FBI unable to find photos of Comey, Mueller ‘hugging and kissing’ as Trump claimed

The FBI says it was unable to locate any photos of former FBI Director James Comey and special counsel Robert Mueller “hugging and kissing” after President Trump claimed he could provide 100 such images.

BuzzFeed News reporter Jason Leopold on Tuesday shared the Justice Department’s response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request he filed with the bureau asking for photographs of Mueller and Comey “hugging and kissing each other.”

The FBI said in response that its search did not turn up any records corresponding with Leopold’s request.

The bureau noted that there are three categories of law enforcement and national security records protected from FOIA requests, but added that the disclosure “should not be taken as an indication that excluded records do, or do not, exist.”

Comey, who was fired as FBI director in May 2017, joked on Tuesday that his wife was “so relieved” to hear the results.

The Justice Department’s response was dated Oct. 17, just six weeks after Trump claimed in a Sept. 4 interview with The Daily Caller that Mueller and Comey, who worked together at the FBI, are “best friend[s]” as part of a broader complaint about alleged conflicts of interest Mueller has in his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“He’s Comey’s best friend,” Trump told the conservative publication. “And I could give you 100 pictures of him and Comey hugging and kissing each other. You know, he’s Comey’s best friend.”

The president has frequently railed against Mueller’s investigation, claiming repeatedly that he did not collude with Russia in the 2016 election, suggesting the special counsel’s office is biased against him and questioning why Mueller is not investigating Democrats.

Trump interviewed Mueller for FBI director after firing Comey last year, but ultimately appointed current FBI Director Christopher Wray to the post.

It’s unclear if Trump made the decision before Mueller was named special counsel in May 2017.

Comey and Mueller have a working relationship dating back to the early 2000s, when they both served at the Justice Department.

There is no evidence to suggest that Comey and Mueller are “best friends” or that their relationship has influenced the special counsel’s investigation.

[The Hill]

At White House ceremony, Trump says Kavanaugh was ‘proven innocent’

After a bruising confirmation battle, partisan tension remains the order of the day in Washington.

With a rebuke that is sure to be reprised ahead of November’s midterm elections, President Trump once again scolded Senate Democrats as he presided over a ceremonial swearing of in Brett Kavanaugh as the newest justice of the United States Supreme Court in the East Room of the White House on Monday. Kavanaugh’s actual swearing in was on Saturday night, shortly after he was confirmed by the Senate.

“I would like to begin tonight’s proceedings differently perhaps than any other event of such magnitude,” Trump began. “On behalf of our nation, I would like to apologize to Brett and and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure. Those who step forward to serve our country deserve a fair and dignified evaluation, not a campaign of political and personal destruction based on lies and destruction. What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency, and due process. Our country a man or a woman must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. And with that I must state that you, sir, under historic scrutiny were proven innocent.”

In fact, an investigation like that performed by the FBI last week — lasting just five days and involving nine interviews — did not prove innocence. The FBI simply failed to find corroboration for the allegations against Kavanaugh.

Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee divided the nation. She and two other women accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, but the president avoided mentioning their names and accusations during Monday’s ceremony.

All of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee praised Ford for offering her account of Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault, and many Senate Republicans said they found her testimony believable. With the fate of his nominee still uncertain, the president even called Ford a “very credible witness.”

After being sworn in by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the man whose seat on the court he will now occupy, Kavanaugh veered away from the sharp partisan tone he employed when testifying before the Judiciary Committee. In a combative prepared statement on Sept. 27, Kavanaugh lashed out at Democrats for what he called a “calculated and orchestrated political hit.” On Monday, however, he cited his support for “the advancement of women” and announced that he had hired four female law clerks, calling it “a first in the history of the Supreme Court.”

“The Senate confirmation process was contentious and emotional,” Kavanaugh said. “That process is over. My focus now is to be the best justice I can be. I take this office with gratitude and no bitterness. On the Supreme Court, I will seek to be a force for stability and unity. My goal is to be a great justice for all Americans.”

As he did in a striking op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal last week, Kavanaugh portrayed himself as a judge who would not harbor resentment of the process he had just endured.

“I was not appointed to serve one party or one interest, but to serve one nation,” Kavanaugh said.

[Yahoo 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: 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 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 attacks Hillary Clinton’s email server again — then ‘jokes’ maybe the Russians hacked it

President Donald Trump tweeted that China hacked Hillary Clinton’s email server, a claim that has not been verified by anyone other than right-leaning media outlets. Trump used the moment to mock the Russia hack while highlighting the story.

“Report just out: ‘China hacked Hillary Clinton’s private Email Server.’ Are they sure it wasn’t Russia (just kidding!)? What are the odds that the FBI and DOJ are right on top of this? Actually, a very big story. Much classified information!” Trump tweeted.

If sources are revealing information that China hacked Clinton’s server, it’s entirely possible that is also classified information.

[Raw Story]

Update

Even Fox News is debunking this story.

Trump was involved in scuttling FBI building across from Trump’s DC Hotel: Inspector General report

The Inspector General of the General Services Administration on Monday released an in-depth report showing President Donald Trump was involved in scuttling plans by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to build a new headquarters.

The president was mentioned over three dozen times in the report.

The Inspector General report found that GSA Administrator Emily Murphy’s testimony before Congress on the scandal, “was incomplete and may have left the misleading impression that she had no discussions with the President or senior White House officials in the decision-making process about the project.”

The Trump administration invoked executive privilege to prevent the inspector general from learning exactly what was said when President Trump allegedly intervened in the rebuilding process.

The FBI plan would have created a large construction zone across the street from Trump’s luxury DC hotel.

The investigation was initiated by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), the Vice Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“This IG report demonstrates that Administration officials obscured the White House’s involvement in the FBI headquarters project,” Connolly concluded.

“When we began this investigation, the prospect that President Trump was personally involved in the government-led redevelopment of a property in close proximity to the Trump Hotel was dismissed as a conspiracy theory,” he added. “Now, the president’s involvement in this multi-billion-dollar government procurement which will directly impact his bottom line has been confirmed by the White House Press Secretary and government photographs.”

Connolly also urged further investigation.

“This IG report is only the beginning. We must develop a comprehensive understanding of the President’s involvement in this procurement and what it has cost the United States in terms of both national security and taxpayer dollars. I am calling on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to convene immediate hearings on this matter and to subpoena any GSA officials who are suspected of misleading Congress,” he demanded.

[Raw Story]

Trump Threatens FBI Over Hillary Clinton Emails: ‘I May Have To Get Involved’

President Donald Trump on Saturday issued a chilling warning to the FBI, accusing the agency of ignoring “tens of thousands” of Hillary Clinton’s emails and warning that he “may have to get involved.”

His tweets came less than an hour after similar ones criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, adding fodder to their monthslong feud and fueling fresh rumors that Sessions’ days in office are numbered.

Trump has been lashing out at the Justice Department all week after his former campaign chair Paul Manafort was found guilty on numerous corruption charges as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference. Manafort’s conviction came shortly after Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, implicating the president in election interference.

Trump and his allies have long used the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state as a way to discredit the Justice Department, particularly as the special counsel investigation has come to fruition.

The president blames Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe in May 2017, which ultimately lead to Mueller’s appointment.

Sessions on Thursday fired back in one of his strongest rebukes of the president to date.

“The actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” he said.

[Huffington Post]

Trump Goes on Tweetstorm While Watching Fox News, Quotes Hannity and Mark Levin

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Wednesday evening to share criticism about ex-CIA director John Brennan that he heard on Fox News.

“’John Brennan is a stain on the Country, we deserve better than this.’” Former Secret Service Agent and author of new book, ‘Spygate, the Attempted Sabotage of Donald J. Trump,’ Dan Bongino,” Trump wrote, referring to the conservative commentator and frequent Fox News guest.

He added: “Thank you Dan, and good luck with the book!”

Bongino’s comments came during a discussion of Trump’s decision to yank Brennan’s security clearance just one day after Brennan criticized him on both Twitter and MSNBC citing Brennan’s “erratic behavior.”

Speaking to the Wall Street Journalearlier today, Trump pushed back on criticism of his decision, telling the WSJ, “[I] would put a Republican on, too, if I thought they were incompetent or crazy.”

Brennan also spoke out on Trump’s decision, calling Trump’s move an effort to “intimidate and suppress” his critics.

“I do believe that Mr. Trump decided to take this action, as he’s done with others, to try to intimidate and suppress any criticism of him or his administration,” Brennan said on Wednesday afternoon, after learning he had lost his clearance. “And revoking my security clearances is his way of trying to get back at me.”

In addition to using a Fox News quote to slam Brennan, Trump also tweeted out a remark from a Fox News guest who said Hillary Clinton “got a pass by the FBI.”

Then, later on Wednesday evening, he even tweeted quotes from Sean Hannity‘s show from Mark Levin and Hannity himself. Hannity said, “I’d strip the whole bunch of them. They’re all corrupt. They’ve all abused their power. They’ve all betrayed the American people with a political agenda.”

[Mediaite]

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