Posts Tagged ‘Special Counsel Robert Mueller’

Bannon and Lewandowski Are Asked to Testify to House Russia Investigators

December 22, 2017

Bloomberg

By Billy House

 Updated on 
  • House Intelligence panel’s Russia probe sent invites this week
  • Committee sent voluntary invitation for closed-door interviews
Steve Bannon

Photographer: Nicole Craine/Bloomberg

President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon and his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski have been asked to testify to House lawmakers investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Both men were sent letters this week by the House Intelligence Committee asking them to testify in early January, according to an official familiar with the panel’s schedule.

The committee hasn’t yet received a response from either Bannon or Lewandowski. The invitation, which didn’t come in the form of a subpoena compelling them to testify, was for a “voluntary interview” in the committee’s offices, which means it would be held behind closed doors, the official said.

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Corey Lewandowski

The letter doesn’t lay out specific reasons the committee wants to interview them, or the questions the panel wants to pose, but it makes clear that the interviews are part of the Russia investigation.

Bannon, who worked as Trump’s top strategist during the campaign and for several months in the White House, hasn’t been publicly accused of any wrongdoing.

Bannon was a key member of Trump’s team when the president fired national security adviser Michael Flynn and FBI director James Comey.

Your Guide to Understanding the Trump-Russia Saga: QuickTake Q&A

During the campaign, Bannon was also a liaison to its data-analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica.

Alexander Nix, the chief executive officer of Cambridge Analytica, met with the House Intelligence probe earlier this month. Nix faced questions about whether he sought material from WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange that was stolen from computers of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, who managed Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Lewandowski’s Role

Lewandowski was fired as campaign manager on June 20, 2016, and replaced by Paul Manafort, who has been indicted for money laundering charges by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Before Lewandowski left, he was among among several senior Trump campaign officials who received communications from foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos about his outreach to the Russian government, according to published news accounts.

The Washington Post reported last month that court filings show Papadopoulos wrote to Lewandowski several times to let him know that the Russians were interested in forging a relationship with the campaign.

The Post said that included one message in May 2016, in which Papadopoulos forwarded to Lewandowski an offer of “cooperation” from a Russian with links to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Is this something we want to move forward with?” he asked. There was no indication of how Lewandowski responded, wrote the Post. Lewandowski has said publicly he doesn’t recall whether he received emails from Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty in early October to lying to federal agents about his outreach to Russia.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-22/bannon-lewandowski-said-to-be-asked-to-testify-to-house-probe

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Grassley Wants FBI Director Wray to Replace McCabe as Deputy

December 19, 2017

Bloomberg

By Steven T. Dennis and Billy House

  • McCabe is to meet privately Tuesday with House Russia probe
  • GOP wants to ask deputy FBI director about salacious dossier
Chuck Grassley Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The Senate Judiciary chairman said Monday he wants Andrew McCabe removed as deputy director of the FBI, a day before he is scheduled to testify behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee in its Russia investigation.

 Image result for Andrew McCabe, photos

Andrew McCabe

“He oughta be replaced. And I’ve said that before and I’ve said it to people who can do it,” panel Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, told reporters.

Grassley has questioned whether McCabe has a conflict of interest and is biased against President Donald Trump. McCabe’s wife in 2015 ran for a state Senate seat in Virginia, backed in part with money from associates of Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in last year’s presidential election.

Such concerns with McCabe have increased among Republicans with the recent release of text messages that many Republicans claimed showed anti-Trump bias by agent Peter Strzok, who was removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians to help get him elected.

The president has complained on Twitter that his Attorney General Jeff Sessions should have fired McCabe a long time ago.

Grassley said the president shouldn’t intervene to have McCabe removed and instead leave that up to Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray.

‘Stay Out’

“Trump ought to stay out of it,” Grassley said. “I think it’s a Christopher Wray job.”

FBI spokesman Andrew Ames declined to comment.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, said in an appearance on Fox News last week he’d be “a little surprised” if McCabe still had his job this week.

McCabe’s closed-door interview had been arranged after months of efforts by committee Republicans who had been angered over what they said was an inability to get more cooperation from the FBI in turning over material about the investigation. House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes of California has suggested preparing contempt of Congress action against the FBI and the Justice Department.

Republicans, who have long wanted to question McCabe over how the FBI used a now-famous dossier about Trump with unverified accusations of collusion, also want to ask about the Strzok text messages.

Grassley and other Republicans have said they want to know what McCabe knows about a particular text message from Strzok in August 2016 — during the presidential campaign — talking about a need for some “insurance policy” in the case of a Trump victory. They also want to know what McCabe knows about demoted Justice Department official Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie Ohr, who was reportedly contracted to help prepare opposition research on Trump.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-19/grassley-wants-fbi-director-wray-to-replace-mccabe-as-deputy

Trump allies say Mueller unlawfully obtained thousands of emails

December 17, 2017

By Steve Holland
Reuters

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

FILE PHOTO – Then FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S. on February 16, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An organization established for U.S. President Donald Trump’s transition to the White House said on Saturday the special counsel investigating allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election had obtained tens of thousands of emails unlawfully.

Kory Langhofer, counsel to the transition team known as Trump for America, Inc. (TFA), wrote a letter to congressional committees to say Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team had improperly received the emails from the General Services Administration (GSA), a government agency.

Career staff members at the agency “unlawfully produced TFA’s private materials, including privileged communications, to the Special Counsel’s Office,” according to the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters. It said the materials included “tens of thousands of emails.”

Trump’s transition team used facilities of the GSA, which helps manage the U.S. government bureaucracy, in the period between the Republican’s November presidential election victory and his inauguration in January.

The Trump team’s accusation adds to the growing friction between the president’s supporters and Mueller’s office as it investigates whether Russia interfered in the election and if Trump or anyone on his team colluded with Moscow.

Asked for comment, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: “We continue to cooperate fully with the special counsel and expect this process to wrap up soon.”

The special counsel’s office waved off the transition team’s complaint.

“When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process,” said Peter Carr, spokesman for the special counsel’s office.

The GSA did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

‘NO COLLUSION’

Democrats say there is a wide-ranging effort by the president’s allies on Capitol Hill and in some media outlets to discredit Mueller’s investigation.

Trump himself has loudly declared Mueller’s effort a waste of time. “There is absolutely no collusion. That has been proven,” Trump told reporters on Friday.

Russia denies interfering in the election.

On Friday, Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said he fears the committee’s Republican majority intends to close its investigation of the topic prematurely. Some Republicans have argued that Mueller is biased against Trump and should be fired.

Langhofer’s letter was sent to the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, and the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

It asked for Congress to act immediately “to protect future presidential transitions from having their private records misappropriated by government agencies, particularly in the context of sensitive investigations intersecting with political motives.”

The letter said Mueller’s office obtained the emails despite the fact that it was aware the GSA did not own or control the records. It said the special counsel’s office has “extensively used the materials in question, including portions that are susceptible to claims of privilege” without notifying the Trump for America team.

On the transition team were a number of aides who were later caught up in Mueller’s investigation, such as former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Flynn pleaded guilty this month to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia.

Langhofer, the Trump transition team lawyer, wrote in his letter that the GSA’s transfer of materials was discovered on Dec. 12 and 13.

The FBI had requested the materials from GSA staff on Aug. 23, asking for copies of the emails, laptops, cell phones and other materials associated with nine members of the Trump transition team responsible for national security and policy matters, the letter said.

The FBI requested the materials of four additional senior members of the Trump transition team on Aug. 30, it said.

Langhofer argued that, while such transition teams are involved in executive functions, they are considered private, non-profit organizations whose records are private and not subject to presidential records laws.

(Reporting By Steve Holland and John Walcott; Editing by Alistair Bell and Paul Tait)

Mueller Probe Gets Employees’ Emails From Trump Campaign Data Operation

December 15, 2017

Special counsel asked Cambridge Analytica to hand over employees’ emails, in sign of investigators’ interest in campaign data operation

Cambridge Analytica Chief Executive Alexander Nix, seen in this September photo, interviewed via videoconference with the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Cambridge Analytica Chief Executive Alexander Nix, seen in this September photo, interviewed via videoconference with the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter. PHOTO: ALEX HOFFORD/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has requested that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that worked for President Donald Trump’s campaign, turn over documents as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Mueller asked the firm in the fall to turn over the emails of any Cambridge Analytica employees who worked on the Trump campaign, in a sign that the special counsel is probing the Trump campaign’s data operation.

The special counsel’s request, which the firm complied with, wasn’t previously known. The emails had earlier been turned over to the House Intelligence Committee, the people said, adding that both requests were voluntary.

On Thursday, Cambridge Analytica Chief Executive Alexander Nix interviewed via videoconference with the House Intelligence Committee, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Mr. Mueller’s request for employee emails was made before media outlets reported in October that Mr. Nix had contacted WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange during the 2016 campaign, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Sweden-based WikiLeaks last year published a trove of Hillary Clinton -related emails that U.S. intelligence agencies later determined had been stolen by Russian intelligence and given to the website.

The special counsel declined to comment. A spokesman for Cambridge Analytica didn’t immediately return a request to comment.

The House committee earlier this fall referred questions about its document request to the data firm. Cambridge Analytica at the time confirmed the House request and said the firm wasn’t under investigation for its activities in the 2016 campaign.

Mr. Mueller’s team and congressional investigators are probing whether Trump associates colluded in a Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election. Mr. Trump has denied collusion by him or his campaign, and Moscow has denied meddling in the election. The U.S. intelligence community in January concluded that Russia had sought to influence the election.

Mr. Nix, in a Lisbon speech in November, said he had asked the office that handles his speaking engagements to contact Mr. Assange in “early June 2016,” after reading a newspaper report that WikiLeaks planned to publish the Clinton-related emails. He asked if Mr. Assange “might share that information with us.” Mr. Assange has said he declined the request. Mr. Nix’s outreach to WikiLeaks came at the same time as his firm started working for Mr. Trump’s campaign, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told the Journal earlier this year that ties between Cambridge Analytica and WikiLeaks were of “deep interest” to the committee. The House panel also asked Cambridge Analytica to preserve its data on Trump voters and supporters, but it hasn’t asked that the firm turn the data over, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Two months after Mr. Nix directed his speaker’s bureau to contact Mr. Assange, top Trump donor Rebekah Mercer asked him whether Cambridge Analytica could help better organize the emails WikiLeaks was releasing, the Journal has reported. Ms. Mercer and her father, hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, are part owners of Cambridge Analytica.

Ms. Mercer and Mr. Nix haven’t commented on the matter.

During the campaign, Cambridge Analytica provided data, polling and research services to the campaign. Steve Bannon had introduced Mr. Nix to the campaign in mid-May. Mr. Bannon became the campaign’s chief executive officer in August 2016 and later joined the White House as a top strategist. He left the administration in August of this year.

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

https://www.wsj.com/articles/mueller-sought-emails-of-trump-campaign-data-firm-1513296899

The FBI’s Trump ‘Insurance’

December 14, 2017

More troubling evidence of election meddling at the bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy is likely Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

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

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

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

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

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

The pair exchanged another cryptic text message that same day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rosenstein stands by Mueller probe as Republicans fume over ‘insider bias’

December 13, 2017

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stood by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe Wednesday, despite a newly unearthed trove of damning text messages and other details that Republicans said show an “insider bias” on the investigative team.

Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and has overseen the Russia probe since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, testified before the House Judiciary Committee — and faced a grilling from GOP lawmakers.

They zeroed in on anti-Trump text messages exchanged between two FBI agents who once worked on the Mueller team.

“This is unbelievable,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, voicing concern that the “public trust” in the probe is gone.

Republicans for weeks have raised concerns that some investigators may be biased, citing everything from their political donations to past work representing top Democratic figures and allied groups including the Clinton Foundation.

MORE CLINTON TIES ON MUELLER TEAM: ONE DEPUTY ATTENDED CLINTON PARTY, ANOTHER REP’D TOP AIDE

But when committee Ranking Member Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., pressed Rosenstein over whether he had seen “good cause” to remove Mueller from his post, Rosenstein pushed back.

“No,” Rosenstein said.

Nadler asked whether Rosenstein would fire Mueller if he were ordered to do so.

FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2013, file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller is seated before President Barack Obama and FBI Director James Comey arrive at an installation ceremony at FBI Headquarters in Washington. A veteran FBI counterintelligence agent was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's team investigating Russian election meddling after the discovery of an exchange of text messages seen as potentially anti-President Donald Trump, a person familiar with the matter said Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller discusses his investigation with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.  (AP)

“I would follow regulation. If there were good cause, I would act. If there was no good cause, I would not,” Rosenstein replied, doubling down that he has seen “no good cause” to do so.

He suggested the probe is being conducted appropriately at this stage.

But just hours prior to Rosenstein’s testimony, the Justice Department released hundreds of texts messages between two FBI officials—Peter Strzok and Lisa Page—who worked on Mueller’s team and were romantically involved. Many were anti-Trump and pro-Clinton.

In one exchange from August 2016, Page forwarded a Donald Trump-related article to Strzok, writing: “And maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace.”

TEXTS SHOW FBI AGENTS FUMING OVER TRUMP: ‘PROTECT THE COUNTRY FROM THAT MENACE’ 

He responded: “Thanks. It’s absolutely true that we’re both very fortunate. And of course I’ll try and approach it that way. I just know it will be tough at times. I can protect our country at many levels, not sure if that helps.’”

In March 2016, Page texted Strzok, “God, Trump is a loathsome human.”

“Yet he many[sic] win,” Strzok responded. “Good for Hillary.”

Later the same day, Strzok texted Page, “Omg [Trump’s] an idiot.”

“He’s awful,” Page answered.

The messages were given to the House Judiciary Committee.

“We are now beginning to understand the magnitude of this insider bias on Mueller’s team,” Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said in his opening statement on Wednesday. He cited the “extreme bias” shown in the text messages between Strzok and Page; Mueller investigator Andrew Weissmann’s “awe” of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates for defying President Trump; and Mueller investigator Jeannie Rhee’s representation of the Clinton Foundation. He also cited the case of another DOJ official demoted amid scrutiny of his contacts with the firm behind the anti-Trump dossier.

“Aren’t DOJ attorneys advised to avoid even the ‘appearance of impropriety’?” Goodlatte asked, calling the “potential bias” of certain career Justice Department officials and lawyers on Mueller’s team “deeply troubling.” “DOJ investigations must not be tainted by individuals imposing their own political prejudices.”

Rosenstein told lawmakers that he has “discussed this with Robert Mueller.”

“It’s our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions,” Rosenstein said. “I believe Director Mueller understands that, and recognizes people have political views but that they don’t let it [affect their work.]”

Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, pushed back, calling the appearance “sad.”

“Rather than wearing stripes like a referee, the Mueller team overwhelmingly ought to be attired with Democratic donkeys or Hillary t-shirts, not shirts that say ‘Make America Great Again,’ because I think the American people deserve more than the very biased team they have under Mueller,” Chabot said. “It’s really sad.”

But Rosenstein defended Mueller’s investigation, stressing he has “oversight authority” over Mueller.

“I know what he’s doing,” Rosenstein said of Mueller’s investigative actions. “He consults with me about their investigation, within and without the scope.”

FUSION GPS ADMITS DOJ OFFICIAL’S WIFE NELLIE OHR HIRED TO PROBE TRUMP 

When pressed over whether Mueller has attempted to “expand” the original scope of his investigation, Rosenstein said that he had given his “permission” to Mueller to investigate what he requests if it was necessary, noting that the special counsel team “does have authority” to investigate “obstruction.”

“If I thought he was doing something inappropriate, I would take action,” Rosenstein said.

In terms of any potential “impropriety” in Mueller’s office, cited by multiple committee Republicans, Rosenstein said he was not aware.

“I am not aware of any impropriety. Special Counsel is subject to oversight by the Department of Justice and I’m not aware of any violations of those rules,” Rosenstein said. “Appearance is, to some extent, in the eye of the beholder. We apply the department’s rules and regulations, and career ethics attorneys provide us counsel on that.”

Rosenstein underscored that he, Mueller and FBI Director Chris Wray are “accountable” and will ensure “no bias” in the special counsel’s findings.

Brooke Singman is a Politics Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Contains video:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/12/13/rosenstein-stands-by-mueller-probe-as-republicans-fume-over-insider-bias.html

FBI Agent, Lawyer Disparaged Trump and Supported Clinton — Then Appointed By Mueller Team To Investigate Trump, Russia Ties — Raises specter of bias in the investigation

December 13, 2017

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a fundraising event for Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Boston. (AP)

Senior FBI officials who helped probe Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign told a colleague that Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had to win the race to the White House, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

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Peter Strzok, a senior FBI agent, said Clinton “just has to win” in a text sent to FBI lawyer Lisa Page, the Times reported.
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The messages showed concern from Strzok and Page that a Trump presidency could politicize the FBI, the report said, citing texts turned over to Congress and obtained by the newspaper.
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Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is investigating the texts in a probe into FBI’s handling of its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server for official correspondence when she was Secretary of State under former President Barack Obama, the report added.
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Strzok was removed from working on the Russia probe after media reports earlier this month suggested he had exchanged text messages that disparaged Trump and supported Clinton.
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Strzok was involved in both the Clinton email and Russia investigations.
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Republicans, including Trump, have in recent weeks ramped up their attacks on the FBI and questioned its integrity.
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Special Counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees are investigating possible links between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. Russia denies meddling in the 2016 US elections.
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The FBI, the Democratic National Committee and the White House did not respond to a request for comment outside regular business hours.
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Reuters was unable to contact Peter Strzok and Lisa Page for comment.
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FBI Agent Removed From Russia Probe Called Trump an “Idiot” — “Loathsome human”

December 13, 2017
 Updated on 
A pedestrian walks past FBI headquarters in Washington on May 11, 2017.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Washington (AP) — Two FBI officials who would later be assigned to the special counsel’s investigation into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign described him with insults like “idiot” and “loathsome human” in a series of text messages last year, according to copies of the messages released Tuesday.

One of the officials said in an election night text that the prospect of a Trump victory was “terrifying.”

Peter Strzok, a veteran FBI counterintelligence agent, was removed over the summer from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team following the discovery of text messages exchanged with Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer who was also detailed this year to the group of agents and prosecutors investigating potential coordination between Russia and Trump’s Republican campaign.

Hundreds of the messages, which surfaced in a Justice Department inspector general investigation of the FBI’s inquiry into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, were being provided to congressional committees, which had requested copies, and were reviewed by The Associated Press on Tuesday night.

The existence of the text messages, disclosed in news reports earlier this month, provided a line of attack for Trump, who used the revelation to disparage FBI leadership as politically tainted. Republicans have also seized on the exchange of texts between two officials who worked for Mueller to suggest that the team is biased against Trump and its conclusions can’t be trusted.

The issue is likely to be a focus of a congressional hearing Wednesday involving Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel in May and oversees his team’s work.

A spokesman for Mueller has said Strzok was removed from the Mueller team as soon as the allegations were brought to the office’s attention, and that Page had already concluded her detail by that time anyway and returned to the FBI. Strzok has been reassigned within the FBI.

Working telephone numbers for Strzok and Page could not immediately be found.

Strzok had been deeply involved in the Clinton inquiry and was in the room when she was interviewed by the FBI. He later helped investigate whether the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

The texts seen by the AP began in the summer of 2015, soon after the FBI launched its email server investigation, and continued over the next year and a half as the presidential race was in full swing and as Trump and Clinton were looking to defeat their primary challengers and head toward the general election.

The messages — 375 were released Tuesday evening — cover a broad range of political topics and include an exchange of news articles about the race, often alongside their own commentaries.

There are some derogatory comments about Democratic officials, including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and former Attorney General Eric Holder, but some of the harshest comments are reserved for Trump.

In a March 4, 2016, back-and-forth provided to Congress, Page refers to Trump as a “loathsome human” and Strzok responds, “Yet he may win.” After Strzok asks whether she thinks Trump would be a worse president than fellow Republican Ted Cruz, Page says, “Yes, I think so.”

The two then use words like “idiot” and “awful” to characterize Trump, with Strzok saying, “America will get what the voting public deserves.”

In another exchange, on Oct. 18, 2016, Strzok writes to Page and says: “I am riled up. Trump is an (expletive) idiot, is unable to provide a coherent answer. I CAN’T PULL AWAY. WHAT THE (expletive) HAPPENED TO OUR COUNTRY??!?!”

Weeks later, on election day, as it seemed to become clearer that Trump could defeat Clinton, he says, “OMG THIS IS (expletive) TERRIFYING: A victory by Mr. Trump remains possible…”

Page replies, “Yeah, that’s not good.”

In August 2016, Strzok responded to a New York Times story that carried the headline of “Donald Trump is Making America Meaner” by saying, “I am worried about what Trump is encouraging in our behavior.”

But he also adds, “I’m worried about what happens if HRC is elected,” using the initials for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-13/fbi-agent-removed-from-russia-probe-called-trump-an-idiot

Can a president obstruct justice?

December 11, 2017

Yes, but not by doing any of the things we know Trump to have done.

Speculation about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has turned toward obstruction of justice—specifically, whether President Trump can be criminally prosecuted for firing James Comey as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or for earlier asking Mr. Comey to go easy on onetime national security adviser Mike Flynn. The answer is no. The Constitution forbids Congress to criminalize such conduct by a president, and applying existing statutes in such a manner would violate the separation of powers.

The Constitution…

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/can-a-president-obstruct-justice-1512938781

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Editorial: Yes, the president can obstruct justice, said Senate GOP

  • Quad-City Times editorial board
Illustration

Yes, the president can obstruct justice. Just ask the nine Republicans still in the U.S. Senate, including Chuck Grassley, who voted “guilty” when then-President Bill Clinton was accused of obstruction in 1999.

And that’s true no matter how badly those very same Republicans now don’t want to talk about it.

The long-debated issue came to a head this past week when an attorney for President Donald Trump, John Dowd, summoned the ghost of Richard Nixon during an interview with Axiom.

 “… the president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer and has every right to express his view of any case,” Dowd told the news site.

Dowd’s provocative statement follows a slew of charges filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller against members of Trump’s inner circle, who just couldn’t seem to stop meeting with Russian operatives during the campaign. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a close Trump aide and political confident, recently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. In response, Trump basically admitted on Twitter that he knew Flynn wasn’t honest with investigators when he canned former FBI Director James Comey, who refused to acquiesce to the president’s request to back off on the Flynn investigation, according to Comey’s congressional testimony. 

The legality of Dowd’s position has been debated for decades. The U.S. Constitution does not clarify if a sitting president can face prosecution. During the Watergate scandal, Nixon was listed as an “unindicted co-conspirator” during the court proceedings. But obstruction of justice was the first and key charge in the list of impeachable offenses drafted in the House. Nixon left office before the House could actually impeach him.

In 1999, Clinton’s administration was ablaze with the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The GOP-run House sent two indictments against the Democratic president to the Senate, including an obstruction of justice charge. The Senate failed to convict Clinton on either charge, splitting 50-50 when a two-thirds majority was required. But that also means 50 senators — universally Republicans — determined that a U.S. president can obstruct justice.

Of those 50, nine still sit in the Senate. They are Mike Crapo, Mike Enzi, Thad Cochran, Jim Inhofe, Orrin Hatch, John McCain, Mitch McConnell and Pat Roberts. Two more — Jeff Sessions and John Ashcroft — are, or have been, attorneys general in GOP administrations. 

In both instances, presidents were tried in Congress, not the courts. Still, each case represents a moment when a sitting president was charged, in a legal proceeding, with obstructing justice. But, unlike the court system, impeachment is a wholly political event. 

What’s clear is that congressional Republicans don’t want to talk about Dowd’s under-construction defense amid Mueller’s probe. Grassley’s vote in 1999 is a testament in black-and-white that, at least when the other side is under investigation, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee believes a president can obstruct justice. Yet, this past week, a straight answer was not to be had when Grassley’s staff were asked about Dowd’s assertion that, like a king, a president is immune from the rule of law. That silence was made even more notable in the wake of Sen. Diane Feinstein’s allegations that Grassley — with his desire to remake the federal courts for a generation in Trump’s image — has no interest in probing Trump too deeply. Instead, he’s more concerned with yet another probe of Hillary Clinton, on Wednesday blasting Democrats on the Judiciary Committee for resisting his push for yet another diversion from Trump’s legal perils. 

But a direct rebuke of Dowd’s assertion from the likes of Grassley and his peers is necessary, regardless of how badly Republicans want to protect the White House. Silence sets precedents that are sure to outlive us all. It would further erode basic democratic norms that separate republic from monarchy. It would, in very real terms, be another example of a Congress willing only to stand for the rule of law when it suits partisan ends.

 http://qctimes.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-yes-the-president-can-obstruct-justice-said-senate-gop/article_e26e3dcb-e17c-5639-826a-54548c229003.html

Local editorials represent the opinion of the Quad-City Times editorial board, which consists of Publisher Deb Anselm, Executive Editor Autumn Phillips, Editorial Page Editor Jon Alexander, Associate Editor Bill Wundram and community representative John Wetzel.

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On whether the president can obstruct justice

  • New York Times

You know you have a problem when you’ve been president for less than 11 months and you’re already relying on Richard Nixon’s definition of what’s legal.

On Monday morning, Axios reported that Mr. Trump’s top personal lawyer, John Dowd, said in an interview that the “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer” under the Constitution and “has every right to express his view of any case.”

This will come as news to Congress, which has passed laws criminalizing the obstruction of justice and decided twice in the last four decades that when a president violates those laws he has committed an impeachable offense.

In 1974, the first article of impeachment drafted by the House of Representatives charged President Nixon with “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force.”

A quarter-century later, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House for, among other things, having “prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice” and for having “engaged personally, and through his subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or scheme designed to delay, impede, cover up and conceal the existence of evidence and testimony.”

Now let’s see if those descriptions apply to President Trump.

On Saturday morning, in the wake of the bombshell guilty plea by Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, for lying to F.B.I. agents about his communications with Russian officials late last year, Mr. Trump tweeted, “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.”

Recall that the original justification for Mr. Flynn’s firing was simply that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence; otherwise he had done nothing wrong. That’s the case Mr. Trump made the day after Mr. Flynn’s firing, when he allegedly tried to shut down the F.B.I.’s inquiry into his campaign’s connections with Russian officials by telling James Comey, who was then the F.B.I. director, in a private Oval Office meeting, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”

In May, Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey, telling Russian officials in the Oval Office the next day that firing Mr. Comey had relieved “great pressure” on him, and referring to Mr. Comey as a “nut job.” In an interview with NBC, Mr. Trump said, “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.’”

It was bad enough for the president to attempt to interfere in any way with a law enforcement investigation of one of his top aides. But with Saturday’s tweet, Mr. Trump admitted that he knew Mr. Flynn had committed a federal crime at the time he fired Mr. Comey for refusing to stop investigating him. To most people with a functioning prefrontal cortex, it sure sounds like Mr. Trump is admitting to “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations” and to “impeding the administration of justice.”

Mr. Dowd confused the country further by saying he had drafted Mr. Trump’s tweet himself — a bizarre claim for a lawyer to make about a statement that incriminates his client. Then he outdid himself with his assertion to Axios that it is not possible for the president to obstruct justice. The argument, as far as it goes, is that the president is the nation’s highest ranking law enforcement officer and has the constitutional authority to supervise and control the executive branch, which includes making decisions about investigations and personnel.

But Mr. Trump didn’t just try to shut down some random no-name case; he tried to shut down an investigation into his own campaign’s ties to the Russian government’s efforts to swing the 2016 election in his favor. As that investigation keeps revealing, Mr. Trump’s top associates have repeatedly been untruthful about their contacts and communications with Russian officials.

In Saturday’s tweet, Mr. Trump also wrote, “It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!” If there were truly nothing to hide, if these talks with Russians were all just part of a normal presidential transition process, then why all the lying?

Any child could tell you the answer: People lie when they know they’ve done something wrong. Mr. Flynn and others in Mr. Trump’s campaign and transition team were secretly trying to undermine United States foreign policy as private citizens — which is not just wrong, but a criminal violation of the Logan Act. Worse, the policy being undermined was President Barack Obama’s punishment of a foreign adversary for interfering in an American election, and the underminers — Mr. Trump’s team — were the very people who benefited most directly from that interference.

For some historical perspective, Richard Nixon once again proves useful. In the closing days of the 1968 presidential campaign, Mr. Nixon ordered H. R. Haldeman, later his chief of staff, to throw a “monkey wrench” into the Vietnamese peace talks, knowing that a serious move to end the war would hurt his electoral prospects. Mr. Nixon denied that he did this to the grave; Mr. Haldeman’s notes, discovered after his death, revealed the truth.

Meanwhile, as the evidence of both subterfuge and obstruction continues to grow, Mr. Trump’s tireless spinners and sophists are working to convince the American public that it’s all no big deal. This is an embarrassing and unpersuasive argument, but it’s not surprising. At this point, they have nothing else to work with.

The Trump-Russia Probe Is About to Get Uglier — “It remains to be seen whether anything can shame Donald Trump.”

December 10, 2017

Bloomberg

By Albert R. Hunt

Unpleasant facts are spilling out. Republicans don’t want to know them.
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A long way to go. Photogrpaher: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Here are two certainties about the Trump-Russia investigation. It won’t end soon. It will get uglier.

A new shoe drops almost daily in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. First, Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying and agreed to cooperate. Then the White House changed its story (again) on what President Donald Trump knew after he was first advised in January that Flynn posed security problems.

QuickTakeGuide to the Trump-Russia Probe

Last week came news that Mueller had subpoenaed financial records from Deutsche Bank pertaining to people affiliated with Trump. Then Donald Trump Jr. said he wouldn’t tell Congress about his dad’s 2016 conversations with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer, invoking a dubious claim of attorney-client privilege.

This is not a saga in its closing chapter.

Equally clear is that no matter what is revealed, Trump and his allies won’t go quietly. Already, some congressional Republicans are trying to smear Mueller, the most experienced and respected special counsel in more than 40 years. If cornered, does anyone doubt that Trump will summon his core supporters to the streets?

The constant revelations create such a blur that context sometimes is overlooked. Trump and his operatives have lied repeatedly, denying that they had any contacts with Russians. Now we now know of at least 19 meetings among 31 interactions.

There are three avenues Mueller is exploring. Did the Trump team aid and abet the Russian efforts to hack and steal e-mails with an eye toward influencing with the U.S. presidential election? Did the president try to obstruct the investigation into those efforts? What was the nature of any financial arrangements Trump may have had with Russians linked to the Kremlin? Many of the Trump defenses seem to be unraveling.

U.S. intelligence agencies have reported “with high confidence” that the Russian government was behind break-ins to the email accounts of Democratic operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign as part of a campaign to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process” and harm Hillary Clinton’s “electability and potential presidency.” In a January report, the agencies said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

The question now is whether Trump or his team knew about this and facilitated the dissemination of the stolen material through WikiLeaks and other sources. The secrecy and contradictory accounts of their communications with Russian sources undercuts their repeated claims that their contacts were innocent.

By last week, Trump opponents were taking to public forums to talk about the evidence supporting an obstruction-of-justice case against Trump himself. That’s based on a chain of events involving Trump’s effort to pressure James Comey to drop the Russia probe and then firing him as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation when he didn’t.

News organizations have also reported that Trump tried to influence other key officials to curtail investigations, including National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, National Security Agency director Admiral Mike Rogers and House Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr. Coats and the others have avoided commenting directly on these accounts, which nevertheless appear to worry the White House enough to produce a claim last week by Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, that a president can never be guilty of obstruction because he is the chief law-enforcement officer under the Constitution.

That drew scornful responses from legal scholars and even some pushback from the White House lawyer handling the Russia case. As well it should; obstruction was the central impeachment charge against Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

Duke University law professor Samuel Buell, a former prosecutor, wrote in July that “it is highly likely that special counsel Robert Mueller will find that there is a provable case that the president committed a felony offense,” namely obstruction.

And that’s keeping in mind an important reminder from Bill Ruckelshaus, a former acting FBI director who was a hero of Watergate when he quit Nixon’s Justice Department in 1973 rather than following an order to impede the investigation of that landmark case. What’s publicly known about inquiries like this one, he told me in June, is just a little of what’s actually happening.

There is, for example, evidence that Mueller has expanded his investigation to look at financial deals involving Trump family interests.

Robert Anderson, a top counterintelligence and cybersecurity aide to Mueller when the latter was FBI director from 2001 to 2013, wrote in Time last month that Mueller “appears to have uncovered details of a far-reaching Russian political-influence campaign.” Anderson predicted that the conspiracy would prove to involve wire fraud, mail fraud and moving money around illicitly between countries. He said more informants are likely to emerge, and declared, “When the people who may be cooperating with the investigation start consensually recording conversations, it’s all over.”

The issue of whether a sitting president can be indicted is unsettled. Those who know Mueller believe that he’s less likely to pursue a prosecution than to send Trump’s case to Congress to consider impeachment.

Trump loyalists have already started fighting that battle, with bitter preemptive counterattacks issuing from top congressional Republicans like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy and even Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley. They’ve made it clear that they’re more interested in discrediting Mueller than in learning about what happened between the Trump camp and Russia.

Trump, if caged, will lash out furiously. Maybe he’d try to fire Mueller and issue pardons for his family and friends. He’d rally his hardcore supporters, urging them to protest against the threat to him. Thus it’s impossible to envision a peaceful resolution like the one that occurred in 1974, when Nixon was forced out to avoid impeachment.

“At the end of the day, Richard Nixon was found to have a sense of shame,” notes Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste. “It remains to be seen whether anything can shame Donald Trump.”

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Albert R. Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jonathan Landman at jlandman4@bloomberg.net