More on Trump and the Russia probe

It has been revealed that just after Donald trump fired FBI chief James Comey the the FBI investigated whether Trump was secretly working for Russia. Trump has slammed the report (in the New York Times) but didn’t answer a question on whether he had worked for Russia in a friendly Fox interview.

New York Times:  F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia

In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.

Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.

If the president had fired Mr. Comey to stop the Russia investigation, the action would have been a national security issue because it naturally would have hurt the bureau’s effort to learn how Moscow interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Americans were involved, according to James A. Baker, who served as F.B.I. general counsel until late 2017.

Trump does what he often does when something awkward comes up – attacked the source and ex-FBI leaders.

“Funny thing about James Comey. Everybody wanted him fired, Republican and Democrat alike. After the rigged & botched Crooked Hillary investigation, where she was interviewed on July 4th Weekend, not recorded or sworn in, and where she said she didn’t know anything (a lie), my firing of James Comey was a great day for America. He was a Crooked Cop.”

White House response (Sarah Sanders):

“This is absurd. James Comey was fired because he’s a disgraced partisan hack, and his Deputy Andrew McCabe, who was in charge at the time, is a known liar fired by the FBI.

“Unlike President Obama, who let Russia and other foreign adversaries push American around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russia.”

Fox News: Republican uncovered secret FBI debate over Trump motivation for Comey firing during House questioning

A House Republican’s line of questioning uncovered revelations that in May 2017 senior FBI leadership debated whether President Trump was directed by the Russian government to fire FBI Director James Comey, Fox News has learned.

Contacted by Fox, U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, confirmed his questions to former FBI General Counsel James A. Baker uncovered the claims, some of which were first reported Friday by the New York Times.

Ratcliffe called the Baker transcript leak “selective,” adding that the full transcript of the Oct. 18 interview, which is undergoing a classification review by the FBI and the Justice Department, reveals “that in May 2017, political bias infected senior FBI leadership, and emotion — not evidence — drove their decision making.”

A separate source said Baker told investigators the internal FBI debate over the president’s decision to fire Comey on May 9, 2017, included personnel who have since left the bureau for cause, retired, or have been demoted.

Ratcliffe said he was surprised to read Friday’s New York Times report, which quoted part of his Baker interview, and reported that after the Comey firing “law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior” that they began investigating whether Trump was working on behalf of Russia.

The House Republican would not further describe the contents of the Baker transcript but said it was clear, based on his direct questioning of Baker, that in May 2017 “FBI senior leadership could not accept Comey was fired for cause and the president had the constitutional authority to terminate Comey.”

Ratcliffe said he was aware of the Baker revelations in October, and House Republicans had been working through proper channels to make the entire transcript public.

In a phone interview with a friend at Fox News (Jeanine Piro) Trump avoided answering a question about Russia:

The president was also asked to respond to a recent New York Times report that alleged that the FBI had investigated him for working on behalf of Russia.

“I think it’s the most insulting thing I have ever been asked. I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written and if you read the article you see that they found absolutely nothing.”

“If you ask the folks in Russia, I’ve been tougher on Russia than anybody else, any other … probably any other president, period, but certainly the last three or four presidents.”

I don’t think ‘the folks in Russia’ are the people to ask about that.

Trump also addressed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential election, saying “it’s all nonsense.”

“Here’s the bottom line. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. There was no anything. … It’s a witch hunt.”

That is still uncertain. The Robert Mueller investigation into Russian collusion has not yet revealed anything major against Trump. Time will tell whether it has found information that will be damaging for Trump or his family. In the meantime, the saga and slagging match will continue.

Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen is set to testify in congress next month, before he heads to prison in March to start a three year sentence. This could be awkward for Trump. However Cohen may be limited in what he can say.

Fox News:  Michael Cohen, seeking vindication, can’t use most ammunition against Trump

While President Trump’s former personal lawyer turning on him before a House committee will be a television spectacle, Cohen’s allies say he will testify under great constraints.

Cohen may have important new information that he has disclosed to Robert Mueller in 70 hours of interviews with prosecutors, but if so, he won’t be able to reveal it.

The major limitation, as Cohen has said, is that he can’t discuss anything still under investigation by the special counsel. That means Cohen, who is still hoping for a reduction in his sentence, can’t answer questions about Russian collusion or the proposed real estate project in Moscow. It also means he can’t address the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and a Russian lawyer (who was recently indicted on money-laundering charges).

The New York lawyer wants to explain why he went to work for Trump, why he is ashamed of having worked for Trump, and how he made the decision last July to turn on his longtime benefactor, who has called him a “weak person” and a “rat.”

Part of that explanation will focus on Cohen’s view that while certain behavior might be tolerable in a private businessman, the standards are very different when that person becomes president.

Cohen will offer personal anecdotes about his service to Trump and what he has termed his complicity in “dirty deeds,” the sources say. These would likely be unflattering blasts from the past but could have little to do with his record as president.

Trump has survived many unflattering blasts from the past before.

Everyone will have to wait until the Mueller investigation reveals what it has found out about what dealings Trump or his family or associates may have had with Russia in the 2016 election campaign.

 

 

Kavanaugh inquiry seems like a political sham

Both Democrats and Republicans have dragged the Supreme Court nomination process down into a debacle, and the rushed and hobbled FBI inquiry has just added to a spectacle that should be an embarrassment to the United States.

It looks like the limited inquiry has just initiated more controversy, which is hardly surprising given how rushed it was.

Fox News: White House receives FBI report on Kavanaugh, ‘fully confident’ he’ll be confirmed

The White House on Thursday announced that it has received the FBI’s supplemental background investigation into President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, and is “fully confident” that he will eventually be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

The FBI was tasked by Trump last week to look into allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against Kavanaugh by three women. The investigation commenced after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — the first woman to come forward — testified before the Senate Judiciary last week about her claims against the federal judge.

Raj Shah, the principal deputy press secretary for the White House, said the FBI report is currently “being transmitted to the Senate.”

“With [Senate Majority] Leader [Mitch] McConnell’s cloture filing, Senators have been given ample time to review this seventh background investigation,” Shah said in a statement posted to Twitter.

‘Ample time’ is a joke.

“This is the last addition to the most comprehensive review of a Supreme Court nominee in history, which includes extensive hearings, multiple committee interviews, over 1,200 questions for the record and over a half million pages of documents.”

Shah said the “White House is fully confident” Kavanaugh will be confirmed to the Supreme Court in the Senate vote.

Fox News: Grassley says new FBI report backs Kavanaugh, urges Senate to send him to high court

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, declared earlier Thursday that nothing in the document changed his mind, and that it was time to vote to confirm Kavanaugh.

“I’ve now received a committee staff briefing on the FBI’s supplement to Judge Kavanaugh’s background investigation file,” Grassley said Thursday. “There’s nothing in it that we didn’t already know. These uncorroborated accusations have been unequivocally and repeatedly rejected by Judge Kavanaugh, and neither the Judiciary Committee nor the FBI could locate any third parties who can attest to any of the allegations.

Republican swing senators on the Brett Kavanaugh nomination indicated Thursday they were satisfied with the FBI’s investigation into sexual assault allegations against the Supreme Court pick, stirring speculation they could back the embattled judge in the end.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who has stayed mum on her Kavanaugh stance, said Thursday that the bureau’s supplemental background probe “appears to be a very thorough investigation.”

And Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who originally requested the FBI re-open its investigation into the claims leveled against Kavanaugh by Christine Blasey Ford, agreed.

“No new corroborative information came out of it,” Flake said on Capitol Hill Thursday. “Thus far, we’ve see no new credible corroboration—no new corroboration at all.”

But Flake continued to keep the public guessing, returning to view the report again saying he has “more reading” to do. He pulled a surprise last week when he publicly backed Kavanaugh, and then demanded the FBI probe before a final vote.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who also is considered a swing vote, was going to view the document Thursday afternoon. “I’m going to read it myself,” Murkowski said on her way to read the report for the first time. “I’m gonna go in with my eyes to it.”

But Fox News: Ford’s lawyers slam FBI investigation after McConnell signals Kavanaugh vote later this week

Attorneys for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford late Wednesday slammed the FBI background investigation into President Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, after it was revealed that the agency’s probe appears to be over.

“An FBI supplemental background investigation that did not include an interview of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford– nor the witnesses who corroborate her testimony– cannot be called an investigation,” the statement read. “We are profoundly disappointed that after the tremendous sacrifice she made in coming forward, those directing the FBI investigation were not interested in seeking the truth.”

Sources previously told Fox News that Senators and some aides would be able to start looking at the FBI’s background investigation on Thursday morning and that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and committee member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would be given the first chance to look at the report.

It sounds like conclusions have been reached before most people have had a chance to read the report.

Business Insider: ‘Our fears have been realised’: Democrats slam FBI investigation into Kavanaugh

  • Senate Democrats condemned the FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, calling it “incomplete.”
  • Democrats have accused the White House of limiting the probe, and they point to the fact that the FBI didn’t interview either Kavanaugh or his most prominent accuser, professor Christine Blasey Ford.

Senate Democrats condemned the FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, arguing that the probe was limited by the White House and plagued by a lack of transparency.

After being briefed on the report, of which only one hard copy has been made available to senators under time limits and intense security, Democratic leadership called the probe “incomplete” and pushed for Republicans to release a redacted version of it and of the White House’s directive to the FBI instructing the law enforcement agency on how to conduct the investigation.

“We had many fears that this was a very limited process that would constrain the FBI from getting all the facts,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said during a brief press conference on Thursday morning. “Having received a thorough briefing on the documents, those fears have been realised.”

Schumer said that he disagrees with Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley’s description of the report as containing “no hint of misconduct.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, called the report “a product of an incomplete investigation” and accused the White House of blocking the FBI from “doing its job.”

“The most notable part of this report is what’s not in it,” she said during the press conference.

Democratic lawmakers were given one hour on Thursday morning to view the report in a secure room in the Senate.

A rushed inquiry and rushed reading are very poor ways of dealing with such an important nomination.

Fox News: GOP senator said he urged Trump to pick someone other than Kavanaugh

During a passionate speech to his Senate colleagues, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse told lawmakers he “urged” President Trump earlier this summer to consider choosing another Supreme Court nominee after discovering Judge Brett Kavanaugh was his top pick.

Speaking about the #MeToo movement and the rancorous debate over Kavanaugh’s confirmation and the sexual assault allegations against him, Sasse said on the Senate floor Wednesday he asked Trump to “make a different choice” for the nation’s highest court as early as June. He also sharply rebuked the president for mocking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — the woman who accused the federal judge of sexual misconduct more than 30 years ago.

Sasse, from Nebraska, didn’t reveal who he asked Trump to nominate but did hint it was a woman. Amy Coney Barrett and Joan Larsen were considered on the short list for Trump’s consideration.

“Part of my argument then was that the very important #MeToo movement was also very new and this Senate is not at all well prepared to handle potential allegations of sexual harassment and assault that might have come forward,” Sasse said, adding his warning “was absent of knowing a particular nominee.”

The inquiry may may now lead the way to a vote for the appointment of Kavanaugh, but it is unlikely to calm the controversy down.

There have been a number of reports like this from the New Yorker: The F.B.I. Probe Ignored Testimonies from Former Classmates of Kavanaugh

Frustrated potential witnesses who have been unable to speak with the F.B.I. agents conducting the investigation into sexual-assault allegations against Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, have been resorting to sending statements, unsolicited, to the Bureau and to senators, in hopes that they would be seen before the inquiry concluded.

NBC News reported that dozens of people who said that they had information about Kavanaugh had contacted F.B.I. field offices, but agents had not been permitted to talk to many of them. Several people interested in speaking to the F.B.I. expressed exasperation in interviews with The New Yorker at what they perceived to be a lack of interest in their accounts.

The FBI did not interview either Kavanaugh himself, nor Christine Blasey Ford.

I’ve just heard a very slanted speech by Mitch McConnell who lauded Kavanaugh and slammed accusers. He said that the FBI couldn’t find any corroborating witnesses, but there have been a number of claims from people that they were ignored by the FBI.

This nomination is a mess that reflects very poorly on politics and justice in the US.

One thing seems sure – this will do nothing to calm the controversy down.

 

FBI ‘background investigation’ requested before Kavanaugh vote

The US Senate Judiciary Committee has requested that the FBI conduct a background investigation before a vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. They want this done in just a week, but it seems a prudent pause in proceedings.

Reuters (Twitter):

Republican Senator Flake says it would be proper to delay floor vote on Kavanaugh for up to one week.

Senate Judiciary Committee will request Trump administration has FBI conduct background investigation into Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh.

Senate panel says supplemental FBI background investigation would be limited to ‘current credible allegations’ against Kavanaugh, must be completed in one week.

One week isn’t a lot of time for this, but it is better than a highly politicised Senate hearing that proved little apart from vested interests and manipulation of both Republicans and Democrats.

Vox:  Trump says he’ll defer to senators on Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote

President Donald Trump praised his Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, for his “riveting” testimony during his Senate Judiciary hearing on Thursday night, then demanded, “The Senate must vote!”

But on Friday, answering reporters’ questions as he met with Chilean president Sebastián Piñera, Trump said he’d defer to senators on how they wanted the nomination to play out. “Well, I’m going to let the Senate handle that, they’ll make their decisions,” Trump told reporters.

When asked if Trump would approve a reopening of an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh, Trump said he would rely on lawmakers. That’s going to “be a decision that they’re going to make,” the president said. “And I suspect they’ll be making some decision soon, whether to take a vote, or to do whatever else they want to do.”

“I will be totally reliant on what Sen. Grassley and the group decides to do,” Trump added.

Also from Vox: Every time Ford and Kavanaugh dodged a question, in one chart

Beyond the style of their testimonies, there was a striking difference in the content of their words. Both Ford and Kavanaugh fielded questions from senators and the prosecutor hired by Republicans, Rachel Mitchell.

But only Ford made an effort to answer every single question.

Kavanaugh actively dodged questions. He often repeated the same non-answer over and over. Other times, he insisted on answering a question with “context” — which inevitably was a long story about his childhood — but never actually answered the question.

It may be up to the FBI now to get some questions answered.

A dramatic last-minute demand by Republican Senator Jeff Flake on Friday prompted the Senate Judiciary Committee to seek an FBI investigation into President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh over sexual misconduct allegations that have riveted the country and imperiled his confirmation chances.

The Republican-led committee approved Kavanaugh’s nomination and sent it to the full Senate over Democratic opposition, with Flake providing the decisive vote.

But Flake, a moderate Republican, cast his vote only after asking the panel to request that the Trump administration pursue an FBI probe of the explosive allegations against Kavanaugh and delay a final Senate confirmation vote for up to a week to allow the investigation to run its course.

Flake’s action came a day after the Judiciary Committee’s jarring and emotional hearing into the allegations against Kavanaugh that gripped the country, with a university professor named Christine Blasey Ford accusing him of sexually assaulting her in 1982 when both were high schools students in Maryland. Kavanaugh denied the accusation.

Flake’s action put the confirmation prospects for Kavanaugh, a conservative federal appeals court judge nominated for a lifetime job on the top U.S. court, in further jeopardy in a Senate only narrowly controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans.

Republican Senate leaders agreed to Flake’s demand but the White House would have to direct the FBI to act. Trump said earlier he would rely on the Senate’s decision about how to move forward.

I think the White House will have to direct the FBI to act, otherwise a could will keep hanging over Kavanaugh’s nomination.

It sounds like Trump may have been given a choice of this or insufficient votes in support of the nomination.

Trump accuses China of hacking Clinton server, no evidence

Donald Trump initiated circus has tweeted claims from a right wing media source of ‘mixed’ factual reliability that China hacked Hillary Clinton’s server, and has urged the FBI to act or “their credibility will be gone forever!”, but the FBI have responded with this very brief statement:

“The FBI has not found any evidence the servers were compromised.”

Two contrasting headlines:

Fox News: Chinese company reportedly hacked Clinton’s server, got copy of every email in real-time

A Chinese state-owned company reportedly hacked former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server, then inserted code that forwarded them a copy of virtually every email she sent or received after that — a revelation President Trump is demanding be investigated.

The Daily Caller reported that the firm operating in the D.C. area wrote code that was then embedded in the server and generated a “courtesy copy” for almost all her emails — which was then forwarded to the Chinese company.

The code reportedly was discovered in 2015 by the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), which then warned FBI officials of the intrusion.

A source briefed on the matter confirmed to Fox News the details of the Caller’s reporting, and said that the ICIG was so concerned by the revelation that officials drove over to the FBI to inform agents — including anti-Trump agent Peter Strzok — of the development after it was discovered via the emails’ metadata.

The source told Fox News the hack was from a Chinese company, describing it as a front for Chinese intelligence.

A second source briefed on the matter told Fox News that officials outside of the FBI indicated code on the Clinton server suggested a foreign source was receiving copies of emails in real time.

The hacking report caught the attention late Tuesday of President Trump, who warned that the FBI and DOJ should act or “their credibility will be forever gone.”

NPR had a different angle: Trump Says Without Evidence That China Hacked Clinton Email Server

President Trump tweeted early Wednesday that China was behind a hack of former presidential opponent Hillary Clinton’s emails, in an apparent reference to an article published by the conservative Daily Caller website.

China denied the allegation.

The article, by reporter Richard Pollack, cites two anonymous sources and says a Chinese-owned company based outside of Washington, D.C., “hacked Hillary Clinton’s private server throughout her term as secretary of state and obtained nearly all her emails.”

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia was behind a campaign to influence the 2016 election and was responsible for the hacking of emails of the Democratic National Committee as well as for Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

The subject of the Daily Caller’s article is separate from that hack.

So the allegation seems to be that China hacked Clinton’s email server as well as Russia.

“The FBI spent thousands of hours investigating, and found no evidence of intrusion. That’s a fact,” the Daily Caller quoted Clinton spokesperson Nick Merrill as saying. “But in an age where facts are alternative and truth isn’t truth, it’s no surprise that an outlet like the Daily Caller would try to distract us from very real and very immediate threats to our democracy brought by the man occupying the White House.”

“This isn’t the first time we’ve heard similar kinds of allegations,” Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday. “China is a staunch defender of cybersecurity. We firmly oppose and crack down on any forms of Internet attacks and the stealing of secrets,” she added, according to Reuters.

Trump said in April 2017 that it “could have been China, could have been a lot of different groups” behind the hack of Democratic emails that has been blamed on Russia.

Washington also reported on this initially, but followed up a few hours later: FBI pushes back on unfounded Trump claim that China hacked Hillary Clinton’s email

The FBI on Wednesday pushed back on an unfounded claim by President Trump that Hillary Clinton’s emails were hacked by China, saying it had found no evidence that the private servers she used while secretary of state had been compromised.

Trump provided no details about the alleged hacking, but his tweets came shortly after the online publication of a story by the Daily Caller asserting that a Chinese-owned company operating in the Washington area hacked Clinton’s private server while she was secretary of state and obtained nearly all her emails. The publication cited “two sources briefed on the matter.”

Fox News, which is frequently watched by the president, aired a segment on the report Wednesday night, with a guest calling it a bombshell if true.

Asked about the president’s assertions, the FBI provided a statement Wednesday afternoon that simply said: “The FBI has not found any evidence the servers were compromised.”

An FBI spokesman declined to comment on Trump’s call for the bureau to make a “next move.” A spokesman for the Justice Department also declined to comment.

In a July 2016 statement, Comey said the FBI “did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail domain, in its various configurations since 2009, was successfully hacked.” But, he added: “Given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence.”

A lengthy Justice Department inspector general report released in June criticized the latter part of Comey’s statement, saying that while forensics agents could not say with 100 percent confidence that Clinton’s servers had not been compromised, they were “fairly confident” that there wasn’t an intrusion.

Trump’s calls to investigate Clinton and other real and perceived political adversaries have grown louder as the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election continues.

Media Bias/Fact Check on Daily Caller:

These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward conservative causes through story selection and/or political affiliation. They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage conservative causes.

Factual Reporting: MIXED

Trump has also tweeted over the last few hours:

New Poll – A majority of Americans think that John Brennan and James Comey should have their Security Clearances Revoked. Not surprised!

“The Obama people did something that’s never been done…They spied on a rival presidential campaign. Would it be OK if Trump did it next? I am losing faith that our system is on the level. I’m beginning to think it is rotten & corrupt. Scary stuff Obama did.” DOJ

“Hillary Clinton and the DNC paid for information from the Russian government to use against her government – there’s no doubt about that!”

Tucker Carlson is on Fox.

“Anonymous Sources are really starting to BURN the media.” The fact is that many anonymous sources don’t even exist. They are fiction made up by the Fake News reporters. Look at the lie that Fake CNN is now in. They got caught red handed! Enemy of the People!

When you see “anonymous source,” stop reading the story, it is fiction!

That’s quite ironic given that the Chinese hacking claims made by Daily Caller and Fox were based on anonymous sources.

It seems curious that Fox seems to be getting ‘briefed’ by similar or the same sources as Daily Caller.

Me on Donald Trump:

Factual tweeting: very mixed, very biased towards trump causes and conspiracies.

 

Trump versus Brennan and many others

Donald Trump escalated his feud with ex-CIA chief John Brennan, who has been critical of Trump. Trump has just symbolically stripped Brennan of his security clearance, but this has sparked more criticism of Trump, with claims that Trump is trying to punish people who criticise him and warn off others.

Reuters: Ex-CIA director stripped of security clearance says Trump punishing critics

Former CIA Director John Brennan said on Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to revoke his security clearance was part of an effort to silence critics.

“This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics,” Brennan wrote on Twitter. “It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out.”

In an interview on MSNBC, Brennan said Trump’s action, announced on Wednesday by the White House, was politically motivated.

It’s hard to know whether it is political or petulance. Talking of which:

It is remarkable to see a president promoting a statement like “An incredibly corrupt FBI & DOJ “.

But there has been pushback against Trump’s attacks.

Washington Post: Revoke my security clearance, too, Mr. President

William H. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, was commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Dear Mr. President:

Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him.

Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.

Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs.

A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself.

Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.

If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.

LA Times: 13 former U.S. spy chiefs accuse Trump of trying to stifle free speech and politicize intelligence

In a remarkable rebuke to President Trump, 13 former U.S. intelligence chiefs have signed a harshly worded letter in support of former CIA Director John Brennan after Trump abruptly revoked his security clearance.

“We feel compelled to respond in the wake of the ill-considered and unprecedented remarks and actions by the White House,” reads the letter from the officials, who served both Democratic and Republican presidents.

They called Trump’s action “inappropriate” and “deeply regrettable.”Signing the letter Thursday was a virtual who’s who of American spy chiefs dating back to the late 1980s, a striking show of solidarity from the top ranks of the national security establishment.

They included former directors of central intelligence William Webster, George Tenet and Porter Goss; former CIA directors Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and David Petraeus; former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; and former deputy CIA directors John McLaughlin, Stephen Kappes, Avril Haines, David Cohen and Michael Morell.

Robert Gates, the former CIA director and secretary of Defense, signed on to the letter Friday morning. Having served Republican and Democratic presidents, Gates is known for staying out of the political arena. His addition to the bipartisan list only served to underscore the alarm in national security circles following Trump’s punitive swipe at Brennan, seen by many as little more than an attempt to silence his enemies.

But as usual Trump lives in a different universe.

Leaving the White House for a trip to New York, Trump told reporters Friday he’s gotten a “tremendous response” since revoking Brennan’s clearance.

He also blasted the special counsel investigation into Russian collusion and obstruction of justice as “a rigged witch hunt,” claiming that many intelligence officials involved in it should be under investigation themselves.
“They should be looking at the other side,” Trump said.

He singled out Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, the only current government employee whose security clearance the White House claimed Wednesday to be reviewing. Ohr was an early Justice Department contact of Christopher Steele, the private investigator whose dossier on the Trump campaign’s Russia connections was a cornerstone of the government’s initial investigation. Ohr’s wife also once worked for the firm that compiled the dossier.

“Bruce Ohr is a disgrace,” Trump said, hinting that he would strip more security clearances soon. “I suspect I’ll be taking it away very quickly.”

So stripping and threats to strip security clearances is about Russian investigation.

Greg Sargent: Trump’s punishment of Brennan is actually all about the Mueller probe

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that President Trump had decided to revoke John Brennan’s security clearance, citing the former CIA director’s “erratic conduct and behavior”.

Oodles of irony in “erratic conduct and behavior””.

Trump’s full statement on the decision explicitly mentions Brennan’s criticism of his administration as a rationale for it.

Mr. Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations — wild outbursts on the internet and television — about this Administration. Mr. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct, characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary, is inconsistent with access to the Nation’s most closely held secrets, and facilitates the aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos.

More broadly, the issue of Mr. Brennan’s security clearance raises larger questions about the practice of former officials maintaining access to our Nation’s most sensitive secrets long after their time in Government has ended. Such access is particularly inappropriate when former officials have transitioned into highly partisan positions and seek to use real or perceived access to sensitive information to validate their political attacks.

Sargent:

The key is that this suggests this move is all about striking a political blow against special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.

Trump — who plainly feels constrained from trying to remove Mueller — cannot do anything about the Mueller investigation except tweet wildly about it and threaten not to sit for an interview. So instead, he is striking a blow against his deep-state enemies behind the investigation, and hoping his base sees him as taking decisive action. That’s the story this is meant to tell.

Trump supporters do think that doing things like revoking Brennan’s security clearance and attacking Mueller and his investigation is taking decisive action against critics and against legal processes.

And they parrot Trump’s lines about any criticism of his behaviour being part of some conspiracy – it was claimed by some that 300+ US newspapers denounce Trump attacks somehow proved Trump’s conspiracy claims rather than being widespread concern about Trump’s anti-media rhetoric, especially his tyrant-like promotion of ‘enemy of the people’.

I don’t expect Trump devotees to stop their admiration, nor their defence of Trump.

But there is obviously a lot of prominent people joining media in expressing their concerns about the petulant president who devotes a lot of time to attacking critics, attacking legal processes, and attacking his own judicial and security departments.

I think it’s just a matter of time before Trump becomes known as the president who won the election but lost the war of words. He surely can’t keep making enemies of some many people and organisations and win the long game, when he is increasingly obsessed with daily skirmishes on Twitter.

Trump is a twit who thought he could rule by Twitter – but he’s a dangerous twit will the Republicans keep aiding and abetting his dysfunctional and dangerous tenure.

No proof of bias in FBI Clinton email probe

Not surprisingly faults have been found in the FBO investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server, and the way James Comey handled it, but no proof has been found of bias.

Politico: Watchdog criticizes Comey but finds no proof FBI’s Clinton probe tainted by bias

A long-awaited report by the Justice Department’s watchdog Thursday found no indication that political bias affected decisions in the FBI’s 2016 investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server, but the review criticized agents and ex-FBI Director James Comey for violating bureau norms during the probe.

The department’s inspector general turned up fresh evidence of FBI officials exchanging messages critical of President Donald Trump and of leaking to the media, and the report faulted the FBI for several weeks of inaction following the September 2016 discovery of emails relevant to its investigation on a laptop belonging to former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, who was married to a top Clinton aide.

Comey was singled out for withering criticism by Inspector General Michael Horowitz, including accusations of insubordination against top Justice Department officials and of making “a serious error of judgment” in notifying Congress shortly before the 2016 election that the FBI was re-opening its Clinton email probe. Comey later reiterated his recommendation that she not face charges, but Clinton has said the letter nonetheless helped cause her loss.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that Comey’s actions had a significant impact on the presidential election campaign in 2016.

Fox targets Comey on their coverage: IG report on Clinton email probe reveals FBI agent’s ‘stop’-Trump text, calls Comey ‘insubordinate’

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, in a comprehensive and at-times scathing report on the handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, exposed extraordinary text messages by a top FBI official vowing to “stop” Donald Trump — while calling then-director James Comey’s actions in the case “insubordinate.”

The long-awaited report was released Thursday afternoon, spanning nearly 600 pages and scrutinizing the actions of numerous figures who played a key role in the Justice Department and FBI’s investigation. It is the result of an 18-month investigation, incorporating dozens of witness interviews and hundreds of thousands of documents.

The FBI, in its response to the review, said the inspector general “found no evidence to connect the political views expressed by these employees with the specific investigative decisions.”

But it said the inspector general has referred five employees for investigation into whether the messages violated the FBI’s Offense Codes and Penalty Guidelines.

Horowitz’s investigation looked at a variety of other allegations, including whether it was improper for Comey to make a public announcement about not recommending prosecution over the Clinton email arrangement.

“We found that it was extraordinary and insubordinate for Comey to conceal his intentions from his superiors, the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, for the admitted purpose of preventing them from telling him not to make the statement, and to instruct his subordinates in the FBI to do the same,” Horowitz’s report says.

THE FULL REPORT

Trump ‘campaign spy’ claim refuted

As has become normal, Donald Trump made a big claim via Twitter on Friday based on what appear to be nothing more than vague rumours.

And as usual, this seems to have been somewhat embellished.

NY Times: F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims

President Trump accused the F.B.I. on Friday, without evidence, of sending a spy to secretly infiltrate his 2016 campaign “for political purposes” even before the bureau had any inkling of the “phony Russia hoax.”

In fact, F.B.I. agents sent an informant to talk to two campaign advisers only after they received evidence that the pair had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign. The informant, an American academic who teaches in Britain, made contact late that summer with one campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, according to people familiar with the matter. He also met repeatedly in the ensuing months with the other aide, Carter Page, who was also under F.B.I. scrutiny for his ties to Russia.

No evidence has emerged that the informant acted improperly when the F.B.I. asked for help in gathering information on the former campaign advisers, or that agents veered from the F.B.I.’s investigative guidelines and began a politically motivated inquiry, which would be illegal.

Trump has never been bothered much about evidence when making accusations and claims, but he is demanding an investigation

Fox News: Trump to ‘demand’ Justice probe whether feds spied on campaign for political purposes

Promoting a theory that is circulating, Trump quoted Fox Business anchor David Asman and tweeted Friday: “Apparently the DOJ put a Spy in the Trump Campaign. This has never been done before and by any means necessary, they are out to frame Donald Trump for crimes he didn’t commit.”

But Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani cast some doubt on that.

On whether there was an “informant” in the 2016 presidential campaign, Giuliani told CNN, “I don’t know for sure, nor does the president, if there really was one,” though he said they have long been told there was “some kind of infiltration.”

Perhaps another investigation would clarify the extent of the FBI attention given the trump campaign, but it would also add another ring to the Trump circus.

FBI raid of Trump’s personal lawyer’s office

A high development in the US with the FBI raiding the home and office of Michael Cohen, a lawyer closely associated with Donald Trump. This doesn’t mean Trump has been found to have done anything wrong, but it looks a more serious situation for Cohen.

Reuters: FBI raids offices, home of Trump’s personal lawyer

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday raided the offices and home of U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, law enforcement sources said, in a dramatic new development in a series of probes involving close Trump associates.

Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen M. Ryan, said that U.S. prosecutors conducted a search that was partly a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.

Mueller is investigating whether members of Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russia during the U.S. presidential election. Trump has called the probe a “witch hunt” and denied any collusion.

The raid could increase legal pressure on the president, because it involves the records of his longtime attorney and indicates a second center of investigations in Manhattan, alongside Mueller’s Washington-based probe.

Cohen has been at the center of a controversy over a $130,000 payment he has admitted making shortly before the 2016 election to porn star Stormy Daniels, who has said that she had sex once with Trump in 2006 and was paid to keep quiet about it.

Trump reacted with unusually harsh language to news of the raid.

“It’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt. I’ve been saying it for a long time,” Trump said.

Former federal prosecutor @renato_mariotti tweeted:

This is the most important paragraph of today’s article about the search warrant of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office.

Every search warrant has a list of “items to be seized,” and a warrant for a lawyer’s office has to be carefully written. Communications between Trump and Cohen were within the narrow categories of documents listed in the “items to be seized.”

That suggests that the communications between Trump and Cohen related in some way to the federal crime for which Cohen is under investigation. A “taint team” will review these communications to determine which are privileged.

That means that Cohen is under investigation and that there is substantial evidence that evidence of a crime was at his office. It also means that federal prosecutors believed that they could not obtain the same records via subpoena. That’s unusual and interesting.

The United States Attorneys’ Manual (DOJ’s guidelines for federal prosecutors) disfavors search warrants of attorneys’ offices. Section 9-13.420 states that “prosecutors are expected to take the least intrusive approach” and should consider subpoenas instead of a warrant.

Section 13.420 requires authorization by the United States Attorney or Assistant Attorney General, consultation with the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, a search warrant that is as narrow and specific as possible, and procedures to safeguard privileged materials.

The reason that searches of attorney offices are disfavored is because they can be abused by prosecutors who want to intimidate defense counsel or obtain privileged information. That is why all of those safeguards exist, and the fact that they were overcome tells us something.

The fact that federal prosecutors obtained a search warrant tells us that they believed that they would not obtain the same records if they used a subpoena. That’s not only what 9-13.420 requires, but it’s also common sense–the prosecutors had an incentive to use a subpoena.

Cohen is an attorney who has his own lawyer. If the prosecutors used a subpoena, Cohen’s attorney would be obligated to go through all the documents and materials himself and produce only what’s relevant to the prosecutors. He would be responsible for organizing them as well.

Instead, prosecutors and FBI agents decided to take upon themselves the hefty task of seizing these documents, setting up complicated procedures to weed out privileged materials, and organize and digitize the documents. They wouldn’t have done that if they didn’t have to.

This suggests that they have some information about Cohen that suggests that he would destroy evidence, hide evidence, or otherwise deceive the prosecution team. So what does this mean for Trump? It’s an issue for him for at least two reasons.

First, his relationship with Cohen appears to go beyond a typical lawyer-client relationship, by Cohen’s own description. Communications between Cohen and Trump would be reviewed by a “taint team” that is separate and walled off from the investigators.

If the taint team found communications between Trump and Cohen that were not privileged, those communications could be used in the investigation. An example would be communications that are completely unrelated to legal advice, or communications furthering an ongoing crime.

Second, Trump should be concerned because Cohen appears to have significant potential criminal liability. He could potentially cooperate against Trump, although he appears unlikely to do so. Trump could pardon Cohen for any federal offense, but he cannot pardon state crimes.

Most importantly, because the search warrant was required to be “drawn as specifically as possible,” the fact that the FBI seized Trump’s communications with Cohen suggests that the FBI believed that those communications may provide evidence in their criminal investigation.

That should worry Trump. It doesn’t necessarily mean that investigators believe Trump committed a crime, but it suggests that they believe that his communications would have potentially contained useful evidence. He was, at least, in close proximity of a crime.

One question that is raised by this news that we cannot answer is why Mueller chose to refer this case to Manhattan prosecutors instead of handling it himself. Perhaps we will learn more in the days to come that could shed light on his decision.

 

US Russian saga continues

The drip feed of information about possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign continues, but more is emerging about unsatisfactory FBI handling of issues over Hillary Clinton as well.

CNN  Exclusive: Email shows effort to give Trump campaign WikiLeaks documents

Candidate Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and others in the Trump Organization received an email in September 2016 offering a decryption key and website address for hacked WikiLeaks documents, according to an email provided to congressional investigators.

The September 4 email was sent during the final stretch of the 2016 presidential race — on the same day that Trump Jr. first tweeted about WikiLeaks and Clinton.>

“WIKILEAKS: Hillary Clinton Sent THOUSANDS of Classified Cables Marked “(C)” for Confidential,” he tweeted, sharing a story from the Gateway Pundit, a conservative, pro-Trump website.

The email came two months after the hacked emails of the Democratic National Committee were made public and one month before WikiLeaks began leaking the contents of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s hacked emails. It arrived less than three weeks before WikiLeaks itself messaged Trump Jr. and began an exchange of direct messages on Twitter.

Trump Jr. told investigators he had no recollection of the September email.

Meanwhile from Washington Examiner: Dossier author was in contact with Obama Justice Department:

It’s been 10 months since Washington learned that former British spy Christopher Steele, author of the so-called “Trump dossier,” took the Hillary Clinton-funded opposition research document to the FBI, which considered sponsoring the anti-Trump work at the height of the 2016 presidential campaign. Now, congressional investigators have made what is perhaps an even more consequential discovery: Knowledge of the dossier project, during the campaign, extended into the highest levels of the Obama Justice Department.

The department’s Bruce Ohr, a career official, served as associate deputy attorney general at the time of the campaign. That placed him just below the deputy attorney general, Sally Yates, who ran the day-to-day operations of the department. In 2016, Ohr’s office was just steps away from Yates, who was later fired for defying President Trump’s initial travel ban executive order and still later became a prominent anti-Trump voice upon leaving the Justice Department.

Unbeknownst to investigators until recently, Ohr knew Steele and had repeated contacts with Steele when Steele was working on the dossier. Ohr also met after the election with Glenn Simpson, head of Fusion GPS, the opposition research company that was paid by the Clinton campaign to compile the dossier.

Word that Ohr met with Steele and Simpson, first reported by Fox News’ James Rosen and Jake Gibson, was news to some current officials in the Justice Department. Shortly after learning it, they demoted Ohr, taking away his associate deputy attorney general title and moving him full time to another position running the department’s organized crime drug enforcement task forces.

The news also stunned some of those who had been investigating the matter. Yes, they knew that knowledge of the dossier extended to some officials in the FBI. That was bad enough; how could the FBI endorse and consider underwriting one campaign’s dirt-digging operation in the middle of a hotly contested election? But now investigators know that nearly the highest levels of the Obama Justice Department were also aware of the dossier.

Investors Business Daily: Did A Corrupt FBI Give Hillary Clinton A Free Pass? Sure Looks Like It

Until August 31, 2016, with the presidential election in full swing, former FBI director James Comey gave the impression that he hadn’t arrived at his decision to let Clinton off the hook until after he had all the facts.

But in late August we learned that, in fact, Comey and his team began drafting his get-out-of-jail-free statement for Clinton in April — right around the time President Obama publicly declared Clinton innocent of any crimes, and well before the FBI had interviewed dozens of key witnesses, including Clinton herself.

Then, in early November, we learned that an early draft of that memo had accused Clinton of being “grossly negligent” in handling classified material because she used an unsecured private email server while Secretary of State.

At some point during the editing process of that memo, “grossly negligent” became “extremely careless,” which is how Comey put it in the final version.

The change was monumental. The criminal statute regarding mishandling classified material specifically cites “gross negligence” as a violation of the law, even if there is no intent involved. Had that language remained, Comey’s claim that “no reasonable prosecutor” would take the Clinton email case would have been laughable.

So changing the language was obviously meant to clear the path for letting Clinton off the hook, whatever the facts might be.

This week, the other shoe in the memo story dropped, when it was reported that Peter Strzok had made that particular edit.

Strzok, for those who don’t know, had been kicked off the Trump/Russia investigation this summer — a fact we also only learned about in the past few days — after it turned out that he’d been sending anti-Trump, pro-Hillary texts to an FBI colleague.

So the key person who made a material change in a memo exonerating Clinton was a big Clinton supporter and a Trump hater.

The US looks badly broken, with no sign of a fix.

Trump frustrated he can’t order the Justice Department around

President Trump he is frustrated but sort of acknowledges that he shouldn’t get involved in what the US Justice Department and FBI do, but he still seems unable to resist. He has been particularly prominent in commenting about the investigation of his own campaign.

It’s sad that the President even thinks of being able to demand and dictate to justice organisations.

@BengaminWittes:

I’ve been thinking about these comments Trump made. What a fabulous tribute they are to the men and women of the DOJ and the FBI!

The tribute is, of course, inadvertent: Trump doesn’t understand the statement he is making about independent law enforcement. But let’s unpack it for a moment.

The President is saying that he would like to interfere in ongoing investigations. He is saying that he would like to order up investigations of his political opponents. He is announcing that he is a corrupt actor who does not believe in the rule of law.

He is a man who is capable of firing his FBI Director because he will not aid him in these endeavours and to threaten his Attorney General and his Deputy Attorney General and the special counsel over the inconveniences they pose him.

Even as I type this, he is tweeting about how DOJ should be investigating Clinton. (For example: )

In these comments, he is announcing frankly how badly he wants to corrupt the Department of Justice.

And yet, he is “frustrated.” Why? It’s not because of Jim Comey. He got rid of Jim Comey. It’s not because of Sessions or Rosenstein. Lordy knows they have not shrouded themselves in glory.

It’s because the norm of independent law enforcement—which he is menacing—is actually strong enough to constrain him—at least right now.

It’s strong enough that he can fulminate all he wants about investigating Clinton and still Mueller does his job, and the FBI does its job, and the men and women of the DOJ do their jobs, and none of their jobs, as our democratic polity has determined them, is to fulfill his undemocratic ambitions to loose investigators on people he doesn’t like and to have the Justice Department protect him.

It’s a stunning statement of presidential constraint: A president actually saying that he aspires to corrupt interference with law enforcement and can’t pull it off. Let it warm your heart. It sure warms mine.

But the attempts at interference continue.

 

Just now:

More than eight years after Bergdahl walked off his base in Afghanistan — and unwittingly into the clutches of the Taliban — Bergdahl walked out of a North Carolina courtroom a free man Friday. Bergdahl, who pleaded guilty to endangering his comrades, was fined, reduced in rank to E1 and dishonorably discharged — but he received no prison time.

Prosecutors had requested a 14-year prison term following a week of emotional testimony from the survivors who were wounded during missions to find Bergdahl after he left the base in June 2009. Bergdahl’s defense team has asked for no prison time.

In closing arguments, defense attorneys argued that Bergdahl already had suffered enough confinement during five years of brutal captivity by Taliban allies. They asked the judge for a dishonorable discharge and no prison time.

Their argument for leniency also cited harsh campaign-trail criticism by Donald Trump and Bergdahl’s mental disorders.

The 31-year-old soldier from Hailey, Idaho, was brought home by President Barack Obama in 2014 in a swap for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Obama said at the time that the U.S. does not leave its service members on the battlefield.

Republicans roundly criticized Obama, and Trump went further while campaigning for president, repeatedly calling Bergdahl a traitor who deserved death.

So Trump has been trying to interfere in this case since before he was president. He is still doing it as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.

Because US justice officials appear to refuse to be influenced by Trump it is just futile posturing, but it’s a piss poor look for a President.

Bernie Sanders gets it. First he gets a swipe from Trump.

But he responded:

Bernie gets it. I don’t know whether it is deliberate attempts at distraction by trump, or that he is easily distracted from his job, but one could legitimately question who the crazy one is.