Posts Tagged ‘Robert Mueller’

Can America Do To Trump What The Philippines Did To Estrada?

January 14, 2018

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With scandals gushing from the Oval Office, it seems only a US special prosecutor has any chance of bringing the truth into the light of day – the world waits with bated breath

BY KEITH B. RICHBURG

The fiery, furious cascade of leaks and revelations coming out of US President Donald Trump’s White House in the first month of the new year has left us facing three possible conclusions, all equally unsettling: the president of the United States may well be a kook, a crook or an incompetent – perhaps some combination of the three.

All prospects are worrisome, certainly for Americans, who are watching their 230-year-old governing institutions stretched to the breaking point. But it is also frightening for the world, living with the possibility the most powerful nation on the planet may be led by someone who could be mentally unhinged, ethically unfit or demonstrably unqualified for the job.

The fear is particularly acute in Asia, where the US president cavalierly boasts about his ability to launch a catastrophic nuclear war, thinly concealed behind a juvenile taunt more fit for a high school locker room than the White House situation room, as per his tweet: “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

For Asian countries located within the potential blast radius, nuclear annihilation is no joking matter. But Asia’s experience dealing with their own incompetent leaders may offer a way out.

US President Donald Trump stands with ROTC students to participate in the national anthem before the NCAA College Football Championship game between Alabama and Georgia in Atlanta. Photo: Reuters

Trump’s mental fitness – and the possibility he might be unstable – has become the hottest topic in Washington and beyond, fuelled by Trump himself who declared, via his favoured medium, that he is “a very stable genius”.

When the president of the United States has to defend himself against accusations of being mentally unstable by declaring himself “like, really smart”, then Houston, we have a problem.

Trump was of course responding to the allegations in a new tell-all book Fire and Fury by media critic Michael Wolff, which paints a picture of Trump as a narcissistic, unfocused, barely literate man-child with a short attention span who various aides have learnt to manage around.

What was most interesting about Wolff’s book is how it was so unsurprising, its details and on-the-record remarks essentially confirming so much of what was already known or suspected. Trump’s mental state has been the subject of open discussion for months, even among his erstwhile allies. Now the question over whether the president is mentally sound, once whispered and hinted, has gone mainstream.

One year on, Asia has conquered Trump, not vice versa

When the president of the United States threatens to punish North Korea with “fire and fury”, it might easily be dismissed as a modern-day version of Richard Nixon’s “madman theory”: if you make opponents think you are irrational, they will avoid any provocation.

But when the one firing off tweets threatening nuclear Armageddon is also known to espouse nutty conspiracy theories – widespread election fraud cost him the popular vote, former president Barack Obama wiretapped his phones – this may not be part of some grand strategic plan. It might instead be time to buy gold, stock up on baked beans and head for the shelters.

US President Donald Trump sits with Attorney General Jeff Sessions during the FBI National Academy graduation ceremony in Quantico, Virginia. Trump’s White House counsel personally lobbied Attorney General Jeff Sessions to not recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Photo: AP

However, it’s January’s other major revelation – the crazy man in the White House may actually be a crook – that could save the planet from nuclear annihilation. The New York Times reported Trump instructed White House aides to pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Trump wanted to shield himself from any probing of whether Vladimir Putin aided his unlikely victory and he needed a known loyalist like Sessions in charge of the Justice Department.

Under the American system, there is no easy way to remove a president who is a kook or an incompetent. There is talk of invoking a never used constitutional remedy, the 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of a president deemed incapable of carrying out his duties.

But that amendment, passed in the wake of the Kennedy assassination, was designed to be used if a president were incapacitated in an assassination attempt – alive but brain-dead, for example. Invoking it involves major obstacles, requiring the consent of the vice-president and majority of the Cabinet. And the president is allowed to fight back.

Thank you Trump: that tweet was just what China needed to tame Pakistan

But the path to removing a crook is much clearer: impeachment. It’s been used before in Asia, where the Philippines and Indonesia come to mind.

In Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid, affectionately known as “Gus Dur”, became president in 1999 after the fall of Suharto. Wahid, legally blind and debilitated by strokes, was a worldly scholar and a wily political operator, but he was an abysmal administrator and a bumbling, amateurish president. He was eventually removed by the parliament not for his ineptness but for corruption, including an unaccounted for US$2 million “gift” from the Sultan of Brunei, and a second scandal where his personal masseur withdrew US$4 million from a state agency’s cash reserves.

Joseph Estrada had a corrupt administration as president of the Philippines. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

The more apt parallel to Trump may be the former Philippine president (and now Manila mayor) Joseph “Erap” Estrada, a one-time action movie star who swaggered his way into the presidential palace based mostly on his name recognition and celebrity from films like You’re Only Worth One Bullet.

Estrada, a renowned womaniser, was widely deemed disengaged and out of his depth as president, more interested in late-night drinking, gambling and carousing with his dubious pals. He was also known for his tortured use of the English language.

Like Wahid, Estrada was brought down not for incompetence but corruption – he was implicated in an illegal lottery scandal by one of his former drinking buddies.

Robert Mueller testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington. Photo: Zuma Press

So to resolve the current problem in the White House, all eyes are now on Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the probe of Russia’s attempts to tilt the election to Trump.

It has been reported Mueller’s team of investigators is now looking at whether Trump was involved in obstruction of justice for trying to block the probe, while also digging into the Trump firm’s business dealings.

It remains a long shot. Trump is unlikely to resign or be forced out for incompetence or mental instability. But the investigators may yet find evidence Trump tried to tamper with a federal probe, proving once again the adage that the cover-up is always worse than the crime. But now we can only wait. And pray for Mueller to bring us deliverance. 

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2128063/can-america-do-trump-what-philippines-did-estrada

Keith B. Richburg, a former Washington Post correspondent, is director of the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre

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Trump Lawyer Demands Book Critical of President Be Shelved

January 4, 2018

Attorney wants publisher Henry Holt to halt publication of book with critical anecdotes of the White House and Trump’s family

Trump Lawyer Demands Book Critical of President to Be Shelved

Michael Wolff

WASHINGTON—A lawyer for President Donald Trump on Thursday demanded the author and publisher of a new book featuring scathing criticism of the White House halt its publication and apologize to the president.

In a letter to author Michael Wolff and publisher Henry Holt and Co., Charles Harder said the book contained “numerous false and/or baseless statements,” though it didn’t specify any. He threatened legal action for defamation, invasion of privacy, and other claims.

Mr. Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”—excerpts of which were published in New York Magazine on Wednesday—features personal criticism of the president and some of his top advisers, including several family members. It extensively quotes former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who called a June 2016 meeting between top Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer “treasonous” and aired concerns that missteps by aides could lead to legal jeopardy for the president. The book is set to be published on Jan. 9.

President Trump and his onetime chief strategist Steve Bannon are feuding over revelations from a new book in which Mr. Bannon is quoted as saying that a 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and some Russian representatives was “treasonous.” WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains the implications of the rift. Photo: Getty

“Mr. Trump hereby demands that you immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the book, the article, or any excerpts or summaries of either of them,“ Mr. Harder wrote, ”and that you issue a full and complete retraction and apology to my client as to all statements made about him in the book and article that lack competent evidentiary support.”

Mr. Wolff and a spokesman for Henry Holt didn’t immediately return a request for comment. A person familiar with the publishing house’s thinking said it stands by the book.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump issued a statement repudiating Mr. Bannon, who he said had “lost his mind,” and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the book was “filled with false and misleading accounts.”

Later that day, Mr. Harder sent a letter to Mr. Bannon demanding that he “cease and desist”making disparaging statements to the news media about Mr. Trump and his family. The attorney wrote that Mr. Bannon had violated the terms of his employment agreement with the Trump campaign by making the comments. The letter called on Mr. Bannon to confirm within 24 hours that he would comply with the demands. In Thursday’s letter, Mr. Harder said: “Remedies include substantial monetary damages and punitive damages.”

Mr. Bannon declined to comment on the letter.

In Thursday’s letter, Mr. Harder ordered Mr. Wolff and his publisher to provide the full text of the book and to preserve documents related to the book and its publication. He asked that the letter’s recipients confirm by Friday that they would comply with his demands.

Last year, Mr. Harder represented First Lady Melania Trump in a defamation lawsuit against the Daily Mail, which agreed to pay Ms. Trump unspecified damages after republishing allegations that she “provided services beyond simply modeling” when working as a model in the 1990s. The Daily Mail said it accepted the allegations were “not true.”

In recent years, Mr. Trump’s lawyers have often threatened legal action and not followed through. In 2016, he threatened to sue the New York Times for publishing articles about his tax returns and about accusations of sexual assault against him. He also threatened to sue the women accusing him of sexual assault, whose allegations he has denied.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-lawyer-demands-book-critical-of-president-to-be-shelved-1515083851

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Revelations in book could damage Trump

January 4, 2018

By Nirmal Ghosh
The Straits Times
January 4, 2018

WASHINGTON – A furious President Donald Trump has plunged into open warfare with his one-time chief strategist Steve Bannon, accusing him of having “lost his mind” after being fired from his White House job.

The cause for the spite was Mr Bannon’s scornful comments in a new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” to the effect that Mr Trump did not really want the presidency, was campaigning for office just for the fame, and was stunned and unprepared when he actually won.

How the fallout from the book will affect Mr Bannon’s role remains to be seen. But amid the blizzard of almost salacious gossip unearthed by the author, Michael Wolff – himself a controversial figure who was apparently given free run of the White House by Mr Trump – one remark by Mr Bannon stands out.

Michael Wolff

He apparently told the author he considered a meeting the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, and others had during the 2016 election campaign with a group of Russians, who were ostensibly offering information damaging to his father’s rival, Hillary Clinton, “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

Although those descriptions remain Mr Bannon’s opinion, analysts say they erode the White House’s narrative that there was no collusion with any Russians during the campaign – a matter being investigated by a Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.

Mr Trump has denounced the Mueller investigation as a witch hunt, but Mr Bannon’s opinion of the crucial meeting could be awkward for the president.

The president fired Mr Bannon last August. The 64-year-old had been a cheerleader for Mr Trump’s “America First” agenda – but apparently had a tense relationship with the president’s son-in-law and top aide, Jared Kushner.

After being fired, however, Mr Bannon continued to champion the president while attacking Republicans he considered too mainstream which led analysts to conclude that he was, in effect, igniting a “civil war” within the party which now controls the White House as well as Congress.

“If I were the president I would be very uncomfortable trashing somebody with whom I worked so closely for so long, because who knows what else Mr Bannon might want to talk about,” independent Senator Angus King told CNN.

Mr Bannon once described himself as a “Leninist” who wanted to “bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today’s establishment.” When Mr Trump won the election, he said the agenda was the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

Mr Bannon has cultivated an image as a maverick and street fighter. Ideologically he is widely seen as a white nationalist, but he has dismissed this, describing himself, instead, as an economic nationalist. He once referred to Mr Trump as his “blunt instrument.”

His own clout however, took a dent last month when Roy Moore, the Republican candidate he campaigned for in a special election the senate seat in Alabama, lost.

“Trump’s base loves Bannon” a political analyst who asked not to be named, told The Straits Times. “But Bannon is an agitator. He doesn’t care about the party. He just wants chaos.”

The Washington Post, quoting Mr Bannon’s allies, has reported, however, that he considered issuing a statement denouncing the book and denying some of his quotes, but Mr Trump attacked him first.

And, in a sign, that he may still back down, Mr Bannon struck a conciliatory note on his Breitbart News Tonight radio show on Wednesday night, telling a caller “the President of the United States is a great man.”

“You know I support him day in and day out, whether going through the country giving the Trump miracle speech or on the show or on the website,” he said.

How Mr Trump reacts to these feelers is anybody’s guess.

http://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/revelations-in-book-could-damage-trump

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Trump ex-Campaign Chair Manafort sues Mueller, Rosenstein, and Department of Justice

January 3, 2018

CNBC

By Tucker Higgins

Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, arrives to the U.S. Courthouse for a bond hearing in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, arrives to the U.S. Courthouse for a bond hearing in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has sued special counsel Robert Mueller, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and the U.S. Department of Justice, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

“The actions of DOJ and Mr. Rosenstein in issuing the Appointment Order, and Mr. Mueller’s actions pursuant to the authority the Order granted him, were arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with the law,” the suit reads.

Manafort was indicted Oct. 27 on 12 counts related to unlawful financial dealings.

This story is breaking. Check back for updates.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/03/trump-ex-campaign-chair-manafort-sues-mueller-rosenstein-and-department-of-justice.html

Australian diplomat’s tip led to Trump Russia probe: New York Times

December 31, 2017

A Trump campaign adviser’s revelations to the UK-based diplomat eventually prompted the FBI to open an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, a US newspaper reports.

Trump and Putin (picture-alliance/dpa/AP)

A tip from a top Australian diplomat helped persuade US authorities to investigate Russian attempts to intervene in the 2016 US presidential election, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

Australian officials passed on information to the FBI that the diplomat, Alexander Downer, had allegedly received from George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser to Donald Trump, during what the Times described as “a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar” in May 2016.

Papadopoulos, an ex-foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign who is now a cooperating witness in the investigation, reportedly told Downer that Russia had thousands of emails that would embarrass Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Downer, a former foreign minister, is Australia’s top diplomat in Britain.

“The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the FBI to open an investigation in July 2016,” the newspaper said.

Alexander Downer (Getty Images/AFP/D. Leal-Olivas)Alexander Downer has been Australia’s High Commissioner to the UK since 2014

The new revelation means that it was not just the so-called Steele dossier — allegations compiled by British intelligence agent Christopher Steele that Russia had collected damning information on Trump — that led to the probe, but also direct information from one of the US’s closest allies.

Read more: Donald Trump’s presidency: Taking stock and looking ahead

Closely guarded secret in the FBI

White House lawyer Ty Cobb declined to comment, saying in a statement that the administration was continuing to cooperate with the investigation now led by special counsel Robert Mueller “to help complete their inquiry expeditiously.”

Court documents unsealed two months ago show that in April 2016 Papadopoulos met with Joseph Mifsud, a professor in London who told him about Russia’s cache of emails — before the Democratic National Committee became aware of the intrusion into its email systems by hackers later linked to the Russian government.

The New York Times said that once the information from the Australian diplomat had reached the agency, the FBI kept it as one of their “most closely guarded secrets,” and avoided issuing subpoenas in the run-up to the election in November 2016, for fear of disrupting the campaigns.

Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo dismissed Papadopoulos as a volunteer “coffee boy” only marginal to the Trump campaign, though it has since emerged that the foreign policy aide brokered a meeting between Trump and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi before the election.

bk/se (AP, dpa)

http://www.dw.com/en/australian-diplomats-tip-led-to-trump-russia-probe-us-paper/a-41982452

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George Papadopoulos was working as an energy consultant in London when the Trump campaign named him a foreign policy adviser in early March 2016. Credit via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.

Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.

The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.

If Mr. Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and is now a cooperating witness, was the improbable match that set off a blaze that has consumed the first year of the Trump administration, his saga is also a tale of the Trump campaign in miniature. He was brash, boastful and underqualified, yet he exceeded expectations. And, like the campaign itself, he proved to be a tantalizing target for a Russian influence operation.

While some of Mr. Trump’s advisers have derided him as an insignificant campaign volunteer or a “coffee boy,” interviews and new documents show that he stayed influential throughout the campaign. Two months before the election, for instance, he helped arrange a New York meeting between Mr. Trump and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt.

Read the rest:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/30/us/politics/how-fbi-russia-investigation-began-george-papadopoulos.html

Partisan Divisions Emerge Over Future of Congressional Russia Investigations

December 31, 2017

Republicans seek to bring House and Senate probes to an end, while Democrats push for more investigative work

WASHINGTON—As Congress is set to return from the holiday break, sharp differences have emerged between Republicans and Democrats over the next steps in the congressional investigations into whether President Donald Trump or any of his associates colluded with Russia during the 2016 elections, with Democrats pushing for more investigative work and Republicans seeking to bring the probes to an end.

The chairmen of the two Republican-run investigations—which are separately being conducted by the House and Senate intelligence…

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/partisan-divisions-emerge-over-future-of-congressional-russia-investigations-1514721601
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Russia probes in Congress spill into 2018

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The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Some Republicans are hoping lawmakers will soon wrap up investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that have dragged on for most of the year. But with new details in the probe emerging almost daily, that seems unlikely.

Three congressional committees are investigating Russian interference and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign was in any way involved. The panels have obtained thousands of pages of documents from Trump’s campaign and other officials, and have done dozens of interviews.

The probes are separate from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Mueller can prosecute for criminal activity, while Congress can only lay out findings, publicize any perceived wrongdoing and pass legislation to try to keep problems from happening again. If any committee finds evidence of criminal activity, it must refer the matter to Mueller.

All three committees have focused on a June 2016 meeting that Trump campaign officials held in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer and others. They are also looking into outreach by several other Russians to the campaign, including involvement of George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty this month to lying to the FBI as part of Mueller’s probe. New threads continue to emerge, such as a recent revelation that Donald Trump Jr. was messaging with WikiLeaks, the website that leaked emails from top Democratic officials during the campaign.

A look at the committees that are investigating, and the status of their work when they return from their Thanksgiving break:

SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE

The Senate intelligence panel, which has been the most bipartisan in its approach, has interviewed more than 100 people, including most of those attending the Trump Tower meeting. Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina and the panel’s top Democrat, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, have said they plan to bring in Donald Trump Jr. The president’s son was one of several Trump campaign officials in the meeting.

The committee has looked broadly at the issue of interference, and called in executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google, pushing them to take steps to prevent Russian election meddling on their platforms. Warner told The Associated Press the committee is still looking for more information from those companies, which were initially reluctant to cooperate.

Burr has said he wants to wrap up the probe by early spring. He said Monday that he hopes the panel can “at a minimum” release recommendations on election security before next year’s congressional primaries begin.

While there are many areas of bipartisan agreement on the meddling, it’s unclear whether all members will agree to the final report. It’s also unclear if the report will make a strong statement on whether the Trump campaign colluded in any way with Russia.

Warner said it is plain there were “unprecedented contacts” as Russians reached out to the Trump campaign but what’s not established is collusion.

“What we don’t know is, is there a there there,” Warner said. “That’s still something I am reserving judgement on.”

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HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE

In the House, Democrats hope the intelligence committee can remain focused on the Russia probe as the panel’s GOP chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, and other Republicans have launched new, separate investigations into Democrat Hillary Clinton and a uranium deal during President Barack Obama’s administration. Nunes stepped back from the Russia probe in April after criticism that he was too close to the White House, but remains chairman of the committee.

Some Republicans on the panel have grown restless with the probe, saying it has amounted to a fishing expedition and pushing for it to end. Still, the committee has continued to interview dozens of witnesses involved with the Trump campaign, among them several participants in the 2016 meeting.

The top Democrat on the panel, California Rep. Adam Schiff, told AP the committee has multiple interviews before the New Year. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was scheduled to come before the committee this week, likely answering questions behind closed doors about interactions between Trump campaign aides and Russians, and also his own contacts.

The panel has also scheduled an interview Thursday with Erik Prince, the founder of the security firm Blackwater and a supporter of Trump’s campaign. The Washington Post reported earlier this year that Prince was involved in a secret meeting in the United Arab Emirates in January with a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin.

Prince’s interview will be behind closed doors but the transcript will eventually be released, according to the committee.

Schiff said the Republican investigations into Clinton and Obama could be “an enormous time drain,” but they have not yet fully organized. He says the committee must be thorough and he doesn’t believe the Russia investigation should end soon.

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SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

The Senate Judiciary Committee has also divided along partisan lines as Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the panel’s top Democrat, haven’t agreed on some interviews and subpoenas. But as in the House, the panel has proceeded anyway, conducting bipartisan, closed-door interviews with several people who were in the 2016 meeting.

The panel is showing recent signs that it is aggressively pursuing the investigation. The committee is the only one to have interviewed Trump Jr. And just before the Thanksgiving break, it sent Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a letter asking him to be more forthcoming with the committee.

Grassley has been focused on a law that requires foreign agents to register and the firing of James Comey as FBI director. Along with the other committees, Judiciary is also looking into a dossier of allegations about Trump’s own connections to Russia.

It’s not known if the panel will issue a final report, or if its probe will conclude before next year’s elections.

FILE – In this Nov. 1, 2017, file photo, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., right, speaks next to Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian election activity and technology on Capitol Hill in Washington. As Congress returns from its Thanksgiving break, some Republicans would like to wrap up investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that have dragged on for most of the year. But with new details in the probe emerging on an almost daily basis, that timeline seems unlikely. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

FILE – In this Oct. 24, 2017, file photo, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., center, standing with Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., left, and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., right, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. As Congress returns from its Thanksgiving break, some Republicans would like to wrap up investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that have dragged on for most of the year. But with new details in the probe emerging on an almost daily basis, that timeline seems unlikely. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

FILE – In this June 21, 2017, file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill in Washington. As Congress returns from its Thanksgiving break, some Republicans would like to wrap up investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that have dragged on for most of the year. But with new details in the probe emerging on an almost daily basis, that timeline seems unlikely. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Trump Speaks At FBI Academy — After Trashing the Bureau — “It’ll be bigger and better than ever.” — “We’ll Bring The FBI Back To Greatness.”

December 15, 2017

.@POTUS: 'It's a shame what's happened with the FBI. But we're going to rebuild the FBI. It'll be bigger and better than ever.'

“It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI. But we’re going to rebuild the FBI. It’ll be bigger and better than ever.”

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The White House said Friday newly revealed FBI records show there is “extreme bias” against President Donald Trump among senior leadership at the FBI. The accusation came hours before Trump was scheduled to speak at the FBI training academy in Quantico, Va.

President Donald Trump is expected to deliver remarks at the FBI National Academy graduation ceremony today at 10 a.m. ET. 

Trump, who has described the agency as “in tatters,” is to speak at a ceremony at the FBI campus for law enforcement leaders graduating from a program aimed at raising law enforcement standards.

Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told Fox News Channel that edits to former FBI Director James Comey’s statement on Hillary Clinton’s private email server and text messages from a top agent critical of Trump are “deeply troubling.”

“There is extreme bias against this president with high-up members of the team there at the FBI who were investigating Hillary Clinton at the time,” Gidley charged, as special counsel Robert Mueller pushes on with a probe of possible Trump campaign ties to Russia. Gidley says Trump maintains confidence in the FBI’s rank-and-file.

Edits to the Comey draft appeared to soften the gravity of the bureau’s finding in its 2016 investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state.

Gidley said the disclosure of politically charged text messages sent by one of the agents on the Clinton case, Peter Strzok, were “eye-opening.” Strzok, who was in the room as Clinton was interviewed, was later assigned to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to investigate potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. He was re-assigned after the messages were uncovered this summer.

About 200 leaders in law enforcement from around the country attended the weeks-long FBI National Academy program aimed at raising law enforcement standards and cooperation. Coursework included intelligence theory, terrorism and terrorist mindsets, law, behavioral science, law enforcement communication, and forensic science.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/watch-live-trump-to-deliver-graduation-speech-at-fbi-national-academy

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NBC News

 

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump lamented the “sad” state of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and promised to rebuilt “bigger and better than ever” ahead of a speech to academy graduates Friday.

As he departed the White House for Quantico, he told reporters “it’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI, but we’re going to rebuild the FBI, it’ll be bigger and better than ever”

Play
 Watch Live: Trump speaks at FBI National Academy graduation

Referencing the 90 pages of newly-released messages, critical of the president, between an FBI lawyer and an agent later assigned to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, Trump called it “sad when you look at those documents and how they’ve done that is really, really disgraceful and you have a lot of very angry people that are seeing it.”

When Mueller learned of the exchanges last summer, he removed the agent from the team.

Trump tweeted earlier this month that the FBI’s “reputation is in tatters,” prompting FBI staffers — including Trump’s own pick to head the agency after he fired former director James Comey — to defend it against the president’s assertions.

After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters – worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.

“The FBI that I see is tens of thousands of agents and analysts and staff working their tails off to keep Americans safe from the next terrorist attack, gang violence, child predators, spies from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran,” FBI director Christopher Wray said last week during an appearance in front of the House Judiciary.

During the passionate, two-minute long defense, Wray described the FBI he leads as “respected and appreciated by our partners in federal, state, and local law enforcement, in the intelligence community, and by our foreign counterparts in both law enforcement and national security in something like 200 countries around the globe.”

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-laments-sad-state-fbi-ahead-speech-academy-graduates-n830026

Democrats Are Walking Into a Trumpian Trap — Living in the “House of Outrage”

December 15, 2017

Opinion

Doug Jones supporters celebrate victory. Credit Bob Miller for The New York Times

Take a walk with me, dear reader, into the yard, down the street — anywhere, really, just so that we can step outside of our house of outrage. It’s a roomy house, with space for everyone from woke progressives to disillusioned conservatives. It’s a good house, filled with people united in a just and defiant cause. It’s a harmonious house, thrumming with the sound of people agreeing vigorously.

And lately, we’ve started to believe we’re … winning.

We breathed relief Tuesday night when Roy Moore went down to his well-earned political death, like Jack Nicholson’s Joker at the end of Batman. We roared when Robert Mueller extracted a guilty plea from a cooperative Michael Flynn, and the investigative noose seemed to tighten around Donald Trump’s neck. We cheered when Democrat Ralph Northam trounced Ed Gillespie after the Republican took the low road with anti-immigrant demagogy.

It’s all lining up. Democrats have an 11-point edge over Republicans in the generic congressional ballot. The president’s approval rating is barely scraping 37 percent. Nearly six in 10 Americans say the United States is on the “wrong track.” Isn’t revenge in 2018 starting to taste sweet — and 2020 even sweeter?

Don’t bet on it. Democrats are making the same mistakes Republicans made when they inhabited their own house of outrage, back in 1998.

You remember. The year of the wagged finger and the stained blue dress. Of a president who abused women, lied about it, and used his power to bomb other countries so he could distract from his personal messes. Of a special prosecutor whose investigation overstepped its original bounds. Of half the country in a moral fever to impeach. Of the other half determined to dismiss sexual improprieties, defend a democratically elected leader and move on with the business of the country.

Oh, also the year in which the Dow Jones industrial average jumped by 16 percent, the unemployment rate fell to a 28-year low, and Democrats gained seats in Congress. Bill Clinton, as we all know, survived impeachment and left office with a strong economic record and a 66-percent approval rating.

If nothing else, 1998 demonstrated the truth of the unofficial slogan on which Clinton had first run for president: It’s the economy, stupid. Prosperity trumps morality. The wealth effect beats the yuck factor. That may not have held true in Moore’s defeat, but it’s not every day that an alleged pedophile runs for office. Even so, he damn well nearly won.

1998 also showed that, when it comes to sex, we Americans forgive easily; that, when it comes to women, we don’t always believe readily; and that, when it comes to presidents, we want them to succeed. However else one might feel about Mueller — or, for that matter, Ken Starr — nobody elected them to anything.

Which brings us back to Trump. Democrats may like their polling numbers, but here are a few others for them to consider.

The first is 3.3 percent, last quarter’s annual growth rate, the highest in three years. Next is 1.7 percent, the core inflation rate, meaning interest rates are unlikely to rise very sharply. Also, 4.1 percent, the unemployment rate, which is down half a percentage point, or nearly 800,000 workers, since the beginning of the year. Finally, 24 percent, which is the rise in the Dow Jones industrial average since Trump became president — one of the market’s best performances ever.

Democrats will find plenty of ways to explain that these numbers aren’t quite as good as they sound — they are not — or that we’re setting ourselves up for a big crash — we might well be — or that the deficit is only getting bigger — it is, but so what? Politically speaking, none of that matters. Trump enters 2018 with a robust economy that will, according to the estimate of the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, grow stronger thanks to the tax bill.

What about the outrage over the president’s behavior? Kirsten Gillibrand and other Senate Democrats have called on Trump to resign following new accusations of sexual harassment and assault. Good luck getting him to agree. Tom Steyer and other liberal plutocrats want the president impeached and thrown out of office. Good luck electing 67 Democrats to the Senate.

Every minute wasted on that whale hunt is a minute the Democrats neglect to make an affirmative case for themselves.

Which leaves us with Mueller. All of us in the house of outrage are eager for the special counsel to find the goods on the president and Russia, obstruction, financial shenanigans, anything. The clues seem so obvious, the evidence so tantalizingly close.

Yet we should also know that the wish tends to be the father of the thought. What if Mueller comes up short in finding evidence of collusion? What if the worst Mueller’s got is one bad tweet that, maybe, constitutes evidence of obstruction? And what if further doubts are raised about the impartiality of the investigation? The president’s opponents have made a huge political bet on an outcome that’s far from clear. Anything less than complete vindication for our side may wind up as utter humiliation.

Dear reader, I too live in the house of outrage, for all the usual reasons. Just beware, beware of growing comfortable in it. As in 1998, it just might turn out to be a house of losers.

The FBI’s Trump ‘Insurance’

December 14, 2017

More troubling evidence of election meddling at the bureau.

Democrats and the media are accusing anyone who criticizes special counsel Robert Mueller as Trumpian conspirators trying to undermine his probe. But who needs critics when Mr. Mueller’s team is doing so much to undermine its own credibility?

Wednesday’s revelations—they’re coming almost daily—include the Justice Department’s release of 2016 text messages to and from Peter Strzok, the FBI counterintelligence agent whom Mr. Mueller demoted this summer. The texts, which he exchanged with senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page, contain…

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-fbis-trump-insurance-1513210929

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‘We Can’t Take That Risk’ — FBI Officials Discussed ‘Insurance Policy’ Against Trump Presidency

By CHUCK ROSS
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Two FBI officials who worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation exchanged text messages last year in which they appear to have discussed ways to prevent Donald Trump from being elected president.

“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok wrote in a cryptic text message to Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer and his mistress.

“It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40,” Strzok wrote in the text, dated Aug. 15, 2016.

Andy is likely Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

The text message is one of 375 released Tuesday night ahead of a House Judiciary Committee hearing with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. (RELATED: Strzok Called Trump An ‘Idiot’ In Text To Fellow Mueller Investigator)

Several congressional panels have sought the text messages since their existence was revealed earlier this month. Strzok, who was a top investigator on both the Trump investigation and the Clinton email probe, was kicked off of Mueller’s team over the summer after the text messages were discovered.

It remains unclear why the existence of the texts was not disclosed until nearly four months after Strzok was removed from the Mueller investigation.

Strzok and Page’s exchanges show a deep disdain for Trump and admiration for Clinton. In a text sent on Oct. 20, 2016, Strzok called the Republican a “f*cking idiot.”

In on Aug. 6 text, Strzok responded to an article shared by Page by replying, “F Trump.”

The pair exchanged another cryptic text message that same day.

“Maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace,” Page wrote.

“I can protect our country at many levels, not sure if that helps,” Strzok replied.

Like many of the exchanges, the full context of the message is not entirely clear.

Strzok also offered praise for Clinton while suggesting that he planned to vote for her.

In a March 2, 2016 text Strzok said he would likely vote for Clinton. In another exchange he wrote that if Trump won the Republican primary, Clinton would likely win the presidency.

“God Hillary should win 100,000,000 – 0,” he told Page.

Strzok also congratulated Page after Clinton clinched the Democratic party nomination.

“Congrats on a woman nominated for President in a major party! About damn time!” he wrote in a July 26, 2016 text.

While he was praising Clinton, Strzok was working at the center of the investigation into the Democrat’s use of a private email server. He emailed Clinton on July 2, 2016 — three days before then-FBI Director James Comey cleared her of criminal wrongdoing. (RELATED: FBI Agent Praised Hillary Clinton While Leading Email Investigation)

In the weeks before and after his politically-charged texts, Strzok interviewed several Clinton aides who sent and received classified emails that ended up on Clinton’s email server.

Two of those aides were Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills. Both appear to have provided misleading responses to questions about their awareness of Clinton’s use of a private server. But despite their false statements, neither Abedin nor Mills were charged with lying to the FBI. (RELATED: Clinton Aides Went Unpunished Despite Giving Misleading Statements In FBI Interview)

That’s in contrast with another Strzok interview subject: Retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn.

Strzok interviewed the then-national security adviser at the White House on Jan. 24 regarding Flynn’s conversations during the presidential transition period with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Flynn pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to the FBI during that interview.

Strzok was picked to oversee the Russia investigation at the end of July 2016, several weeks after the Clinton probe ended.

http://dailycaller.com/2017/12/13/fbi-officials-discussed-insurance-policy-against-trump-presidency/

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Top Justice Department Official Defends Russia Investigation Amid Republican Criticism — “DOJ’s reputation as an impartial arbiter of justice has been called into question.”

December 13, 2017

Rod Rosenstein says the agency’s employees are honest and trustworthy, ‘with very few exceptions’

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A top Justice Department official on Wednesday defended the integrity of the agency’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, telling Congress he was working with special counsel Robert Mueller to ensure the investigation wouldn’t be affected by the political affiliations of any of its prosecutors.

“We have employees with political opinions. It is our responsibility to ensure those opinions do not influence our actions. I believe Mr. Mueller understands that. He is running that office appropriately,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said at the start of a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. He told Congress the agency’s employees are “with very few exceptions” honest and trustworthy.

Mr. Rosenstein is expected to face a series of questions from lawmakers about the Russia investigation.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday on the Justice Department's investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday on the Justice Department’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. PHOTO: SCALZO/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK
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The hearing comes one day after text messages between a top FBI agent and an FBI lawyerdisparaging then-candidate Donald Trump were turned over to Congress, including messages calling Mr. Trump an “idiot” and a “menace.” Both FBI officials were involved in the Clinton email investigation as well as the Russia probe.

House Republican harshly criticized the Justice Department, citing the texts and donations to Democrats made by some of Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors as evidence of bias in individuals involved in the Russia investigation.

“DOJ’s reputation as an impartial arbiter of justice has been called into question,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.), who chairs the House panel. “These text messages prove what we all suspected: High-ranking FBI officials involved in the Clinton investigation were personally invested in the outcome of the election.”

Mr. Goodlatte called for Mr. Rosenstein to appoint a second special prosecutor to look into alleged political bias at the department.

Supporters of Mr. Mueller’s investigation have dismissed the criticisms as politically motivated attempts to distract from a legitimate probe.

“The department cannot simply assign a special counsel to look at things that bother the White House,” said New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the committee. “The president’s call for an investigation of the investigation is, at best, wildly dangerous to our democratic institutions.”

Mr. Nadler defended FBI agent Peter Strzok and agency lawyer Lisa Page, saying they were allowed to privately express their political opinions.

Mr. Rosenstein said he believed Mr. Mueller took appropriate action in removing Mr. Strzok from the Russia investigation immediately upon learning of the text messages.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/top-justice-department-official-defends-russia-investigation-amid-republican-criticism-1513182559