Trump asserts executive privilege over subpoenaed census docs

President Trump has asserted executive privilege over congressionally subpoenaed documents on the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

The announcement comes as the House Oversight and Reform Committee is set to vote on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas for the documents.

“By proceeding with today’s vote, you have abandoned the accommodation process with respect to your requests and subpoenas for documents concerning the secretary’s decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote in a letter to House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

“The executive branch has engaged in good-faith efforts to satisfy the legislative needs of the committee. Moreover, until the committee’s abrupt decision to seek a contempt resolution, the department was prepared to provide a significant number of additional documents responsive to the committee’s April 2, 2019 subpoena.” 

“Unfortunately, rather than allowing the department to complete its document production, you have chosen to go forward with an unnecessary and premature contempt vote.”

Boyd wrote that Trump has asserted executive privilege over some of the subpoenaed documents, including drafts of a letter sent from the Justice Department to Commerce Department officials requesting that the citizenship question be added to the 2020 census.

Cummings blasted the administration over the assertion, saying that he has been asking for the documents at hand for more than a year and questioning why the departments didn’t send their letters until moments before the vote was scheduled to be held.

“This does not appear to be an effort to engage in good faith negotiations or accommodations,” he said.

The chairman said that he would delay the contempt vote until this afternoon to allow members to review the letters on executive privilege.

The announcement came one day after Boyd sent a separate letter to Cummings, warning that executive privilege would be invoked if the House panel moved forward with the contempt votes for Barr and Ross. The Justice Department official also asked Cummings to delay the vote as Trump weighs whether the documents fall under the scope of executive privilege.

“As I indicated in my letter to you yesterday, this protective assertion ensures the president’s ability to make a final decision whether to assert privilege following a full review of these materials,” Boyd wrote Wednesday.

The Commerce Department on Wednesday also sent Cummings a letter notifying him that Trump has asserted executive privilege over some of the documents subpoenaed from that agency.

“The department regrets that you have made this assertion necessary by your insistence upon scheduling a premature contempt vote,” wrote Charles Rathburn, the acting assistant secretary for legislative and intergovernmental affairs at the Commerce Department.

In a letter sent Tuesday night, Cummings offered to delay the contempt vote if the two agencies handed over unredacted copies of certain documents requested by the lawmakers.

Boyd wrote in the letter Wednesday that the “department has explained to the committee on several occasions that these identified documents consist of attorney-client communications, attorney work product, and deliberative communications, and a federal court has already held many of these documents to be privileged in litigation.”

Wednesday’s move is the latest effort by the White House to assert executive privilege over documents sought by Democrats investigating Trump and his administration.

[The Hill]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It could well be treason,” Cheney said.

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

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

[Los Angeles Times]

Trump says he’ll refuse to stop skyrocketing drug prices if Democrats investigate him

President Donald Trump, during a press conference in the White House Rose Garden earlier this week, stressed that he refuses to work with Democrats in Congress on infrastructure projects as long as they continue to investigate him. But infrastructure isn’t the only thing Trump is holding hostage: on Friday, the president declared that he can’t work with Democrats on prescription drug prices either unless all investigations cease.

Trump asserted that “with Congress,” he could reduce drug prices in the U.S. by “40 percent and 50 percent, but I can’t do that when all they do is want to try and do a redo of the Mueller report.”

Bloomberg News’ Steven Dennis addressed Trump’s threat on Twitter, commenting, “So, if you’re Pharma, do you now hope for a year of impeachment proceedings?” And one Republican who, according to Dennis, clearly wants to see Trump and Democrats in Congress working together on reducing prescription drug prices is Maine Sen. Susan Collins—who told Bloomberg she thinks Trump will reconsider because he “wants action” on drug prices and other issues.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, ordinarily a passionate supporter of Trump, is also worried about Trump’s threat to quit working with House and Senate Democrats on key issues—telling Bloomberg that while he understands Trump’s “frustration,” refusing to work with Democrats in Congress altogether is “not a sustainable position.” The South Carolina Republican warned that the party giving the impression that “they don’t want to govern at all is going to be in real trouble.”

According to the Commonwealth Fund, the U.S. has the highest prescription drug prices in the developed world—spending $1011 per capita compared to $351 per capita in Sweden, $401 per capita in Norway,  $553 per capita in France or $686 per capita in Germany.

[Raw Story]

Barr names Connecticut prosecutor to investigate Russia probe’s origins

Attorney General William Barr has reportedly assigned a federal prosecutor in Connecticut to examine the origins of the investigation into Russia’s election interference and alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow. 

The New York Times, citing two people familiar with the matter, reported on Monday night that John H. Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, had been tapped by Barr to look into the probe’s inception. The newspaper reported the inquiry is the third publicly known investigation focused on the FBI’s counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign. 

Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz is reviewing how investigators used wiretap applications and informants as well as whether political bias motivated decisionmaking. 

John W. Huber, the U.S. attorney in Utah, is also examining aspects of the investigation. 

A spokesman for Durham’s office and the DOJ declined a request for comment from the Times. The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill. 

Durham was nominated by Trump in 2017 and has served as a lawyer within the Justice Department for nearly 40 years, according to the Times. He has a history of performing special investigations. 

Former Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey assigned Durham to conduct a probe of the CIA in 2008 over the agency destroying videotapes that showed terrorism suspects being tortured. 

Bloomberg News reported in April that Barr had formed a team to review the actions of the Justice Department and FBI leading up to the Russia investigation. He told Congress around that time that he was “reviewing the conduct of the investigation and trying to get my arms around all the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016.”

He also testified before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that he believed “spying” took place. 

“The question is whether it was adequately predicated and I’m not suggesting it wasn’t adequately predicated, but I need to explore that,” he said. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray said last week that he wouldn’t use “spying” to describe lawful investigative activities taken up by the FBI. 

Durham’s new assignment comes just weeks after the Justice Department released special counsel Robert Mueller‘s report, which detailed the findings of his 22-month investigation into President Trump

Mueller’s investigation did not uncover evidence to conclude that a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow took place. But the report noted that Mueller could not come to a conclusive determination with regard to whether the president obstructed justice. 

[The Hill]

Trump suffers meltdown after James Comey tells CNN it is ‘possible’ that ‘the Russians have leverage over’ the president

President Donald Trump freaked out on Twitter after former FBI Director James Comey gave an exclusive interview to CNN on the two-year anniversary of being fired.

“Do you think the Russians have leverage over President Trump?” Anderson Cooper asked.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Comey replied.

“Do you think it’s possible?” Cooper asked.

“Yes,” Comey answered.

That was not the only news Comey made.

Comey also said that Attorney General Bill Barr has behaved “less than honorably” and that America can’t have a president “who lies constantly.”

Trump lashed out after the interview was televised.

“James Comey is a disgrace to the FBI and will go down as the worst director in its long and once proud history,” Trump argued, seemingly unaware of the Bureau’s history.

“He brought the FBI down, almost all Republicans and Democrats thought he should be fired, but the FBI will regain greatness because of the great men & women who work there!” Trump argued.

[Raw Story]

Media

Trump calls Putin and talks of ‘Russian hoax’

US President Donald Trump has said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an hour-long call, covering issues including the “Russian hoax”.

“Had a long and very good conversation with President Putin,” the US president tweeted.

Mr Trump rebuked a reporter who asked whether he had warned Mr Putin against meddling in the 2020 elections.

It was the leaders’ first conversation since the Mueller report cleared Mr Trump of colluding with Russia.

The Kremlin confirmed in a statement the two had spoken, saying the call had been initiated by the White House.

Mr Trump and Mr Putin last spoke informally at December’s G20 Summit in Buenos Aires.

The US president tweeted on Friday about their latest conversation: “As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone is a good thing not a bad thing.”

When asked in the White House on Friday whether he had warned Mr Putin that Moscow should not interfere in the next US presidential election, Mr Trump told the reporter she was “very rude”.

“We didn’t discuss that,” he said.

“Getting along with countries is a good thing and we want to have good relations with everybody.”

But the White House said the matter of alleged Russian meddling had been broached in the call.

[BBC]

Trump Calls FBI and Justice Department Officials ‘Scum’

During a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, President Donald Trump called FBI and Justice Department officials “scum.”

“We’re taking on the failed political establishment and restoring government of, by and for the people,” Trump said. “It’s the people, or you’re the people. You won the election.”

Then turning to talk of his own intelligence officials he said this: “And if you look at what’s happened with the scum that’s leaving the very top of government, people that others used to say, oh, that’s one — these were dirty cops. These were dirty players.”

He continued on: “You take a look at what’s going on, there’s 21 of ‘em already. And I’m not even doing — they’re just leaving because they got caught like nobody ever got caught.”

The crowd cheered.

“And in the truest sense of the word, what we are doing now is draining the swamp,” the president continued on to louder cheers. “That’s true.”

The crowd then chanted “Drain the Swamp!”

[Mediaite]

Donald Trump: Investigations Against Me Were a ‘Coup’ to ‘Overthrow the United States Government’

Throughout his interview with Sean Hannity on Thursday night, President Donald Trump raved that Robert Mueller‘s probe and the investigations into him were nothing less than an attempted “coup” to depose his administration.

As Trump lashed out at his various political foes and spoke to Hannity about his 2016 opponent who has been vanquished for about 2.5 years now, he said the counterintelligence investigations into his campaign’s possible Russian collusion was a scandal “far bigger than Watergate.”

T”his was a coup. This was an attempted overthrow of the United States government,” Trump said. “This was an overthrow and it’s a disgraceful thing…I think it’s possibly the biggest scandal in political history in this country.”

Trump continued by referring to the FBI and intelligence figures who’ve spoken against him as “sick people.”

[Mediaite]

Trump goes off script at opioid summit: ‘I know about rigging the system because I had the system rigged on me’

President Donald Trump alleged on Wednesday that the U.S. justice system had been “rigged” against him.

While speaking at an event on opioid abuse, the president argued that pharmaceutical companies are giving European countries better prices than they give U.S. customers.

Trump vowed to stop the practice and called his promise “a big deal.”

“At long last we’re stopping drug companies in foreign countries from rigging the system,” Trump said before straying from his prepared remarks.

“I know all about the rigging of the system because I had the system rigged on me,” the president said, likely referring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

“I think you know what I’m talking about,” Trump added. “Unfortunately, that will be your soundbite tonight but that’s okay. The system was rigged!”

[Raw Story]

Trump says he would challenge impeachment in Supreme Court

President Trump on Wednesday said that he would attempt to challenge impeachment in the Supreme Court if Democrats carried out such proceedings, though it’s unclear the high court would hear such a case.

“The Mueller Report, despite being written by Angry Democrats and Trump Haters, and with unlimited money behind it ($35,000,000), didn’t lay a glove on me. I DID NOTHING WRONG,” Trump tweeted.

“If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court. Not only are there no ‘High Crimes and Misdemeanors,’ there are no Crimes by me at all,” he continued.

The president accused Democrats, Hillary Clinton and “dirty cops” of being guilty of criminal activity.

“We waited for Mueller and WON, so now the Dems look to Congress as last hope!” Trump concluded.

The House holds the power to carry out impeachment proceedings, while the Senate is responsible for whether to convict the individual in question. The chief justice of the Supreme Court, currently John Roberts, would preside over the Senate trial.

There is little precedent to support the idea of the Supreme Court weighing in on the merits of impeachment, as a sitting president has not previously challenged impeachment proceedings in the high court.

The Supreme Court ruled in the 1993 case of federal Judge Walter Nixon that whether the Senate properly conducted an impeachment trial was a political question, and therefore nonjusticiable.

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, rejected the possibility of Trump taking an impeachment to the Supreme Court.

“Not even a SCOTUS filled with Trump appointees would get in the way of the House or Senate, where [Chief Justice] Roberts would preside over Trump’s Impeachment Trial,” tweeted Tribe, an outspoken critic of the president.

The president has been fixated in recent days on pushing back against the specter of impeachment proceedings, while maintaining that he is “not even a little bit” concerned about the possibility of removal from office.

Democratic leaders have largely said they don’t yet support starting the impeachment process, but remained open to the possibility in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller‘s full report.

In the partly redacted document, investigators did not establish that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 election, but did not exonerate Trump on the question of obstruction of justice. 

Investigators instead detailed 10 episodes they reviewed for potential obstruction by the president, with Mueller saying that Congress has the authority to conduct potential obstruction probes.

Talk of whether to carry out impeachment hearings has split Democrats, and discussions have intensified in the aftermath of Mueller’s report.

“I do believe that impeachment is one of the most divisive forces, paths that we could go down to in our country,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday. “But if the facts, the path of fact-finding takes us there, we have no choice. But we’re not there yet.”

House Democrats have launched a flurry of investigations into the president, seeking to review his finances, potential abuse of power and corruption within the administration.Trump later asserted in a pair of tweets that he had been cooperative with the Mueller investigation, and suggested Congress should focus on legislation instead of seeking additional information from the White House as part of its own probes. “Millions of pages of documents were given to the Mueller Angry Dems, plus I allowed everyone to testify, including W.H. counsel. I didn’t have to do this, but now they want more,” Trump tweeted. “Congress has no time to legislate, they only want to continue the Witch Hunt, which I have already won. They should start looking at The Criminals who are already very well known to all. This was a Rigged System – WE WILL DRAIN THE SWAMP!”

[The Hill]

1 2 3 10