Trump called the FBI ‘scum’ and hit out at the report that discredited his theory the Russia probe was a deep-state plot at a wild Pennsylvania rally

President Donald Trump at a rally in Pennsylvania on Tuesday night lashed out at the FBI, calling staff of the agency “scum.”

He also doubled down on discredited conspiracy theories following the release of a report that undermined the president’s claims that the Russia probe was a “deep state” plot meant to damage his presidency.

Trump repeated claims the FBI had “spied” on his 2016 campaign. The report, released the day before by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, had found such a characterization to be groundless.

“When the FBI uncovered evidence showing that we did absolutely nothing wrong, which was right at the beginning, they hid that exonerating, you know that, they hid it,” Trump said.

That comment seemed to refer to a finding in the report that there were significant “omissions” in the FBI’s application for a wiretap of Carter Page, a Trump campaign official.

“They hid it so nobody could see it and they could keep this hoax going on for two more years,” Trump said. “They knew right at the beginning.”

The report in fact found that the Russia investigation was launched on the basis of multiple contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians.

“The FBI also sent multiple undercover human spies to surveil and record people associated with our campaign,” the president said.

“Look how they’ve hurt people. They’ve destroyed the lives of people that were great people, that are still great people. Their lives have been destroyed by scum. OK, by scum.”

While Trump and his allies have often characterized the FBI’s surveillance as “spying,” the long-anticipated report found that the FBI followed its rules in opening an investigation into contacts between Russia and Trump officials and concluded that top officials were not driven by “political bias or improper motivation” in doing so.

It did, however, did find an improper handling of applications for surveillance warrants, such as Page’s.

Attorney General William Barr has criticized the report’s conclusions, a highly unusual move. Barr has tasked the Pennsylvania prosecutor John Durham with conducting a separate investigation into the origins of the Russia inquiry.

“I look forward to Bull Durham’s report, that’s the one I look forward to,” Trump said, referring to the 1988 baseball movie starring Kevin Costner in a riff on Durham’s name.

“And this report was great by the IG, especially since he was appointed by President Barack Hussein Obama,” Trump said. Using Obama’s middle name is often associated with a movement by the far right to falsely suggest Obama is Muslim.

[Business Insider]

Trump appears to do bizarre impression of FBI agent having sex

Donald Trump appeared to perform an impression of former FBI agent Peter Strzok and attorney Lisa Page having sex while the president was in the middle of a speech during a rally in Minnesota on Thursday.

Mr Trump slammed his hand on the podium and shouted “I love you, Lisa,” and “I love you too, Peter” before moaning “Lisa, I love you, Lisa! Lisa! Oh, God, I love you Lisa!”

The president had previously called Mr Strzok a “sick loser” amid investigations by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in US elections. Mr Mueller removed Mr Strzok from his team after discovering anti-Trump text messages between Mr Strzok and Ms Page, who had an affair.

The president has falsely claimed that the texts had been deleted and has frequently argued that the messages amount to “corruption” within an investigation that followed Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential election.

At his Minnesota rally, Mr Trump continued to mock the text messages: “And if she doesn’t win, Lisa, we’ve got an insurance policy, Lisa: we’ll get that son of a bitch out.”

[The Independent]

Media

Trump accuses NYT reporter of breaking the law by alerting FBI to Kushner meetings with Russians

President Donald Trump accused a New York Times reporter of breaking the law by tipping off the FBI to developments in the Russia investigation.

Times reporter Michael Schmidt alerted the FBI’s assistant director for public affairs in March 2017 that he and some colleagues had found out Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn had met in December 2016 with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who then set up a meeting between Trump’s son-in-law and a Russian banker.

Schmidt’s email was then forwarded to FBI special agent Peter Strzok, who was leading the bureau’s Russia investigation, and Jonathan Moffa, an FBI counterintelligence officer, reported the Washington Examiner.

Trump reacted with a pair of tweets suggesting that Schmidt had fed false information to the FBI.

“Just revealed that the Failing and Desperate New York Times was feeding false stories about me, & those associated with me, to the FBI,” Trump tweeted. “This shows the kind of unprecedented hatred I have been putting up with for years with this Crooked newspaper. Is what they have done legal?”

[Raw Story]

Trump calls into Sean Hannity’s show, revives debunked wiretapping claim

Fox News host Sean Hannity dedicated most of his show on Wednesday night to another phone interview with President Donald Trump.

While most of the talking points were familiar to anyone who bothered to tune into Trump’s reelection kickoff speech Tuesday night or any of his other recent interviews on Fox News, Trump did let slip that he still believes his phones were wiretapped during the 2016 campaign.

Repeating his claim that intelligence agencies were “spying” on his campaign, Trump said, “We will have to find out if they were listening on my calls, that would be the ultimate. If they spied on my campaign, and they may have, it will be one of the great revelations in history of this country.”

Trump assured Hannity, who often pushes baseless conspiracy theories himself, that Attorney General William Barr was working very hard to investigate whether there was any wrongdoing during the lengthy investigations into Trump’s campaign. At no point did the conversation address the fact that six Trump campaign officials were indicted as a result of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year long investigation, five of whom pleaded guilty, nor did it address the many outside investigations referred by the special counsel’s office.

Two months into Trump’s administration, he declared on Twitter, without any evidence, that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.” Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer even suggested at the time that British intelligence may have wiretapped the Trump Tower phones at President Barack Obama’s request.

Since then, the Department of Justice has said on at least two different occasions that it has no records of such wiretapping while Trump was a candidate.

Trump said earlier this year that his 2017 wiretapping claim was based “just on a little bit of a hunch and a little bit of wisdom maybe.” He appeared to believe that because the brazen accusation received so much attention, that actually proved that he was onto something.

“It blew up because they thought maybe I was wise to them,” he said, speaking to Hannity at the time, once again without presenting any evidence to back his claim. “Or they were caught. And that’s why. If they weren’t doing anything wrong it would’ve just gotten by, nobody would’ve cared about it.”

In his interview with Hannity, Trump reiterated Spicer’s claim that “other countries were involved.” Admitting it was pure speculation, he said, “I think perhaps, just based on what I’m seeing, they used other countries because they didn’t want to get caught doing what they were doing in this country.”

It is true that U.S. investigators wiretapped Carter Page and Paul Manafort, former officials on Trump’s campaign, to investigate potential wrongdoing and their connections with foreign governments. But Trump seems to think that there was some greater conspiracy that targeted him directly, and he expects Barr to find proof that he was the real victim.

“I think he’s a very honorable gentleman who wants to do the right thing,” Trump said Wednesday night.

[ThinkProgress]

Reality

Trump’s DOJ admitted in a “court filing notes two separate instances in which the Trump administration has rubbished the claims made by its own executive.”

The DOJ also admitted it has “no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets” in a September 2017 court filing.

Trump said earlier this year that his 2017 wiretapping claim was based “just on a little bit of a hunch and a little bit of wisdom maybe.” He appeared to believe that because the brazen accusation received so much attention, that actually proved that he was onto something.

Media

White House claims without proof that FBI has ‘outrageous’ corruption Barr will uncover

The White House on Sunday brushed aside congressional Democrats’ concerns about Atty. Gen. William Barr being handed extraordinary powers to declassify sensitive intelligence as part of a probe into the origins of the investigation into Russian efforts to sway the 2016 election.

Reflecting his anger over unflattering depictions of his actions in the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, including several episodes that might have constituted obstruction of justice, President Trump has authorized the attorney general to investigate the investigation. Trump and his allies have long insisted that the FBI improperly “spied” on his campaign.

Democrats already have accused Barr of trying to put the best possible face on Mueller’s findings and say they fear he will selectively release documents in an effort to undermine public confidence in the nation’s intelligence agencies and Mueller’s investigators.

Mueller’s report itself documents activities during the 2016 presidential campaign that caught the attention of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including information passed along by Australian officials concerning a Trump campaign advisor, George Papadopoulos, who told an Australian diplomat that Democratic emails had been stolen by the Russians before the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer system became public knowledge.

Democrats already have accused Barr of trying to put the best possible face on Mueller’s findings and say they fear he will selectively release documents in an effort to undermine public confidence in the nation’s intelligence agencies and Mueller’s investigators.

Mueller’s report itself documents activities during the 2016 presidential campaign that caught the attention of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including information passed along by Australian officials concerning a Trump campaign advisor, George Papadopoulos, who told an Australian diplomat that Democratic emails had been stolen by the Russians before the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer system became public knowledge.

When Republicans had the majority in the House, Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) spent nearly two years investigating the same issues without producing evidence to back up Trump’s claims.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted Sunday that the administration is not prejudging Barr’s findings, but expressed confidence, without offering proof, that he would be able to document “outrageous” corruption at the FBI.

“I’m not going to get ahead of what the final conclusion is, but we already know that there was a high level of corruption that was taking place,” Sanders, in Tokyo with the president on a state visit to Japan, told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Questioned by host Chuck Todd about whether Barr could be trusted not to cherry-pick information, Sanders defended the decision to give Barr declassification powers that have traditionally been jealously guarded by intelligence agencies.

“That’s the reason that he’s granted the attorney general the authority to declassify that information – to look at all the documents necessary…so that we can get to the very bottom of what happened,” she said. “Once again, we already know about some wrongdoing.”

Congressional Democrats have sharply questioned whether the administration is acting in good faith. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), who presently chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said the president’s decision, announced on the eve of the Memorial Day weekend, allowed Trump and Barr to “weaponize law enforcement and classified information against their political enemies.”

Trump allies denied that the president’s actions in any way undermined the core missions of the intelligence community.

“We’re not compromising national security here,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has emerged as one of Trump’s staunchest congressional defenders. Graham, interviewed on “Fox News Sunday,” said that he believed Barr “can be trusted” not to manipulate information in the president’s favor.

“The people who are worried about this are worried about being exposed for taking the law into their own hands,” said Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Trump himself defended Barr’s review, saying before he left for Japan that it was not meant to avenge himself on political opponents.

“It’s not payback – I don’t care about payback,” he told reporters. “I think it’s very important for our country to find out what happened.”

The push by the White House to investigate those who investigated the president comes against the backdrop of across-the-board resistance by Trump to congressional oversight. At least a dozen separate battles are playing out over congressional subpoenas of documents and individuals on matters including the Mueller report and Trump’s tax returns.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco so far has resisted calls by some Democratic lawmakers to open impeachment proceedings against the president, especially if he continues to reject Congress’ authority to carry out investigations of the president’s conduct and finances. She argues that impeachment remains premature, although she has accused Trump of a “cover-up.”

An early backer of impeachment, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said Sunday she believed that Pelosi eventually would relent.

“I think it’s moving toward that,” she said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” adding that “the traditional congressional oversight process isn’t working.”

The chairman of the Democratic caucus, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, defended Pelosi’s go-slow approach, saying that for now, investigating Trump “methodically yet aggressively” was the best approach, while simultaneously working to advance the Democrats’ legislative agenda.

“Democrats can sing and dance at the same time, just like Beyonce,” he said on NBC. “We will not overreach. We will not over-investigate,” he added.

On the Republican side, however, there was increasing willingness to echo Trump’s call for drastic punishment of law enforcement figures who helped move the investigation forward.

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, interviewed on ABC’s “This Week,” said the origins of Mueller’s investigation were suspect because statements by FBI agents during the 2016 campaign sounded “a whole lot like a coup.”

She was referring in part to texts critical of Trump that were exchanged by two bureau officials, including former agent Peter Strzok, who was removed from the Mueller probe when the messages came to light and subsequently forced out, and lawyer Lisa Page, who has also left the FBI.

“It could well be treason,” Cheney said.

Cheney’s comments drew an irate riposte on Sunday from Preet Bharara, who was fired by Trump as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Legal experts have pointed out that the Constitution says treason consists of “levying war against” the United States or giving “aid and comfort” to its enemies.

“Elected officials keep making casual, ignorant, idiotic accusations of ‘treason.’ … Just saw Liz Cheney do it,” Bharara wrote on Twitter. “Read the Constitution.”

[Los Angeles Times]

Trump gives Barr sweeping new powers to undercut Mueller probe

President Trump has handed off his own intelligence powers to a man who increasingly looks like the most powerful figure in the Trump administration, Attorney General Bill Barr.

MSNBC Chief Legal Correspondent, Ari Melber, breaks down how the White House is not even claiming this move is for national security purposes, but admitting this is all about strengthening Barr’s hand in reviewing the Mueller probe.

Trump Decries Dem ‘Fishing Expedition’ in House: ‘They Want a DO OVER’

President Donald Trump went on another Twitter tear tonight over the White House showdown with the Democratic-controlled House for witnesses and documents.

The White House has already rejected several requests from multiple committees, and Trump today said multiple times that he considers a lot of this an attempt at a Democratic “do-over” of the Mueller report:

Trump went on to quote former CIA Director John Brennan‘s walk-back of some of his previous Russia speculation:

That walk-back from Brennan was from March 25th. It’s unclear why the president shared it today, though it’s worth noting the clip was played on Fox News earlier tonight (in the context of Brennan’s appearance on Capitol Hill today):

[Mediaite]

Trump attacks Rep. Amash as a ‘loser’ and ‘lightweight’ after the Republican calls for impeachment

President Donald Trump responded to a Republican House member’s call for impeachment on Sunday, calling the lawmaker a “loser” who seeks to make headlines. 

On Saturday, Rep. Justin Amash said in a tweet that Attorney General Barr “deliberately misrepresented” the report from special counsel Robert Mueller investigation into Russian election interference, which he said showed that Trump “engaged in impeachable conduct.”

The Michigan Republican said he made that statement “only after having read Mueller’s redacted report carefully and completely.” 

Trump said in a tweet on Sunday that he was “never a fan” of Amash, whom he called “a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy.” 

“Justin is a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents hands!” he tweeted.

During an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., agreed that Amash made his statement because he “wants to have attention.”

“Now, you’ve got to understand Justin Amash,” McCarthy said. “He votes more with Nancy Pelosi, than he ever votes with me. It’s a question whether he’s even in our Republican conference as a whole. What he wants is attention in this process.” 

The president said he did not believe Amash had actually read Mueller’s report. He claimed the report was “strong on NO COLLUSION” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin and “ultimately, NO OBSTRUCTION.” At the same time, he slammed the report as “biased” because it was “‘composed’ of 18 Angry Dems who hated Trump.”

But Mueller’s report explicitly said that the investigation looked into 10 potentially obstructive acts and the evidence did not clear the president. Rather, it said, “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” and punted that decision to the attorney general. Barr and then-deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ultimately decided not to bring charges against the president. 

The Mueller report also found that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in “sweeping and systematic fashion” with “a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton” and a hacking operation that sought to uncover information damaging to Clinton. 

The report concluded “the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” but it did not find “that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” 

Because the report did not find evidence of a conspiracy, Barr has argued the president could not have obstructed justice because there was no crime to cover up in the first place. Trump made a similar argument on Sunday. 

“Anyway, how do you Obstruct when there is no crime and, in fact, the crimes were committed by the other side?” he asked, referring to his belief that the investigation was a politically-motivated attack. 

Many legal experts have disputed the assertion that obstruction requires an “underlying crime.” And Amash said he believed Mueller’s report showed that Trump’s acts had “all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence.” 

Amash also argued that impeachment “does not even require probable cause that a crime (e.g., obstruction of justice) has been committed; it simply requires a finding that an official has engaged in careless, abusive, corrupt, or otherwise dishonorable conduct.” 

Many congressional Democrats, including many presidential candidates, have agreed with Amash’s call to begin impeachment proceedings. But the party’s leadership, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has yet to back such a move

Pelosi has said impeachment would be too “divisive” for the nation without greater bipartisan support. And, so far, Amash has been the only Republican member of Congress to back impeachment. 

On Sunday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Amash “showed more courage than any other Republican” in Congress, but didn’t change the fact that there were “no signs” that impeachment could “even be potentially successful in the Senate.” 

[USA Today]

Barr Defends Trump’s Attacks on Mueller Probe: If Falsely Accused, I Would Call It a ‘Witch Hunt’

Attorney General Bill Barr said during his confirmation hearings that he doesn’t personally believe Robert Mueller “would be involved in a witch hunt.” He has since said it’s understandable why President Donald Trump would express that frustration.

In his Fox News interview today, Barr was asked by Bill Hemmer if he agrees with the “witch hunt” label.

“He was saying he was innocent and that he was being falsely accused,” Barr said. “And if you’re falsely accused, you would think that something was a witch hunt.”

He said for two and a half years Trump’s been hammered for allegedly “conspiring with the Russians, and we now know that was simply false.”

Hemmer asked again if he’s comfortable with the “witch hunt” label personally. Barr said, “I use what words I use… but I think if I had been falsely accused I’d be comfortable saying it was a witch hunt.”

[Mediaite]

Trump says campaign was ‘conclusively spied on,’ calls it ‘treason’

President Trump on Friday asserted that his 2016 campaign had been “conclusively spied on” by the Obama administration while calling the charge akin to “treason” and demanding jail time for those behind it.

In a tweet, the president said “nothing like this has ever happened” while calling for prison sentences.

“A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!” he continued.

The president’s tweet comes days after Attorney General William Barrannounced the appointment of a U.S. attorney to review the decisions that led to the establishment of an investigation into Trump’s campaign and Russian election interference.

The attorney general infuriated many Democrats on Capitol Hill earlier this year when he asserted that “spying” on the Trump campaign had occurred in 2016, while declining to take a position on its legality. His choice of language has earned rebukes from former members of the Justice Department including former FBI chief James Comey.

Barr told The Wall Street Journal and Fox News in interviews published Friday that he had received insufficient answers from Justice Department personnel about the reasons why an investigation had been launched into the Trump campaign in the first place.

“Government power was used to spy on American citizens,” Barr told the Journal on Friday. “I can’t imagine any world where we wouldn’t take a look and make sure that was done properly.”

“I’ve been trying to get answers to the questions and I’ve found that a lot of the answers have been inadequate and some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together, in a sense I have more questions today than when I first started,” Barr added in his interview with Fox.

“People have to find out what the government was doing during that period. If we’re worried about foreign influence, for the very same reason we should be worried about whether government officials abuse their power and put their thumb on the scale.”

[The Hill]

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