Posts Tagged ‘Sessions’

Mueller’s Expanding Probe Raises Stakes for Trump Presidency

June 16, 2017

By Chris Strohm and Steven T. Dennis
Bloomberg

June 14, 2017, 8:36 PM EDT June 15, 2017, 8:55 PM EDT
  • Trump decries ‘witch hunt’ led by ‘bad and conflicted people’
  • Senate Intelligence panel hosts DNI Coats behind closed doors
Mueller’s Expanded Probe Eyes Trump on Flynn

Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, 2013.

Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, 2013. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s move to investigate whether Donald Trump sought to get the FBI to back off from a probe of his former national security adviser has angered the president and raised the stakes in the inquiry of Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

“They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice,” Trump said on Twitter Thursday morning. He decried a “witch hunt” that he said is being “led by some very bad and conflicted people!”

Although White House officials tried earlier this week to tamp down speculation that Trump might try to fire Mueller, the escalating conflict led members of Congress of both parties to warn Trump Thursday against the temptation to do so.

“It would be a catastrophic mistake, but he doesn’t have the authority to do it,” Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine told reporters. She noted that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, told senators this week that only he could dismiss the special counsel.

‘Confidence’ in Mueller

Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who met with the special counsel a day earlier, said, “I have a lot of confidence in Mueller.”

Rosenstein named Mueller as special counsel last month to lead the inquiry into Russia’s meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential campaign and whether anyone close to Trump colluded in that effort. Trump fired FBI Director James Comey last month, citing the Russia investigation as the reason.

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Former FBI Director James Comey

Tensions escalated with Mueller’s latest moves. He is planning to interview two top U.S. intelligence officials about whether Trump sought their help to get the FBI to back off a related probe of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, according to three people familiar with the inquiry.

That suggests Mueller is examining the president’s own conduct, which may include whether Trump tried to obstruct justice.

The Washington Post late Thursday reported that Mueller also is looking into the finances and business dealings of Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner as part of the Russian investigation. The paper cited unidentified officials familiar with the matter.

“We do not know what this report refers to,” Kushner’s lawyer Jamie Gorelick said in a statement provided by Kushner’s office. “It would be standard practice for the Special Counsel to examine financial records to look for anything related to Russia. Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about Russia-related matters. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”

Trump has hired one of his longtime lawyers, Marc Kasowitz, to represent him in the multiple inquiries. Vice President Mike Pence, who has mostly been on the sidelines of the investigations, has hired his own outside legal counsel, veteran Washington lawyer Richard Cullen, his spokesman said Thursday.

Mueller wants to interview Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers, according to the people, who asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Separately, Coats testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session Thursday that lasted for three-and-a-half hours.

Burr said they discussed questions that Coats told lawmakers he couldn’t answer in public last week at a hearing, as well as the budget for intelligence for the next fiscal year.

“We worked through all of that,” Burr told reporters.

Avoiding Conflicts

The special counsel is also set to meet with a leading Republican and the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee as Mueller and lawmakers seek to avoid conflicts over their parallel investigations.

“We’ll be meeting with him in the next few days. It will be a closed hearing,” Adam Schiff of California, the panel’s top Democrat, told reporters.

A spokesman for Trump’s outside lawyer reacted angrily to the reports of an expanding probe by Mueller, accusing the Federal Bureau of Investigation of breaking the law by disclosing the information.

“The FBI leak of information regarding the President is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal,” Mark Corallo, the spokesman for Trump’s legal team, said in an email on Wednesday.

Corallo didn’t elaborate on why he singled out the FBI as the source of information. Mueller’s decision to talk with the two officials was reported earlier by the Washington Post.

“Current and former leaders in the intelligence community have repeatedly said there’s been no effort to impede the investigation in any way,” Ronna Romney McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement. “The continued illegal leaks are the only crime here.”

Refusing to Say

At a hearing last week of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Coats and Rogers refused to say whether they were asked by Trump to help impede an FBI investigation and suggested any response in a closed hearing would require consultations with White House lawyers on whether executive privilege should be invoked.

“To the best of my recollection, I have never been directed to do anything I believe to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate,” Rogers said at the hearing, without answering whether he was asked — but not directed — to back off.

Mueller’s plans emerged just a week after Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Trump pressed him in February to ease up on an investigation into Flynn. Flynn was forced to resign for misleading administration officials about his contacts with Russia’s U.S. ambassador.

Comey also said Trump repeatedly sought assurances that he wasn’t a target of the Russia investigation. Comey said he told the president on three occasions that he wasn’t personally under investigation.

But Comey suggested he expected Mueller would look into whether Trump’s efforts to intervene in the FBI inquiry amounted to obstruction of justice.

Read more: Why ‘Obstruction of Justice’ Is Echoing in D.C.

Trump’s spokesman said when he dismissed Comey on May 9 that the reason was the former FBI chief’s handling of the investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. He cited the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from the Russia inquiry, and his deputy Rosenstein.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions

But days later, Trump said in an NBC interview that he had decided to fire Comey before getting their input and he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he did it.

“Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it,” Trump told Lester Holt of NBC News in an interview broadcast May 11. “And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.”

Comey told senators on June 8 that Trump’s shifting explanations for dismissing him were “lies, plain and simple.” Trump and the White House disputed Comey’s description of the events.

Mueller has been building a team of investigators for a wide-ranging inquiry into Russia’s meddling.

Includes videos:

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-06-15/mueller-said-to-examine-whether-trump-sought-to-slow-flynn-probe

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What Trump Has to Fear From Mueller

June 15, 2017

Special counsels can run amok. One went after me once for the crime of forgetfulness.

Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, 2013.

Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, 2013. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
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June 14, 2017 7:31 p.m. ET

While Jeff Sessions was testifying Tuesday on Capitol Hill, Sen. Ron Wyden suggested that the attorney general had recused himself from investigating Russian electoral meddling because of unknown, “problematic” reasons. “There are none—I can tell you that for absolute certainty,” Mr. Sessions shot back, dismissing the supercilious charge as “secret innuendo.”

Good for Mr. Sessions. But since Democrats seem intent on preparing the battlefield for the 2018 midterm elections, expect more such baseless charges. Never mind the damage they do to public trust.

Consider the accusation that President Trump obstructed justice in the FBI investigation of former national security adviser Mike Flynn. According to former FBI Director James Comey, the president told him: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”

“There’s no question he abused power,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said last week. Two Democratic backbenchers, Reps. Al Green of Texas and Brad Sherman of California, have even drafted articles of impeachment based on the charge.

But I talked to four legal experts—two former Justice Department officials, a former White House lawyer and a former U.S. attorney—who all agreed Mr. Trump has the rightful power, as head of the executive branch, to order the FBI to end any investigation.

One expert raised this thought experiment: If President John F. Kennedy had ordered FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to stop investigating Martin Luther King Jr., would that have constituted obstruction of justice?

It’s also far from clear Mr. Trump ordered anything. His words were vague. A hope is not an order. The president said he wanted to get to the bottom of Russian election meddling. He added that he hoped Mr. Comey would discover whether any of Mr. Trump’s “satellites”—an apparent reference to people who worked in his presidential campaign—had done anything wrong. Both statements suggest Mr. Trump wanted the Russian investigation to go forward and believed it would clear his name.

The statute that describes obstruction of justice speaks of “corrupt” conduct. Yet there is no evidence Mr. Trump acted with criminal purpose—for example, that he was bribed to shut down the Flynn investigation, or that he was trying to hide some personal financial interest in Mr. Flynn’s foreign lobbying. No wonder Mr. Comey, when discussing the conversation at the time with other officials, didn’t claim obstruction.

Still, Mr. Trump has created a potential problem for himself. At a Friday press conference, ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked the president whether he would be “willing to speak under oath to give your version of those events.” Mr. Trump replied: “One hundred percent.”

The president had better hope that Robert Mueller, the special counsel now looking into potential Russia-Trump ties, is nothing like Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel appointed in 2003 to investigate the leaking of a CIA official’s name to the columnist Robert Novak.

Mr. Fitzgerald knew within days, if not hours, of his appointment that the leak had come from Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage but that it violated no law since the CIA employee was no longer a covert operative.

Despite no underlying crime, Mr. Fitzgerald spent more than three years obsessed with trying to justify his existence by prosecuting someone in the Bush White House for lying under oath. I was one of those in his sights.

He focused on me because, while I could not remember a brief call in 2003 from a Time reporter, I had ordered my staff the following year to search for any evidence I had talked to the journalist. That was supposed to be proof I had lied. Mr. Fitzpatrick gave up hunting me only when he learned that my lawyer had directed me to search my files after hearing from the reporter’s colleague that I had talked with him.

Instead Mr. Fitzpatrick indicted the vice president’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a very good man, on a disagreement over who said what, when and to whom.

Today, given what we know, Mr. Trump is not vulnerable on obstruction of justice. But if Mr. Mueller turns out to be another Mr. Fitzgerald and finds no underlying offense, he may decide that he must still get someone for something, even over inconsequential differences of memory.

Promising to speak under oath is dangerous for Mr. Trump, since any trial would be in Washington, D.C. There were no Republicans on Mr. Libby’s jury, and Mr. Trump received a mere 4% of the vote there. The president better pray Robert Mueller is more responsible than Patrick Fitzgerald.

Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is the author of “The Triumph of William McKinley ” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

Appeared in the June 15, 2017, print edition.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-trump-has-to-fear-from-mueller-1497483110

Jeff Sessions Calls Russian Collusion Allegation an ‘Appalling and Detestable Lie’

June 14, 2017

Attorney general says he never talked to Russian officials about election interference, defends role in Comey firing

“No collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.”

Watch the highlights of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Photo: Getty

Updated June 13, 2017 8:23 p.m. ET

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a Senate panel on Tuesday that he never met with any Russian officials last year to discuss the presidential campaign and any suggestion that he colluded with them to help Donald Trump was “an appalling and detestable lie.”

Mr. Sessions defended his role in firing former FBI Director James Comey, saying his decision to step aside from campaign-related investigations didn’t apply to broad oversight…

https://www.wsj.com/articles/sessions-denies-meeting-russian-officials-at-mayflower-hotel-1497380680

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A defiant Jeff Sessions told Congress that while he did attend an event where the Russian Ambassador was present, he never had any conversations related to the FBI’s investigation into a possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, calling the suggestion that he participated in such collusion, “an appalling and detestable lie.”

During an open hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, Sessions acknowledged he was present at an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. which included both Russian officials and President Trump but insisted he does not remember interacting with Russian Ambassador Kislyak.

“If any brief interaction occurred in passing with the Russian ambassador, I do not remember it,” he told senators.

In March, The Huffington Post reported that Sessions and Kislyak had attended that event, which included Trump, but that it was not clear whether or not the two had spoken. And last week, fired FBI Director James Comey testified in a closed-door meeting with the senators that Sessions may have had an undisclosed third meeting with the Russian ambassador.

At issue: Did Sessions lie under oath during his confirmation hearing? Sessions insisted Tuesday that his answer was accurate in  the context in which it was asked.

In his opening statement Tuesday, Sessions explained that Minnesota Sen. Al Frankin’s “rambling” question was the first time he had heard about it, saying he “wanted to refute that, immediately.”

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http://www.thewrap.com/jeff-sessions-calls-russian-collusion-allegation-appalling-detestable-lie/

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By ADAM KELSEY and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI

Jun 13, 2017, 9:53 PM ET

ABC News

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday afternoon issued a sweeping denial of any personal involvement in Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, calling accusations that he even discussed such an effort with officials from that country an “appalling and detestable lie.”

“I have never met with, or had any conversation with, any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States,” Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign.”

The comments came as Sessions testified about his meetings with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and any discussions he had with the president before former FBI director James Comey was fired.

Throughout the testimony, which is addressing several of the controversies that have followed Sessions from his tenure as a U.S. senator from Alabama to his position as the head of the Department of Justice, the attorney general pushed back against suggestions that he engaged in additional meetings with Kislyak or committed perjury during his confirmation hearing.

President Trump, apparently, was pleased with his performance. Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Tuesday that the president “wasn’t able to watch much of [Sessions’ testimony]… but what he did see, what he heard, he thought that Attorney General Sessions did a very good job, and in particular, was very strong on the point that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.”

Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation

The attorney general explained that he met with “a senior ethics official” at the Justice Department in February as press reports emerged questioning his involvement in the investigation, given his role in Trump’s campaign. Sessions said that from that moment, until the announcement of his recusal on March 2, he “did not access any information about the investigation.”

“I have no knowledge about this investigation as it is ongoing today beyond what has been publicly reported,” said Sessions, who later explained that he never received a briefing or read the reports on the intelligence community’s conclusion that there were attempts to meddle in the election.

Sessions said that the move to step away from oversight of the probe was not because of his actions or meetings with the Russian ambassador; instead, he pointed to his position as chair of the Trump campaign’s national security committee.

“I recuse myself not because of any asserted wrongdoing or any belief that I may have been involved in any wrongdoing in the campaign, but because a Department of Justice regulation… required it,” said Sessions. “That regulation states in effect that department employees should not participate in investigations either came pain if they served as a campaign adviser.”

In a heated moment, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., referred to part of Comey’s testimony in which he said that he and members of the FBI leadership team did not discuss Trump’s alleged request for the FBI director’s loyalty, as the group believed Sessions would inevitably recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

“We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic,” Comey said last week.

“What are [those facts?]” Wyden asked Sessions on Tuesday.

“Why don’t you tell me? There are none, Senator Wyden. There are none,” said Sessions, raising his voice. “I can tell you that for absolute certainty… this is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don’t appreciate it, and I tried to give my best and truthful answers to any committee I’ve appeared before, and it’s really people sort of suggesting innuendo that I have been not honest about matters, and I’ve tried to be honest.”

Confirmation that Comey shared concern about communications with Trump

Sessions further confirmed that Comey “expressed concern about the proper communications protocol with the White House and with the president.”

Last week, Comey appeared before the same committee and shared that Sessions was among a group of people asked to leave the Oval Office ahead of a conversation in which Trump told Comey he hoped he could let go of the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Comey said he later told Sessions about the dialogue, and asked that he “prevent any future direct communication” between Trump and himself.

In his testimony, Comey said that Sessions did not respond to the grievance, a fact that Sessions disputed Tuesday. The attorney general indicated that he agreed with the former FBI director on the matter.

“I responded to his comment by agreeing that the FBI and the Department of Justice needed to be careful to follow department policies regarding appropriate contacts with the White House,” said Sessions. “Mr. Comey had served in the department for better than two decades, and I was confident that he had understood and would abide by the well-established rule.”

Comey further claimed that he and members of the FBI leadership team did not discuss Trump’s alleged request for the FBI director’s loyalty as the group believed Sessions would inevitably recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Circumstances that led to Comey’s firing

In May, Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein each submitted letters to Trump ahead of his firing of Comey from his FBI post. The president cited the letters as recommendations for Comey’s dismissal that were “accepted,” but later noted that he made the decision himself, and was thinking about the Russia investigation when he came to the conclusion the director should be terminated.

Sessions said that he was “not sure what was in [Trump’s] mind” when he and Rosenstein spoke to him about Comey’s firing last month, and repeatedly declined to comment on specific details about his communication with the president.

After Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, suggested that he should have “stayed out of the decision” to fire Comey — in light of the FBI’s Russia investigation and his own recusal — Sessions expressed that he was fulfilling his duty.

“I think it’s my responsibility,” said Sessions. “I mean, I was appointed to be attorney general. Supervising all the federal agencies is my responsibility. Trying to get the very best people in those agencies at the top of them is my responsibility, and I think I had a duty to do so.”

Sessions also expressed his agreement with the rationale given by Rosenstein in his letter to Trump — that Comey’s handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server was improper.

“I know that was a great concern to both of us… that represented something that I think most professionals in the Department of Justice would totally agree that the FBI investigative agency does not decide whether to prosecute or decline criminal cases,” said Sessions.

Accusations of perjury during confirmation hearing

Sessions told Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., in January that he “did not have communications with the Russians,” in response to a question about what action he would take if evidence of such communication by the Trump campaign was uncovered. It was later revealed that Sessions met with Kislyak on at least two occasions — meetings he has differentiated by noting they came in the course of his duties as a senator, not as a surrogate of the campaign.

“[Franken] asked me a rambling question that included dramatic, new allegations,” said Sessions, later adding, “My answer was a fair and correct response to the charge as I understood it. It simply did not occur to me to go further than the context of the question and list any conversations I may have had with Russians in routine situations, as I had with numerous other foreign officials.”

Trump, Sessions and Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel

The notion of a third meeting with Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel in April 2016 was strongly denied by Sessions, who acknowledged they both attended then-candidate Trump’s speech at the hotel, but said he “did not have any private meetings,” nor “recall any conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel.”

“I understand he was there. And so I don’t doubt that he was,” said Sessions, as he was questioned by committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. “I believe that representation is correct. In fact, he I recently saw a video of him coming into the room.”

“But you never remember having a conversation or meeting with Ambassador Kislyak?” asked Burr.

“I do not,” said Sessions.

In later questioning by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Sessions added, “I didn’t have any formal meeting, I’m confident of that, but I may have had an encounter during the reception.”

Rosenstein pledges “independence” for Mueller, sees no evidence for firing

Earlier Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified that he has not seen evidence of good cause to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, whom he appointed in May to lead the inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including any possible collusion with Trump campaign associates.

Rosenstein appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee at a hearing originally scheduled to be attended by Sessions. After learning that members of the appropriations committee intended to ask him questions about the Russia investigation, Sessions notified the House and Senate committees’ leadership that he would be changing his schedule because “the Senate Intelligence Committee is the most appropriate forum for such matters.”

The deputy attorney general assured the Senate Appropriations Committee that Mueller will have “full independence.”

“The chain of command for the special counsel is only directly to the attorney general, or in this case, the acting attorney general, so nobody else in the department would have the authority to do that, and you have my assurance that we are going to faithfully follow that regulation and Director Mueller is going to have the full degree of independence that he needs to conduct that investigation appropriately,” said Rosenstein.

Though he’s the deputy attorney general, Rosenstein would have the authority to fire Mueller since Sessions recused himself in March from any probes related to campaigns for the presidency, like the Russia investigation.

When asked if he would fire Mueller if Trump ordered him, Rosenstein said, “I am not going to follow any orders unless I believe those are lawful and appropriate orders.”

Rosenstein added that if there were a good cause, he would consider firing the special counsel. However, if there were not “good cause” to get rid of Mueller, Rosenstein said, “It would not matter to me what anybody says.”

ABC News’ Mike Levine contributed to this report.

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/attorney-general-sessions-calls-allegations-collusion-russia-appalling/story?id=48001636

Attorney General Jeff Sessions enacts harsher charging, sentencing policy — federal prosecutors told to seek “the most serious” criminal charges against suspects

May 12, 2017

By 
USA Today

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Jeff Sessions is directing federal prosecutors to seek “the most serious” criminal charges against suspects, a move that would result in severe prison sentences – and is expected to reverse recent declines in the overcrowded federal prison system.

The brief, two-page directive, issued to the 94 U.S. attorneys offices across the country late Thursday, replaces a 2013 memo put in place by then-Attorney General Eric Holder that sought to limit the use of mandatory-minimum sentencing rules that had condemned some non-violent offenders to long prison terms – that proved to be expensive for taxpayers.

Justice officials said the new policy would not target low-level drug offenders, unless they were linked to firearms, gang membership or other aggravating crimes.

“This policy affirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is moral and just, and produces consistency,” Sessions said in the directive. “This policy fully utilizes the tools Congress has given us. By definition, the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial… sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.”

Under the plan, ten-year mandatory minimum sentences would typically be sought in cases where suspects were in possession of 1 kilogram of heroin (equal to thousands of doses); 5 kilograms of cocaine (about 11 pounds); or 1,000 kilograms of marijuana (more than 2,000 pounds).

 Image result for jeff sessions, photos

“There will be circumstances in which good judgment would lead a prosecutor to conclude that a strict application of… the charging policy is not warranted,” Sessions said. But such exercises of discretion, the attorney general said, would be subject to high-level approval.

Justice officials already have alerted federal prison officials that the action, in conjunction with the administration’s recently announced increase in immigration prosecutions, would likely result in a larger prison population.

Last month, Sessions directed federal prosecutors to bring felony charges against immigrants suspected of making repeated illegal entries to the United States. Undocumented entry cases have been previously charged as misdemeanors.

During the Obama administration, Holder’s policy had sought to reduce the size of the federal prison system that has long been a financial drag on the Justice Department, representing about 25% of its budget. That policy echoed shifts in law enforcement policy that had been sweeping the states in recent years. State officials have increasingly acknowledged that they can no longer bear the cost of warehousing offenders – many for drug crimes – who were targets of harsh punishments which began decades ago.

The number of sentenced prisoners in federal custody fell by 7,981 inmates – or 5% – between the end of 2009 and 2015, according to a January Pew Research Center analysis. Preliminary figures for 2016 show the decline continued during Obama’s last full year in office and that the overall reduction during his tenure will likely exceed 5%, the center found.

The federal prison population now stands at nearly 190,000 inmates.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/05/12/attorney-general-jeff-sessions-enacts-harsher-charging-sentencing-policy/101571324/

Top Democrats call for Devin Nunes to recuse himself from Trump-Russia inquiry — Devin Nunes Cancels House Intelligence Committee Meetings

March 28, 2017

and in New York and in Washington

Nancy Pelosi joined Adam Schiff in demanding Nunes step aside from inquiry into 2016 election interference ‘in interest of a fair and impartial investigation’

Devin Nunes speaks to reporters outside the White House.
Devin Nunes speaks to reporters outside the White House. Photograph: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Leading Democrats have escalated the controversy over the erratic behavior of Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, calling on him to recuse himself from the investigation into alleged links between the president’s associates and Russia.

Both Adam Schiff, Nunes’ counterpart on the committee, and Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, demanded that he step aside from the ongoing Russia affair that has become an enduring sore for the young Trump administration.

The intervention of senior Democrats takes the dispute to a new level of intensity, raising the prospect of the governing party being forced to make a second humiliating concession after US attorney general Jeff Sessions was forced this month to stand back from all Russian inquiries after he failed to disclose meetings with Moscow’s ambassador to Washington.

Schiff was the first to wade into the fray on Monday night, calling on Nunes to recuse himself in the wake of mounting controversy about his handling of the Russian inquiry. The ranking Democrat on the committee drew a parallel with the Sessions recusal and said in a statement: “I believe the public cannot have the necessary confidence that matters involving the president’s campaign or transition team can be objectively investigated or overseen by the chairman.”

Less than an hour later, Pelosi came out with a similarly weighed statement, saying that her equivalent in the House, Paul Ryan, should lean on Nunes to make him stand aside. “Speaker Ryan must insist that chairman Nunes at least recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation immediately. That leadership is long overdue.”

The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, also added his voice to the growing chorus for a Nunes recusal. The senator accused the Republican chairman of being “more interested in protecting the president than in seeking the truth. You cannot have the person in charge of an impartial investigation be partial to one side.”

The open partisan split within the powerful intelligence committee came as Schiff complained that members of the panel continue to wait for Nunes to present them with documents ostensibly relating to intelligence collected on Trump days after he had briefed the president. The embattled committee chairman raised further questions when he said he had no choice under classification rules except to view the sensitive intelligence at the White House, a statement likely to intensify speculation that the Trump administration fed Nunes the material.

The source who made the materials available to Nunes “could not simply put the documents in a backpack and walk them over to the House intelligence committee space”, Nunes’ office said on Monday.

In his statement on Monday night, Schiff tore into the chairman’s explanation. “There was no legitimate justification for bringing that information to the White House instead of the committee,” he said, adding: “That it was obtained at the White House makes this departure all the more concerning.”

Adam Schiff.
Adam Schiff. Photograph: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Further pressure on Nunes to stand down from the Russian investigation came from the top Democrat on the CIA subcommittee of the House intelligence committee, Eric Swalwell. The chairman should “no longer be anywhere near this investigation, let alone leading it”, he said.

Swalwell added that “too many people in the White House and administration, and now, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, have betrayed their duty to conduct an independent, bipartisan inquiry into the Trump team’s ties with Russia”.

Spicer repeatedly refused to offer any details about why Nunes was on the White House grounds and whom the California congressman was meeting with. “I’m not going to get into who he met with or why,” he said, while insisting the White House “was not concerned” over the possibility of classified information being leaked to Nunes.

Nunes, a member of Trump’s national security transition team, has come under sustained criticism that he is obstructing a high-profile investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia that he is running – a charge likely to intensify over the coming days.

On Wednesday, he stunned Washington by suggesting that communications from Trump’s associates were incidentally collected as part of “lawful” surveillance, with their identities insufficiently masked.

Contradicting testimony from the FBI and NSA directors, Trump claimed Nunes’ remarks provided a modicum of vindication for the president’s baseless claim that Obama placed Trump Tower under surveillance, something even Nunes continues to deny. Nunes has said the intelligence collection that “alarmed” him did not concern Russia.

Before making his statement calling for Nunes’ recusal, Schiff had publicly doubted the impartiality of the House inquiry. Those concerns escalated after Nunes abruptly canceled a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday into the Trump-Russia question.

Nunes has dodged questions, primarily from CNN, that his source came from the White House, and intimated that whistleblowers from the intelligence agencies brought the surveillance documents to him. Nunes told Bloomberg View on Monday that his source was an intelligence official and not a White House staffer.

But Nunes’ office has acknowledged that the chairman viewed whatever surveillance documents he has acquired on the White House grounds, apparently at the Eisenhower executive office building, where the national security council staff works.

Viewing the documents at the White House came under immediate scrutiny, since the House committee possesses secure facilities where it frequently accesses classified information as part of its routine responsibilities.

But Jack Langer, Nunes’ spokesman, told the Guardian that Nunes saw at the White House “executive branch documents” that Congress does not have.

“The White House grounds was the best location to safeguard the proper chain of custody and classification of these documents, so the chairman could view them in a legal way,” Langer said.

It remained unclear why, if Nunes’ source did not originate from the White House, viewing the documents had to occur at the White House complex. His explanation to Bloomberg was that the White House was the closest available location to access a classified computer network hived off from Congress. Nunes appears not to have paid visits to intelligence agency locations where the information would be accessible, including the offices of the director of national intelligence, FBI and NSA.

Langer did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about whether Nunes had in effect confirmed that his source for the documents came from the White House itself.

Read the rest:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/27/devin-nunes-white-house-intelligence-source-trump

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Devin Nunes Cancels House Intelligence Committee Meetings Amid Growing Questions

The chairman is in hot water.

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03/28/2017 09:13 am ET

WASHINGTON ― Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on Tuesday abruptly canceled all House Intelligence Committee meetings scheduled for this week, according to committee members, raising further questions on whether its investigation into ties between President Donald Trump’s administration and Russia can proceed.

“Not only [has] this investigation sort of had a shadow cast on it, but the committee has been put into suspended animation,” committee member Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said on MSNBC, confirming previous reports that Nunes, the committee chair, had canceled the meetings.

The move comes amid growing scrutiny over whether Nunes can lead an independent investigation into ties between Trump’s team and Russian officials.

Nunes claimed last week that members of the president’s team were subject to “incidental” surveillance. One day before making these allegations, however, he met with a source on White House grounds. Nunes said he needed a secure location to view sensitive information, but the visit raised further doubts about the transparency of the investigation and whether Nunes is coordinating with the White House.

After holding a press conference about his findings, Nunes also briefed Trump, whose team is under FBI investigation for alleged ties to Russian officials who may have interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

Himes said Tuesday that Nunes had not shared his information with the rest of the committee.

“No member of the committee, Republican or Democrat, has seen, after a full week, this stuff that caused Nunes to make himself famous nationally,” Himes said Tuesday. “Not a single member of the committee. I don’t even think anybody on his own staff has any idea what caused him to do this sort of musical chairs thing with the White House.”

Democrats have called for Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, to recuse himself from the investigation or even to be replaced as head of the committee, with some speculating that the chairman wants to protect Trump.

“Chairman Nunes is falling down on the job and seems to be more interested in protecting the president than in seeking the truth,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday.

Several Democratic members of the committee said Nunes had lost their trust.

“In the interest of a fair and impartial investigation, whose results will be respected by the public, the Chairman’s recusal is more than warranted,” the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), said Monday.

I think that the writing is on the wall. It might make a good spy novel. It doesn’t make a good investigation.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.)

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), another member of the committee, said Nunes’ White House meeting was “the last straw.” She suggested he had “colluded in a desperate attempt to salvage the president’s credibility, after the president’s bogus wiretapping claims were debunked by his own FBI director.”

She told CNN on Tuesday that she believes “there is an effort under way to shut this committee down, by the president.”

“I don’t think he can just recuse himself and still chair the committee,” Speier said of Nunes. “I think that the writing is on the wall. It might make a good spy novel. It doesn’t make a good investigation.”

But Nunes said in interviews Monday night that he has no intention of stepping down.

“I’m sure the Democrats do want me to quit because they know that I’m quite effective at getting to the bottom of things,” he told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/devin-nunes-trump-intelligence-committee_us_58da50dbe4b00f68a5caa9cd

FBI investigating ties between Russia and Trump campaign

March 20, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

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

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-03-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(AP)

Related:

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

March 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

Comey: No information to support Trump’s wiretapping tweets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hurt,” Rogers noted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PUBLISHED: MARCH 20, 2017, 8:01 A.M. 

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

March 11, 2017

Sat Mar 11, 2017 | 2:29am EST

Reuters

By Joel Schectman and Mark Hosenball | WASHINGTON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CORRUPTION CRUSADER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By 
The New Tork Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump accuses Obama of wiretapping him before election

March 4, 2017

By 
USA Today

Published 7:42 a.m. ET March 4, 2017

President Trump, in a Saturday morning tweetstorm, responded to the mounting questions over his ties to Russia by accusing Obama of wiretapping him at Trump Tower just before the November election.

The outburst follows several days of stories raising questions about meetings between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials, particularly two previously undisclosed meetings between now Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process,” he writes. “This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

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

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

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

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

In making the charges, Trump did not elaborate on any evidence backing up the explosive accusation.

ADVERTISING

The tweet blasts began at 6:26 a.m. from the Winter White House at Mar-a-Lago in Florida when Trump raised the Sessions issue by noting the first meeting between the senator from Alabama and the Russian ambassador was set up by the Obama administration as part of an education program.

Eight minutes later, he raised the charge of illegal surveillance by the Obama administration: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

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

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

Sessions recused himself from any Trump-Russia investigation after the Justice Department acknowledged he spoke twice with the Russian ambassador last year and failed to disclose the contacts during his Senate confirmation process.

Sessions said he did not tried to mislead anyone but could have been more careful in his answers. He planned to file amended testimony Monday, a Justice Department spokesman said.

The president responded to the Sessions issue obliquely Friday by taking a swing at Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, noting the New York senator previously met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a tweet, Trump posted a photo of Schumer with Putin during the Russian leader’s visit to New York in 2003. He demanded an investigation of “close ties” between Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Russia and “lying about it.”

He called Schumer, who has demanded Sessions’ resignation, a “total hypocrite.”

We should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!

Trump’s Saturday morning tweets come less than a day after radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh accused Obama of executing a “silent coup” to unseat Trump and render him “effectively immaterial” as president.

“The real Russian scandal is the collusion between Barack Obama and his administration and the Russians,” Limbaugh said. “Obama’s team used the pretext of Russian interference in the election to justify wiretaps and illegal leaks of the Trump team, including a U.S. senator and now attorney general.”

By late morning, Trump had — at least temporarily — moved on, saying Arnold Schwarzenegger, his replacement on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” did not voluntarily leave the show but “was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me.” He called it a “Sad end to a great show.”

The movie star and former California governor announced Friday he was leaving the show after one season. He told Empire magazine that he would decline to return, even if asked. Trump, who has remained executive producer of the show, has mocked the show’s sagging ratings.

“With Trump being involved in the show, people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show,” Schwarzenegger said. “It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.”

Related:

Former Obama White House Gang Involved in “Silent Coup” Against President Donald Trump — Trump cites ‘Nixon/Watergate’ plot to wire tap Trump Tower — Washington Post, Breitbart, NYT put the story together — Anything there?

March 4, 2017

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Image may contain: outdoor

Breitbart

Friday on his nationally syndicated radio show, conservative talker Rush Limbaugh argued there was a “silent coup” underway against President Donald Trump.

Limbaugh accused former President Barack Obama of putting it in place before leaving office and said that it is currently being executed. He pointed to the ginned-up controversy of Attorney General Jeff Sessions associations with the Russian government and U.S. Senate Democrats slow-walking Trump’s cabinet appointees.

“I’m not taking anything away from what I said yesterday,” he said. “I’m adding to it. We’re watching a silent coup that was put in place by Obama and the Democrats during the transition and before and after the election.”

“I think what is happening here is a full-fledged effort here to deny Trump the actual control of governing and the government by leaving so many Obama career people appointed, by going so slowly on confirming Trump’s cabinet appointees and other lesser bureaucratic position that remain open and haven’t been filled,” Limbaugh said later in the segment. “And that’s why it appears the Democrats are still running the show.”

Limbaugh went to add if you wanted to know the real saboteurs are, then look for a link between Obama and the Russian government.

“I’m telling you — if you want to find out who is really working together to sabotage the United States, you find the link between Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, and the Russian government. That’s the story.”

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor

Includes video:

http://www.breitbart.com/video/2017/03/03/limbaugh-watching-silent-coup-put-place-obama-democrats/

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Trump cites ‘Nixon/Watergate’ plot to wire tap Trump Tower

The Washington Post
March 4 at 8:36 AM

President Trump on Saturday angrily accused former president Barack Obama of orchestrating a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last fall in the run-up to the election.Citing no evidence to support his explosive allegation, Trump said in a series of five tweets sent Saturday morning that Obama was “wire tapping” his New York offices before the election in a move he compared to McCarthyism. “Bad (or sick) guy!” he said of his predecessor, adding that the surveillance resulted in “nothing found.”Trump offered no citations nor did he point to any credible news report to back up his accusation, but he may have been referring to commentary on Breitbart and conservative talk radio suggesting that Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team. The Breitbart story, published Friday, has been circulating among White House officials, according to an administration official.A spokesman for Obama did not immediately reply to a request for comment.Trump has been feuding with the intelligence community since before he took office, convinced that career officers as well as holdovers from the Obama administration have been trying to sabotage his presidency. He has ordered internal inquiries to find who leaked sensitive information regarding communications during the campaign between Russian officials and his campaign associates and allies, including ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.Trump sent the tweets from Palm Beach, Fla., where he is vacationing this weekend at his private Mar-a-Lago estate. It has long been his practice to stir up new controversies to deflect attention from a damaging news cycle, such as the one in recent days about Sessions and Russia.

Here are Trump’s tweets, in the order they were sent:

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

Just out: The same Russian Ambassador that met Jeff Sessions visited the Obama White House 22 times, and 4 times last year alone.

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

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

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

Trump did not stop tweeting there. About an hour later, the president revived one of his favorite feuds, this one with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movie star-turned-California governor has been hosting “The New Celebrity Apprentice,” the NBC reality franchise that Trump helped found.

Schwarzenegger announced Friday that he would not return to the show for another season because, he said, the show had too much “baggage.” But Trump insisted on Twitter that there is more to the story than that.

Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show

Robert Costa contributed to this report.