Trump asked Whitaker if he could put prosecutor in charge of Cohen probe

President Donald Trump asked then-acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker if a US attorney he appointed could oversee an investigation tied to himself after the US attorney in question had already recused himself from the probe, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The Times report cited several US officials with direct knowledge of the call that the paper said occurred late last year. 

Trump tapped Whitaker to lead the Justice Department in November after he fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump regularly slammed for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

Trump soured on Whitaker as well, according to Times, which said it was “unclear” what Whitaker did after the call. The Times said there was no evidence Whitaker took steps to intervene in the investigation Trump asked about, although the report said he told Justice Department associates that the prosecutors needed “adult supervision.” 

CNN reported in December that Trump had lashed out at Whitaker on at least two occasions, angered by federal prosecutors who referenced Trump in crimes to which his former attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty. The first instance came after Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow, and the second came after prosecutors implicated Trump in a hush-money scheme to silence women.

Trump later denied the CNN report in a tweet saying he had “great respect” for Whitaker. 

Attorney General William Barr was confirmed last week to take over the department permanently. 

Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said Whitaker told the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month that “‘at no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel’s investigation or any other investigation.’ Mr. Whitaker stands by his testimony,” she said. When pressed directly by House Judiciary Committee members about any conversations with the President about the southern district of New York investigation Whitaker refused to answer.

Trump on Tuesday denied a question from a reporter about whether he asked Whitaker about a recusal matter in the case.

“No, I don’t know who gave you that,” Trump said.

Trump went on to praise Whitaker as “a very, very straight shooter” and said he had “a lot of respect” for him.

The President also praised Whitaker’s performance during the House Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this month, calling it “exceptional.”

“He should be given a lot of thanks from our nation,” Trump said. 

The investigation Trump called Whitaker about is led by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, a Manhattan-based team that has prosecuted Cohen. After a showdown early in his White House tenure, Trump fired the head of that office.

Preet Bharara, the former US attorney who is now a CNN contributor, later said he felt if he had stayed on the job, Trump would have asked him “to do something inappropriate.” 

Trump’s then-Attorney General Sessions went on to appoint Geoffrey Berman, a former law partner of Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, to lead the high-profile office. CNN reported after the federal raid on Cohen last year that Berman had been recused from the probe.

[CNN]

Trump lashed out at Whitaker after explosive Cohen revelations

President Donald Trump has at least twice in the past few weeks vented to his acting attorney general, angered by federal prosecutors who referenced the President’s actions in crimes his former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

Trump was frustrated, the sources said, that prosecutors Matt Whitaker oversees filed charges that made Trump look bad. None of the sources suggested that the President directed Whitaker to stop the investigation, but rather lashed out at what he felt was an unfair situation.

The first known instance took place when Trump made his displeasure clear to acting attorney general Matt Whitaker after Cohen pleaded guilty November 29 to lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. Whitaker had only been on the job a few weeks following Trump’s firing of Jeff Sessions.

Over a week later, Trump again voiced his anger at Whitaker after prosecutors in Manhattan officially implicated the President in a hush-money scheme to buy the silence of women around the 2016 campaign — something Trump fiercely maintains isn’t an illegal campaign contribution. Pointing to articles he said supported his position, Trump pressed Whitaker on why more wasn’t being done to control prosecutors in New York who brought the charges in the first place, suggesting they were going rogue.

The previously unreported discussions between Trump and Whitaker described by multiple sources familiar with the matter underscore the extent to which the President firmly believes the attorney general of the United States should serve as his personal protector. The episodes also offer a glimpse into the unsettling dynamic of a sitting president talking to his attorney general about investigations he’s potentially implicated in.

Whitaker and William “Bill” Barr, Trump’s nominee to replace Sessions, are facing increased scrutiny this week for their criticisms of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling. Whitaker refused to recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller probe. And a memo from Barr came to light in which he wrote that Trump’s decision to fire former FBI director James Comey did not amount to obstruction.

Trump has already shown a willingness to use the Justice Department to settle political scores. As CNN previously reported, the President questioned Whitaker about the progression of the investigation against Hillary Clinton when Whitaker was Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff.

“It seems very clear that the only reason that Matt Whitaker was ever appointed to this role was specifically to oversee the Mueller investigation,” Mueller biographer Garrett Graff said on Friday in an interview on CNN’s Newsroom.

With Sessions, Trump ranted publicly about how he did nothing to curtail the Mueller investigation. Sessions had recused himself from oversight because of his role on the Trump campaign.

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now,” the President tweeted in August.

The Justice Department declined to comment on any discussions between Whitaker and the President.

The President’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, could not confirm the conversations with Whitaker but said the President views the SDNY prosecutors as out of control. “The president and his lawyers are upset about the professional prosecutors in the Southern District of New York going after a non-crime and the innuendo the president was involved,” Giuliani said in a statement to CNN Friday.

One source close to Whitaker pushed back on the notion that the Cohen situation caused tension between the two, emphasizing that Whitaker and the President have a “great relationship.”

[CNN]

Trump and Rudy Giuliani tweeting bogus claims about missing texts from ex-FBI agents Strzok and Page

President Donald Trump tweeted out a blatantly false claim intended to undermine the federal investigation of his campaign ties to Russia.

The president and his attorney Rudy Giuliani each passed along bogus claims that 19,000 texts between two former FBI officials had been destroyed by investigators — which contradicted new findings by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

“How can Mueller’s gang get away with erasing over 19,000 texts of Trump haters Stroyk and Page?” Giuliani tweeted early Saturday, misspelling former FBI agent Peter Strzok’s last name. “They say it was DOJ policy to destroy evidence? I guess Mueller’s angry Democrats fall under the Hillary exception to obstruction of justice. She erased over 30,000 emails.”

Giuliani continued tweeting misleading claims about the story, citing conservative media reports, throughout Saturday morning, and then Trump chimed in.

“Wow, 19,000 Texts between Lisa Page and her lover, Peter S of the FBI, in charge of the Russia Hoax, were just reported as being wiped clean and gone,” Trump tweeted, taking a pass on spelling out Strzok’s name. “Such a big story that will never be covered by the Fake News. Witch Hunt!”

[Raw Story]

Trump claims Flynn got ‘great deal’ because prosecutors ’embarrassed’

President Trump on Thursday again slammed special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation as a “witch hunt” and claimed that prosecutors gave his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, “a great deal” because they felt badly about how he had been treated.

“They gave General Flynn a great deal because they were embarrassed by the way he was treated – the FBI said he didn’t lie and they overrode the FBI,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements. Sad!”

Flynn, who served a brief stint as Trump’s national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. last December and agreed to cooperate in Mueller’s investigation.

Mueller has described Flynn’s cooperation as valuable. Earlier this week, Flynn asked a federal judge to spare him from prison time and instead sentence him to at most one year probation.

In a memo filed in federal court late Tuesday, Flynn’s defense attorneys also suggested that he had been duped by FBI agents who handled his interview, playing into a theory among conservatives that Flynn had been wrongly led to commit a federal crime.

Mueller has recommended Flynn serve no jail time, citing his “substantial assistance” in the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Flynn, who served on the Trump campaign before moving to the White House, is said to have offered the special counsel valuable details about contacts between the campaign and Russia as well as information related to other unknown matters under investigation.

Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced in D.C. federal court on Dec. 18.

Late Wednesday, the judge overseeing his case, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, asked both Flynn and Mueller to turn over additional materials related to Flynn’s January 2017 interview with the FBI in which he later admitted he lied about his Russia contacts.

It is possible but unclear whether the developments could delay Flynn’s sentencing.

Asked later Thursday whether he thought the FBI had acted inappropriately in the case, Trump said it was “a great thing” that the judge was assessing the matter.

“The FBI said Michael Flynn… didn’t lie. And Mueller said, well, maybe he did,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with recently elected governors. “But now they are all having a big dispute. So I think it is a great thing that the judge is looking into that situation.”

A report released by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee earlier this year said top FBI officials testified that the agents who interviewed Flynn in January 2017 did not see outward indications, such as changes in his posture or tone, that indicated he knew he was lying. Flynn has admitted to lying to the FBI agents about his discussions with Kislyak regarding sanctions on Russia among other topics.

One of the agents who interviewed Flynn was Peter Strzok, a former FBI official who has attracted intense scrutiny from Republican lawmakers as a result of text messages he sent before the election in which he expressed criticisms of then-candidate Trump. While conservatives have seized on the messages as evidence of bias at the FBI in the early days of the counterintelligence probe into Russian interference, the Justice Department inspector general has found no evidence that political bias influenced the bureau’s decisions.

[The Hill]

Trump Blasts Comey for Comments About 2020: He Had No Right Heading FBI ‘After His Mind Exploded!’

Over the weekend, former FBI Director James Comey made some comments about President Donald Trump‘s unacceptable behavior and how voters can stand up to it and vote him out of office, explicitly saying the Democrats “have to win” in 2020.

Comey’s comments have gotten a lot of attention in the past few days, and after today’s wild on-camera skirmish with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), President Donald Trump took to Twitter to blast Comey and say that he exposed himself as a Democrat who shouldn’t have been in charge of the FBI:

In an interview earlier this year, Comey said he used to be a Republican but lamented that the party “left me.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Rage Tweets About Mueller’s ‘Illegal’ Investigation After Hannity Monologue Blasting Comey

It’s Monday night and it appears President Donald Trump is watching Sean Hannity. How do we know this? Well, the president blasted out a tweet attacking Robert Mueller‘s “witch hunt” on Twitter for the umpteenth time, and it just so happens that the Fox News host just finished talking about the exact same subject.

Trump’s tweet came minutes after Hannity finished a section his monologue in which he addressed James Comey‘s testimony before Congress last week. Hannity blasted the former FBI director for his “selective amnesia” while answering questions, but he especially honed in on what Comey said about how the controversial dossier prepared by Fusion GPS wasn’t verified by the FBI before it became the foundation of a FISA warrant issued to investigate Trump’s campaign.

[Mediaite]

Trump lashes out at Comey over House testimony: ‘All lies!’

President Trump lashed out at James Comey early Sunday, accusing the former FBI director of lying during his testimony to House lawmakers about the investigation into Russia’s election interference.

“Leakin’ James Comey must have set a record for who lied the most to Congress in one day. His Friday testimony was so untruthful!” the president tweeted.

“This whole deal is a Rigged Fraud headed up by dishonest people who would do anything so that I could not become President. They are now exposed!” he added.

Trump claimed that Comey’s statements that he opened investigations on four Americans and that he didn’t know former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele were “all lies!”

The president also cited Comey’s repeated assertions that he could not recall or did not know certain facts. The FBI director on multiple occasions stated he was unable to remember certain facts, or could not answer questions because of ongoing investigations.

Comey testified last week before the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees behind closed doors. The panels later released a transcript of the roughly six-hour meeting.

The transcript revealed that Comey told lawmakers that the counterintelligence investigation into possible conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign began by examining four Americans, whom he did not identify, citing the potential that they are part of an ongoing investigation.

He did note that Trump was not one of the four individuals.

[The Hill]

 

Trump Declares ‘NO COLLUSION!’ in Early-Morning Tweet After Cohen, Manafort Memos Drop

After dubiously claiming the Michael Cohen sentencing memo “totally clears” him last night, President Donald Trump this morning sent out a mostly all-caps “NO COLLUSION” tweet.

[Mediaite]

Trump fires off late-night tweetstorm on the eve of a landmark moment in the Russia investigation

President Donald Trump fired off a series of tweets on a range of topics on Thursday evening, the night before the special counsel Robert Mueller was expected to submit several important filings related to the Russia investigation.

Trump fired off two tweets relating to a Fox Business segment in which the anchor Trish Regan sought to cast doubt on the FBI’sjustification for obtaining a FISA warrant to surveil the former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Regan suggested the FBI was “weaponized in order to take down President Donald Trump.”

“Is this really America?” Trump tweeted. “Witch Hunt!”

In another tweet one minute later, Trump appeared to revive a particularly inflammatory attack on the news media, saying only “FAKE NEWS – THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”

Trump went on to mention Arizona, which he claimed was “bracing for a massive surge at a NON-WALLED area.”

Trump appeared to be referringto the Customs and Border Patrol’s training exercise in Tucson, Arizona, on Thursday, where agents prepared “to deal with the potential of large crowds and assaultive behavior by caravan members, should a situation arise.”

Trump also mentioned the Democratic lawmakers Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, who refused to support Trump’s plans for a $5 billion down payment to fund a wall on the US-Mexico border.

“WE WILL NOT LET THEM THROUGH,” Trump tweeted. “Big danger. Nancy and Chuck must approve Boarder Security and the Wall!”

Trump’s rapid-fire tweets came the night before Mueller’s deadline to submit documents outlining what the special counsel’s office has described as the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s “crimes and lies,” including allegations he lied in violation of his plea deal with the special counsel. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel while pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and one count of conspiracy against the US in September.

Trump followed up with a series of five tweets on Friday morning in which he repeated his common refrain that the Russia investigation was a “witch hunt” and accused Mueller of having multiple conflicts of interest, including being “Best Friends” with former FBI Director James Comey, who was set to testify to Congress on Friday.

The special counsel’s team also Friday was expected to submit its sentencing recommendation for the former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to financial crimes and, more recently, lying to Congress.

Mueller’s office released a similar recommendation this week for the former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who cooperated with investigators after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.

Trump’s tweets on Friday morning Trump targeted Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor on the special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Trump accused Weissmann of having a “horrible and vicious prosecutorial past” and said he “wrongly destroyed people’s lives” — referring to a conviction he made against an Enron auditor that waslater overturned by the Supreme Court.

Trump also accused members of Mueller’s team of having made donations to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and asked whether it would be included in Mueller’s report. He also revived his talking points alleging corruption in the Democratic National Committee and on Clinton’s campaign.

[Business Insider]

President Trump Plugs Hannity’s Show on Twitter: ‘Enjoy!’

After a big day at the G20, President Donald Trump went back to tweeting about domestic concerns tonight.

As Sean Hannity kicked off his show, Trump tweeted out to people to tune in and watch:

Hannity’s show opened tonight with another lengthy monologue on the Mueller “witch hunt.” At one point he called it “political persecution.”

[Mediaite]

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