Posts Tagged ‘Obama Administration’

FBI investigating ties between Russia and Trump campaign

March 20, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

© Nicholas Kamm, AFP | FBI Director James Comey (pictured left) and NSA Director Mike Rogers on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on March 20, 2017

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-03-20

FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump‘s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!

Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.

(AP)

Related:

FBI Director Comey: Justice Dept. has no information that supports President Trump’s tweets alleging he was wiretapped by Obama

March 20, 2017

James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images (File Photo)

.

The Washington Post
March 20 at 11:27 AM
.
FBI Director James B. Comey acknowledged on Monday the existence of a counterintelligence investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, and said that probe extends to the nature of any links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.
.
Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey said the investigation is also exploring whether there was any coordination between the campaign and the Kremlin, and “whether any crimes were committed.”
.The acknowledgment was an unusual move, given that the FBI’s practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations. “But in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest,” Comey said, “it may be appropriate to do so.”

Comey said he had been authorized by the Justice Department to confirm the wide-ranging probe’s existence.

He spoke at the first intelligence committee public hearing on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, along with National Security Agency head Michael S. Rogers.

Comey: No information to support Trump’s wiretapping tweets

FBI Director James B. Comey said at a House Intelligence Committee hearing that he has no information that Trump Tower was wiretapped by former president Barack Obama. (Reuters)

The hearing comes amid the controversy fired up by President Trump two weeks ago when he tweeted, without providing evidence, that President Barack Obama ordered his phones tapped at Trump Tower.

Comey says there is “no information’’ that supports Trump’s claims that his predecessor Barack Obama ordered surveillance of Trump Tower during the election campaign.

“I have no information that supports those tweets,’’ said Comey. “We have looked carefully inside the FBI,’’ and agents found nothing to support those claims, he said. He added the Justice Department had asked him to also tell the committee that that agency has no such information, either.

Under questioning from the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif,), Comey said no president could order such surveillance.

Committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said in his opening statement, “The fact that Russia hacked U.S. election-related databases comes as no shock to this committee. We have been closely monitoring Russia’s aggressions for years…However, while the indications of Russian measures targeting the U.S. presidential election are deeply troubling, one benefit is already clear – it has focused wide attention on the pressing threats posed by the Russian autocrat. In recent years, Committee members have issued repeated and forceful pleas for stronger action against Russian belligerence. But the Obama administration was committed to the notion, against all evidence, that we could ‘reset’ relations with Putin, and it routinely ignored our warnings.”

Nunes said he hoped the hearing would focus on several key questions, including what actions Russia undertook against the United States during the 2016 election and did anyone from a political campaign conspire in these activities? He also wants to know if the communications of any campaign officials or associates were subject to any improper surveillance.

“Let me be clear,” he said. “We know there was not a wiretap on Trump Tower. However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.”

Finally, Nunes said he is focused on leaks of classified information to the media. “We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so these individuals can be brought to justice,” he said.

In his opening statement, Schiff said, “We will never know whether the Russian intervention was determinative in such a close election. Indeed it is unknowable in a campaign in which so many small changes could have dictated a different result. More importantly, and for the purposes of our investigation, it simply does not matter. What does matter is this: the Russians successfully meddled in our democracy, and our intelligence agencies have concluded that they will do so again.”

He added: “Most important, we do not yet know whether the Russians had the help of U.S. citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign. Many of Trump’s campaign personnel, including the president himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On the other hand, if the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history.”

Just hours before the start of the hearing, Trump posted a series of tweets claiming Democrats “made up” the allegations of Russian contacts in an attempt to discredit the GOP during the presidential campaign. Trump also urged federal investigators to shift their focus to probe disclosures of classified material.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information,” Trump wrote early Monday. “Must find leaker now!”

Republican members pressed hard on the subject of leaks to the media that resulted in news stories about contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign or administration officials. Nunes sought an admission from the officials that the leaks were illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court act, the law that governs foreign intelligence-gathering on U.S. soil or of U.S. persons overseas.

“Yes,” Comey answered. “In addition to being a breach of our trust with the FISA court.”

One story in particular that apparently upset the Republicans was a Feb. 9 story by The Washington Post reporting that Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, discussed the subject of sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in the month before Trump took office. The Post reported that the discussions were monitored under routine, court-approved monitoring of Kislyak’s calls.

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) pressed Rogers to clarify under what circumstances it would be legitimate for Americans caught on tape speaking with people under surveillance to have their identities disclosed publicly, and whether leaking those identities would “hurt or help” intelligence collection.

“Hurt,” Rogers noted.

Rogers stressed that the identities of U.S. persons picked up through “incidental collection” – that being the way intelligence officials picked up on Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak – are disclosed only on a “valid, need to know” basis, and usually only when there is a criminal activity or potential threat to the United States at play.

Rogers added that there are a total of 20 people in the NSA he has delegated to make decisions about when someone’s identity can be unmasked.

The FBI probe combines an investigation into hacking operations by Russian spy agencies with efforts to understand how the Kremlin sought to manipulate public opinion and influence the election’s outcome.

In January, the intelligence community released a report concluding that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin wanted to not only undermine the legitimacy of the election process but also harm the campaign of Hillary Clinton and boost Trump’s chances of winning.

Hackers working for Russian spy agencies penetrated the computers of the Democratic National Committee in 2015 and 2016 as well as the email accounts of Democratic officials, intelligence official said in the report. The material was relayed to WikiLeaks, the officials said, and the anti-secrecy group began a series of damaging email releases just before the Democratic National Convention that continued through the fall.

On Friday, the Justice Department delivered documents to the committee in response to a request for copies of intelligence and criminal wiretap orders and applications. Nunes, speaking Sunday, said the material provided “no evidence of collusion” to sway the election toward Trump and repeated previous statements that there is no credible proof of any active coordination.

But Schiff, also speaking Sunday, said there was “circumstantial evidence of collusion” at the outset of the congressional investigations into purported Russian election meddling, as well as “direct evidence” that Trump campaign figures sought to deceive the public about their interactions with Russian figures.

The concerns about Moscow’s meddling are also being felt in Europe, where France and Germany hold elections this year. “Our allies,” Schiff said, “are facing the same Russian onslaught.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-director-to-testify-on-russian-interference-in-the-presidential-election/2017/03/20/cdea86ca-0ce2-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?utm_term=.2b44421224ec

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

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump’s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” `’There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.


PUBLISHED: MARCH 20, 2017, 8:01 A.M. 

Travel Ban Heads Toward Supreme Court in Transition

March 17, 2017

March 16, 2017 7:38 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump faces the prospect of mounting two quick appeals after judges blocked his revised executive order on immigration, a dispute that could arrive at the Supreme Court just as it gets a new conservative member whose vote could be crucial.

Judges in Hawaii and Maryland halted Mr. Trump’s latest effort after finding he likely engaged in religious discrimination when he sought to bar U.S. entry for people from six Muslim-majority nations, a move the White House says could help fight terrorism.

Mr. Trump’s revised travel restrictions made several concessions from his original Jan. 27 executive order in response to negative court rulings. That he lost anyway is increasing the friction between the White House and the courts, and it sets the stage for appellate proceedings that could have even higher stakes than during the initial round of litigation a month ago.

“We intend to appeal the flawed rulings,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday. “We expect action to be taken soon.”

The Justice Department, which is defending the travel ban, could seek emergency stays of the Hawaii and Maryland rulings. Such a request in the Hawaii case would go to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, a liberal-leaning court where a three-judge panel last month affirmed a nationwide halt of Mr. Trump’s first travel ban.

An appeal by Maryland would go to the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond, Va., which has also moved in a leftward direction in recent years after President Barack Obama appointed several judges there.

At the Ninth Circuit, a new three-judge panel has been designated to consider emergency motions this month, so the White House could get fresh eyes this time around. Those judges are Milan Smith, a President George W. Bush appointee, and two Obama appointees, Morgan Christen and John Owens.

Judges appointed by both Democrats and Republicans have ruled against Mr. Trump in travel-ban cases in the past few weeks. But five Republican-appointed judges on the Ninth Circuit late Wednesday signaled sympathy for the president’s legal arguments, a sign the litigation could produce ideological divisions in future decisions.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson issued a nationwide temporary restraining order Wednesday that halted President Donald Trump’s revised executive order on immigration and refugees. Photo: Getty
.

Those judges published a dissent that objected to the Ninth Circuit’s decision to leave the earlier three-judge ruling against Mr. Trump on the books.

“Whatever we, as individuals, may feel about the president or the executive order, the president’s decision was well within the powers of the presidency,” Judge Jay Bybee wrote for the dissenters.

If the Trump administration loses at the appeals-court level and seeks emergency Supreme Court intervention, it would need the votes of five justices for an order restoring the travel restrictions.

The high court has been split 4-4 between liberal and conservative justices since Justice Antonin Scalia died last year. While the court doesn’t always split ideologically, the White House’s prospects would be considerably better if a travel-ban appeal arrived after Mr. Trump’s high court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, joins the bench.

Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Gorsuch, who currently sits on a Denver-based appeals court, begin Monday. If Republicans overcome Democratic opposition, it is possible he could be confirmed and join the Supreme Court as soon as April, meaning he could be a pivotal figure in the travel ban litigation.

“I think that’s almost a certainty,” said Robert Loeb, a Supreme Court and appellate litigator at the Orrick law firm.

As the travel-ban cases unfold, judges will likely continue grappling with Mr. Trump’s statements during the campaign that he favored a ban on Muslim entry into the U.S. The judges in both Hawaii and Maryland said those comments, combined with other remarks that he and his advisers have made since he took office, suggest his travel ban was motivated by an improper attempt to target Muslims. Mr. Trump said he signed the executive orders to better protect the public from terrorist threats.

No judge has issued a final ruling on the legality of Mr. Trump’s executive orders. Instead, they have been considering whether the orders should be blocked while the underlying litigation proceeds.

Mr. Trump continues to talk about the cases, and his comments could be a factor as the litigation moves forward. After the Hawaii ruling Wednesday evening, the president, speaking in Nashville, Tenn., expressed frustration that he had agreed to tone down his original ban after courts blocked it.

“But the lawyers all said, ‘Let’s tailor it.’ This is a watered-down version of the first one,” Mr. Trump said. “And let me tell you something, I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way, which is what I wanted to do in the first one,” he said.

Mr. Loeb, a former Justice Department lawyer, said such comments “are certainly unhelpful” as the department tries to defend Mr. Trump’s revised order, in part by distancing it from the first one.

The Ninth Circuit’s Judge Bybee, while writing a dissent Wednesday that could prove useful to the president in further legal proceedings, nevertheless took Mr. Trump to task for his unusually personal criticism of judges that have ruled against him.

Judge Bybee didn’t mention Mr. Trump by name, but said, “The personal attacks on the distinguished district judge and our colleagues were out of all bounds of civic and persuasive discourse—particularly when they came from the parties.”

Appeared in the Mar. 17, 2017, print edition as ‘Travel Ban Heads to Court in Transition.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/travel-ban-heads-toward-supreme-court-in-transition-1489707518

Libya’s deepening split finds battleground at oil terminals

March 12, 2017

By BRIAN ROHAN

The Associated Press

CAIRO (AP) — Hundreds if not thousands of armed men are converging on Libya’s main oil shipping terminals, which the rival powers in the country’s east and west are fighting to control in a battle being watched by global oil markets.

The struggle for the Ras Lanuf refinery and nearby Sidr depot threatens to spiral into an all-out conflict between east and west. Already, it has seen the bloodiest fighting yet between the two camps: Around 40 troops from the east were killed over four days as militias backed by western factions stormed the area last Friday, losing a handful of casualties.

Now forces from the east loyal to military strongman Khalifa Hifter are massing nearby, threatening a new assault to wrest back the facilities, which are nominally in the hands of the Tripoli government.

In another worrying step, the eastern parliament on Tuesday voted to withdraw support from the United Nations peace deal that created the Tripoli government in January 2016 in hopes of ending years of chaos in the North African country. The withdrawal of support further undermines the government, which has had difficulty asserting authority even in Tripoli.

Image may contain: sky, cloud and outdoor

Oil terminal fire, Libya. Credit John Moore-Getty Images

The following is a look at the Libyan players, the oil terminals at the center of the fight and what could happen next:

THE EAST

Hifter, an army general, former CIA asset and U.S. citizen who lived nearly 20 years in American exile, is the most powerful figure in the east, touting himself as the champion against Islamic militants in Libya — though his enemies accuse him of aiming to become a new dictator like Moammar Gadhafi, who was overthrown and killed in the country’s 2011 Arab Spring revolt. He has talked of marching to take Tripoli to unite the country, hinting that he aims to rule. He opposed the government set up by the U.N. peace deal because it would have pushed him out as head of the military.

The general is backed by Egypt and Russia, but Washington under the Obama administration kept him at arm’s length. One key question in his future will be whether the U.S. warms up to him under President Donald Trump, who has sounded more favorable to Egypt and more open to dealing with regional strongmen.

He commands a collection of militias and eastern tribal forces as well as the remnants of the Libyan National Army, including Gadhafi-era officers. Hifter is also allied to the eastern-based parliament, which was the last legislature to be elected in Libya and had to flee east when opponents took over the west in 2014.

Hifter’s forces seized the oil facilities last year. The Obama administration had joined the U.N. in calling on him to hand them over to the Tripoli government. Hifter had seemed more inclined to use them as a bargaining chip to force a rewriting of the peace accord.

But now that they have been wrested from him by force, he may resort instead to an all-out fight against Tripoli. His army says it is massing forces east of the terminals, awaiting orders. Their strength is unclear but they can call on reserves of thousands of eastern Libyan fighters and tribesman and are backed by Libyan and foreign air support. Hifter travels regularly to Cairo and insiders have said he flew there shortly after losing control of the terminals.

THE WEST

The Tripoli government was created under the U.N. deal in hopes of ending the east-west split. Instead, it has become just another player in that divide, reliant on its militia allies to have any authority.

Chief among those allies are the militias of the neighboring city of Misrata, the strongest and most cohesive fighting force in the west. The Misrata militias provide security for the Tripoli government and it was they who earlier this year captured the Islamic State group’s main stronghold, Sirte, effectively defeating for now the extremists’ attempt to extend their caliphate to Libya.

The international community has tried to bolster the Tripoli government — particularly Italy, which is heavily invested in Libya’s oil sector and has a military presence in the capital in the form of an army hospital that treated Misrata fighters during the battle against IS.

It was a newly formed militia that retook the oil facilities at Ras Lanouf and Sidr. The Benghazi Defense Brigades, as it is called, depicts itself as an eastern-based force, made up of former rebels and Islamic militants recently defeated by Hifter’s forces in the eastern city of Benghazi. But it is clearly linked to the west, with some Misrata fighters in its ranks — and its commanders recently held a press conference in Misrata.

The Brigades handed the oil facilities over to the control of the Tripoli government, which has ordered its National Petroleum Guards under Brig. Gen. Idris Abukhamada — the official guard force for oil infrastructure — to deploy at the sites.

OIL IMPACT

Oil prices have dropped over the past week because of growing U.S. supplies, frustrating OPEC attempts to bolster the price by curbing production. While the supply glut is the biggest factor dominating the market, the Libya fighting has potential to put some upward pressure on prices.

It did so when the Brigades took Ras Lanouf and Sidr last week, forcing the shutdown of the maritime export terminals there, Libya’s largest. That spooked the markets, causing a brief blip of higher prices. The facilities remain closed, causing some reduction in Libya’s production, which in February had reached 700,000 barrels a day.

Oil is Libya’s only real source of revenue, and it has been trying to rebuild the industry, though it remains but a shadow of the 1.6 billion barrels a day produced in 2011. While the oil facilities have changed hands several times over the past years, the revenues have continued to flow into the central bank based in Tripoli, an arrangement accepted by all parties that for the moment is not in doubt.

Heavier fighting at the facilities could further scare traders, especially if infrastructure is damaged.

WHAT COULD HAPPEN NEXT

The ball appears to be in Hifter’s court. His forces could face only weak opposition if they stormed Ras Lanouf and Sidr, protected only by the official oil guard units.

But the impact could be much wider.

Until now, the powers in east and west have largely avoided fighting directly, instead battling through proxies. Storming the oil facilities would be a direct assault by Hifter on the internationally backed Tripoli government since it officially holds them now. Hifter would likely be seen as flouting the United Nations and European countries, which have called for a cease-fire.

That opens the door to further possible escalations. How far Hifter goes depends on whether he finds international supporters, but he could try to carry out his threats to move against Tripoli, pitting him against Misrata’s powerful fighters.

Sessions asks 46 Obama-era U.S. attorneys to resign

March 11, 2017

Sat Mar 11, 2017 | 2:29am EST

Reuters

By Joel Schectman and Mark Hosenball | WASHINGTON

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions abruptly asked the remaining 46 chief federal prosecutors left over from the Obama administration to resign on Friday, including Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who had been asked to stay on in November by then President-elect Donald Trump.

Although U.S. attorneys are political appointees, and the request from Trump’s Justice Department is part of a routine process, the move came as a surprise. Not every new administration replaces all U.S. attorneys at once.

A Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed the resignation requests included Bharara, whose office handles some of the most critical business and criminal cases passing through the federal judicial system.

Bharara met with Trump in Trump Tower on Nov. 30. After, Bharara told reporters the two had a “good meeting” and he had agreed to stay on.

On Friday, Bharara was unsure where he stood because he did not know if the person who contacted him about resigning was aware that Trump had asked him to remain in office, according to a source familiar with the matter.

It was not immediately clear if all resignations would ultimately be accepted.

A Justice Department spokesman said on Friday Trump had called Dana Boente, acting U.S. deputy attorney general, to decline his resignation.

Trump also called Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, his pick to take over as deputy attorney general, to keep him in his post, the spokesman said.

CORRUPTION CRUSADER

Bharara, appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama in 2009, has pursued an aggressive push against corruption in state and city politics and is known for his prosecution of white-collar criminal cases. He also has been overseeing a federal probe into New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising.

In November, he announced charges against two defendants in connection with what he called a multimillion-dollar fraud and kickback scheme at Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc (VRX.TO).

He has also brought dozens of successful cases against insider traders, including a $1.8 billion settlement and plea deal in 2013 with hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors LP.

His office has secured settlements with companies including General Motors Co (GM.N) and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N); won several convictions and guilty pleas of former employees of Ponzi scheme operator Bernard Madoff; and prosecuted Suleiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Bharara’s priorities have often matched those set by Obama’s Justice Department, which potentially puts him at odds with the Trump administration.

Amid an increase in civil rights investigations nationally, for example, Bharara’s office joined a lawsuit that led to a settlement in 2015 aimed at reducing violence in New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said in a statement that he was “troubled” to learn of the requests for resignations, “particularly that of Preet Bharara.”

As Schumer’s chief counsel, Bharara helped lead the investigation of the dismissals of U.S. attorneys in 2006 during the George W. Bush administration.

Robert Capers, U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, issued a statement saying he had been asked to resign. He said Bridget Rohde, the chief assistant U.S. attorney in that office, would take over his role in an acting capacity.

The Justice Department said on Friday: “Until the new U.S. attorneys are confirmed, the dedicated career prosecutors in our U.S. attorney’s offices will continue the great work of the department in investigating, prosecuting, and deterring the most violent offenders.”

(Reporting by Eric Walsh, Mark Hosenball and Joel Schechtman in Washington and Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Bill Rigby)

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

By 
The New Tork Times

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration moved on Friday to sweep away most of the remaining vestiges of Obama administration prosecutors at the Justice Department, ordering 46 holdover United States attorneys to tender their resignations immediately — including Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan.

The firings were a surprise — especially for Mr. Bharara, who has a reputation for prosecuting public corruption cases and for investigating insider trading. In November, Mr. Bharara met with then President-elect Donald J. Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan and told reporters afterward that both Mr. Trump and Jeff Sessions, who is now the attorney general, had asked him about staying on, which the prosecutor said he expected to do.

But on Friday, Mr. Bharara was among federal prosecutors who received a call from Dana Boente, the acting deputy attorney general, instructing him to resign, according to a person familiar with the matter. As of Friday evening, though some of the prosecutors had publicly announced their resignations, Mr. Bharara had not. A spokesman for Mr. Bharara declined to comment.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in an email that all remaining holdover United States attorneys had been asked to resign, leaving their deputy United States attorneys, who are career officials, in place in an acting capacity.

“As was the case in prior transitions, many of the United States Attorneys nominated by the previous administration already have left the Department of Justice,” she said in the email. “The Attorney General has now asked the remaining 46 presidentially appointed U.S. Attorneys to tender their resignations in order to ensure a uniform transition.”

.
Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/10/us/politics/us-attorney-justice-department-trump.html?_r=0

“The Reality Is, Half Of Americans Can’t Afford To Write A $500 Check”

March 7, 2017

The CEO of Assurant appeared on Bloomberg TV to explain why demand for his services is likely to increase: the chief executive of the mobile phone insurer said he expects a surge in demand as carriers charge customers more to replace their devices. “If you think back five years ago, you as a consumer didn’t know how much that phone cost, you thought it was free or close to free,” Assurant’s Alan Colberg said Monday..

“Now you’re paying $600, that’s a lot. So we’ve actually seen the attachment rate, or the number of people buying the product, going up a little bit in the last couple of years.”

He then proceeded to give Bloomberg his traditional sales pitch: Assurant is counting on growth at its business covering phones and appliances to help counter a decline in the segment that insures foreclosed homes for lenders. While improvement in the real estate market has limited the number of vacant homes, Colberg said there are still many cash-strapped consumers.

It is what he said next that caught our attention: “The reality is, half of Americans can’t afford to write a $500 check,” Colberg said. He spun that stunning statistic by saying that when US customers sign up for a cellular plan, they’re willing to buy protection in case “they lose that phone or something happens to it.”

In other words, there are millions of Americans who don’t have $500 in the bank but are willing to dish out more than that on a cell phone, and then are stupid enough to make monthly payments that ultimately end up being far higher than $500 to protect their purchase… which they clearly couldn’t afford in the first place.

* * *

That said, we decided to look into the CEO’s claim about the woeful state of US finances. What we found is that according to a recent Bankrate survey of 1,000 adults, 57% of Americans don’t have enough cash to cover a mere $500 unexpected expense. Turns out the CEO was right. And while that may appear dire, it is a slight improvement from 2016, when 63% of U.S. residents said they wouldn’t be able to handle such an expense.

The survey’s findings have shed light on how the so-called recovery of the past 8 years has skipped about half of the US population, which literally live paycheck to paycheck, and reflects a country in which many households continue to struggle with their basic finances more than seven years after the official end to the recession.

Putting the numbers in context: despite steady job growth during the Obama administration – which have been focused on minimum wage industries – wages have been predictably slow to recover, with the typical American household still earning 2.4% below what they brought home in 1999, when income peaked. Meanwhile, costs for essentials such as housing and child care have surged faster than the rate of inflation, placing stress on household budgets and making the accumulation of wealth, i.e., savings, impossible.

The bottom line:  About four out of 10 Americans said they had enough in savings to cover a surprise $500 expense. Another 21% said they would rely on a credit card, while 20% said they’d cut back on other expenses. Another 11% said they’d turn to family or friends for the money.

What is even more striking is that among Americans who earn more than $75,000 per year – a third more than the typical U.S. household earns – almost half also said they wouldn’t be able to cover a $500 surprise expense. Ironically, Millennials represent the generation most equipped to handle an emergency cost, with 47 percent saying they have enough in savings to cover one.

The Bankrate survey findings echoed research published last year by the Federal Reserve, which found that 46% of respondents said they would be challenged to come up with even less, or $400, to cover an emergency expense, and would likely borrow or sell something to afford it. When the Fed asked what types of emergency expenses Americans had actually faced in the last year, more than one out of five cited a major unexpected medical expense. The average expense: $2,782, or almost seven times higher than the Fed’s hypothetical $400 surprise bill.

How do cell phones fit in all of this? When it comes to reducing spending, dining out is the first place where consumers would cut back, with 6 out of 10 respondents saying they would eat out less. What is the “stickiest” expense? According to Bankrate, the least likely expense to face the chopping block are mobile phone plans, with the survey finding that only 35% said they would cut back on their wireless plans to save money.

In other words, Americans would rather be hungry than cell phone free. In retrospect, it may turn out be that Assurant’s CEO, whose business model is a big bet on human stupidity, just may have a goldmine on his hands.

 http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-03-06/half-americans-cant-write-500-check

Leaks and unnamed sources fuel media’s plan to destroy Trump — “Conscious effort from within the government to subvert the president.” — Michael Goodwin

March 6, 2017

New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin appeared on the Fox News morning show (“Fox and Friends”) on  Monday, March 6, 2017) to say he and others see a possible “conscious effort from within the government to subvert the president.” His latest column is below:

By Michael Goodwin
March 5, 2017 | 6:20am
New York Post

Here a Russian story, there a Russian story, everywhere a Russian story — all based on leaks from anonymous sources. You don’t have to be a spook to spot the plan: Destroy Donald Trump by putting him in a bear hug.

To judge by their scattershot approach, the conspirators are fishing for a bombshell. The fallback goal is to inflict death by a thousand cuts.

Already they’ve gotten one scalp and part of another. Gen. Mike Flynn is gone, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions is wounded. Each made a mistake that obscured a larger truth: Somebody in the government has been spying on Trump’s team and giving top secret information to anti-Trump media outlets.

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Michael Goodwin from a previous appearance on Fox News

Our president is many things, but dumb he’s not. He recognized the stakes, so yesterday he struck back in a way that dramatically upped the ante in the war over his presidency.

Trump’s early-morning tweets accusing President Barack Obama of having wiretapped him at Trump Tower startled the world. It is a sensational claim, but in light of the tsunami of leaks from intelligence agencies, the president is right to suspect that he’s the target of a dirty game.

To start with, the unprecedented alliance against him clearly includes remnants of the Obama administration, and probably the former president himself. The recent New York Times report that Obama and his team dropped intelligence findings like bread crumbs so they would get wide readership and to prevent the Trump administration from burying them reveals an attempt to undermine if not subvert a legally elected president.

The Times report conveys suspicions that Trump would deep-six the findings if he could while giving a free pass to Obama’s leakers who may have committed crimes. The Times knows who in the Obama camp was involved and what they did. The paper has an ethical obligation to report it.

Yet here’s the rub: What exactly was in those findings? All the public knows is that intelligence officials said they investigated whether the Trump campaign had ties to Russia, and we only know that because it was leaked by anonymous sources.

But that knowledge, while sounding suspicious, raises more questions than it answers.

For example, did investigators looking at Trump’s campaign find anything substantive? The Times has said no but keeps suggesting the probes continue. Publicly, the FBI won’t confirm or deny anything and even Congress is frustrated by the bureau’s behavior.

Yet the fact that there are leaks reveals something important: The investigation involved monitoring phone calls and maybe computers and maybe physical surveillance.

One piece of evidence involves the Justice Department warning to the White House that Flynn lied when he said he hadn’t discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador during a December phone call.

Justice could know that only because the call was bugged and there was a transcript. We were assured, anonymously, of course, that the tapping was on the Russian, not Flynn.

But what if that wasn’t true? What if Flynn was being tapped?

Here’s another clue: How did The Washington Post learn that Sessions met twice with the Russian ambassador? Sessions was a United States senator and an early and vocal supporter of the Trump campaign. Was he under surveillance, electronically and otherwise?

If all this smells like a kettle of rotten fish, it is — and it gets worse. Numerous reports say there was a warrant approved at the court set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — FISA — to monitor a computer in Trump Tower that was supposedly communicating with a Russian bank.

Separating fact from fake news has never been more essential.

The Times said investigators concluded the computer was merely sending spam, but the investigators who spoke to the paper could know that only if they had access to the computer or the Russian bank. And if it was only spam, why would the investigation remain active?

We are left then, with daily leaks feeding a giant blob of information and maybe misinformation. Separating fact from fake news has never been more essential.

All that is certain is that we are witnessing a homegrown attack on a sitting president, most likely by elements of our own government and most likely for purely partisan purposes.

If true, that would be at least as un-American as anything the Trump people might have done in communicating with Russians.

In that context, we cannot ignore an ominous warning the top Democrat in the Senate issued before the inauguration. At that point, Trump already had made accusations that intelligence officials were leaking secret information in a bid to deny him the presidency.

“Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Chuck Schumer said on television. “So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, suit and indoor

Related:

.
.
.
.
.
.

Has Obama administration chicanery made it more difficult for the Trump administration? — Undoubtedly

March 6, 2017
The Weekly Standard
 Has Obama administration chicanery made it more difficult for the Trump administration — Undoubtedly
.
No automatic alt text available.
Did the Obama Administration Try Stacking the Deck Against Trump at the Justice Department?

Amid Thursday’s over-hyped brouhaha about Jeff Sessions meeting with the Russian ambassador, a curious detail emerged. In Sessions’s recusal memo, it was explained who at the Justice Department would be handling any investigations into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. “Consistent with the succession order for the Department of Justice, Acting Deputy Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Dana Boente shall act as and perform the functions of the Attorney General with respect to any matters from which I have recused myself to the extent they exist,” reads Sessions’s official statement on the matter.

Except that if the Obama administration had its way, Dana Boente wasn’t supposed be the U.S. attorney to handle these matters in the event that Sessions recused himself. On February 10, USA Today reported the following:

Seven days before he left office, President Obama changed the order of succession without explanation to remove Boente from the list. Obama’s order had listed U.S. attorneys in the District of Columbia, the Northern District of Illinois and the Central District of California.

That seems like awfully suspicious behavior. In fact the USA Today story noted this is pegged to the news that Trump quietly signed an executive order restoring Boente to the line of succession. The Obama administration chicanery was likely brought to White House’s attention after Obama holdover and acting Attorney General Sally Yates tried to usurp the powers of the president and countermand his immigration executive order, actions for which she was summarily fired.

Why would the Obama administration make this eleventh-hour change to the line of succession at the Justice Department? “At the time, I was told it was done in consultation with Trump transition,” Gregory Korte, the USA Today reporter who wrote the story quoted above, told me Thursday. “Looking back, that’s clearly not the case.”

In fact, it seems like it was quite obviously not the case. The man Obama placed at the head of the line of succession is D.C.’s U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips, who is quite cozy with President Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder. He is a former senior adviser to Holder, and he stayed on to work under Obama’s next AG Loretta Lynch before Obama appointed Phillips D.C.’s U.S. attorney in 2015. But Phillips goes way back with Holder—Holder first hired Philips in the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1994. It’s also safe to say that the AG offices in the Northern District of Illinois and the Central District of California are not hotbeds of Trump supporters.

It looks like the Obama administration was hoping that the reins of power here would unknowingly default to someone unfriendly to Trump in the event Sessions was forced to recuse himself—or even resign, as so many Democrats breathlessly demanded Thursday. (It’s worth noting that Sessions’s claims that he was already considering recusing himself from the Russia investigations because of his role on the campaign seem pretty sincere. Reuters reported last Sunday that the White House was considering the need for Sessions’s recusal long before the teacup tempest about Sessions failing to disclose minor encounters with the Russian ambassador.)

This might seem far-fetched, except to say that the leak-coordinated campaign by former Obama officials to undermine Trump seems to be very real, per the reporting of Lee Smith. Indeed, the New York Times reported Thursday, “In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government.”

It’s not inconceivable that the pandemonium of an incoming Trump administration might have meant they would overlook a little-noticed change. Sessions could have recused himself thinking the old line of succession was intact, only to have Phillips appoint a rabid special prosecutor to go after the Trump administration on Russia the next day before the Trump administration could undo things. As soon as it was evident Boentes was going to be handling any Russian investigations, Schumer called on him to appoint a special prosecutor.

Amid Thursday’s over-hyped brouhaha about Jeff Sessions meeting with the Russian ambassador, a curious detail emerged. In Sessions’s recusal memo, it was explained who at the Justice Department would be handling any investigations into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. “Consistent with the succession order for the Department of Justice, Acting Deputy Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Dana Boente shall act as and perform the functions of the Attorney General with respect to any matters from which I have recused myself to the extent they exist,” reads Sessions’s official statement on the matter.

Except that if the Obama administration had its way, Dana Boente wasn’t supposed be the U.S. attorney to handle these matters in the event that Sessions recused himself. On February 10, USA Today reported the following:

Seven days before he left office, President Obama changed the order of succession without explanation to remove Boente from the list. Obama’s order had listed U.S. attorneys in the District of Columbia, the Northern District of Illinois and the Central District of California.

That seems like awfully suspicious behavior. In fact the USA Today story noted this is pegged to the news that Trump quietly signed an executive order restoring Boente to the line of succession. The Obama administration chicanery was likely brought to White House’s attention after Obama holdover and acting Attorney General Sally Yates tried to usurp the powers of the president and countermand his immigration executive order, actions for which she was summarily fired.

Why would the Obama administration make this eleventh-hour change to the line of succession at the Justice Department? “At the time, I was told it was done in consultation with Trump transition,” Gregory Korte, the USA Today reporter who wrote the story quoted above, told me Thursday. “Looking back, that’s clearly not the case.”

In fact, it seems like it was quite obviously not the case. The man Obama placed at the head of the line of succession is D.C.’s U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips, who is quite cozy with President Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder. He is a former senior adviser to Holder, and he stayed on to work under Obama’s next AG Loretta Lynch before Obama appointed Phillips D.C.’s U.S. attorney in 2015. But Phillips goes way back with Holder—Holder first hired Philips in the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1994. It’s also safe to say that the AG offices in the Northern District of Illinois and the Central District of California are not hotbeds of Trump supporters.

It looks like the Obama administration was hoping that the reins of power here would unknowingly default to someone unfriendly to Trump in the event Sessions was forced to recuse himself—or even resign, as so many Democrats breathlessly demanded Thursday. (It’s worth noting that Sessions’s claims that he was already considering recusing himself from the Russia investigations because of his role on the campaign seem pretty sincere. Reuters reported last Sunday that the White House was considering the need for Sessions’s recusal long before the teacup tempest about Sessions failing to disclose minor encounters with the Russian ambassador.)

This might seem far-fetched, except to say that the leak-coordinated campaign by former Obama officials to undermine Trump seems to be very real, per the reporting of Lee Smith. Indeed, the New York Times reported Thursday, “In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government.”

It’s not inconceivable that the pandemonium of an incoming Trump administration might have meant they would overlook a little-noticed change. Sessions could have recused himself thinking the old line of succession was intact, only to have Phillips appoint a rabid special prosecutor to go after the Trump administration on Russia the next day before the Trump administration could undo things. As soon as it was evident Boentes was going to be handling any Russian investigations, Schumer called on him to appoint a special prosecutor.

http://www.weeklystandard.com/did-the-obama-administration-try-stacking-the-deck-against-trump-at-the-justice-department/article/2007085

Breitbart: New York Times Trashes Its Own Reporting on Obama Admin Wiretapping

March 6, 2017

.

People walk past an electronic board displaying an advertisement by the New York Times, in New York on February 27, 2017. 
 / AFP / Jewel SAMAD        (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

 The New York Times has inadvertently attacked the credibility of its own reporting on the Obama Administration’s investigation of Russia and now-President Donald Trump.

Times reporters Michael Schmidt and Michael Shear write that Trump believes the “deep state” intelligence community, staffed with holdovers from the Obama Administration, wiretapped several of his campaign associates because of a spurious article from Breitbart News:

On Sunday, the president demanded a congressional inquiry into whether Mr. Obama had abused the power of federal law enforcement agencies before the 2016 presidential election. In a statement from his spokesman, Mr. Trump called “reports” about the wiretapping “very troubling” and said that Congress should examine them as part of its investigations into Russia’s meddling in the election.

Mr. Trump’s demand for a congressional investigation appears to be based, at least in part, on unproved claims by Breitbart News and conservative talk radio hosts that secret warrants were issued authorizing the tapping of the phones of Mr. Trump and his aides at Trump Tower in New York.

The Breitbart article in question (which Schmidt and Shear do not link to) cites the Times’ own reporting on the intelligence community. Their January 19th article, “Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates,” also bore Schmidt’s byline.

An editorial note at this link reveals that the print version of this article was headlined: “Wiretapped Data Used in Inquiry of Trump Aides.”

It quotes an anonymous source who says that “wiretapped communications had been provided to the White House” as part of an investigation into “the business dealings that some of the president-elect’s past and present advisers have had with Russia.”

At the end of the article, the Times‘ reporters fret that then-Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions would “for a time be the only person in the government authorized to seek foreign intelligence wiretaps on American soil.”

http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2017/03/05/new-york-times-trashes-its-own-reporting-on-obama-admin-wiretapping/

‘This is McCarthyism!’ Donald Trump claims Barack Obama had his ‘wires tapped’ at Trump Tower before he was elected

March 4, 2017

Donald Trump speaks during a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C on Tuesday, February 28

Donald Trump speaks during a joint session of Congress in Washington DC on Tuesday, February 28 CREDIT: JIM LO SCALZO/BLOOMBERG

By 

Donald Trump has accused Barack Obama of having his “wires tapped” at Trump Tower in October, before he was elected US president.

Mr Trump unleashed a tirade of tweets at about 6.30am (11.30am GMT) Saturday morning accusing the former president of using wire taps to spy on him at his New York base.

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!,” he tweeted.

He president compared the alleged surveillance to Watergate, the 1970s scandal that brought down president Richard Nixon: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp (SIC) my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

Mr Trump also appeared to make a threat of legal action, saying “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to the Election!”.

Mr Trump did not provide any additional evidence to back up his claims and it was unclear what information he was relying on.

Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!

I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

Mr Obama and members of his administration have not yet responded to the accusations.

The Trump administration has come under increasing pressure this week over its connections to Russian officials, after it emerged half a dozen campaign officials and aides had talked with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to Washington since July.

Mr Trump’s attorney general Jeff Sessions twice talked with Mr Kislyak during the campaign and then did not mention it during his confirmation hearing, leading Democrats to accuse him of “lying under oath,” which Mr Sessions denied.

Mr Sessions has recused himself from any investigation into Russian interference in the US election.

Mr Trump has continued to defend Mr Sessions, calling the accusations a “witch hunt” and saying the attorney general could have been more accurate in what he said about his contacts with Russian officials.

Mr Obama imposed sanctions on Russia and ordered Russian diplomats to leave the US in December over the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election.

Mr Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned in February after revelations that he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with Mr Kislyak before Trump took office.