Trump on Sessions: ‘I don’t have an attorney general’

US President Donald Trump has said he does not “have an attorney general” in his fiercest attack yet on Jeff Sessions.

In an interview with Hill.TV, Mr Trump renewed criticism of Mr Sessions’ decision to step aside from the inquiry into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

He also said he was unhappy with Mr Sessions’ response to immigration.

The attorney general is yet to respond to Mr Trump’s comments.

It is unusual for a sitting president to attack their attorney general and critics accuse Mr Trump of trying to meddle in the legal system.

After the president criticised Mr Sessions last month, two key Republican senators signalled that they would support Mr Trump if he were to fire Mr Sessions after the November mid-term elections.

However, other Republicans told Politico they thought this would be a bad move and said they were standing by the attorney general.

Mr Sessions has pushed back against previous criticism by Mr Trump. “While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” he said in August.

“I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action.”

[BBC News]

Trump says exposing ‘corrupt’ FBI probe could be ‘crowning achievement’ of presidency

President Trump in an exclusive interview with Hill.TV said Tuesday he ordered the release of classified documents in the Russia collusion case to show the public the FBI probe started as a “hoax,” and that exposing it could become one of the “crowning achievements” of his presidency.

“What we’ve done is a great service to the country, really,” Trump said in a 45-minute, wide-ranging interview in the Oval Office.

“I hope to be able to call this, along with tax cuts and regulation and all the things I’ve done… in its own way this might be the most important thing because this was corrupt,” he said.

Trump also said he regretted not firing former FBI Director James Comey immediately instead of waiting until May 2017, confirming an account his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, gave Hill.TV earlier in the day that Trump was dismayed in 2016 by the way Comey handled the Hillary Clinton email case and began discussing firing him well before he became president.

“If I did one mistake with Comey, I should have fired him before I got here. I should have fired him the day I won the primaries,” Trump said. “I should have fired him right after the convention, say I don’t want that guy. Or at least fired him the first day on the job. … I would have been better off firing him or putting out a statement that I don’t want him there when I get there.”

Trump has offered different reasons in the past for his firing of the FBI chief, blaming Comey’s handling of the Clinton case but also linking it to Comey’s actions in the Russian investigation.

The president also called into question the FBI’s handling of the Russian investigation, again criticizing it for surveilling his campaign.

He criticizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court’s approval of the warrant that authorized surveillance of Carter Page, a low-level Trump campaign aide, toward the end of the 2016 election, suggesting the FBI misled the court.

“They know this is one of the great scandals in the history of our country because basically what they did is, they used Carter Page, who nobody even knew, who I feel very badly for, I think he’s been treated very badly. They used Carter Page as a foil in order to surveil a candidate for the presidency of the United States.”

As for the judges on the secret intelligence court: “It looks to me just based on your reporting, that they have been misled,” the president said, citing a series of columns in The Hill newspaper identifying shortcomings in the FBI investigation. “I mean I don’t think we have to go much further than to say that they’ve been misled.”

“One of the things I’m disappointed in is that the judges in FISA didn’t, don’t seem to have done anything about it. I’m very disappointed in that Now, I may be wrong because, maybe as we sit here and talk, maybe they’re well into it. We just don’t know that because I purposely have not chosen to get involved,” Trump said.

The president spared no words in criticizing Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, lawyer Lisa Page and other FBI officials who started the probe. He recited specific text messages Page and Strzok traded while having an affair and investigating his campaign, arguing the texts showed they condoned leaks and conducted a bogus probe.

Those texts are to be released as a result of Trump’s announcement on Monday.

“It’s a hoax, beyond a witch hunt,” he said.

Trump cited one text released recently in which Strzok and Page appear to discuss getting McCabe to approve an expansion of the Russia case right after Comey is fired.

“Comey was a bad guy. He gets fired. They only have Andy left because they know they’re doing wrong,” the president said in describing how he felt wronged by the FBI.

He denounced the FBI for leaking to create what he said was a false narrative against him, saying it appeared to be an “insurance policy” to destroy his presidency if he won.

“Number one how illegal is it? And number two, how low is it,” he said.

“What we have now is an insurance policy,” the president said. “But it has been totally discredited, even Democrats agree that it has been discredited. They are not going to admit to it, but it has been totally discredited. I think, frankly, more so by text than by documents.”

Trump said he had not read the documents he ordered declassified but said he expected to show they would prove the FBI case started as a political “hoax.”

“I have had many people ask me to release them. Not that I didn’t like the idea but I wanted to wait, I wanted to see where it was all going,” he said.

In the end, he said, his goal was to let the public decide by seeing the documents that have been kept secret for more than two years. “All I want to do is be transparent,” he said.

Asked what he thought the outcome of his long-running fight with the FBI, the president said: “I hope to be able put this up as one of my crowning achievements that I was able to … expose something that is truly a cancer in our country.”

[The Hill]

Trump Goes After ‘Illegal Mueller Witch Hunt’ Again Following Manafort Deal: ‘Continues in Search of a Crime’

President Donald Trump went after Robert Mueller and the special counsel investigation this morning two days after the Paul Manafort deal was announced.

Trump didn’t tweet about Manafort specifically, but instead attacked the Mueller probe again as “illegal” and grasping at straws:

[Mediaite]

Trump: Republicans’ and my poll numbers would be higher if not for Mueller’s ‘witch hunt’

President Trump accused special counsel Robert Mueller on Saturday of hurting his and Republican candidates’ approval ratings, again characterizing the special counsel’s investigation as a “witch hunt.”

The president tweeted Saturday afternoon that his approval ratings, which have hovered below 50 percent for weeks in most polls, and those of Republican candidates around the country would be higher if not for Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between his campaign and Russia in the 2016 presidential election.

“While my (our) poll numbers are good, with the Economy being the best ever, if it weren’t for the Rigged Russian Witch Hunt, they would be 25 points higher!” Trump said.

“Highly conflicted Bob Mueller & the 17 Angry Democrats are using this Phony issue to hurt us in the Midterms. No Collusion!” he added.

Trump’s tweet comes one day after Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guiltyFriday to two federal charges. In pleading guilty, Manafort agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s team in its investigation.

As part of his cooperation, Manafort has agreed to submit to interviews with the special counsel, testify in any future cases and provide related documents.

Manafort, the fourth Trump associate to plead guilty in Mueller’s investigation, was found guilty last month of tax and bank fraud charges in a Virginia court and faced another trial in Washington, D.C., this month.

What Manafort’s plea agreement means for Mueller’s probe is yet unknown, but his cooperation could be significant for Mueller’s investigation given his work on the Trump campaign.

Trump’s tweet also followed a series of endorsements for Republican candidates across the country, including several candidates facing tight races in November like Nevada congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian (R) and Texas Rep. Pete Sessions (R).

[The Hill]

FBI Director Christopher Wray becomes the latest target of Trump’s ire

In recent conversations with confidants, President Donald Trump has added FBI Director Christopher Wray to his list of key members of his administration whom he complains about, three people familiar with the discussions tell NBC News.

Trump has criticized Wray as another figure in the Justice Department who is not protecting his interests — and is possibly out to undermine his presidency, these people said.

Trump is “in the worst mood of his presidency and calling friends and allies to vent about his selection of (Attorney General Jeff) Sessions and Wray,” said one person familiar with the president’s thinking. This person said the president was particularly focused on both men over the Labor Day weekend.

Trump has frequently tweeted about the Russia probe and more than once has criticized the Justice Department, the FBI and Sessions by name. But until now, the president has been cautious about publicly criticizing the person he appointed after firing former FBI Director James Comey.

Now he’s increasingly grouping Wray with Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the special counsel’s Russia investigation, all subjects of relentless criticism from the president.

Trump nominated Wray for the FBI post last summer, weeks after the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller and months after Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.

Since then, Wray has largely avoided the president’s public ire. While Trump has criticized the FBI generally, saying the bureau is biased against him, he has not gone after Wray personally.

That has changed, the people familiar with the president’s thinking said, as Trump’s frustration with his Justice Department has escalated. He’s pointed to issues such as the resistance by the FBI to turn over documents to congressional Republicans. The FBI declined to comment for this story. NBC News has reached out to the White House for comment.

Wray has defended the FBI against Trump’s attacks. In December, after Trump said the FBI’s reputation was in “tatters,” Wray pushed back publicly.

“The FBI that I see is tens of thousands of agents and analysts and staff working their tails off to keep Americans safe from the next terrorist attack, gang violence, child predators, spies from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran,” he said during a congressional hearing.

Trump has at times been wound up by Tom Fitton, the president of the conservative advocacy group Judicial Watch, and a regular commentator on Fox News, who has been sharply critical of Wray and what he describes as corruption at the FBI.

Wray has reportedly threatened to resign at least once over potential pressure from the president to fire his then-deputy Andrew McCabe. Asked in July by NBC’s Lester Holt whether he’d ever reached a point where a line had been crossed and he threatened to resign, Wray did not deny he had.

“I’m a low-key, understated guy, but that should not be mistaken for what my spine is made out of. I’ll just leave it at that,” Wray said.

[NBC News]

Trump attacks Jeff Sessions for not forcing the Justice Department to ignore Republican crimes

President Donald Trump on Monday publicly criticized his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for allowing Republican congressmen to be indicted for alleged criminal behavior.

“Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff…” Trump tweeted.

The president was apparently referring to Congressmen Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Chris Collins (R-NY). Hunter was charged with illegally using campaign funds to pay personal expenses while Collins was charged with taking part in an insider trading scheme.

“….The Democrats, none of whom voted for Jeff Sessions, must love him now. Same thing with Lyin’ James Comey. The Dems all hated him, wanted him out, thought he was disgusting – UNTIL I FIRED HIM! Immediately he became a wonderful man, a saint like figure in fact. Really sick!” Trump added in another tweet.

[Raw Story]

Trump attacks Jeff Sessions for not forcing the Justice Department to ignore Republican crimes

President Donald Trump on Monday publicly criticized his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for allowing Republican congressmen to be indicted for alleged criminal behavior.

“Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff…” Trump tweeted.

The president was apparently referring to Congressmen Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Chris Collins (R-NY). Hunter was charged with illegally using campaign funds to pay personal expenses while Collins was charged with taking part in an insider trading scheme.

“….The Democrats, none of whom voted for Jeff Sessions, must love him now. Same thing with Lyin’ James Comey. The Dems all hated him, wanted him out, thought he was disgusting – UNTIL I FIRED HIM! Immediately he became a wonderful man, a saint like figure in fact. Really sick!” Trump added in another tweet.

[Raw Story]

Trump blasts FBI, DOJ over report on Carter Page surveillance warrants

President Trump slammed officials at the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) on Saturday over a report from a conservative watchdog group about the warrants to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

Trump pointed to a report from the conservative group Judicial Watch that said the court overseeing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests held no hearings on the applications targeting Page.

In a series of tweets, Trump accused the FBI and broader Justice Department of being “completely out to lunch” when it came to fighting corruption and supposed “deep state” elements within the government.

“It is astonishing that the FISA courts couldn’t hold hearings on Spy Warrants targeting Donald Trump. It isn’t about Carter Page, it’s about the Trump Campaign. You’ve got corruption at the DOJ & FBI,’ ” Trump wrote on Twitter, quoting Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton.

“‘The leadership of the DOJ & FBI are completely out to lunch in terms of exposing and holding those accountable who are responsible for that corruption,’” he added.

Trump’s comments came a day after Judicial Watch published its report, which claimed that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests sent to the Justice Department revealed this week that FISA courts approved a 2016 warrant to spy on Page without holding hearings beforehand to review the government’s evidence.

“Perhaps the court can now hold hearings on how justice was corrupted by material omissions that Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the DNC, a conflicted Bruce Ohr, a compromised Christopher Steele, and anti-Trumper Peter Strzok were all behind the ‘intelligence’ used to persuade the courts to approve the FISA warrants that targeted the Trump team,” Fitton wrote in the report.

Trump has frequently and inaccurately accused federal investigators of launching an probe into his campaign based solely on an unverified dossier of claims relating to Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

A memo released by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee in February indicated that former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos sparked the investigation with a conversation to Australian officials about the possibility of Russia obtaining Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Last year, the president also shocked Washington by accusing former President Obama, without evidence, of wiretapping Trump Tower ahead of the 2016 election.

[The Hill]

Trump again threatens to ‘get involved’ in the Justice Department

President Trump on Thursday evening again threatened to “get involved” in the Department of Justice (DOJ) “if it doesn’t straighten out.”

Trump said during a rally in support of Indiana Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun that the DOJ and the FBI “have to start doing their job and doing it right and doing it now.”

“I wanted to stay out, but if it doesn’t straighten out … I will get involved and I’ll get in there if I have to,” Trump said.

The president’s comments echoed those he made in May, when he threatened to “get involved” in a rolling dispute between conservative House Republicans and the top DOJ official overseeing the Russia probe.

Trump has frequently attacked the DOJ and Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The president’s feud with the DOJ has escalated since last week, when he said during an interview on “Fox & Friends” that Sessions “never took control of the Justice Department.”

“The Dems are very strong in the Justice Department,” Trump said. “And I put in an attorney general that never took control of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions. Never took control of the Justice Department. It’s sort of an incredible thing.”

Sessions quickly fired back, saying in a statement that the DOJ “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”

Weeks before that interview, Trump wrote on Twitter that Sessions should stop the special counsel’s investigation “right now.” Trump has repeatedly cast the investigation as a “witch hunt.”

Sessions has long drawn the ire of Trump for recusing himself from the Russia investigation a month after being installed at the DOJ last year.

The president’s attacks against Sessions have continued to fuel speculation that he could move to fire the attorney general at some point.

Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) both predicted last week that Trump will eventually fire Sessions.

Trump told Bloomberg News earlier in the day Thursday that Sessions would remain in his job until at least the November midterm elections, but declined to say whether he would keep Sessions after the elections.

The president appeared in Indiana on Thursday night in an effort to boost Braun, who is seeking to unseat Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) in November.

[The Hill]

Media

Trump asks ‘how the hell’ Bruce Ohr still works at the Justice Department

President Donald Trump on Wednesday launched another pointed attack against Bruce Ohr, the Justice Department official who has drawn intense scrutiny from Capitol Hill Republicans, asking on Twitter “how the hell” he still has a job at the DOJ.

“How the hell is Bruce Ohr still employed at the Justice Department? Disgraceful! Witch Hunt!” Trump tweeted.

The message came one day after Ohr appeared behind closed doors with congressional investigators, who grilled him about the timing of his contacts with Fusion GPS, the firm that worked with former British spy Christopher Steele to create and distribute a salacious dossier about Trump’s relationship with Russia.

As a senior Justice Department staffer, Ohr passed along Steele’s information to the FBI, even after the bureau had terminated its formal relationship with Steele over media leaks.

Trump has regularly attacked Ohr on Twitter, accusing him of being emblematic of corruption at the Justice Department that he says is fueling special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

[Politico]

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