Trump Says ‘Slippery’ Comey ‘Was Not Fired’ Because of Russia Probe, After Suggesting He Was

President Donald Trump pushed back on suggestions that he fired former FBI director James Comey because of the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia — a key tenet of allegations he sought to obstruct justice.

Of course, the president has not always been so clear on this front. After Comey was fired, the White House claimed it was based on a recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein over Comey’s handling of the Clinton email probe.

But then, Trump was interviewed by Lester Holt in May 2017, and said the following: “In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’” (Watch above.)

Trump also reportedly told Russian officials that his firing of Comey, who he called “a real nut job, took the “pressure” he was facing over the Russia probe off.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to a U.S. official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

In light of Comey’s media blitz to promote his new memoirs, A Higher Loyalty, Trump is attempting to set the record straight, tweeting: “Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!”

[Mediaite]

HHS official shared post saying ‘forefathers’ would have ‘hung’ Obama, Clinton for treason

A political appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services shared an image in 2017 that said “our forefathers would have hung” Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for treason, a CNN KFile review has found.

Ximena Barreto is a far-right political pundit who in December 2017 joined the Trump administration as deputy director of communications at the department.

Barreto was placed on leave by the department on Monday after the liberal watchdog Media Matters reported that Barreto called Islam “a cult” and pushed the false Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which alleged that Clinton was part of a child-sex ring based in part at a Washington, DC, pizza restaurant.

A subsequent KFile review of her Twitter account “RepublicanChick” found that Barreto also repeatedly used the hashtag #BanIslam and twice shared conspiracy theories about the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. Barreto also shared a conspiracy theory that French President Emmanuel Macron was controlled by the Rothschild family and that Clinton and Obama were controlled by investor and Democratic mega-donor George Soros. Both the Rothschilds and Soros are frequent targets of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

A department spokesperson did not comment on tweets unearthed by KFile and reiterated to CNN that Barreto has been placed on administrative leave while they look into the matter.

Prior to joining HHS, Barreto was a far-right political pundit and Trump-supporting blogger.
She co-hosted a YouTube show called “The Right View by Deplorable Latinas.” A now-removed biography on her personal website said she “has worked as a political activist, and worked hundreds of hours with Republican candidates (sic) campaigns, including John McCain, Ted Cruz and President Donald Trump.”

Here’s what Barreto tweeted:

On Barack Obama

In May of 2017, Barreto retweeted an imagesaying the “our forefathers would have hung” Clinton and Obama for treason.
In August of 2017 Barreto retweeted an image of a statue of Obama labeling him “a Muslim terrorist.”
In January of 2017, Barreto wrote in a tweetthat Obama was a “pansy and a traitor.”

On Seth Rich

In October 2016, Barreto implied Rich was killed by either Clinton or the Democratic National Committee, using the hashtags #KilledByTheDNC #HillaryBodyCount #ClintonBodyBags
In May, 2017, Barreto retweeted a video about Rich, saying that “the media blackout and the silence from Washington on Seth Rich should scare the hell out of you.”

On Islam

On five separate occasions found by KFile’s review, Barreto tweeted the hashtag “#BanIslam” in asserting that those participating in the Women’s March had turned their back on “real oppression.”
She also tweeted “#DeportLSarsour,” referring to Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour.
In other tweets, she called for a boycott of Amazon for an ad that showed a Christian priest and Muslim imam together, saying that “an Imam would never sit with a priest FYI”.

On Hillary Clinton, Democrats and Emmanuel Macron

In a tweet in August of 2016, Barreto falsely claimed that Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s family had terrorist ties.
In April of 2017, Barreto spread a conspiracy theory that Macron was controlled by the Rothschilds and that Clinton and Obama were controlled by Soros.
“Macron is just a political puppet of the Rothschilds, just like Obama and Hillary are Soros Puppets!” she wrote.

[CNN]

Trump touts Hannity’s show on ‘Deep State crime families’ led by Mueller, Comey and Clintons

On Wednesday night, like most other weeknights, it was to be expected that President Trump would be tuning into his favorite prime-time pundit. But as if his followers needed a reminder, the president tweeted about it.

“Big show tonight on @seanhannity!” Trump tweeted, promoting Sean Hannity’s 9 p.m. segment on Fox News. By early Thursday morning, Hannity was the No. 1 topic trending on Twitter, and scores of viewers watched as Hannity fired out his usual attacks on his favorite subjects: Hillary Clinton, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and former FBI director James B. Comey.

In a conspiratorial, long-winded monologue, Hannity charted connections he sees among all three of them. The pundit outlined what he described as “obvious Deep State crime families trying to take down the president,” consisting of the Clinton “family,” the Comey “family” and the Mueller “family.”

Hannity said he was inspired by Comey, who appeared in a video this week promoting an interview between Comey and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that will air Sunday. In the interview, Stephanopoulos suggests that Comey compared Trump to a “mob boss.”

“Mr. Comey, you’re really going to compare the sitting president of the United States to a mob boss so you can make money?” Hannity said of the former FBI director, who is currently promoting his soon-to-be-released book. “If he’s going to use a sweeping analogy, I’ve decided tonight we’re going to use the Comey standard … and make some comparisons of our own.”

He began with what he called “a family responsible for actual crimes … the head of the notorious political cabal, of course Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Clinton crime family.”

For the Clinton family, Hannity brought up allegations of sexual misconduct against President Bill Clinton and, of course, accused Hillary Clinton of committing crimes, obstructing justice and mishandling national secrets on a private server. Linked to the Clinton “crime family” were individuals such as Hillary Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, “sketchy” former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, former attorney general Loretta E. Lynch, and others, including Christopher Steele, the author of the “dossier” alleging ties between Trump and Russia.

Then there’s the “Mueller Crime Family,” Hannity said. The host drew connections between the special counsel and his “best friend” Comey, as well as notorious gangster and killer Whitey Bulger. Hannity accused Mueller of “looking the other way” at Bulger’s crimes while he was a federal prosecutor in Boston. Then, of course, Hannity mapped out the “Comey Crime Family,” linking the former FBI director to Lynch, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, Steele, former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, and “fellow Comey Deep State sycophant” former CIA director John Brennan.

Though Hannity retweeted Trump’s tweet promoting his Wednesday night show, he insisted that the president “was not given ANY heads up on my monologue using the ‘Comey’ standard!!!”

Regardless of what Trump knew before the show, the president is known to watch Hannity’s show regularly and look to it for guidance.

As CNN’s Brian Stelter tweeted, Wednesday night illustrated that “the line where Fox News ends and where Trump begins is getting blurrier by the day.”

Aides have said Trump regularly calls Hannity before or after the program to give feedback, The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey has reported. “Aides sometimes plot to have guests make points on Fox that they have been unable to get the president to agree to in person,” Dawsey wrote.

Hannity on Wednesday night once again called the Russia investigation a “witch hunt,” as does Trump, and brought on guests who attempted to discredit Justice Department officials and the special counsel.

[Washington Post]

Media

 

Trump criticizes FBI and Justice Dept., asks what they ‘have to hide’

President Donald Trump on Saturday accused the Department of Justice of slow-walking “documents relating to FISA abuse,” Hillary Clinton’s emails, former FBI Director James Comey and others, and asked what it and the FBI “have to hide.”

“Lawmakers of the House Judiciary Committee are angrily accusing the Department of Justice of missing the Thursday Deadline for turning over UNREDACTED Documents relating to FISA abuse, FBI, Comey, Lynch, McCabe, Clinton Emails and much more,” Trump wrote. “Slow walking – what is going on? BAD!”

“What does the Department of Justice and FBI have to hide?” Trump asked in a follow-up tweet. “Why aren’t they giving the strongly requested documents (unredacted) to the HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE? Stalling, but for what reason? Not looking good!”

Multiple media outlets reported this week that the Justice Department missed a subpoena deadline to provide the House Judiciary Committee documents related to an array of issues, including the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, alleged surveillance abuses under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director who was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month.

The Hill reported Thursday that Republicans on the House panel were “infuriated” over the missed deadline, which “they view as a stall by the Department of Justice (DOJ).”

CNN reported on Friday, however, that the Justice Department plans to produce 1,000 pages of information to the House Judiciary Committee on Monday.

Last month, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte announced that he had subpoenaed the Department of Justice for information relating to “charging decisions in the investigation surrounding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server, potential abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility recommendation to fire former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.”

After the subpoena had been issued, FBI Director Christopher Wray said last month that he would double the number of FBI staff charged with responding to House Republicans’ various requests for information. Wray acknowledged in a statement that “the current pace of production is too slow.”

The Justice Department said last month that about 3,000 documents had been produced since January.

Republican Rep. Mark Meadows vented his frustration over the missed deadline on Twitter this week.

“The deadline for the subpoena issued by Chairman Goodlatte was today at noon,” he wrote. “We got no documents from the Department of Justice. Just a phone call. This is unacceptable — it’s time to stop the games. Turn over the documents to Congress and allow us to conduct oversight.”

Last year, the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announced a joint investigation into the conduct of the Justice Department in 2016. The announcement referenced a series of controversial actions taken by the FBI, including the bureau’s handling of the Clinton email probe.

[CNN]

Trump revives debunked accusation of massive vote fraud in California

President Trump on Thursday revived a long-debunked claim about massive voter fraud in California, telling an audience in West Virginia that “millions and millions of people” had voted illegally in the state.

“In many places, like California, the same person votes many times,” Trump said. “You probably heard about that. They always like to say ‘oh that’s a conspiracy theory.’ Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people.”

Trump first made that accusation shortly after his election, saying that he only lost the popular vote because of illegal voting in California. After his inauguration, the administration set up a commission to look into voter fraud. It was eventually disbanded and did not come up with any evidence to back Trump’s theories.

The president stopped talking about voter fraud in public after taking criticism from Republican elected officials for making unsubstantiated charges about misconduct, not only in California but in other states that he lost, such as New Hampshire. But he never completely stopped raising the issue in private, according to people who have spoken with him.

In recent weeks, he’s been more assertive about publicly discussing some of his grievances — voter fraud being one.

Allegations of voter fraud have been investigated in California. Although some limited cases have been found, no evidence of large-scale fraud has ever surfaced.

[Los Angeles Times]

Trump-appointed Pentagon employee resigns hours after CNN reveals ‘birther’ posts on his social media

A Trump-appointed Department of Defense staffer has resigned from his post after CNN revealed he made posts claiming former President Barack Obama was not really an American.

CNN’s KFILE reported that as of Tuesday morning, when reporters Andrew Kaczynski and Nathan McDermott inquired about posts he’d made on social media, DoD employee Todd Johnson was still a Pentagon employee. Soon after, however, his previously-public Facebook profile was set to private, and by the afternoon, the Pentagon confirmed that he had tendered his resignation and it had been accepted.

Until resigning, Johnson was an advance officer, a Pentagon employee tasked with the “sensitive” job of “providing logistical support related to the secretary’s events and appearances domestically and abroad,” CNN noted. The report also said that Johnson was on the GS-14 pay scale, which is “typically reserved for senior civil service positions.”

KFILE’s review of Johnson’s Facebook before his privacy settings were changed found that after he was appointed in 2017, he made attempts to tamp down political commentary on his profile and asked his friends not to tag him in posts that could affect his job. Nevertheless, Kacynski and McDermott discovered public posts from during the 2016 election cycle that shared beliefs “popular in mainstream conservative circles.” He also shared posts from 2012 and beyond that indicated he believed Obama was not born on American soil and that he thought the former president was the Antichrist.

In July 2012, Johnson first posted a video titled “Michelle Obama admits Barack Obama’s home country is Kenya,” and another that cited a phony Biblical claim that the 44th president is demonic.

In 2013, one of Johnson’s Facebook friends erroneously claimed Obama was a Muslim, which “automatically makes him crazy.”

“Yes sir,” Johnson replied.

During his time at the Pentagon, Johnson posted photos of him at work, which included travel with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and an on-stage encounter with the president.

[Raw Story]

Trump Slams His Own DOJ Over Response to Document Requests: ‘An Embarrassment To Our Country!’

President Donald Trump has his daggers out, getting this week off to a rollicking start.

Today’s targets: DACA, the Democrats, and yes, of course, the DOJ.

Trump is going after his own Justice Department once again in his crusade to turn the tides of public opinion in his favor.

The Commander in Chief this morning shot off a tweet slamming the DOJ and FBI for not giving Congress the “unredacted documents” they requested:

House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte recently subpoenaed the DOJ for documents regarding the Hillary Clinton investigation and potential FISA abuses.

[Mediaite]

Trump nominee to lead migrant agency shared Clinton, DNC conspiracies

President Trump’s pick to lead a United Nations migrant relief organization made hundreds of comments pushing conspiracy theories about Islam and Democrats, according to a CNN investigation published Thursday.

Ken Isaacs, the Trump administration’s choice to lead the UN’s International Organization for Migration, has faced additional scrutiny after CNN uncovered old social media posts where he appeared to equate all Muslims with terrorists.

On Thursday, CNN published a new trove of past comments.

CNN found that Isaacs also shared conspiracy theories about the Clintons and about the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

In the summer of 2016, Isaacs tweeted that Switzerland should consider building a wall in the Alps to keep refugees from crossing the border, and responded to a terrorist attack in Nice, France, by saying Islam “is not peaceful.”

Last August, he retweeted a user who claimed climate change is a “big hoax,” and wrote that scientists “can’t predict path of a visible storm yet but certain of manmade climate change.”

Isaacs previously apologized after CNN uncovered his initial comments about Muslims, saying his social media use was “careless.”

He declined to comment on Thursday’s story, and the State Department pointed to a past statement of support for his nomination.

If confirmed, Isaacs will lead the International Organization for Migration, which oversees the use of roughly $1 billion in migrant aid across the world.

[The Hill]

Trump to hire diGenova, who argued FBI framed president

President Trump is adding a lawyer to his legal team who has endorsed the idea that the Justice Department framed him, according to a report in The New York Times.

Trump plans to hire longtime Washington lawyer Joseph diGenova, the Times wrote, citing three people told of the decision. It said he is unlikely to take a lead role on the team, but that he would add an aggressive presence.

The president is increasingly signaling he intends to go in a different direction with his legal strategy, and this weekend began attacking by name special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump’s lawyers had previously advised him not to attack Mueller.

Adding diGenova suggests Trump wants to go more on the offensive, given diGenova’s past statements arguing investigations of Trump are meritless.

“There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime,” he said on Fox News in January.

“Make no mistake about it: A group of FBI and DOJ people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime,” said diGenova, who was previously a Republican-appointed United States attorney for the District of Columbia.

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that the Mueller probe should “never have been started.”

“There was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary [Clinton] and the [Democratic National Committee], and improperly used in [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!” Trump tweeted.

On Monday, Trump again called the investigation a “witch hunt” and claimed it had “massive conflicts of interest.”

Trump’s lawyer John Dowd over the weekend also called on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to shut down Mueller’s Russia probe.

[The Hill]

Trump officials caught seeking State Department purge

Two top House Democrats allege that high-level political appointees in the State Department and senior White House officials have worked with conservative activists to purge from the agency career officials deemed insufficiently loyal to President Trump.

A letter sent Thursday to White House chief of staff John Kelly and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan alleges that political appointees at the State Department have characterized career officials in “derogatory terms.”

Among the descriptors used for certain career officials were “a leaker and a troublemaker” and a “turncoat,” the letter from Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) reads, citing documents obtained from a whistleblower.

Those documents also contain communications with high-profile conservative activists, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and David Wurmser, a former adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

In one email forwarded by Gingrich to Trump-appointed officials at the State Department, Wurmser wrote that “a cleaning is in order here,” apparently referring to removing career employees believed to be disloyal to Trump.

“I hear [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson actually has been reasonably good on stuff like this and cleaning house, but there are so many that it boggles the mind,” Wurmser wrote.

The allegations highlight what critics have said is Trump and his aides’ intense concern about loyalty within the government, particularly in the State Department. The president and his allies have in the past suggested the existence of a “deep state” bent on undermining his agenda.

The State Department has seen a particularly significant exodus of career officials since Trump took office last year. While some of those departures were attributed to planned retirements, others have reportedly left amid dwindling morale.

The letter from Cummings and Engel points to one case, in particular — that of Sahar Nowrouzzadeh.

Nowrouzzadeh, an Iran expert and civil servant, raised concerns to her boss, Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning, last year after she was targeted by an article in a conservative news outlet.

“I am and have been a career civil servant for nearly 12 years now,” she wrote in an email to Hook, noting that she began her government career under the Bush administration. “I’ve adapted my work to the policy priorities of every administration I’ve worked for.”

In the email, she asked Hook for advice on how to “correct the record.”

But Hook, according to the lawmakers’ letter, instead forwarded Nowrouzzadeh’s email to White House officials, and it later served as the basis for an internal discussion about her loyalty to the Trump administration that touched on her work on the Iran nuclear deal.

One email from Julia Haller, a White House liaison to the State Department at the time, falsely claimed that Nowrouzzadeh was born in Iran and alleges that she “cried when the President won” the 2016 election.

Nowrouzzadeh was eventually removed from her detail on the State Department’s policy planning staff three months early, Cummings and Engel said.

The letter requests a trove of documents and communications about the actual or proposed reassignments of career employees at the State Department related to “alleged personal political beliefs, prior service with previous Administrations, or work on prior Administrations’ foreign policy priorities.”

The lawmakers have asked for those materials to be turned over by March 29.

Heather Nauert, the acting undersecretary of State for public diplomacy, said on Thursday that the State Department would comply with the lawmakers’ requests, but noted that she had never witnessed any kind of disloyalty on the part of career officials at the agency.

“I have found my colleagues to be extremely professional,” Nauert said at a department press briefing. “Those on staff who have been here for many years, I have found them almost blind to politics.”

[The Hill]

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