Posts Tagged ‘Special Counsel Robert Mueller’

Mueller Poised to Zero In on Trump-Russia Collusion Allegations

June 26, 2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is preparing to accelerate his probe into possible collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russians who sought to interfere in the 2016 election, according to a person familiar with the probe.

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Robert Mueller

Mueller and his team of prosecutors and investigators have an eye toward producing conclusions — and possible indictments — related to collusion by fall, said the person, who asked not to be identified. He’ll be able to turn his full attention to the issue as he resolves other questions, including deciding soon whether to find that Trump sought to obstruct justice.

Suspicious contacts between at least 13 people associated with Trump’s presidential campaign and Russians have fueled the debate over collusion.

Some of those encounters have been known for months: the Russian ambassador whose conversations forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation and led Michael Flynn to plead guilty to perjury. The Russians who wangled a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in July 2016 after dangling the promise of political dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Other encounters continue to emerge, including a Russian’s chat with veteran Trump adviser Roger Stone at a cafe in Florida.

‘Warning Lights’

Signs of suspicious Russian contacts first surfaced in late 2015, especially among U.S. allies who were conducting surveillance against Russians, according to a former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

By the spring of 2016 the frequent contacts set off alarm bells among U.S. intelligence officials, according to James Clapper, who was director of national intelligence at the time. The FBI’s Russia investigation officially began that July.

“The dashboard warning lights were on for all of us because of the meetings,” Clapper said in an interview this month. “We may not have known much about the content of these meetings, but it was certainly very curious why so many meetings with Russians.”

On three occasions, Russians offered people associated with Trump’s campaign dirt on Democrat Clinton — all before it was publicly known that Russians had hacked the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman.

Mueller has interviewed or sought information about many of the people known to have met with Russians during the campaign. But it’s not known publicly whether the barrage of Russian contacts was instigated or coordinated by the Kremlin. Trump, for his part, has repeatedly denied any such plotting, tweeting on June 15, “WITCH HUNT! There was no Russian Collusion.”

Here are the players and their known interactions, with links to previous news stories:

Michael Cohen

Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer started working on a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow in September 2015 with Felix Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer who’s a felon and previously had helped collect intelligence for the U.S. government. Cohen said the Trump Organization signed a nonbinding letter of intent in October 2015 with Moscow-based I.C. Expert Investment Company.

The project ultimately fizzled. Cohen said he stopped working on it in January 2016, around the time he reached out to a Kremlin spokesman asking for help with the project. Yahoo News reported that in May Sater and Cohen were still talking about the tower, including a possible trip to Russia to have a meeting with government officials. Just before and after Trump’s inauguration, Cohen met with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg and Andrew Intrater, who invests money for Vekselberg. Shortly after, Intrater’s private equity firm, Columbus Nova, awarded Cohen a $1 million consulting contract.

Russian Oligarch Tied to Trump Lawyer in Stormy Bombshell

Michael Flynn

The retired Army lieutenant general attended a December 2015 dinner in Russia where he sat at a table with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Several months later, Flynn started working as an informal adviser to the Trump campaign and in August attended Trump’s first intelligence briefing with the FBI. After the election he was named Trump’s national security adviser. During the presidential transition he had multiple contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in which they discussed U.S. sanctions. Flynn resigned as national security adviser after it become known he had lied about the nature of his conversations with Kislyak. He was later indicted by Mueller for making false statements to investigators and agreed to become a cooperating witness.

Flynn’s Side Deals, Link to Trump Aides Offer Clues for Mueller

George Papadopoulos

Shortly after being named a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign in March 2016, Papadopoulos met with a London professor he believed had connections to the Russian government. That month, Papadopoulos suggested he could help arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin, an offer that was rejected by Sessions, who led the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team. In April, the professor told Papadopoulos that Russian officials had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. Papadopoulos also was in contact with a Russian who said he represented the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Papadopoulos was arrested in July 2017 and in October pleaded guilty to misleading investigators.

Trump Says He Has Little Memory of Meeting With Papadopoulos

Jared Kushner

The president’s son-in-law met briefly with Kislyak at an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington in April 2016 in what he has described as an exchange of pleasantries. In December, after the election, Kushner met again with Kislyak and Russian banker Sergey Gorkov, who’s close to Putin.

Kushner Denies Improper Russia Contacts as He Meets With Senators

Michael Caputo

The Republican political strategist — who lived for a time in Moscow and worked for the campaign of the late President Boris Yeltsin — worked briefly as an adviser to the Trump campaign. He was contacted by a Russian business partner who asked him to help facilitate a meeting between the Trump campaign and a Russian national who identified himself as Henry Greenberg. Caputo directed him to veteran Republican operative Stone, with whom Caputo has worked for decades.

Caputo Says He Never Heard Campaign Talk of Russia Collusion

Roger Stone

The longtime Trump political adviser confirmed for the first time this month that he met at a Florida cafe in May 2016 with Greenberg, who claimed to have information that would be “beneficial” to the Trump campaign but demanded $2 million in exchange. Stone — who says he’d forgotten about the 20-minute meeting when he failed to disclose it in interviews with a congressional committee — said he rejected the deal. Stone says he thinks the meeting was part of an FBI plot to entrap him in light of indications that Greenberg had worked in the past as an informant for the bureau.

Stone also told people during the campaign that he was in contact with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which published Democratic National Committee emails believed to have been stolen by Russian operatives. Stone has since denied that he communicated directly with Assange. Stone also exchanged private messages on Twitter with an online persona called Guccifer 2.0, believed to be linked to the Russian government.

Mueller Turns His Focus to Longtime Trump Adviser Roger Stone

Paul Manafort

While serving as Trump’s campaign chairman, Manafort was in contact with Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI has described as having ties to Russian intelligence. In July 2016, Manafort offered to give a campaign briefing to another business associate, Oleg Deripaska, who’s closely aligned with the Kremlin. Manafort was charged in October with a series of financial crimes and for failing to register as an agent of Ukraine. His bail was revoked and he was jailed after prosecutors claimed he tried to tamper with witnesses.

Manafort Judge Rejects Bid to Toss Money-Laundering Charge

Donald Trump Jr.

The president’s son helped arrange the meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist. Kushner and Manafort also were there. While the Russians billed it as a chance to share damaging information on Clinton, participants have said nothing of value was offered.

Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting at the request of a pop star in Russia whose family has ties to Putin and has known the Trump family for several years. The meeting also has led to controversy over President Trump’s role in drafting a statement that falsely described the topic of the meeting as adoptions of Russian children.

In addition, Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank, has said he had shared a dinner table with Trump Jr. at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in May. Torshin, a former senator in Putin’s United Russia party directed dirty-money flows for mobsters in Moscow, according to investigators in Spain.

Trump Jr. Declines to Detail Talk With Father, Democrat Says

Carter Page

After being named a foreign policy adviser to the campaign in March 2016, Page traveled to Moscow that July for a speech and meetings. Page said he met briefly with Arkady Dvorkovich, then the deputy prime minister of Russia. Page said he also met Dvorkovich again at a dinner in December, after he was no longer affiliated with the Trump campaign. Page also met in July with Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations for the Russian energy company Rosneft. And Page met with Kislyak briefly at the Republican convention in July. U.S. intelligence agencies indicated Page was a target of Russian intelligence as early as 2013.

Page Tells Russia Probe He’s ‘Biggest Embarrassment’ to Trump

Jeff Sessions

The attorney general, who took an early role in Trump’s campaign while serving in the Senate, had conversations with Ambassador Kislyak at the Republican convention and in September in his Senate office. The Washington Post reported that U.S. intelligence intercepted Kislyak telling Russian officials that they discussed campaign-related issues. Session recused himself from the Russia investigation — a move for which Trump has repeatedly vilified him because Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then appointed Mueller as special counsel.

Trump Laments Picking Sessions as GOP Ally Undercuts Spying Claim

J.D. Gordon

As a campaign foreign policy adviser, Gordon met briefly with Kislyak at the Republican convention. Page contacted Gordon, a former Pentagon spokesman, and others on the campaign in July to praise them for a change in the Republican Party platform that softened the party’s support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. Gordon also has said Page went around him to secure permission to make a trip to Russia.

Trump’s Campaign Foreign Policy Team Under Mueller’s Microscope

Rick Gates

In September and October, Gates communicated directly with Kilimnik, according to court filings. Gates was a right-hand man to Manafort and worked as a campaign aide until he was fired by Trump in August. Even after being fired, Gates remained involved with the campaign through the Republican National Committee, and he worked on the presidential transition. Gates pleaded guilty in February to conspiring with Manafort to defraud the U.S. in charges not directly related to the Russia probe.

Gates Guilty Plea Strengthens U.S. Hand Against Manafort

Erik Prince

The founder of Blackwater, a provider of private security forces in trouble spots such as Iraq, served as an informal adviser to Trump’s transition team. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is now education secretary. After Trump’s election but before the inauguration, Prince met Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian-government controlled wealth fund who’s close to Putin, during a visit to the Seychelles islands.

Prince told congressional investigators he was meeting with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates to discuss topics including Middle East tensions and bauxite mining when the prince’s brother casually suggested that he go downstairs to chat with “this Russian guy.” The New York Times has reported that the meeting was arranged in part to explore the possibility of a back channel for discussions between the incoming Trump administration and the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the meeting it didn’t identify.

Erik Prince’s Seychelles Meeting With Russian Draws New Scrutiny

— With assistance by Billy House, and Steven T. Dennis

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-26/mueller-poised-to-zero-in-on-trump-russia-collusion-allegations

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FBI attorney who worked on the special counsel Mueller’s Russia investigation fired for anti-Trump bias

June 14, 2018

An FBI attorney who worked on the special counsel’s Russia investigation until earlier this year sent anti-Trump text messages to a colleague, including one exclaiming: “Viva le Resistance.”

The attorney’s comments are revealed in a Justice Department inspector general’s report released on Thursday.

The lawyer is not identified, but he worked on the Hillary Clinton email investigation and was the FBI’s lead attorney on the investigation into Russian election interference. He was assigned to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation soon after it began in May 2017 and left in late February of this year after some of his private messages were shared with the special counsel.

The inspector general’s report focuses on instant messages that the attorney exchanged with a colleague about the Clinton and Russia probes.

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“I am numb,” the attorney wrote on Nov. 9, 2016, the day after President Trump’s election.

“I am so stressed about what I could have done differently,” the lawyer continued, apparently referring to the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email probe.

The attorney’s messages show that the was distressed at the FBI’s decision in October 2016 to re-open the investigation into Clinton’s emails. Democrats have claimed that decision hurt Clinton at the polls.

The FBI lawyer also suggested that he would work to resist the Trump administration.

“Is it making you rethink your commitment to the Trump administration?” one FBI lawyer wrote on Nov. 22, 2016.

“Hell no. Viva le resistance,” the future Mueller attorney responded.

During interviews with the office of the inspector general, the lawyer claimed that his “personal political feelings or beliefs…in no way impacted” his work on the Clinton or Russia investigations.

The lawyer did acknowledge that the messages created the perception of anti-Trump bias. He told investigators that he “can understand the, the perception issues that come from” the Nov. 22, 2016 exchange.

The special counsel’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

http://dailycaller.com/2018/06/14/mueller-lawyer-resisted-trump/

Mueller Probe Needs Less Secrecy So The Public Can Understand

May 7, 2018
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies before the House Judiciary Committee, December 13, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

It’s time to level with the public about the basis for Mueller’s investigation.‘How do you know Trump’s not a suspect?”

I’ve been hearing that question a lot these days. News reports indicate that Special Counsel Robert Mueller may try to coerce President Trump’s testimony by issuing a grand-jury subpoena if the president does not agree to a “voluntary” interview. That has sparked a public debate over the question of whether Mueller, an inferior executive officer, has such authority to strong-arm the chief executive — the official in whom the Constitution reposes all executive power, including the power that Mueller exercises only as long as the president permits it.

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I don’t think he does.

To be clear, there is no question that Mueller, as a special counsel, is a federal prosecutor who has the authority to issue grand-jury subpoenas. But everyone who works in the Justice Department has a boss, including the attorney general (who answers to the president). As special counsel, Mueller answers to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the so-called Russia investigation). That means Mueller has the authority to issue a subpoena to the president unless Rosenstein — or the president — tells him not to.

Before we come to whether the deputy AG should clip the special counsel’s wings, let’s address one point of confusion.

Many people believe, as I do, that the president should not be subjected to questioning by a prosecutor on the facts as we presently know them. From that premise, however, they argue that Mueller may not subpoena the president, or that the president may ignore any subpoena. Neither of those things is true.

A prosecutor has the power to subpoena virtually anyone. In our system, there are very few limits on what the grand jury may investigate. A comparison usefully illustrates this point. I’ve frequently observed that by appointing Mueller without first establishing a basis to believe a crime warranting investigation had been committed, Rosenstein violated regulations that govern special-counsel appointments. By contrast, the grand jury has no such constraints — it can investigate pretty much anything. There is no proof hurdle — such as “probable cause” or “reasonable suspicion” — that has to be surmounted. In fact, a grand jury is free to investigate even if it just wants to satisfy itself that a crime has not been committed.

So a prosecutor who is using the grand jury has sweeping investigative authority. That includes broad subpoena power. There is a big difference, however, between the power to issue a subpoena to a person and the power to make that person testify.

Our law extends various privileges that relieve the privilege-holder of the obligation to provide evidence. Best known is the privilege against self-incrimination — a person never has to testify against himself. But there are many others: husband-wife, lawyer-client, doctor-patient, priest-penitent, and so on

So sure, a prosecutor can issue a subpoena requiring a witness (including a witness who may be a subject or target of the investigation) to appear before the grand jury. But that does not necessarily mean the witness must testify. If the witness has a privilege that would be infringed by the prosecutor’s questions, the witness may refuse to answer.

Of course, a prosecutor is not going to issue a subpoena or otherwise try to coerce the testimony of a witness the prosecutor knows is going to assert a valid privilege. Similarly, a person who has a valid privilege knows a subpoena cannot force him to testify. These practical realities understandably cause non-lawyers to assume that the prosecutor is probably not allowed to issue the subpoena, or that the recipient’s privilege means he can ignore the subpoena. Not so. Technically, the prosecutor has the authority to issue the subpoena, even if it is futile; and a witness may not lawfully ignore the subpoena — that would be contempt of court (since a subpoena is basically a court order to appear).

Bottom line: The question is not whether a prosecutor has the power to issue a subpoena. It is whether the person he wants to subpoena has a privilege that would allow him to refuse to testify.

Now, why does our law grant such privileges? Because we recognize that in a society based on ordered liberty, some things are simply more important than the search for truth in a criminal investigation. Some security considerations; some fundamental human relationships; some needs to promote exchanges of information that, in turn, promote the functioning of a free society — these priorities can and often do outweigh a prosecutor’s desire to gather evidence relevant to an investigation.

I dealt with this in national-security cases. Let’s say the FBI has an informant who has infiltrated a terrorist cell and is giving the government information that helps us prevent terrorist attacks. A prosecutor at the Justice Department says we now need to indict some of the terrorists in the cell; the FBI counters that if we indict the terrorists, we will have to identify the informant and we will lose this vital source of life-saving information. If the officials who run the Justice Department agree with the FBI, that does not mean they believe terrorism prosecutions are unimportant; it means they prioritize security, so the need to prosecute has to take a back seat to other vital concerns.

The president’s job is more critical to the nation than Robert Mueller’s investigation. That does not mean Mueller’s investigation is insignificant; it is crucial that we fully uncover Russia’s interference in the 2016 election (the aim of the counterintelligence investigation Mueller was assigned to conduct) so that we can thwart the Kremlin in the future. But it does mean that Mueller’s desire for investigative secrecy and the ability to interview every witness who might have relevant evidence has to give way to other priorities.

As we observed here a few days ago, while the president’s awesome responsibilities for American governance and national-security are more significant than any criminal investigation, the president is not above the law. Thus, there are circumstances in which it is reasonable to burden the president to comply with investigative demands. But those circumstances must be narrow.

This is precisely why the courts have recognized “executive privilege,” a qualified privilege that enables a president to shield information unless a prosecutor can demonstrate that its disclosure is critical to an investigation. Given that the president is the chief executive and can fire federal prosecutors at will, it is not clear how a prosecutor would have authority to oppose a presidential assertion of privilege. But the upshot is obvious: A prosecutor should not be permitted to seek information from a president unless there is evidence of a serious crime in which the president is implicated, and there is no alternative source from which the prosecutor could obtain the information sought.

This is certainly clear enough to the Justice Department when, as sometimes happens, a defendant in a trial attempts to subpoena some top government official on the theory that the official might have relevant information. The Justice Department routinely fights off these efforts, arguing that there is no basis to burden these officials in the absence of proof that the testimony sought is critically important to the case and there is no alternative source from which the information can be elicited.

This makes perfect sense. If there were any other rule, these officials would be unable to perform the responsibilities of their public offices — responsibilities that are more vital to the nation than the case in question. And plainly, no other government official’s responsibilities compare to the importance of the president’s.

There are thus very good reasons why Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein should step in and prevent Special Counsel Mueller from seeking to question the president. But I want to leave you with a different thought. How are we supposed to grapple with whether the president should be compelled to testify when we don’t know what Mueller is alleging? What crime does Mueller want to ask the president about? And if there isn’t one, why are we even talking about an interview, let alone a subpoena?

Yes, all prosecutors want to maintain investigative secrecy. In the vast majority of cases, the enforcement of the law after a serious crime has been committed outweighs other concerns; secrecy enables prosecutors to investigate without smearing innocent people, so we respect the need for it. But secrecy is not an absolute requirement; it must give way when outweighed by other considerations.

Can anyone conceivably contend that a prosecutor’s desire to maintain secrecy until the prosecutor is good and ready to reveal details of his investigation is more important to our society than the damage caused by potentially unfounded suspicion that the president is a criminal?

It has become ludicrous. The question of whether a prosecutor should be permitted to interview a president hinges on whether the president is a suspect. There is no public evidence that President Trump is. This raises the patent objection that he should not be asked to be interviewed under those circumstances. What we hear in response is, “How do you know he’s not a suspect?” But the reason we don’t know — other than the lack of evidence after two years — is that Mueller won’t deign to tell us, and Rosenstein won’t deign to comply, publicly, with regulations that required him to outline the basis for a criminal investigation.

The president should direct Rosenstein to outline, publicly and in detail, the good-faith basis for a criminal investigation arising out of Russia’s interference in the election — if there is one.

That is not acceptable. In every other independent-prosecutor investigation in modern history — Watergate, Iran-Contra, Whitewater/Lewinsky — the president and the public have known exactly what was alleged. The prosecutor was able to investigate with all the secrecy the law allows, but under circumstances in which we all understood what was being investigated and why the president was suspected of wrongdoing.

After two years, we are entitled to nothing less. The president should direct Rosenstein to outline, publicly and in detail, the good-faith basis for a criminal investigation arising out of Russia’s interference in the election — if there is one. If he can’t, Mueller’s criminal investigation should be terminated; if he can, Mueller should be compelled to explain (unless Rosenstein’s disclosure makes it clear) why he needs to interview President Trump in order to complete his work.

If Rosenstein and Mueller are reluctant to do that, it can only be because they’ve decided that not only their investigation but also their desire for secrecy take precedence over every other consideration, including the president’s capacity to govern domestically and conduct foreign policy in a dangerous world. But secrecy is not the nation’s top priority. It’s long past time to lay the cards on the table.

Will Donald Trump Meet Kim Jong Un and Start Meaningful Negotiations? The Odds Just Got Lower as John Bolton Heads to The White House

March 23, 2018

Peace and Freedom

Donald Trump’s new National Security Advisor is a hawk who plays hard ball. He has a history of claiming that North Korea will never give up its quest for nuclear weapons and will never negotiate in good faith.

This joke has been attributed to Bolton:

 “Question: How do you know that the North Korean regime is lying? Answer: Their lips are moving.”

See also:

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The return of John Bolton, a hawk on North Korea and Iran, sparks concerns

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/south-korea-worries-about-the-return-of-john-bolton-and-his-hawkish-views/2018/03/23/4adc68aa-2e6c-11e8-911f-ca7f68bff0fc_story.html?utm_term=.9a2315e1008b

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CNN

(CNN) John Bolton said on Thursday that his past policy statements are “behind me” and that, after taking over next month as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, “The important thing is what the President says and the advice I give him.”

But Bolton’s history of provocative, often bellicose pronouncements, typically in the form of calls to bomb countries like Iran and North Korea — along with his unwavering support, before and after, for the 2003 invasion of Iraq — are impossible to pass off, especially as Trump considers tearing up the Iran nuclear deal and prepares for talks with Pyongyang.
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What follows is a small sampling of Bolton’s rhetoric, dating back to the post-9/11 period. Back then, while working in the Bush administration, Bolton made the case at home and abroad that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and that the US role in the aftermath of regime change in Iraq would be “fairly minimal.” Trump, by the way, has pointed to his own opposition to the Iraq war as evidence of his smarts.
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Bolton also publicly accused Cuba of providing “dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states.” Years later, after leaving his post as ambassador to the UN, he pushed to expand the Iraq War into Iran. More recently, he’s pushed for unilateral strikes in Iran and North Korea, while casting doubt on Russia’s role in 2016 election-related hacking.
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He made the case last month for striking North Korea ‘first’

Citing preemptive strikes by Israel on Syrian (2007) and Iraqi (1981) reactor sites, Bolton in February of this year — less than four weeks ago — made a case in the Wall Street Journal for a potential US attack on North Korea:
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“Pre-emption opponents argue that action is not justified because Pyongyang does not constitute an ‘imminent threat.’ They are wrong. The threat is imminent, and the case against pre-emption rests on the misinterpretation of a standard that derives from prenuclear, pre-ballistic-missile times. Given the gaps in U.S. intelligence about North Korea, we should not wait until the very last minute. That would risk striking after the North has deliverable nuclear weapons, a much more dangerous situation.”
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He suggested election hacking was a ‘false flag operation’ designed to frame the Russians

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In December 2016, Bolton said he wasn’t convinced the Russian had a role in pre-election hacking.
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“It’s not at all clear to me just viewing this from the outside that this hacking into the DNC and the RNC computers was not a false flag operation. The question that has to be asked is, why did the Russians run their smart intelligence service against Hillary’s server but their dumb intelligence services against the election?”
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He seems to have changed his mind; is now advocating heavy retaliation

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In an opinion piece filed after special counsel Robert Mueller returned indictments alleging conspiracy to defraud the US against a group of Russian nationals, Bolton wrote:
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“One way to (deter Russia) is to engage in a retaliatory cyber campaign against Russia. This effort should not be proportional to what we have just experienced. It should be decidedly disproportionate. The lesson we want Russia (or anyone else) to learn is that the costs to them from future cyberattacks against the United States will be so high that they will simply consign all their cyberwarfare plans to their computer memories to gather electronic dust.”
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He said a diplomatic option for dealing with North Korea was to ‘end the regime’

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Asked by a Fox News host if there were any “diplomatic options” remaining in the nuclear standoff with North Korea, Bolton suggested this:
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Bolton: “I think the only diplomatic option left is to end the regime in North Korea by effectively having the South take it over. You’ve got to argue with China–“
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Fox News host Trish Regan: “That’s not really diplomatic! (Laughing) As far as they’re concerned.”
Bolton: “Well, that’s their problem, not ours. Anybody who thinks that more diplomacy with North Korea, more sanctions, whether against North Korea, or an effort to apply sanctions against China, is just giving North Korea more time to increase its nuclear arsenal…”
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He compared — to laughter and cheers — former President Barack Obama to a ‘Muslim king’

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In a speech to the American Freedom Alliance conference in August 2016, Bolton drew applause when he said this of Obama at the beginning of a speech on Muslim countries and their politics:
“King Abdullah of Jordan, who is not simply the Muslim king of a Muslim country, unlike our president… (laughter and cheers) … King Abdullah and other political leaders in the Middle East have said this is a civil war within Islam.”
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He desperately wants to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal

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In Janaury of this year, again in the Wall Street Journal, he argued that the administration take more forceful steps to break the terms of the pact:
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“Spending the next 120 days negotiating with ourselves will leave the West mired in stasis. Mr. Trump correctly sees Mr. Obama’s deal as a massive strategic blunder, but his advisers have inexplicably persuaded him not to withdraw. Last fall, deciding whether to reimpose sanctions and decertify the deal under the Corker-Cardin legislation, the administration also opted to keep the door open to ‘fixes’ — a punt on third down. Let’s hope Friday’s decision is not another punt.”
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He also touched on a common theme in his writing, going back at least to former President George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech, that connects Iran and North Korea:
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“Little is known, at least publicly, about longstanding Iranian-North Korean cooperation on nuclear and ballistic-missile technology. It is foolish to play down Tehran’s threat because of Pyongyang’s provocations. They are two sides of the same coin.”
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He took — and seems to take — the ‘Axis of Evil’ line literally

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Rewind to August 2002 and remarks made during talks between the North and South Koreans, when Bolton defended the expression and insisted “it was factually correct.” This is from the New York Times report:
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“In a strongly worded speech, the official, John R. Bolton, the under secretary of state for arms control, cited what he said was ‘a hard connection between these regimes — an “axis” along which flow dangerous weapons and dangerous technology.'”
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He argued in favor of Brexit, touting the UK’s strong negotiating hand

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Ahead of the Brexit vote in 2016, Bolton wrote in the New York Daily News that the UK would enter potential EU exit negotiations with the upper hand. (Things have been somewhat more difficult than he figured.):
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“EU stalwarts like German Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble have tried to scare Britain by proposing obnoxious exit terms. The rhetoric is hollow bluster. The advantages of free trade and easy movement of goods and financial resources between Europe and Britain, whether or not the latter remains part of the former, will dictate that Britain and the EU negotiate Brexit terms that are mutually advantageous. … There is an inherent economic risk in abandoning arrangements and institutions built up over time. But in the sweep of European history, the EU is a newcomer. It makes sense for Britain exit now rather than wait until disaster strikes.”
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Before the deal was done, he wrote an op-ed calling on the US to bomb Iran

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Shortly before the framework of the Iran nuclear deal was set in place, Bolton wrote a piece headlined, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” He even considered outsourcing the job to Israel:
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“Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed. … An attack need not destroy all of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but by breaking key links in the nuclear-fuel cycle, it could set back its program by three to five years. The United States could do a thorough job of destruction, but Israel alone can do what’s necessary. Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran’s opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran.”
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He (still) believes leaving Iraq was a worse decision than invading it

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Bolton became Bush’s under secretary of state for arms control and international security in May of 2001 and remained in the job for about four years, during which time the US invaded Iraq under false pretenses, before taking over as ambassador the United Nations via recess appointment. Asked in 2015 about the decision to go to war, here’s what he told the Washington Examiner:
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“I still think the decision to overthrow Saddam was correct. I think decisions made after that decision were wrong, although I think the worst decision made after that was the 2011 decision to withdraw U.S. and coalition forces. The people who say, oh things would have been much better if you didn’t overthrow Saddam miss the point that today’s Middle East does not flow totally and unchangeably from the decision to overthrow Saddam alone.”
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He wanted to bomb Iran during the Iraq war

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In 2008, Bolton called for strikes inside Iran as part of a bid to cut off Tehran’s aid to insurgents in Iraq. Asked by a Fox News host what he thought would “happen next” if the US attacked, he downplayed the potential for widening the war:
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“I think the Iranians need to look very carefully at what risk they would run if they were to escalate. The idea here is not to have much larger hostilities, but to stop the Iranians from engaging in the hostilities that they’re already doing against us inside Iraq. And they’re doing much the same by aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan. So this is not provocative or preemptive, this is entirely responsive on our part.”
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He downplayed the short- and long-term dangers of war in Iraq

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In the run-up to the Iraq invasion he made the case for regime change to the BBC. Here’s one of his arguments in favor:
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“I think the Iraqi people would be unique in history if they didn’t welcome the overthrow of this dictatorial regime. And Iraqi opposition leaders of a variety of positions and views are discussing now what will happen after Saddam Hussein. I expect that the American role actually will be fairly minimal. I think we’ll have an important security role. I think concluding the destruction of the weapons of mass destruction themselves will be important. But I think fundamentally the recreation of a hopefully democratic Iraqi government — that must rest with the Iraqis.”
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See also:
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The return of John Bolton, a hawk on North Korea and Iran, sparks concerns
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Trump Make a Snap Decision To Replace McMaster With John Bolton

March 23, 2018

Bloomberg

By Jennifer Jacobs and Margaret Talev

  • McMaster Ousted Days After His Briefing to Trump on Putin Call
  • Trump names ex-U.S. envoy Bolton as national security adviser

Video: H.R.Mcmaster out, John Bolton to come in…

 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-23/trump-makes-snap-move-to-oust-mcmaster-as-russia-decision-looms
 Image result for John Bolton, photos
Trump Continues to Shake Up the Administration

President Donald Trump made a snap decision to oust H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, moving as the administration weighs tough actions against Russia and acting far sooner than many White House aides expected.

McMaster’s departure had been the subject of intense speculation in recent days, yet most administration officials thought it wouldn’t come for weeks. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said just a week ago that the two men had a great working relationship.

Trump and McMaster

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

But Trump changed all that on Thursday evening, abruptly replacing McMaster with John Bolton, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and proponent of the 2003 Iraq War best known for his hawkish views.

The move was announced by Trump on Twitter so quickly on Thursday afternoon that many of the president’s top aides didn’t know it was coming.

Even by the standards of Trump, it was a turbulent day that left staff frustrated and demoralized. Earlier, the president rattled markets by imposing tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports, saw one of his top lawyers in the Russia probe quit in frustration and watched Congress struggle to try to avoid a government shutdown.

Read more: This is John Bolton’s view of the world

The ride isn’t over: Sunday brings a “60 Minutes” interview with porn actress Stormy Daniels, who is expected to say she slept with Trump just months after his wife Melania gave birth to their son in 2006.

North Korea

The McMaster move also means Trump is heading into talks with North Korea with a new national security team, having also just sacked his top diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Trump’s tariffs meanwhile risk alienating one of the most important countries to the success of those talks, China — which retaliated early Friday with $3 billion in levies on imports from the U.S.

McMaster’s exit also comes as Trump faces tough decisions on whether to punish Russia for the attempted assassination of a former spy in the U.K. His security advisers discussed on Wednesday a list of options to present to the president, including fresh sanctions, closing consulates and expelling Russians from the U.S., according to two people familiar with the matter. Trump has been asking aides what allies — including France and Germany — are doing in response to the attack, conducted with what the U.K. says was a Soviet Union-designed nerve agent.

Earlier this week, McMaster briefed Trump for a call with Vladimir Putin and didn’t warn against offering congratulations on the Russian leader’s election win, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Written guidance prepared for the president by White House advisers ahead of Tuesday’s phone call explicitly cautioned against complimenting Putin. But in a verbal briefing he personally delivered to Trump before the call, McMaster didn’t emphasize what not to say about the election, said the people, who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.

Trump likely didn’t read the written guidance before speaking with his Russian counterpart, and he ended up offering good wishes to Putin on his re-election. That congratulatory message — uttered as the U.S. considers a tougher stance toward Moscow — prompted sharp criticism from senior Republican lawmakers and intensified tensions among White House aides involved in Russia matters.

McMaster’s omission may not have made much difference. By the time the call was set up at Trump’s request, two of the people said, most of the president’s advisers widely believed their boss wanted to congratulate Putin and would have ignored any advice to the contrary.

The administration’s stance toward Russian President Vladimir Putin had been the source of friction between McMaster and Trump. Last month, McMaster echoed the sentiments of top U.S. intelligence officials who told Congress that Russians are targeting the 2018 elections with potential cyber attacks and efforts to sow political division.

Trump Conflict

“The evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain, whereas in the past it was difficult to attribute,” McMaster said on Feb. 17, after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted a Russian “troll farm” and its operators for an alleged covert social media campaign to influence the election.

McMaster called the Russian actions as described in the indictment a “sophisticated form of espionage.”

Trump rebuked him on Twitter, saying McMaster “forgot” to say that the results of the election weren’t changed by the Russian meddling — something the indictment didn’t address — and that the only collusion was between the Russians, Clinton and Democrats.

During his 30-minute call with Putin Trump didn’t mention such sensitive issues as the U.K. poisoning or ongoing concerns over Russian interference in U.S. elections. He conducted the conversation while alone in the White House residence, though some Trump aides were on the line. There has been some second-guessing in the White House that Trump was left without the proper staffing support at his side for this call.

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, assailed Trump’s outreach to the Russian leader.

“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” McCain said in a statement Tuesday. “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future.”

Later, the Washington Post reported that written guidance for Trump had advised him not to congratulate Putin.

McMaster, an Army lieutenant general, had been the focus of recent speculation that he would soon leave as Trump reshaped his foreign policy team. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was said to be in consultations with Pentagon officials about finding a command that would have allowed McMaster to obtain a fourth star. In a statement released by the White House after his departure was announced, McMaster said he would retire from the military this summer.

Later Thursday night, after Trump announced his replacement, McMaster attended a dinner for visiting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Washington and received a standing ovation after former Florida Governor Jeb Bush pointed him out in the crowd from the stage.

— With assistance by Nick Wadhams

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-23/trump-makes-snap-move-to-oust-mcmaster-as-russia-decision-looms

House Intelligence Committee: former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper misled Congress on possible collusion — U.S. Intel “did not employ proper analytic tradecraft” on Russian election meddling

March 23, 2018

James Clapper

James Clapper / Getty Images

BY: 

A House Intelligence Committee investigation of Russian election meddling has concluded that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper misled Congress about disclosing information to CNN.

The committee’s final report on the investigation was approved on Thursday and now awaits an intelligence agency review.

Despite 472 days of investigation and thousands of witnesses, the committee stated in its list of final conclusions and recommendations that it found no evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump, his campaign aides, and Russia.

“The committee found no evidence that meetings between Trump associates—including Jeff Sessions—and official representatives of the Russian government—including Ambassador Kislyak—reflected collusion, coordination, or conspiracy with the Russian government,” the list states.

The report also said former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI regarding conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak “even though the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents did not detect any deception during Flynn’s interview.”

The finding suggests the FBI improperly charged Flynn.

The Obama administration also failed to notify the Trump campaign that members of the campaign were assessed to be counterintelligence concerns, the report said.

The committee said opposition to Trump from the U.S. national security establishment prompted the campaign to hire unqualified aides such as George Papadopoulous and Carter Page.

Trump advisers had contacts with the pro-Russian Wikileaks, but none were involved in the theft or publication of Clinton campaign emails, the report said.

On the former DNI, the report says that Clapper, now a contributor to CNN as a national security analyst “provided inconsistent testimony to the committee about his contacts with the media, including CNN.”

A CNN spokeswoman did not return an email seeking comment. Clapper could not be reached for comment.

The report also states that leaks of classified information about Russian intentions to sow discord in the U.S. presidential election began prior to Election Day. The disclosures of U.S. secrets alleging Russia was working to help elect Trump “increased dramatically” after the Nov. 8, 2016 election.

The panel suggested that the leaks “correlate to specific language” in a U.S. intelligence community assessment of Russian election meddling.

The finding suggests that leaks of classified information were politically motivated to undermine Trump after he won the election.

The findings also say the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign funded the anti-Trump dossier produced by former British intelligence officers Christopher Steele.

Steele “claims to have obtained his dossier information second- and third-hand from purported high-placed Russian sources, such as government officials with links to the Kremlin and intelligence services,” the report says.

“Christopher Steele’s information from Russian sources was provided directly to Fusion GPS and Perkins Cole and indirectly to the Clinton campaign,” the report said.

The report suggests that the research group Fusion GPS was used by Russia for disinformation. “Prior to conducting opposition research targeting candidate Trump’s business dealings, Fusion GPS conducted research benefitting Russian interests,” the report said.

The Washington Free Beacon hired Fusion GPS early in the 2016 election campaign but had no role in the Steele dossier.

The report also concluded that Russia intelligence used social media to sow political discord and undermine the election.

The FBI was criticized by the committee for not providing victims information about Russian hacking operations.

Also, U.S. intelligence community judgments regarding Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s strategic intentions “did not employ proper analytic tradecraft,” the report said.

The report said Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted former Trump campaign aide Paul Manafort on charges unrelated to collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/house-probe-accuses-clapper-misleading-congress/

John Dowd Resigns as Trump’s Lead Lawyer in Mueller Probe

March 22, 2018

Bloomberg

By Shannon Pettypiece

  • Departure comes after Trump adds probe critic DiGenova to team
  • Changes could signal more confrontational approach to Mueller

John Dowd resigned as President Donald Trump’s lead attorney countering Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe as the inquiry into possible collusion in the 2016 election intensifies.

“I love the president and wish him well,”’ Dowd said.

John Dowd

Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg

His decision came after Trump decided to add a new high-profile lawyer, Joseph diGenova, to his legal team. A frequent guest on Fox News, diGenova has publicly attacked Mueller’s investigation and the FBI, saying he believes Trump was framed by Justice Department officials on a political vendetta.

Dowd and Trump’s other lawyers had been pursuing a strategy of cooperation with Mueller’s probe and had been negotiating for weeks over the terms under which Mueller would interview Trump. DiGenova’s hiring suggested that Trump may pursue a more confrontational approach.

DiGenova has advocated a much more confrontational approach, including the idea that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller’s work, to be removed and appointed as a judge.

For Newest Lawyer, Trump Picks Fierce Critic of Mueller’s Probe

Until recently, Dowd and another Trump lawyer, Ty Cobb, have been instrumental in persuading Trump to back off personal attacks on Mueller, according to the people, who asked not to be identified describing private discussions. But Trump’s frustration has been growing and he attacked Mueller publicly last weekend for the first time.

Dowd too expressed his desire for Mueller to wrap things up. “I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier,” Dowd said in a March 17 statement.

Jay Sekulow, another Trump lawyer, said the legal team will continue its work defending the president.

“We will continue our ongoing representation of the President and our cooperation with the Office of Special Counsel,” he said in a statement.

Since becoming Trump’s primary outside lawyer last summer, Dowd has bristled at attempts to diminish his authority, according to a person familiar with the matter. At one point last summer, when Trump’s advisers discussed top-tier Washington lawyers who could be added to the president’s legal team, Dowd groused that he didn’t want to end up being the caboose on the train, the person said.

Can Trump Dismiss the Special Counsel? Not Exactly: QuickTake

Dowd and Cobb were originally recruited with full awareness of the long history they share with Mueller. Cobb has had a friendly working relationship with Mueller for more than three decades, and Dowd shares a common bond over their time as prosecutors and as Marines who served in Vietnam.

Dowd was handpicked by longtime Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz over the summer, when it became clear Mueller’s investigation could last months, if not years, and questions were raised about whether Trump had obstructed justice.

Early in his career, Dowd worked at the Justice Department where he focused on racketeering, corruption and tax-evasion cases.

Dowd comes from a family of Marines and has stayed involved in the Corps, providing pro bono legal work to Marines. He is known for his combative style, talking in military terms when discussing a case and viewing himself as at war, ferociously battling his opponents.

— With assistance by Greg Farrell

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-22/john-dowd-resigns-as-trump-s-lead-lawyer-in-mueller-probe

John Dowd, President Donald Trump’s lead lawyer, steps down

March 22, 2018

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

John Dowd

John Dowd, President Donald Trump’s lead lawyer for the special counsel’s Russia investigation, is resigning, according to the New York Times and Washington Post.

This news comes after the president added lawyer Joseph diGenova to his team.

The New York Times reports Dowd felt Trump was increasingly ignoring his advice. Dowd felt it was a poor idea for the president to meet with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

http://www.kcra.com/article/body-cam-video-officers-save-choking-infant-while-standing-in-traffic/19557874

(Donald Trump doesn’t always take direction…)

Related:

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John Dowd outside of Manhattan Federal Court in 2011. CreditBrendan Mcdermid/Reuters

WASHINGTON — The president’s lead lawyer for the special counsel investigation, John Dowd, resigned on Thursday, according to two people briefed on the matter, days after the president called for an end to the inquiry.

Mr. Dowd, who took over the president’s legal team last summer, had considered leaving several times in recent months and ultimately concluded that Mr. Trump was increasingly ignoring his advice, one of the people said. Under Mr. Dowd’s leadership, Mr. Trump’s lawyers had advised him to cooperate with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russia’s election interference and possible ties to Trump associates as well as whether the president obstructed the inquiry.

The president has instead in recent days begun publicly assailing Mr. Mueller, a shift in tone that appears to be born of the president’s concern that the investigation is bearing down on him more directly. He has also privately insisted he should sit for an interview with the special counsel’s office, even though Mr. Dowd believed it was a bad idea.

Mr. Dowd’s departure marks the most prominent shake-up for the president’s legal team since he took over from the president’s longtime personal lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz.

It is not clear who will run the team in his place. Mr. Trump’s other personal lawyer for the investigation, Jay Sekulow, is liked by the president and recently brought on one of his longtime friends, Joseph E. diGenova, to join the team.

Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer for the investigation, came aboard around the same time as Mr. Dowd and Mr. Sekulow and advocated on behalf of cooperating with the special counsel. But the president has discussed with close associates in recent days whether to fire Mr. Cobb, while reassuring Mr. Cobb that he had no plans to do so.

Andrew McCabe Kept Notes About Conversations With Trump, Gave Them to Mueller — All started with Hillary Clinton’s email

March 18, 2018

John Dowd, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, called for Mueller probe to end ‘on the merits in light of recent revelations’

Andrew McCabe, former deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who was fired Friday night, at a July 2017 press conference with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Andrew McCabe, former deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who was fired Friday night, at a July 2017 press conference with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. PHOTO: JIM WATSON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe wrote memos describing his conversations with President Donald Trump and other events and has turned them over to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a person close to Mr. McCabe said Saturday.

The memos, written soon after the events they describe, cover Mr. McCabe’s dealings with the White House and what former FBI Director James Comey told Mr. McCabe about his interactions, according to the person.

That revelation came amid increasingly contentious exchanges Saturday between President Trump and some of the country’s most senior former law-enforcement and national security officials, sparked by Mr. McCabe’s dismissal late Friday.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions terminated Mr. McCabe two days before his scheduled retirement, saying internal investigators found Mr. McCabe made an unauthorized disclosure to the media and “lacked candor” on multiple occasions.

The Fake News is beside themselves that McCabe was caught, called out and fired. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars was given to wife’s campaign by Crooked H friend, Terry M, who was also under investigation? How many lies? How many leaks? Comey knew it all, and much more!

Mr. Trump, in his third tweet on the subject since Friday night, said Saturday afternoon that Mr. McCabe was “caught, called out and fired.” “How many lies? How many leaks?” Mr. Trump said, adding that former FBI Director James Comey “knew it all, and much more!”

Nine minutes later, Mr. Comey responded on Twitter saying, “the American people will hear my story very soon.” He has a book scheduled to be released next month. “They can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not,” Mr. Comey said.

Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not.

Mr. Comey himself was fired last May, in an episode that is now under investigation by Mr. Mueller. Mr. Comey testified last year he kept memos of his interactions with Mr. Trump and that he felt Mr. Trump had pressured him to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The volleys Saturday began when Mr. Trump’s personal legal team called for the Justice Department to end the special counsel’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia, after the department fired a senior official who at one time had been involved in looking at that and other politically charged matters.

The lawyer, John Dowd, said he wasn’t calling on the department to fire Mr. Mueller, but rather to end the investigation “on the merits in light of recent revelations.”

Mr. McCabe’s termination immediately spurred furious debate over whether the firing was merited or was an attempt to undermine the Mueller investigation, possibly by casting doubt on the credibility of Mr. McCabe, a potential witness. Mr. McCabe, who was deputy to Mr. Comey, had been removed from his deputy post in January and was due to retire on Sunday.

Mr. Sessions said Friday night that he had terminated Mr. McCabe’s employment “effective immediately” after an “extensive and fair investigation.” Mr. Sessions said both the inspector general and the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that Mr. McCabe made an unauthorized disclosure and lacked candor when he spoke under oath on “multiple occasions.”

Mr. McCabe on Friday night said he was fired and his pension threatened because he could corroborate Mr. Comey’s account of interactions with the president.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter Friday night that the action against Mr. McCabe marked a “great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”

Others saw Mr. Sessions’s firing of Mr. McCabe as aimed at the Mueller investigation. “Every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, needs to speak up in defense of the Special Counsel,’’ Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.), top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter.

When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you. https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/974859881827258369 

In scathing remarks, John Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama and an official in the George W. Bush administration, said on Twitter that Mr. Trump would be seen as a “disgraced demagogue,’’ adding, “You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America.”

Mr. McCabe, in a lengthy statement, strongly disputed the allegations, saying that he had the authority to share the information with a reporter and that he “answered questions truthfully and as accurately” as he could “amidst the chaos that surrounded” him. His lawyer said the disciplinary process was rushed and completed “in a little over a week.”

Mr. Dowd, the president’s lawyer, on Saturday called for the Justice Department to follow Mr. Sessions’s “brilliant and courageous example” in firing Mr. McCabe and “bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss, James Comey.”

Mr. Dowd directed his call to end the Russia investigation at Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who appointed Mr. Mueller last year after Mr. Sessions recused himself from the matter.

Mr. Dowd said he was speaking for himself, not the president. Earlier Saturday, he had told the Daily Beast he was issuing the statement on the president’s behalf.

Mr. Trump has been eager to see the investigation wrap up as quickly as possible, describing it as a distraction that is hurting the country. His lawyers have repeatedly laid out public time lines by which they expected the investigation to end, with expected end points that have come and gone.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers are seeking to negotiate a deal with Mr. Mueller that uses an interview with the president as leverage to spur a conclusion to the Russia investigation, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and suit

Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd. Reuters Photo

Tensions will be on further display in coming weeks.

The Justice Department’s inspector general, or in-house watchdog, is expected to issue a report by the end of April that examines the bureau’s handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email arrangement that is likely to be critical of the FBI and some of its officials. Meanwhile, a book by James Comey, the former FBI director fired by Mr. Trump, is due out on April 17, and it is expected to take sharp aim at the president and his conduct.

The findings into Mr. McCabe’s alleged misconduct deal with an Oct. 30, 2016, report in The Wall Street Journal about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation, the Journal previously reported.

Write to Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com, Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com and Del Quentin Wilber at del.wilber@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-lawyer-citing-mccabes-firing-calls-for-end-to-mueller-probe-1521309707

See also:

Trump Lawyer Says Special Counsel Inquiry Should Be Ended

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/17/us/politics/trump-mueller-dowd.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Mueller Weighs Putting Off Trump Obstruction Decision

March 12, 2018

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Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Bloomberg

By Chris Strohm and  Shannon Pettypiece

  • Delay would let him wrap up less explosive parts of inquiry
  • Obstruction decision might undercut probe, one way or another

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice is said to be close to completion, but he may set it aside while he finishes other key parts of his probe, such as possible collusion and the hacking of Democrats, according to current and former U.S. officials.

That’s because Mueller may calculate that if he tries to bring charges in the obstruction case — the part that may hit closest to Trump personally — witnesses may become less cooperative in other parts of the probe, or the president may move to shut it down altogether.

The revelation is a peek into Muller’s calculations as he proceeds with his many-headed probe, while pressure builds from the president’s advisers and other Republicans to show progress or wrap it up.

The obstruction portion of the probe could likely be completed after several key outstanding interviews, including with the president and his son, Donald Trump Jr. The president’s lawyers have been negotiating with Mueller’s team over such an encounter since late last year. But even if Trump testifies in the coming weeks, Mueller may make a strategic calculation to keep his findings on obstruction secret, according to the current and former U.S. officials, who discussed the strategy on condition of anonymity.

Any clear outcome of the obstruction inquiry could be used against Mueller: Filing charges against Trump or his family could prompt the president to take action to fire him. Publicly clearing Trump of obstruction charges — as the president’s lawyers have requested — could be used by his allies to build pressure for the broader investigation to be shut down.

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

Other key matters under investigation by Mueller’s team, with its 17 career prosecutors, include whether Trump or any of his associates helped Russia meddle in the 2016 campaign. Mueller is also expected to indict some of those responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee before the election and publicly leaking stolen material in an effort to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The timing for whether — and when — to interview Trump or his family members is one of the most sensitive decisions Mueller faces at this stage of his investigation. The special counsel’s office declined to comment for this story.

Trump, who has branded the probe a “witch hunt,” is growing increasingly frustrated as Mueller’s work continues, and the president’s lawyers have signaled that they expect the investigation to wrap up quickly.

Expansive, Aggressive

Recent reports provide a glimpse into how expansive and aggressive Mueller’s investigation is. The New York Times and Washington Post, for example, suggest Mueller’s team recently began probing efforts by the United Arab Emirates to influence the Trump team, including a meeting the Gulf kingdom apparently helped organize in the Seychelles where an informal Trump adviser also met with a Russian banker.

The Post also reported that Mueller has been asking about several Russia-related incidents involving longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, including his role in trying to help the Trump Organization build a tower in Moscow in 2015.

When it comes to the obstruction portion of the investigation, Mueller is said to be focused on three main episodes: Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey last May; the drafting of a misleading statement about the purpose of a June 2016 meeting between Don Jr., Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and a group of Russians at Trump Tower; and the disclosure that Trump considered firing Mueller last June.

Mueller’s team of FBI agents and prosecutors has already interviewed people who could provide firsthand knowledge of possible obstruction of justice, including Comey, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Millions of PagesMueller also has turned Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, into a cooperating witness. He has interviewed more than four dozen White House and campaign aides and requested more than 1.4 million pages of documents, according to Trump’s lawyers.

Kushner spoke to Mueller early on in the investigation for a limited interview, while Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter who’s also an adviser, have yet to be interviewed, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

There is also no indication that Mueller has yet interviewed Trump’s former bodyguard Keith Schiller, who was at Trump’s side on a trip to Moscow and during each day of the campaign and his presidency until he resigned over the summer. When Trump moved to fire Comey, Schiller hand-delivered the note to the FBI.

Here are three of the main episodes Mueller is investigating on a potential obstruction of justice:

Weekend in Bedminster

One focus for Mueller is a rainy weekend that Trump and top aides spent holed up at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, shortly before Comey was fired. Trump stayed out of public view the entire weekend. While the White House released little information about his activities except to say he had “meetings and calls,” it’s clear Trump and his advisers were discussing Comey’s fate.

Traveling with Trump that weekend was then-Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland, a Flynn ally; senior adviser Stephen Miller; then-White House communications director Hope Hicks, social media director Dan Scavino; Kushner; and Ivanka Trump.

That Sunday morning in Bedminster, Trump publicly aired his frustrations on the Russia probe, tweeting: “Why did the Obama Administration start an investigation into the Trump Campaign (with zero proof of wrongdoing) long before the Election in November? Wanted to discredit so Crooked H would win. Unprecedented. Bigger than Watergate! Plus, Obama did NOTHING about Russian meddling.”

Late that day, Trump flew back to Washington with staff and his daughter and son-in-law. After landing at Andrews Air Force Base, he spent more than 40 minutes on the tarmac before deplaning, an unusually long time. When he did exit Air Force One, Kushner told reporters “everything is good, he was working on something.”

Less than 12 hours later, Trump woke the next morning and began venting again about the investigation. He wrote six Twitter posts attacking the probe, three of them aimed at former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?” one of them read. Trump fired Comey the next day.

Don Jr.’s Statement

Mueller also has been prodding witnesses about the crafting of the misleading statement by Trump Jr. to the New York Times concerning the meeting with Russians at Trump Tower in Manhattan. Mueller interviewed the former spokesman for Trump’s legal team, Mark Corallo, after the release of author Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury,” which said Corallo believed the crafting of the statement could amount to obstruction of justice.

The statement — crafted aboard Air Force One by Trump, Hicks and Kushner spokesman Josh Raffel and relayed to Trump Jr. — portrayed the meeting as being mostly about Russian adoptions. Emails later released by Trump Jr. showed an organizer told him the Russians would produce damaging information on Clinton. The White House has said of the statement that Trump “weighed in, as any father would, based on the limited information that he had,” while on a return trip from Germany.

Corallo told investigators that in a phone call with Hicks and Trump raising concern about the statement Hicks insisted the emails would “never get out,” which Corallo found deeply naive, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Firing Mueller

The third main area Mueller is probing for potential obstruction involves Trump’s desire to fire Mueller. Trump became enraged with Sessions when he recused himself from anything to do with the Russia investigation, a decision that continues to rankle the president. After Trump fired Comey, Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel.

Trump wanted to fire Mueller in June, three people familiar with the matter said, raising concern among his top aides and closest supporters that Trump would put himself in legal jeopardy. Trump ultimately relented after White House Counsel Don McGahn refused to carry out the order and made clear he’d resign rather than acquiesce.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-12/mueller-is-said-to-weigh-putting-off-trump-obstruction-decision