Justice Department seizes reporter’s phone, email records in leak probe

The Department of Justice reportedly seized a New York Times reporter’s phone and email records this year in an effort to probe the leaking of classified information, the first known instance of the DOJ going after a journalist’s data under President Trump.

The Times reported Thursday that the DOJ seized years’ worth of records from journalist Ali Watkins’s time as a reporter at BuzzFeed News and Politico before she joined The Times in 2017 as a federal law enforcement reporter, according to the report Thursday.

Watkins was alerted by a prosecutor in February that the DOJ had years of records and subscriber information from telecommunications companies such as Google and Verizon for two email accounts and a phone number belonging to her.

Investigators did not receive the content of the records, according to The Times.

The newspaper reported that it learned of the letter on Thursday.

“It’s always disconcerting when a journalist’s telephone records are obtained by the Justice Department — through a grand jury subpoena or other legal process,” Watkin’s attorney Mark MacDougall said in a statement to The Times.

“Whether it was really necessary here will depend on the nature of the investigation and the scope of any charges.”

The Hill has reached out to the Justice Department for comment.

FBI agents reportedly contacted Watkins about a previous three-year romantic relationship with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s former director of security, James Wolfe, as part of a probe into unauthorized leaks.

Watkins reportedly did not answer the agents’ questions, however. Watkins told The Times that Wolfe did not act as a source for information during their relationship.

She also said she informed editors at BuzzFeed, Politico and The Times of the relationship.

BuzzFeed News editor Ben Smith declined to comment for the Times report, while Politico didn’t immediately respond for its request for comment.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last year that the DOJ had tripled the number of leak investigations it was conducting compared to the Obama administration, which prosecuted more leak cases than all other administrations.

[The Hill]

Audio of White House Official Directly Disproves Trump ‘Phony Sources’ Attack on NY Times

New audio of a White House senior official briefing reporters disproves an assertion that President Donald Trump made in a tweet Saturday that a source quoted in the New York Times “doesn’t exist.”

According to the Times, the official said that “even if the meeting [with North Korea] were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.”

Trump held that the source was “phony” in his tweet:

Multiple reporters refuted this claim, saying that the quote came from a background briefing that an aide gave hundreds of reporters.

Journalist Yashar Ali tweeted out the audio of this briefing, proving that the reporters were indeed correct.

Deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah can be heard introducing the aide as Matt Pottinger, deputy assistant to the president for Asia, and instructing reporters to refer to him as a senior White House official.

[Mediaite]

Trump Rails Against ‘Failing and Crooked’ NY Times For ‘Boring’ Report on Gulf Prince Offering Campaign Assistance

President Donald Trump went on a Twitter tirade Sunday against a New York Times exposé revealing his son and other campaign officials met with a Gulf emissary who offered a hand in winning the 2016 election.

Trump blasted the report, calling the publication “Failing and Crooked,” while adding in a jab at Hillary Clinton. He contended that the report was merely “a long & boring story” showing Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation “has found nothing on Russia & me.”

But it didn’t stop there. Launching into one of his trademark tweetstorms, Trump railed against Mueller’s probe as being the work of a bunch of angry democrats, and suggested that they re-focus the investigation onto the Clinton emails.

The Times reported that during the meeting arranged by Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater, Donald Trump Jr. was assured by emissary George Nader that leaders in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia were hopeful Trump would secure the election, and they wanted to help. Nader has been cooperating with the the special counsel’s investigation in recent months, CNN reported.

While Trump was quick to dismiss the report and again bash the Mueller probe, the investigation has already resulted in more than a dozen indictments along with five guilty pleas.

The president’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, believes there is a chance Trump could be subpoenaed in the probe, and has begun preparing him in the event that he’s interviewed, Politico reported.

[Mediaite]

Trump denies NYT report on firing Mueller in angry morning tweet — but also threatens to do it

President Donald Trump denied a New York Times report but confirmed its premise in an angry morning tweet.

The president logged into Twitter on Thursday morning to refute a Tuesday night report that he sought to fire special counsel Robert Mueller in December.

“If I wanted to fire Robert Mueller in December, as reported by the Failing New York Times, I would have fired him,” the president tweeted. “Just more Fake News from a biased newspaper!”

Republicans have said firing Mueller could trigger serious consequences, but they have refused to pass any legislative measures to protect the special counsel.

[Raw Story]

Trump kicks off Sunday with bonkers tweet: ‘The only Collusion was that done by the DNC’ and ‘Crooked Hillary’

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Sunday morning to attack the New York Times for reporting he is seeking the services of a Clinton impeachment attorney to help defend him against special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into his administration.

In a frantic set of Tweets, Trump called out New York Times writer Maggie Haberman by name, calling her a “Hillary flunky.”

“The Failing New York Times purposely wrote a false story stating that I am unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case and am going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong. I am VERY happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow. They are doing a great job,” Trump tweeted. “And have shown conclusively that there was no Collusion with Russia..just excuse for losing. The only Collusion was that done by the DNC, the Democrats and Crooked Hillary. The writer of the story, Maggie Haberman, a Hillary flunky, knows nothing about me and is not given access.”

You can see the tweets below:

[Raw Story]

Reality

A Showtime documentary released the following month shows called “The Fourth Estate” will show Trump gives Haberman incredible access, such as showing the U.S. President on the phone with Haberman.

Trump pushes back on report he’s ‘unhappy’ with legal team

President Trump on Sunday insisted he is “VERY happy” with the legal team defending him against allegations his campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.

He also claimed they have shown “conclusively” there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia. His comments follow a report in The New York Times claiming that Trump is looking to shake up his legal team amid some frustration with their approach.

Trump in two tweets on Sunday morning criticized one of the reporters behind the story, claiming she is “a Hillary flunky.”

“The Failing New York Times purposely wrote a false story stating that I am unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case and am going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong,” Trump tweeted.

“I am VERY happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow. They are doing a great job and…have shown conclusively that there was no Collusion with Russia..just excuse for losing. The only Collusion was that done by the DNC, the Democrats and Crooked Hillary. The writer of the story, Maggie Haberman, a Hillary flunky, knows nothing about me and is not given access.”

The Times reported that Trump is considering adding the lawyer that helped Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial to the White House legal team to handle special counsel Robert Mueller‘s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Trump reportedly met with lawyer Emmet Flood this past week to discuss him joining his legal staff, though no agreement has been reached yet, according to the Times.

“In private conversations, Mr. Trump has seesawed between expressing confidence in Mr. Cobb’s claim that the inquiry will wrap up in relatively short order and that he will be exonerated, and sounding frustrated with his team’s legal strategy,” the report claimed.

[The Hill]

Trump: NYT ‘set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation’

President Donald Trump wrote online Tuesday that “Liddle'” Sen. Bob Corker had been unwittingly recorded by The New York Times, the newspaper to which the prominent Republican lawmaker offered a scathing criticism of the president.

“The Failing @nytimes set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool, and that’s what I am dealing with!” Trump tweeted Tuesday, pinning a diminutive nickname to the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In an interview published Sunday by the Times, Corker (R-Tenn.) said Trump is treating the presidency “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something” and expressed concern that the president could put the nation “on the path to World War III.” Corker, once under consideration to be Trump’s secretary of state, told the Times that the president “concerns me” and “would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

Despite the president’s assertion that Corker was unaware he was being recorded, excerpts from the interview’s transcript indicate that the senator knew the conversation was on the record. Jonathan Martin, the Times reporter who interviewed Corker, wrote online that two of the senator’s aides had sat in on the phone call and “made sure after it ended that I was taping, too.”

Earlier Sunday, Trump and Corker launched criticisms at each other via Twitter, with Trump firing the first salvo, writing that “Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement).” In another post, Trump added that the Tennessee senator “also wanted to be Secretary of State, I said ‘NO THANKS.’ He is also largely responsible for the horrendous Iran Deal!”

Corker quickly responded with his own online post, writing that “it’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

The feud between the two men seemed to grow slowly in recent weeks as Corker, who has announced he will not seek reelection in 2018, grew increasingly public with his criticisms of the president. In a particularly sharp barb last week, Corker praised Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly as “those people that help separate our country from chaos.”

[Politico]

Trump Quotes New York Times: ‘Fox & Friends’ is ‘Most Powerful T.V. Show in America’

President Trump early Thursday appeared to quote The New York Times in praising Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.”

“Wow, the Failing @nytimes said about @foxandfriends ‘….the most powerful T.V. show in America,'” Trump tweeted.

“Suddenly, for no other reason than its No. 1 fan, it is the most powerful TV show in America,” reads a line from the piece, titled “Watching ‘Fox & Friends,’ Trump Sees a Two-Way Mirror.”

It also says the morning show is “easily the most-watched cable news morning show, averaging 1.6 million viewers in the year’s second quarter, following a post-Trump ratings boost.”

Trump’s early morning tweet came after a “Fox & Friends” co-host held up a copy of the Times with an ad that featured the line from the article calling the Fox News show the “most powerful TV show in America.”

“This program, the program you are watching, is, according to The New York Times, the most powerful TV show in America,” Steve Doocy said.

[The Hill]

Reality

What the Fox and Friends hosts were holding up and quoting was a $100,000 paid advertisement by Fox that ran in The New York Times. Not a quote by the New York Times.

Trump Twitter-Rages About Pardons and At Media

President Donald Trump was up bright and early Saturday morning, attacking the media for reporting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions discussed Trump campaign issues with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before the 2016 election.

The report was based on intelligence sources, which upset the president who called it a “INTELLIGENCE LEAK,” while attacking the “Amazon Washington Post.”

No content with that, Trump then accused the New York Times of aiding “the single most wanted terrorist, Al-Baghdadi” — but without providing any details.

“The Failing New York Times foiled U.S. attempt to kill the single most wanted terrorist,Al-Baghdadi.Their sick agenda over National Security,” Trump tweeted.

Trump later tweeted that he has “complete power” to issue pardons, writing, “While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS.”

[Raw Story]

Reality

Let’s take every one of Trump’s claims and review each one and review the outright lies and falsehoods.

Comey illegally leaked classified information

Trump is repeating a false claim made by Fox News, that Comey gave classified memos to his friend to leak to the press. This was so untrue that Fox News issued a rare correction stating they were wrong. Trump is simply repeating this already debunked assertion.

New York Times foiled U.S. attempt to kill Al-Baghdadi

CBS thinks they were able to figure out what this was about. While Mr. Trump did not provide any evidence for his accusation, the tweet came about 20 minutes after a segment about leaks aired on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends.” At one point, the chyron read “NYT FOILS U.S. ATTEMPT TO TAKE OUT AL-BAGHDADI.”

So Trump was just again parroting what he saw on Fox News.

A President has complete power to pardon

Amidst the Russia investigation, Donald Trump is looking to see if he can legally pardon his family and even pardon himself.

This excellent podcast from The Brookings Institution discusses the political legitimacy and risks associated with a President going full authoritarian on his powers to pardon.

In short, a president can pardon himself except during an impeachment, has pardoned their own family in the past, and a pardon has never been overturned by the courts.

However, looking into pardoning yourself and doing things like investigating Robert Mueller, who is investigating you, gives an immediate impression that you’re guilty as hell.

Trump Regrets Hiring Attorney General Jeff Sessions

US President Donald Trump has said he would never have appointed Jeff Sessions if he had known the attorney general was going to recuse himself from leading a Russia investigation.

Mr Trump told the New York Times the actions of Mr Sessions had been “very unfair to the president”.

Mr Sessions recused himself after admitting meeting Russia’s ambassador.

He said on Thursday he would not resign and he would continue running the Justice Department effectively.

“I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate,” he said.

The president also accused Mr Sessions of giving “some bad answers” at his confirmation hearing performance.

With Donald Trump, loyalty will only get you so far.

Mr Sessions was the earliest and most enthusiastic of Mr Trump’s top-tier political supporters, and he was rewarded with a plum Cabinet appointment. Now, however, that position of power appears not quite as golden a prize.

While the former Alabama senator has toiled to implement the president’s agenda as attorney general, Mr Trump personally blames him for the ongoing independent counsel investigation that has bedevilled his presidency.

The irony is that while Mr Trump views Mr Sessions’s recusal from the Russia probe as a betrayal, the attorney general made clear during his confirmation hearings that he would likely do just that if he were implicated in an investigation that had not yet begun in earnest.

It was only later that then-FBI Director James Comey – himself a target of the president’s scorn – revealed the Trump campaign itself was under the microscope.

Now the president has made clear that Mr Sessions lacks his full confidence. While the attorney general says he loves his job and plans to keep it, how secure can his position be when his boss lobs bomb after bomb his way from the White House?

Mr Sessions would have headed the justice department’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election. Congress is also conducting inquiries.

His recusal ultimately led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to lead the investigation.

The Times interview reflects the anger the president feels at this development.

He said: “A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case… Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.”

Mr Trump said Mr Sessions had given him “zero” notice of the recusal.

“How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president.”

‘I didn’t do anything wrong’

Mr Trump then reflected on the performance of Mr Sessions at his Senate confirmation hearing in January at which he denied meeting any Russians. He later revealed he had met Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Mr Trump said: “Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers… He gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t.”

The president suggested the justice department’s Russia investigation was rife with conflicts of interest, not least that Mr Mueller had wanted to replace James Comey, who Mr Trump had sacked as FBI director.

“There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point,” Mr Trump said.

Mr Trump warned Mr Mueller about straying too far from his remit but again said he did not think he was personally being investigated.

“I don’t think we’re under investigation,” Mr Trump said. “I’m not under investigation. For what? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

US media have reported that Mr Mueller is investigating Mr Trump for possible obstruction of justice, both in the firing of Mr Comey and over whether Mr Trump tried to end an inquiry into sacked national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Associated Press news agency quoted a Trump adviser as saying that the president’s comments did not mean he was going to sack the attorney general, but the adviser questioned whether such a public dressing-down might prompt him to quit.

[BBC News]

Reality

Mr Sessions actually recused himself citing Department of Justice regulations stating employees should not participate in investigations of a campaign if they served as a campaign adviser.

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