Trump Blasts FBI’s Strzok and Page Over IG Report, Praises Himself For Firing Comey: ‘Good Instincts

President Donald Trump weighed in on the newly released inspector general’s report on the FBI’s investigations during the 2016 election, focusing on the texts exchanged between agent-cum-paramours Peter Strzokand Lisa Page.

“FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who headed the Clinton & Russia investigations, texted to his lover Lisa Page, in the IG Report, that “we’ll stop” candidate Trump from becoming President,” Trump said on Twitter. “Doesn’t get any lower than that!”

The text exchange between Strzok and Page has been exhibit A for the FBI’s critics that the agency was rankled with anti-Trump bias during the 2016 election, and the latest text exchange is certainly explicit. A few months before the 2016 election, Page texted Strzok that she feared Trump would win, and he reassured her: “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

Strzok was at the time serving as deputy head of counterintelligence at the FBI, and was working on the investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties as well as the Clinton email probe. But the inspector general concluded that despite Strzok’s clear and inappropriate bias, the was no evidence that he acted on his disdain for Trump.

In a subsequent tweet, Trump took aim at James Comey, calling the IG report “a total disaster” for the former FBI director and “his minions.”

“Comey will now officially go down as the worst leader, by far, in the history of the FBI,” Trump wrote, before praising his “good instincts” for “firing him.”

He also shouted out the current FBI director, Christopher Wray.

Comey brutalized Clinton’s campaign days before election day by publicly announcing the Clinton probe was being re-opened, while the FBI went to great lengths to keep the Trump-Russia probe quiet.

[Mediaite]

Trump: DOJ must not let Wasserman Schultz, aide ‘off the hook’

President Donald Trump on Thursday urged the Justice Department to not let Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and one of her former aides “off the hook,” suggesting the imbroglio over IT staffer Imran Awan allegedly committing fraud on a home equity loan is “a key to much of the corruption we see today.”

“Our Justice Department must not let Awan & Debbie Wasserman Schultz off the hook,” the president tweeted. “The Democrat I.T. scandal is a key to much of the corruption we see today.”

The remarks come amid reports Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, are poised to strike a plea dealover the investigation into their alleged conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Trump has publicly criticized his own Justice Department over the ongoing federal probe into Russian election meddling in 2016 and ties to his campaign while questioning why it has not more aggressively pursued alleged crimes by Democrats. “The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues,” Trump tweeted of the investigation last week, adding, “Should be looking at Dems corruption instead?”

He has upended norms with his apparent attempts to pressure the Justice Department and has repeatedly denigrated Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe.

In a statement provided by her spokesman, Wasserman Schultz replied to the president’s tweet: “I’m focused on doing my job. Donald Trump should focus on doing his.”

Wasserman Schultz — part of the target of his most recent attack — was notably a vocal supporter of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections, during which she served as chair of the Democratic National Committee. Schultz resigned after the Democratic National Convention in 2016 amid criticisms of her handling of the primary bout between Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and after the scandal surrounding the hacked DNC server.

Awan, a former House Democratic aide to Wasserman Schultz, was arrested on a bank fraud charge while trying to leave the country to travel to Pakistan in July. Accused of seeking to defraud the Congressional Federal Credit Union by obtaining a home equity loan for a rental property, in violation of the credit union’s policies, Awan pleaded not guilty to the charge.

In August, a grand jury widened the scope of the criminal indictment, with Awan and his wife facing new charges including conspiracy to commit bank fraud, making false statements on a loan or credit application, carrying out unlawful monetary transactions and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions. They pleaded not guilty to the charges in September.

Conservative legislators and lawmakers have panned Wasserman Schultz for continuing to employ the IT staffer for months after he became the subject of criminal investigation. Awan was on the payroll for Wasserman Schultz until his indictment in July. Awan, who has worked for over two dozen House Democrats, has been at the center of a criminal probe related to alleged procurement theft on Capitol Hill.

House Republicans have raised questions over whether Awan’s work posed a national security threat.

Trump on Thursday implicated efforts to strike a plea deal in the Awan case as part of a conspiracy to obscure information on Democratic servers.

“They want to make a ‘plea deal’ to hide what is on their Server. Where is Server? Really bad!” Trump added on Twitter.

[Politico]

Trump slams Jeff Sessions, suggests a different attorney general would have stopped Russia probe

President Donald Trump is blaming his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for allowing the Russia investigation to continue. Trump tweets that he would have “picked someone else” for the top job at the Justice Department had he known Sessions would recuse himself from the probe.

It’s the latest salvo from Trump in his bid to discredit the ongoing probe by special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller is investigating Russia’s attempts to sway voters in the 2016 election and whether Trump associates provided any help. He’s also investigating whether Trump obstructed justice by taking steps to shut down the probe

Trump tweeted Tuesday: “The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn’t tell me he was going to recuse himself…I would have quickly picked someone else. So much time and money wasted, so many lives ruined…and Sessions knew better than most that there was No Collusion!”

[CNBC]

Trump: I have the right to pardon myself

President Trump on Monday said he has the right to pardon himself but insisted he has no reason to do so because he has not committed a crime, doubling down on an argument his lawyers made to the special counsel leading the Russia investigation.

“As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?” the president wrote in an early morning tweet.

“In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!”

Trump’s statements will almost certainly inflame the debate over whether he can use his presidential powers to protect himself if Mueller accuses him of wrongdoing in the probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The question was reignited over the weekend when The New York Times published a January letter from the president’s legal team that opened the door to Trump shutting down the obstruction investigation into him or even pardoning himself.

“He could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired,” the attorneys wrote to Mueller.

Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani was not a member of the team when the letter was sent, but he nonetheless agreed with the expansive view of the president’s powers shared by his predecessor, John Dowd.

Giuliani said on ABC News’s “This Week” that while the president “probably” does have the power to issue himself a pardon, it would not be politically expedient.

“I think the political ramifications of that would be tough. Pardoning other people is one thing. Pardoning yourself is another,” the former New York City mayor said.

The idea of a self-pardon received pushback from legal scholars and Democrats, who said it shows the president believes he is above the law.

They fear that a string of politically tinged pardons made by Trump is a sign he could be gearing up to use clemency to shield his associates who have been indicted in the Russia probe — or even himself.

Some Republican allies of Trump also warned him not to pardon himself.

“I don’t think a president should pardon themselves,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

[The Hill]

Trump pressured Sessions multiple times to resume control of Mueller investigation

According to a report at Axios, President Donald Trump pressured Attorney General Jeff Sessions multiple times to back out of his recusal and resume overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s administration.

According to the report, “A source with knowledge of the conversations said they occurred throughout last year, until fairly late in the year — not just in the short period after Sessions recused himself last March.”

Two sources confirmed Trump told Sessions he’d be a “hero” to conservatives if he did the “right thing” and resumed control over the Russia investigation. Additionally, Trump suggested to Sessions he’d be a hero if he launched an investigation of Hillary Clinton.

You can read the whole report here.

[Raw Story]

Trump awards Medal of Honor to Navy SEAL accused of war crimes

President Trump on Thursday awarded the Medal of Honor to a retired Navy SEAL who has been accused of committing war crimes — and leaving a man behind in enemy territory.

Former Master Chief Special Warefare Operator Britt Slabinski received the award during a public ceremony at the White House.

In 2002, he spearheaded a controversial SEAL Team Six mission in Afghanistan — which led to the deaths of seven Americans.

He was a Senior Chief Petty Officer at the time, in charge of leading a seven-member unit into eastern Afghanistan to set up an observation post on the mountain of Takur Ghar.

It was just six months after 9/11, and US forces had been waging war with Al Qaeda in the valley below as part of Operation Anaconda.

“Britt and his teammates were preparing to exit the aircraft on the mountain peak when their helicopter was struck by machine gun fire, and machine gun fire like they’ve never seen before,” explained Trump, who recounted the events on Thursday.

“Not a good feeling,” he said.

As the chopper “lurched away from the assault,” one of the SEAL Team Six members — later identified as Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts — got tossed from the aircraft but was thought to have survived.

“At this point, Britt received information suggesting [Roberts] was probably still alive,” Trump said. “The team faced a choice: to wait for reinforcements and pretty much safety, or to return immediately to the enemy stronghold in the hope of saving Neil’s life.”

Despite being “out-manned, out-gunned and fighting uphill on a steep, icy mountain,” Trump said Slabinski and his squad made the choice to turn back.

“For them, it was an easy one,” the president added. “They went back to that mountain.”

While Trump hailed Slabinski for his actions, many in the military community feel that he made several bad decisions that day in 2002, which wound up costing the lives of seven Americans, including Roberts.

First, he chose to take a much more dangerous route than the one they had planned after experiencing maintenance delays and pressure from senior officers. Slabinski told the New York Times in 2016 that when they landed on Takur Ghar, Qaeda forces were already waiting.

Next, he reportedly made the decision to land his team directly on the observation post — rather than hiking up to it from a safer position. Military officials later determined that this was a major error, which “violated a basic tenet of reconnaissance.”

Slabinski then chose to turn back after losing Roberts — recruiting Air Force Technical Sgt. John Chapman in the process, according to accounts.

Unbeknownst to him, Roberts had already been captured by enemy fighters and killed.

“Britt continued to engage the enemy, repeatedly exposing himself to horrendous fire,” Trump said Thursday, calling the assault the “Battle of Roberts Ridge.”

“When they could go no further, Britt tended to the wounded and coordinated their escape until his team was finally evacuated,” the president added.

Members of the Army’s Delta Force and 75th Ranger Regiment teams, which were involved in the battle, believe Slabinski left Chapman behind that day after retreating with the rest of his unit.

Footage obtained by the Times appears to show the airman battling Qaeda forces on the mountain for another hour — even resorting to hand-to-hand combat at one point.

Chapman wound up dying in an attempt to protect arriving reinforcements from gunfire, according to the Times.

He will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, though it’s unclear when.

Slabinski has repeatedly denied leaving him on Takur Ghar that day, while also defending the rest of his actions.

“I can tell you, we left no one behind. No one,” he told Fox News, just three days before receiving the Medal of Honor.

“What I saw, what I experienced, I know that clearly that we didn’t leave anyone behind up there,” Slabinski said. “I wasn’t more than 20 to 30 feet away from where John was and that was my experience. But what I want people to focus on is that it’s called Roberts Ridge now because we lost six other people up there. A total of seven.”

Asked if he thought Chapman was still alive when they retreated, Slabinski replied: “That wasn’t what I experienced. It wasn’t what I saw.”

In addition to the 2002 incident, Slabinski has been accused of multiple war crimes. They include illegally ordering the executions of male Afghans and mutilating the bodies of fallen enemy fighters.

“[Slabinski] certainly has been accused of some very bad things,” retired SEAL officer Dick Couch told Politico.

He pointed out, however, how the award is based on “one specific action” — and not the recipient’s character.

“I’ve read excerpts of what he did in that battle and it certainly seems Medal of Honor-worthy,” Couch said.

Dana White, a spokesperson for Defense Secretary James Mattis, told Politico that Mattis “was well aware of the news reporting around Master Chief Slabinski” and recommended him for the Medal of Honor anyway.

[New York Post]

In extraordinary meeting, Trump gets involved in congressional oversight of Russia probe

President Trump met with top law enforcement and intelligence officials Monday to pressure them to turn over to Congress information about the origins of the FBI investigation into his own campaign.

The hour-long meeting in the Oval Office ended with an agreement to have the Justice Department’s inspector general investigate any “irregularities” in the investigation into the Trump campaign, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will also meet with congressional leaders and administration officials to mediate the dispute over documents, she said.

The White House characterized the meeting as routine, and said it was scheduled last week. But it came a day after Trump demanded that the Justice Department investigate whether the FBI spied on his campaign for president in 2016.

The episode underscores the unique position Trump finds himself in: As president, he has the constitutional power to give orders to officials overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — even though his own campaign is the subject of that investigation.

Trump’s lead lawyer in the probe, Rudy Giuliani, said Monday that Trump called the meeting in his official capacity as president.

“He wants to make sure that the relevant members of Congress get a chance to see what they are entitled to see,” he told USA TODAY. But he also said that whether Trump agrees to an interview with investigators could turn on the release of those documents, which would show the original sources of information that led to the probe.

“I think they could help us, if they show there is no original basis for the investigation,” Giuliani said.

He added, “Every time we move in the direction of an interview, something weird happens.”

Law enforcement and intelligence officials have resisted, saying it could compromise their investigation and imperil covert sources.

In the Oval Office Monday, Trump met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Sanders said. The meeting lasted less than an hour.

The meeting was scheduled last week, Sanders said — before Trump made his demand Sunday.

“I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s demand was a reference to a New York Times report that a secret FBI source met with Trump campaign official several times during the 2016 campaign. The informant was working for the FBI as part of its ongoing investigation into Russian interference with the American election.

Following that demand, the Justice Department announced that it was referring the matter to Justice’s inspector general to determine whether there was “any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted it counterintelligence investigation of persons suspected of involvement with the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 presidential election.”

[USA Today]

Reality

We have never had before an american president who has used the Justice Department as his own private investigators.

Not even Nixon went this far. This is your democracy.

All this over a Fox News conspiracy theory that we know is false.

Trump ‘demands’ probe of alleged spying on his campaign

Washington (AFP) – US President Donald Trump sharpened Sunday his accusations that his presidential campaign was “infiltrated” or spied on for political purposes, saying he would officially “demand” a Justice Department investigation.

The president has repeatedly cast the probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion by his campaign as a politically driven “witch hunt,” while offering no evidence.

“I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes,” he tweeted, “and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

Trump’s angry tweet came amid building pressure from the year-old investigation and reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation in July 2016 sent a Britain-based American professor to speak separately with three Trump campaign advisers.

A New York Times report described the professor as “an informant” but not a spy, saying the federal agency was looking into evidence that Carter Page, Sam Clovis and George Papadopoulos had suspicious contacts with Russia.

The Washington Post called him “a longtime US intelligence source,” used by both the FBI and the CIA.

But Trump and his supporters have cast the man as a mole possibly sent by the Obama administration to burrow into his campaign. “If so, this is bigger than Watergate!” Trump tweeted on Thursday.

While Trump allies in Congress have demanded more information about the informant, law enforcement officials have refused, saying the source — not yet officially identified — could be in danger if named.

Democrats say the president’s real objective is to undermine the Mueller inquiry.

Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, a former Justice Department prosecutor and assistant attorney general, told CNN on Friday that it was not clear whether an FBI informant had been embedded in the campaign, while adding that the spy agency “should tell us if there was.”

[Yahoo News]

Update

The worst part is, FBI Deputy Directory Rod Rosenstein agreed to the demand, instead of resigning and keeping any integrity.

So we can see Rosenstein is less Archibald Cox and more Robert Bork.

Trump angers France and Britain with his NRA speech

US President Donald Trump took aim at two of America’s closest allies in a speech at the NRA convention, saying strict gun laws failed to prevent the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and highlighting a purported increase in knife violence in London.

The comments provoked anger in both France and Britain.

France was especially incensed after Trump, while speaking at the gun rights convention in Dallas on Friday, pointed his hand as if it were a gun while describing how each of the victims in Paris was fatally shot.

“They took their time and gunned them down one by one — boom, come over here, boom, come over here, boom,” he said.

The French foreign ministry issued a statement Saturday after Trump’s comments.

“France expresses its firm disapproval of President Trump’s remarks … and calls for the respect of the memory of the victims,” it said.

Francois Hollande, who was the French President during the 2015 attacks, tweeted Saturday:

“Donald Trump’s shameful remarks and obscene histrionics say a lot about what he thinks of France and its values. The friendship between our two peoples will not be tainted by disrespect and excessiveness. All my thoughts go to the victims of November 13.”

Trump: Armed Parisians could have stopped attack

Trump went on to say things might have been different had Parisians in the cafes under attack had been armed.

“If one employee or just one patron had a gun, or if one person in this room had been there with a gun, aimed at the opposite direction, the terrorists would have fled or been shot. And it would have been a whole different story,” Trump said.

The Élysée palace responded to that comment by saying, “The free flow of arms within society does not constitute a shield against terrorist attacks. It can instead facilitate the planning of this type of attack.”

And the French ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud, tweeted: “The statistics of the people killed by guns don’t convince France to change its guns laws.”

A group of about 10 men staged a series of coordinated attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015, killing at least 130 people and wounding hundreds.

The attackers, armed with assault rifles and explosives, targeted six locations across the city. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.

President says Britain has knife problem

Trump also compared an unnamed London hospital to a “war zone” in the NRA speech, saying that despite tough gun laws in the United Kingdom, it has blood all over the floors from victims of knife attacks.

“They don’t have guns. They have knives and instead there’s blood all over the floors of this hospital,” Trump said. “They say it’s as bad as a military war zone hospital … knives, knives, knives. London hasn’t been used to that. They’re getting used to that. It’s pretty tough.”

British officialdom did not push back. London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office declined to comment to CNN following Trump’s remarks.

But former UK Cabinet minister Charlie Falconer tweeted Saturday: “US murder rate over 5 times higher than the UK’s. There isn’t a person in the whole world (with the possible exception of the President of the US, and he’s probably lying) who believes the way to reduce our murder rate is to make it easier to get guns.”

It’s unclear what hospital Trump was referring to. But the BBC reported that a trauma surgeon at the Royal London Hospital, Dr. Martin Griffiths, recently told the network that his fellow doctors have compared it to an Afghan war zone.

Amid the furor over Trump’s comments, Griffiths tweeted Saturday: “Happy to invite Mr Trump to my (prestigious) hospital to meet with our mayor and police commissioner to discuss our successes in violence reduction in London.”

Professor Karim Brohi, a trauma surgeon at The Royal London Hospital and director of London’s Major Trauma System, also hit back at Trump’s speech, saying in a statement that, “The Royal London Hospital has cut the number of our young patients returning after further knife attacks from 45% to 1%.”

Brohi said that while there is more that can be done to combat knife attacks, gunshot wounds are “at least twice as lethal as knife injuries and more difficult to repair.”

Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke by phone Saturday. According to the White House, they discussed China trade, North Korea, Iran and Trump’s upcoming visit to Britain. It’s unknown whether they talked about Trump’s remarks to the NRA.

[CNN]

Trump Denounces ‘Witch Hunt’ Again as He Touts Judge Who Criticized Mueller’s Office

President Donald Trump used his appearance at the National Rifle Association annual convention Friday to attack Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the investigation into possible Russia collusion during the 2016 campaign.

The president spoke at the gun lobby group’s annual gathering in Dallas, but while the event was about the 2nd Amendment and guns, the president apparently saw it as the perfect platform to go after America’s justice system. Trump specifically seized upon the news from earlier Friday, when a federal judge, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, voiced concern over the idea of a special counsel in general.

“It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special counsel has unfettered power to do whatever he wants,” Judge T.S. Ellis told federal prosecutors during one of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort‘s first court appearances. The comment prompted speculation that, perhaps, Manafort’s charges, which include money laundering and tax evasion, could be dropped. Most experts, however, still say that’s unlikely.

Regardless, Trump took the judge’s remarks as a win. The president partially quoted an article from CNN, an outlet he says he regards as “fake news,” to the crowd of thousands gathered for the NRA annual convention in Dallas.

“Judge T.S. Ellis, who is really something special I hear from many standpoints – he is a respected person – suggested the charges before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia were just part of the Mueller team’s designs to pressure Mr. Manafort into giving up information on President Donald Trump or Russia’s involvement in the campaign,” Trump said, appearing to read from a separate news report.

“I’ve been saying that for a long time. It’s a witch hunt,” Trump said before tossing a piece of paper behind him.

“Then,” Trump continued reading, “none of that information has to do with information related to the Russian government or coordination with the campaign of Donald Trump.” The president kept quoting from an article, saying, “Then, ‘how does this have anything to do with the campaign?’ the judge asks.”

While I am no lawyer or legal expert, I have listened to and read the works of other highly regarded lawyers who say that even though the president and his team claim the money-related charges against Manafort are outside the scope of Mueller’s jurisdiction, the fact of the matter is that the crimes were still uncovered. Thus, they are prosecutable. To say that just because a possible crime was discovered as the result of an investigation into unrelated matters is to abandon the U.S. justice system and the rule of law, which Trump claims he wants to protect.

So long as the appropriate permissions were gathered to obtain evidence in a case (and I have no information to suggest those permissions were not granted in Manafort’s case), a legal charge such as the one against Manafort is valid. It may not be politically convenient. In fact, the Russia investigation is nothing short of a nightmare for the Trump administration. That said, the president cannot have it both ways. Either he supports the rule of law, whether or not it directly affects him and his presidency, or he doesn’t.

[Mediaite]

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