Trump Threatens the Career of Another Official Involved in the Russia Investigation

President Donald Trump said Friday that he would likely strip the security clearance of a Justice Department official “very quickly,” opening a new front in his battle with figures related to the special counsel investigation into his campaign and Russian election interference.

The official, Bruce Ohr, is a longtime government prosecutor who up until this week had not been a household name.

That changed on Wednesday when press secretary Sarah Sanders listed Ohr from the White House podium alongside a list of former national security and law enforcement officials who have been critical of the President and are now having their security clearances reviewed. On Friday, Trump expanded on his targeting of Ohr, whose name stood out on the list as the only official currently serving in government.

“I think Bruce Ohr is a disgrace,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “For him to be in the Justice Department and doing what he did, that is a disgrace.”

Ohr is currently an attorney within the DOJ’s criminal division, according to a source familiar with his position. He was demoted last year from a senior position within the deputy attorney general’s office, CNN reported, after it was discovered that he had communicated with Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy who crafted the dossier of salacious and unverified information about Trump and Russia, and the founder of the US firm, Fusion GPS, that was hired to dig up that dirt.

Little is known publicly about the extent of the relationships between Ohr and Steele and Glenn Simpson, the Fusion GPS founder, but some House Republicans have seized on them as proof of an untoward connection between government officials and the roots of the Russia investigation that they criticize.

The President has also tweeted criticism about Ohr and his wife, who was an employee of Fusion GPS. Simpson disclosed in a court filing last year that Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion on “research and analysis of Mr. Trump,” and that Simpson met with Bruce Ohr “at his request, after the November 2016 election to discuss our findings regarding Russia and the election.”

Neither Bruce nor Nellie Ohr have made public remarks about the President. CNN has reached out to Ohr’s personal attorney for comment.

In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in June, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein described Bruce Ohr’s role in sober terms.

“Mr. Ohr is a career employee of the department. He was there when I arrived. To my knowledge, he wasn’t working on the Russia matter,” Rosenstein said. “When we learned of the relevant information, we arranged to transfer Mr. Ohr to a different office.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman said she could not comment on personnel matters when asked about Ohr’s position within the department and the President’s criticism of him.

It’s not clear what level of clearance Ohr possesses, but former officials say all Justice Department attorneys have a security clearance and its loss would be detrimental to agency work.

“Within the Department of Justice, every federal prosecutor has some level of security clearance because they’re dealing with sensitive information,” said Jodi L. Avergun, a former section chief at the DOJ’s criminal division who now heads the white collar defense and investigations group at the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP.

“If someone in a sensitive position with the Department of Justice lost their security clearance it would likely make their job difficult to do,” Avergun said.

[CNN]

Trump Tells Sessions to ‘Stop This Rigged Witch Hunt Right Now’

President Trump called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday to end the special counsel investigation, an extraordinary appeal to the nation’s top law enforcement official to end an inquiry directly into the president.

The order immediately raised questions from some lawyers about whether it was an attempt to obstruct justice. The special counsel, appointed last year to oversee the government’s Russia investigation, is already looking into some of the president’s previous Twitter posts and public statements to determine whether they were intended to obstruct the inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and any ties to the Trump campaign.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers quickly moved to contain the fallout, saying it was not an order to a member of his cabinet, but merely an opinion. An hour and a half after the tweet was posted, Mr. Trump’s lawyers contacted a reporter for The New York Times. In a subsequent telephone conversation, one of his lawyers, Rudolph W. Giuliani, dismissed the obstruction of justice concerns, calling it a “bizarre and novel theory of obstruction by tweet,” adding that it was “idiotic.”

Presidents typically do not weigh in on active Justice Department investigations, but Mr. Trump has been outspoken about his anger and frustration with the Russia inquiry. Mr. Trump has also said that he never would have made Mr. Sessions his attorney general if he had known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from the inquiry.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Mr. Sessions recused himself in early 2017 in part to avoid the kind of conflicts Mr. Trump proposed. Later, the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was appointed to carry out the inquiry.

The president’s lawyers, Jay A. Sekulow and Mr. Giuliani, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Trump was not ordering the inquiry closed but simply expressing his opinion.

“It’s not a call to action,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that it was a sentiment that Mr. Trump and his lawyers had previously expressed publicly and that it was a statement protected by the president’s constitutional right to free speech.

“He doesn’t feel that he has to intervene in the process, nor is he intervening,” Mr. Sekulow said.

The president wanted the legal process to play out, his lawyers said. “He’s expressing his opinion, but he’s not talking of his special powers he has” as president, Mr. Giuliani said.

[The New York Times]

Attorney General Sessions joins ‘Lock her up!’ chant in front of high school students

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions briefly joined in during a “Lock her up!” chant while delivering a speech to a group of conservative high school students on Tuesday, marking the latest example of President Donald Trump and his aides making aggressive gestures toward their political rivals.

Sessions was speaking about freedom of speech on college campuses when the chant broke out at the Turning Point USA High School Leadership Summit at George Washington University.

“I like this bunch, I gotta tell ya, you’re not going to be backing down. Go get ‘em! Go get em’!” Sessions said, when the audience started yelling “Lock her up!” — a staple of Trump’s political rallies that refers to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

Chuckling and repeating the chant once himself, Sessions then attempted to move on before saying, “I heard that a long time over the last campaign.”

The remarkable comment by an attorney general of the United States follows other moves by Trump and his aides that have alarmed not only Trump critics but other fellow Republicans.

Trump set off a firestorm by expressing openness to handing over former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul to Moscow for an interrogation if special counsel Robert Mueller’s team was allowed to question a dozen Russian intelligence agents indicted earlier this month.

When Putin floated the idea, Trump called it an “incredible offer” during a news conference last week.

The White House caught more heat when press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump would consider revoking the security clearances of former intelligence and law enforcement officials who have publicly criticized the president, including former CIA Director John Brennan and former FBI Director James Comey.

Trump has also continued to revel in the “Lock her up!” chant at his rallies, and the high school student crowd at the leadership summit has broken out in the chant multiple times this week.

The summit runs through Thursday and features speakers such as Donald Trump Jr., Sen. Rand Paul, British politician Nigel Farage and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

[Politico]

Trump tries to spin Justice Department documents outlining Carter Page’s Russia contacts

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Sunday morning to try and hit back against the Justice Department’s release of documents outlining Carter Page’s contacts with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

On Saturday, the Justice Department released a warrant application the FBI had made to get permission to conduct surveillance on Page, a former Trump campaign adviser. The application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, made in October 2016, alleged that Page “has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”

The non-redacted portions of the 400-page FISA document make serious claims about Page’s ties to the Russian government. The Justice Department alleges in the documents that the former adviser “has established relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers” and that the “FBI believes the Russian government’s efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election were being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with [Trump’s] campaign.”

“The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government,” the warrant says. After a redacted line, the document then continues, “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law. Mr. Page is a former foreign policy adviser to a candidate for U.S. president.”

Trump responded to the documents Sunday morning, relying on his claim of “witch hunt” to describe the investigation into his campaign.

“As usual they are ridiculously heavily redacted but confirm with little doubt that the Department of ‘Justice’ and FBI misled the courts,” Trump tweeted about the FISA documents Sunday. “Witch Hunt Rigged, a Scam!”

In a subsequent tweet, Trump hit back against the Steele dossier, which alleges the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and that the Russians have compromising information on the now-president. Trump quoted Fox News as saying, “Source #1 [for the FISA warrant] was the (Fake) Dossier. Yes, the Dirty Dossier, paid for by Democrats as a hit piece against Trump, and looking for information that could discredit Candidate #1 Trump. Carter Page was just the foot to surveil the Trump campaign …”

The president then tied the FISA warrant to the outcry sparked by his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, claiming he “had a GREAT meeting with Putin and the Fake News used every bit of their energy to try and disparage it. So bad for our country!”

Page himself has denied the allegations, describing the FISA application as “spin” and a “complete joke” in an interview Sunday on CNN.

“I’ve never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination,” Page alleged Sunday.

The heavily redacted FISA documents, which enabled the government to surveil Page, were released Saturday after news organizations including the New York Times and USA Today filed lawsuits to obtain them through the Freedom of Information Act. Its release marks the first time a FISA application for surveillance has been released, the Washington Post noted, and such documents are considered to be highly classified.

The application previously made waves in February, as Republicans alleged in a memo that the FBI improperly relied on the dossier compiled by Christopher Steele to obtain the FISA warrant — which Democrats then rebutted in a separate report.

Republicans have previously pointed to the warrant’s reliance on the Steele dossier — which was initially commissioned by a firm that had been contracted by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign — as evidence that the warrant was improperly granted, due to the dossier’s alleged bias. An initial Republican memo about the FISA warrant also claimed that the dossier’s origins were not mentioned in the warrant.

The now-released document, however, does disclose that the “U.S. person” who hired Steele “was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit [Trump’s] campaign,” and added that the FBI believes Steele’s reporting “to be credible.” Some details of the Steele dossier have been corroborated, although the document’s most salacious claims remain unverified.

David Kris, a former assistant attorney general for national security and associate deputy attorney general, wrote in a post for the Lawfare Institute that the page-long footnote dedicated to the potential bias behind the Steele dossier means “there is literally no way the FISA court could have missed it.”

“The FBI gave the court enough information to evaluate Steele’s credibility,” Kris wrote, also noting that the judges who signed off on the FISA applications were all appointed by Republican presidents.

Democrats are pointing to the now-released application as evidence that the FBI’s investigation into Page and the Trump campaign was legitimate. Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement quoted by the Washington Post that the FISA documents “underscore the legitimate concern [the] FBI had about Page’s activities as it was investigating Russia’s interference.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement: “Despite President Trump’s repeated claims, these documents provide clear evidence of ‘Russia’s coordination with Carter Page,’ a high-ranking Trump campaign official, ‘to undermine and improperly and illegally influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.’

“The GOP must cease their attacks on our law enforcement and intelligence communities, and finally decide where their loyalty lies,” Pelosi added.

[Mic]

Trump: Strzok’s testimony ‘a disgrace to our country’

President Trump in an interview broadcast Sunday called the testimony of FBI agent Peter Strzok “a disgrace to our country.”

“I watched some of the testimony, even though I’m in Europe, of Strzok. And I thought it was a disgrace to our country. I thought it was an absolute disgrace,” Trump told CBS News.

“Where he wants to do things against me before I was even, I guess before I was even the candidate. It was a disgrace. And then he lied about it,” Trump added. “And you know, talking about shutting it down and ‘we, we.’ And he says ‘oh I meant the American people’ all of a sudden you know, he came up with excuses.”

Strzok’s hearing last Thursday quickly devolved into rancorous partisan bickering after he declined to answer questions about special counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia investigation.

Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair, exchanged text messages critical of Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Mueller removed Strzok from the investigation when the messages came to light, but Republicans have zeroed in on him as key to uncovering what they allege was systemic FBI bias against Trump during the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats, meanwhile, have cast the effort as a politically driven charade.

The controversial FBI agent was also an investigator in the probe into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s private email server.

“He was a disgrace to the FBI,” Trump told CBS News. “So when I look at things like that and he led that investigation or whatever you call it. I would say that yeah, I think it hurts our relationship with Russia. I actually think it hurts our relationship with a lot of countries.”

[The Hill]

Furious Trump unleashes unhinged tweet against ‘Ex-FBI LAYER Lisa Page’

Lisa Page has ignored a subpoena from Congressional investigators who have abandoned the Russia investigation and pivoted to investigating the FBI instead.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) threatened Page that he would enforce the subpoena, but has yet to do so.

“Ex-FBI LAYER [sic] Lisa Page today defied a House of Representatives issued Subpoena to testify before Congress! Wow, but is anybody really surprised! Together with her lover, FBI Agent Peter Strzok, she worked on the Rigged Witch Hunt, perhaps the most tainted and corrupt case EVER!” Trump ranted.

About an hour later, Trump tweeted out another accusation on what he now calls a “Rigged Witch Hunt,” as opposed to a regular witch hunt he previously called special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. It is unclear if by saying the investigation is rigged Trump believes the investigation should be restarted. That would mean it would continue for many more years.

[Raw Story]

Reality

This was, of course, a complete mis-characterization of Page’s lawyer’s answer to the subpoena. They requested more time to read the documents sent over by Congress, and will testify the following day.

Trump Dismisses Missed Deadline for Reuniting Migrant Families: The Solution is Come Here Legally

The Federal government is all but certain to miss Tuesday’s court-imposed deadline for reuniting migrant families (via Vox). But President Donald Trump is downplaying the blown deadline — and, in fact, pinning the blame on migrants.

Speaking outside the White House prior to leaving for the NATO summit in Brussels, the president sounded off against illegal immigration when asked about the missed deadline.

“I have a solution,” Trump said. “Tell people not to come to our country illegally. That’s the solution. Don’t come to our country illegally. Come like other people do, come legally.”

He added, “I’m saying this, very simply. We have laws. We have borders. Don’t come to our country illegally. It’s not a good thing.”

The president went on to again make the baseless, erroneous assertion that Democrats are advocating for open borders.

“Democrats want open borders and they don’t mind crime,” Trump said. “We want no crime and we want borders where borders mean something. All right? And, remember this, without borders, you do not have a country.”

[Mediaite]

Off-the-rails Trump rages at Democrats and accuses them of wanting to get rid of all law enforcement – even police

President Donald Trump was up bright and early and raging at calls for the breaking up of ICE — going so far as to say Democrats want to get rid of all law enforcement.

On Twitter he wrote, “The Democrats are making a strong push to abolish ICE, one of the smartest, toughest and most spirited law enforcement groups of men and women that I have ever seen. I have watched ICE liberate towns from the grasp of MS-13 & clean out the toughest of situations. They are great!”

He then claimed, “To the great and brave men and women of ICE, do not worry or lose your spirit. You are doing a fantastic job of keeping us safe by eradicating the worst criminal elements. So brave! The radical left Dems want you out. Next it will be all police. Zero chance, It will never happen!”

You can see the tweets below:

[Raw Story]

Trump responds to “Abolish ICE” with false claims America is being overrun by MS-13

As thousands of protesters gathered across the country to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and the chorus of voices calling to abolish ICE grows, the president is going on the offensive. He’s warning of an America overrun by MS-13 — an America that doesn’t exist.

Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy and his administration’s increasingly aggressive actions have energized a progressive push to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE). Hundreds of women protested against the separation of migrant families and called for the end of ICE in Washington, DC on Thursday, and multiple Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio have joined in. A group of nearly 20 ICE investigators has called for the agency to be abolished, reformed, or restructured, and “abolish ICE” was a rallying cry at Saturday’s “Families Belong Together” marches across the country.

Trump is pushing back on the anti-ICE calls, in part by invoking MS-13 and warning that the gang might take over the country — or already has.

In a tweet on Saturday morning, the president lauded ICE agents as “one of the smartest, toughest, and most spirited law enforcement groups of men and women that I have ever seen.” He then, inexplicably, said that he has “watched ICE liberate towns from the grasp of MS-13” and “clean out the toughest of situations.”

In an interview with Fox Business host Maria Barroom set to air on Sunday, Trump said ICE agents “take [MS-13] out” and that they’re “much tougher than MS-13” by a “factor of 10.” He warned that if ICE is abolished, MS-13 will overrun the country to the point that “you’re going to be afraid to walk out of your house.”

Bashar Ali, a writer for New York Magazine and HuffPost, previewed the remarks on Twitter.

MS-13 is not taking over the United States

MS-13, a Salvadoran-American gang, has a presence in a number of United States cities, including Los Angles, New York, Boston, and Washington, DC. Despite Trump’s claim last year that MS-13 had “literally taken over towns and cities,” there are no American municipalities ruled by it. Nor are there any that have been “liberated” from it.

Trump and Republicans have used MS-13 as a proxy to demonize immigrants and given it outsized importance compared to its actual impact. As Vox’s Dara Lind explains, MS-13 hasn’t reversed nationwide trends of declining violent crime (even in the areas where their presence is strongest), and the gang only has about 10,000 members in the United States — a fraction of the estimated 1.4 million members of US gangsnationally.

The president has sought to cast immigrants as violent and dangerous criminals who pose an imminent threat to the US. Just last week, the White House held an event highlighting families who have lost loved ones to crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants, bizarrely autographing victims’ photos.

[VOX]

Trump Follows Up Promise to Impose “LAW AND ORDER” With Complaint That His Friends Are Being Prosecuted for “Old” Crimes

Today in Stupid News, the president went on a rant about the importance of “LAW AND ORDER” (capitalization his), went to sleep, then woke up and began complaining about the (Republican) law-enforcement officials who are prosecuting his friends and advisers for laundering money and lying to federal authorities. In chronological order:

Some notes:

• Activists in Portland have blockaded an ICE office, and one activist posted personal information about seven ICE employees that included at least some phone numbers and home addresses.

Robert Mueller’s alleged “Conflicts of Interest” don’t exist. It is true that some (but not all) of the prosecutors working for him are or have been registered Democrats, but he and all the other people in supervisory roles related to the special counsel investigation are Republicans. (James Comey was also a Republican until recently.)

Meanwhile, all three of the former Trump advisers/cronies (Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, and Rick Gates) who have pleaded guilty in Mueller’s investigation pleaded guilty specifically to lying to investigators after the 2016 election˘, and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is charged with crimes committed over a period that ranges from 2006 until this year.

In other words, if the oldest crime being looked at by Mueller were a person, it would be 12 years old. That’s not very old! Stupid millennial-aged crimes, with their entitlement and their Justin Bieber and their falling within the statute of limitations!

[Slate]

1 2 3 4