Trump claims vindication, eyes vengeance

Donald J. Trump has twice gone to war with Democrats and most of the American media — and won both times, dramatically and consequentially.

The big picture: The one-two gut punch to his critics — first, beating Hillary Clinton, and now, vindication from Robert Mueller — won’t just define his first term in office. It’ll shape and sharpen his argument for re-election — and his war against the anti-Trump media.

“Within an hour of learning the findings,” the WashPost reports, “Trump called for an investigation of his critics and cast himself as a victim.”

  • “Aides say Trump plans to … call for organizations to fire members of the media and former government officials who he believes made false accusations about him.”

Attorney General William Barr writes in his summary for Congress that Mueller “did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.”

  • The summary leaves many open questions that could be answered by a full airing of the report, which will be Dems’ main focus this week at least.
  • On obstruction of justice, Mueller wrote that while his report “does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Why it matters: The outcome is a huge political victory, and Trump will use it to bludgeon the media and Democrats for the next 18 months.

  • Much of the country will probably agree with him.
  • The president will use it to cast doubt on investigations by House Democrats, or by other state and federal officials.

Now, the vengeance: Trump allies are already pushing to investigate the investigators and attack the media.

  • Don Jr., the president’s eldest son, tweeted: “How this farce started and snowballed … into one the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the America should be discovered. Those responsible should be held accountable.”
  • Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said: “The public deserves to see the interviews, documents, and intelligence that ‘justified’ this investigation in the first place.”
  • And Rudy Giuliani said on Fox News: “[T]here has to be a full and complete investigation, with at least as much enthusiasm as this one, to figure out where did this charge emanate, who started it, and who paid for it.”

Trump on Mueller report: ‘Complete and total exoneration’

President Trump on Sunday claimed “complete and total exoneration” after the Justice Department announced special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation found no evidence of collusion with Russia and criticized the probe as an “illegal takedown that failed.”

In his first response to the conclusion of the investigation, a seemingly angry Trump went on the offensive, bemoaning that “so many people have been so badly hurt” by Mueller’s investigation and calling for a new probe to “look at the other side.”

“It’s a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest, it’s a shame that your president has had to go through this,” Trump told reporters in West Palm Beach, Fla. before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington.

“This was an illegal takedown that failed and hopefully somebody’s going is to be looking at the other side,” the president added. “So it’s complete exoneration. No collusion, no obstruction.”  

Trump’s 87-second statement, which he delivered on the tarmac of Palm Beach International Airport, came minutes after he tweeted: “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”

The president’s comments broke an unusually long period of silence, as Trump’s attorneys and advisers urged him to keep a low profile until Mueller’s conclusions were announced after the investigation ended last Friday.

But Trump and his allies were eager to take a victory lap after Attorney General William Barr released a four-page letter on Sunday afternoon summarizing Mueller’s findings from his 22-month probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, which had cast a cloud over Trump’s presidency.

White House lawyers Pat Cipollone and Emmet Flood briefed Trump on Barr’s letter inside his private quarters at his Mar-a-Lago estate, where he spent the weekend surrounded by a larger-than-usual cadre of advisers in anticipation of the report’s release. The White House has not been given access to Mueller’s full report, aides said.

Despite his gruff demeanor while speaking to reporters, spokesman Hogan Gidley said the president was in a “really good mood” and spent the flight to Washington watching television, making calls and talking to staff.

“He’s just very happy with how it all turned out,” Gidley told reporters aboard Air Force One.

In a paper statement issued minutes after the letter was sent to Congress, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Mueller “did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction” and called the findings “a total and complete exoneration of the president of the United States.”

While Barr’s summary said Mueller did not find that the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated with” Moscow’s efforts, the special counsel did not determine whether the president obstructed justice during the probe.

Barr wrote that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and he decided there was not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump violated obstruction laws.

Nonetheless, Trump’s lawyers and political supporters called the end of the investigation a clear-cut vindication.

“As we have stated from the very beginning, there was no collusion and no obstruction,” Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Jay Sekulow, Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin said in a statement. “This is a complete and total vindication of the president.”

Asked why Trump claimed total exoneration when Barr’s letter was ambiguous on the question of obstruction, Gidley said “prosecutors don’t exonerate, they prosecute. They don’t prove a negative. That’s just silly.”

Trump’s complaints about a lengthy investigation that “hurt” many people also renewed questions about whether he may pardon Mueller’s targets who pleaded guilty to or were convicted of crimes, namely his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The president has repeatedly refused to rule out a pardon for Manafort, who was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for a raft of financial and lobbying-related crimes.

Democrats in Congress on Sunday vowed they would push to make public more information related to the investigation, ensuring the political battle over the probe will continue for weeks, if not months longer as the 2020 election nears.

“Attorney General Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement. “He is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.”

Pelosi and Schumer added that “the American people have a right to know” the contents of Mueller’s full report, and not just Barr’s summary.

Trump’s reelection campaign manager, Brad Parscale, accused Democrats who said there was collusion of taking the nation “on a frantic, chaotic, conspiracy-laden roller coaster for two years, alleging wrongdoing where there was none.”

“Democrats lied to the American people continually, hoping to undo the legitimate election of President Trump,” said Parscale.

Trump’s campaign sought to capitalize politically on the Barr letter, blasting out a video message attacking Democrats for their collusion allegations and urging supporters in a text message to donate to the campaign.

“Congratulations @POTUS @realDonaldTrump Today you won the 2016 election all over again. And got a gift for the 2020 election. They’ll never get you because they’ll never ‘get’ you,” tweeted White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

Congressional Democrats demanded that the Justice Department release Mueller’s full report, along with underlying evidence, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said he would call on Barr to testify before Congress.

Nadler tweeted Barr’s testimony was important to hear “in light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department,” related to the obstruction question.

“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mueller wrote in his report, according to Barr.

[The Hill]

Trump spent Friday morning offering sympathy to himself

After offering his condolences to the victims of the mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand, President Trump on Friday morning lamented the fate of another victim: himself.

Trump cited a report from One America News Network ostensibly about newly released testimony from former FBI agent Peter Strzok, then launched into a three-tweet thread about how unfair the investigation into Russian collusion was from the outset. It’s a neatly compacted distillation of Trump’s thoughts about the probe by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — which appears to be nearing its conclusion — and is worth fleshing out in detail.

Here’s what the president wrote.

“New evidence that the Obama era team of the FBI, DOJ & CIA were working together to Spy on (and take out) President Trump, all the way back in 2015.” A transcript of Peter Strzok’s testimony is devastating. Hopefully the Mueller Report will be covering this.

So, if there was knowingly & acknowledged to be “zero” crime when the Special Counsel was appointed, and if the appointment was made based on the Fake Dossier (paid for by Crooked Hillary) and now disgraced Andrew McCabe (he & all stated no crime), then the Special Counsel should never have been appointed and there should be no Mueller Report. This was an illegal & conflicted investigation in search of a crime. Russian Collusion was nothing more than an excuse by the Democrats for losing an Election that they thought they were going to win.

THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO A PRESIDENT AGAIN!

That One America report doesn’t actually say what Trump quotes. It’s more of a broad overview of the focus of the segment, which aired shortly after 5 a.m.

Believe it or not, the segment is less comprehensible and focused than Trump’s tweet about it. It’s pegged to the release of the Strzok testimony but is actually about a conspiracy theory that emerged in the summer. That theory focused on a text message sent from Strzok to FBI attorney Lisa Page, asking her whether she had gotten “all our oconus lures approved.” It was an apparent reference to setting up foreign (OCONUS, or “outside the continental U.S.”) informants (lures) for use in an investigation. But nothing about the text suggests it was related to Trump at all.

Nonetheless, OANN’s Pearson Sharp concluded that the text messages offered proof that “the FBI took steps to infiltrate Trump’s campaign with spies in December 2015.” Therefore former FBI director James B. Comey was lying under oath when he said the investigation began in July 2016 and the FBI broke its own rules about when it could use confidential informants. And, therefore, “it seems clear that Obama’s CIA, Department of Justice and the FBI were all working to take down President Trump in 2015, well before the FBI opened an official investigation,” Sharp said. That’s basically what Trump tweeted.

It is unmitigated nonsense predicated on a mistake (and citing as one source, the vastly discredited conspiracy site Gateway Pundit). It is either the laziest news report I’ve ever seen or the best example of what Trump would have decried as “fake news” had it not bolstered the message he hoped to hear.

So then, a bit later, he starts his riff, which picks up various threads from conservative media and his own tweets over a few days.

“. . . if there was knowingly & acknowledged to be ‘zero’ crime when the Special Counsel was appointed”: Trump has a habit of picking up bits of evidence that he likes and inflating them outward so he looks the way he wants.

Several days ago, he picked up on the idea that Mueller’s appointment came at a point when the FBI was still collecting evidence about possible collusion between his campaign and the Russian government. In testimony Page offered to Congress, she made that point.

Now, you’ll remember that investigations aren’t criminal trials and are meant to collect the evidence to determine whether a crime has been committed. If you couldn’t start an investigation until you could prove a crime, you wouldn’t need an investigation. And investigations often fail to uncover evidence of crimes.

But Trump picked up this Fox News report and used it to stipulate that no crime had occurred because no direct proof of a crime was available at the outset of looking into the crime. That then became a “knowing” “acknowledgment” of “’zero’ crime” having occurred, which is obviously untrue.

“ . . . if the appointment was made based on the Fake Dossier (paid for by Crooked Hillary) and now disgraced Andrew McCabe (he & all stated no crime)”: Trump has also repeatedly focused on a dossier of reports compiled by former British intelligence official Christopher Steele. Those reports were written for Fusion GPS, a company that, at the time, was being paid by a law firm that did work for the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of Hillary Clinton (“Crooked Hillary,” in Trump’s phrasing). The dossier includes raw intelligence that was not verified at the time it was produced and which subsequently has only spottily hit the mark in describing what happened.

It was not, however, the basis of Mueller’s appointment as special counsel. Trump’s confusing his inaccurate arguments here. The dossier was alleged to have been the primary source for a warrant that the FBI obtained to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser, not for Mueller.

The Mueller appointment was spurred by Trump’s firing of Comey and Comey’s subsequent allegation that Trump had pressured him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe discusses the appointment in his recently released book, but it was the ultimate determination of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — a Trump appointee.

McCabe and “all” have also not stated that no crime took place in relation to Trump’s campaign.

“ . . . the Special Counsel should never have been appointed and there should be no Mueller Report”: The special counsel was appointed, according to McCabe, to ensure that Trump couldn’t interfere further with the investigation into his campaign, wherever it led.

But Trump tips his hand here: He’s clearly mostly worried about the release of Mueller’s final report on his investigation. Trump’s been effective at inoculating his base against whatever it might reveal, but he’s clearly still worried enough about it to claim that it shouldn’t come out at all.

“This was an illegal & conflicted investigation in search of a crime”: There is nothing remotely illegal about the Mueller investigation, which was established under Justice Department guidelines and which has been upheld in court.

Trump simply likes to describe things he doesn’t like or that he feels threatened by as “illegal.” In January of last year we tallied the things that he’d described as “illegal,” including Clinton’s email server, her emails, a fundraising notice from the Republican Party, Barack Obama’s amnesty order, the State Department’s defense of Clinton, the sharing of CNN town hall questions with the Clinton campaign, Comey sharing an unclassified document and so on.

The president has made a concerted effort to cast the probe as biased against him, criticizing the attorneys working for Mueller and claiming that Mueller is hopelessly conflicted because, years ago, Mueller left one of Trump’s golf clubs because of a fee dispute. Seriously.

Mueller’s team has been largely quiet, not offering defenses against these charges. But it’s worth noting that any significant action that Mueller’s team takes had to be signed off by Rosenstein or, now, Attorney General William P. Barr.

“Russian Collusion was nothing more than an excuse by the Democrats for losing an Election that they thought they were going to win”: Trump’s made this claim before. Here’s a question: If the Democrats created allegations of Russian collusion to excuse losing the 2016 presidential election, how did the investigation start in December 2015, as OANN sloppily claimed? How did it even start in July 2016, as Comey testified under oath (and as all evidence suggests is true)?

The FBI saw a number of red flags during the 2016 election that spurred it to launch the probe in late July. Among those flags was a report from an Australian diplomat that he’d been told by a Trump campaign adviser that Russia had emails incriminating Clinton. Among those flags was that Trump’s campaign chairman at the time had obvious and established links to Russian oligarchs. Among those flags was that another adviser had traveled to Moscow earlier that month.

The Democrats really put in some effort laying the groundwork on this thing, I guess.

“THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO A PRESIDENT AGAIN!”: The good news is that, as presented, this never happened to a president in the first place.

[Washington Post]

Trump and Rudy Giuliani tweeting bogus claims about missing texts from ex-FBI agents Strzok and Page

President Donald Trump tweeted out a blatantly false claim intended to undermine the federal investigation of his campaign ties to Russia.

The president and his attorney Rudy Giuliani each passed along bogus claims that 19,000 texts between two former FBI officials had been destroyed by investigators — which contradicted new findings by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

“How can Mueller’s gang get away with erasing over 19,000 texts of Trump haters Stroyk and Page?” Giuliani tweeted early Saturday, misspelling former FBI agent Peter Strzok’s last name. “They say it was DOJ policy to destroy evidence? I guess Mueller’s angry Democrats fall under the Hillary exception to obstruction of justice. She erased over 30,000 emails.”

Giuliani continued tweeting misleading claims about the story, citing conservative media reports, throughout Saturday morning, and then Trump chimed in.

“Wow, 19,000 Texts between Lisa Page and her lover, Peter S of the FBI, in charge of the Russia Hoax, were just reported as being wiped clean and gone,” Trump tweeted, taking a pass on spelling out Strzok’s name. “Such a big story that will never be covered by the Fake News. Witch Hunt!”

[Raw Story]

Trump claims Flynn got ‘great deal’ because prosecutors ’embarrassed’

President Trump on Thursday again slammed special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation as a “witch hunt” and claimed that prosecutors gave his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, “a great deal” because they felt badly about how he had been treated.

“They gave General Flynn a great deal because they were embarrassed by the way he was treated – the FBI said he didn’t lie and they overrode the FBI,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements. Sad!”

Flynn, who served a brief stint as Trump’s national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. last December and agreed to cooperate in Mueller’s investigation.

Mueller has described Flynn’s cooperation as valuable. Earlier this week, Flynn asked a federal judge to spare him from prison time and instead sentence him to at most one year probation.

In a memo filed in federal court late Tuesday, Flynn’s defense attorneys also suggested that he had been duped by FBI agents who handled his interview, playing into a theory among conservatives that Flynn had been wrongly led to commit a federal crime.

Mueller has recommended Flynn serve no jail time, citing his “substantial assistance” in the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Flynn, who served on the Trump campaign before moving to the White House, is said to have offered the special counsel valuable details about contacts between the campaign and Russia as well as information related to other unknown matters under investigation.

Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced in D.C. federal court on Dec. 18.

Late Wednesday, the judge overseeing his case, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, asked both Flynn and Mueller to turn over additional materials related to Flynn’s January 2017 interview with the FBI in which he later admitted he lied about his Russia contacts.

It is possible but unclear whether the developments could delay Flynn’s sentencing.

Asked later Thursday whether he thought the FBI had acted inappropriately in the case, Trump said it was “a great thing” that the judge was assessing the matter.

“The FBI said Michael Flynn… didn’t lie. And Mueller said, well, maybe he did,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with recently elected governors. “But now they are all having a big dispute. So I think it is a great thing that the judge is looking into that situation.”

A report released by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee earlier this year said top FBI officials testified that the agents who interviewed Flynn in January 2017 did not see outward indications, such as changes in his posture or tone, that indicated he knew he was lying. Flynn has admitted to lying to the FBI agents about his discussions with Kislyak regarding sanctions on Russia among other topics.

One of the agents who interviewed Flynn was Peter Strzok, a former FBI official who has attracted intense scrutiny from Republican lawmakers as a result of text messages he sent before the election in which he expressed criticisms of then-candidate Trump. While conservatives have seized on the messages as evidence of bias at the FBI in the early days of the counterintelligence probe into Russian interference, the Justice Department inspector general has found no evidence that political bias influenced the bureau’s decisions.

[The Hill]

Trump Rage Tweets About Mueller’s ‘Illegal’ Investigation After Hannity Monologue Blasting Comey

It’s Monday night and it appears President Donald Trump is watching Sean Hannity. How do we know this? Well, the president blasted out a tweet attacking Robert Mueller‘s “witch hunt” on Twitter for the umpteenth time, and it just so happens that the Fox News host just finished talking about the exact same subject.

Trump’s tweet came minutes after Hannity finished a section his monologue in which he addressed James Comey‘s testimony before Congress last week. Hannity blasted the former FBI director for his “selective amnesia” while answering questions, but he especially honed in on what Comey said about how the controversial dossier prepared by Fusion GPS wasn’t verified by the FBI before it became the foundation of a FISA warrant issued to investigate Trump’s campaign.

[Mediaite]

Donald Trump Tweets: No “Smocking” Gun Tying His Campaign To Russia

Monday morning and President Donald Trump is tweeting – this time cribbing from Fox News’ morning talk about Democrats’ inability to find a “smocking gun.”

“Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey’s testimony,” Trump tweeted, in re GOP-ers in House Judiciary Committee having hauled Comey back in for a day’s worth of grilling, mostly about Hillary Clinton’s emails according to Comey, talking to reporters at end of Friday. Transcript to come.

“No Smocking Gun…No Collusion,” Trump boasted in his early morning tweeting.

“That’s because there was NO COLLUSION. So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly calling it a campaign contribution…which it was not (but even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama’s – but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine. Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me).

[Deadline]

Reality

A brief moment on Monday’s Fox and Friends First was the catalyst for an early-morning tweet from President Trump.

This is an amazing admission of guilt, and an amazing misspelling of “smoking” twice, but let’s also walk through the lies in this tweet.

First, James Comey testified in a closed door session a few days prior on the demands of House Republicans, who pulled him in to ask questions about Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server. An obvious ploy to change the national conversation away from Trump by Republicans… not Democrats.

And second, a lawyer for the Department of Justice accompanied Comey to the hearing and any time a Republican Congressman asked him questions prying into the Robert Mueller probe, the lawyer instructed Comey he couldn’t comment about an ongoing investigation.

So Republicans and Fox News framed this very basic understanding of our justice system to their their viewers as “James Comey refused to answer questions.”

 

Trump Declares ‘NO COLLUSION!’ in Early-Morning Tweet After Cohen, Manafort Memos Drop

After dubiously claiming the Michael Cohen sentencing memo “totally clears” him last night, President Donald Trump this morning sent out a mostly all-caps “NO COLLUSION” tweet.

[Mediaite]

Trump tweets to declare he was cleared by filings that named him as unindicted co-conspirator

After being named as an unindicted co-conspirator in legal filings by federal prosecutors, President Donald Trump claimed total vindication.

“Totally clears the President,” Trump tweeted Friday.

[Raw Story]

Trump fires off late-night tweetstorm on the eve of a landmark moment in the Russia investigation

President Donald Trump fired off a series of tweets on a range of topics on Thursday evening, the night before the special counsel Robert Mueller was expected to submit several important filings related to the Russia investigation.

Trump fired off two tweets relating to a Fox Business segment in which the anchor Trish Regan sought to cast doubt on the FBI’sjustification for obtaining a FISA warrant to surveil the former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Regan suggested the FBI was “weaponized in order to take down President Donald Trump.”

“Is this really America?” Trump tweeted. “Witch Hunt!”

In another tweet one minute later, Trump appeared to revive a particularly inflammatory attack on the news media, saying only “FAKE NEWS – THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”

Trump went on to mention Arizona, which he claimed was “bracing for a massive surge at a NON-WALLED area.”

Trump appeared to be referringto the Customs and Border Patrol’s training exercise in Tucson, Arizona, on Thursday, where agents prepared “to deal with the potential of large crowds and assaultive behavior by caravan members, should a situation arise.”

Trump also mentioned the Democratic lawmakers Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, who refused to support Trump’s plans for a $5 billion down payment to fund a wall on the US-Mexico border.

“WE WILL NOT LET THEM THROUGH,” Trump tweeted. “Big danger. Nancy and Chuck must approve Boarder Security and the Wall!”

Trump’s rapid-fire tweets came the night before Mueller’s deadline to submit documents outlining what the special counsel’s office has described as the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s “crimes and lies,” including allegations he lied in violation of his plea deal with the special counsel. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel while pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and one count of conspiracy against the US in September.

Trump followed up with a series of five tweets on Friday morning in which he repeated his common refrain that the Russia investigation was a “witch hunt” and accused Mueller of having multiple conflicts of interest, including being “Best Friends” with former FBI Director James Comey, who was set to testify to Congress on Friday.

The special counsel’s team also Friday was expected to submit its sentencing recommendation for the former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to financial crimes and, more recently, lying to Congress.

Mueller’s office released a similar recommendation this week for the former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who cooperated with investigators after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.

Trump’s tweets on Friday morning Trump targeted Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor on the special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Trump accused Weissmann of having a “horrible and vicious prosecutorial past” and said he “wrongly destroyed people’s lives” — referring to a conviction he made against an Enron auditor that waslater overturned by the Supreme Court.

Trump also accused members of Mueller’s team of having made donations to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and asked whether it would be included in Mueller’s report. He also revived his talking points alleging corruption in the Democratic National Committee and on Clinton’s campaign.

[Business Insider]

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