Trump Goes on Tweetstorm While Watching Fox News, Quotes Hannity and Mark Levin

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Wednesday evening to share criticism about ex-CIA director John Brennan that he heard on Fox News.

“’John Brennan is a stain on the Country, we deserve better than this.’” Former Secret Service Agent and author of new book, ‘Spygate, the Attempted Sabotage of Donald J. Trump,’ Dan Bongino,” Trump wrote, referring to the conservative commentator and frequent Fox News guest.

He added: “Thank you Dan, and good luck with the book!”

Bongino’s comments came during a discussion of Trump’s decision to yank Brennan’s security clearance just one day after Brennan criticized him on both Twitter and MSNBC citing Brennan’s “erratic behavior.”

Speaking to the Wall Street Journalearlier today, Trump pushed back on criticism of his decision, telling the WSJ, “[I] would put a Republican on, too, if I thought they were incompetent or crazy.”

Brennan also spoke out on Trump’s decision, calling Trump’s move an effort to “intimidate and suppress” his critics.

“I do believe that Mr. Trump decided to take this action, as he’s done with others, to try to intimidate and suppress any criticism of him or his administration,” Brennan said on Wednesday afternoon, after learning he had lost his clearance. “And revoking my security clearances is his way of trying to get back at me.”

In addition to using a Fox News quote to slam Brennan, Trump also tweeted out a remark from a Fox News guest who said Hillary Clinton “got a pass by the FBI.”

Then, later on Wednesday evening, he even tweeted quotes from Sean Hannity‘s show from Mark Levin and Hannity himself. Hannity said, “I’d strip the whole bunch of them. They’re all corrupt. They’ve all abused their power. They’ve all betrayed the American people with a political agenda.”

[Mediaite]

FBI agent Peter Strzok fired over anti-Trump texts

The FBI has fired agent Peter Strzok, who helped lead the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election until officials discovered he had been sending anti-Trump texts.

Aitan Goelman, Strzok’s attorney, said FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich ordered the firing Friday, even though the director of the FBI office that normally handles employee discipline had decided Strzok should face only a demotion and 60-day suspension. Goelman said the move undercuts the FBI’s repeated assurances that Strzok would be afforded the normal disciplinary process.

“This isn’t the normal process in any way more than name,” Goelman said, adding in a statement, “This decision should be deeply troubling to all Americans.”

The FBI declined to comment.

The termination marks a remarkable downfall for Strzok, a 22-year veteran of the bureau who investigated Russian spies, defense officials accused of selling secrets to China and myriad other important cases. In the twilight of his career, Strzok was integral to two of the bureau’s most high-profile investigations — the Russia case and the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

But when a Justice Department inspector-general investigation uncovered politically charged messages that Strzok had exchanged with another FBI official, he was relegated to a position in human resources. Conservatives soon made Strzok the face of their attacks against the special-counsel investigation into the president’s campaign, and the FBI took steps to remove Strzok from its ranks.

Conservatives on Monday hailed the move. President Trump used it to suggest the Russia investigation should be dropped and the Clinton case redone.

“Agent Peter Strzok was just fired from the FBI – finally. The list of bad players in the FBI & DOJ gets longer & longer. Based on the fact that Strzok was in charge of the Witch Hunt, will it be dropped? It is a total Hoax. No Collusion, No Obstruction – I just fight back!” he wrote.

Minutes later, he added, “Just fired Agent Strzok, formerly of the FBI, was in charge of the Crooked Hillary Clinton sham investigation. It was a total fraud on the American public and should be properly redone!”

The reaction among Democrats was more understated. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said Strzok’s firing did not undercut Mueller’s probe, which had produced dozens of indictments.

“Sorry, @realDonaldTrump, the #RussiaInvestigation is bigger than one agent (who was at least willing to go under oath).” Swalwell tweeted, citing the president’s Twitter handle.

Bobby Goodlatte, the son of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), wrote on Twitter that he was “deeply embarrassed that Peter Strzok’s career was ruined by my father’s political grandstanding” and pointed to a recent congressional hearing at which Strzok testified.

“Thank you for your service sir,” Bobby Goodlatte wrote. “You are a patriot.”

Bobby Goodlatte recently endorsed the underdog Democrat running for his father’s seat.

Strzok’s team launched a GoFundMe page with a lengthy statement to raise money for his “legal costs and lost income” and said on the site that his firing was “apparently driven by political pressure.” The site had raised more than $40,000 by late Monday afternoon.

Because Strzok was a senior-level FBI employee, and because the FBI’s No. 2 official directed his firing, he has few realistic avenues left to get back his job. It was unclear whether he planned to pursue legal action against the bureau.

Strzok’s position in the bureau had been precarious since last summer, when the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, told special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that the lead agent on his team had been exchanging anti-Trump messages with an FBI lawyer. The next day, Mueller expelled Strzok from the group.

The lawyer, Lisa Page, had also been a part of Mueller’s team, though she left a few weeks earlier and no longer works for the FBI. She and Strzok were having an affair.

Trump has previously derided the pair as “FBI lovers,” and he and his conservative allies have pointed to their conduct in an attempt to discredit the Mueller probe. On Saturday, before the firing was known publicly, Trump tweeted an attack on Strzok, Page, former FBI director James B. Comey and former deputy director Andrew McCabe.

“Will the FBI ever recover it’s once stellar reputation, so badly damaged by Comey, McCabe, Peter S and his lover, the lovely Lisa Page, and other top officials now dismissed or fired?” Trump wrote on Twitter. “So many of the great men and women of the FBI have been hurt by these clowns and losers!”

Horowitz concluded that Strzok showed a “willingness to take official action” to hurt Trump’s electoral prospects, particularly in a text he sent telling Page “we’ll stop” Trump from being president.

Strzok, who was a deputy assistant director for counterintelligence at the bureau, has apologized for sending the messages and said they reflected personal views that did not affect his work. His attorney has said that had Strzok wanted to prevent Trump’s election, he could have leaked that Trump’s campaign was under investigation for possibly coordinating with Russia — a revelation that might have upended his bid to become president.

At a congressional hearing last month, Strzok sparred with Republican lawmakers who raised questions about his character and even his marriage. He asserted that there was “no evidence of bias in my professional actions” and that his having to testify was “just another victory notch in [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”

Strzok was escorted out of the FBI building in June and effectively relieved of work responsibilities, though he technically remained an FBI employee as he and his attorney challenged the effort to dismiss him. On July 24, they made a final pitch to Candice M. Will, who leads the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

Goelman said Will ultimately decided that Strzok should face a demotion and 60-day suspension and be subjected to a “last chance” agreement. That would have put him on thin ice if he were to commit another offense. But Goelman said Bowdich overruled that decision and ordered Strzok’s termination.

During a June congressional hearing, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said that Strzok had been referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility — which he referred to as the bureau’s “independent disciplinary arm” — and that officials would “not hesitate to hold people strictly accountable.” Wray promised that process would be “done by the book.”

Strzok is the third high-ranking FBI official involved in the Clinton and Russia investigations to be fired amid an intensely political backdrop. Trump removed Comey as the bureau’s director and said he did so thinking of the Russia case. Attorney General Jeff Sessions later removed Comey’s deputy, McCabe, after the inspector general alleged he lied about a media disclosure related to Clinton.

McCabe — who, unlike Comey, could not be removed at the will of the president — has said his termination was a politically motivated attempt to undermine the Mueller probe. He is facing a criminal investigation by prosecutors in the District of Columbia’s U.S. attorney’s office. McCabe’s attorney wrote Monday of Strzok’s firing: “Another patriot, public servant, and defender of the FBI fired to appease the WH,” using an abbreviation for White House.

It is possible that others could yet face discipline. The inspector general identified five FBI employees, including Strzok and Page, with some connection to the Clinton email case who had exchanged messages expressing hostility toward Trump, support for Clinton or other political views. Each was referred to the FBI for possible violations of the bureau’s code of conduct.

The inspector general’s office said it found no evidence “to connect the political views expressed in these messages to the specific investigative decisions” in the Clinton case. Its report singled out Strzok, though, for prioritizing the Russia investigation in October 2016 instead of following up on a Clinton-related lead. Strzok’s attorney has disputed that Strzok failed to pursue the Clinton lead aggressively.

[Washington Post]

Trump Praises Strzok Firing: ‘Crooked Hillary Clinton Sham Investigation’ Should Be ‘Redone’

President Donald Trump celebrated the firing of FBI agent Peter Strzoktoday and took the opportunity to bring up both the “Witch Hunt” and the Clinton email investigation.

In his tweets this afternoon, the President questioned whether the Mueller probe will “be dropped” and even suggested the “sham investigation” into Clinton be redone:

[Mediaite]

Trump calls Attorney General Jeff Sessions ‘scared stiff and Missing in Action’

President Donald Trump called Attorney General Jeff Sessions “scared stiff and Missing in Action” on Saturday in his latest broadside on Twitter against the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

The attack on the attorney general came as Trump claimed the news media “refuses to report” on meetings held between Christopher Steele, the ex-British intelligence officer who authored an opposition research dossier on Trump, and former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr.

Ohr was demoted from his position in the deputy attorney general’s office after the discovery of certain meetings he held with Steele and the head of the opposition research firm that hired him to compile the dossier, Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, CNN reported last year, citing a source familiar with the matter. Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS doing research and analysis on Trump, Simpson has disclosed.

“The big story that the Fake News Media refuses to report is lowlife Christopher Steele’s many meetings with Deputy A.G. Bruce Ohr and his beautiful wife, Nelly. It was Fusion GPS that hired Steele to write the phony & discredited Dossier, paid for by Crooked Hillary & the DNC….,” Trump wrote on Saturday.

[CNN]

Trump Quotes Dubious Claim From Maria Bartiromo’s Show Slamming Russia Investigation

Sitting in for Neil Cavuto Thursday on Fox News, Maria Bartiromo took on a subject that has become a consistent field of coverage for the business anchor: the supposedly corrupted Russia investigation.

And the president was apparently watching.

Bartiromo, during a discussion on special counsel Robert Mueller probe, made the claim that there was “no evidence whatsoever” to support an investigation into collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia.

“[Rep.] Devin Nunes (R-CA), the chairman of the Intel committee on the House, has been with me several times telling me there was no evidence whatsoever to launch even an investigation into potential collusion between Donald Trump and the Russians. And so here we are a year and a half later, the special counsel still going on, and we continue to see texts from FBI agents showing this incredible amount of bias.”

Trump quoted from the segment on Twitter Friday morning.

The idea that there is no evidence to support a collusion investigation is simply false. As NBC News’ Ken Delanian lays out here, the FBI began investigating the Trump campaign after Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat that Russians offered him dirt on Hillary Clinton. Further, there is extensive documented contact between various individuals connected with Donald Trump’s campaign, and Russia. To say collusion hasn’t yet been proven is entirely fair. The idea that there’s no evidence to start an investigation is not.

[Mediaite]

Trump Suggests FBI Kept Carter Page’s Russia Ties Secret to ‘Spy’ on His Campaign

President Donald Trump suggested that the FBI may have tried to use Carter Page as “an excuse to SPY” on the Trump campaign, as they did not inform the then-candidate about Page’s ties to Russia.

“’Why didn’t the FBI tell President Trump that they had concerns about Carter Page? Is there a double standard here?’” Trump tweeted on Thursday, quoting comments made by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Fox News.

Trump then jumped in with his on commentary on the matter: “They told Senator Diane Feinstein that she had a spy – but not Trump. Is that entrapment or did they just want to use Page as an excuse to SPY?”

Just days before the election in 2016, the FBI filed a surveillance application on Page that said, “The FBI believes that Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”

Page responded to the allegations by denying his involvement with the Kremlin.

“I’ve never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination,” the former Trump campaign adviser said.

[Mediaite]

Reality

First, Carter Page left the Trump campaign in September 2016, the FBI sought another FISA warrant in October 2016 after Page left.

Second, the FBI informed Trump the Russians were trying to infiltrate his campaign in July 2016.

Trump is a liar.

Trump: People investigating Russia ‘witch hunt’ are ‘totally corrupt’

President Trump said Thursday that everyone involved in the Russia investigation is either corrupt or conflicted, and said it was started through illegal means.

Trump tweeted that the dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele is “phony” and said many of those involved who were fired are “lying and dishonest,” possibly alluding to former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

“Stay tuned!” Trump concluded the tweet.

[Washington Examiner]

Trump wrongly blames California’s worsening wildfires on water diversions

As wildfires continued to scorch California, President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a tweet that befuddled experts, wrongly blaming the state’s water diversions for making the blazes worse.

California’s environmental laws, he claimed, “aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!”

While decades-old state and federal forest management strategies have been cited as exacerbating California’s wildfires in recent years, experts Sunday were quick to refute Trump’s claim that water policy was to blame.

While California’s river water is tightly managed to account for drinking, agriculture and environmental needs, it is not being diverted into the ocean. And the problem is not that the state lacks the water to fight fires, but that years of drought have made forests and brush more flammable.

“On the water side, it boggles the mind,” UC Merced professor and wildfire specialist LeRoy Westerling told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We do manage all of our rivers in California, and all the water is allocated many times over. So I’m not sure what he was recommending. . . . Even if we eliminated all habitat for riparian species and fish, and allowed saltwater intrusion into the delta and set up a sprinkler system over the state, that wouldn’t compensate for greater moisture loss from climate change.”

Meanwhile, the Trump administration on Sunday approved a federal disaster declaration for the state. Nine people have been killed by the 18 wildfires currently burning across the state. The Mendocino Complex fire north of San Francisco has grown to the fifth-largest in state history, burning almost 400 square miles by Sunday. and threatening 15,000 homes. Meanwhile, the Ferguson fire entered Yosemite National Park, which remained largely closed to visitors, and the Carr fire near Redding claimed its seventh life, when a PG&E lineman crashed his vehicle while working with crews to fight the blaze. Overall, more than 470,000 acres have burned in the state, with more than 14,000 firefighters on the front lines.

Despite claims, Trump commission did not find widespread voter fraud

The now-disbanded voting integrity commission launched by the Trump administration uncovered no evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud, according to an analysis of administration documents released Friday.

In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who are both Republicans and led the commission, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said the documents show there was a “pre-ordained outcome” and that drafts of a commission report included a section on evidence of voter fraud that was “glaringly empty.”

“It’s calling into the darkness, looking for voter fraud,” Dunlap, a Democrat, told The Associated Press. “There’s no real evidence of it anywhere.”

Republican President Donald Trump convened the commission to investigate the 2016 presidential election after making unsubstantiated claims that between 3 million and 5 million ballots were illegally cast. Critics, including Dunlap, reject his claims of widespread voter fraud.

The Trump administration last month complied with a court order to turn over documents from the voting integrity commission to Dunlap. The commission met just twice and has not issued a report.

Dunlap’s findings received immediate pushback Friday from Kobach, who acted as vice chair of the commission while Pence served as chair.

“For some people, no matter how many cases of voter fraud you show them, there will never be enough for them to admit that there’s a problem,” said Kobach, who is running for Kansas governor and has a good chance of unseating the incumbent, Jeff Colyer, in the Republican primary Tuesday.

“It appears that Secretary Dunlap is willfully blind to the voter fraud in front of his nose,” Kobach said in a statement released by his spokesman.

Kobach said there have been more than 1,000 convictions for voter fraud since 2000, and that the commission presented 8,400 instances of double voting in the 2016 election in 20 states.

“Had the commission done the same analysis of all 50 states, the number would have been exponentially higher,” Kobach said.

In response, Dunlap said those figures were never brought before the commission, and that Kobach hasn’t presented any evidence for his claims of double voting. He said the commission was presented with a report claiming over 1,000 convictions for various forms of voter misconduct since 1948.

“The plural of anecdote is not data,” Dunlap said in his Friday letter to the shuttered commission’s leaders.

Pence’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Dunlap said he is unsure whether the administration has released all relevant documents, and said the matter is in litigation. He said he was repeatedly rebuffed when he sought access to commission records including meeting materials, witness invitations and correspondence.

Dunlap released his findings on a website .

Emails released by Dunlap and promoted by the nonprofit American Oversight, which represented Dunlap, include examples of Republican voting integrity commissioners emailing each other as they worked on information requests without including Democrats.

“Indeed, a very few commissioners worked to buttress their pre-ordained conclusions shielded from dissent or dialogue from those commissioners not included in the discussions,” Dunlap said in his Friday letter.

In a June 2017 email, commissioner Christy McCormick unsuccessfully tried to suggest that the commission hire a statistician she knew. “When I was at DOJ, we had numerous discussions that made me pretty confident that he is conservative (and Christian, too),” said McCormick, in reference to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The emails also show some commission members had planned to ask for an interstate database used to identify duplicate voter registrations, as well as lists of individuals deemed ineligible for federal jury service due to death, relocation, convictions or lack of citizenship. It wasn’t clear in the emails whether or not such requests ended up being fulfilled, Dunlap said.

In two November 2017 emails, Republican commission member and election lawyer J. Christian Adams emailed all members and said there hadn’t been any prosecutions for double voting or any non-citizen voting in years. “Understanding the extent of un-prosecuted and known election crimes can inform the commission’s recommendations,” Adams said.

Adams also called for U.S. Customs and Immigration Services to obtain metadata from citizenship applications as well as a list of individuals removed from the U.S. due to their unlawful participation in elections.

“Many applicants note they have been registered to vote and are voting,” Adams said.

[Associated Press]

Trump policy shop filters facts to fit his message

President Donald Trump’s appointees in the health department have deleted positive references to Obamacare, altered a report that undermined the administration’s positions on refugees and added anti-abortion language to the strategic plan — part of an ideological overhaul of the agency’s research office.

While every administration puts its imprint on the executive branch and promotes ideas that advance its own agenda, this one has ventured several steps further — from scrubbing links to climate change studies from an Environmental Protection Agency website to canceling an Interior Department study on coal mining risks and suppressing reports on water contaminationand the dangers of formaldehyde.

Inside the Health and Human Services policy research shop, staffers say the political pressures to tailor facts to fit Trump’s message have been unprecedented.

Several pointed to embarrassments such as PolitiFact grading a lawmaker’s statement, based on the agency’s May 2017 report on Obamacare premium hikes, as “false,” and concluding the study had serious methodological problems.

Another report suggesting that millions more people would get health coverage if Obamacare were rolled back — a finding at odds with nearly every independent analysis — was widely mocked and produced over the objections of career staff at the office of the assistant secretary for planning and evaluation, known as ASPE, say several sources.

“The heartbreaking part is that ASPE is the source of the evidence and the science for how decisions are made,” said a former senior official, who worked under both Republican and Democratic administrations. “It’s just another example of how we’re moving to a post-fact era.”

The office has been especially vulnerable to political pressure because its leadership remains in flux. The University of Minnesota health economist tapped to lead the office by Trump has been dogged by questions about his financial entanglements, leaving his nomination in limbo for more than a year. The acting head of ASPE was recently reassigned to a regional office, and the top deputy altered McKinsey-produced data to make it more favorable to the Trump administration, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the changes.

“I find the attack on the integrity and the culture of the office to be disturbing,” said Richard Frank, a Harvard health economist who ran ASPE as an Obama administration political appointee. “This is really a departure to an office that has a 50-year history to it.”

HHS officials vigorously disputed portrayals of the office as ideologically driven.

“I reject the premise of your question and allegation,” said spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley. “Secretary [Alex] Azar has made very clear that HHS is a science- and evidence-based organization and it will operate accordingly.”

Oakley said the 120-person office has been refocused to work on Trump administration priorities like drug pricing and the opioid epidemic. Two staffers say those topics are regarded as safer ground because they are not part of the health care culture wars. Under Azar, who assumed leadership of the agency about six months ago — after most of these incidents occurred — the office has produced a six-page research brief on drug pricing, which published this week, and two studies on the opioid epidemic. Oakley said more reports are coming.

But the group’s morale and role remain diminished, as key staff and teams have dwindled; there are just three staffers working on analyzing health coverage, down from about a dozen at the end of the Obama administration, said a staffer.

Republican health policy analyst Lanhee Chen, who served as an HHS senior counselor in the George W. Bush administration, scoffed at the notion that this policy shop is more partisan than the one that preceded it.

“I don’t believe the Trump administration ASPE has put out reports that are any less analytically or methodologically rigorous than those of the Obama administration ASPE,” Chen said. “Those who express concerns regarding the quality of reports ‘falling off’ are probably using that argument as a cover for the fact that they disagree with the findings of the reports.”

Chen said he regards the policy shop as a vehicle to advance administration policy, “so in that sense, methodological rigor has not necessarily been a metric I have used to evaluate their reports. That’s why we have studies from academics and analysts outside of government.”

This story is drawn from interviews with nine individuals with knowledge of ASPE operations, most of whom asked for confidentiality to speak freely, as well as with outside observers.

Shift in office’s focus

ASPE historically has been used to investigate the impact of HHS policies and help shape future strategy, and under the Obama administration, it focused closely on the expansion of health insurance coverage and the Affordable Care Act — issues on which Barack Obama had campaigned heavily and made central to his presidency. The office published 43 reports on the ACA’s effects on rural hospitals, women’s health and other discrete corners of health care between January 2015 and January 2017 alone, generally extolling the effects and sometimes overlooking the drawbacks.

For instance, one 2016 study on choosing health plans in the ACA market was criticized for slanting its findings.

[Politico]

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