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]

Rudy Giuliani says Trump is ‘honest’ because facts are ‘in the eye of the beholder’

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney delivered another doozy of a soundbite Tuesday night, telling CNN’s Chris Cuomo that “nowadays” facts “are in the eye of the beholder.”

Rudy Giuliani made the comment while defending Trump’s harsh words for former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman. Cuomo said other presidents faced criticism and adversity without resorting to insults.

“Maybe nobody has been as honest as him,” Giuliani said.

“If fact-counting is anything, we’ve never had anybody with the level of mendacity that he has,” Cuomo replied. “Not even close.”

“It’s in the eye of the beholder,” said a chuckling Giuliani.

 “No, facts are not in the eye of the beholder,” Cuomo said, shaking his finger.

“Yes, they are,” Giulini said. “Nowadays they are.”

Whether intended in humor or not, the former New York mayor’s remark feeds into a perception among critics that the Trump administration often rejects objective facts and tries to confuse the public about what is true.

Trump’s rejection of facts dates back at least to his refusal to accept that former President Barack Obama was a U.S. citizen despite being presented with conclusive evidence.

The perception that a fast and loose attitude toward reality followed Trump, and his staff, into the White House was sparked just after Trump took office. Press secretary Sean Spicer asserted that Trump’s inaugural crowd was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period,” when photos showed the crowd in Washington was much smaller than the one present for Obama’s inauguration.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway famously defended Spicer’s assertion by saying he was working with “alternative facts.”

Giuliani also repeated his statement that Trump did not speak to former FBI Director James Comey about the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, contradicting Comey’s claims.

[USA Today]

Media

FBI agent Peter Strzok fired over anti-Trump texts

The FBI has fired agent Peter Strzok, who helped lead the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election until officials discovered he had been sending anti-Trump texts.

Aitan Goelman, Strzok’s attorney, said FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich ordered the firing Friday, even though the director of the FBI office that normally handles employee discipline had decided Strzok should face only a demotion and 60-day suspension. Goelman said the move undercuts the FBI’s repeated assurances that Strzok would be afforded the normal disciplinary process.

“This isn’t the normal process in any way more than name,” Goelman said, adding in a statement, “This decision should be deeply troubling to all Americans.”

The FBI declined to comment.

The termination marks a remarkable downfall for Strzok, a 22-year veteran of the bureau who investigated Russian spies, defense officials accused of selling secrets to China and myriad other important cases. In the twilight of his career, Strzok was integral to two of the bureau’s most high-profile investigations — the Russia case and the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

But when a Justice Department inspector-general investigation uncovered politically charged messages that Strzok had exchanged with another FBI official, he was relegated to a position in human resources. Conservatives soon made Strzok the face of their attacks against the special-counsel investigation into the president’s campaign, and the FBI took steps to remove Strzok from its ranks.

Conservatives on Monday hailed the move. President Trump used it to suggest the Russia investigation should be dropped and the Clinton case redone.

“Agent Peter Strzok was just fired from the FBI – finally. The list of bad players in the FBI & DOJ gets longer & longer. Based on the fact that Strzok was in charge of the Witch Hunt, will it be dropped? It is a total Hoax. No Collusion, No Obstruction – I just fight back!” he wrote.

Minutes later, he added, “Just fired Agent Strzok, formerly of the FBI, was in charge of the Crooked Hillary Clinton sham investigation. It was a total fraud on the American public and should be properly redone!”

The reaction among Democrats was more understated. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said Strzok’s firing did not undercut Mueller’s probe, which had produced dozens of indictments.

“Sorry, @realDonaldTrump, the #RussiaInvestigation is bigger than one agent (who was at least willing to go under oath).” Swalwell tweeted, citing the president’s Twitter handle.

Bobby Goodlatte, the son of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), wrote on Twitter that he was “deeply embarrassed that Peter Strzok’s career was ruined by my father’s political grandstanding” and pointed to a recent congressional hearing at which Strzok testified.

“Thank you for your service sir,” Bobby Goodlatte wrote. “You are a patriot.”

Bobby Goodlatte recently endorsed the underdog Democrat running for his father’s seat.

Strzok’s team launched a GoFundMe page with a lengthy statement to raise money for his “legal costs and lost income” and said on the site that his firing was “apparently driven by political pressure.” The site had raised more than $40,000 by late Monday afternoon.

Because Strzok was a senior-level FBI employee, and because the FBI’s No. 2 official directed his firing, he has few realistic avenues left to get back his job. It was unclear whether he planned to pursue legal action against the bureau.

Strzok’s position in the bureau had been precarious since last summer, when the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, told special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that the lead agent on his team had been exchanging anti-Trump messages with an FBI lawyer. The next day, Mueller expelled Strzok from the group.

The lawyer, Lisa Page, had also been a part of Mueller’s team, though she left a few weeks earlier and no longer works for the FBI. She and Strzok were having an affair.

Trump has previously derided the pair as “FBI lovers,” and he and his conservative allies have pointed to their conduct in an attempt to discredit the Mueller probe. On Saturday, before the firing was known publicly, Trump tweeted an attack on Strzok, Page, former FBI director James B. Comey and former deputy director Andrew McCabe.

“Will the FBI ever recover it’s once stellar reputation, so badly damaged by Comey, McCabe, Peter S and his lover, the lovely Lisa Page, and other top officials now dismissed or fired?” Trump wrote on Twitter. “So many of the great men and women of the FBI have been hurt by these clowns and losers!”

Horowitz concluded that Strzok showed a “willingness to take official action” to hurt Trump’s electoral prospects, particularly in a text he sent telling Page “we’ll stop” Trump from being president.

Strzok, who was a deputy assistant director for counterintelligence at the bureau, has apologized for sending the messages and said they reflected personal views that did not affect his work. His attorney has said that had Strzok wanted to prevent Trump’s election, he could have leaked that Trump’s campaign was under investigation for possibly coordinating with Russia — a revelation that might have upended his bid to become president.

At a congressional hearing last month, Strzok sparred with Republican lawmakers who raised questions about his character and even his marriage. He asserted that there was “no evidence of bias in my professional actions” and that his having to testify was “just another victory notch in [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”

Strzok was escorted out of the FBI building in June and effectively relieved of work responsibilities, though he technically remained an FBI employee as he and his attorney challenged the effort to dismiss him. On July 24, they made a final pitch to Candice M. Will, who leads the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

Goelman said Will ultimately decided that Strzok should face a demotion and 60-day suspension and be subjected to a “last chance” agreement. That would have put him on thin ice if he were to commit another offense. But Goelman said Bowdich overruled that decision and ordered Strzok’s termination.

During a June congressional hearing, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said that Strzok had been referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility — which he referred to as the bureau’s “independent disciplinary arm” — and that officials would “not hesitate to hold people strictly accountable.” Wray promised that process would be “done by the book.”

Strzok is the third high-ranking FBI official involved in the Clinton and Russia investigations to be fired amid an intensely political backdrop. Trump removed Comey as the bureau’s director and said he did so thinking of the Russia case. Attorney General Jeff Sessions later removed Comey’s deputy, McCabe, after the inspector general alleged he lied about a media disclosure related to Clinton.

McCabe — who, unlike Comey, could not be removed at the will of the president — has said his termination was a politically motivated attempt to undermine the Mueller probe. He is facing a criminal investigation by prosecutors in the District of Columbia’s U.S. attorney’s office. McCabe’s attorney wrote Monday of Strzok’s firing: “Another patriot, public servant, and defender of the FBI fired to appease the WH,” using an abbreviation for White House.

It is possible that others could yet face discipline. The inspector general identified five FBI employees, including Strzok and Page, with some connection to the Clinton email case who had exchanged messages expressing hostility toward Trump, support for Clinton or other political views. Each was referred to the FBI for possible violations of the bureau’s code of conduct.

The inspector general’s office said it found no evidence “to connect the political views expressed in these messages to the specific investigative decisions” in the Clinton case. Its report singled out Strzok, though, for prioritizing the Russia investigation in October 2016 instead of following up on a Clinton-related lead. Strzok’s attorney has disputed that Strzok failed to pursue the Clinton lead aggressively.

[Washington Post]

Trump Praises Strzok Firing: ‘Crooked Hillary Clinton Sham Investigation’ Should Be ‘Redone’

President Donald Trump celebrated the firing of FBI agent Peter Strzoktoday and took the opportunity to bring up both the “Witch Hunt” and the Clinton email investigation.

In his tweets this afternoon, the President questioned whether the Mueller probe will “be dropped” and even suggested the “sham investigation” into Clinton be redone:

[Mediaite]

Trump threatens ‘to get involved’ in manic conspiracy meltdown over ongoing FBI investigation

Out of nowhere — and possibly as a distraction to some upcoming news — President Donald Trump attacked the FBI on Saturday morning by demanding they turn over files on [Rformer FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to outside conservative advocacy group Judicial Watch.

Once again alleging a conspiracy, Trump tweeted, “Why isn’t the FBI giving Andrew McCabe text massages [sic] to Judicial Watch or appropriate governmental authorities. FBI said they won’t give up even one (I may have to get involved, DO NOT DESTROY). What are they hiding? McCabe wife took big campaign dollars from Hillary people.”

He later added, “Will the FBI ever recover it’s once stellar reputation, so badly damaged by Comey, McCabe, Peter S and his lover, the lovely Lisa Page, and other top officials now dismissed or fired? So many of the great men and women of the FBI have been hurt by these clowns and losers!”

You can see screenshots of the original tweets below which were deleted to correct the usual Trump typos:

[Raw Story]

Trump calls Attorney General Jeff Sessions ‘scared stiff and Missing in Action’

President Donald Trump called Attorney General Jeff Sessions “scared stiff and Missing in Action” on Saturday in his latest broadside on Twitter against the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

The attack on the attorney general came as Trump claimed the news media “refuses to report” on meetings held between Christopher Steele, the ex-British intelligence officer who authored an opposition research dossier on Trump, and former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr.

Ohr was demoted from his position in the deputy attorney general’s office after the discovery of certain meetings he held with Steele and the head of the opposition research firm that hired him to compile the dossier, Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, CNN reported last year, citing a source familiar with the matter. Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS doing research and analysis on Trump, Simpson has disclosed.

“The big story that the Fake News Media refuses to report is lowlife Christopher Steele’s many meetings with Deputy A.G. Bruce Ohr and his beautiful wife, Nelly. It was Fusion GPS that hired Steele to write the phony & discredited Dossier, paid for by Crooked Hillary & the DNC….,” Trump wrote on Saturday.

[CNN]

Trump Quotes Dubious Claim From Maria Bartiromo’s Show Slamming Russia Investigation

Sitting in for Neil Cavuto Thursday on Fox News, Maria Bartiromo took on a subject that has become a consistent field of coverage for the business anchor: the supposedly corrupted Russia investigation.

And the president was apparently watching.

Bartiromo, during a discussion on special counsel Robert Mueller probe, made the claim that there was “no evidence whatsoever” to support an investigation into collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia.

“[Rep.] Devin Nunes (R-CA), the chairman of the Intel committee on the House, has been with me several times telling me there was no evidence whatsoever to launch even an investigation into potential collusion between Donald Trump and the Russians. And so here we are a year and a half later, the special counsel still going on, and we continue to see texts from FBI agents showing this incredible amount of bias.”

Trump quoted from the segment on Twitter Friday morning.

The idea that there is no evidence to support a collusion investigation is simply false. As NBC News’ Ken Delanian lays out here, the FBI began investigating the Trump campaign after Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat that Russians offered him dirt on Hillary Clinton. Further, there is extensive documented contact between various individuals connected with Donald Trump’s campaign, and Russia. To say collusion hasn’t yet been proven is entirely fair. The idea that there’s no evidence to start an investigation is not.

[Mediaite]

Trump Suggests FBI Kept Carter Page’s Russia Ties Secret to ‘Spy’ on His Campaign

President Donald Trump suggested that the FBI may have tried to use Carter Page as “an excuse to SPY” on the Trump campaign, as they did not inform the then-candidate about Page’s ties to Russia.

“’Why didn’t the FBI tell President Trump that they had concerns about Carter Page? Is there a double standard here?’” Trump tweeted on Thursday, quoting comments made by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Fox News.

Trump then jumped in with his on commentary on the matter: “They told Senator Diane Feinstein that she had a spy – but not Trump. Is that entrapment or did they just want to use Page as an excuse to SPY?”

Just days before the election in 2016, the FBI filed a surveillance application on Page that said, “The FBI believes that Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”

Page responded to the allegations by denying his involvement with the Kremlin.

“I’ve never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination,” the former Trump campaign adviser said.

[Mediaite]

Reality

First, Carter Page left the Trump campaign in September 2016, the FBI sought another FISA warrant in October 2016 after Page left.

Second, the FBI informed Trump the Russians were trying to infiltrate his campaign in July 2016.

Trump is a liar.

Trump: People investigating Russia ‘witch hunt’ are ‘totally corrupt’

President Trump said Thursday that everyone involved in the Russia investigation is either corrupt or conflicted, and said it was started through illegal means.

Trump tweeted that the dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele is “phony” and said many of those involved who were fired are “lying and dishonest,” possibly alluding to former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

“Stay tuned!” Trump concluded the tweet.

[Washington Examiner]

Trump compares Paul Manafort to Al Capone, fails to mention their tax evading similarities

President Trump deployed quite the metaphor for the first trial in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair whose trial for tax and bank fraud began Tuesday, is being treated worse than infamous mobster Al Capone, the president declared. Scratch that — “Alfonse Capone.”

“Alfonse” is presumably the knockoff cousin of Alphonse “Al” Capone, Chicago’s murdering gangster eventually taken down for tax evasion. Manafort is similarly charged with hiding millions of dollars from the IRS, which is probably not the comparison Trump was hoping to draw.

[The Week]

Reality

Manafort is not “serving” his sentence yet. He violated the terms of his bail by attempting to influence witnesses and publish while under a gag order. He *earned* his jail confinement.

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