Trump says he’s ‘not above the law’ but insists he can pardon himself

President Donald Trump said Friday he is “not above the law” while insisting he has the “absolute right” to pardon himself should criminal wrongdoing be unearthed in the probe into Russian election meddling in the 2016 election.

Top Democratic lawmakers expressed deep concern after Trump claimed earlier this week he was entitled to pardon himself, blasting the probe by special counsel Robert Mueller into contacts between his campaign officials and Russia as “unconstitutional.” Trump’s assertion was further undercut by House Speaker Paul Ryan, who on Wednesday said Trump “obviously” shouldn’t pardon himself because “no one is above the law.”

The president, speaking to reporters outside the White House on Friday, expressed a similar sentiment when asked about the topic.

“No, I’m not above the law, I never want anybody to be above the law,” Trump said.

But Trump went on to stress that pardons “are a very positive thing for a president.” And the president reasserted his belief that he is entitled to pardon himself, even as he denied any wrongdoing.

“Yes, I do have an absolute right to pardon myself, but I’ll never have to do it because I didn’t do anything wrong and everybody knows it,” Trump said.

Trump has repeatedly slammed the probe by Mueller into Russian election interference as a “witch hunt,” and the White House and his legal team have called for the special counsel to wrap up its investigation.

[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 calls Russia probe ‘unconstitutional’

President Donald Trump is calling the special counsel Russia probe “totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!”

Trump tweets on Monday: “The appointment of the Special Councel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL! Despite that, we play the game because I, unlike the Democrats, have done nothing wrong!”

Trump’s team has sought to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani recently said the probe may need to be curtailed because, in his estimation, it was based on inappropriately obtained information from an informant and former FBI Director James Comey’s memos.

The FBI began a counterintelligence investigation in July 2016 to determine whether Trump campaign associates coordinated with Russia to tip the election. The investigation was opened after the emails were hacked from Democratic officials’ accounts and published; intelligence officials later formally attributed the breach to Russia.

[PBS]

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: Wish I picked someone other than Sessions to head DOJ

President Trump on Wednesday said he regrets his decision to pick Jeff Sessions as attorney general, the latest sign of his growing anger over the Russia investigation.

Citing Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who said earlier on CBS that Trump “could have picked somebody else” to lead the Justice Department, the president responded, “I wish I did!”

Gowdy was asked whether Trump obstructed justice when he reportedly asked Sessions early last year to reverse his decision to rescue himself from the Russia probe, an interaction reported Tuesday by The New York Times.

In comments later quoted by Trump, Gowdy said Trump was merely “expressing frustration that Attorney General Sessions should have shared these reasons for recusal before he took the job, not afterward.”

“There are lots of really good lawyers in the country, he could have picked somebody else!” Trump wrote, quoting Gowdy.

The president has lashed out at a variety of targets as the Russia investigation has moved closer to his inner circle, including special counsel Robert Mueller and now Sessions.

Sessions, a former Alabama senator and top Trump campaign backer, decided to recuse himself from the probe after it was revealed he had not disclosed contacts with Russia’s U.S. ambassador during the 2016 presidential race.

That decision angered Trump, who viewed it as the ultimate betrayal. The president has said publicly he wants an attorney general who will shield him legally and politically.

“If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you,’” Trump told the Times in July 2017. “It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”

The Times reported that Mueller is probing the interaction between Sessions and the president in his effort to determine whether Trump obstructed the investigation into ties between Moscow’s election interference and the Trump campaign.

Trump, however, has not shied away from attacking Sessions, blasting him as “weak” for not heeding his calls to launch an investigation into 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey.

Aides say the president has not fired Sessions, however, because he understands it would draw even more legal and political backlash.

Instead, Trump has chosen to attack Mueller and his investigators in an effort to undermine the credibility of the probe.

Gowdy rebutted one of the president’s main line of attacks, that the Obama administration embedded a spy on his campaign in order to benefit Clinton. In fact, the FBI used a confidential source who met with several Trump associates suspected of having contacts with Russians.

“I don’t know what the FBI could have done or should have done other than run out a lead that someone loosely connected with the campaign was making assertions about Russia,” Gowdy said on CBS.

Trump did not cite those remarks on Twitter.

[The Hill]

Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his decision to recuse himself from Russia probe

President Donald Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election, according to a report in The New York Times.

The meeting is under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller‘s team, which is seeking to find out whether Trump has made attempts to obstruct the probe, the Times said. It’s also an indication that Mueller’s obstruction probe into Trump is more extensive than previously thought.

The recusal kept Sessions from overseeing the special counsel’s investigation into possible Russian involvement with the Trump campaign, ceding responsibility to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

At a meeting at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in March 2017, the president berated Sessions for recusing himself and asked him to change his mind, saying he needed a loyalist overseeing the investigation, the Times reported. Sessions refused, the article said.

A representative for the attorney general did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. The special counsel’s office declined to comment, and the White House referred inquiries to the president’s outside counsel.

Later Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted that he wished he had picked another person to be attorney general.

Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s attorneys in the Russia probe, told CNBC that Trump still seems frustrated over Sessions for the recusal “because he believes he should not have in the first place.”

Ever since Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, Trump has attacked sessions both in public and in private. The president has frequently taken to Twitter to slam Sessions.

The Times, citing a source, also reported that Trump, in July, had told his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to convince Sessions to resign. Priebus then informed the attorney general’s chief of staff, who told Priebus that the president himself would have to ask Sessions to quit, which did not end up happening, the report said.

Priebus was out as chief of staff by the end of July, replaced by John Kelly. The Times reported that Mueller’s team wants to ask Trump about his discussions with Priebus regarding Sessions.

Read the full report in The New York Times.

[CNBC]

Trump Rails Against ‘Young and Beautiful’ Lives ‘Destroyed’ By Russia Probe: ‘They Went Back Home in Tatters!’

President Donald Trump has been busy on Twitter this Sunday morning. As part of a series of holiday weekend dispatches, the Commander-in-Chief railed against what he deems to be the ruination of people’s careers as a result of the Russia investigation.

“Who’s going to give back the young and beautiful lives (and others) that have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt?” Trump wrote. “They journeyed down to Washington, D.C., with stars in their eyes and wanting to help our nation…They went back home in tatters!”

Many on Twitter mused that the “young and beautiful” Trump was referring to was Hope Hicks — the 29-year-old former White House Communications Director who left her post in March.

[Mediaite]

Trump demands ‘total transparency’ from Rosenstein, FBI on Russia documents

President Trump on Wednesday demanded that federal law enforcement officials show “total transparency” about sensitive information related to the earliest days of the Russia probe.

“What I want from Rod, from the FBI, from everybody — we want transparency,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, referring to his embattled deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.

The president spoke one day before senior law enforcement and intelligence leaders are set to meet with Republican lawmakers to discuss classified information related to a confidential source who helped advance the FBI probe into Trump’s campaign.

No Democrats were invited to the meeting, fueling criticism that the gathering is a politically motivated attempt by Trump and his allies to undercut the investigation — and perhaps fire Rosenstein.

[The Hill]

Trump Rails Against ‘SPYGATE’ In Wild Tweetstorm After Watching Evidence-Free Fox & Friends Segment

President Donald Trump has ramped up his attacks on the Russia investigation — floating out baseless accusations that an FBI “spy” was dispatched for political purposes to sabotage his campaign and elect Hillary Clinton — and Fox & Friends is eagerly cheering him on.

Fox & Friends opened the show Wednesday morning with a laughably uncritical reading of Trump’s latest tweets, which apparently set off the president on another wild tweetstorm in which he declared the investigation into his campaign, “SPYGATE.”

On Fox News, Brian Kilmeade started by noting that the FBI sent informants to Trump’s campaign in 2016 “to maybe go in there and find out, probe around and see where the Russians had gained access to.”

“And now we know exactly why,” Steve Doocydeclared. “The president sent out a couple tweets, probably why you were sleeping. The reason why the federal government put the spies in there, was so Crooked Hillary would win.”

The hosts of Fox & Friends continued to speculate wildly about the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties, with Doocy and Kilmeade agreeing that the whole thing looks like a “set up.”

The cycle continued later in the morning, when Trump responded to his favorite morning show in another tweet — which blasted “worlds dumbest former Intelligence Head” James Clapper:

“Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State,” Trump continued in his next tweet. “They go after Phony Collusion with Russia, a made up Scam, and end up getting caught in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen before!”

Trump also cited Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano, who appeared on Fox & Friends First and Fox Business Network Wednesday morning.

And, finally, we have a new word for this fresh shitshow… SPYGATE!

UPDATE: Matthew Gertz has the goods one where Trump’s quote came from… a Fox & Friends First chyron that — again, without a dash of evidence — boldly declared “NEW BOMBSHELL IN THE OBAMA SPYING SCANDAL”.

[Mediaite]

Trump: ‘Illegal’ and ‘disgrace’ if spies were on my campaign

President Trump said Tuesday it would be “illegal” and a “disgrace” if the FBI had spies embedded in his campaign.

“A lot of people are saying they had spies in my campaign. If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a disgrace to this country,” he said. “It would be very illegal, aside from everything else.”

“I hope they weren’t,” Trump added, because “that would be unprecedented in the history of our country.”

The comments come as Trump is escalating his attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump has repeated conservative claims that federal law enforcement spied on his campaign, perhaps at the direction of senior leaders in the Obama administration, in an effort to sink his chances of winning the 2016 presidential election.

Media reports have said FBI agents used an informant to speak with a trio of Trump campaign advisers after the bureau heard they had suspicious contacts with Russia. There is no evidence a spy or mole was embedded in the Trump campaign.

Critics say Trump is using the allegations to muddy the waters in the Russia probe, which is looking into whether his campaign colluded with Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the election and if the president obstructed the probe.

Trump has repeated conservative claims that federal law enforcement spied on his campaign, perhaps at the direction of senior leaders in the Obama administration, in an effort to sink his chances of winning the 2016 presidential election.

Media reports have said FBI agents used an informant to speak with a trio of Trump campaign advisers after the bureau heard they had suspicious contacts with Russia. There is no evidence a spy or mole was embedded in the Trump campaign.

Critics say Trump is using the allegations to muddy the waters in the Russia probe, which is looking into whether his campaign colluded with Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the election and if the president obstructed the probe.

[The Hill]

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