The Pronk Pops Show 1174, November 14, 2018, Story 1: Florida Recount Concludes That Ron Desantis Is The Next Governor of Florida — Governor Scott Won Senator Seat in Machine Recount and Must Wait for Final Human Count — Video — Story 2: The Fake Stolen Election in Georgia Governor Race — Republican Brian Kemp Wins and  Democrat Stacey Abrams Loses — Lying Lunatic Leftist Loser Stacey Abrams Refuses To Concede — Voter Suppression Charged — Results Will Be Certified Friday — Videos Story 3: President Trump Will Not Fire Mueller As Mueller Wraps Up Investigation of Russian Interference in U.S. Elections — Absolutely No Evidence of Trump Collusion With Russians and Therefore No Indictments — Complete Hoax Fabricated By Clinton Obama Democrat Criminal Conspiracy — Appoint Second Special Counsel Now To Investigate and Prosecute Plotters — Videos

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Story 1: Florida Recount Concludes That Ron Desantis Is The Next Governor of Florida — Governor Scott Won Senator Seat in Machine Recount and Must Wait for Final Human Count — Video

Special Report w Bret Baier 11/15/18 Fox News November 15, 2018

Story 2: The Fake Stolen Election in Georgia Governor Race — Republican Brian Kemp Wins and  Democrat Stacey Abrams Loses — Lying Lunatic Leftist Loser Stacey Abrams Refuses To Concede — Voter Suppression Charged — Results Will Be Certified Friday — Videos

Tucker Carlson Tonight 11/15/18 Breaking Fox News November 15, 2018

Latest on the disputed election count for Georgia governor

Kemp says he won Georgia governor race

Stacey Abrams says she recognizes Brian Kemp will be Georgia’s next governor

Abrams campaign responds to the legal drama unfolding post-election

Stacey Abrams refuses to concede in Georgia Gubernatorial defeat

GEORGIA RACE OVER: Democrat Stacey Abrams Ends Challenge For Governor Race

Abrams ends run for governor against Kemp, but won’t concede

Kemp pledges to put ‘divisive politics’ behind him

Stacey Abrams ended her run for Georgia governor on Friday, but the Democrat said she would not concede the contest to Republican Brian Kemp as state officials prepared to certify the election.

Saying the law “allows no further viable remedy” to extend her quest to be the nation’s first black female governor, Abrams announced a new voting rights group that will file “major” litigation against the state over electoral issues.

And she laced her speech with bruising critiques of Kemp, a former secretary of state who she said was “deliberate and intentional in his actions” to suppress the vote.

“I will not concede,” she added, “because the erosion of our democracy is not right.”

Kemp, meanwhile, thanked Abrams for her “passion, hard word and commitment to public service.”

“The election is over and hardworking Georgians are ready to move forward,” said Kemp. “We can no longer dwell on the divisive politics of the past but must focus on Georgia’s bright and promising future.”

The Democrat’s campaign was considering a long-shot legal challenge under a law that allows losing candidates to contest the election in the case of misconduct, fraud or “irregularities.”

She would have faced a tremendous legal burden to prove her case, and even some Democrats warned that prolonging the court battle would jeopardize two down-ticket runoffs set for next month.

The secretary of state could certify the election as soon as 5 p.m. Friday and cement Kemp’s victory in the tightest race for Georgia governor since 1966.

The latest tally showed Abrams is roughly 55,000 votes behind Kemp — and in need of more than 17,000 votes to force a Dec. 4 runoff. Georgia law requires a runoff if no candidate gets a majority of the vote, which is only a possibility because a third-party contender netted about 1 percent.

Hundreds of previously uncounted votes could still be added Friday before the election is certified by Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden.

Abrams’ campaign has long tried to make the case that Kemp used his role as secretary of state to suppress the vote.

In her fiery speech, Abrams cited long lines at voting sites, closed polling stations and the cancellation of hundreds of thousands of voter registrations.

But to have a chance in court, Abrams would have had to prove there were enough Georgians blocked from voting to close the gap. Her campaign apparently could not meet that requirement.

Before Abrams ended the campaign, Republicans blasted the suggestion that she might contest the election in court. In one of the most biting barbs, Kemp’s spokesman called for Abrams to end her “ridiculous temper tantrum and concede.”

Unchanged dynamics

Kemp’s lead had dwindled since Election Day as absentee and provisional ballots trickled in. But as more counties completed their vote tallies, Abrams and her allies claimed there were thousands of outstanding ballots that never materialized.

Her campaign also went to court to force local officials to accept some previously rejected ballots.

She secured one court order that required elections officials to review as many as 27,000 provisional ballots, though it didn’t require those votes to be accepted.

Another ruling required the state to count absentee ballots with incorrect birthdate data, but rejected an effort to accept provisional ballots cast in the wrong counties.

That order, by U.S. District Judge Steve Jones, set off a scramble by county officials to revisit rejected ballots. But it left Kemp’s lead virtually unchanged, even as the biggest trove of those votes in Gwinnett County was added to the total.

Those final ballots in Gwinnett also likely cemented the contest for Georgia’s 7th District. Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall led Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux by about 400 votes, though her campaign on Friday requested a recount.

Some pushback

Abrams has long hinted at more litigation challenging “irregularities” at polling sites, and targeted what she claimed was Kemp’s abuse of the secretary of state’s office. But she determined that new legal action wouldn’t prevent Kemp’s victory.

Some Abrams’ allies had raised alarms that the prospect of extending her legal fight would shift attention away from a pair of candidates who are already in a runoff: John Barrow for secretary of state and Lindy Miller for Public Service Commission.

“I totally concur with the notion that every vote should be counted,” said Michael Thurmond, the DeKalb chief executive and a former Democratic state labor commissioner. “And going forward, the most effective way to do that is to focus on electing John Barrow as the next secretary of state.”

And former U.S. Rep. Buddy Darden said it’s “pretty evident” the race will be certified for Kemp and that Abrams should begin focusing on a 2020 run against U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

“Never stop. Keep using this energy,” he said. “Keep using these new voters.”

Kemp, meanwhile, has tried to cast himself as the eventual winner.

Several of his aides were at the Capitol this week to meet with state legislators and scope out executive offices. And Kemp’s campaign has repeatedly criticized Abrams for refusing to concede, saying she has no mathematical chance at forcing a runoff.

On Friday, Kemp struck a far more conciliatory tone.

“I humbly ask for citizens of our great state to stand with me in the days ahead,” he said.

“Together, we will realize the opportunities and tackle the challenges to come. We will be a state that puts hardworking Georgians – no matter their zip code or political preference – first.”

https://www.ajc.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/kemp-holds-steady-lead-over-abrams-state-prepares-certify-vote/WI5zxjHjLNR2WbvcEBVYWL/

Story 3: President Trump Will Not Fire Mueller As Mueller Wraps Up Investigation of Russian Interference in U.S. Elections — Absolutely No Evidence of Trump Collusion With Russians and Therefore No Indictments — Complete Hoax Fabricated By Clinton Obama Democrat Criminal Conspiracy — Appoint Second Special Counsel Now To Investigate and Prosecute Plotters — Videos

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Hannity: FISA court was abused for political gain

Joe diGenova on Mueller Wrap Up

OH BOY!! HAPPENING NOW! Hannity Just EXPOSED Dems HIDE This BIGGEST PLAN Against Trump!

Trump legal team finalizing answers to Mueller questions

Lindsey Graham on Florida recount, Mueller probe

Sen. Mike Lee on Democrats’ objections to Matt Whitaker

Joe diGenova Talks About Jeff Sessions Replacement

MUELLER JUST GOT TRUMP’D! [AND HE DIDN’T SEE IT COMING

Matthew Whitaker (attorney)

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Matthew Whitaker
Matthew G. Whitaker official photo.jpg
Acting United States Attorney General
Assumed office
November 7, 2018
President Donald Trump
Deputy Rod Rosenstein
Preceded by Jeff Sessions
Chief of Staff to the United States Attorney General
In office
September 22, 2017 – November 7, 2018
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Preceded by Jody Hunt
Succeeded by Gary Barnett
United States Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa
In office
June 15, 2004 – November 25, 2009
President George W. Bush
Barack Obama
Preceded by Stephen Patrick O’Meara
Succeeded by Nicholas A. Klinefeldt
Personal details
Born Matthew George Whitaker
October 29, 1969 (age 49)
Des MoinesIowa, U.S.
Political party Republican
Education University of Iowa (BAJDMBA)

Matthew George Whitaker (born October 29, 1969) is an American lawyer and politician serving as Acting United States Attorney General since November 7, 2018. He was appointed by President Donald Trump on November 7, 2018, after Jeff Sessions resigned at Trump’s request.[1] Whitaker served as a U.S. Attorney during the Bush Administration and served as Chief of Staff to Sessions from September 2017 to November 2018.[2]

In 2002, Whitaker was the candidate of the Republican Party for Treasurer of Iowa. From 2004 to 2009 he served as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa. Whitaker ran in the 2014 Iowa Republican primary for the United States Senate. He later wrote opinion pieces and appeared on talk-radio shows and cable news as the director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a conservative advocacy group.

The legality of Whitaker’s appointment as Acting U.S. Attorney General was challenged by the State of Maryland.[3][4] His appointment prompted a number of legal scholars, commentators, and politicians to question its legality and constitutionality, noting that his selection circumvented Senate confirmation.[5] Some also called for Whitaker to recuse himself from overseeing the Special Counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller because of his public criticisms of the probe and his ties to Trump, and to Sam Clovis, a witness in the investigation.[6][7][8]

After Whitaker took office, reports surfaced of his prior involvement with World Patent Marketing, which had been fined $26 million and shut down by federal regulators in 2017 for deceiving consumers.[9][10]

Early life and education

Whitaker was born in Des Moines, Iowa, on October 29, 1969. His mother was a schoolteacher and his father a car salesman. Whitaker graduated from Ankeny High School and attended the University of Iowa, from which he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications, a Master of Business Administration, and a law degree in 1995.[11] While in college he wanted to be in the film industry.[12]

During his undergraduate years at Iowa, Whitaker played tight end for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes football team, appearing in Iowa’s Rose Bowl game in 1991.[13]

Career

After graduating from law school, Whitaker worked for a number of regional law firms including Briggs & Morgan (Minneapolis) and Finley Alt Smith (Des Moines). He was also corporate counsel for a national grocery company, SuperValu, and small businessman owning interests in a trailer manufacturing company, a daycare, and a concrete supply company.[14] Whitaker ran as a Republican for Treasurer of Iowa in 2002, losing to incumbent Democrat Michael Fitzgerald by 55% to 43%.[15]

In 2003, Whitaker founded “Buy The Yard Concrete,” based in Urbandale, Iowa which did projects as far away as Las Vegas. In 2005, Whitaker was named as a defendant to a collections lawsuit in Nevada for $12,000 in unpaid invoices for supplies and equipment rentals related to a concrete project in Las Vegas. The lawsuit was settled out of court.[16]

Whitaker’s U.S. Attorney portrait

United States Attorney

On June 15, 2004, Whitaker was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa by President George W. Bush. The appointment was at the recommendation of Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, in spite of Whitaker’s minimal relevant legal experience.[17]

From 2005 to 2007, Whitaker was responsible for the unsuccessful investigation and prosecution of Iowa State Sen. Matt McCoy, a gay, liberal Democrat, on charges of attempting to extort $2000.[18] A columnist for the Des Moines Register said that the case “… was based on the word of a man former associates depicted as a drug user, a deadbeat and an abuser of women; a man so shady even his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsors called him ‘a pathological liar.'”[19][20] The jury took less than two hours to return a verdict of “not guilty”.[21][22]

Whitaker resigned in November 2009 following the Senate confirmation of his replacement, Nicholas A. Klinefeldt, who was nominated by President Barack Obama.[13][23]

Private practice and political activities

From 2009 to 2017, Whitaker was a managing partner of the small general practice law firm Whitaker Hagenow & Gustoff LLP (now Hagenow & Gustoff LLP) in Des Moines, Iowa.[24]

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Whitaker was Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty‘s co-chairman in Iowa, and then state co-chairman for Texas governor Rick Perry.[25]

Whitaker was a candidate for the Republican nomination in the 2014 United States Senate election in Iowa, a seat being vacated by Democrat Tom Harkin. He came in fourth in the Republican primary in June, with 11,909 votes (7.54%). The nomination was won by Joni Ernst, who went on to win the general election.[26]

After losing the Republican primary, Whitaker chaired the campaign of Sam Clovis, another unsuccessful primary candidate who had been selected, later in June, to run for Iowa State Treasurer.[27] Clovis lost in the November 2014 general election.[28][29][30]

MEM Investment

In 2012, Whitaker and two partners used their company, MEM Investment, to purchase and develop an affordable-housing apartment building in Des Moines.[31] In 2014, the partnership reverted to just Whitaker. By spring of 2016, the company failed to deliver on the contracted renovation, the city terminated the loan agreement, Lincoln Savings Bank declared MEM in default of the $687,000 mortgage, and the property was sold to another developer for completion.[32][33]

World Patent Marketing

In 2014, Whitaker joined the board of World Patent Marketing (WPM) which was a fraudulent invention promotion firm based in Florida that deceived inventors into thinking that the company had successfully commercialized other inventions.[34][35][36] In March 2017, the Federal Trade Commission charged the company with fraudulently deceiving consumers and suppressing complaints through intimidation and the use of gag clauses.[36][37][38] In May 2018, a federal court ordered the company to close and pay a $26 million fine.[39] Many customers suffered significant losses as a result of working with the company[9][40] and when they tried to recoup their fees, the company used Whitaker’s background as a U.S. Attorney to threaten them. In a 2015 email mentioning his background as a former federal prosecutor, Whitaker told a customer that filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or “smearing” the company online could result in “serious civil and criminal consequences.”[41][42] The owner of Ripoff Report told The Wall Street Journal that Whitaker had called him in 2015 demanding his website take down negative reports about WPM, alleging, “He threatened to ruin my business if I didn’t remove the reports. He [said he] would have the government shut me down under some homeland security law.”[43][44] The company contributed to Whitaker’s 2014 US Senate campaign.[45] Whitaker performed almost $17,000 in compensable work for the company.[46] In 2017 FTC investigators examined whether Whitaker had played any role in making threats of legal action to silence the company’s critics. Whitaker rebuffed an FTC subpoena for records in October 2017, shortly after he had joined the Justice Department.[47]

White House and senior Justice Department officials were surprised to learn of Whitaker’s connection to the company.[48] Through a DOJ spokesperson, Whitaker has denied awareness of the company’s fraud.[9] The court receiver in the case said he has “no reason to believe that [Whitaker] knew of any of the wrongdoing.”[48] As of November 2018, the FBI is still investigating World Patent Marketing.[49]

Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust

From October 2014 to September 2017, Whitaker was the executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT),[50] and the organization’s only full-time employee in 2015 and 2016.[51] FACT, founded in late 2014, is a conservative nonprofit organization specializing in legal and ethical issues related to politics.[52][53] The group was backed by $1 million in seed money from conservative donors, who Whitaker declined to identify to the media.[54] According to the organization’s first tax return, its funding — $600,000 in 2014 – came from a conservative donor-advised fund called DonorsTrust, a pass-through vehicle that allows donors to remain anonymous.[55]

While Whitaker was the head of FACT, the organization had a special focus on the Hillary Clinton e-mail controversy and perceived favoritism in the business dealings of Clinton.[56] Despite claiming to be nonpartisan, the organization called for ethics investigations into or filed complaints about forty-six different Democratic politicians, officials, and organizations, compared to only a few Republicans.[57] FACT has been described as using “the legal system as a political weapon”[58] and characterized, by a GOP operative, as a “chop shop of fake ethics complaints”.[59] During this time, Whitaker wrote opinion pieces that appeared in USA Today and the Washington Examiner, and appeared regularly on conservative talk-radio shows and cable news.[60]

CNN contributor

Whitaker aspired to become a judge in Iowa, and hoped his media appearances would catch the eye of the Trump administration.[25] For four months, from June to September 2017, he was a CNN contributor.[61] One month prior to joining the Justice Department, Whitaker wrote an opinion column for CNN titled “Mueller’s Investigation of Trump is Going Too Far.”[62] He stated that Mueller’s investigation was a “lynch mob”, that it should be limited, and that it should not probe into Trump’s finances.[63][64]

Legal and policy views

Constitutional issues

Whitaker stated in a question-and-answer session during his 2014 Iowa Senatorial campaign that “the courts are supposed to be the inferior branch.”[65][66] Whitaker was critical of the United States Supreme Court‘s decision in Marbury v. Madison (1803), the decision that allows judicial review of the constitutionality of the acts of the other branches of government, and several other Supreme Court holdings. Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe commented on Whitaker’s views that “the overall picture he presents would have virtually no scholarly support,” and that they would be “‘destabilizing’ to society if he used the power of the attorney general to advance them.”[65]

Whitaker also stated during his 2014 Senate bid that he would not support “secular” judges and that judges should “have a biblical view of justice.” Asked if he meant Levitical or New Testament justice, he replied “I’m a New Testament.”[67] Whitaker’s answer has been interpreted by various individuals and groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, to imply that he would disqualify non-Christian judges, and were condemned as unconstitutional. An ADL spokesperson said, “The notion that non-Christian judges are disqualified from service is patently wrong, and completely inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution, which explicitly bars any religious test for public office.”[68]

Whitaker stated in 2013 he supports the right of states to nullify federal laws.[69] Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, stated that Whitaker’s views on nullification are “irreconcilable not only with the structure of the Constitution, but with its text, especially the text of the Supremacy Clause,” and added that “For someone who holds those views to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, even temporarily, is more than a little terrifying.”[69]

Criticisms of 2017 Special Counsel investigation

During the months prior to joining the Justice Department as Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff in September 2017, Whitaker made several statements critical of the Mueller investigation, of which he assumed oversight responsibility upon being appointed Acting Attorney General in November 2018. By July 2017, the Trump White House was interviewing Whitaker to join the Trump legal team.[70] During a six-month span in 2017, Whitaker insisted that there was no obstruction of justice or collusion and criticized the initial appointment of the special counsel. He also called the probe “political”[71] and “the left is trying to sow this theory that essentially Russians interfered with the U.S. election, which has been proven false.”[72] He also published an op-ed titled, “Mueller’s Investigation of Trump Is Going Too Far”[73] in which he expressed skepticism about the investigation generally and called the appointment of Mueller “ridiculous.”[72] Through social media, he also promoted an article that referred to the investigation as a “lynch mob.”[63][73][74]

Relationship with Donald Trump

Trump saw Whitaker’s supportive commentaries on CNN in the summer of 2017, and in July White House counsel Don McGahn interviewed Whitaker to join Trump’s legal team as an “attack dog” against Robert Mueller, who was heading the Special Counsel investigation. Trump associates believe Whitaker was later hired to limit the fallout of the investigation, including by reining in any Mueller report and preventing Trump from being subpoenaed.[70] On November 13, Whitaker sought advice from ethics officials at the Department of Justice (DOJ) about whether a recusal from overseeing the Russia investigation was warranted.[75]

In 2017 Whitaker provided private advice to Trump on how the White House might pressure the Justice Department to investigate the president’s adversaries, including appointing a special counsel to investigate the FBI and Hillary Clinton.[76]

Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society recommended Whitaker to McGahn as chief of staff for Sessions, and Whitaker was installed into that role at the direction of the White House. Sessions, it is reported, did not realize for a year that Whitaker wanted to replace him.[77]

By early September 2018 Whitaker was on the short list of President Trump‘s White House staff as the replacement for Don McGahn as the White House Counsel.[78][79]

In September 2018, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly referred to Whitaker as the White House’s “eyes and ears” in the Justice Department, which the president considered himself at war with.[80]

Trump had spoken with Whitaker in September 2018 about potentially assuming Sessions’s role as Attorney General, although it was not clear whether Whitaker would take over on an interim basis or be nominated in a more permanent capacity.[81] At that time, The New York Times described Whitaker as a Trump loyalist who had frequently visited the Oval Office and as having “an easy chemistry” with Trump.[80] Whitaker was referenced by White House staff after a New York Times article disclosed in September that Rod Rosenstein had discussed secretly taping his conversations with the president and talked about using the Twenty-fifth Amendment to remove Trump from office.[73]

Trump repeatedly stated on November 9, “I don’t know Matt Whitaker,” contradicting remarks a month prior on Fox & Friends when he said, “I can tell you Matt Whitaker’s a great guy. I mean, I know Matt Whitaker.”[82][83][84] The president met with Whitaker at least ten times and frequently talked to him on the phone, and according to a former and a current administration official, Whitaker advised Trump in private on how to potentially pressure the Justice Department into investigating Trump’s adversaries.[85]

Other policy Issues

Whitaker has ties to the evangelical Christian community, his website previously stated that he is a “Christian who regularly attends church with his family, Matt has built a life on hard work and free enterprise” and he stated in 2014 that “life begins at conception.”[86][87][88]In 2014 he advocated for reducing the influence of the government saying, “I know that the government forcing people to violate their faith must never be tolerated. In the Senate, I will be a steadfast protector of every American’s religious rights.”[89]

He has expressed a desire to get rid of chain immigration and is against “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.[90] Whitaker argued in 2014 that expressing homophobic comments is legitimate expression of religious beliefs that should be protected speech, saying “I just really think this case is a prime example of where religious freedom in our country is under assault and we need to send a strong message.”[91] Whitaker supported repealing the Affordable Care Act in his 2014 Senate campaign.[73]

Department of Justice

Chief of Staff

On September 22, 2017, a Justice Department official announced that Sessions had appointed Whitaker to replace Jody Hunt as his chief of staff.[63][92] George Terwilliger, a former U.S. attorney and deputy attorney general, said in his role as chief of staff, Whitaker would have dealt daily with making “substantive choices about what is important to bring to the AG….”[93]

Acting Attorney General

With the resignation of Sessions on November 7, 2018, Whitaker was appointed to serve as Acting Attorney General under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998.[11][94] The Acting Attorney General directly supervises Robert Mueller‘s Special Counsel investigation, which had previously been supervised by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in his role as Acting Attorney General, due to the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Supervision of the Special Counsel investigation

Soon after Whitaker’s appointment as Acting Attorney General, a “broad and growing array” of legal experts expressed concern.[95] New York University law professor Ryan Goodman and Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, argued for Whitaker to recuse himself from supervising the investigation, citing potential conflicts of interest such as his previous criticism of the Special Counsel investigation and his ties to Sam Clovis who is a witness in the investigation.[7][96][97] NYU law professor Stephen Gillerssaid Whitaker “has no such legal or ethical obligation to step aside” but agrees that “Whitaker should be recused. His repeated expression of hostility to the Mueller investigation makes it impossible for the public to have confidence in his ability to exercise the necessary prosecutorial judgment in supervising Mueller”.[98][99] According to people close to Whitaker, he does not have any plans to recuse.[100]

Democrats poised to assume chairmanships of key House committees in January 2019 warned the Justice Department and other departments to preserve records relating to the Mueller investigation and Sessions’ firing. Republicans Senator Susan Collins, Senator Jeff Flake, and Senator-elect Mitt Romney, also issued statements insisting that Mueller’s investigation must remain free from interference.[101]

Legality and constitutionality of the appointment

Former Attorneys General Michael Mukasey and Alberto Gonzales, who both served in the George W. Bush administration, questioned the legality of the appointment.[102] Lawyers Neal Katyal and George T. Conway III called the appointment “illegal” and “unconstitutional” under the Appointments Clause of the Constitution.[103][104][105] Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano posited that Whitaker is “not legally qualified for the role” as he is neither the Deputy Attorney General nor in a role that required Senate confirmation, and the senate is not in recess currently.[106][107] Lawyers Renato Mariotti and Laurence Tribe have argued that the Vacancies Act would not allow Trump to appoint Whitaker if Sessions was fired and that a court could conclude that Sessions did not resign but was fired.[108] John E. Bies, who served in the Obama Administration as a deputy assistant attorney general, has written that legality and constitutionality of Whitaker’s appointment is an open question and it has not been answered. Bies also points out that it is a difficult argument to make that Sessions was fired instead of resigning since a court would probably not “look past an official’s formal statement that they resigned”.[109]

Law professor John Yoo, who notably argued in favor of expansive executive power as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel in the George W. Bush administration, echoed the Katyal and Conway argument, stating that because of the Appointments Clause “it is not only the special-counsel investigation that he cannot supervise. Every action of the Justice Department might fall before challenges to Whitaker’s appointment.”[110] Law professor Stephen Vladeck argued that the U.S. Supreme Courtdecision United States v. Eaton allowed the appointment since it was temporary and that Sessions formally resigned.[95] Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “I think this will be a very interim AG.”[111]

The US Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel released an internal legal opinion supporting the legality of the appointment. The memo concluded that because the appointment was temporary, no senate confirmation was required. It found that previously in 1866 an assistant attorney general who was not confirmed by the senate was appointed as acting attorney general, and that a non senate confirmed individual served as a principal officer in an acting capacity over 160 times between 1809 and 1860, and more recently at least nine times in the Trump, Obama, and Bush administrations.[112][113][114]

NBC News analyzed the section of the Code of Federal Regulations that prohibits a federal employee from participating in a criminal investigation if he has a personal or political relationship and said it may “arguably apply,” but also noted that “Even if a court could review the application of the recusal regulations to Whitaker in this situation, it might conclude that this personal or political relationship does not warrant [Whitaker’s] disqualification.”[115] Writers at Lawfare also noted Whitaker’s personal and prior political relationship with Sam Clovis, Trump’s campaign co-chairman and chief policy adviser, who has been questioned by Mueller’s investigators and testified before the investigation grand jury.[116][117]

A group of prominent conservative and libertarian lawyers have formed a group called Checks and Balances in the wake of Whitaker appointment.[118] Members include George T. Conway III, Tom Ridge, Peter D. KeislerJonathan H. AdlerOrin S. Kerr, Lori S. Meyer, Paul McNultyPhillip D. BradyJohn B. Bellinger III, Carrie Cordero, Peter Keisler, Marisa C Maleck, Alan Charles Raul and Paul Rosenzweig amongst others.[119][120][121][122] The group was formed to provide a critical legal and conservative voice for when, “he [Trump] attacks the Justice Department and the news media.”[123][124] The group was formed by Conway after he published a letter critical of Matthew Whitaker appointment that argued the illegality of his appointment because of constitutional reasons and specifically mentions the phrase checks and balances, “It defies one of the explicit checks and balances set out in the Constitution, a provision designed to protect us all against the centralization of government power.”[125]

On November 14 The American Constitution Society released a letter signed by over 1,600 attorneys nationwide calling for lawmakers and Justice Department officials to protect the special counsel’s Russia probe in light of Matthew Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general.[126][127] The signatories demand that Whitaker recuse himself or “otherwise be removed from overseeing the Mueller investigation as a result of his profound ethical conflicts.”[128]

Legal challenges

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh representing the State of Maryland filed for an injunction against Whitaker’s appointment.[129] Maryland had previously filed a suit against the then Attorney General Jeff Sessions regarding his inability to defend the Affordable Care Act in court as part of a broader hostility of the Obama era act from the Trump administration.[130][131][132] Maryland is expected to test the argument in court that Whitaker was unlawfully named acting attorney general, and thus has no standing in the court or authority to respond to their lawsuit.[3][4] Maryland is also arguing that Whitaker’s appointment violates the Constitution, which requires that principal officers of the United States be appointed “with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” Whitaker was not serving in a Senate-confirmed position when he was appointed.[3] The state is arguing that the role of acting Attorney General rightfully belongs to the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein.[133]. A judge has set a December 19 hearing.[134]

On November 12 San Francisco’s city attorney questioned the appointment of a new acting attorney general, saying in a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice that his office may take court action if the DOJ does not provide a legal justification for the designation.[135][136]

Lawyers for former agricultural products executive Doug Haning filed a motion on November 13 asking a federal court in St. Louis to rule that Whitaker’s appointment as Acting Attorney General is illegal thereby he has no standing to hear the case.[134] Some lawyers have predicted a flood of similar motions.[134]

Personal life

Whitaker has three children with his wife, Marci, a civil engineer.[137] He is affiliated with Lutheran Evangelicalism.[138][89]

Electoral history

2002 Iowa State Treasurer

General election results[139]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Michael Fitzgerald 534,714 54.77%
Republican Matthew Whitaker 421,574 43.18%
Libertarian Tim Hird 19,687 2.02%
Republican Write-ins 344 0.04%
Total votes 976,319 100.00%

2014 U.S. Senator for Iowa

Republican primary results[140]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Joni Ernst 88,535 56.12%
Republican Sam Clovis 28,418 18.01%
Republican Mark Jacobs 26,523 16.81%
Republican Matthew Whitaker 11,884 7.53%
Republican Scott Schaben 2,233 1.42%
Republican Write-ins 155 0.10%
Total votes 157,748 100.00%

See also

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Whitaker_(attorney)

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The Pronk Pops Show 1092, July 13, 2018, Story 1: Trump Should Fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and If Attorney Jeff Sessions Resigns– Accept Resignation — Videos — Story 2: For 30-60 Million Illegal Aliens in United States — No Amnesty — No Citizenship — No Legal Status –No Pathway to Citizenship — American Citizens Demand Enforcement of All Immigration Laws — Deport and Remove All Illegal Aliens — Trump Will Veto Democratic/Republican Leadership Immigration Bill — Fund $30 Billion To Build 2000 Mile Impenetrable Barrier Along United State/Mexico Border and Veto House Speaker’s Bill — Not One Mile of Wall Built Due Congress Refusal To Fund Wall — American Citizens vs. Political Elitist Establishment — Videos

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Story 1: Fire Rod Rosenstein and If Attorney Jeff Sessions Resigns– Accept Resignation — Videos —

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Who is Rod Rosenstein, Trump’s nominee for deputy attorney general?

 

Rod Rosenstein’s Subpoena Threat: He’s Conflicted, and He’s Acting Like It

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appears with President Donald Trump at a roundtable on immigration and the gang MS-13 at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center in Bethpage, New York, May 23, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

He clings to his role in the process despite being a central witness in Comey’s dismissal.The House Intelligence Committee is investigating whether the government has used the Justice Department’s awesome investigative authorities as a weapon against political adversaries. We learned yesterday that, in response to this very investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein . . . threatened to use the Justice Department’s awesome investigative authorities as a weapon against political adversaries.

That Rosenstein threatened to subpoena the committee’s records does not seem to be in serious dispute. There are differing accounts about why. House investigators say that Rosenstein was trying to bully his way out of compliance with oversight demands; the Justice Department offers the lawyerly counter that Rosenstein was merely foreshadowing his litigating position if the House were to try to hold him in contempt for obstructing its investigations. Either way, the best explanation for the outburst is that Rosenstein is beset by profound conflicts of interest, and he’s acting like it.

So, what was going on back then?

Among other things, the House Intelligence Committee and senior Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee were pressing for disclosure of the applications the Justice Department submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (“FISA court”) for warrants to eavesdrop on Carter Page, a former Trump-campaign adviser. (The Nunes memo is dated just eight days after Rosenstein’s reported subpoena threat; the Grassley-Graham memo is dated just four days before; both prompted bitter disclosure fights.)

Back then, we were being told that the FBI and Justice Department would never provide the FISA court with unverified allegations from third- and fourth-hand anonymous foreign sources, purveyed by a foreign former spy whose partisan work — including the planting of media stories at the height of the election race — had been paid for by the Democratic presidential candidate. We were being told that if the sources of information presented to the FISA court had any potential biases, those would be candidly disclosed to the FISA court. And we were being told that information in FISA applications is so highly classified that disclosing it would reveal methods and sources of information, almost certainly putting lives and national security in jeopardy.

What, then, did we learn when Congress, after knock-down-drag-out fights like the one in January, finally managed to force some public disclosure?

We learned that the Justice Department and FBI had, in fact, submitted to the FISA court the Steele dossier’s allegations from Russian sources, on the untenable theory that the foreign purveyor of these claims, Christopher Steele, was trustworthy — notwithstanding that he was not making the allegations himself, but instead was only relaying the claims of others.

We learned that the FBI had not been able to verify the dossier’s claims (and that even Steele does not stand behind them), but that the Justice Department presented them to the court anyway.

We learned that the Justice Department failed to tell the FISA court that Steele’s reports were an anti-Trump opposition-research project paid for by the Clinton campaign — i.e., paid for by the political candidate endorsed by the president, paid for by the party of the incumbent administration that had applied for the FISA warrant against its political opponent.

We learned that the Justice Department failed to tell the FISA court that Steele — on whose credibility it was relying — had been discontinued by the FBI as a source because he had lied about his contacts with the media.

We learned that one of those contacts with the media (specifically, with Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News) had generated a news story that the Justice Department actually offered as corroboration for Steele — on the false theory that someone other than Steele was the source for the story.

We learned that the revelation of these facts posed no danger to national security or to methods and sources of intelligence-gathering. Instead, the Justice Department and FBI had fought tooth-and-nail against disclosure because these facts are embarrassing and indicative of an abuse of power.

And we learned that, after the initial 90-day FISA warrant was authorized in October 2016 (about three weeks before the election), it was reauthorized three times — well into the first year of the Trump administration. Meaning: The last FISA-warrant application was approved at the Justice Department by none other than Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Note that the required sign-off by the Justice Department’s top official (which was Rosenstein because Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself) is a key element of FISA’s elaborate statutory process. The process is in place because, unlike criminal-law wiretaps, which are disclosed to the defense and fully litigated prior to trial, national-security wiretaps under FISA are classified and are never disclosed to the targets. Because Congress was concerned that this could lead to abuse, it mandated that warrant applications be approved at the highest levels of the FBI and Justice Department before submission to the FISA court. This is supposed to give the court confidence that the application has been carefully reviewed and that the surveillance sought is a high national-security priority.

To recap: In January 2018, Congress was investigating whether the Justice Department had abused the FISA process. The top Justice Department official for purposes of responding to this congressional investigation was resisting it; this included fighting the disclosure of the last warrant relevant to that investigation, which he had personally approved — a warrant that relied on the unverified Steele dossier (flouting FBI guidelines holding that unverified information is not to be presented to the FISA court), and that failed to disclose both that the dossier was a Clinton-campaign product and that Steele had been booted from the investigation for lying.

It is not to his credit to threaten members of Congress with Justice Department subpoenas for their emails and phone records. It suggests that the conflicts under which he labors are distorting his judgment.

Meanwhile, on May 17, 2017, Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to take over the so-called Russia investigation. The incident that proximately triggered this appointment was President Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey. From the start of his tenure, Special Counsel Mueller has been investigating the Comey dismissal as a potential criminal offense — specifically, obstruction of justice. Mueller has done this with Rosenstein’s apparent approval, even though there are significant legal questions about whether a president may properly be accused of obstruction based on an act that is both lawful and a constitutional prerogative of the chief executive.

Even more significantly for present purposes, Rosenstein has clung to his role as Mueller’s ostensible supervisor in the investigation notwithstanding that he is a central witness in Comey’s dismissal. He authored a memorandum that, ironically, posits that a troubled official’s removal was necessary “to restore public confidence” in a vital institution. The Trump administration used Rosenstein’s memo to justify Comey’s firing even though there are salient questions about whether it states the true rationale for the firing — precisely the questions Mueller is investigating.

Conflicts of interests can be tough to analyze because some are contingent and hypothetical. Others, however, are obvious and straightforward. In the latter category are “actor on the stage” conflicts: If a lawyer is an important participant in the facts that form the subject matter of a controversy, he is a witness (at the very least) whose actions and motives are at issue. Therefore, he is too conflicted to act as an attorney representing an interested party in the controversy.

To point this out is not to attack Mr. Rosenstein’s integrity. I do not know the deputy attorney general personally, but people I do know and trust regard him as a scrupulous person and professional. That’s good enough for me. And indeed, while I disagree with his appointment of Mueller (because it was outside DOJ regulations), his impulse to appoint a special counsel suggests that he perceived an ethical problem in directing an investigation that would have to scrutinize his own conduct. That is to his credit.

Nevertheless, it is not to his credit to threaten members of Congress with Justice Department subpoenas for their emails and phone records. It suggests that the conflicts under which he labors are distorting his judgment. And in any event, to point out that a lawyer has a conflict is not to assert that he is acting unethically. A conflicted lawyer recuses himself not because he is incapable of performing competently but because his participation undermines the appearance of impartiality and integrity. In legal proceedings, the appearance that things are on the up and up is nearly as important as the reality that they are.

This is not a symmetrical conflict in which one side’s investigative demands can properly be reciprocated by the other — “if you subpoena me, I’ll subpoena you,” etc. The Justice Department is a creature of statute. While part of the executive branch, it has no independent constitutional standing; it exists because it was established by Congress (as, by the way, was Rosenstein’s office). If the House Intelligence Committee were to issue a subpoena demanding, say, President Obama’s communications with members of his White House staff, that would be objectionable. By contrast, Congress has not only the authority but the responsibility to conduct oversight of the operations of executive departments it has established and funds, and whose operations it defines and restricts by statute.

The Justice Department is not the sovereign in this equation. If it has legal or policy reservations about a disclosure demand from the people’s representatives, it should respectfully raise them; but it is ultimately up to Congress to decide what the people have a right to inquire into. The Justice Department has no business impeding that inquiry. And while people can lose their temper in the heat of the moment (like most of us, I am no stranger to that phenomenon), it is outrageous for a Justice Department official to threaten Congress with subpoenas. If the deputy attorney general did that in a fit of pique, I hope he has apologized.

On what planet is it necessary for Jeff Sessions to recuse himself but perfectly appropriate for Rod Rosenstein to continue as acting attorney general for purposes of both the Mueller investigation and Congress’s probe of Justice Department investigative irregularities?

The Justice Department’s spin on this is ill-conceived. Apparently, the idea is that if the House tried to hold Rosenstein in contempt for defying its subpoenas, he would be permitted to mount a defense and could issue his own subpoenas in that vein. Maybe so (at least, if there were a court prosecution); but he wouldn’t be able to subpoena anything he pleased. Congress has the power and duty to conduct oversight of the Justice Department; it does not need a reason, and its reasons are permitted to be (and no doubt frequently are) political. It would violate separation-of-powers principles for an executive official to attempt to use law-enforcement powers to infringe on the constitutionally protected power of lawmakers to consult and deliberate over legislative activity.

In any event, I assume this is all water under the bridge. It happened five months ago (which is eons ago in the Age of Trump). What matters is the disclosure dispute as it stands in the here and now: On what basis is the Justice Department still withholding some documents and massively redacting others; and when will President Trump, instead of blowing off Twitter steam, finally order his subordinates to comply with lawful congressional demands for information? If there were credible allegations that a Republican administration had spied on a Democratic campaign, we would not be hearing precious concerns about the viability of the Justice Department and FBI as critical American institutions; in unison, the media and the political class would be demanding transparency.

Finally, note that Attorney General Sessions was counseled by Justice Department officials (none of them Trump appointees) to recuse himself under circumstances in which (a) there was no criminal investigation (which the regulations call for in recusal situations); (b) his contacts with Russian officials were not improper; (c) there was scant evidence of criminally actionable collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia; and (d) Sessions apparently had no involvement in approving FISA surveillance of Trump officials, and had less involvement than Rosenstein did in Comey’s firing.

On what planet is it necessary for Jeff Sessions to recuse himself but perfectly appropriate for Rod Rosenstein to continue as acting attorney general for purposes of both the Mueller investigation and Congress’s probe of Justice Department investigative irregularities?

ANDREW C. MCCARTHY — Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Reviewhttps://www.nationalreview.com/2018/06/rod-rosenstein-subpoena-threat-shows-conflict-of-interest/

As Rod Rosenstein Battles to Protect Mueller, His Tactics Could Cost the Justice Dept.

Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, has proved adept at political gamesmanship, but his maneuvers could expose the Justice Department to more politically motivated attacks.CreditShawn Thew/European Pressphoto Agency

WASHINGTON — He has a reputation as a principled lawyer. He has worked for both Republican and Democratic attorneys general. He has a jugular instinct in courtroom battles but a distaste for political ones.

Now Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, is confronting the political fight of his career. Amid sustained criticism by President Trump and rumors that he will be fired, Mr. Rosenstein is also maneuvering to defuse demands by Republicans in Congress that Democrats say are aimed at ousting him from his job — and from his role as protector of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

So far, he appears to be succeeding. But in trying to deflect those attacks, some say, Mr. Rosenstein has risked eroding the Justice Department’s historic independence from political meddling. The consequences could persist long after he and the rest of the Trump administration are out of power.

A small but influential group of House Republicans has demanded greater access to sensitive documents related to some of the F.B.I.’s most politically charged investigations into the Trump campaign and Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified emails. Should Mr. Rosenstein fail to comply, they have threatened to subpoena him, hold him in contempt of Congress or even impeach him.

The Republicans complain that Mr. Rosenstein and other Justice Department officials have slow-walked or outright stonewalled their requests for reams of documents and other information they need to conduct oversight. When they do receive documents, they say, too many are showing up with critical content blacked out.

“This is serious stuff,” said Representative Jim Jordan, a conservative Ohio Republican allied with Mr. Trump who voiced his complaints in a recent meeting with Mr. Rosenstein. “We as a separate and equal branch of government are entitled to get the information.”

Mr. Rosenstein, 53, has staved off his attackers on Capitol Hill largely by appeasing them. Two weeks ago, he allowed key Republican legislators to review an almost completely unredacted F.B.I. memo on the opening of a still active investigation of the Trump campaign, a rare step. He later summoned two other Republicans, Mr. Jordan and Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, to his office to pledge that the Justice Department would be more responsive to their requests.

And on Thursday, threatened with a subpoena, he gave a relatively large group of lawmakers access to memos written by the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey about his interactions with Mr. Trump. The documents are considered to be important evidence in a potential obstruction of justice case against the president being weighed by Mr. Mueller.

But still other Republican demands remain unmet, and Democrats have warned that Mr. Rosenstein is being boxed into a corner where he has to choose between saving his job and setting disturbing precedents that chip away at the independence that the Justice Department has maintained since President Richard M. Nixon tried to thwart the Watergate investigation. “That independence keeps the country from sliding into a banana republic,” said Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman under Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

 

Stephen E. Boyd, the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, said, “The department is responding to what it believes to be good faith requests for information pursuant to Congress’s appropriate oversight function, and the department is doing so in a way that will not have any adverse impact on ongoing investigations.”

Others said they worried that in solving his short-term political problems, Mr. Rosenstein could expose the department to increasingly onerous congressional demands into continuing investigations — an area that has traditionally been off limits.

“It could become an exception that swallows the rule,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut and a former federal prosecutor. “Every request by Congress can be made to seem exceptional.”

Resolving such dilemmas is but one of the challenges Mr. Rosenstein faces. Mr. Trump claimed this month, without offering evidence, that he suffers from conflicts of interest and has criticized him for signing a warrant application to eavesdrop on a former Trump campaign aide. Every week seems to bring a new rumor that Mr. Trump plans to fire Mr. Rosenstein, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Mr. Mueller or all three.

In one of Washington’s odder embraces, their strongest defenders are congressional Democrats who abhor the Justice Department’s policies under the Trump administration but see Mr. Rosenstein as a firewall between the president and the special counsel.

Mr. Rosenstein declined requests for an interview, but supporters say he is well positioned to defend himself. A careful and conservative lawyer, he is unlikely to make missteps or overstep boundaries, they say. A high-ranking former Justice Department official described him as “the ultimate survivor.”

Early in his tenure, he stumbled when he wrote a memo to Mr. Sessions castigating Mr. Comey for speaking publicly about the F.B.I. investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified information while secretary of state. Although Mr. Trump has repeatedly cited it as justification for firing Mr. Comey, Mr. Rosenstein told Congress that the memo was not meant to “justify a for-cause termination.” Even so, he acknowledged that he knew Mr. Comey’s job was in danger when he wrote it.

He and others suggest that Mr. Rosenstein appointed Mr. Mueller as special counsel partly to redeem himself. That was “the only way Rod could show he was not a lackey, that he was neutral,” Mr. Heymann said.

Mr. Sessions has scant ability to provide his deputy cover. If the president is mulling Mr. Rosenstein’s fate, he holds a deeper animus toward Mr. Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

Mr. Rosenstein addresses his own jeopardy with a blend of stoicism and black humor, according to friends. “I may need to talk to you about a job,” he jested to one Washington-area lawyer.

He is not, however, trying to whip up political support for himself. He “doesn’t do the self-preservation game,” said James M. Trusty, a friend who worked with him in Maryland. “He’s very grounded and fatalistic. He plays it by the book.”

Mr. Rosenstein is proceeding as though he will not be fired. On Monday, he is arguing a sentencing guidelines case on behalf of the federal government before the Supreme Court.

Mr. Rosenstein grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, attended the University of Pennsylvania and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1989. He became a trial lawyer in the Justice Department’s public integrity section in Washington and eventually worked with Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton’s business dealings. In 2005, President George W. Bush appointed him the United States attorney for Maryland. President Barack Obama kept him on.

The office he ran had been torn apart by political infighting and had a weak relationship with local law enforcement. In his first few months, Mr. Rosenstein gathered information from employees about what had gone wrong, then restructured the office. He reached out to state prosecutors and encouraged his staff members to work with them to fight violent crime. His ability to transcend politics gave him credibility, according to many who worked with him.

“I never heard a political word escape from his lips,” said Brian E. Frosh, the Democratic Maryland attorney general. “He was smart, honest, fair, tough — everything you want in a prosecutor.”

Mr. Sessions barely knew Mr. Rosenstein when he became his deputy, and Mr. Rosenstein had no obvious political patron. He was not expecting to become a household name: When his daughter asked whether his new job meant that he was now famous, he told her that few people know or care who served as deputy attorney general.

He and Mr. Sessions had little in common beyond their lengthy tenures as federal prosecutors and shared views on gangs, drugs and violent crime. And the tensions that almost always exist between attorneys general and their deputies have been exacerbated by the special counsel investigation and the resulting political pressures.

But associates say the men have bonded in the face of attacks from the White House.

After Mr. Trump publicly exploded against Mr. Rosenstein this month, Mr. Sessions called Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, to warn that firing the deputy attorney general would have damaging consequences, including the possible resignation of Mr. Sessions himself, according to a person briefed on the conversation.

Mr. Sessions told Mr. McGahn that the president needed to know that he believed that firing Mr. Rosenstein would be a misstep and that he had done nothing to justify such an ouster.

Mr. Rosenstein’s oversight of the special counsel’s office gives him broad powers to approve or veto Mr. Mueller’s investigative requests. Democrats and some Republicans worry that the president could fire Mr. Rosenstein and install a replacement who would use that power to narrow the scope of the special counsel’s inquiry.

Democratic senators have circulated a document arguing that a new deputy attorney general could deny Mr. Mueller the power to take investigative steps and decline to sign off on staff or resources, essentially undermining the investigation without officially ending it or prompting the kind of Republican backlash on Capitol Hill that firing Mr. Mueller almost certainly would. A new appointee could also refuse to publicly release a report when Mr. Mueller’s investigation concludes.

Mr. Rosenstein has made efforts to head off conflicts with the White House. Soon after the F.B.I. raided the office, home and hotel room of the president’s lawyer Michael D. Cohen this month, infuriating the president, Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Trump met. Mr. Trump emerged telling people that Mr. Rosenstein had said he was not a target of the investigation into Mr. Cohen’s activities, according to two people with knowledge of the president’s account. Justice Department officials declined to comment on the meeting.

At the same time, the president’s staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill have put themselves in one standoff after another with Mr. Rosenstein. Among others, he has faced escalating demands and complaints from three committee chairmen: Representatives Robert W. Goodlatte of the Judiciary Committee, Devin Nunes of the Intelligence Committee and Trey Gowdy of the Oversight Committee.

In an interview this month on Fox News, Mr. Nunes threatened to hold Mr. Rosenstein in contempt or even impeach him if he failed to turn over the complete copy of the F.B.I. memo justifying the initiation of the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign. Mr. Rosenstein called him to the Justice Department and gave him and other Intelligence Committee members access the next day to a version of the memo that satisfied their concerns.

In a separate request, Mr. Goodlatte and others have issued a subpoena for hundreds of thousands of documents — an extraordinary number even for Congress — related to the Clinton inquiry, the firing of the F.B.I.’s former deputy director and other matters. When the lawmakers began complaining that the documents were coming slowly and with too much content blacked out, the Justice Department appointed a United States attorney in Illinois to oversee document review and production. The F.B.I. doubled the number of employees working on responses to a request for materials the Justice Department’s inspector general was using to 54 people working two shifts a day, from 8 a.m. to midnight.

But some Republicans are still unsatisfied and have said a contempt citation or even impeachment — exceedingly rare steps that would require votes in the House — are still possibilities. Democrats fear that, taken together, the Republican requests are meant to offer Mr. Trump cover or even cause to fire Mr. Rosenstein.

 

In a meeting with Mr. Rosenstein in recent days, Mr. Jordan and Mr. Meadows tried to impress upon him that they needed the documents they sought. Otherwise, Mr. Meadows said later, lawmakers would be left with no choice but to begin building a case to hold Mr. Rosenstein in contempt of Congress or to try to impeach him.

“Contempt is obviously still on the horizon,” Mr. Meadows said, “if there is not a substantial change.”

Michael S. Schmidt contributed reporting from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York. Kitty Bennett contributed research.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/21/us/politics/rod-rosenstein-justice-department.html

Rod Rosenstein

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Rod Rosenstein
Rod Rosenstein official portrait.jpg
37th United States Deputy Attorney General
Assumed office
April 26, 2017
President Donald Trump
Preceded by Sally Yates
United States Attorney for the District of Maryland
In office
July 12, 2005 – April 26, 2017
President George W. Bush
Barack Obama
Donald Trump
Preceded by Thomas M. DiBiagio
Succeeded by Robert K. Hur
Personal details
Born Rod Jay Rosenstein
January 13, 1965 (age 53)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political party Republican[1]
Spouse(s) Lisa Barsoomian
Education University of Pennsylvania(BS)
Harvard University (JD)
Signature

Rod Jay Rosenstein (/ˈrzənˌstn/;[2] born January 13, 1965) is the Deputy Attorney General for the United States Department of Justice.

Prior to his current appointment, he served as a United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, and during his first 10 years as lead federal prosecutor there, “murders statewide were cut by a third, double the decline at the national level.”[3] At the time of his confirmation as Deputy Attorney General in April 2017, he was the nation’s longest-serving U.S. attorney.[4] Rosenstein was nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, but his nomination was never considered by the U.S. Senate. He is a Republican.[5][6]

President Donald Trump nominated Rosenstein to serve as Deputy Attorney General for the United States Department of Justice on February 1, 2017. Rosenstein was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 25, 2017. In May 2017, he authored a memo which President Trump said was the basis of his decision to dismiss FBI Director James Comey.[7]

Later that month, Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election and related matters based on the firing of Comey.[8]

Background

Early life and family

Rod Jay Rosenstein was born on January 13, 1965 in Philadelphia,[9][10] to Robert, who ran a small business, and Gerri Rosenstein, a bookkeeper and school board president. He grew up in Lower Moreland Township, Pennsylvania.[11] He has one sister, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[12][13]

Education and clerkship

He graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, with a B.S. degree in economicssumma cum laude in 1986.[14]

He earned his J.D. degree cum laude in 1989 from Harvard Law School,[14] where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He then served as a law clerk to Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.[15] He was a Wasserstein Fellow at Harvard Law School in 1997-98.[16]

Career

Early career

After his clerkship, Rosenstein joined the U.S. Department of Justice through the Attorney General’s Honors Program. From 1990 to 1993, he prosecuted public corruption cases as a trial attorney with the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division, then led by Assistant Attorney General Robert Mueller.[14][17]

During the Clinton Administration, Rosenstein served as Counsel to Deputy Attorney General Philip B. Heymann (1993–1994) and Special Assistant to Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General Jo Ann Harris (1994–1995). Rosenstein then worked in the United States Office of the Independent Counsel under Ken Starr on the Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton.[18] As an Associate Independent Counsel from 1995 to 1997, he was co-counsel in the trial of three defendants who were convicted of fraud, and he supervised the investigation that found no basis for criminal prosecution of White House officials who had obtained FBI background reports.[14]

United States Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia hired Rosenstein as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland in 1997.[14]

He litigated a wide range of cases, coordinated the credit card fraud and international assistance programs and supervised the law student intern program. He briefed and argued cases in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.[citation needed]

From 2001 to 2005, Rosenstein served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Tax Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He coordinated the tax enforcement activities of the Tax Division, the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the IRS, and he supervised 90 attorneys and 30 support employees. He oversaw civil litigation and served as the acting head of the Tax Division when Assistant Attorney General Eileen J. O’Connor was unavailable, and he personally briefed and argued civil appeals in several federal appellate courts.[citation needed]

U.S. Attorney

Rosenstein as U.S. Attorney

President George W. Bush nominated Rosenstein to serve as the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland on May 23, 2005. He took office on July 12, 2005, after the United States Senate unanimously confirmed his nomination.[17][19]

As United States Attorney, he oversaw federal civil and criminal litigation, assisted with federal law enforcement strategies in Maryland, and presented cases in the U.S. District Court and in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.[19] During his tenure as U.S. Attorney, Rosenstein successfully prosecuted leaks of classified information, corruption, murders and burglaries, and was “particularly effective taking on corruption within police departments.” [20]

Rosenstein secured several convictions against prison guards in Baltimore for conspiring with the Black Guerrilla Family.[18] He indicted Baltimore police officers Wayne Jenkins, Momodu Gondo, Evodio Hendrix, Daniel Hersl, Jemell Rayam, Marcus Taylor, and Maurice Ward for racketeering.[21] Rosenstein, with the aid of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Drug Enforcement Administration, secured convictions in large scale narcotics cases in the District of Maryland, including the arrest and conviction of Terrell Plummer,[22] Richard Christopher Byrd,[23] James “Brad” LaRocca,[24] and Yasmine Geen Young.[25]

The Attorney General appointed Rosenstein to serve on the Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys, which evaluates and recommends policies for the Department of Justice. He was vice-chair of the Violent and Organized Crime Subcommittee and a member of the Subcommittees on White Collar Crime, Sentencing Issues and Cyber/Intellectual Property Crime. He also served on the Attorney General’s Anti-Gang Coordination Committee.

Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Rosenstein to prosecute General James Cartwright, a former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for leaking to reporters.[18] Rosenstein’s aggressive prosecution secured a guilty plea from Cartwright.[18]

Rosenstein served as the U.S. Attorney in Maryland at a time when murders in the state dropped by about a third, which was double the decline at the national level. Robberies and aggravated assaults also fell faster than the national average. According to Thiru Vignarajah, the former deputy attorney general of Maryland, “Collaboration between prosecutors, police, and the community combined with a dogged focus on violent repeat offenders was the anchor of Rosenstein’s approach.” Rosenstein regarded the heroin and opioid epidemic as a public health crisis, hired a re-entry specialist to help ex-offenders adjust to life outside of prison, and prosecuted several individual cases of corrupt police officers.[26]

Judicial nomination

In 2007, President George W. Bush nominated Rosenstein to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Rosenstein was a Maryland resident at the time. Maryland’s Democratic United States SenatorsBarbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, blocked Rosenstein’s confirmation, claiming he did not have strong enough ties to Maryland.[27]

Due to this opposition, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy did not schedule a hearing for Rosenstein during the 110th Congress and the nomination lapsed. Later, Andre M. Davis was renominated to the same seat by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2009.[citation needed]

Deputy Attorney General of the United States

Rosenstein being sworn in as Deputy Attorney General

Appointment of Special Counsel to Investigate Russian Interference with the 2016 Presidential Election and Related Matters

President Donald Trump nominated Rosenstein to serve as Deputy Attorney General for the United States Department of Justice on February 1, 2017.[28][29] He was one of the 46 United States Attorneys ordered on March 10, 2017 to resign by Attorney General Jeff Sessions; Trump declined his resignation.[30] Rosenstein was confirmed by the Senate on April 25, 2017, by a vote of 94–6.[31][32]

Comey memo

On May 8, 2017, President Donald Trump directed Sessions and Rosenstein to make a case against FBI Director James Comey in writing. The next day, Rosenstein handed a memo to Sessions providing the basis for Sessions’s recommendation to President Trump that Comey be dismissed.[33][34]

In his memo Rosenstein asserts that the FBI must have “a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them”. He ends with an argument against keeping Comey as FBI director, on the grounds that he was given an opportunity to “admit his errors” but that there is no hope that he will “implement the necessary corrective actions.”[35]

Critics[who?] argued that Rosenstein, in enabling the firing of Comey amid an investigation into Russian election interference, damaged his own reputation.[36][37][38][39][40]

After administration officials cited Rosenstein’s memo as the main reason for Comey’s dismissal, an anonymous source in the White House said that Rosenstein threatened to resign.[41] Rosenstein denied the claim and said he was “not quitting,” when asked directly by a reporter from Sinclair Broadcast Group.[42][43]

On May 17, 2017, Rosenstein told the full Senate he knew that Comey would be fired before he wrote his controversial memo that the White House initially used as justification for President Trump firing Comey.[44]

Special counsel appointment

On May 17, 2017, Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as a special counsel to conduct the investigation into “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” as well as any matters arising directly from that investigation.[45] Rosenstein’s order authorizes Mueller to bring criminal charges in the event that he discovers any federal crimes.[45]

Rosenstein said in a statement, “My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”[46] In an interview with the Associated Press, Rosenstein said he would recuse from supervision of Mueller, if he himself were to become a subject in the investigation due to his role in the dismissal of James Comey.[47]

Under that scenario, supervision would have fallen to DOJ’s third-ranking official, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand.[48] Rachel Brand announced her intention to resign on February 9, 2018 [49]

The Number Three official in the Justice Department that would be in charge of the Mueller investigation, if Rosenstein were to become a subject in the investigation due to his role in the dismissal of James Comey, or no longer be in his supervisory role for other reasons, is currently Noel Francisco, the current Solicitor General of the United States.[citation needed]

Michael Cohen investigation

In April 2018, Rosenstein reportedly personally approved the FBI raid on President Donald Trump‘s attorney, Michael Cohen, in which the FBI seized emails, tax documents and records, some of them related to Cohen’s payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels.[50][51]

After ad interim U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman had recused himself,[why?] the search was executed by others in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and approved by a federal judge.[52]

Personal life

Rosenstein is married to Lisa Barsoomian, an Armenian American lawyer who works for the National Institutes of Health. They have two daughters.[53]

He is a registered Republican, “but he has made no campaign donations to any political candidates, according to election records.”[1]

Rosenstein has served as an adjunct professor, teaching classes on federal criminal prosecution at the University of Maryland School of Law and trial advocacy at the University of Baltimore School of Law.[9]

Rosenstein was a member of Washington D.C.’s Temple Sinai, a Reform Jewish congregation, from 2008 to 2014.[54] According to a questionnaire that Rosenstein completed ahead of a hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was a member of a Jewish Community Center‘s sports league from 1993 to 2012.[54] Rosenstein served on the board of directors of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum from 2001 to 2011.[54]

See also

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rod_Rosenstein

Story 2: For 30-60 Million Illegal Aliens in United States — No Amnesty — No Citizenship — No Legal Status –No Pathway to Citizenship — American Citizens Demand Enforcement of All Immigration Laws — Deport and Remove All Illegal Aliens — Trump Will Veto Democratic/Republican Leadership Immigration Bill — Fund $30 Billion To Build 2000 Mile Impenetrable Barrier Along United State/Mexico Border and Veto House Speaker’s Bill — Not One Mile of Wall Built Due Congress Refusal To Fund Wall — American Citizens vs. Political Elitist Establishment — Videos

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How Many Illegal Aliens Are in the US? – Diana Hull, part 1

This is a presentation of five panelists presenting at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C. on October 3, 2007. The presentations are broken into a series of video segments: Wayne Lutton, Introduction: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5KHQR… Diana Hull, part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6WvFW…

Diana Hull, part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYuRNY…

James H Walsh, part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MB0RkV…

James H. Walsh, part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbmdun…

Phil Romero: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_ohvJ…

Fred Elbel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNTJGf…

For complete articles on the topic, see the Summer, 2007 issue of The Social Contract at http://www.TheSocialContract.com.

How Many Illegal Aliens Are in the US? – Diana Hull, part 2

How Many Illegal Aliens Are in the US? – Walsh – 1

How Many Illegal Aliens Are in the US? – Walsh – 2

 

The House is finally going to vote on immigration bills next week

Moderate Republicans gave up on bipartisanship and joined the fight for Republican-led immigration policy.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) was one of the lead moderates behind the discharge petition. Now they are working with leadership instead.
 Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

At 9:40 pm on Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office announced the House will vote on two immigration bills next week, one conservative proposal and one compromise piece of legislation that has yet to be written.

“The House will consider two bills next week that will avert the discharge petition and resolve the border security and immigration issues,” Ryan’s spokesperson AshLee Strong said in a statement Tuesday night.

The news comes on the heel of the movement to get a majority of lawmakers to sign on to a discharge petition, pushed by a group of frustrated moderates and Democrats who want to see action on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA has been tied up in the courts ever since the Trump administration announced last year that it would sunset the program, leaving nearly 700,000 immigrants in limbo. By Tuesday, that petition was only two signatures short of forcing votes on two moderate immigration proposals, a conservative bill, and one up to Ryan to decide.

But moderates, who say they have reached an agreement with conservatives (although the details of that deal are still murky), have thrown in the towel on that push — instead heeding Ryan’s demands to keep the debate within the Republican caucus.

Ryan has desperately wanted to avoid a messy immigration fight that would involve negotiating with Democrats too. So he called together House Republicans last week for a two-hour “family meeting” on immigration policy to show moderates he’s willing to talk meaningfully about DACA and get a majority of the GOP on the same page. Ryan’s strategy worked, in that it stopped the moderate’s revolt. But it’s still not clear what the compromise “deal” is — and whether it will bring Congress any closer to actually passing an immigration bill.

It’s still not clear what the compromise immigration deal is

Ryan says the House will hold two votes on immigration policy. One of those bills will be a conservative proposal by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), which gives temporary status to DACA recipients, makes deep cuts to legal immigration, and boosts interior enforcement. That much is clear. But whatever that second proposal will contain is still up for debate.

Freedom Caucus Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) told Vox that the Freedom Caucus is still negotiating the degree of border security, how to verify the legal status of immigrants, and a “pathway to citizenship, if any.”

“How do you set it up so it’s not definable as any kind of amnesty?” Barton said, noting this was still one of the biggest questions in the Freedom Caucus.

Meanwhile, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), who was one of the lead moderate lawmakers behind the discharge petition, said the differences on policy were small but “important.” He said Ryan’s allies were working with members of the Judiciary Committee to prepare to draft legislation, but that lawmakers were still working off an outline of a compromise. In other words, there is no compromise bill yet, per se.

But there will be votes on something — and that was enough assurance for moderates to drop the discharge petition.

This is a clear win for Paul Ryan

House Republican Leader Paul Ryan And GOP Leadership Address The Media After Weekly Party Conference
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (right) were pushing hard to end the discharge petition.
 Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Immigration has always been tough for Republicans, and President Trump has only escalated the divisions. The White House’s “four pillars” for an immigration bill cover both legal and illegal immigration.

From the beginning, Ryan made it very clear he was not happy with this discharge petition. He said it will cede control of the floor to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi by allowing bills to get through with mostly Democratic support. And he said Trump wouldn’t sign on. Needless to say, a series of contentious votes on a divisive issue like immigration also wouldn’t be a good look for Republicans in a high-stakes election year.

The last signatures on the discharge petition would have triggered votes on the House floor on four bills using an obscure rule called the “queen of the hill.” Under this rule, whichever bill passes by the biggest margin wins. As Vox’s Dara Lind explained, two of the bills that would get votes would give permanent legal status to DACA recipients; the third is a conservative proposal from Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA); and the fourth bill is at Speaker Ryan’s discretion. Because Republicans have such a slim majority, it’s likely the more moderate proposals would pass.

So to take control of the situation, Ryan set out to negotiate a compromise between moderates and conservatives that follows the demands put forward by the White House. In stopping the discharge petition, he has succeeded. In actually making immigration law, there’s a lot up in the air.

The White House framework has already failed in the Senate. The House is ignoring that.

Republican leaders keep saying they want to pass something in the House that can become law. But it’s not clear that this is a step to make that a reality.

Any bill that is going to make it to Trump’s desk has to pass the Senate, where it will need support from Democrats to meet the 60-vote threshold. But looming over this House debate is Congress’s first immigration fight this year — the Senate’s. In February, the Senate struck down three immigration proposals that addressed DACA. The White House-inspired bill, which Ryan is now trying to push in the House, got the fewest votes in the Senate.

At this point, Ryan doesn’t seem to care.

“If I sat around as speaker of the House and thought about what can the United States Senate do, we wouldn’t do anything,” Ryan said. “So we don’t spend our time thinking about votes in the Senate. We spend our time thinking about how we can get consensus here in the House Republican conference and getting bills through the House.”

One senator who has been a central figure in the immigration debate, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), has already said the discharge petition would have been the best path forward.

Asked if he thinks the White House’s “pillars” are tenable in the Senate, he simply said, “No.”

https://www.vox.com/2018/6/12/17456948/house-vote-daca-immigration-trump-republicans

 

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The Pronk Pops Show 1089, June 7, 2018, Story 1: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on U.S,/North Korea Upcoming Summit in Singapore — Videos — Story 2: ZTE and Commerce Department Strike Deal — Videos — Story 3: Trump Lawyers Demand Mueller Show Us Your Authorization Letter — American People vs. Political Elitist Establishment — No One Is Above The Law — Trump Waiting For Outcome of November 2018 Elections To Fire Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Accept Attorney General Jeff Sessions Resignation — Videos

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Pompeo flatly rejected the claim during a rare appearance before White House press, saying, 'Rudy doesn't speak for the administration when it comes to this negotiation, this type of issues'Image result for ZTE and Commerce Department Strike Deal

See the source image

See the source image

Story 1: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on U.S,/North Korea Upcoming Summit in Singapore — Videos —

 

Press Briefing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

 

‘Rudy doesn’t speak for the administration’: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo chides Giuliani for claim that Kim Jong-un ‘got on his hands and knees and begged’ for a nuclear summit

  • Giuliani praised Trump’s threat to cancel the nuclear summit with North Korea
  • President’s lawyer said Kim Jong Un ‘got on his hands and knees and begged’ for the summit to go ahead, which is ‘exactly where you want him’
  • Giuliani said the move proves that Trump is ‘stronger’ and that Kim accepts it
  • North Korea previously threatened to walk away from talks if the US attempted to ‘drive us into a corner’ and force the country to give up its nukes

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in his place on Thursday after the Trump friend made a crude joke about North Korea’s supreme leader.

Giuliani said Kim Jong-un ‘got on his hands and knees and begged’ for the summit with President Trump to go ahead after the U.S. leader cancelled it.

The decision to call the summit off – before putting it back on – humbled Kim, the president’s lawyer said. He added: ‘That is exactly where you want him.’

Pompeo flatly rejected the claim during a rare appearance before White House press, saying, ‘We’re moving forward. We’re focused on the important things. I know Rudy. Uh, but Rudy doesn’t speak for the administration when it comes to this negotiation, this type of issues.’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in his place on Thursday after the Trump friend made a crude joke about North Korea's supreme leader 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in his place on Thursday after the Trump friend made a crude joke about North Korea’s supreme leader

Pompeo flatly rejected the claim during a rare appearance before White House press, saying, 'Rudy doesn't speak for the administration when it comes to this negotiation, this type of issues'

Pompeo flatly rejected the claim during a rare appearance before White House press, saying, ‘Rudy doesn’t speak for the administration when it comes to this negotiation, this type of issues’

Trump is scheduled to meet with Kim on June 12 in Singapore to discuss nuclear disarmament on the Korean Peninsula

Trump is scheduled to meet with Kim on June 12 in Singapore to discuss nuclear disarmament on the Korean Peninsula

Giuliani made the comments while at a conference in Israel, and later stood by them when questioned by the Associated Press.

However, he did add that he was sharing a personal opinion and is not part of Trump’s foreign policy team.

Giulani had said the episode proves Trump ‘is the stronger figure… and you’re not going to have useful negotiations unless [Kim] accepts that’ in his original remarks.

Pompeo took a slap at Giuliani for the remark but also said: ‘I took it as it being a small room and and not being serious about the comments.

‘I think it was a bit in jest,’ said the secretary of state and former Member of Congress.

In response to another question from a reporter, Pompeo refused to say which leader has the ‘upper hand’ heading into the summit.

‘We know this has been a long, intractable challenge. It’s gone on for decades. The president has said repeatedly: Previous administrations weren’t prepared to do what we’ve done already.

‘It’s not about who has the upper hand,’ he stated. ‘It’s about trying to find a way where the two sides can come to an understanding, where we can get concrete steps, not just words, that resolve this challenge.’

Trump is scheduled to meet with Kim on June 12 in Singapore to discuss nuclear disarmament on the Korean Peninsula.

The president surprised allies and enemies alike when he called off the summit two weeks ago, saying he could not tolerate North Korea’s ‘tremendous anger and open hostility’ towards his administration.

North Korea had previously blasted National Security Adviser John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence for suggesting the country follow the ‘Libya model’ of disarmament.

Following Trump’s announcement, the Kim regime said it was still willing ‘to sit down face-to-face with the U.S. and resolve issues anytime and in any format.’

Trump officially said last Friday that it would go ahead as planned.

Giuliani’s statement threatened to derail talks once again, as the North Korean regime is not known for taking insults to its ‘supreme leader’ lightly.

Before threatening to walk away from talks the first time, North Korea had bemoaned American attempts to ‘drive us into a corner’ and force disarmament.

As of Thursday afternoon, however, talks were a go, with a caveat from President Trump that they could always be called off.

‘Things are moving along well. It looks like the meeting is set. The summit is all ready to go, subject always to change. You never know in this world. Subject to change. But the summit is all ready to go,’ the president said.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5818765/Pompeo-says-Giuliani-doesnt-speak-administration-Kim-got-hands-knees.html

 

Story 2: ZTE and Commerce Department Strike Deal — Trump Bad Deal For Security Reasons — Videos —

Trump admin. reaches deal with ZTE Corp.

US and China’s ZTE reach a deal

Trump administration reaches deal with China’s ZTE

ZTE to Pay $1 Billion Fine Over Iran, North Korea Sanctions

ZTE has been a criminial company for many years: Gasparino

Rubio, in challenge to Trump, suggests Congress will act against ZTE

Rubio on whether Trump has reversed course on China

 

US, China reach $1.4 bn ZTE deal amid signs of progress on trade

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who announced a deal to ease sanctions on Chinese firm ZTE, denies any link between that deal and wider trade talks

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who announced a deal to ease sanctions on Chinese firm ZTE, denies any link between that deal and wider trade talks

Washington and Beijing have reached a deal to ease sanctions that brought Chinese smartphone maker ZTE to the brink of collapse, the US said Thursday — a possible indication of progress in fraught trade talks between the world’s two largest economies.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who announced the deal, reiterated a denial that there was any connection between the two.

But the ZTE settlement comes just days after Beijing reportedly offered to ramp up purchases of American goods to help cut the yawning trade imbalance with the United States — moving part-way towards meeting a major demand of US President Donald Trump.

The defusing of tensions with Beijing is good news for Trump, who is preparing to face outraged allies at this week’s Group of Seven summit in Canada, where Europe and Canada will voice their strenuous objections to US steel and metal tariffs.

Not all was rosy — US lawmakers threatened legal action against the ZTE deal, saying the telecoms firm posed an “espionage risk” to the United States in addition to having violated its sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

Ross told CNBC on Thursday the deal was tough and would keep ZTE on a short leash.

“This is a pretty strict settlement — the strictest and largest settlement fine that has ever been brought by the Commerce Department against any violator of export controls,” he said.

In April, Washington banned the sale of crucial US components to the company after finding it had repeatedly lied and failed to take action against workers responsible for the sanctions violations.

The company was fined $1.2 billion last year. But under the deal announced Thursday, ZTE will pay an additional $1 billion penalty and put another $400 million in escrow to cover possible future violations.

ZTE will also be required to change its entire board of directors and hire outside legal compliance specialists who will report to the Commerce Department for 10 years.

In return, Washington will strike the company from a sanctions list.

– Another shoe to drop? –

The deal with ZTE, whose logo is shown on a building in Beijing, comes as the US and China engage in separate and fraught trade talks

The deal with ZTE, whose logo is shown on a building in Beijing, comes as the US and China engage in separate and fraught trade talks

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers threatened to take congressional action that could block or alter the deal, calling ZTE a threat to US national security.

“There is absolutely no good reason that ZTE should get a second chance and this decision marks a 180-degree turn away from the president’s promise to be tough on China,” Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, said in a statement.

“It’s up to Congress now to act to reverse the deal.”

Republican Senator Marco Rubio said: “After today’s decision to give #ZTE a pass, we have introduced a bipartisan amendment to restore penalties on ZTE.”

The clash raised the prospect that Trump’s own Republican party could work to undermine key planks of his trade agenda.

Despite the settlement, there was no sign Trump had veered from plans this month to impose as much as $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports to punish Beijing for its alleged theft of American technology and know-how.

Washington and Beijing have pursued a halting series of trade talks, with Trump demanding a $200 billion reduction in its trade deficit with China.

Ross insisted the ZTE deal was an enforcement matter unrelated to the trade talks, which he has led.

“It happens that I have been involved with the other negotiations with China. But that’s quite separate,” he told CNBC.

But Ross’s denial appeared to conflict with Trump’s own public statements.

In a tweet posted May 14, Trump said the new ZTE deal was “reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China.”

US officials say China last weekend offered to buy an additional $70 billion in US goods to cut the trade deficit — on condition that Trump call off the planned tech-sector tariffs.

William Reinsch, a trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the ZTE offer suggested Beijing had made concessions to Trump on trade but it remained unclear whether these were of equal value.

Beijing’s reported offer to buy $70 billion in goods was “peanuts” compared to the $200 billion cut in the US trade deficit with China that Trump demanded, Reinsch told AFP.

“It’s hard to believe there’s no linkage but Ross clearly left Beijing without anything last weekend,” he said.

“I think there’s another shoe to drop.”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-5817823/US-China-reach-1-4-bn-ZTE-deal-signs-emerge-trade-talks-progres.html

 

US strikes ZTE deal, commerce secretary announces, but congressional critics object

The Trump administration has struck a “definitive” deal with Chinese tech giant ZTE, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced Thursday, over strong congressional objections.

“At about 6:00 A.M. this morning, we executed a definitive agreement with ZTE and that brings, that brings to a conclusion this phase of the developing with them,” Ross said in an interview with CNBC.

According to the Commerce Department, ZTE will be required to pay a $1 billion fine, is replacing its management, and will submit to oversight from the U.S. Commerce Department in order to be relieved of the crippling punishments that had been slapped on the company for its previous evasion of sanctions placed on North Korea and Iran.

“We are literally embedding a compliance department of our choosing into the company to monitor it going forward they will pay for those people but the people will report to the new chairman because we are also having them replace the entire management and the entire board,” Ross said.

Ross had been instructed to look into easing restrictions on ZTE by President Trump, who had received a personal request from Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Ross touted the deal as a victory, saying the administration’s previous strict actions accomplished its goal in that it “brought … a $17 billion company to its knees more or less put them out of business” and that the new agreement is “something I think even more effective.”

He also warned that if the company is caught not complying to the letter of the new agreement, strict punishment will snap into place.

“Now, if they do violate it again, in addition to the billion dollars they’re paying us right up front, we have them put $400 million in escrow so the total deal is a billion 400 million,” Ross said.

Many in Congress, both Republicans and Democrats have strongly opposed how the president was handling the ZTE matter — and blasted the latest twist.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted the “deal with ZTE proves the president just shoots blanks.”

And a leading GOP critic, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted the the deal “will do nothing to keep us safe from coporate and national security espionage.”

 

Story 3: Trump Lawyers Demand Mueller Show Us Your Authorization Letter — American People vs. Political Elitist Establishment — No One Is Above The Law — Trump Waiting For Outcome of November Elections To Fire Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Accept Attorney General Jeff Sessions Resignation — Videos

 

Mark Levin explains why Mueller probe is unconstitutional

Giuliani is throwing gas on fire: Napolitano

Judge Napolitano: Does Trump want Giuliani causing chaos?

Hannity: DOJ trying to bury the inspector general’s report?

Tucker: ‘Mr. Integrity’ Comey left FBI in ethical cloud

Hannity: More phony outrage by anti-Trump groupies

Trump lawyer threatens to take Mueller to court

President cannot be charged with obstruction, Trump’s lawyers say

Trump’s Lawyers Penned Secret 20-Page Letter To Special Counsel Robert Mueller | Sunday TODAY

A secret memo written by President Trump’s legal team has been leaked

Russia probe clouds Trump’s ‘500 days of American greatness’

Memo sent to Mueller by Trump’s lawyers

Rosenstein gave Mueller secret permission to investigate Manafort

Mueller Puts President Trump In Desperate Position; Pardon Spree A Bad Idea | Rachel Maddow | MSNBC

NYT: Trump lawyers make case in memo to Robert Mueller

Hannity: Robert Mueller has officially gone rogue

Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein defends Mueller investigation – Daily Mail

Gowdy presses Deputy AG on possible bias against Trump

Trump testimony could be ‘politically catastrophic:’ Judge Napolitano

 

Special Counsel investigation (2017–present)

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The 2017–present Special Counsel investigation is an ongoing United States law enforcement investigation of Donald Trump‘s 2016 presidential campaign and any Russian (or other foreign) interference in the election, including exploring any possible links or coordination between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, “and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” The scope of the investigation reportedly also includes potential obstruction of justice by President Trump and others.[1] Since May 2017, the investigation has been led by a United States Special CounselRobert Mueller, a former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Mueller’s investigation took over several FBI investigations including those involving former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, both of which started before the 2016 presidential election.[2] Manafort has been indicted on various tax, financial, and bank fraud crimes in October 2017 and faces trial in September 2018.[3] Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI and became a cooperating witness in December 2017.[4] Mueller further secured guilty pleas from Manafort’s business partner Rick Gates, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, Dutch attorney Alex van der Zwaan,[5] and Richard Pinedo,[6]all of who became cooperating witnesses to the probe. In February 2018, Mueller indicted 13 Russian citizens and 3 Russian entities, most notably the Internet Research Agency.[7]

While initially enjoying bipartisan support,[8] the special counsel investigation became subject to fierce criticism by President Trump and his surrogates in the conservative media within months, eventually peddling a “deep state” conspiracy theory.[9] Several allegations of investigators’ misconduct have been raised and were almost immediately debunked, including supposed unlawful wire-tapping of Trump Tower during the campaign,[10][11] unmasking of Trump associates on intelligence intercepts,[12] FISA court abuse against Carter Page detailed in the Nunes memo,[13][14] and the alleged installation of a spy in the Trump campaign.[15][16]

Origin and powers

A January 2017 assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) stated that Russian leadership favored presidential candidate Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, and that Russian president Vladimir Putin personally ordered an “influence campaign” to harm Clinton’s electoral chances and “undermine public faith in the US democratic process.”[17]:7 It is alleged that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in order to increase political instability in the United States and to damage Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign by bolstering the candidacies of Donald TrumpBernie Sanders and Jill Stein.[18][19]

The Deputy Attorney GeneralRod Rosenstein, appointed Mueller, a former Director of the FBI, to serve as Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) in May 2017. The reference for the investigation is to examine Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, including exploring any links or coordination between Donald Trump‘s 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government, “and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”,[20] and any other matters within the scope of 28 CFR 600.4 – Jurisdiction.[21]

The appointment followed a series of events that included President Donald Trump‘s firing of FBI director James Comey and Comey’s allegation that Trump asked him to drop an FBI investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.[22]

Rosenstein, in his role as Acting Attorney General due to the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has authority over the use of DOJ resources by Mueller and the investigation. In an interview with the Associated Press, Rosenstein said he would recuse himself from supervision of Mueller if he himself were to become a subject in the investigation due to his role in the dismissal of Comey.[23] If Rosenstein were to recuse himself, his duties in this matter would have been assumed by the Justice Department’s third-in-command, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, who has since herself stepped down.[24] So long as no successor fills that office, Solicitor General Noel Francisco assumes the authorities of Associate Attorney General.[25]

As special counsel, Mueller has the power to issue subpoenas,[26] hire staff members, request funding, and prosecute federal crimes in connection with the election interference.[27] According to Rudy Giuliani, who is leading President Trump’s legal team, Mueller’s team told him that they cannot indict a sitting president; they can only write a report at the conclusion of the investigation. The decision aligns with Justice Department guidelines that say a sitting president cannot be indicted. Giuliani also added that he believes the Constitutionprevents indictment of a sitting president.[28] However, this remains an unsettled matter of Constitutional law.[29][30][31][32]

Grand juries

On August 3, 2017, Mueller empaneled a grand jury in Washington, DC, as part of his investigation. The grand jury has the power to subpoena documents, require witnesses to testify under oath, and issue indictments for targets of criminal charges if probable cause is found.

The Washington grand jury is separate from an earlier Virginia grand jury investigating Michael Flynn; the Flynn case has been absorbed into Mueller’s overall investigation.[33]

Grand jury testimony

The grand jury has issued subpoenas to those involved in the Trump campaign–Russian meeting held on June 9, 2016, at Trump Tower, which was also the location of Trump’s presidential campaign headquarters.[34]

NBC News reported on August 25, 2017, that “in recent days” the grand jury subpoenaed witness testimony from the executives of six public relations firms, who worked with Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on lobbying efforts in Ukraine.[41]

On January 16, 2018, The New York Times reported that Steve Bannon was subpoenaed by Mueller to testify before the standing grand jury in Washington, DC.[42] Reuters and CNN reported the next day that Bannon had struck a deal with Mueller’s team to be interviewed by prosecutors instead of testifying before the grand jury.[43][44] On February 15, 2018, multiple sources reported that those interviews had taken place over multiple days that week.[45][46][47]

Legal teams

Mueller and investigation team

Special Counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller

Upon his appointment as special counsel, Mueller resigned his position at the Washington office of law firm WilmerHale, along with two colleagues, Aaron Zebley and James L. Quarles III.[48][49] On May 23, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts announced they had declared Mueller ethically able to function as special counsel.[50]

Politico proposed that the “ideal team” would likely have six to eight prosecutors, along with administrative assistants and experts in areas such as money laundering or interpreting tax returns.[51] Mueller had hired 16 lawyers,[52] and had a total staff of over three dozen, including investigators and other non-attorneys by August 2017.[53] He also has an active role in managing the inquiry.[54]

Members of the team include:

Mueller has also added unidentified agents of the IRS Criminal Investigations Division to his team. “This unit—known as CI—is one of the federal government’s most tight-knit, specialized, and secretive investigative entities. Its 2,500 agents focus exclusively on financial crime, including tax evasion and money laundering. A former colleague of Mueller’s said he always liked working with IRS’ special agents, especially when he was a U.S. Attorney.”[76]

Mueller’s team is also working with the Attorney General of New York, on its investigation into Manafort’s financial transactions.[77]

Though Trump and others have criticized the fact that many members of Mueller’s team have had some affiliation with the Democratic Party, federal regulations prohibit Mueller from considering political affiliation in hiring decisions.[78] Republican members of the House of Representatives have accused the investigation of being manned by personnel with an “anti-Trump” bias who “let Clinton off easy last year”, in reference to the FBI’s investigation of Hilary Clinton’s email server.[79]

Between May and September 2017, the federal government spent $6.7 million on the investigation. Nearly half of that amount was spent by Mueller.[80]

Trump’s legal team

Members of President Trump’s legal team include:[81]

Representing the White House

Representing Trump personally

Former members include:

  • Michael Bowe: an attorney at Marc Kasowitz’s firm[49]
  • Mark Corallo, spokesman for Kasowitz and the White House defense; resigned on July 20, 2017.[91]
  • John M. Dowd, former leader of the team;[92][93] joined in June 2017; resigned on March 22, 2018.[94]
  • Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s personal attorney and the first member of the team; resigned on July 20, 2017.[95][91]
  • Ty Cobb: a white-collar crime lawyer;[91][92] was on White House staff representing the office of the presidency and was not on Trump’s personal legal team.[96] He joined in June 2017[81] and announced on May 2, 2018 that he would leave the team with the appointment of Emmet Flood to replace him.[82] Cobb’s last day was May 18, 2018.

Prominent lawyers and law firms that have declined offers to join Trump’s legal team:

In an article describing the “unique circumstance” of Rudy Giuliani‘s unpaid leave of absence from Greenberg Traurig while representing Trump, possibly because of “potential conflicts”, Christine Simmons referred to how some other law firms may have turned down representing Trump in the Russia case due to “public relations headaches or business and recruitment concerns”.[86] Trump has called such views a “Fake News narrative”,[97][98] but, according to Ryan Lovelace, “many Washington defense attorneys aren’t so sure”.[98]

A number of prominent lawyers and law firms are known to have declined offers to join Trump’s legal team,[99][100] including Robert S. Bennett of Hogan Lovells,[101] Paul Clement and Mark Filip, both with Kirkland & Ellis,[102][102] Robert Giuffra Jr. of Sullivan & Cromwell,[101] Theodore B. Olson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher,[103] and Brendan V. Sullivan Jr. of Williams & Connolly.[102] Other firms with attorneys who have declined to represent Trump include Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan,[104] Steptoe & Johnson,[104] and Winston & Strawn.[105] Former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova and his wife Victoria Toensing were also briefly slated to join Trump’s legal team, but withdrew their services from Trump in March 2018, citing conflicts of interest.[106]

Others

James Comey, whose assertions regarding statements made by Trump are central to the investigation, has a legal team including former independent counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.[107]

Topics

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, serving as Acting Attorney General due to the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, authorized Mueller to investigate and prosecute “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” and any other matters within the scope of 28 CFR 600.4 – Jurisdiction.[21][108]

Russian election interference

Internet Research Agency indictment

In July 2016, the FBI began looking into Russian interference, as well as the question of whether members of the Trump campaign might have coordinated or cooperated with Russia’s activities.[109] Those investigations became part of the Special Counsel’s portfolio.[110]

U.S. intelligence agencies in January 2017 concluded “with high confidence” that the Russian government interfered in the election by hacking into the computer servers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the personal Gmail account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and forwarded their contents to WikiLeaks,[111][112][113] as well as by disseminating fake news promoted on social media,[114] and by penetrating, or trying to penetrate, the election systems and databases of multiple U.S. states.[115] NBC News reported on March 1, 2018, that Mueller is assembling a case for criminal charges against Russians who carried out the hacking and leaking.[116]

Russia’s influence on U.S. voters through social media is a primary focus of the Mueller investigation.[117] Mueller used a search warrant to obtain detailed information about Russian ad purchases on Facebook. According to a former federal prosecutor, the warrant means that a judge was convinced that foreigners had illegally contributed to influencing a US election via Facebook ads.[118]

In a February 13, 2018, testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the heads of the top six American intelligence agencies unanimously reaffirmed Russian interference. Three sources familiar with Trump’s thinking told CNN he remains unconvinced that Russia interfered because it suggests he didn’t win the election solely on his own merits.[119]

Links between Trump associates and Russian officials

As early as spring 2015, US intelligence agencies started overhearing conversations in which Russian government officials, some within the Kremlin, discussed associates of Trump, then a presidential candidate.[120][121]

The New York Times reported on February 14, 2017, that phone records and communications intercepts showed that Trump associates—including members of the Trump campaign—had “repeated contacts” with senior Russian intelligence officials during the 2016 campaign. Paul Manafort was the only Trump associate who was specifically identified as participating in these communications.[122] In addition, some senior Trump associates, including Kushner, Trump Jr., Sessions, Flynn and Manafort, had direct contacts with Russian officials during 2016. Michael Flynn was forced to resign as National Security Advisor on February 13, 2017, after it was revealed that on December 29, 2016, the day that Obama announced sanctions against Russia, Flynn had discussed the sanctions with Russian ambassador Kislyak. Flynn had earlier acknowledged speaking to Kislyak but denied discussing the sanctions.[123][124] Also in December 2016, Flynn and presidential advisor Jared Kushner met with Kislyak hoping to set up a direct, secure line of communication with Russian officials that American intelligence agencies would be unaware of.[125][126] Jared Kushner also met with Sergei Gorkov, the head of the Russian state-owned bank Vnesheconombank (VEB), which has been subject to U.S. economic sanctions since July 2014.[127][128] Flynn and Kushner failed to report these meetings on their security clearance forms.[129][128]

The Trump Organization pursued a luxury hotel and condominium project in Moscow—dubbed the Trump World Tower Moscow—during the early months of the Trump presidential campaign. This project was facilitated by Michael Cohen, then an attorney for the Trump Organization and since January 2017 Trump’s personal attorney. Trump signed a nonbinding “letter of intent” dated October 13, 2015, to proceed with the project.[130] The letter, also signed by Russian investor Andrei Rozov, was forwarded to Cohen by Russian-American real estate developer Felix Sater, who had worked with The Trump Organization on prior deals, including Trump SoHo and Trump International Hotel & Residence. Sater has also been involved in criminal activities involving organized crime and has served as an informant to the FBI relating to those activities.[131] He boasted to Cohen about his connections to Vladimir Putin, saying in an email to Cohen on November 13, 2015, “Buddy our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins [sic] team to buy in on this. I will manage this process.” He also asserted that he had secured financing for the project through the Russian state-owned VTB Bank, which was under sanctions by the United States government. Cohen emailed Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov in January 2016 to request assistance in advancing the project and later stated he didn’t recall receiving a response. The deal was abandoned that month. Buzzfeed reported on March 12, 2018, that Mueller’s investigators had questioned Sater[132] and on April 13, 2018, reported that a former Russian spy had helped secure financing for the project.[133] In 2010 Sater was provided business cards describing himself as “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump” with an email address at TrumpOrg.com.[134] In a 2013 sworn affidavit, Trump said “If [Sater] were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like,”[135] and in 2015 he stated “Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it. I’m not that familiar with him.”[136]

The Trump team issued multiple denials of any contacts between Trump associates and Russia, but many of those denials turned out to be false.[137][138] On December 4, 2017, prosecutors filed that Paul Manafort worked on an op-ed with a Russian intelligence official while out on bail, in a court filing requesting that the judge revoke Manafort’s bond agreement.[139]

The New York Times reported on March 28, 2018, that former Trump campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates in October/September 2016 frequently communicated with a man the FBI believes is a former agent of GRU, Russia’s largest foreign intelligence agency, and who had maintained active links with Russian intelligence during these communications. This disclosure came in a court sentencing document for Alex van der Zwaan submitted by Robert Mueller. Identified in the document as “Person A,” The Times reported that the man matched the description of Konstantin Kilimnik who for years was Paul Manafort‘s “right-hand man” in Ukraine. Gates reportedly told an associate that he knew “Person A” was a former GRU agent, although Manafort told associates he was not aware of such a connection.[140]

Reuters reported on March 29, 2018, that the special counsel is examining an event at the 2016 Republican National Convention at which Jeff Sessions had conversations with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. Investigators are also looking into how and why language deemed hostile to Russia was removed from the Republican party’s platform document during the convention. Mueller’s office is also inquiring whether Sessions had private conversations with Kislyak at a Trump speech at the Mayflower Hotel in April 2016.[141] Some have noted that Kislyak was a familiar presence in Washington social circles, routinely meeting with members of Congress and making appearances at various conferences.

The Steele dossier asserted that Trump attorney Michael Cohen in August 2016 had a clandestine meeting with Kremlin representatives in Prague. Cohen has stated he has never been to Prague, inviting investigators to examine his passport.[142] McClatchy reported on April 13, 2018, that Mueller’s investigators have evidence that in August or early September 2016 Cohen traveled to Prague by way of Germany. Such a trip would not have required a passport as Germany and the Czech Republic are in the Schengen Area which has abolished passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders.[143] On April 14, 2018, Cohen again denied he had ever been to Prague.[144]

Alleged collusion between Trump campaign and Russian agents

Mueller is looking into the meeting on June 9, 2016, in Trump Tower in New York City between three senior members of Trump’s presidential campaign—Kushner, Manafort, and Donald Trump Jr.—and at least five other people, including Russian lawyer Natalia VeselnitskayaRinat Akhmetshin, a lobbyist and former Soviet army officer who met senior Trump campaign aides, Ike Kaveladze, British publicist Rob Goldstone, and translator Anatoli Samochornov.[145][146] Goldstone had suggested the meeting to Trump Jr., and it was arranged in a series of emails later made public. In one email exchange of June 3, 2016, Goldstone wrote Trump Jr. that Aras Agalarov “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” adding that it was “very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” that he could send to Donald Trump’s assistant Rhona Graff. Trump Jr. responded minutes later “Thanks Rob I appreciate that” and “if it’s what you say I love it.”[147] Trump Jr. initially told the press that the meeting was held to discuss adoptions of Russian children by Americans, but after contrary media reports he added that he agreed to the meeting with the understanding that he would receive information damaging to Hillary Clinton.[148] Mueller’s team is investigating the emails and the meeting,[145] and whether President Trump later tried to hide the meeting’s purpose.[149] On July 18, 2017, Kaveladze’s attorney said that Mueller’s investigators were seeking information about the Russian meeting in June 2016 from his client,[150] and on July 21, Mueller asked the White House to preserve all documents related to the Russian meeting.[151] It has been reported that Manafort had made notes during the Russian meeting.[152]

CNN reported on March 23, 2017 that the FBI was examining “human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings” indicating that Trump associates may have coordinated with “suspected Russian operatives” to release information damaging to the Hillary Clinton campaign.[153]

By August 3, 2017, Mueller had impaneled a grand jury in the District of Columbia that issued subpoenas concerning the meeting.[154] The Financial Times reported on August 31 that Akhmetshin had given sworn testimony to Mueller’s grand jury.[155]

CNN reported on September 19, 2017 that Manafort had been a target of a FISA wiretap both before and after the 2016 election, extending into early 2017. Some of the intercepted communications caused concerns among investigators that Manafort had solicited assistance from Russians for the campaign, although the evidence was reportedly inconclusive. The wiretaps began sometime after Manafort became a subject of an FBI investigation into his business practices in 2014. The Mueller investigation was provided details of these intercepts.[156]

Mueller is investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Republican activist Peter W. Smith, who stated that he tried to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers, and that he was acting on behalf of Michael Flynn and other senior Trump campaign members. Trump campaign officials have denied that Smith was working with them.[157] In fall 2017, Mueller’s team interviewed former Government Communications Headquarters cybersecurity researcher Matt Tait, who had been approached by Smith to verify the authenticity of emails allegedly hacked from Clinton’s private email server.[158] Tait reportedly told House Intelligence Committee investigators in October 2017 that he believed Smith had ties to members of Trump’s inner circle—including Flynn, Steve Bannon, and Kellyanne Conway—and may have been helping build opposition research for the Trump campaign.[159] Smith committed suicide in May 2017, several days after talking to The Wall Street Journal about his alleged efforts. Aged 81 and reportedly in failing health, he left a carefully prepared file of documents, including a statement police called a suicide note.[160] An attorney for Smith’s estate said in October 2017 that some of Smith’s documents had been turned over to the Senate Intelligence Committee.[161]

In December 2017, it was reported that the Mueller investigation was examining whether the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, who worked together on the digital arm of Trump’s campaign, provided assistance to Russian trolls attempting to influence voters.[162][163] Yahoo News reported that Mueller’s team is examining whether the joint RNC–Trump campaign data operation—which was directed on Trump’s side by Brad Parscale and managed by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner—was related to the activities of Russian trolls and bots aimed at influencing the American electorate.[164] Also that month, the Democratic ranking members of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees asked their respective Republican chairmen to subpoena two of the data firms hired by Trump’s campaign for documents related to Russia’s election interference, including the firm headed by Parscale.[165][166] On February 27, 2018, Trump selected Parscale to serve as campaign manager on his 2020 reelection campaign.[167] NBC News reported on February 28, 2018, that Mueller’s investigators are asking witnesses pointed questions about whether Trump was aware that Democratic emails had been stolen before that was publicly known, and whether he was involved in their strategic release. This is the first reported indication that Mueller’s investigation is specifically examining whether Trump was personally involved in collusive activities.[168] Mueller’s investigators have also asked about the relationship between Roger Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and why Trump took policy positions favorable to Russia. Stone, a longtime Republican “dirty trickster” and Trump confidant[169] has repeatedly discussed his backchannel communications with Assange and claimed knowledge of forthcoming leaks from Wikileaks.[170] He also exchanged Twitter private messages with Guccifer 2.0, which American intelligence has connected to two Russian intelligence groups that cybersecurity analysts have concluded hacked Democratic National Committee emails.[171] Reuters reported on May 16, 2018 that Mueller’s office had the prior week subpoenaed Stone’s social media strategist, Jason Sullivan, to testify before a grand jury on May 18 and to provide documents, objects and electronically stored information.[172] Reuters reported the next day that John Kakanis, Stone’s driver, accountant and operative, had also been subpoenaed.[173] Investigators have also focused on Trump’s public comments in July 2016 asking Russia to find emails that were deleted from Hillary Clinton’s private email server. At a news conference on July 27, 2016, days after WikiLeaks began publishing the Democratic National Committee emails, Trump said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”[174]

After a “testy March 5 meeting, Mueller’s team agreed to provide the president’s lawyers with more specific information about the subjects that prosecutors wished to discuss with the president.” Then Jay Sekulow “compiled a list of 49 questions that the team believed the president would be asked…. The New York Times first reported the existence of the list.”[175]

On April 30, 2018 The New York Times published a list of interview questions for Trump that the Mueller investigation had provided to the president’s attorneys. The list was provided to The Times by an individual outside Trump’s legal team. Among the questions was, “What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?” Prior to this disclosure, there had been no publicly available information indicating any such outreach. The Times noted that the questions were not quoted verbatim and in some cases were condensed.[176]

The New York Times reported on May 15, 2018 that Trump campaign policy aide and later White House Deputy Cabinet Secretary John Mashburn testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee in March 2018 that he recalled receiving an email from George Papadopoulos in the first half of 2016 indicating that the Russian government had damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Prior to this report, there had been no publicly available information indicating that Papadopoulos had informed anyone on the Trump campaign about such matters. Despite an extensive search for the purported email by various investigators, it has not been located.[177] A court document[178] Mueller’s office filed in association with Papadopoulos’s guilty plea included verbatim quotes from various emails Papadopoulos had sent or received, but the Mashburn email was not referenced in that document.

Obstruction of justice

Early in Trump’s presidency, senior White House officials reportedly asked intelligence officials if they could intervene with the FBI to stop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Flynn.[179] In March, Trump reportedly discussed the FBI’s Russia investigation with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and asked if they could intervene with Comey to limit or stop it.[180] When he was asked at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the report, Coats said he would not discuss conversations he had with the president but “I have never felt pressured to intervene in the Russia investigation in any way.”[181] Prior to being appointed Director of National Intelligence by Trump, Coats had been an elected Republican politician since 1981, serving in both the House and Senate.[182]

In February 2017, it was reported that White House officials had asked the FBI to issue a statement that there had been no contact between Trump associates and Russian intelligence sources during the 2016 campaign.

Ex-FBI-Director James Comey memo

The FBI did not make the requested statement, and observers noted that the request violated established procedures about contact between the White House and the FBI regarding pending investigations.[183] After Comey revealed in March that the FBI was investigating the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Trump phoned Coats and Director of National Security Admiral Michael S. Rogers and asked them to publicly state there was no evidence of collusion between his campaign and the Russians.[179][184][185] Both Coats and Rogers believed that the request was inappropriate, though not illegal, and did not make the requested statement. The two exchanged notes about the incident, and Rogers made a contemporary memo to document the request.[184][185] The White House effort to push back publicly on the Russia probe reportedly also included requests to senior lawmakers with access to classified intelligence about Russia, including Senator Richard Burr and Representative Devin Nunes, the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees, respectively.[186]

In May 2017 it was reported that Comey took contemporaneous notes immediately after an Oval Office conversation with Trump on February 14, 2017, in which Trump is described as attempting to persuade Comey to drop the FBI investigation into Flynn.[187][188] The memo notes that Trump said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Comey made no commitments to Trump on the subject. The White House denied the version of events in the memo, but an FBI agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.[189] In testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, Comey gave a detailed report on the February 14 conversation, including Trump’s suggestion that he should “let go” the Flynn investigation. Comey said he “took it as a direction… I took it as, this is what he wants me to do.” He added that it was “a very disturbing thing, very concerning”, and that he discussed the incident with other FBI leaders.[190] Comey created similar memos about all nine conversations he had with the president.[191] Mueller’s office has the Comey memos, but on February 2, 2018, a federal judge denied multiple Freedom of Information Act requests to make the documents public, at least for now.[192]

The FBI launched an investigation of Trump for obstruction of justice a few days after the May 9 firing of Comey.[193] The special prosecutor’s office took over the obstruction of justice investigation and has reportedly interviewed Director of National Intelligence Coats, Director of the National Security Agency Rogers, and Deputy Director of the NSA Richard Ledgett.[193][194][195] ABC News reported in June that Mueller was gathering preliminary information about possible obstruction of justice, but a full-scale investigation had not been launched.[196] On June 16, Trump tweeted: “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.”[197] However, Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow said Trump’s tweet was referring to the June 14 Washington Post report that he was under investigation for obstruction of justice,[193] and that Trump has not actually been notified of any investigation.[198][199]

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times reported on September 20, 2017, that Mueller’s office had requested information from the White House regarding an Oval Office meeting President Trump had with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on May 10, 2017, during which Trump reportedly said that firing Comey had relieved “great pressure” on him.[200][201][202]

On January 23, 2018, The Washington Post reported that Robert Mueller sought to question President Donald Trump about the Flynn and Comey departures.[203]

The Washington Post also reported on January 23, 2018, that Mueller’s office is interested in a May 2017 Oval Office conversation between Trump and Andrew McCabe, days after McCabe had automatically become acting director of the FBI when Trump dismissed Comey, allegedly for not pledging loyalty to the president. During this conversation, Trump reportedly asked McCabe for whom he had voted in the 2016 presidential election. McCabe, a lifelong Republican,[204] replied that he had not voted in that election.[205] On January 24, 2018, Trump denied—or did not remember—asking McCabe about his vote.[206] Like Comey, McCabe also took contemporaneous notes of his conversations with Trump, which are reportedly now in the possession of Mueller’s office.[207]

The New York Times reported on January 23, 2018, that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned the preceding week by Mueller’s investigators.[208] Trump previously expressed frustration that Sessions had recused himself from the investigation and not prevented a Special Counsel from being appointed, stating that he would not have appointed Sessions had he known that would happen.[209] Multiple episodes have been reported in which Trump has threatened to dismiss Sessions, or Sessions has tendered his resignation.[210][211] The Washington Post reported on February 28, 2018, that the Mueller investigation has been examining a period of time during the summer of 2017 when Trump seemed determined to drive Sessions from his job, to determine “whether those efforts were part of a months-long pattern of attempted obstruction of justice.”[212] Sessions’ departure would allow Trump to appoint another attorney general who is not restrained by recusal. The New York Times reported on May 29, 2018 that the Mueller investigation is examining a previously unreported March 2017 episode when Trump attempted to persuade Sessions to reverse his recusal, suggesting that the investigation into possible obstruction of justice was broader than previously understood. The questions Mueller’s office had previously provided Trump’s attorneys for an interview with the president included, “What efforts did you make to try to get [Sessions] to change his mind [about recusal]?”[213][214]

USA Today and The New York Times reported on January 31, 2018, that Mueller’s office is expected to question Mark Corallo, the former spokesman for President Trump’s legal team, about his reported concerns that the president and his longtime aide Hope Hicks might have sought to obstruct justice. Corallo reportedly plans to tell investigators that Hicks told President Trump on a conference call that the Trump Jr. emails regarding his meeting with Russians “will never get out.” Hicks’ attorney denied the allegation.[215][216] Mueller’s investigators reportedly interviewed Hicks in early December 2017.[217] Corallo had resigned from the Trump team in July 2017, reportedly because he became concerned that the president had obstructed justice.[218]

Bloomberg News reported on March 12, 2018, that the obstruction of justice aspect of the investigation is near completion and that Mueller may set it aside to conclude other aspects, such as collusion and hacking.[219]

The New York Times reported on March 28, 2018, that in 2017, as the Mueller investigation was building its cases against Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, former Trump attorney John M. Dowd broached the idea of presidential pardons of the men with their attorneys. The Times reported this might have indicated concerns by Trump’s legal team about what the men might reveal to investigators if they agreed to cooperate with the investigation in exchange for leniency. Although legal opinions vary as to whether this discussion alone would constitute obstruction of justice, prosecutors might present it as part of a pattern of activity that points to a conspiracy to thwart the investigation.[220] CBS News reported on March 28, 2018, that Manafort is declining a plea deal and proceeding to trial because he is expecting a pardon from Trump, citing “legal sources with knowledge of his strategy.”[221]

Superseding indictment of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates alleging tax evasion and bank fraud.

In a January 2018 letter to Mueller, Trump’s attorneys asserted that Trump cannot unlawfully obstruct justice because the Constitution grants him full authority over all federal investigations and he can “if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon.”[222][223]

Financial investigations

The Special Counsel investigation has expanded to include Trump’s and his associates’ financial ties to Russia. The FBI is reviewing the financial records of Trump himself, The Trump Organization, Trump’s family members, and his campaign staff, including Trump’s real estate activities, which had been under federal scrutiny before the campaign. According to CNN, financial crimes may be easier for investigators to prove than any crimes stemming directly from collusion with Russia.[53] Campaign staff whose finances are under investigation include Manafort, Flynn, Carter Page, and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. At a New York real estate conference in September 2008, Donald Trump Jr. stated: “And in terms of high-end product influx into the US, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”[224][225] McClatchy reported on April 6, 2018, that Mueller’s investigators that week arrived unannounced at the home of an unnamed business associate of the Trump Organization who had worked on foreign deals for the company in recent years. The investigators had warrants for electronic records and to compel sworn testimony, and were reported to be particularly interested in transactions involving Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen.[226]

Transactions under investigation include Russian purchases of Trump apartments, a SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, transactions with the Bank of Cyprus, real estate financing organized by Kushner, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion for $30 million over its appraised value to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev.[227][228] The special counsel team has contacted Deutsche Bank, which is the main banking institution doing business with The Trump Organization.[229] The Wall Street Journal reported on December 6, 2017, that Deutsche Bank received a subpoena from Mueller’s office earlier that fall concerning people or entities affiliated with President Trump.[230] The original Journal story incorrectly reported that Trump’s records had been subpoenaed, which The New York Times reported on April 10, 2018, prompted Trump to tell his advisers “in no uncertain terms” that the Mueller investigation must be shut down, before Mueller’s office advised his attorneys the report was inaccurate.[231]

Kushner Properties—from which Jared Kushner resigned as CEO in early 2017 to serve as a senior advisor in the Trump White House—purchased the office tower located at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan in 2007, just before Manhattan real estate prices fell in the Great Recession. The property has since experienced financial difficulties that the company has been attempting to resolve with new financing, without success, before the property’s $1.2 billion mortgage comes due in February 2019. This effort has reportedly been complicated by Trump’s election, which has caused potential lenders to avoid appearances of conflicts of interest.[232] The matter has raised the interest of investigators who are looking at Kushner’s December 2016 meeting with Sergei Gorkov, who said in a statement issued by his bank that he met with Kushner in his capacity as the then-chief executive of Kushner Properties,[233] while Kushner assured Congress in a July 24, 2017, statement that the meeting did not involve “any discussion about my companies, business transactions, real estate projects, loans, banking arrangements or any private business of any kind.”[232] CNN reported on February 20, 2018, that Mueller’s investigation has expanded beyond Kushner’s contacts with Russia and now includes his efforts to secure financing for Kushner Properties from other foreign investors during the presidential transition.[234]

Mueller took over an existing money laundering investigation into former Trump campaign chairman Manafort. On October 30, 2017, a federal grand jury indicted Manafort and his associate Rick Gates on charges including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, being an unregistered agent of foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, and false statements.[235] Manafort’s financial activities are also being investigated by the Senate and House intelligence committees, the New York Attorney General, and the Manhattan District Attorney.[236]

The Special Counsel will be able to access Trump’s tax returns, which has “especially disturbed” Trump according to The Washington Post. Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, as presidential candidates normally do, has been politically controversial since his presidential campaign.[237]

The Special Counsel is also investigating whether the Central Bank of Russia’s deputy governor, Aleksandr Torshin, illegally funneled money through the National Rifle Association to benefit Trump’s campaign.[238] On May 16, 2018, the Senate Judiciary Committeereleased a report[239] stating it had obtained “a number of documents that suggest the Kremlin used the National Rifle Association as a means of accessing and assisting Mr. Trump and his campaign” through Torshin and his assistant Maria Butina, and that “The Kremlin may also have used the NRA to secretly fund Mr. Trump’s campaign.”[240] The NRA reported spending $30 million to support the Trump campaign—triple what they devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors. Torshin, a lifetime NRA member, reportedly sought to broker a meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin in May 2016, but was rebuffed by Kushner. Torshin claims to have met with Trump at a Nashville NRA event in April 2015; he tweeted about the encounter in August, saying that Trump is “a proponent of traditional family values”.[241] Torshin spoke with Donald Trump Jr. during a gala event at the NRA’s national gathering in Kentucky in May 2016, which Trump Jr.’s attorney Alan Futerfas characterized as “all gun-related small talk.” Spanish authorities have implicated Torshin in money laundering and have described him as a “godfather” in Taganskaya, a major Russian criminal organization.[238][242]

CNN reported on April 4, 2018, that Mueller’s investigators have been examining whether Russian oligarchs directly or indirectly provided illegal cash donations to the Trump campaign and inauguration. At least one oligarch was detained and his electronic devices searched as he arrived at a New York area airport on his private jet; subsequent reporting by The New York Times appeared to identify the man as Viktor Vekselberg.[243] Another oligarch was also detained on a recent trip to the United States, but it is unclear if he was searched. Investigators reportedly have also asked a third oligarch who has not traveled to the United States to voluntarily provide documents and an interview. CNN reported that investigators are examining whether oligarchs invested in American companies or think tanks having political action committees connected to the campaign, as well as money funneled through American straw donors to the Trump campaign and inaugural fund.[244]

Prosecution’s statement of Michael Flynn‘s offense

The New York Times reported on April 9, 2018, that the Mueller investigation is examining a $150,000 donation Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian billionaire, made in September 2015 to the Donald J. Trump Foundation in exchange for a 20-minute appearance Trump made via video link to a conference in Kiev. This transaction came to light in documents the Trump Organization provided to investigators pursuant to a subpoena earlier in 2018. The donation, the largest the Foundation received in 2015 other than from Trump himself, was solicited by his attorney, Michael Cohen. The Times reported that the subpoena had demanded “documents, emails and other communications about several Russians, including some whose names have not been publicly tied to Mr. Trump.”[245]

Cohen raids

On April 9, 2018, based on a referral to United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) from the special counsel, the FBI raided the New York City office, residence, hotel suite, and safe-deposit boxes of Michael Cohen, seizing records related to several topics.[246] The FBI seized Cohen’s computers, phones, and personal financial records, including tax returns, as part of the no-knock raid on his office in 30 Rockefeller Plaza.[247]CNN cited unnamed sources saying the search warrant was “very broad in terms of items sought” and that it included bank records.[248]

The warrant was personally approved by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and carried out by the public corruption unit of the SDNY. Geoffrey Berman, the interim head of the SDNY, was recused from the matter; a Trump appointee, he had worked as a volunteer attorney on the Trump campaign.[249] Further, due to the sensitive nature of the raid and the attorney–client privilege, a special “taint” team is required to review the documents to carefully separate out privileged and protected documents that may have been seized in the raid to ensure those inadmissible documents are not passed on to investigators.[246] Legal blogger and former federal prosecutor Ken White of Popehat published a New York Times op-ed giving some background on the DOJ procedures required to approve such a raid, saying the search “suggests that the prosecutors believe they can convince a judge that communications between Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen fall under the crime-fraud exception” of attorney-client privilege. It called the raid “highly dangerous” for both Cohen and Trump.[250] White posted further analysis on Popehat,[251]citing section 9-13.320 [sic] [recte 9-13.420] of the United States Attorneys’ Manual, which sets the guidelines and regulations for searches of attorney premises.[252]

Lobbyists

In August 2017, Mueller’s team issued grand jury subpoenas to officials in six firms, including lobbying firm Podesta Group and Mercury LLC with regard to activities on behalf of a public-relations campaign for a pro-Russian Ukrainian organization called European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. The public relations effort was headed by Paul Manafort, and took place from 2012 to 2014.[253][254][255][256] Tony Podesta, brother of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, is head of the Podesta Group. John Podesta is not employed by the company. Mercury LLC is headed by Vin Weber, a former GOP congressman.[257] Mueller is investigating whether the firms violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The Podesta Group announced in November 2017 that it would be permanently closing, with many of its employees moving to Cogent Strategies, a new firm founded by Podesta Group CEO Kimberley Fritts.[258]

Trump as a subject of investigation

From the beginning of his presidency Trump has requested assurances that that he is not personally under investigation. FBI Director Comey told him so privately on three occasions but refused to make a public comment to that effect.[259] In his letter dismissing Comey, Trump thanked Comey for “informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.”[259][260] Comey later confirmed that this was true.[261]

In March 2018, Mueller’s office reportedly informed Trump’s attorneys that the president is not a “criminal target” but remains a “subject” of the continuing investigation. Trump’s advisers were reported to be split in their interpretation of this, with some believing it was an indication that his legal exposure was low, while others expressed concern that Mueller was inducing him to agree to a personal interview, which his attorneys have discouraged him from doing for fear he might perjure himself and thus change his status from subject to target. The Post reported that Mueller also advised the attorneys that he is “preparing a report about the president’s actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice.”[262] The Post referenced Justice Department guidelines,[263] which explain:

A “target” is a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.
A “subject” of an investigation is a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation.

Trump told reporters on January 24, 2018, that he was “looking forward” to testifying under oath to the Mueller investigation, perhaps in “two or three weeks,” but added that it was “subject to my lawyers and all of that.”[264]The Wall Street Journal reported on February 25, 2018, that Trump’s lawyers are considering ways for him to testify, provided the questions he faces are limited in scope and do not test his recollections in ways that amount to a potential perjury trap. Among options they are considering are providing written answers to Mueller’s questions and having the president give limited face-to-face testimony.[265] The Washington Post reported on March 19, 2018, that Trump’s attorneys provided Mueller’s office “written descriptions that chronicle key moments under investigation in hopes of curtailing the scope of a presidential interview.”.[266] In May 2018, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Politico that Mueller’s team has rejected the proposal of providing a written testimony instead of an oral interview.[267]

Other topics

CNN reported on February 27, 2018, that Mueller’s investigators have recently been asking witnesses about Trump’s activities in Russia prior to the campaign, including the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow; unsuccessful discussions to build a Trump Tower Moscow; and the possibility of compromising information that Russians may have or claim to have about Trump.[268]

The Intercept reported on March 2, 2018, that Jared Kushner and his father Charles Kushner made a proposal to Qatar‘s finance minister, Ali Sharif Al Emadi, in April 2017 to secure investment into 666 5th Avenue asset in his family’s company’s portfolio, when his request was not fulfilled, a group of Middle Eastern countries, with Jared Kushner’s backing, initiated a diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar. Kushner specifically undermined the efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to bring an end to the standoff.[269]

The New York Times reported on March 3, 2018, that the Mueller investigation had been examining possible efforts by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to buy political influence by directing money to the Trump campaign. Investigators have recently interviewed Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, and other witnesses, about this matter. Nader was reportedly a frequent White House visitor during 2017 and investigators have inquired about any policymaking role he may have had.[270] The Federal Election Campaign Actprohibits foreign nationals from contributing to American elections.[271] The New York Times reported on March 6, 2018, that Nader is cooperating with the Mueller investigation and had testified before a grand jury during the preceding week. Investigators have examined a meeting around January 11, 2017, in the Seychelles that was convened by the UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (known as “MBZ”), which Nader attended. Also present at that meeting were Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of state-owned Russian Direct Investment Fund, who is close to Vladimir Putin; and Blackwater founder Erik Prince, a major Trump donor and an informal advisor to the Trump transition. UAE officials reportedly believed that Prince was representing the Trump transition and Dmitriev was representing Putin.[272] An aircraft owned by Andrei Skoch—a Russian billionaire subject to American sanctions—arrived in the Seychelles a day before Prince himself did.[273] The Washington Post had reported on April 3, 2017, that American, European and Arab officials said the Seychelles meeting was “part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump.” Prince denied in November 30, 2017, House Intelligence Committee testimony that he had represented the Trump transition or that the meeting involved any back-channel.[274][275][276] The Washington Post reported on March 7, 2018, that Mueller has gathered evidence that contradicts Prince,[277] and ABC News reported on April 6, 2018, that Nader had met with Prince at a Manhattan hotel days before the Seychelles meeting and later provided him with biographical information about Dmitriev.[278] CNN reported on March 6, 2018, that Nader had been detained and questioned by the FBI at Dulles International Airport as he returned from a trip abroad on January 17, 2018. Agents with search warrants copied the contents of his electronic devices and served him with a subpoena to appear before a grand jury on January 19. CNN also reported that Nader had attended a December 2016 meeting in New York attended by MBZ; UAE ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba; and at least three Trump senior associates: Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, and Jared Kushner.”[279] The Wall Street Journal reported on April 2, 2018, that Mueller’s investigators have inquired about the work done by a private consulting company, Wikistrat, on behalf of the UAE. One of the firm’s co-founders, Joel Zamel, has reportedly been asked about his work with certain clients and his business relationship with George Nader. The Journal reported that, like Nader, Zamel had tried to forge a relationship with the new Trump administration.[280] The New York Times reported on April 4, 2018, that Nader has a history of dealings with Russia dating back to at least 2012, when he brokered a $4.2 billion arms deal between Russia and Iraq, and attended an invitation-only conference in Moscow organized by close associates of Vladimir Putin. Nader has reportedly traveled frequently to Russia on behalf of the UAE, accompanying MBZ on many of those trips, and has had his photo taken with Putin. Nader has reportedly received at least partial immunity for his cooperation with the Mueller investigation. The Times also reported that Joel Zamel had been stopped at Reagan International Airport in February 2018, had his electronic devices briefly seized, and later testified before the Mueller grand jury about his relationship with Nader.[281] The New York Times reported on May 19, 2018, that Trump Jr. met with Nader, Prince and Zamel in Trump Tower on August 3, 2016. Nader reportedly told Trump Jr. the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE were eager to help his father win the election, and Zamel pitched a social media manipulation campaign. Trump Jr. reportedly responded favorably and Nader subsequently had frequent meetings with Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner.[282] The Times reported that Prince had arranged the August 2016 meeting; Prince had stated in his November 30, 2017, testimony to the House Intelligence Committee that he had no formal communications or contact, nor any unofficial role, with the Trump campaign.[283]

Axios reported on March 4, 2018, that it has seen a grand jury subpoena that Mueller’s office sent to a witness in February 2018. Axios did not name the witness. The subpoena reportedly demands all communications, from November 1, 2015, to date, that the witness sent or received “regarding” Trump; Carter Page; Corey Lewandowski; Hope Hicks; Keith Schiller; Michael Cohen; Paul Manafort; Rick Gates; Roger Stone; and Steve Bannon.[284] A subsequent report by NBC News stated that the subpoena also encompasses “work papers, telephone logs, and other documents.”[285] On March 5, 2018, the witness was identified as Sam Nunberg, who served as a communications consultant on the Trump campaign until August 2, 2015, and later as an informal adviser. Nunberg stated that he had been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury on March 9, 2018, but he would refuse to appear or provide any of the subpoenaed documents.[286][287] After multiple defiant television appearances on March 5, 2018, Nunberg indicated the next day that he plans to comply with the subpoena.[288]

The New Yorker reported on March 5, 2018, that Christopher Steele spoke with Mueller’s investigators in September 2017. The magazine asserts that Steele discussed another document he had authored in November 2016—after the Steele dossier—that describes discussions “a senior Russian official” had heard inside the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: that the Kremlin had asked Trump “through unspecified channels” to not appoint Mitt Romney as Secretary of State.[289][290] As a presidential candidate in 2012, Romney described Russia as “our number one geopolitical foe.”[291] After publicly considering Romney as Secretary of State, Trump ultimately selected Rex Tillerson, who has a long history of business dealings in Russia and was awarded the Order of Friendship by Vladimir Putin in 2013.[292]

The Washington Post reported on March 6, 2018, that Mueller’s office has requested documents and interviewed witnesses regarding activities of Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer. Investigators are reported to be interested in at least two episodes relating to Russian interests, including the proposed construction of Trump Tower Moscow and “a Russia-friendly peace proposal for Ukraine that was delivered to Cohen by an Ukrainian lawmaker one week after Trump took office.”[293]

The New York Times reported on March 7, 2018, that the Mueller investigation is aware of conversations Trump had with two witnesses regarding their testimony with investigators. In one conversation, Trump asked White House counsel Don McGahn to issue a statement denying a story[294] The Times published in January 2018. That story reported that McGahn told investigators Trump had ordered him to direct the Justice Department to dismiss Mueller. McGahn never issued the statement and reportedly told Trump that the president had, in fact, told him to have Mueller dismissed. Trump also asked his former chief of staff Reince Priebus how his interview with investigators had gone and whether they were “nice.” The Times reported that although “legal experts” thought the conversations probably did not constitute witness tampering, witnesses and attorneys who became aware of the conversations reported them to Mueller.[295]

The New York Times reported on March 15, 2018, that the Mueller investigation had subpoenaed documents from The Trump Organization, including all documents related to Russia. Although the full scope of the subpoena was not clear, it was the first known time investigators demanded documents from Trump’s businesses.[296] The Los Angeles Times reported the same day that the special counsel’s office had also subpoenaed the Trump campaign for documents.[297]

The Daily Beast reported on March 22, 2018, that Mueller had taken over the probe into Guccifer 2.0 from the FBI.[298]

NBC News reported on March 30, 2018, that Ted Malloch, a professor and author who worked with the Trump campaign, had been detained and questioned by the FBI two days earlier as he arrived at Boston Logan Airport after a flight from London. He was served with a subpoena to appear for questioning by Mueller’s investigators on April 13, and presented with a warrant to have his phone seized and searched. Malloch told NBC in an email that FBI agents asked him a variety of questions, including about Roger Stone, author Jerome Corsi, and WikiLeaks.[299] CNN reported that Malloch has written a forthcoming book alleging a “deep state” within the United States government fabricated the Steele dossier to destroy Trump.[300]

Michael Caputo, a former communications adviser for the Trump campaign, was interviewed by Mueller’s investigators on May 2, 2018. Caputo was recruited to the Trump campaign by Paul Manafort and had previously worked with Russian politicians.[301][302] A long-time associate of Roger Stone, Caputo stated after his interview, “It’s clear they are still really focused on Russia collusion. They know more about the Trump campaign than anyone who ever worked there.”[303]

CNN reported on May 5, 2018, that Mueller’s investigators had interviewed Trump’s close friend and inaugural committee chairman Tom Barrack in December 2017, asking him primarily about his relationship with Manafort and Gates, although The Associated Pressreported the interview was broader and included campaign finance matters.[304][305]

On May 9, 2018, CNBC reported that Mueller’s office had contacted telecommunications giant AT&T regarding payments totalling at least $200,000, but possibly as high as $600,000,[306] made to a company founded by Michael Cohen in order to gain “insights” into the incoming Trump administration.[307] An AT&T spokesperson said that they had provided all the information requested by the Special Counsel in November and December 2017.[308]

Glenn Simpson, a co-founder of Fusion GPS, testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22, 2017, that the FBI told Christopher Steele—and then Steele told Simpson—that the FBI had “a human source from inside the Trump organization” (and, more specifically, “an internal Trump campaign source”). Simpson did not indicate when Steele received this information or when he conveyed it to Simpson.[309] The Washington Post reported on May 8, 2018, that a longtime FBI and CIA informant had provided information about connections between Russia and the Trump campaign to FBI investigators early in their investigation.[310] This sparked speculation the FBI had planted a “mole” inside the Trump campaign, although it was not clear that the individual Simpson described is the same individual described by The PostThe Washington Post reported on May 9, 2018, that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes subpoenaed the Justice Department to provide him with all documents regarding the longtime informant; The Post quoted the subpoena as demanding “all documents referring or related to the individual referenced in Chairman Nunes’ April 24, 2018, classified letter to Attorney General Sessions,” although Nunes denied he had referred to any specific individual.[311] The Justice Department resisted on the grounds that revealing the information could endanger the life of a longtime top-secret informant for the FBI and CIA, and the Trump White House—with the president’s agreement—sided with the Justice Department.[310][312] The New York Times reported on May 16, 2018, that at least one government informant had met several times with Trump campaign aides Carter Page and George Papadopolous.[313] The next day, Trump tweeted “Wow, word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI “SPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT.””[314] The Washington Post noted on January 9, 2018, that the source Simpson referenced may not have necessarily been an informant willingly or directly, or during the campaign, but rather may have become an informant as a result of later becoming implicated in wrongdoing. Natasha Bertrand, then with Business Insider, reported on January 3, 2018, that a source told her Simpson had been referring to George Papadopolous, who had first been interviewed by the FBI seven days after Trump’s inauguration[178] and whose cooperation with the FBI—to “provide information regarding any and all matters as to which the Government deems relevant”—began with his arrest on July 27, 2017, and was not publicly known until his indictment in October 2017.[315][316][317] Sara Carter, a frequent guest on Sean Hannity‘s Fox News program, confirmed Bertrand’s reporting on January 9, 2018, stating “according to people close to Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS he misspoke. That it isn’t true at all. That what [Simpson] was referring to was Papadopoulos actually in London.”[318] The New York Times reported on May 18, 2018, the FBI sent an informant to meet with George Papadopolous in late-summer 2016, and to meet repeatedly with Carter Page over ensuing months, after the FBI had acquired evidence the two men had suspicious contacts with Russians.[319] The Washington Post reported the same day the informant first approached Page at a symposium in Britain in July 2016, and in September 2016 invited Papadopolous to London to work on a research paper. Late that summer, the informant also met with Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis in Northern Virginia.[320] The informant was identified as an American academic who teaches in Britain, but both The Times and The Post declined to publish his name. NBC News identified him as Stefan Halper.[321]

Cambridge Analytica

The Wall Street Journal reported on December 15, 2017, that Mueller’s office had requested and received employee emails from Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that worked for the Trump campaign, earlier that year.[322][323] The Washington Post reported on March 20, 2018, that Christopher Wylie, an employee of Cambridge Analytica until late 2014, said that former Trump campaign CEO and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon oversaw a 2014 effort at the company (which he co-founded) to gather Facebook data on millions of Americans and test the effectiveness of anti-establishment messages such as “drain the swamp” and “deep state,” which became major Trump themes after Bannon joined the campaign in August 2016. Views of Russian President Vladimir Putin were also tested.[324] The Associated Press reported on March 22, 2018, that the special counsel is examining the connections between the company, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, particularly how voter data may have been used in battleground states.[325]

Several news agencies reported on April 4, 2018, that the private data of 87 million Facebook users had been misused, without their consent, by Cambridge Analytica to influence voters and help Trump win the 2016 election.[326][327][328] The New York Times reported on May 15, 2018 that the Justice Department and FBI were investigating Cambridge Analytica, although it was unclear if Mueller’s office was involved in the investigation.[329]

Criminal charges

Through April 2018, the Special Counsel has publicly initiated criminal proceedings against 19 people—five U.S. nationals, 13 Russian nationals, and one Dutch national—and three Russian organizations. The Special Counsel has used two different federal grand juries to issue indictments: one located in the District of Columbia (D.D.C.) and another located in the Eastern District of Virginia (E.D. Va.).

Accused Date charged Charge(s) Case status Jurisdiction Ind.
George Papadopoulos October 3, 2017 1 count: false statements Pleaded guilty on October 5, 2017[330] D.D.C. [331]
Rick Gates October 27, 2017[A] 2 counts: conspiracy against the United States and false statements Pleaded guilty on February 23, 2018[333] D.D.C. [334]
February 22, 2018 18 counts: filing false tax returns (×5), failure to report foreign bank and financial accounts (×4), bank fraud conspiracy (×5), and bank fraud (×4) Charges dismissed without prejudice on February 27, 2018[335] E.D. Va. [336]
Paul Manafort October 27, 2017[B] 5 counts: conspiracy against the United Statesconspiracy to launder moneyunregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, and false statements. Pleaded not guilty on February 28, 2018[337] D.D.C. [338]
February 22, 2018 23 counts: assisting in the preparation of false tax returns (×5), subscribing to false tax returns (×5), filing a false amended return, failure to report foreign bank and financial accounts (×3), bank fraud conspiracy (×5), and bank fraud (×4) Pleaded not guilty on March 8, 2018[339] E.D. Va. [336]
Michael Flynn November 30, 2017 1 count: false statements Pleaded guilty on December 1, 2017[340] D.D.C. [341]
Richard Pinedo February 2, 2018 1 count: identity fraud Pleaded guilty on February 2, 2018[342] D.D.C. [343]
Alex van der Zwaan February 16, 2018 1 count: false statements Sentenced to 30 days in prison and a $20,000 fine on April 3, 2018[344] D.D.C. [345]
Dzheykhun Aslanov February 16, 2018 8 counts: conspiracy to defraud the United Statesconspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft(×6) Outside US jurisdiction D.D.C. [346]
Anna Bogacheva February 16, 2018 1 count: conspiracy to defraud the United States Outside US jurisdiction D.D.C. [346]
Maria Bovda February 16, 2018 1 count: conspiracy to defraud the United States Outside US jurisdiction D.D.C. [346]
Robert Bovda February 16, 2018 1 count: conspiracy to defraud the United States Outside US jurisdiction D.D.C. [346]
Mikhail Burchik February 16, 2018 1 count: conspiracy to defraud the United States Outside US jurisdiction D.D.C. [346]
Mikhail Bystrov February 16, 2018 1 count: conspiracy to defraud the United States Outside US jurisdiction D.D.C. [346]
Concord Catering February 16, 2018 1 count: conspiracy to defraud the United States Outside US jurisdiction D.D.C. [346]
Concord Management and Consulting LLC February 16, 2018 1 count: conspiracy to defraud the United States Pleaded not guilty on May 9, 2018.[347] D.D.C. [346]
Internet Research Agency LLC February 16, 2018 8 counts: conspiracy to defraud the United Statesconspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft(×6) Outside US jurisdiction D.D.C. [346]
Irina Kaverzina February 16, 2018 7 counts: conspiracy to defraud the United States, and aggravated identity theft (×6) Outside US jurisdiction D.D.C. [346]
Aleksandra Krylova February 16, 2018 1 count: conspiracy to defraud the United States Outside US jurisdiction D.D.C. [346]
Vadim Podkopaev February 16, 2018 1 count: conspiracy to defraud the United States Outside US jurisdiction D.D.C. [346]
Sergey Polozov February 16, 2018 1 count: conspiracy to defraud the United States Outside US jurisdiction D.D.C. [346]
Yevgeny Prigozhin February 16, 2018 1 count: conspiracy to defraud the United States Outside US jurisdiction D.D.C. [346]
Gleb Vasilchenko February 16, 2018 8 counts: conspiracy to defraud the United Statesconspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraudaggravated identity theft (×6) Outside US jurisdiction D.D.C. [346]
Vladimir Venkov February 16, 2018 7 counts: conspiracy to defraud the United States, and aggravated identity theft (×6) Outside US jurisdiction D.D.C. [346]
Notes

  1. Jump up^ An 8-count indictment issued on October 27, 2017,[332] was superseded by the current indictment on February 23, 2018.
  2. Jump up^ A 9-count indictment issued on October 27, 2017,[332] was superseded by the current indictment on February 23, 2018.

George Papadopoulos

On October 30, 2017, it was revealed that Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty earlier in the month to making a false statement to FBI investigators, a felony.[348] The guilty plea was part of a plea bargain in which he agreed to cooperate with the government and “provide information regarding any and all matters as to which the Government deems relevant.”[349] As of May 1, 2018, Papadopoulos had not been sentenced.[350] His status report to the court was due in late April 2018, but has been pushed back one month.[351]

On December 30, 2017, The New York Times reported that Papadopoulos had in May 2016 disclosed to the Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Alexander Downer in Kensington Wine Rooms, a London wine bar, that the Russians possessed a large trove of stolen Hillary Clinton emails that could potentially damage her presidential campaign. Australia officials initially did not convey this information to the American counterparts but did so after WikiLeaks and DCLeaks released stolen Democratic National Committeeemails in June/July 2016, which American intelligence has concluded with “high confidence” originated from Russian hackers.[352] The hacking, and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign apparently had inside information about it, were driving factors that led the FBI in July 2016 to open an investigation into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired. The Nunes memo confirmed that the Papadopolous matter triggered the investigation—and not the Steele dossier, which some Republicans had alleged to have been the trigger.[353][354]

Papadopoulos was recruited to the Trump campaign in early March 2016. In a court document[178] filed as part of Papadopoulos’s guilty plea, prosecutors asserted that later in March he met Joseph Mifsud, a London-based academic with contacts in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Italy. Mifsud showed little interest in Papadopoulos until Mifsud learned Papadopoulos was a member of the Trump campaign.[355] Several days later, Papadopoulos met in London with Mifsud and Olga Polonskaya, a Russian national whom Papadopoulos initially but falsely believed was Vladimir Putin’s niece. Papadopoulos then emailed his Trump campaign supervisor[356] Sam Clovis about his meetings, which he said included the Russian Ambassador, and which had been about a “meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump.” Clovis was non-committal but replied “Great work.”[357] In subsequent days Papadopoulos worked with Mifsud and Polonskaya to arrange contacts between the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Trump campaign. In late April 2016 Papadopoulos emailed a unnamed Trump campaign “Senior Policy Advisor,” stating “The Russian government has an open invitation by Putin for Mr. Trump to meet him when he is ready.” At about the same time, Mifsud told Papadopoulos that the Russian government had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” which Papadopoulos then shared with Alexander Downer in a London bar days later. Mifsud dropped from sight after his name appeared in published reports in October 2017 and has not been heard from through May 2018.[358][359] Stephan Roh, a German national who is a close associate of Mifsud, asserts he was detained, questioned and surveilled by FBI agents after he arrived on a flight to New York in 2017.[360][361] The BBC reported on March 21, 2018 that Roh and another man named Ivan Timofeev were also involved in Papadopoulos’s efforts to contact Russian officials.[362]

Paul Manafort and Rick Gates

Rick Gates felony information

Rick Gates’ Plea Agreement with Robert S. Mueller

Paul Manafort February 23, 2018, District Court superseding indictment by the District of Columbia Grand Jury

At Mueller’s direction, FBI agents raided Manafort’s home on July 26, 2017. The predawn raid used a federal search warrant, authorizing agents to look for tax documents and foreign banking records. A wide range of documents and other items were seized. Before the raid, Manafort had voluntarily provided some documents to congressional investigators, including the notes he took during the meeting with Veselnitskaya.[152][363]

On October 27, 2017, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were indicted by a federal grand jury as part of Mueller’s investigation.[335][364] The twelve-count indictment charged them with conspiracy against the United Statesmaking false statementsmoney laundering, and failing to register as foreign agents for Ukraine as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act.[335] Manafort was charged with four counts of failing to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts while Gates was charged with three.[332] The charges arise from Manafort‘s consulting work for a pro-Russian government in Ukraine and are unrelated to the Trump campaign.[365]

On October 30, 2017, Manafort and Gates surrendered to the FBI, and a judge placed them both under house arrest and were required to provide unsecured bonds.[366] On December 4, 2017, prosecutors asked the judge to revoke Manafort’s bond agreement, charging that Manafort violated the terms of his bail by working on an op-ed piece with Konstantin Kilimnik,[367] an associate with ties to Russian intelligence.[139]

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued an order on December 22, 2017, demanding that Gates explain why his comments in a brief, videotaped address to the fundraiser held in an Arlington Holiday Inn on December 19, did not amount to a violation of the gag order she issued in the case. Of particular concern to Jackson is Gates’ involvement with the Washington-area lobbyist who organized the event, Jack Burkman.[368]

On January 16, 2018, Judge Jackson denied the government’s proposal for a May 14 trial, indicating that the criminal trial appears likely to start in September or October.[369] Gates was released from home confinement, but not Manafort. A letter from Manafort’s physician had asked that he be permitted to attend a gym for health reasons, but Jackson said, “While he’s subject to home confinement, he’s not confined to his couch, and I believe he has plenty of opportunity to exercise.”[369]

On February 1, 2018, three of Gates’ attorneys filed a motion to withdraw their representation of Gates.[370] Walter Mack, one of the attorneys, said in court the previous month that Mueller’s prosecutors had warned him of more impending charges against Gates.[371] Gates has reportedly added Tom Green, a prominent white-collar attorney, to his defense team, signaling a possible change to his legal approach; and attorneys from Green’s firm were seen entering the building where Mueller works.[372] On the hearing of the motion on February 8 before Judge Jackson, the attorneys cited ‘irreconcilable differences’ with their client. Gates’ new attorney has not filed a formal appearance in the case, which is the typical procedure when changing counsel.[373] The outcome of the hearing is still subject to a gag order.

On February 15, 2018, CNN reported that Gates was finalizing a plea deal with Mueller’s office, indicating he was poised to cooperate in the investigation. He had already undergone his “Queen for a Day” interview, in which Gates answered any and all questions from Mueller’s team, including about his own case and other potential criminal activity he witnessed or participated in.[374]

On February 22, 2018, both Manafort and Gates were further charged with additional crimes, involving a tax avoidance scheme and bank fraud, in Virginia.[336][375] The charges were filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, rather than in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, as the tax fraud overt actions had occurred in Virginia and not in the District, forcing Mueller to bring the charges in Virginia, because one of the defendants did not agree to waive the issue of venue jurisdiction.[376] The new indictment alleges that Manafort, with assistance from Gates, laundered over $30 million through offshore bank accounts between approximately 2006 and 2015. Manafort allegedly used funds in these offshore accounts to purchase real estate in the United States, in addition to personal goods and services.

On February 23, 2018, Gates pleaded guilty in federal court to lying to investigators and engaging in a conspiracy to defraud the United States. Gates said he had previously intended to challenge the charges against him, but recently decided to plead guilty. He admitted that he had lied to investigators in February 2018, while he was under indictment and negotiating with prosecutors. Gates faces a possible prison sentence of nearly six years, but he agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation for a possible sentence reduction, possibly only probation, depending on the level of cooperation he provides to the government.[377][378] Through a spokesman, Manafort expressed disappointment in Gates’ decision to plead guilty and said he has no similar plans. “I continue to maintain my innocence,” he said.[379] On February 27, the special counsel moved to dismiss without prejudice 22 tax and bank fraud charges against Gates as part of their plea agreement.[380]

On February 28, 2018, Manafort entered a not guilty plea in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Judge Jackson subsequently set a trial date of September 17, 2018, and reprimanded Manafort and his attorney for violating her gag order by issuing a statement the previous week after former co-defendant Gates pleaded guilty.[337] On March 8, 2018, Manafort also pleaded not guilty to bank fraud and tax charges in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. Judge T. S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia set his trial on those charges to begin on July 10, 2018.[381] CBS News reported on March 28, 2018, that Manafort is declining a plea deal and proceeding to trial because he is expecting a pardon from Trump.[221]

In response to Manafort’s court motions that charges against him be dismissed because Mueller exceeded his investigative authority,[382] Mueller’s office on April 2, 2018, released in a court filing a partially-redacted memorandum of August 2, 2017, in which Rod Rosenstein specifically authorized Mueller to investigate whether Manafort “committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election for president of the United States, in violation of United States law,” as well as whether he “committed a crime or crimes arising out of payments he received from the Ukrainian government before and during the tenure of President Viktor Yanukovych.”[383] In a court hearing on April 19, 2018, the Justice Department for the first time specifically noted the Mueller investigation’s interest in whether Manafort provided a backchannel between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, adding that following the money trail of Manafort’s consulting business was a natural necessity of investigating such a backchannel.[384] Manafort’s suit claiming that the Mueller investigation exceeded its investigative authority was dismissed on April 27, 2018.[385]

On June 4, 2018, Mueller accused Manafort of witness tampering by contacting witnesses by phone and encrypted messaging “in an effort to secure materially false testimony,” asking a federal judge to revise or revoke the release agreement that had kept Manafort out of jail pending trial.[386][387]

Michael Flynn

As part of the investigation, Mueller assumed control of a Virginia-based grand jury criminal probe into the relationship between Flynn and Turkish businessman Kamil Ekim Alptekin.[388] Flynn Intel Group, an intelligence consultancy, was paid $530,000 by Alptekin’s company Inovo BV to produce a documentary and conduct research on Fethullah Gülen, an exiled Turkish cleric who lives in the United States.[388] The special prosecutor is investigating whether the money came from the Turkish government, and whether Flynn kicked funds back to a middleman to conceal the payment’s original source. Investigators are also looking at Flynn’s finances more generally, including possible payments from Russian companies and from the Japanese government. White House documents relating to Flynn have been requested as evidence.[389] The lead person within Mueller’s team for this investigation is Brandon Van Grack.[390] Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, is also a subject of the investigation. Michael G. Flynn worked closely with his father’s lobbying company, the Flynn Intel Group, and accompanied his father on his 2015 visit to Moscow.[391]

On November 5, 2017, NBC News reported that Mueller had enough evidence for charges against Flynn and his son.[392] NBC News reported on November 22, 2017, that former Flynn business partner Bijan Kian is a subject of the Mueller investigation.[393] In late November 2017, Flynn’s defense team stopped sharing information with Trump’s team of lawyers,[394] which was interpreted as a sign that Flynn was cooperating and negotiating a plea bargain with the special counsel team.[394][395][396] On December 1, 2017, Michael Flynn agreed to a plea bargain with Mueller. He appeared in federal court to plead guilty to a single felony count of “willfully and knowingly” making “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to the FBI and to confirm his intention to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, including “participating in covert law enforcement activities.”[397][398] As part of Flynn’s plea bargain, his son Michael G. Flynn is not expected to be charged.[399][400] On January 31, 2018, the Mueller team advised a federal court that they will not be ready to request sentencing of Flynn until at least May 1, 2018;[401] and on that day, the special counsel requested an extension to June 29, 2018.[351]

Richard Pinedo

On February 16, 2018, Mueller’s office unsealed an indictment which revealed that Richard Pinedo, of Santa Paula, California, accepted a plea agreement on February 2, in which he pleaded guilty to identity fraud, and using the identity of other persons for “unlawful activity”, both felonies.[342] Pinedo also agreed to cooperate with the investigation, but faces up to fifteen years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.[342] Pinedo had operated Auction Essistance, a web-based business that brokered bank account numbers, enabling people who had been barred from websites like eBay and PayPal to return to those websites under a different identity.[342]

Alex van der Zwaan

On February 16, 2018, Mueller charged attorney Alex van der Zwaan with one count of making false statements to the FBI with respect to Van der Zwaan’s communications with Gates and another individual identified as “Person A”, believed to be Konstantin Kilimnik, in addition to deleting email sought by investigators.[5][402][345] Van der Zwaan is the son-in-law of German Khan, who owns Russia’s Alfa-Bank along with Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, the three of whom are named in the Trump–Russia dossier.[402]

Van der Zwaan pleaded guilty on February 20, 2018;[403][404][402] the guilty plea did not include an agreement to cooperate with the Mueller investigation.[405] On March 27, 2018, Mueller’s office asked a judge to consider jail time for Van der Zwaan.[406] His sentencing hearing was held on April 3, 2018, and he was sentenced to 30 days in prison followed by two months of supervised release, and fined $20,000.[344][407] Judge Amy Berman Jackson stated that Van der Zwaan, whose pregnant wife is due to give birth in August, can have his passport back after his 30-day sentence, at which point he can self-deport back to Europe if Immigrations and Customs Enforcement allows.[408][409] His sentence could have been as long as five years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine.[410]

In June, after van der Zwaan was released from prison, he was deported from the United States.[411]

Internet Research Agency, et al.

File:Grand Jury Indicts Thirteen Russian Individuals and Three Russian Companies for Scheme to Interfere.webm

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces Indictments of thirteen Russian Individuals and Three Russian Companies.

On February 16, 2018, special counsel Robert Mueller’s team announced it had filed an indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations.[412][413] The indictment alleges that Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin,[414] funneled significant funds to Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked company headquartered in Saint Petersburg and described as a “troll factory”,[415] for the purposes of carrying out a secret operation to influence the outcome of the 2016 United States presidential election while obstructing the enforcement of federal elections laws.[346][416] The indictment alleges that members of the conspiracy traveled to the United States to conduct research; created social media accounts impersonating Americans; opened financial accounts with the stolen identities of Americans; bought advertisements on social media platforms; organized and financed political rallies; and posted and promoted material favorable to Donald Trump, Jill Stein, and Bernie Sanders, while disparaging candidates like Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. The indictment cites one case in which the defendants and their co-conspirators paid a U.S. person to build a cage on a flatbed truck and paid another U.S. person to wear a costume portraying Hillary Clinton in a prison uniform for a pro-Trump political rally in Florida.[346][416][413] Reporters have since contacted some of those “unwitting” Americans. The man who built the cage says he often spoke on the phone with the group that paid him for it, and he never suspected he was dealing with Russians until the FBI contacted him months later.[417]

The indictment’s allegations that Russians were actively interfering in the 2016 election process refute President Trump’s repeated assertions that Russian interference was a “hoax” devised by Democrats or perpetrated by others, such as China.[418][419]

Reactions[

Initial bipartisan support

Mueller’s appointment to oversee the investigation immediately garnered widespread support from Democrats and from some Republicans in Congress.[420][421] Senator Charles Schumer (DNY) said, “Former Director Mueller is exactly the right kind of individual for this job. I now have significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead.” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D–CA) stated, “Bob was a fine U.S. attorney, a great FBI director and there’s no better person who could be asked to perform this function.” She added, “He is respected, he is talented and he has the knowledge and ability to do the right thing.” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (RUT) tweeted that “Mueller is a great selection. Impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted.”[420] Much Republican support in Congress was lukewarm: Rep. Peter T. King (RNY) said “It’s fine. I just don’t think there is any need for it.”[422] Republican former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich tweeted that Mueller is a “superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity,”[423] but less than a month later he tweeted “Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair.”[424]

Former United States Attorney Preet Bharara wrote of the team that “Bob Mueller is recruiting the smartest and most seasoned professionals who have a long track record of independence and excellence”.[49] Former special prosecutor Ken Starr, who had investigated Bill Clinton during the Clinton administration, said that the team was “a great, great team of complete professionals”.[52]

Conservative opposition

Some conservatives, including political commentators Laura IngrahamAnn Coulter, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, stated that Mueller should be dismissed and the investigation closed.[425][426][427] Christopher Ruddy, the founder of the right-leaning Newsmax, and a friend of Trump, stated that the president has considered firing Mueller.[428]

On June 23, 2017, Trump stated that members of Mueller’s team were “all Hillary Clinton supporters, some of them worked for Hillary Clinton.” PolitiFact rated Trump’s claim “Mostly False”, noting that only three had made campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton and one had defended the Clinton Foundation in court. One member of the team had made contributions to Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Republican Senator George Allen.[429][55] In an interview with The New York Times published on July 19, 2017, Trump stated that he would have not appointed Sessions as Attorney General had he known that he was going to recuse himself from the investigation. Furthermore, Trump confirmed that he would view it as a violation if Mueller investigated his and his family’s finances, unrelated to Russia.[430]

On June 25, 2017, it was reported that a pro-Trump group had launched an ad called “Witch Hunt,” featuring conservative Tomi Lahren, which attacked Mueller and the investigation.[431]

On July 21, 2017, the Washington Post reported that Trump asked his advisors about his power to pardon those under investigation. Trump and his legal team discussed the possibility of Trump pardoning aides, family members, and himself. No president has ever pardoned himself, so there is no case law on whether it would be legal. Trump attorneys also reportedly created a list of Mueller’s potential conflicts of interest. Trump lawyer John Dowd said the story was “nonsense”.[237]

On August 3, 2017, at a campaign-style rally in West Virginia, Trump continued to deny any Russian involvement in his campaign or win: “The Russia story is a total fabrication. It’s just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics, that’s all it is.” This occurred on the same day as the announcement that another grand jury had been impaneled.[432]

On August 12, 2017, The New York Times published an interview of Republican Senator Richard Burr, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in which he said he was hopeful that the investigation would be complete by the end of the year.[433]

Sean Hannity, a strong supporter of Trump, has been a vocal and persistent critic of the Mueller investigation on his Fox News television show, Hannity, and syndicated radio program, The Sean Hannity Show. He has called the investigation a “witch hunt” and described Mueller as “corrupt, abusively biased and political.”[434][435] Hannity has asserted that the investigation arose from an elaborate, corrupt scheme involving Hillary Clinton;[436] the Steele dossier, which he asserts is completely false although parts of it have been reported as verified;[437] former Justice Department officials James Comey, Andrew McCabeBruce Ohr, and others; and a wiretap on former Trump aide Carter Page that Hannity asserts was obtained by misrepresentations to the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, characterizing the wiretap as an abuse of power that is “far bigger than Watergate” and “the weaponizing of those powerful tools of intelligence and the shredding of our Fourth Amendment, constitutional rights.”[434][436]

Jeanine Pirro, a former Westchester County district attorney and currently host of a weekly Fox News program Justice with Judge Jeanine, has been friends with President Trump for decades.[438] On her program, Pirro described Mueller, FBI Director Christopher Wray (a Trump appointee), former FBI Director James Comey and other current/former FBI officials as a “criminal cabal,”[439] saying “There is a cleansing needed in our FBI and Department of Justice—it needs to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired, but who need to be taken out in cuffs.”[440]

Tucker Carlson, host of the Fox News program Tucker Carlson Tonight, said on March 2, 2018, “We’ve been hearing about Russia non-stop, literally non-stop, for more than a year. Almost no information has come out to justify the obsession, none has come out to justify the claim that there was collusion, and most Americans are no longer interested, if they ever were.”[441]

Opposition to the investigation

Throughout 2017 and 2018, Trump and his allies in Congress and the media have promulgated a series of narratives to assert that the FBI, Justice Department and Mueller investigation have been engaged in an elaborate, corrupt conspiracy against Trump. Among other things, Trump has characterized the Mueller investigation as a “rigged Russia witch hunt,” while prominent Trump supporter Sean Hannity has described it as “the biggest corruption scandal in American history.”[442] On May 29, 2018, Trump went so far as to assert that the Mueller investigation intended to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections,[443] an accusation Hannity reinforced on his Fox News show that night, saying Mueller “wants to derail many pro-Trump Republicans in the midterms.”[442] In a two-minute monologue that same day, Fox News anchorman Shepard Smith flatly debunked that assertion and a number of other Trump narratives, saying “you laugh at them because there’s almost nothing else you can do.”[444]

Amid concerns that Trump might attempt to halt the investigation by having Mueller dismissed, some members of Congress have supported a bipartisan bill designed to protect Mueller. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on April 17, 2018, that such a bill was not necessary and he would not allow it to come to the Senate floor for a vote. Nevertheless, the chairman of the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley announced on April 19, 2018, that his committee would vote on the measure the following week.[445][446]

By the President

Trump reportedly asked White House Counsel Donald McGahn in April 2017 to call acting deputy attorney general Dana Boente—who was supervising the Russia probe at the time, prior to Mueller’s appointment—and get him to persuade Comey to announce that Trump was not personally under investigation. McGahn made the call but failed to convince Boente that Comey should make the statement.[447]

In June 2017, Trump reportedly tried to fire Mueller, according to several independent accounts published in January 2018. The reports said that Trump told McGahn to fire Mueller; that McGahn refused, saying that to do so would have a catastrophic effect on Trump’s presidency; and that Trump then backed off. The New York Times reported that McGahn said he would resign rather than carry out the order, while CNN said McGahn did not directly threaten to resign, and Fox News said Trump was persuaded not to carry out the action by McGahn and other aides.[294][448][449] The New York Times report said that Trump cited three conflicts of interest on Mueller’s part to justify the dismissal: a years-old dispute over fees at Trump National Golf Club; the fact that Mueller had most recently worked for the law firm that previously represented Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and the fact that Mueller had been interviewed to return as FBI Director the day before he was appointed special counsel.[294] According to CNN, another reason Trump wanted to fire Mueller was Trump’s perception that Mueller was close friends with Comey, although others have described them as professional acquaintances from having simultaneously worked in the Justice Department during the George W. Bush presidency.[450] In August 2017, Trump said he had never thought about firing Mueller, and by December 2017 he had denied it twice more; in that time period his lawyers and advisers also issued five similar denials. By January 2017, Trump and his surrogates had denied that he had considered firing Mueller a total of eight times.[451] Trump dismissed the January 2018 The New York Times story as “fake news”.[448] McGahn was interviewed by Mueller’s investigators on November 30, 2017.[452]

Also in June 2017, Trump reportedly instructed his aides to start a campaign for his administration and his Republican allies to discredit potential witnesses in the investigation, including FBI officials Andrew McCabe, Jim Rybicki, and James Baker. The three men had been identified by Comey as his confidants. The instruction was reported in January 2018 by Foreign Policy. Trump’s lead attorney John Dowd disputed the accuracy of the report.[453]

In early December 2017 Trump sought to fire Mueller, according to an April 2018 report in The New York Times, but stopped after learning the news reports he based his decision on were incorrect.[454]

On December 16, 2017, Kory Langhofer, a lawyer for Trump for America, sent a letter to Congress alleging that Mueller’s team had unlawfully acquired, via the GSA, tens of thousands of emails sent and received by thirteen senior members of the Trump transition team. The communications derived from the official governmental presidential transition team domain, “ptt.gov”.[455][456][457] On the following day, GSA Deputy Counsel Lenny Loewentritt stated that Trump’s transition team had been explicitly advised at the time of the transition that all material passing through government equipment would be subject to monitoring and auditing, and would not be held back from law enforcement officers.[458][459] A spokesman for Mueller’s investigation, Peter Carr, also rejected Langhofer’s claims, stating that the Trump transition emails were acquired appropriately through the criminal investigation process.[460]

In January 2018, CNN reported that Trump was unhappy with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller investigation. Trump reportedly talked about wanting to fire Rosenstein and proposed firing him, before being persuaded otherwise by his advisers.[461]

On March 17, 2018, Trump’s personal attorney, John Dowd, urged Rod Rosenstein to follow the “courageous example” of Sessions in dismissing Andrew McCabe and “bring an end” to the Mueller investigation. Dowd originally told the Daily Beast that he was speaking on behalf of the president, but later told CNN he was speaking only for himself. A source told CNN that Trump had not authorized the statement,[462] but two sources told The New York Times that Dowd was speaking at Trump’s urging.[463] Beginning that same day, Trump appeared to abandon his attorneys’ advice to avoid directly criticizing the Mueller investigation, tweeting that the “Mueller probe should never have been started” and that it was a “WITCH HUNT!” He also claimed that “there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice & State.”[464] The next day, he questioned how “fair” it was that “the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans”. Trump did not note that Mueller himself is a Republican, as is the man who appointed him, Rod Rosenstein—who was appointed by Trump.[465] This was the first time he had criticized Mueller by name, alarming many prominent Republicans, who cautioned Trump not to criticize Mueller or give any appearance that he was contemplating having Mueller dismissed; they warned of dire repercussions if he did. Presidential lawyer Ty Cobb later stated that the president “is not considering or discussing” firing Mueller.[466]

During the week of March 19, 2018, Trump hired the law firm diGenova & Toensing, headed by Joseph diGenova and his wife and law partner Victoria Toensing. Both are longtime Republican activists, having appeared on Fox News on numerous occasions to criticize Democrats, most notably Bill and Hillary Clinton. In recent weeks diGenova has advanced the narrative that a “deep state” conspiracy is attempting to subvert Trump. In January 2018, diGenova said on Fox News, “There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime. Make no mistake about it: A group of FBI and DOJ people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime.” Fox News reported that Toensing had recently represented Trump associates Mark CoralloSam Clovis, and Erik Prince, and that Corallo, Clovis, and Trump signed waivers of any potential conflicts of interest.[467][468] The White House announced later that week that diGenova and Toensing would not be hired as part of the special counsel legal team, but might assist Trump in other legal matters. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow cited conflicts of interest, while two sources told The New York Times that Trump hadn’t established personal rapport with diGenova and Toensing.[106]

In April 2018, following an FBI raid on the office and home of Trump’s private attorney Michael Cohen, Trump for the first time spoke openly about firing Mueller, saying that “many people” had advised him to do so and “We’ll see what happens.”[469] Under Department of Justice regulations, that authority can only be exercised by Rosenstein, the DOJ official in charge of the special counsel investigation, but White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump believes he has the power to do it directly, although he is not currently acting to do so.[470] Trump also said that the “witch hunt” that began “right after I won the nomination” is “an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”[471] In May 2018, Trump tweeted that the special counsel probe, led by “13 Angry Democrats”, was investigating him on “obstruction for a made up, phony crime”. He declared that there was no obstruction, only him “fighting back”.[472]

Following the May 2018 disclosure that FBI informant Stefan Halper had spoken with Trump campaign aides Carter Page, George Papadopolous and Sam Clovis, Trump and his allies advanced a narrative that the FBI had embedded a spy inside the Trump campaign—which Trump dubbed #SpyGate. This prompted the Justice Department to provide a May 24 special classified briefing regarding Halper and related topics, attended by—among others—Trey Gowdy, chairman of the Republican-controlled House Oversight Committee. On May 29, 2018, Gowdy—a former federal prosecutor—told Fox News, “I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump…President Trump himself in the Comey memos said if anyone connected with my campaign was working with Russia, I want you to investigate it, and it sounds to me like that is exactly what the FBI did. I think when the President finds out what happened, he is going to be not just fine, he is going to be glad that we have an FBI that took seriously what they heard. He was never the target. Russia was the target.”[473][474] Andrew Napolitano, a Trump friend and senior judicial analyst for Fox News, said much the same thing on Fox News that same day: “The allegations from Mayor Giuliani over the weekend, which would lead us to believe that the Trump people think the FBI had an undercover agent who inveigled his way into Trump’s campaign and was there as a spy on the campaign, seem to be baseless—there is no evidence for that whatsoever…But the other allegation about this professor, whose name we’re not supposed to mention, talking to people on the periphery of the campaign, that is standard operating procedure in intelligence gathering and in criminal Investigations.”[475]

By Congress

On July 26, 2017, Florida Representative Matt Gaetz introduced a congressional resolution calling for a special counsel investigation into the handling of the Hillary Clinton email controversy by James Comey, undue interference of Attorney General Loretta Lynch in that investigation, and the acquisition of Uranium One by the Russian state corporation Rosatom during Mueller’s time as FBI director.[476][477] Gaetz stated that he did not trust Mueller to lead the investigation because of his alleged involvement in approval of the Uranium One deal and his allegedly close relationship with Comey, a probable person of interest in the proposed investigation.[477] The resolution was referred to two House committees where it has remained as of February 21, 2018.[478]

On August 24, 2017, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) added a rider to the proposed fiscal 2018 spending bill package that would block funding from being used “for the investigation under that order of matters occurring before June 2015” (the month Trump announced he was running for president) immediately and terminated funding for the special counsel investigation 180 days after passage of the bill.[479] Rep. DeSantis said that the DOJ order of May 17, 2017, “didn’t identify a crime to be investigated and practically invites a fishing expedition.”[480] House Republican leaders did not allow the amendment to proceed to the floor for a vote.[481]

On November 3, 2017, Gaetz introduced another resolution demanding Mueller’s resignation as special counsel due to conflicts of interest, this resolution was co-sponsored by U.S. Representative from Arizona Andy Biggs and U.S. Representative from Texas Louie Gohmert; Arizona Representative Trent Franks co-sponsored the resolution on November 8, 2017.[482][483] The resolution was referred to the House Judiciary Committee where it has remained as of February 21, 2018.[484] As a “sense of the House” resolution, its approval would not be legally binding upon Mueller.[485]

On February 2, 2018, the House Intelligence Committee with Trump’s authorization released a memo written by committee chair Devin Nunes and staff. The Nunes memo,[486] based on classified information, alleged that the FBI and Department of Justice “may have relied on politically motivated or questionable sources” in October 2016 in seeking authorization for a wiretap on Carter Page, a former adviser to Trump’s campaign.[487] Prior to the memo’s release, Trump told associates that it would discredit the investigation,[488] and after its release, Trump claimed in a tweet that the memo “totally vindicates” him.[489] On February 24, 2018, the House Intelligence Committee with Trump’s authorization released a redacted version of a memo from Adam Schiff, ranking Democratic member of the committee, as a response to the Nunes memo. The response contended the wiretaps were properly obtained and were warranted because Page had been assessed by intelligence agencies as “an agent of the Russian government,” adding that “Our extensive review of the initial FISA application and three subsequent renewals failed to uncover any evidence of illegal, unethical, or unprofessional behavior by law enforcement and instead revealed that both the FBI and DOJ made extensive showings to justify all four requests.”[490][486]

By others

The New York Times reported on March 28, 2018, that the Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz would investigate accusations of wrongdoing surrounding the surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, “amid a stream of attacks in recent months from the White House and Republican lawmakers seeking to undermine the special counsel’s investigation.”[491] The announcement fell short of the demands of several Republican politicians and prominent Trump supporters such as Sean Hannity for the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate.[492][493] CNN reported on March 29, 2018, that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had appointed John W. Huber, the United States Attorney for the District of Utah, to investigate this and other matters. In a letter to three Republican Congressional committee chairmen, Sessions said he would rely on Huber’s findings to decide if a special counsel needed to be appointed. Huber had been investigating the matter for a time, but his involvement had not previously been disclosed. CNN reported that Huber is investigating “a cluster of Republican-driven accusations against the FBI,” which includes allegations that the FBI acted inappropriately in two matters involving Hillary Clinton, including her emails and the sale of Uranium One to a Russian-owned company.[494]

On April 11, 2018, Trump tweeted “Big show tonight on @seanhannity! 9:00 P.M. on @FoxNews”, twelve minutes before the program aired.[495] During the program, Hannity discussed a purported “Mueller crime family”, while his guest Newt Gingrich compared FBI activity under the Mueller investigation to that of the Gestapo of Nazi Germany, and guest Joseph diGenova asserted that Mueller “has surrounded himself with literally a bunch of legal terrorists.” Hannity also discussed purported “crime families” headed by Hillary Clinton and James Comey.[496]

Alan DershowitzSean HannityRush Limbaugh and others have asserted that Mueller was responsible for the improper imprisonment of four men when he was a federal prosecutor in Boston during the 1980s. In an opinion piece on April 18, 2018, entitled Smearing Robert MuellerNancy Gertner, a retired federal judge who presided over the matter, wrote “The record simply doesn’t support these assertions.”[497]

Polling

A May 2017 Politico/Morning Consult poll showed that 81% of U.S. voters supported the special prosecutor’s investigation.[498] A June 2017 Associated Press–NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll asked U.S. adults whether the special counsel investigation could be fair and impartial: 26% were “extremely confident” or “very confident”; 36% were “moderately confident” and 36% were “not very confident” or “not at all confident.”[499] The poll indicated that 68% of Americans were at least “moderately concerned” about inappropriate connections between the Trump campaign and the Russians.[500]

A poll published in November 2017 by ABC News and The Washington Post found that 58% of Americans approved of Mueller’s handling of his investigation, while 28% disapproved. It also indicated that half of Americans believed that President Trump was not co-operating with the investigation.[501] A Quinnipiac poll published on November 15, 2017, suggested that 60% of Americans believed that Mueller’s investigation was proceeding fairly, with 27% believing that it was not. The poll also found that 47% of respondents said that President Trump ought to be impeached if he were to dismiss Mueller.[502]

A December poll by Associated Press–NORC indicated that four out of ten Americans believed that Trump had committed a crime in connection with Russia, with an additional three out of ten beyond that believing that he had acted unethically. It found that 62% of Democrats and 5% of Republicans believe that Trump acted illegally. It found that 68% of Americans believed that Trump was obstructing the investigation. 57% of respondents said that they were “extremely confident” or “moderately confident” that Mueller’s investigation is fair.[503]

In another December poll from The Hill, 54% of respondents believe Mueller has a conflict of interest due to his relationship with James Comey. The poll also found 36% agreed Trump and his allies are getting harsher treatment from the special counsel than Clinton and her allies did during the FBI investigation into her handling of classified material.”[504] The same poll found that 60 percent of voters say that “a comment to the FBI director that he should consider letting Flynn off the hook” is not enough to constitute obstruction of justice.

USA Today/Suffolk University poll released on February 26, 2018, showed that a 58% majority of registered voters say they have a lot or some trust in Mueller’s investigation, while a 57% majority say they have little or no trust in Trump’s denials. Further, 75% say they take the charges filed by Mueller seriously; most of them say they take them “very” seriously. That represents some shift in views over the past year. In a USA Today/Suffolk Poll in March 2017, 63% called it very or somewhat serious.[505]

A CBS poll released in May 2018 found that a majority of Americans, 53%, believe the investigation is politically motivated, although most agreed it should continue.[506] Republican supporters believe their Congress members should take steps to end the investigation, while most independents and nearly all Democrat supporters feel the investigation should be allowed to continue.[507]

See also

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Counsel_investigation_(2017%E2%80%93present)

 

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The Pronk Pops Show 1064, April 19, 2018, Story 1: Department of Justice Inspector General Sends Criminal Referral for Former FBI Deputy Director For authorizing the disclosure of sensitive information to the media, then lied repeatedly to investigators examining the matter — Videos — Story 2: Will Former FBI Director James Comey and Former FBI Deputy Director Be Testifying Against Each Other — Videos — Story 3: A Sitting President Cannot Be Indicted For Exercising Presidential Actions Yet President Trump Was Informed By Deputy Attorney General Informed Trump That He Is Not Target (So What) of a Trump Lawyer Cohen Investigation and Mueller Investigation  — President Hires Former Mayor of New York and Federal Prosecutor Rudy Guilliani To Deal With Mueller Investigation — Videos — Story 4: Countdown To Attorney General Session Appoint of Second Special Counsel — No Later Than May 1, 2018 — Videos

Posted on April 25, 2018. Filed under: American History, Barack H. Obama, Blogroll, Breaking News, Bribery, Bribes, Budgetary Policy, Cartoons, Central Intelligence Agency, Communications, Congress, Constitutional Law, Corruption, Countries, Crime, Culture, Disasters, Donald J. Trump, Donald J. Trump, Donald J. Trump, Donald Trump, Economics, Education, Elections, Empires, Employment, European History, Extortion, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Government, First Amendment, Fiscal Policy, Foreign Policy, Former President Barack Obama, Fourth Amendment, Freedom of Speech, Government, Government Dependency, Government Spending, High Crimes, Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton, History, House of Representatives, Human, Human Behavior, Illegal Immigration, Immigration, Impeachment, Independence, James Comey, Law, Legal Immigration, Life, Lying, Media, National Security Agency, News, Obama, People, Philosophy, Photos, Politics, Polls, Presidential Appointments, Progressives, Public Corruption, Public Relations, Radio, Raymond Thomas Pronk, Regulation, Resources, Robert S. Mueller III, Rule of Law, Scandals, Second Amendment, Security, Senate, Senator Jeff Sessions, Social Networking, Spying, Spying on American People, Success, Surveillance and Spying On American People, Surveillance/Spying, Tax Policy, Taxation, Treason, Trump Surveillance/Spying, Unemployment, United States of America, Videos, Violence, Wall Street Journal, Wealth, Weapons, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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Story 1: Department of Justice Inspector General Sends Criminal Referral for Former FBI Deputy Director For authorizing the disclosure of sensitive information to the media, then lied repeatedly to investigators examining the matter — Videos —

Will the US attorney’s office act on criminal referral for McCabe?

Ken Starr on McCabe criminal referral, Comey’s memos

GOP lawmakers seek justice on Comey, McCabe, Clinton, Lynch

Evidence of Hillary Clinton’s guilt is overwhelming: Judge Napolitano

Is Trump in the clear, but McCabe in trouble?

Inspector general referred findings on McCabe to U.S. attorney for consideration of criminal charges

 Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on March 16, shortly before McCabe was set to retire.
 April 19 at 6:58 PM 

The Justice Department inspector general referred his finding that former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe repeatedly misled investigators to Washington’s top federal prosecutor, who will determine whether McCabe should be charged with a crime, according to people familiar with the matter.

The referral to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia occurred some time ago, after the inspector general concluded McCabe had lied to investigators or his boss, then-FBI Director James B. Comey, on four occasions, three of them under oath.

The U.S. attorney’s office met with McCabe’s legal team in recent weeks, though it was not immediately clear whether prosecutors there were conducting their own investigation or believed criminal charges are appropriate.

The referral raises the possibility that McCabe could be charged and jailed for his alleged misconduct — perhaps with Comey testifying as a witness against him. A referral to federal prosecutors, though, does not necessarily mean McCabe will be charged.

Michael R. Bromwich, McCabe’s lawyer, said in a statement: “We were advised of the referral within the past few weeks. Although we believe the referral is unjustified, the standard for an [inspector general] referral is very low. We have already met with staff members from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We are confident that, unless there is inappropriate pressure from high levels of the Administration, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will conclude that it should decline to prosecute.”

President Trump, apparently referring to comments Comey made on CNN saying he could be called as a witness against McCabe, wrote on Twitter: “James Comey just threw Andrew McCabe ‘under the bus.’ Inspector General’s Report on McCabe is a disaster for both of them! Getting a little (lot) of their own medicine?”

The Justice Department, the inspector general’s office and the D.C. U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment Thursday.

Last week, Inspector General Michael Horowitz sent to Congress a report blasting McCabe. It says he inappropriately authorized the disclosure of sensitive information to the media, then lied repeatedly to investigators examining the matter. The report laid out in stunning detail allegations that McCabe had deceived investigators about his role in approving the disclosure, even as he lashed out at others in the FBI for leaks.

McCabe disputes many of the report’s findings and has said he never meant to mislead anyone.

Lying to federal investigators is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison, and some legal analysts speculated in the wake of the report that the inspector general seemed to be laying out a case for accusing McCabe of such conduct. The report alleged that one of McCabe’s lies “was done knowingly and intentionally” — a key aspect of the federal crime.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe from the FBI last month, just 26 hours before McCabe could retire, denying him some of his retirement benefits and reigniting the political firestorm that has long surrounded McCabe. Trump had repeatedly and publicly attacked McCabe, and McCabe alleged that his termination was politically motivated.

“This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally,” McCabe said in a statement on the night he was removed from the FBI. “It is part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel’s work.”

McCabe would raise over a half-million dollars for a legal-defense fund through a GoFundMe page. His firing was recommended by the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, based on the inspector general’s findings.

Separately this week, 11 House Republicans asked Sessions, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber to explore whether McCabe — along with a host of other Justice Department officials — committed crimes in their handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server, the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and other matters. Sessions has tasked Huber with looking into a range of GOP concerns.

The referral from the inspector general to the D.C. U.S. attorney’s office is thought to be far more serious, as inspector general investigators are nonpartisan lawyers and agents who look into wrongdoing for a living.

Comey — who appointed McCabe to his post as the No. 2 official in the FBI — stressed in his book released this week the importance of telling the truth to federal investigators and holding accountable those who do not. Asked about the referral during an appearance Thursday on CNN, Comey said he “could well be a witness” against McCabe and that he felt “conflicted” about the matter.

“I like him very much as a person, but sometimes even good people do things they shouldn’t do,” Comey said of his former deputy. He called the inspector general’s investigation an example of “accountability mechanisms working.”

Comey wrote in his book that as he weighed whether to charge Martha Stewart with such an offense in the early 2000s, he asked his deputy how many people in the United States had been indicted on charges of lying to federal investigators in the previous year. The deputy told him the answer was 2,000. Comey wrote that he told his staff to indict Stewart.

“People must fear the consequences of lying in the justice system or the system can’t work,” he wrote.

The disclosure of which McCabe was accused of authorizing came in October 2016, around the time Comey announced the FBI was resuming its probe of Clinton’s use of a private email server. At the time, Devlin Barrett — then a reporter at the Wall Street Journal — was preparing an article on the bureau’s handling of that case and another investigation into the Clinton Foundation. McCabe felt the article would portray him and the FBI unfairly, so he authorized two other FBI officials to give Barrett his account. Barrett now works for The Washington Post.

Background conversations with reporters in Washington are commonplace, and McCabe had the authority, as the FBI’s deputy director, to authorize them. But the inspector general came to conclude he was acting out of self interest and that it violated FBI policy.

Of particular concern was that McCabe effectively authorized the FBI to confirm an ongoing investigation into the Clinton Foundation by revealing a phone call in which he pushed back against a Justice Department official who warned that the bureau should not be taking overt steps in the case close to an election. McCabe asked the official, “Are you telling me that I need to shut down a validly predicated investigation?”

The inspector general wrote that Comey inquired with his deputy about the disclosure, and McCabe led him to believe he did not know who was responsible. McCabe’s team, though, disputes that and says emails between the two “clearly show that Mr. McCabe specifically advised Director Comey that he was working with colleagues at the FBI to correct inaccuracies in the story before it was published, and that they remained in contact through the weekend while the work was taking place.”

Inspector general investigators came to believe Comey, and they alleged that McCabe lied on three other occasions to them and the FBI’s inspection division. Comey said in an appearance on “The View” this week: “I still believe Andrew McCabe is a good person, but the inspector general found that he lied, and there’s severe consequences in the Justice Department for lying — as there should be throughout the government.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/inspector-general-referred-findings-on-mccabe-to-us-attorney-for-consideration-of-criminal-charges/2018/04/19/a200cabc-43f3-11e8-8569-26fda6b404c7_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1961da82464a

Justice Dept inspector asks US attorney to consider criminal charges for McCabe: reports

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has issued a criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. related to fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a lawyer for McCabe confirmed on Thursday.

McCabe was informed of the referral “within the past few weeks,” according to the lawyer, Michael Bromwich, who called it “unjustified” and noted that “the standard for an IG referral is very low.”
It is not clear whether the U.S. attorney’s office has acted on the referral, which came after the inspector general concluded that McCabe had lied to internal investigators and former FBI Director James Comey over his contacts with the media during the 2016 election.
Referrals don’t guarantee charges will be brought or require prosecutors to act in any way. McCabe and his lawyers have met with staff members from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Bromwich said.
Spokesmen for Horowitz’s office, the U.S. attorney’s office and the Justice Department all declined to comment.

Horowitz last week issued a scathing report of McCabe’s conduct at the FBI, alleging that he authorized a leak to the media in order to “advance his personal interests” and then misled internal investigators and Comey about the matter.

Lying to federal investigators is a federal crime and the report was seen by some analysts as a roadmap for federal charges against McCabe.

McCabe has disputed the charges as politically motivated and said he did not intentionally mislead anyone. His attorney responded immediately on Friday, saying the report “utterly failed to support the decision to terminate Mr. McCabe.”

According to the report, McCabe led Comey to believe that he had not authorized the disclosures that lead to the media story in question and did not know who did. He allegedly made the same statement to internal investigators when questioned under oath months later — only to later correct his statement to the inspector general’s investigators.

“We found it extremely unlikely, as McCabe now claims, that he not only told Comey about his decision to authorize the disclosure, but that Comey thought it was a ‘good’ idea for McCabe to have taken that action,” the report states.

The report was met with glee by conservatives as well as President Trump, who tweeted that the report was a “disaster” that showed McCabe”lied! lied! lied!” and that “McCabe is Comey!”

A group of 11 House conservatives recently issued their own referral on McCabe — and a large group of other Obama-era officials — asking for an investigation into whether he committed perjury and other crimes.That referral was made to AttorneyGeneral Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber.

McCabe has been a target on the right following the revelation that his wife, Jill, received political donations from Hillary Clinton ally and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in a failed state Senate campaign.

The campaign predated McCabe’s stint as deputy director of the FBI, when he had a leadership role in the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server and the Clinton Foundation.

The inspector general report reveals that he recused himself from the two investigations just days before the election.

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/383979-justice-department-inspector-general-issues-criminal-referral-of

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James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director.CreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Memos written by the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, that were released on Thursday revealed several new details about his relationship with President Trump and the president’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus.

Though much of what the memos describe was already public, the documents themselves provided an intimate portrait of the early months of the Trump White House and how the president and Mr. Priebus confronted leaks, the prospect that the national security adviser was under investigationand allegations about Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia.

Mr. Comey depicts Mr. Trump as a man engrossed to the point of distraction with political rivalries and fears that bureaucrats and government officials, including in the F.B.I., were trying to undermine his legitimacy.

[Read the memos here.]

The president responded late Thursday by insisting that the memos showed no collusion with Moscow’s election interference and that Mr. Comey had erred by leaking classified information. The memos were reviewed by Justice Department officials before being released.

Here are six takeaways:

Trump’s Preoccupation With the Dossier

Shortly before Mr. Trump was inaugurated, Mr. Comey briefed him at Trump Tower about a dossier compiled for the F.B.I. by a former British spy that said Mr. Trump and his associates had longstanding ties to Russia. In its most salacious allegation, the document said that the Russian government had a tape of Mr. Trump watching prostitutes urinate on one another during a trip to Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant.

Mr. Trump denied the episode had taken place and appeared to Mr. Comey to be defending himself. Mr. Comey replied that the allegations could have been made up, but that the job of the F.B.I. was to protect the president from efforts to coerce him.

Though Mr. Trump ended the meeting genially, the accusations clearly stuck with him, Mr. Comey’s memos showed. At least twice more in the ensuing weeks, Mr. Trump laid out a timeline for Mr. Comey and claimed that it showed that such a tape could not exist.

THE DAILY

Listen to ‘The Daily’: James Comey on Ego, Distrust and More

In an interview with Michael Barbaro, the former F.B.I. director explains his decision to make public his notes of his interactions with President Trump.

According to the memos, the president told Mr. Comey in a one-on-one dinner at the White House later in January 2017 that he had spoken with several people who had been on the trip with him. Mr. Trump said those people “reminded” him that he did not stay overnight in Moscow.

Mr. Trump said that he had arrived in the morning, attended a series of events, then went to a hotel to shower and dress for the pageant, leaving Russia afterward.

In a February 2017 meeting in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey “‘the hookers thing’ is nonsense” but that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had told him that the country had “some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.”

The Dossier’s Allegations Were Corroborated

Mr. Comey’s decision to brief Mr. Trump on the dossier was based, at least in part, on the fact that American intelligence agencies had corroborated parts of the dossier, according to the memos.

“I explained that the analysts from all three agencies agreed it was relevant and that portions of the material were corroborated by other intelligence,” Mr. Comey wrote in a memo in February 2017, describing how he responded to a question from Mr. Priebus about why he told the president-elect a month earlier about the dossier.

Parts of the memo are redacted but appear to say that information in the dossier “was consistent with and corroborated by other intelligence, and that the incoming president needed to know the rest of it was out there.”

President Trump and his first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, both met privately with the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey during their first weeks in the White House. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Trump’s Focus on McCabe, Then a Relative Unknown

Mr. Trump also raised on several occasions Mr. Comey’s deputy at the F.B.I., Andrew G. McCabe, according to the memos. Mr. McCabe had been the subject of right-wing attacks over his involvement in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information while secretary of state. His wife, Jill, received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for her failed Virginia State Senate campaign from a political committee run by a longtime Clinton ally.

Some conservatives insisted that Mr. McCabe should have recused himself from the Clinton investigation to avoid bias, and Mr. Trump joined in those attacks on the campaign trail.

According to the memos, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey during their January dinner whether Mr. McCabe “had a problem” with the president.

“I was pretty rough on him and his wife during the campaign,” Mr. Trump ventured. Mr. Comey tried to smooth over the issue by explaining that F.B.I. agents and officials pride themselves on being apolitical.

“l explained that Andy was a true professional and had no problem at all,” Mr. Comey wrote. “I then explained what F.B.I. people were like, that whatever their personal views, they strip them when they step into their bureau roles and actually hold ‘political people’ in slight contempt without regard to party.”

The president broached the subject again during dinner, and the F.B.I. director repeated his response.

Photo

Memos written last year by the F.B.I. director at the time, James B. Comey, and released on Thursday depict President Trump as preoccupied with political rivalries and fears that government officials were trying to undermine his presidency. CreditSusan Walsh/Associated Press

“I again affirmed Andy’s ability and professionalism and said the president would come to see and benefit from both,” Mr. Comey wrote.

In an Oval Office meeting weeks later, Mr. Trump brought up Mr. McCabe again.

“He asked (as he had at our dinner) whether my deputy had a problem with him, and recounting how hard he had been on the campaign trail, saying, ‘The No. 2 guy at the F.B.I. took a million dollars from the Clintons.’”

Mr. Comey said he again explained that Mr. McCabe was “a pro” and had never mentioned Mr. Trump’s attacks.

What Priebus Knew

At their dinner, Mr. Trump gave contradictory explanations about whether Mr. Priebus knew they were meeting.

Early on, as they discussed whom Mr. Comey’s point of contact should be at the White House, Mr. Trump said that “Reince doesn’t know we are having dinner” but that Mr. Comey should plan to go to him.

But as Mr. Comey was preparing to leave the White House that night, Mr. Trump told him: ”Reince knows we are having dinner’ (the opposite of what he said earlier),” according to one memo.

Mr. Comey neither explained nor speculated why Mr. Trump contradicted himself.

The Flynn Investigation

In their own meeting on Feb. 8, 2017, Mr. Priebus tried to ask Mr. Comey whether the F.B.I. was wiretapping the national security adviser at the time, Michael T. Flynn.

Weeks earlier, reports had emerged that Mr. Flynn was overheard on a wiretap talking with the Russian ambassador to the United States about sanctions being imposed by the Obama administration as punishment for its election interference. The calls raised concerns among senior law enforcement and intelligence agencies that Mr. Flynn might have been working to help the Russians.

Mr. Comey’s answer was redacted in the released version of the memos. But it is widely believed that Mr. Flynn was overheard on the wiretap because American intelligence agencies routinely listen in on the calls of foreign ambassadors.

Mr. Comey said he then explained how such questions should be routed from the White House counsel’s office to the Justice Department.

“I explained that it was important that communications about any particular case go through that channel to protect us and to protect the W.H. from any accusations of improper influence,” Mr. Comey said, using shorthand for the White House.

Hunting Leakers

In one February conversation, the two men discussed leaks in the news media at length. By then, Mr. Trump had endured several embarrassing disclosures of classified information, including transcripts of his calls with foreign leaders in which he was short with the leaders of American allies, including Australia and Mexico.

In his memo, Mr. Comey explained how he hoped to catch one of the leakers to set an example.

“I said I was eager to find leakers and would like to nail one to the door as a message,” Mr. Comey said. “I said something about it being difficult and he replied that we need to go after the reporters and referred to the fact that 10 or 15 years ago, we put them in jail to find what they know and it worked.”

 

Mr. Trump then mentioned Judith Miller, a former reporter for The New York Times. In 2005, Ms. Miller was jailed for 85 days for refusing to testify and reveal her confidential source about the identity of a former C.I.A. operative, Valerie Plame, before relenting.

“I explained that I was a fan of pursuing leaks aggressively but that going after reporters was tricky, for legal reasons and because D.O.J. tends to approach it conservatively,” Mr. Comey said. The president, he said, suggested he speak to Attorney General Jeff Sessions about being more aggressive in prosecuting leaks.

What was new — and disturbing — about the Comey memos


Copies of the memos written by then-FBI Director James B. Comey. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)
 April 20 at 6:45 PM

There was not much the public did not already know in the Comey memos that leaked to the mediaThursday. The contents of the documents, in which then-FBI Director James B. Comey contemporaneously kept track of his interactions with President Trump over the course of 2017, had already been mostly disclosed. But there are two elements that nevertheless stood out, adding detail to the picture of a president dismissive of democratic norms and distracted by his obsessions.

First is Mr. Trump’s private expressions of contempt for press freedom. According to a Feb. 14, 2017, memo, the president said Mr. Comey should jail journalists to compel them to identify government leakers, as Justice Department officials did in 2005 with New York Times reporter Judith Miller. When the FBI director said that such a plan would face legal barriers as well as reticence at the Justice Department, the president ordered Mr. Comey to talk to the attorney general about “being more aggressive,” saying, “They spend a couple days in jail, make a new friend, and they are ready to talk,” according to the memo. In response to this disgusting statement, Mr. Comey writes he laughed and exited the room.

Mr. Trump would not be the first president to bemoan leaks, but a president repeatedly suggesting the imprisonment of journalists should be unfathomable in a country committed to freedom of expression. It rings all the more threatening in the context of Mr. Trump’s historic hostility toward the media, which includes calling to “loosen” up libel laws , encouraging crowds at his campaign rallies to turn and jeer at the peaceful press corps behind them, and transforming the term “fake news” into a phrase now used by dictators across the world to dismiss truthful reporting they do not like. Meanwhile, his vulgar reference to making “a new friend” in prison trivializes the dehumanizing torture of prison rape that too many inmates continue to suffer. These comments deserved not a laugh from Mr. Comey, but the cold silence he reported giving to many of Mr. Trump’s other disturbing remarks.

What also comes through clearly in the Comey memos is the president’s intense preoccupation with allegations that he interacted with Russian prostitutes during a 2013 trip to Moscow. Mr. Comey recorded that Mr. Trump raised the story in multiple meetings, asking the FBI director to investigate and rebut the allegation, a mission from which Mr. Comey demurred. The fact that the Russians interfered in the 2016 election or the threat that the Kremlin may be trying to influence the president and his circle got no such attention, at least if Mr. Comey’s account is remotely representative of the president’s behavior. Protecting himself, not preserving national security, appears to be Mr. Trump’s overriding goal.

For his part, the president has said that Mr. Comey is a liar but also that Mr. Comey’s memos exonerate him. The claim is as credible as it is logical.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-was-new–and-disturbing–about-the-comey-memos/2018/04/20/27521412-44d7-11e8-ad8f-27a8c409298b_story.html?utm_term=.16310f2e17f9

 

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