Posts Tagged ‘Russian interference’

Democrats seek to investigate Trump’s ouster of Sessions amid fears for Russia probe

November 9, 2018

Democrats on Thursday demanded emergency hearings in Congress to investigate President Donald Trump’s ouster of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, calling the move an effort to undermine a federal probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Trump forced the resignation of Sessions on Wednesday, a day after elections in which his fellow Republicans lost control of the House but increased their majority in the Senate.

In a letter saying the move placed the country “in the throes of a constitutional crisis,” House Judiciary Committee Democrats demanded action from the panel’s Republican Chairman Bob Goodlatte, and called for bipartisan legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from any effort to stymie the probe.

A spokeswoman for Goodlatte had no comment on the letter. Congressional Democrats, including newly elected members of the House of Representatives, held a conference call on Thursday to discuss Sessions’ ouster, Democratic lawmakers and aides said.

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Jerrold Nadler is expected to become House Judiciary chairman

Mueller is investigating Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election and any collusion by Trump’s campaign.

Trump, who denies any collusion, has long complained about the probe, calling it a witch hunt.

He had frequently publicly castigated Sessions for recusing himself last year from the case.

During the Thursday conference call, House Democrats said they would attempt to include legislation protecting Mueller’s investigation into an appropriations bill that Congress is due to consider later this year.

“This (Sessions’ ouster) just makes us all the more want to make sure we have that special counsel protection bill passed or added to any spending bill that may be moving in the (end-of-year) session,” said Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin.

“We are watching what appears to be continued obstruction by this White House,” Pocan said in a telephone interview.

He said Democrats were concerned about what the Trump administration might do next concerning the special counsel probe: “Anyone writing even a dime store novel knows what the next couple of steps are on this.”

The office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, did not respond to a request for comment on the Democrats’ request to put protections for the special counsel probe into spending legislation.

Trump named Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, as acting attorney general, saying he would soon nominate a permanent replacement for review by the Senate.

That drew criticism from Democrats because Whitaker, who would now take over responsibility for overseeing Mueller and his investigation, has been critical of the Mueller probe, saying it should be scaled back.

Separately, House Judiciary Democrats called on Whitaker in a letter to recuse himself and keep the Mueller investigation under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a career Justice Department official who has given the special counsel full scope to pursue leads.

Rosenstein had the role of supervising the probe because of Sessions’ recusal.

The Democrats said they also want the Justice Department to protect the integrity of Mueller’s investigation and to preserve relevant documents.

“The forced firing of Attorney General Sessions appears to be part of an ongoing pattern of behavior by the president seeking to undermine (the) investigation into Russian interference,” said the letter to Goodlatte, written by Representative Jerrold Nadler, the committee’s top Democrat, and 16 other Democrats who sit on the panel.

Nadler is expected to become House Judiciary chairman when a Democratic House majority, elected in Tuesday’s midterm elections, takes over in the new Congress that convenes in January.

“The president’s actions have plunged the country into peril,” the Democrats added. “By forcing the firing (of) the attorney general, the president now threatens the rule of law itself.”

Bipartisan bills to protect Mueller from politically motivated removal have been introduced in the House and Senate.

One was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in April, making it eligible for a full Senate vote. But no action is expected.



WSJ To Trump: Instead of Twitter rants, how about releasing the FBI’s Russia files? (Get Smarter, Not Louder)

August 2, 2018

Declassify Russia Files 

Robert Mueller on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 21, 2017.
Robert Mueller on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 21, 2017. PHOTO: JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS

No one knows if Donald Trump is serious or trolling when he tweets, and an example is his Wednesday rant that his Attorney General should end the special counsel probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016. Assuming Mr. Trump is even remotely serious, it’s worth repeating why Democrats are yearning, aching, praying for him to fire Robert Mueller.

“This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further,” Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday. “Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!”

Mr. Sessions is likely to ignore Mr. Trump because he has recused himself from supervising Mr. Mueller. But let’s assume Mr. Trump does order Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein to shut down the Mueller probe. Mr. Rosenstein, who appointed Mr. Mueller, is likely to resign before he follows that order. Others in the Justice chain of command would do the same.

But even if Mr. Trump did find someone to fire Mr. Mueller, the practical effect on the Russia investigation might be negligible. The office of special counsel contains multiple prosecutors and FBI agents who have been collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses. Mr. Trump would have to fire them too, though they could still talk to the press and to Congress.

For that matter, what’s to stop a U.S. Attorney from picking up some of the Mueller evidence and moving ahead? Mr. Trump would be denounced far and wide, and he would have given voters reason to think he’s guilty, yet he might not even stop the investigation.

Mr. Trump would also pay an enormous, perhaps debilitating, political price. A dismissal of Mr. Mueller would be the dominant midterm election issue, swamping good news about the economy. Democrats would argue that a Democratic Congress is needed to rein in a rogue President, and swing-district Republicans would be hard-pressed to defend him. A Democratic wave would be that much more likely, and our guess is that Republicans would lose the House and Senate.

In that scenario, Mr. Trump’s impeachment by the House would be close to certain. Even without an official special-counsel report, the House could gin up its own investigative machinery, calling witnesses and collecting evidence already teed up by Mr. Mueller’s work to date. Conviction by two-thirds of the Senate might be unlikely, but that depends on what Democrats turn up. Mr. Trump might hope for a political backlash in 2020, but that usually sounds better in theory than it works in practice. Ask Al Gore about 2000 after eight years of Clinton scandals.

We can appreciate Mr. Trump’s frustration that what began as an FBI counterintelligence probe in 2016 has now stretched past two years. Mr. Mueller should also appreciate that he has a duty to the country to wrap this up sooner rather than later.

But the damage from firing Mr. Mueller is so predictable that’s it hard to believe even Mr. Trump would tempt such a fate—especially since there’s a smarter strategy. Start declassifying and releasing documents related to the FBI and Justice probes going back to 2016. We’ve laid out the list that would help the public understand what happened.

If Justice officials resign to protest such an order, they’ll be doing so in the name of secrecy. Mr. Trump will be acting in the interests of transparency. Meantime, Mr. Trump would avoid making every Democrat’s day by firing Mr. Mueller.

Appeared in the August 2, 2018, print edition.



Trump Should Declassify FBI and Justice Material Congress has Subpoenaed On Russia Probe

July 17, 2018

The Speech Trump Should Give

‘I order declassified all FBI and Justice material Congress has subpoenaed.’

President Donald Trump during a news conference after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, July 16.
President Donald Trump during a news conference after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, July 16. PHOTO: METZEL MIKHAIL/ZUMA PRESS



My fellow citizens: More than 20 months have passed since you elected me your president. Unfortunately, America remains polarized by that election, which was marked by Russian interference, FBI investigations into both candidates or campaigns, and questions whether some powerful federal agencies themselves tried to influence the outcome.

We still have more questions than answers. Tonight I address you from the Oval Office to tell you the step I am now taking to ensure that the American people will finally get the complete story.

At the heart of our democratic system is accountability. Inspectors general and special counsels and criminal prosecutions may all have a role here. Still, under our Constitution the primary accountability is to the American people via their elected representatives.

Unfortunately Congress has been stymied in its subpoenas for documents that would fill the remaining holes in the story. These holes include what really prompted the FBI to begin its investigation of my campaign, as well as how parts of our government used a dossier full of salacious material that was never verified and was produced and paid for by my rival’s campaign. Even where Congress has access to key information—for example, the application for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant to spy on an American connected with my campaign—lawmakers cannot make the information public because it is classified.

I am moved to act tonight in good part by last week’s spectacle on Capitol Hill featuring former FBI romantic partners Lisa Page and Peter Strzok. Ms. Page at first defied a congressional subpoena to testify. I will not comment on Mr. Strzok’s testimony. More telling was the reason Mr. Strzok gave for not answering most of the most critical questions Congress put to him: The FBI had instructed him not to.

As a result, we still do not know when the FBI investigation into my campaign started. I would have preferred Congress to receive the information it needs through the normal give and take of oversight. But Mr. Strzok’s public testimony suggests that our law-enforcement and intelligence agencies still have not gotten the message that they are not “independent” of congressional oversight. Other evidence this message has not been received includes their slow-walking of information under subpoena and their redaction of vital details in the documents they have turned over.

My order tonight reminds the FBI and Justice Department, along with every other part of the executive branch, that they are not independent of the president. The authority to classify and declassify information is part of a president’s constitutional powers as commander in chief. In this capacity, I am ordering the declassification of all material subpoenaed by Congress regarding Russia and collusion and possible FBI or Justice Department abuses.

I also am ordering the director of national intelligence to work with Congress to develop a process that fully protects the sources and methods used to gather information even as it aims for maximum transparency. Where the director determines information must be redacted, he will let the appropriate committee chairmen and leaders in Congress see it to ensure nothing is being hidden to cover up wrongdoing or embarrassment. Where bad behavior is found, it will be punished, even if it includes members of my own team. And those in the executive branch who fail to carry out my order will be dismissed and replaced.

I have tremendous respect for the men and women of the FBI. But a small group of their leaders, concentrated in the bureau’s Washington headquarters and believing themselves unanswerable to authority, have given the bureau a black eye. These includes a former deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, who may face criminal charges for lying to investigators under oath. The purpose of my order is to get the full story out—as opposed to the selective and self-serving leaks we have seen so far, including those by then-FBI Director James Comey himself.

My order is also limited. Nothing in it prevents Congress from exercising its own constitutional powers to impeach officials it finds in dereliction, or to hold them in contempt until they testify. Nor does my order impinge in any way on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

The principle here should be clear. Under our Constitution, the unelected parts of government are accountable to the elected—not vice versa.

Far too often in America’s history, we have seen how “national security” has been invoked by those trying to keep the public from finding out about their own malfeasance. So when people criticize this order, ask them this: Why don’t you want to know? And why are you so determined to keep Congress from finding out?

I myself do not know what is in all these documents. But I am confident in my order because it returns responsibility for imposing consequences and accountability where it rightly belongs: with you, the American people.

Thank you, and God bless America.

Write to

Appeared in the July 17, 2018, print edition.

Juan Williams: Putin wins as GOP spins

July 16, 2018

On Monday, President Trump will meet one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

The big question is: Why is Trump meeting with Putin at all?

On Friday, 12 Russian intelligence operatives were indicted by a U.S. grand jury for a conspiracy to interfere with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign while helping Trump win the White House.

By Juan Williams
The Hill
July 16, 2018

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US President Donald Trump meets with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Right now, the Russians are already busy hacking into the 2018 midterms. 

“With the U.S. midterms approaching, Russian trolls found ways to remain active on Twitter well into 2018, trying to rile up the American electorate with tweets on everything from Roseanne Barr’s firing to Donald Trump Jr.’s divorce,” the Wall Street Journal reported last week.

Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) recently explained the Russian interference as an ongoing successful propaganda effort intended to “create instability and doubt in governments, because they believe they benefit from the chaos and loss of confidence in U.S. institutions.”

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James Langford

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a former Republican senator, said on Friday that “the warning lights are blinking red again” when it comes to the danger from Russian cyberattacks.

But President Trump doesn’t see a problem. “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election,” the president tweeted June 28.

And a Gallup survey released last week found Trump’s view is leading his fellow Republicans to embrace Russia. “The percentage of Republicans calling Russia a friend or ally is up sharply since 2014, from 22 percent to 40 percent,” the pollsters reported.

Last week in London, Trump was pushed to say he will bring up Russian interference in U.S. politics but he predicted little would come of it.

“I don’t think you’ll have any ‘Gee, I did it, I did it, you got me,’” Trump said downplaying Russian interference. “There won’t be a Perry Mason here…But I will absolutely firmly ask the question. And hopefully we’ll have a very good relationship with Russia.”

Democrats are pointed in explaining why Trump sees no problem.

Putin “supported President Trump over Hillary Clinton,” said Eliot Engel (D- N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in May.

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Eliot Engel

Engel added: “If we allow foreign interference in our elections so long as it supports our political objectives, then we’ve put party before country and put our democracy in crisis.”

That did not stop a delegation of seven Republican senators and a congresswoman from going to Russia recently on what looked like a water carrying mission for Trump’s alternative reality.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R- Wis.), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, came back to Capitol Hill to say that Russian interference in U.S. elections, while not acceptable, is “not the greatest threat to our democracy,” and “we’ve blown it way out of proportion.”

He later said the Republican visitors had warned the Russians about interference.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who led the delegation to Russia over the Independence Day break, offered a Trump-like view of U.S.-Russian relations:

“The United States does not want, nor does it need, to resume a Cold War posture with Russia, and our delegation trip was a small step towards trying to ensure that does not happen,” he said.

That led Sen. Ben Cardin (D- Md.) to say the delegation’s trip made it clear “there are members of the Senate who are either naïve or they don’t recognize the real risk factors that Russia imposes on our system of government.”

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Ben Cardin

And last week the president appeared to distance himself from U.S. allies as if pursuing a Russian agenda.

A translated clip from Russian state-run television has gone viral in progressive media circles showing a Russian commentator marveling at Trump’s trashing of NATO.

“I never thought I’d live to see this!” the Russian commentator exclaims. “Neither the USSR nor Russia, who tried many times to drive the wedge between transatlantic allies, but the main player, Washington, and President Trump himself is doing everything to break down the foundations of transatlantic alliance and unity.”

In fact, Trump falsely claimed that Germany was a “captive” to Putin because “60 to 70 percent of their energy comes from Russia.”

The insulting mischaracterization drew a sharp rebuke from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“I myself experienced a part of Germany that was controlled by the Soviet Union, and I am very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany,” Merkel said. “We decide our own policies and make our own decisions, and that’s very good.”

By contrast, Trump never misses an opportunity to say nice things about Vladimir Putin.

As a candidate, he said Putin was “a leader far more than our President (Obama)” and a “strong leader.”

And despite pleas from his aides, Trump congratulated Putin on his election victory earlier this year — legitimizing what many international observers believe to be a sham election.

Meanwhile, Trump’s former campaign manager awaits trial for illicit ties to Russia and his former National Security Adviser stands a felon for lying about his contacts with Russia.

Trump is banking on Soviet-style propaganda in the U.S. to make Russian interference, along with the Mueller investigation, into a partisan issue.

The winner in all of this madness is Putin. He is dividing Americans against themselves and America against her allies.

Only the American voters can stop it.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.


Sen. Rand Paul: Asking for Russian hackers’ extradition a ‘moot point’—

Did Hillary’s email security negligence as U.S. Secretary of State invite Russian cyber meddling?

Controversial FBI official Peter Strzok denies bias against Trump affected his work

July 12, 2018
Peter Strzok, the veteran FBI counterintelligence official who became a White House punching bag for sending critical texts about Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, pushed back angrily against Republican accusations Thursday that he was biased in his work, insisting that he never let his political views affect his investigations.

“Let me be clear, unequivocally and under oath: Not once in my 26 years of defending my nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took,” Strzok told the House Judiciary and Oversight committees in a joint hearing marked by harsh partisan sparring and sometimes fiery exchanges.

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Strzok added that during the 2016 campaign, he had information that “had the potential to derail and quite possibly defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind.” He did not reveal the material.

In his first public testimony since his anti-Trump texts were disclosed last year, the FBI agent sat stiffly, held his chin high and struck a defiant tone at times, even suggesting the Republican pummeling of him lent tacit support to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to undermine U.S. democracy.

“Today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart,” he said.

Strzok played a leading role in the FBI’s investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of State. Last year, he was reassigned from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team after it emerged he had exchanged private texts critical of Trump with Lisa Page, a former FBI attorney, during the campaign.

Rep. Bob W. Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, questioned Strzok’s ability to remain neutral in the investigations given the tenor of his texts with Page.

“We don’t want to read text message after text message dripping with bias against one of the two presidential candidates,” Goodlatte said in his opening statement.

He added that the congressional inquiry “goes to the very heart of our system of justice,” which he said Strzok and others from the FBI and the Justice Department have turned “on its head.”

Strzok calmly countered accusations that his text messages revealed bias, arguing that although every person has political beliefs, FBI agents are trained to leave such beliefs at the door.

Pressed with specific questions about the FBI investigation, Strzok refused to answer. When Goodlatte threatened to hold him in contempt, Strzok replied that the FBI counsel had instructed him not to speak about the probe.

Reading several of Strzok’s text messages back to him, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) accused Strzok of having an “unusual and largely self-serving” definition of bias.

“He thinks promising to stop someone he is supposed to be fairly investigating from ever becoming president isn’t bias,” he said.

“Strzok even talked about impeachment the day the special counsel was appointed,” he add. “That is prejudging guilt, prejudging punishment, and that is textbook bias.”

House Democrats accused Goodlatte of using his investigation of Strzok to interfere with Mueller’s investigation.

Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the senior Democrat on the committee, said the committees’ focus on the “internal workings of the special counsel’s investigation” distracted from critical questions of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and determining how to protect future U.S. elections from foreign influence.

“In the majority’s view, we do not have time to conduct oversight on almost any national security issue — but we have hours on end to discuss Mr. Strzok’s extramarital affair,” Nadler said.

Strzok testified on June 27 before the House Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a closed-door session that lasted over 11 hours. Last week, the Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena to bring him in for a second round of questioning, this time in a public hearing.

Strzok and Page allegedly were involved in an extramarital affair during the presidential race. Page also worked on the FBI’s investigations of Russian election interference and Clinton’s emails.

At one point, Page texted Strzok, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok replied, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.” The text surfaced in a Justice Department inspector general report that was sharply critical of Strzok.

In a fiery exchange during the hearing, Gowdy interrogated Strzok about the meaning of that text and the reason for his removal from the special counsel investigation.

“It is not my understanding he kicked me off because of any bias. It was based on the appearance,” Strzok said. “If you want to represent what you said accurately, I’m happy to answer that question. I don’t appreciate what was originally said being changed.”

“I don’t give a damn what you appreciate,” Gowdy shot back.

Strzok said that the text was sent “late at night, off the cuff,” and he attempted to provide context over Gowdy’s repeated interruptions.

The message, Strzok said, was “a response to a series of events that included then-candidate Trump insulting the immigrant family of a fallen war hero and my presumption, based on that horrible, disgusting behavior, that the American population would not elect someone demonstrating that behavior to be the president of the United States.”

He added that it in “no way” suggested that he or the FBI would interfere with the electoral process for any candidate. His comments were met with applause from House Democrats.

Page resigned from the FBI in May. An FBI spokesperson would not comment on Strzok’s employment status.

In the months since their text messages were disclosed, Strzok and Page have become targets of House Republicans and President Trump, who have sought to portray the Mueller investigation as irreparably biased against the president.

On Tuesday, Trump took aim at Strzok and Page as he flew to a NATO conference in Brussels, tweeting that he had heard “reports that the FBI lovers … are getting cold feet on testifying about the Rigged Witch Hunt.”

Strzok’s attorney, Aitan Goelman, says Republican lawmakers have misled the public about Strzok’s role for partisan purposes.

“Members of Congress have made this as difficult as possible — first demanding a secretive hearing and then selectively leaking and misrepresenting his words — but Pete will continue to play by the rules and act with integrity,” Goelman said in a statement.

Goelman and House Democrats have repeatedly called for the release of Strzok’s closed-door testimony and have accused House Republicans of not giving Strzok a fair hearing.

The two House committees also sought to interview Page, but she defied a congressional subpoena, declining to appear for a closed-door interview Wednesday.

Page’s attorney, Amy Jeffress, said Page had volunteered to testify later this month but needs more information on the scope of the hearing and access to certain documents in order to prepare. Jeffress said the Justice Department didn’t grant Page’s request to review the “relevant documents” until 11 p.m. Tuesday.

The committees’ “bullying tactics here are unnecessary,” Jeffress said. “We expect them to agree to another date so that Lisa can appear before the committees in the near future.”

Page’s decision to defy the subpoena generated outrage from House Republicans.

“It appears that Lisa Page has something to hide,” Goodlatte said in a statement Wednesday. He said the committee would use “all tools at our disposal” to obtain Page’s testimony.


Times staff writer Chris Megerian contributed to this report.

Congress – FBI Sandoff: Trey Gowdy Says Congress Ready To Use “Full Arsenal of Constitutional Weapons” To Make FBI/DOJ Comply With Document Requests

June 18, 2018

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy said on ‘FOX News Sunday’ that House Republicans would hold top FBI and Justice Department officials in contempt of Congress if they fail to comply with subpoenas for sensitive documents championed by Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes.

Gowdy, Nunes, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte met on Friday with FBI and DOJ officials and “went item by item” through the outstanding subpoenas, Gowdy said.

“And Paul Ryan made it very clear: There’s going to be action on the floor of the House this week if the FBI and DOJ do not comply with our subpoena requests,” Gowdy said. House Republicans will use their “full arsenal of constitutional weapons to gain compliance.”

“Including contempt of Congress?” host Chris Wallace asked.

“That would be among them, yes sir,” Gowdy replied. “I don’t want the drama. I want the documents. There is no ambiguity, the Speaker of the House was really clear: you’re going to comply or there’s going to be floor action, and I think they got the message.”

He also said that the Justice Department’s inspector general report on the handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe helps President Trump.



On how the DOJ’s IG Report impacts @realDonaldTrump, @TGowdySC tells Chris: “It certainly helps him”
Watch the full interview at 2PM & 7PM ET @FoxNews

Asked by anchor Chris Wallace if the report exonerates Trump, Gowdy said, “it certainly helps him.”

Gowdy said the report proved that the same agents involved in the Clinton email investigation later went on to bias investigations into Trump.

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“The same people, the same players that were involved in the Clinton probe later moved to the Russian probe. [Former CIA Director] John Brennan, who said he should be in the dustpan of history, [former FBI Director] Jim Comey, who said impeachment was too good of a remedy, [former Attorney General] Loretta Lynch, who wanted Hillary Clinton to win,” Gowdy said.



Full interview:

From Fox News Sunday:

Full Gowdy Interview


Open Up the Horowitz Secret Appendix — We Need to Know More About The I.G. Report on the FBI, Justice Department Findings

June 17, 2018

The public needs to know the history of the Russian info that had a big effect on Mr. Comey’s decisions.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Washington, D.C., July 26, 2017.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Washington, D.C., July 26, 2017.PHOTO: ZACH GIBSON/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report points to multiple irregularities in FBI chief James Comey’s actions in the 2016 election campaign, sees no evidence of political bias, but never really gets to the bottom of why Mr. Comey played the role he did.

Mr. Comey may have been worried that a Justice Department decision not to prosecute Mrs. Clinton would lack credibility, but it was in no sense his obligation to solve this problem. It simply was not the FBI chief’s job to relieve the Obama administration of the need to sell its decision to the electorate. This is why we have elections. It’s what political accountability is all about.

This is where Russia enters in. It is highly absurd at this point to keep this information secret, as Mr. Horowitz does in a classified appendix.

We already know from press reporting last year that the FBI was in possession of some kind of Russian intercept of a purported Democratic email that referred to an alleged conversation between Clinton aide Amanda Renteria and Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Mr. Horowitz says Mr. Comey did not find the information credible, didn’t investigate it, and didn’t tell his Justice Department superiors about it.

Except that as recently as a few weeks ago in a TV interview Mr. Comey indicated the information might not be false. Hmm.

One more thing we learn: The same classified source reported an allegation that Mr. Comey himself would seek to delay the Hillary investigation to aid Republicans.

So the information wasn’t credible, wasn’t investigated, and wasn’t shared with his superiors. We also don’t know which agency it came from or what discussions about its relevance took place. And yet it was hugely consequential. Mr. Comey himself tells us in his memoir that this classified information was pivotal to his decision to intervene. He feared it would leak and be used to discredit any DOJ decision to clear Mrs. Clinton.

Let’s pause here. Readers may have noticed a slight elision in my May 30 column on these matters. Mr. Comey’s second intervention, the one reopening the Hillary investigation shortly before the election, was one intervention that was not based on Russian intelligence.

It was also the one intervention decidedly not urged on Mr. Comey or favored by his Obama administration colleagues.

But consider: Mr. Comey by this point could not have failed to notice that all the FBI’s interventions were tending to benefit Mrs. Clinton. He could not have failed to notice that the intelligence basis for his actions (e.g., the Steele dossier) was disconcertingly thin.

He would have been lacking in shrewdness not to wonder if Obama spy masters were playing him for a sap. When the Anthony Weiner laptop surfaced, he would have had every reason to be eager to re-establish his bona fides with his GOP congressional overseers as somebody who in retrospect would be seen to have played an evenhanded role in the election.

Voilà. Yet this line of inquiry has not been so much neglected as dropped by the media. Virtually no press accounts this week even mention Mr. Horowitz’s classified appendix.

This is not exactly surprising. Democrats and Mr. Trump’s press critics ecstatically embraced the Russian interference theme but, unfortunately for them, the Russian interference theme also gives coherence and motive to the story they wish to ignore. This story concerns a consistent pattern of meddling in the race by our own intelligence agencies, using Russian intelligence as an excuse.

Indeed, a fact becomes clearer than ever, especially from the poorly self-serving babblings of former Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper : The now-defunct theory that Mr. Trump was Russia’s cat’s-paw had been widely adopted at the highest echelons of the Obama administration. It inspired many of the administration’s actions.

It almost goes without saying that Russia at first would have looked on Mr. Trump’s candidacy as the U.S. establishment did, as a joke, discrediting our democracy.

That Russian trolls were keen to promote the Trump phenomenon seemed obvious to this columnist from August 2015, as I’ve pointed out.

But this does not delegitimize Mr. Trump or the message his voters were trying to send by electing him. The Kremlin was no less blinkered and smug than our own establishment, a k a Mr. Comey, in its understanding of the Trump phenomenon and contempt for democratic outcomes.

Mr. Comey’s actions unfurl more as a comedy of arrogance rather than a conspiracy, though conspiratorial elements certainly came to be involved, especially in promoting leakage of the Steele dossier and various innuendo against the incoming Trump administration.

Not for the first time, we wonder how the Trump presidency might have been different, and how much opportunity the country might not now be squandering, if Democrats had decided to understand his election as an interesting, antipartisan, possibly providential anomaly rather than inventing conspiracy theories about it.

President Trump Asserts ‘Absolute Right’ to Pardon Himself

June 4, 2018

In a Twitter message, the president also says: ‘but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?’

President Trump at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington last week.
President Trump at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington last week. PHOTO: PATRICK KELLEY/ZUMA PRESS

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump on Monday asserted he had the “absolute right” to pardon himself, citing “numerous legal scholars,” should the special counsel investigation implicate him in wrongdoing.

On Twitter , the president added, “but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?”

In the same Twitter message, Mr. Trump again referred to the special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential obstruction of justice on the part of the president as a “never ending Witch Hunt.” He also repeated an assertion from last week that the probe was being led by Democrats as a way to influence the November elections, even though the special counsel, Robert Mueller, is a Republican.

The president also said the appointment of Mr. Mueller in May 2017 by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was unconstitutional.

Donald J. Trump


As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong? In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!

“The appointment of the Special Councel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL! Despite that, we play the game because I, unlike the Democrats, have done nothing wrong!” Mr. Trump tweeted.

In appointing Mr. Mueller, Mr. Rosenstein cited the need for Americans “to have full confidence in the outcome” of the investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling and also any potential coordination between Russia’s efforts and the Trump campaign. The special counsel’s probe has resulted in several guilty pleas and indictments of Trump associates on charges arising from his investigation.

A number of Trump campaign associates have been cooperating with Mr. Mueller’s team, including former Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn and former foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who have pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal agents. Mr. Mueller also filed a case against a former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, on tax, financial, and bank-fraud charges. Mr. Manafort has pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Trump himself has not been charged or accused of any crimes since the investigation began a year ago.

The U.S. Constitution gives the president power to pardon people for federal crimes. While there is disagreement among legal experts on whether the president could pardon himself, any such move would likely kick off a political crisis.

On Sunday, Mr. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said the president legally could pardon himself.

“There’s nothing that limits the presidential power of pardon from a federal crime,” he said, adding: “The president of the United States pardoning himself would just be unthinkable and it would lead to probably an immediate impeachment.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) responded to Mr. Trump’s messages in his own tweet Monday: “Mr. President — you are 0 for 2 on the Constitution this morning.”

Mr. Trump in his first two years in office has made extensive use of his pardon power, on Thursday pardoning conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza for campaign-finance violations and saying he might commute the corruption sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, and had considered pardoning lifestyle guru and businesswoman Martha Stewart.

Write to Daniel Nasaw at

Comey Memos Reveal Trump’s Early Doubts About Flynn

April 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donald J. Trump


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write to Byron Tau at and Michael C. Bender at

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


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

The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comey’s response is redacted on the unclassified memos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DOJ gives House Intel original document that prompted Russia investigation

April 12, 2018

The Hill


The Justice Department has provided House lawmakers with access to a two-page document that the FBI used as the basis for initiating its original counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

All members of the House Intelligence Committee received access to the document, a Justice Department official confirmed to The Hill on Wednesday.

Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) had requested access to the unredacted document, complaining that previous “heavily” redacted versions were not adequate for committee Republicans’ investigation into alleged abuses at the Justice Department.

Image result for Trey Gowdy, photos

Trey Gowdy

According to Nunes, he and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Wednesday afternoon—one day after Nunes threatened to hold both Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt and initiate impeachment proceedings against them if they did not comply with the request for the unredacted document.
“During the meeting, we were finally given access to a version of the [Electronic Communication] that contained the information necessary to advance the Committee’s ongoing investigation of the Department of Justice and FBI,” Nunes said in a statement.

“Although the subpoenas issued by this Committee in August 2017 remain in effect, I’d like to thank Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein for his cooperation today,” he added.

According to a Justice Department official, the remaining redactions in the document are “narrowly tailored to protect the name of a foreign country and the name of a foreign agent.” Specifics have been replaced with identifiers like “foreign official” and “foreign government,” the official said.

“These words must remain redacted after determining that revealing the words could harm the national security of the American people by undermining the trust we have with this foreign nation,” the official continued, adding that they appear “only a limited number of times, and do not obstruct the underlying meaning of the document.”

A handful of conservatives are investigating what they say is evidence that the department’s decisionmaking during the 2016 election was riddled with bias—allegations that Democrats see as a transparent effort to muddy the waters around Mueller, or provide a pretext to shut him down.

“We’re not going to just hold in contempt. We will have a plan to hold in contempt and impeach,” Nunes said of the two Trump-appointed officials on Fox News on Tuesday.

Nunes told Fox’s Laura Ingraham that the document will confirm why the FBI opened its original investigation into the Trump campaign.

The New York Times reported in December that the federal probe—now in the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller—was initiated after the FBI received a tip that Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had claimed to an Australian diplomat that he had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

A memo authored by staff for Nunes that was declassified in February affirmed that the bureau opened the probe after receiving the tip regarding Papadopoulos.

But on Tuesday, Nunes appeared to cast doubt on that narrative.

“We haven’t been able to see the EC to confirm that,” Nunes told Fox, referring to the two-page document that he viewed Wednesday.

The revelation about Papadopoulos’ role ran counter to claims by some Republicans that the FBI used information from an unverified dossier of opposition research into Trump that was partially funded by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee to open the probe.

That document—known as a the “Steele” dossier after its principle author, former MI6 agent Christopher Steele—made a series of allegations about the business mogul’s ties to Moscow. President Trump, who has repeatedly blasted the Russia probe as a “witch hunt,” has also described the dossier as fiction and its role in the federal investigation has become a flashpoint on the right.

While Rosenstein’s willingness to let Nunes view the document appears to have succeeded in keeping the peace for now, Republican lawmakers on a separate committee are also fuming at what they say is an department foot-dragging on many of their attempts to obtain and review records.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a House Judiciary Committee member, said if his panel does not receive the documents they’ve requested as part of his panel’s investigation into FBI decision-making during the election, then all options are on the table.

“Our patience has run out because the American people’s patience have run out so I think if they don’t change things in a dramatic fashion in a short period of time — I’m talking days, not weeks or months — then I think everything is on the table,” Jordan told The Hill on Wednesday.

He said this includes contempt and impeachment proceedings as well as calling for resignations.

Image result for Adam Schiff, photos

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, defended the two officials after Nunes publicly voiced his impeachment threat.

“Both Rosenstein and Wray have already made available to the Intelligence Committee scores of highly sensitive documents related to ongoing investigations — including Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications — the details of which the majority proceeded to disclose in a deliberately misleading manner which the department rightly called ‘extraordinarily reckless,’” Schiff said in a statement.

“The chairman’s rhetoric is a shocking and irresponsible escalation of the GOP’s attacks on the FBI and DOJ,” he added, claiming it is intended to undermine Mueller’s probe.

Updated at 9:51 p.m.