White House officials said he had misled them about his Russian contacts during the transition period by saying that he had not discussed sanctions. The following day, according to a separate memo, Comey says Trump cleared the Oval Office of other officials, encouraged him to let go of the investigation into Flynn and called him a good guy. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.

The memos reveal that days before Flynn’s firing, then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked Comey if Flynn’s communications were being monitored under a secret surveillance warrant.

“Do you have a FISA order on Mike Flynn?” Priebus asked Comey, according to the memos, referring to an order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Comey said he “paused for a few seconds and then said that I would answer here, but that this illustrated the kind of question that had to be asked and answered through established channels.”

Comey’s response is redacted on the unclassified memos.

The memos also show Trump’s continued distress at a dossier of allegations — compiled by an ex-British spy whose work was funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign — examining potential ties between him and his aides and the Kremlin. Comey writes how Trump repeatedly denied to him having been involved in an encounter with Russian prostitutes in a Moscow hotel.

“The President said ‘the hookers thing’ is nonsense,” Comey writes, noting that Trump then related the conversation with Putin about the “most beautiful hookers.” Comey says Trump did not say when Putin had made the comment.

The documents also include the president’s musings about pursuing leakers and imprisoning journalists. They also provide insight into Comey’s personal and professional opinions. He judges the administration’s travel ban to be legally valid, and he takes a swipe at former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, calling her predecessor, Eric Holder, “smarter and more sophisticated and smoother.”

The memos were provided to Congress earlier Thursday as House Republicans escalated criticism of the Justice Department, threatening to subpoena the documents and questioning officials.

In a letter sent to three Republican House committee chairmen Thursday evening, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote that the department was sending a classified version of the memos and an unclassified version. The department released Boyd’s letter publicly but did not release the memos. The chairmen issued a statement late Thursday saying the memos show that Comey clearly never felt threatened, and Trump didn’t obstruct justice.

Justice officials had allowed some lawmakers to view the memos but had never provided copies to Congress. Boyd wrote that the department had also provided the memos to several Senate committees.

Boyd wrote in the letter that the department “consulted the relevant parties” and concluded that releasing the memos would not adversely affect any ongoing investigations. Mueller is investigating potential ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign as well as possible obstruction of justice by the president.

Comey is on a publicity tour to promote his new book, “A Higher Loyalty.” He revealed last year that he had written the memos after conversations with Trump.

He said in an interview Thursday with CNN that he’s “fine” with the Justice Department turning his memos over to Congress.

“I think what folks will see if they get to see the memos is I’ve been consistent since the very beginning, right after my encounters with President Trump, and I’m consistent in the book and tried to be transparent in the book as well,” he said.’s-‘judgment-issues


‘Trust but Verify’ Applies to the FBI

April 15, 2018

America’s premiere law enforcement agency suffers the consequences of self inflicted wrongdoing and failures….

We refute tyranny when we hold law enforcement accountable.

‘Trust but Verify’ Applies to the FBI

Federal law enforcement did not cover itself in glory—again—in the just-concluded trial of Noor Salman, wife of the Pulse nightclub mass murderer in Orlando, Fla.

A judge scolded prosecutors during the trial for withholding exculpatory evidence. At her original bail hearing, the FBI had relied on a confession, extracted from Ms. Salman in an 11-hour interrogation, that she had helped Omar Mateen scope out the gay nightclub in advance of the shooting. As was subsequently revealed, the FBI was already in possession of cellphone location data that contradicted her claim. Other evidence also cast doubt on the confession, which the FBI failed to record or sustain with circumstantial proof. Ms. Salman was acquitted.

Happily, the malpractice here was less consequential than in the thrown-out corruption conviction of the late Sen. Ted Stevens. It was less brazen than the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s manufacture of fake statistical evidence of racial bias in auto lending or the questionable federal and state asset seizures that keep coming to light.

The Noor outcome may not be flattering to the FBI, but it should be flattering to America. Holding law enforcement accountable is the best refutation of the authoritarian temptation, with its mocking of our insistence on due process, elections and respect for individual rights.

At the same time, not every culpable police action is motivated by careerism or dishonesty of purpose. Murders are down in New York City. Policing is a reason. Yet two of the city’s most productive detectives were recently charged with manufacturing evidence to support an otherwise legitimate seizure of an illegal gun. Now under way is a spreading crackdown on police “testilying” in court.

So skepticism, leavened with a certain understanding, is required in the clash between individual rights and the police. This is about to become especially true in the mother of all cases, the FBI’s role in the 2016 election.

We’ve already learned a few unsettling things. Trump associates Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos were treated in unforgiving fashion for lies that may not have been lies, whereas the FBI practically conspired with Hillary Clinton and her aides to make sure their truth-shading was overlooked. The FBI’s use of evidence to win a Carter Page surveillance order appears to have been every bit as disingenuous as that used by prosecutors in the Noor Salman bail hearing.

Political bias or simply toadying to the party in power may turn out to have been a factor, but we are likely to hear a great deal about what top law-enforcement officials believed, rather than knew, about Donald Trump.

The autobiography of FBI chief James Comey is due next week. The chances are nil that it will deal honestly and completely with the 2016 race, especially the role of U.S. intelligence agencies in influencing some of the FBI’s actions. But as leaks already reveal, the book is accurately redolent of the contempt and distrust top officials felt for Candidate Trump, leading to actions that are hard to defend in hindsight.

Coming next will be a Justice Department inspector general’s report on Mr. Comey’s anomalous exculpation of Mr. Trump’s Democratic rival in the 2016 race. If, as we suspect, Robert Mueller is framing his own investigation partly to justify the pre-election actions of the FBI, then we will doubly need the recently launched investigation by U.S. Attorney John Huber, which doesn’t start from the assumption that the one thing that doesn’t need investigating is the investigators.

Then there’s the Stormy Daniels matter, in which a seamy but not illegal payment might, in theory, be illegal under campaign-finance rules.

At least efforts at suppressing Mr. Trump’s sexual history are a gentlemanly improvement on those of the Bill Clinton campaign 24 years earlier. If Trump lawyer Michael Cohen made an “in-kind” donation by paying off Ms. Daniels, didn’t Ms. Daniels make an in-kind donation when she agreed not to speak? Weren’t those Clinton women who didn’t come forward because they didn’t want to be savaged by the Clinton machine making in-kind contributions to the Clinton campaign?

The questions are absurd because the law is absurd. What should be a personal and political embarrassment for Mr. Trump has become another superfluous legal jeopardy for the man 46% of American voters wanted for their president. When we metastasize laws for criminalizing politics, we become more like Vladimir Putin’s Russia, not less so. Witness the liberal group Common Cause, which can’t get enough campaign regulation, rushing out Stormy-related federal complaints against the Trump campaign on Thursday.

But another lesson also applies in such a world. All presidents face opponents who seek to make sure they deliver as little as possible even when delivering would be good for the country. Mr. Trump came to the presidency with too much baggage that his opposition could use against him. That’s something Mr. Trump’s voters and party should have thought about before nominating him.

Appeared in the April 14, 2018, print edition.

John Bolton: The Man We Love to Hate — Try to fathom John Bolton’s fiendish cruelty

April 2, 2018

Al Jazeera


Only by restoring to the realms of film, fiction, and myth we can try to fathom John Bolton’s fiendish cruelty.



John Bolton: The man from the underground

You just have to see the toxic terror in the face, voice, and deranged ideas of this man to believe it, writes Dabashi [AP]
You just have to see the toxic terror in the face, voice, and deranged ideas of this man to believe it, writes Dabashi [AP]

John Bolton is a sick man … He is a spiteful man. He is an unattractive man. I believe John Bolton’s liver is diseased. However, he knows nothing at all about his disease and does not know for certain what ails him.

Yes, you guessed correctly, I am reworking Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s opening lines in his masterpiece, Notes from the Underground (1864). Ever since I heard that John Bolton, yet another warmonger, had been appointed to a position of power in the White House – the most dangerous house on planet Earth – I have been aghast at the thought, and bewildered at how to digest this latest apocalyptic news. The only apt, soothing words I could find are these sentiments from Notes from the Underground. I have no clue if this “Russian Probe” thing extends to Russian literature or not and if we are allowed to rely on such literary gems to try to fathom our predicament.

So, yes, I do believe John Bolton’s liver is bad, and he wishes to let it get even worse! 

It is impossible to understand the venomous bile boiling in the twisted mind and tormented soul of a person like John Bolton, or Steve Bannon, or Sebastian Gorka, without resorting to film, fiction, poetry, metaphysics, myth or particularly cartoon characters. 

The toxic terror of John Bolton

You just have to experience the toxic terror in the face, voice, and deranged ideas of this man to believe it. In any other sane and civilised society, John Bolton would be arrested, tried for crimes against humanity for his role in the Iraq war, placed in a straightjacket and put away in an asylum. But not in the US. In the US, he is appointed to the highest offices of trust, advising the lunatic charlatan that Americans have elected as their president.

This degree of arrogance, combined with incurable ignorance, underlined by a harebrained conviction in one’s take on the world, simply defies reason. One must resort to cartoons or fictional characters to even come close. For nowhere else in the world, nowhere in history, do we come across creatures like John Bolton – so astonishingly ignorant, so oblivious to this ignorance, and yet so bewilderingly assured of their fanatical convictions. He knows nothing about nothing, cares to know nothing about anything, and yet speaks his ignorance with alarming conviction. As such, he is possessed of uniquely American brand of stupidity that requires analogies to works of fiction to fully comprehend.

In the same way that Osama Bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are the cartoonish sketches of Muslim world conquerors, John Bolton, Steve Bannon, and Michael Flynn are the ridiculous gestations of medieval crusaders and subsequent conquistadors.

I know nothing of John Bolton’s childhood or teenage years. But I am absolutely certain Joffrey Baratheon from the popular TV series, Games of Thrones, is a close approximation of the sick disposition of this creature. Do you remember that treacherous charlatan, Walder Frey, at the infamous Red Wedding? That was John Bolton in his dotage. And of course, Bolton has a namesake on the fictional continent of Westeros: that sick bastard, Ramsay Bolton. John Bolton is Ramsey Bolton who has been brought back to life by Melisandre to wreak havoc on the world.

I find myself racing from film to literature to cartoons to try to understand this John Bolton character. The real pathology of John Bolton, I now believe, is actually captured by two cartoon characters. He sees himself as Yosemite Sam, the aggressive gunslinging cowboy with a hair-trigger temper and intense hatred of Iranians and other Muslims. But in reality, he is the clueless Elmer J Fudd, always out to hunt Muslim Bugs but ending up hurting himself and those dumber than he.

We have, ladies and gentlemen, exited the realm of reality and entered an animated simulation of our humanity, led by Donald Trump, who is today the crowning achievement of American (indeed “Western”) liberal democracy.

In search of new metaphors

John (Ramsay) Bolton is usually described as a “hawk”. What a calamitous comparison! That beautiful, gentle, graceful bird minding his own solitary business in the skies, wasted as a metaphor for an ugly ogre!

Bolton and his ilk are neither hawks nor doves. Let those precious birds be and look for alternative metaphors for these noxious gases American democracy keeps emitting into our endangered environment and the very air we breathe.

Let me shift gears and try to think historically. People like John Bolton are neo-Crusaders, militant warriors in the cause of Christian imperialism that they think is their “manifest destiny” to advance. Their love for Israel is straight out of their Christian Zionist hatred of the Jews and Muslims alike – a deeply rooted Christian anti-Semitism that remains entirely medieval in its dark and diabolic zealotry.

In their Christian zealotry, they are identical or worse than those Islamist cannibals of  ISIL (also known as ISIS). The sick fanaticism that animates John Bolton, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Nikki Haley, etc etc, is not to be confused by Christianity at large. The liberation theology that has emerged from Latin America with such towering theologians and philosophers as Gustavo Gutierrez and Enrique Dussel is the perfect example that exposes the pathological evangelical Zionism rooted in the United States. In this frame, John Bolton and Steve Bannon are modelled on Guy of Lusignan, as cast by Sir Ridley Scott in his film, Kingdom of Heaven (2005).

Cartoonish criminals, East and West

The cartoonish character and criminal lunacy of people like John Bolton are to be understood as a particularly American ailment, which, along with their boss Donald Trump are symptoms of a deadly virus now endangering the planet Earth. This deadly virus is not accidental to liberal democracy. It is definitive and foundational to it.

American democracy began with the slaughter of the Native Americans, continued with the prolonged history of African slavery, was enriched on the broken backs of successive migrant labour and is now exposing all its related pathologies for the whole world to see by electing a racist warmonger who hates just about anything he fails to understand.

What John Bolton represents is a fanatical fusion of militarism and thinly secularised Christianity animating each other. The history of Christianity is, of course, not alien to this dangerous liaison and, both during the crusades and subsequently, in the course of the conquest of “the New World”, the world has seen many John Boltons and Steve Bannons. Islam has of course not been immune to such dangerous delusions. In the same way that Osama Bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are the cartoonish sketches of Muslim world conquerors, John Bolton, Steve Bannon, and Michael Flynn are the ridiculous gestations of medieval crusaders and subsequent conquistadors.

Menacing tinderboxes like John Bolton, Steve Bannon, Osama Bin Laden, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are triumphalist Christian and Muslim lunatics at each other’s throats – with the fate of the entire planet at the mercy of their dangerous delusions. The fact that we must resort to the realms of film, literature and fanatically dark episodes in human history to try to grasp the scope their fiendish cruelty marks the precise twilight zone where “Western democracy” is bidding farewell to an entire history of philosophical fantasies.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.