Trump Pardons Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s Former Chief of Staff

President Donald Trump pardoned I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Friday, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted in 2005 of perjury and obstruction of justice after a leak that disclosed a CIA agent’s name.

“I don’t know Mr. Libby, but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly,” Trump said in a statement from the White House. “Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life.”

ABC News and The Washington Post both reported this week that Trump had been considering the pardon for a few months, but there was no clear timeline for when it might happen.

The chief prosecutor in Libby’s case, Patrick Fitzgerald, also happens to be friends with former FBI Director James Comey.

Libby was charged in 2005 with lying to the FBI, perjury and obstruction of justice following an investigation into who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA operative at the time, to various journalists. Libby, according to prosecutors, lied about where he learned of her identity and what he discussed with reporters.

He pleaded not guilty but resigned from his position and was disbarred until 2016. He was also sentenced in 2007 to 30 months in prison and fined $250,000 for his role in the leak case.

President George W. Bush refused to grant a pardon to Libby, despite Cheney pushing for it, although the former president did commute Libby’s 30-month prison sentence.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage eventually admitted in 2006 that he was the one who inadvertently revealed Plame’s identity.

Trump’s most controversial pardon to date was that of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio last August. Arpaio had been convicted of criminal contempt for violating a federal judge’s order to stop detaining individuals the sheriff believed were in the country illegally. Arpaio had a long history of discrimination and unlawful policing toward Hispanics. He’s now running for Senate.

[Huffington Post]

Trump touts Hannity’s show on ‘Deep State crime families’ led by Mueller, Comey and Clintons

On Wednesday night, like most other weeknights, it was to be expected that President Trump would be tuning into his favorite prime-time pundit. But as if his followers needed a reminder, the president tweeted about it.

“Big show tonight on @seanhannity!” Trump tweeted, promoting Sean Hannity’s 9 p.m. segment on Fox News. By early Thursday morning, Hannity was the No. 1 topic trending on Twitter, and scores of viewers watched as Hannity fired out his usual attacks on his favorite subjects: Hillary Clinton, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and former FBI director James B. Comey.

In a conspiratorial, long-winded monologue, Hannity charted connections he sees among all three of them. The pundit outlined what he described as “obvious Deep State crime families trying to take down the president,” consisting of the Clinton “family,” the Comey “family” and the Mueller “family.”

Hannity said he was inspired by Comey, who appeared in a video this week promoting an interview between Comey and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that will air Sunday. In the interview, Stephanopoulos suggests that Comey compared Trump to a “mob boss.”

“Mr. Comey, you’re really going to compare the sitting president of the United States to a mob boss so you can make money?” Hannity said of the former FBI director, who is currently promoting his soon-to-be-released book. “If he’s going to use a sweeping analogy, I’ve decided tonight we’re going to use the Comey standard … and make some comparisons of our own.”

He began with what he called “a family responsible for actual crimes … the head of the notorious political cabal, of course Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Clinton crime family.”

For the Clinton family, Hannity brought up allegations of sexual misconduct against President Bill Clinton and, of course, accused Hillary Clinton of committing crimes, obstructing justice and mishandling national secrets on a private server. Linked to the Clinton “crime family” were individuals such as Hillary Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, “sketchy” former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, former attorney general Loretta E. Lynch, and others, including Christopher Steele, the author of the “dossier” alleging ties between Trump and Russia.

Then there’s the “Mueller Crime Family,” Hannity said. The host drew connections between the special counsel and his “best friend” Comey, as well as notorious gangster and killer Whitey Bulger. Hannity accused Mueller of “looking the other way” at Bulger’s crimes while he was a federal prosecutor in Boston. Then, of course, Hannity mapped out the “Comey Crime Family,” linking the former FBI director to Lynch, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, Steele, former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, and “fellow Comey Deep State sycophant” former CIA director John Brennan.

Though Hannity retweeted Trump’s tweet promoting his Wednesday night show, he insisted that the president “was not given ANY heads up on my monologue using the ‘Comey’ standard!!!”

Regardless of what Trump knew before the show, the president is known to watch Hannity’s show regularly and look to it for guidance.

As CNN’s Brian Stelter tweeted, Wednesday night illustrated that “the line where Fox News ends and where Trump begins is getting blurrier by the day.”

Aides have said Trump regularly calls Hannity before or after the program to give feedback, The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey has reported. “Aides sometimes plot to have guests make points on Fox that they have been unable to get the president to agree to in person,” Dawsey wrote.

Hannity on Wednesday night once again called the Russia investigation a “witch hunt,” as does Trump, and brought on guests who attempted to discredit Justice Department officials and the special counsel.

[Washington Post]

Media

 

Trump considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosen

President Donald Trump is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in the aftermath of the FBI raid on his personal attorney Michael Cohen’s office and residence. The move would be done to “check” special counsel Robert Mueller, CNN’s sources say.

CNN reported that firing Rosenstein is “one of several options — including going so far as to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions — Trump is weighing” since Cohen’s raid.

[Raw Story]

Trump: FBI raid on Cohen ‘a disgrace’

President Trump on Monday blasted the FBI for raiding the office of his personal attorney Michael Cohen, calling it a “disgrace” and a “pure and simple witch hunt.”

“It’s a real disgrace,” Trump told reporters at the White House as Vice President Mike Pence, national security adviser John Bolton and other officials looked on. “It’s an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”

Trump also took aim at the Russia probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller, who reportedly made the referral that led to the raid, calling his team “the most biased group of people” for refusing to investigate 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The president was clearly angry and frustrated at the raid, which reportedly seized records on topics that included a $130,000 payment Cohen made to the porn star who says she had sex with Trump in 2006. The

Speaking with his arms folded and shoulders slumped, Trump brought up the raid unprompted during a previously scheduled meeting with military leaders to discuss the apparent chemical weapons attack in Syria. He used the word “disgrace” to describe it at least five times.

The fiery comments from Trump immediately led to speculation that the FBI raid on Cohen’s office could lead Trump to fire Mueller, a step lawmakers in both parties have repeatedly warned the president would lead to a constitutional crisis.

“We’ll see what happens. … Many people have said ‘you should fire him,’ ” Trump said when asked if he will ax Mueller. “Again, they found nothing and in finding nothing, that’s a big statement.”

[The Hill]

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Trump lashes out, cites ‘massive conflicts of interest’ in Russia probe

President Trump unloaded on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe in a Monday morning tweet, calling the investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election a “witch hunt” filled with “massive conflicts of interest.”

That tweet follows a weekend in which the president vented his frustration with Mueller, singling out the special counsel for criticism by name for the first time and raising questions about whether he is preparing to fire him.

There have been conflicting signals coming from Trump’s legal team about whether a Mueller firing is imminent, although the White House has consistently said it is working with the special counsel in hopes of bringing the investigation to a swift conclusion.

On Sunday, Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, called on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the special counsel because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, to end the investigation.

“I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by [Andrew] McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier,” Dowd said.

But Ty Cobb, Trump’s White House attorney in charge of dealing with Mueller, sought to squash the budding questions over whether a firing was imminent.

“In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller,” Cobb said in a statement.

Trump over the weekend also lashed out at the FBI and the Department of Justice in a searing string of tweets that escalated his feud with law enforcement officials.

The president’s Monday tweet about a conflicts of interest could be an effort to lay the groundwork for a second special counsel to investigate the FBI and Justice Department’s handling of the separate investigations into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified material and into Trump campaign officials.

The Justice Department must have evidence of a crime and a conflict of interest to launch a second special counsel.

Late Friday night, Sessions fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe just days before he was set to retire with full pension benefits.

The FBI’s personnel office had recommended McCabe be fired, but some Republicans have said the firing appeared malicious in light of McCabe’s intent to retire.

The FBI inspector general will release a report soon that is expected to be critical of McCabe’s handling of the investigation into Clinton’s personal email server.

[The Hill]

Reality

NBC News wrote that one tweet contained at least five inaccuracies or distortions.

  1. The probe started after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who had testified before Congress two months earlier that his agency had been investigating allegations that Trump’s 2016 campaign might have contacts with Russian entities. Mueller was appointed as special counsel by the No. 2 official in Trump’s Justice Department, Rod Rosenstein.
  2. While Trump said there “was no crime,” the Mueller probe has charged 19 different individuals with crimes, including Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman (Paul Manafort) and 13 Russian nationals. In addition, five individuals have pleaded guilty, including Trump’s former national security adviser (Michael Flynn), a former top Trump campaign and transition official (Rick Gates) and a former Trump foreign-policy adviser (George Papadopoulos).
  3. Although Trump says there was “no collusion,” that’s not exactly what Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee concluded. “What we said … is that we found no evidence of it,” Rep. Michael Conaway said on “Meet the Press” yesterday, explaining that saying “no evidence of collusion” is different than saying there was “no collusion.” Conaway also admitted that Democrats on the committee have a different opinion on collusion. “The collusion issue, we found no evidence of it. The Democrats think they have. They’ve not shared that with us,” he said.
  4. While Trump said that the Russian investigation was based on “a fake dossier,” both Democrats and Republicans have admitted the original inquiry began with George Papadopoulos’ conversation with an Australian diplomat that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton. “The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Peter Strzok,” February’s memo by Rep. Devin Nunes’ staff said.
  5. And although Trump says the FISA wiretap of former Trump adviser Carter Page was surveillance of his campaign, the FISA court order to begin surveillance on Page took place after Page LEFT THE CAMPAIGN, the Washington Post writes.

And the Washington Post detailed every member of the Mueller team’s publicly available voter registration information showing that 13 of the 17 members of Mueller’s team have previously registered as Democrats, while four had no affiliation or their affiliation could not be found.

Nine of the 17 made political donations to Democrats, their contributions totaling more than $57,000. The majority came from one person, who also contributed to Republicans. Six donated to Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in the 2016 race.

Trump Has Reportedly Spoken With Witnesses About What They Told Mueller Team

President Trump has apparently spoken with witnesses who have already spoken with Robert Mueller‘s office about what they discussed… and Mueller knows.

In one episode, the president told an aide that the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, should issue a statement denying a New York Times article in January. The article said Mr. McGahn told investigators that the president once asked him to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. McGahn never released a statement and later had to remind the president that he had indeed asked Mr. McGahn to see that Mr. Mueller was dismissed, the people said.

In the other episode, Mr. Trump asked his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, how his interview had gone with the special counsel’s investigators and whether they had been “nice,” according to two people familiar with the discussion.

The conversations appear not to rise to the level of witness tampering or anything like that, but “witnesses and lawyers who learned about the conversations viewed them as potentially a problem and shared them with Mr. Mueller.”

Mueller’s team is looking into potential obstruction on the President’s part.

And by the way, the aide involved in the McGahn part of this report? The Times says it was Rob Porter.

[Mediaite]

Trump tweets memo ‘totally vindicates’ him in Russia inquiry

President Donald Trump said Saturday that the memo released by the House Intelligence Committee the day before has vindicated him and proved that the special counsel’s Russia investigation is an “American disgrace.”

In a tweet posted Saturday morning, Trump continued his attacks against his own FBI and Justice Department for its investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

“This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe,” the president tweeted. “But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on.”

Trump’s tweet appeared to support contentions made by Democrats like Rep. Adam Schiff of California that the memo’s release was merely a partisan attempt to undermine the Russia investigation.

On Saturday, Schiff responded to Trump’s tweet by claiming that — far from vindicating the president — the memo in fact proved “quite the opposite.”

“The most important fact disclosed in this otherwise shoddy memo was that FBI investigation began July 2016 with your adviser, Papadopoulous, who was secretly discussing stolen Clinton emails with the Russians,” tweeted Schiff, who is the ranking member on the committee.

On Friday, after more than a week of speculation and partisan infighting, the White House declassified a memo written by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and staffers.

FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials fought hard against the memo’s release, even issuing a rare statement claimingthat they had “grave concerns” about inaccuracies and misleading conclusions in the document.

In an interview with Fox News on Friday, Nunes said although he helped write the controversial memo, he had not read the FISA application under question.

Instead, as part of an agreement with DOJ officials, Nunes said one Democrat and one Republican were allowed to read the documents. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a former federal prosecutor, and Schiff were selected.

House Republicans have touted the memo as proof that the premise of the Russia investigation is flawed. The memo argues that the FBI misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court about the basis for its application to eavesdrop on Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

The memo states that the decision to spy on Page was based on a dossier written by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who Republicans claim had an overt anti-Trump bias.

But after analyzing the four-page document, many political analysts noted that the memo does not shed light on what role, if any, the dossier played in the special counsel’s inquiry. Others note that Page came under surveillance in October 2016, after the Russia investigation was well under way.

Trump continued to tweet about the Russia investigation Saturday evening. Trump touted what he called “great jobs numbers” and rising wages, but “nobody even talks about them.”

“Only Russia, Russia, Russia, despite the fact that, after a year of looking, there is No Collusion!” the president tweeted.

[NBC News]

Reality

The two congressmen who actually saw the classified evidence in the Nunes memo, Trey Gowdy and Adam Schiff, both say Trump is wrong.

Trump’s own FBI and DOJ both say the Nunes memo is factually inaccurate.

By no objective measure does this vindicate Trump of anything.

Trump asked Rosenstein about Russia probe, if he was on Trump’s ‘team’

President Trump reportedly asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if he was on Trump’s “team” at a December meeting.

CNN reported that Rosenstein met with Trump in hopes of getting his support against House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who was seeking sensitive documents for his classified memo purporting to detail surveillance abuses by the government.

At the meeting, Trump reportedly asked Rosenstein about the direction of the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, and asked directly if Rosenstein was “on my team.”

Rosenstein replied, “of course, we’re all on your team, Mr. President,” according to CNN’s sources.

Trump has considered firing Rosenstein in recent weeks according to a recent CNN report, telling aides “let’s fire him.” Rosenstein is the top Justice Department official in charge of the Russia investigation.

[The Hill]

Sarah Sanders: Russia Investigation a ‘Hoax,’ But We Have ‘No Intention’ to Fire Mueller

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took some new shots at the Russia special counsel today, even as she insisted the Trump Administration doesn’t plan on firing Robert Mueller.

In an interview for America’s Newsroom, Sanders was asked by Bill Hemmer about recent questions surrounding Mueller’s probe. Sanders proceeded to dismiss the investigation as a “hoax” which shows that Democrats have no agenda beyond attacking and trying to undermine the president.

“For the 1,000th time, We have no intentions of firing Bob Mueller,” Sanders said. “We are continuing to work closely and cooperate with him. We look forward to seeing this hoax wrap up very soon.”

Hemmer followed up by asking about what Senator Rand Paul suggested earlier today about former Obama officials colluding to stop Trump from being president. Sanders responded with more jabs at Democrats and the “liberal media,” and responded that Ryan’s claims could be worth looking into.

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump on whether he’ll pardon Michael Flynn: ‘We’ll see’

President Donald Trump gave a cryptic answer to reporters on Friday when he was asked whether he will consider pardoning his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

“I don’t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet. We’ll see what happens. Let’s see,” Trump said. “I can say this: When you look at what’s gone on with the FBI and Justice Department, people are very, very angry.”

Flynn’s recent guilty plea centered on false statements he made to investigators last January about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak during Trump’s transition to the presidency. Flynn is now cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller’s work has come under heightened scrutiny in recent days, after revelations that two FBI agents who worked on the investigation had exchanged text messages critical of Trump. One of the agents was immediately ousted from the investigation, and the other had already ended her assignment with Mueller’s team.

Trump has also spoken in defense of Flynn in recent weeks, complaining via Twitter that Flynn was treated unfairly by the DOJ in comparison to Trump’s former Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

“So General Flynn lies to the FBI and his life is destroyed, while Crooked Hillary Clinton, on that now famous FBI holiday ‘interrogation’ with no swearing in and no recording, lies many times…and nothing happens to her?” Trump wrote earlier in December. “Rigged system, or just a double standard?”

[Business Insider]

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