Trump Blames ‘U.S. Foolishness’ for Poor Relations With Russia

In the lead-up to his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump took to Twitter Monday claiming U.S.-Russia relations have “NEVER been worse,” blaming the U.S. for damaging the bilateral relationship.

Amid an ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, Trump blamed “many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity” and what he called a “Rigged Witch Hunt” for worsening ties between the two countries.

Trump is due to meet one-on-one with Putin and interpreters in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, on Monday.

The meeting follows a tense NATO Summit last week, at which Trump antagonized U.S. allies by suggesting that other NATO countries weren’t contributing enough to defense spending.

The Justice Department announced the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence agents Friday for hacking the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and state election systems, as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

[TIME]

Trump: Strzok’s testimony ‘a disgrace to our country’

President Trump in an interview broadcast Sunday called the testimony of FBI agent Peter Strzok “a disgrace to our country.”

“I watched some of the testimony, even though I’m in Europe, of Strzok. And I thought it was a disgrace to our country. I thought it was an absolute disgrace,” Trump told CBS News.

“Where he wants to do things against me before I was even, I guess before I was even the candidate. It was a disgrace. And then he lied about it,” Trump added. “And you know, talking about shutting it down and ‘we, we.’ And he says ‘oh I meant the American people’ all of a sudden you know, he came up with excuses.”

Strzok’s hearing last Thursday quickly devolved into rancorous partisan bickering after he declined to answer questions about special counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia investigation.

Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair, exchanged text messages critical of Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Mueller removed Strzok from the investigation when the messages came to light, but Republicans have zeroed in on him as key to uncovering what they allege was systemic FBI bias against Trump during the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats, meanwhile, have cast the effort as a politically driven charade.

The controversial FBI agent was also an investigator in the probe into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s private email server.

“He was a disgrace to the FBI,” Trump told CBS News. “So when I look at things like that and he led that investigation or whatever you call it. I would say that yeah, I think it hurts our relationship with Russia. I actually think it hurts our relationship with a lot of countries.”

[The Hill]

Trump on Whether He’ll Ask Putin to Extradite Indicted Russians: ‘I Might, I Hadn’t Thought of That’

President Donald Trump sat down for an interview with CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor and previewed his big summit with Vladimir Putin.

And given the indictments handed down Friday against 12 Russian officers for hacking the Clinton campaign and the DNC, there have been many calls for Trump to call off the summit. Senator John McCain said it shouldn’t happen if Trump’s “not prepared to hold Putin accountable.”

Trump told Glor he believes in meetings, saying having meetings with Putin, Kim Jong Un, and Xi Jinping are good.

Of the Putin summit in particular, the President said, “Nothing bad’s going to come out of it, and maybe some good will come out. But I go in with low expectations, I’m not going in with high expectations. I don’t really––I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can tell you what I’ll be asking for and we’ll see if something comes of it.”

[Mediaite]

Media

Furious Trump unleashes unhinged tweet against ‘Ex-FBI LAYER Lisa Page’

Lisa Page has ignored a subpoena from Congressional investigators who have abandoned the Russia investigation and pivoted to investigating the FBI instead.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) threatened Page that he would enforce the subpoena, but has yet to do so.

“Ex-FBI LAYER [sic] Lisa Page today defied a House of Representatives issued Subpoena to testify before Congress! Wow, but is anybody really surprised! Together with her lover, FBI Agent Peter Strzok, she worked on the Rigged Witch Hunt, perhaps the most tainted and corrupt case EVER!” Trump ranted.

About an hour later, Trump tweeted out another accusation on what he now calls a “Rigged Witch Hunt,” as opposed to a regular witch hunt he previously called special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. It is unclear if by saying the investigation is rigged Trump believes the investigation should be restarted. That would mean it would continue for many more years.

[Raw Story]

Reality

This was, of course, a complete mis-characterization of Page’s lawyer’s answer to the subpoena. They requested more time to read the documents sent over by Congress, and will testify the following day.

Trump Demands Mueller Team Disclose Any Conflicts of Interest

Donald Trump wants Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller to list any conflicts he and members of his team have in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“When is Bob Mueller going to list his Conflicts of Interest?” Trump said in a Twitter posting Thursday. “Why has it taken so long? Will they be listed at the top of his $22,000,000 Report…And what about the 13 Angry Democrats, will they list their conflicts with Crooked H? How many people will be sent to jail.”

In follow-up post, the president said allies were being “persecuted” and facing charges that are old or unrelated to the election. “What is going on in the FBI & DOJ with Crooked Hillary, the DNC and all of the lies? A disgraceful situation!”

While Trump and supporters often cite how many Democrats are on Mueller’s team, the special counsel is a longtime Republican.

Trump’s latest attacks on Mueller come as the White House announced that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold their first bilateral summit July 16 in Helsinki, Finland, as they try to reverse a downward spiral in relations that’s been exacerbated by findings of Russian election meddling.

The White House and the Kremlin disclosed details of the meeting in simultaneous statements issued a day after U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton was in Moscow for talks.

Trump has pushed for improving the relationship, inviting Putin to the White House in a March phone call after the Russian leader’s re-election to a fourth term as president. The mere fact of the summit is a boost to Kremlin efforts to ease its international isolation, though officials have played down hopes for any breakthrough.

[Bloomberg]

Trump Touts Mueller Poll Numbers ‘Plummeting’ While Watching Fox & Friends: ‘Rigged’ Witch Hunt!

President Trump this morning touted dropping poll numbers for special counsel Robert Mueller after watching Fox & Friends cover it.

Yes, the morning show today covered Mueller’s poll numbers, and the President subsequently tweeted about it:

[Mediaite]

Trump Attacks FBI Agent Peter Strzok Who Wants to Testify on Firing as ‘Sick Loser’

President Donald Trump called Peter Strzok a “sick loser” after the FBI agent said he’s willing to testify to Congress about his removal from the Russia probe for sending anti-Trump text messages. Special counsel Robert Mueller removed Strzok from his team last summer after an investigation revealed texts in which the agent said the FBI would stop Trump from becoming president. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte said Friday he wanted to issue a subpoena for Strzok to testify as part of the House GOP investigation into the FBI’s actions in the 2016 election, but Strzok’s lawyer said his client “intends to voluntarily appear and testify before your committee and any other congressional committee that invites him.” Trump tweeted about Strzok late Sunday: “Why was the FBI’s sick loser, Peter Strzok, working on the totally discredited Mueller team of 13 Angry & Conflicted Democrats, when Strzok was giving Crooked Hillary a free pass yet telling his lover, lawyer Lisa Page, that ‘we’ll stop’ Trump from becoming President? Witch Hunt!”

[The Daily Beast]

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]

Paul Manafort tampering with witnesses, say Mueller investigators

Federal investigators have accused Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, of tampering with potential witnesses while on bail ahead of his federal bank fraud and tax case.

Prosecutors asked that the judge overseeing his case “revoke or revise” the order releasing him ahead of trial.

In a court filing on Monday, prosecutors working for the special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, said Manafort and an associate “repeatedly” attempted to contact witnesses using his phone and an encrypted messaging application. They allege it happened shortly after a grand jury returned a new indictment against him, violating the terms of his house arrest.

Mueller has indicted Manafort in federal courts in Washington and Virginia. He was released to home confinement after his arraignment in October.

Manafort faces felony charges in the two cases over allegations he concealed tens of millions of dollars from the Internal Revenue Service that he had earned advising pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine. He is also accused of conspiring to launder money and failing to register as a foreign agent when he lobbied for the pro-Russia Ukrainian government. The events took place before Trump ran for president.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

FBI agent Brock Domin wrote in court documents that Manafort “contacted and attempted to contact” two unnamed witnesses, “in an effort to influence their testimony and to otherwise conceal evidence”. He added: “The investigation into this matter is ongoing.”

The witnesses, according to the court filings, worked with Manafort in organizing the Hapsburg Group, described by the counsel’s office as “a group of former senior European politicians to take positions favorable to Ukraine, including by lobbying in the United States”.

One of the potential witnesses told the government that he believed Manafort’s outreach was an effort to “suborn perjury”, a criminal offense to induce a witness to lie under oath. Manafort attempted to contact one of the witnesses in February after a federal grand jury in Washington returned a “superseding indictment”, which accused him of having “secretly retained” a group of European officials to lobby for positions favorable to Ukraine in the US.

According to the court filing, Manafort called and messaged one of the witnesses on 24 February, the day after his longtime associate and a former Trump campaign official entered guilty pleas to conspiracy and lying to the FBI.

During one call the witness told the government that Manafort identified himself and said he wanted to give “a heads-up about Hapsburg”. The witness said he hung up because he was “concerned” about the call, according to the affidavit.

Manafort continued to try to contact him with an encrypted messaging application. Through the app, Manafort sent a link to Business Insider story titled “Former European leaders struggle to explain themselves after Mueller claims Paul Manafort paid them to lobby for Ukraine”. Then he wrote: “We should talk. I have made clear that they worked in Europe.”

The filing says: “The government confirmed that these messages were sent by Manafort, upon review of Manafort’s iCloud account pursuant to a court-authorized search.”

Trump has repeatedly denied collusion with Russia and on Monday called Mueller’s investigation a “phony Russian witch hunt”.

[The Guardian]

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]

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