Starting in May, FBI agents in the Washington field office had sought to slow the probe, urging caution given itsextraordinary sensitivity, the people said.
Thursday ReadsPosted: March 2, 2023 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, Donald Trump, FBI, SCOTUS | Tags: Chris Christie, Christopher Wray, domestic terrorism, Georgia election interference, Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Kellyanne Conway, Peter Strzok, Ruby Freeman, Shaye Moss, stolen classified documents, student loan forgiveness 13 Comments
You probably saw the incredible story that The Washington Post broke yesterday about FBI agents living in fear of Donald Trump. Some were so scared that they wanted to treat Trump with kid gloves, even after he stole hundreds of classified documents from the government and refused to return them. So it’s not just elected Republicans who are scared of Trump–even some in law enforcement want to let him get away with serious crimes in order to protect their own careers.
The Washington Post: Showdown before the raid: FBI agents and prosecutors argued over Trump.
Months of disputes between Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents over how best to try to recover classified documents from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and residence led to a tense showdown near the end of July last year, according to four people familiar with the discussions.
Prosecutors argued that new evidence suggested Trump was knowingly concealing secret documents at his Palm Beach, Fla., home and urged the FBI to conduct a surprise raid at the property. But two senior FBI officials who would be in charge of leading the search resisted the plan as too combative and proposed instead to seek Trump’s permission to search his property, according to the four people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a sensitive investigation.
Prosecutors ultimately prevailed in that dispute, one of several previously unreported clashes in a tense tug of war between two arms of the Justice Department over how aggressively to pursue a criminal investigation of a former president. The FBI conducted an unprecedented raid on Aug. 8, recovering more than 100 classified items, among them a document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities.
Some of those field agents wanted to shutter the criminal investigation altogether in early June, after Trump’s legal team asserted a diligent search had beenconducted and all classified records had been turned over, according to somepeople with knowledge of the discussions.
This sounds familiar. Back in 2016, James Comey kept the investigation of Trump and Russia secret, while making public statements about the much less significant investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails; because FBI agents in the New York office had it in for Hillary and supported Trump. WTF is going on with the FBI? Here’s what Peter Strzok, who lost his job at the FBI because of pressure from Trump, had to say about this news:
Back to the WaPo article:
The disagreements stemmed in large part from worries among officials that whatever steps they took in investigating a former president would face intense scrutiny and second-guessing by people inside and outside the government. However, the agents, who typically perform the bulk of the investigative work in cases, and the prosecutors, who guide agents’ work and decide on criminal charges, ultimately focused on very different pitfalls, according to people familiar with their discussions.
On one side, federal prosecutors in the department’s national security division advocated aggressive ways to secure some of the country’s most closely guarded secrets, which they feared Trump was intentionally hiding at Mar-a-Lago; on the other, FBI agents in the Washington field office urged more caution with such a high-profile matter, recommending they take a cooperative rather than confrontational approach.
Both sides were mindful of the intense scrutiny the case was drawing and felt they had to be above reproach while investigating a former president then expected to run for reelection. While trying to follow the Justice Department playbook for classified records probes, investigators on both sides braced for Trump to follow his own playbook of publicly attacking the integrity of their investigation, according to people with knowledge of their discussions.
The FBI agents’ caution also was rooted in the fact that mistakes in prior probes of Hillary Clinton and Trump had proved damaging to the FBI, and the cases subjected the bureau to sustained public attacks from partisans, the people said.
Prosecutors countered that the FBI failing to treat Trump as it had other government employees who were not truthful about classified records could threaten the nation’s security. As evidence surfaced suggesting that Trump or his team was holding back sensitive records, the prosecutors pushed for quick action to recover them, according to the people familiar with the discussions.
It’s a very long piece–head over to the WaPo to read the rest.
I have to ask: why does Christopher Wray still have a job? From Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: Christopher Wray is getting away with doing a lousy job.
The MAGA right thinks FBI Director Christopher A. Wray is some sort of patsy for Democrats. But the problem is not that Wray, a Trump appointee, is showing favoritism to a Democratic administration. It’s that he is not doing his job when it comes to threats from right-wing authoritarianism.The extent to which the FBI was aware of credible threats but did not prepare is breathtaking:In the weeks preceding the January 6 attack on the Capitol, the FBI obtained information across other sources indicating potential threats. Through human source reporting, investigations, and observed activity, the FBI identified the increasing threat of violence at high profile special events, such as the 2020 election and 2021 presidential inauguration. FBI officials we spoke with said that from December 29, 2020, through January 6, 2021, they tracked domestic terrorism subjects that were traveling to Washington, D.C., and developed reports related to January 6 events. As of January 6, 2021, FBI officials noted that the Washington Field Office was tracking 18 domestic terrorism subjects as potential travelers to the D.C. area.Other information came directly from social media platforms. From October 1, 2020, through January 5, 2021, officials from the FBI we spoke with said they obtained and reviewed 73 potential domestic terrorism related referrals from one social media platform, and obtained one referral on January 4, 2021, related to potential violence in Washington, D.C. on January 6. In addition, the FBI received information from another social media platform from late November 2020 through January 6, 2021, regarding potential violence at January 6 events.
Once the FBI had that information, it did not act upon it with the urgency required. “FBI personnel did not follow policies for processing some tips, resulting in them not being developed into reports that could have been shared with partners. Specifically, the FBI did not process all relevant information related to potential violence on January 6.”
The conclusion: “While the FBI identified and shared threat information, it did not process certain referrals from social media platforms according to policies and procedures and, as a result, it failed to share critical information with all relevant partners.”
Worse, the bureau has not undertaken the kind of systematic self-evaluation needed to correct glaring inadequacies. “The ongoing FBI review of its actions during the weeks preceding January 6, 2021, has not included an assessment of how it processed information. Assessing this process will help determine if the mistakes we identified are isolated or due to a systemic cause.” (Emphasis added.)
Click the link to read the rest.
In other news, Chris Christie thinks Trump will be indicted by this summer. The Independent: Chris Christie explains why he believes Trump will be indicted.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has said that he thinks former President Donald Trump will be indicted in connection to at least one of the numerous investigations he’s the subject of, as the former president campaigns for the 2024 GOP nomination.
Mr Christie, who ran against Mr Trump and more than a dozen others in the 2016 Republican primary, spoke to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday, saying that he believes Mr Trump’s attorneys wouldn’t be able to reject the case of the grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, even after the jury foreperson made a series of media appearances, prompting criticism towards some of her conduct….
“This is a very difficult case to make off the phone call,” Mr Christie said of the phone conversation between Mr Raffensperger and Mr Trump. “Now I don’t know what their other evidence is. That’s supposed to be the beauty of the grand jury system. And it is so far in this case that you don’t know what all the specific other evidence may be. But based upon what I know publicly, I think it’s a tough case to bring against the former president based upon the information we now know.”
Mr Christie added that Mr Trump appears to be legally vulnerable in connection to the lead-up to the January 6, 2021 insurrection and obstruction of Congress.
“I think the most likely place it will happen is New York. And I think it’s the least harmful matter to him,” he told Mr Hewitt. “If in fact, all they’re looking at is the Stormy Daniels payments….
“I think in terms of the likelihood of indictment, I’d put New York first, the special counsel second, Georgia third. But in terms of the seriousness of the peril for the president, I’d put the special counsel above either of those,” Mr Christie said.
“So in brief, do you expect an indictment by July?” the host asked the ex-governor.
“I expect that New York probably would act. I don’t know whether the special counsel will act by that time, but my guess is that New York would act by that time,” he said.
The New York Times broke some news yesterday on that New York case: Kellyanne Conway Meets With Prosecutors as Trump Inquiry Escalates.
Kellyanne Conway, who managed the final months of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 campaign, met with prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office on Wednesday, the latest sign that the office is ramping up its criminal investigation into the former president.
The prosecutors are scrutinizing Mr. Trump’s role in a hush money payment to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who has said she had an affair with him. The $130,000 payment was made by Mr. Trump’s longtime fixer, Michael D. Cohen, in the closing days of the 2016 campaign, and Mr. Trump ultimately reimbursed him.
Mr. Cohen has said that Ms. Conway played a small yet notable role in the payment: she was the person Mr. Cohen alerted after making the payment, he wrote in his 2020 memoir.
“I called Trump to confirm that the transaction was completed, and the documentation all in place, but he didn’t take my call — obviously a very bad sign, in hindsight,” he wrote. Instead, he wrote, Ms. Conway “called and said she’d pass along the good news.”
Ms. Conway, who was seen walking into the district attorney’s office shortly before 2 p.m. on Wednesday, is the latest in a string of witnesses to meet with prosecutors in the last month or so. Since the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, impaneled a grand jury in January to hear evidence about Mr. Trump’s role in paying the hush money, at least five witnesses have testified: Jeffrey McConney and Deborah Tarasoff, employees of Mr. Trump’s company; David Pecker and Dylan Howard, two former leaders of The National Enquirer, which helped arrange the hush money deal; and Keith Davidson, a former lawyer for Ms. Daniels.
The decision to question those central players in the hush money saga before the grand jury suggests that Mr. Bragg is nearing a decision on whether to seek an indictment of the former president.
Another possibility for Trump to face some accountability is through a lawsuit by Georgia poll workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. The Daily Beast: Georgia Poll Workers Pick Up Where Jan. 6 Committee Left Off.
Two Georgia poll workers who were attacked by 2020 election conspiracy theorists are picking up where the Jan. 6 congressional investigation left off—by trying to independently examine the private communications between two of the men behind the firestorm: Rudy Giuliani and former President Donald Trump.
Giuliani, who played a central role in the Republican attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election as Trump’s lawyer, refused to tell congressional investigators about their conversations, citing attorney-client privilege.
But now, a mother and daughter still reeling from the MAGA harassment are trying to pierce that veil.
Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss of Fulton County, Georgia, are turning their defamation lawsuit against Giuliani into a no-limits, fact-finding mission, according to an undisclosed letter from their attorneys reviewed exclusively by The Daily Beast.
In their Jan. 13 letter, the pair’s attorneys tell Giuliani’s defense lawyer that his objections to the Jan. 6 Committee’s questions about interactions with Trump “were improper,” warning that they intend to bulldoze right over them.
“Mr. Giuliani invoked privilege during January 6 testimony with respect to certain topics we expect to broach during his… deposition,” said the letter, which was written in anticipation of a closed-door questioning session.
Giuliani was deposed on Wednesday inside a midtown Manhattan skyscraper that serves as the headquarters of Willkie Farr & Gallagher, the high-end international law firm representing the women.
Lawyers for Freeman and Moss said they want to know more about Giuliani’s interactions with Trump, as well as his “correspondence” with the Department of Justice regarding Trump’s mission to overturn the 2020 election, conservative state legislators who were coaxed into publicly doubting the ballot results that year, and fake Republican electors who tried to band together as alternate electoral college votes to supplant the real ones that went for Joe Biden.
There’s much more at the link.
On Tuesday, I posted about the Supreme Court hearing on Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. According to this story at CNBC, the odds may have shifted toward the Biden administration winning the case: Biden administration lawyer may have saved student loan forgiveness plan at Supreme Court, experts say.
The government’s top Supreme Court lawyer may have saved President Joe Biden’s $400 billion student loan forgiveness plan from what experts considered all but certain defeat.
Experts lobbed praise on Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the lawyer who represented the Biden administration in front of the nine justices Tuesday.
“The Biden administration now seems more likely than not to win the cases,” said higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz.
“Her preparation, poise and power were impressive,” Kantrowitz said.
In contrast, the attorneys for plaintiffs opposed to the program were less than stellar, Kantrowitz said. “It was like the difference between a star quarterback and two tiddlywinks players,” he said.
University of Illinois Chicago law professor Steven Schwinn agreed: “Prelogar knocked it out of the park.”
“I do think she could have influenced or even changed the thinking of two justices, maybe more,” he added.
On Wednesday, Fordham law professor Jed Shugerman tweeted that he remains “struck by SG Elizabeth Prelogar’s brilliant performance.”
“She may have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat,” Shugerman wrote.
The nine justices considered two legal challenges to Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for borrowers. Six GOP-led states — Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina — had brought one of the lawsuits, and the other was backed by the Job Creators Network Foundation, a conservative advocacy organization.
Prelogar argued that the president was acting squarely within the law to avoid borrower distress during national emergencies and that plaintiffs had not shown in any way that they’d be harmed by the policy, which is typically a requirement to establish so-called legal standing.
I hope these experts are right. We’ll have to wait a few months to find out.
This story out of Michigan is really scary. NBC News: ‘Heavily armed’ man who FBI said targeted Jewish Michigan officials was after state Attorney General Dana Nessel, she says.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel was targeted last month by a “heavily armed” man who threatened injury and death to Jewish members of the state government, she said Thursday morning.
Jack Eugene Carpenter III is accused of tweeting: “I’m heading back to Michigan now threatening to carry out the punishment of death to anyone that is jewish in the Michigan govt if they don’t leave, or confess, and now that kind of problem,” according to a criminal complaint filed Feb. 18.
“Because I can Legally do that, right?” he added, according to the FBI affidavit.
Carpenter’s mother confirmed to investigators that the tweets came from him and that to her knowledge, he was in possession of “three handguns, a 12 gauge shotgun, and two hunting rifles, one of which is an MIA, military-style weapon,” the complaint said.
Nessel, a Democrat, said Thursday in a tweet that the FBI confirmed she had been one of the officials targeted by “the heavily armed defendant in this matter.”
“It is my sincere hope that the federal authorities take this offense just as seriously as my Hate Crimes & Domestic Terrorism Unit takes plots to murder elected officials,” she said.
That’s all the news I have for you today. Please share your thoughts in the comment thread and post any other stories that interest you.
Thursday Reads: Happy Valentine’s DayPosted: February 14, 2019 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: abortion, Andrew McCabe, corruption, Donald Trump, ethics, FBI, FinCEN, Fox News, Jamal Kashoggi, James Comey, Jeff Sessions, Maria Ressa, Mary Daly, narcissists, Nazis, obstruction of justice, Paul Manafort, rape, Richard Burr, Richard Nixon, Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein, Ryan Adams, Saudi Arabia, Spiro Agnew, Tom Barrack, Tyler McGaughey, Walter Shaub, White House Counsel's office, William Barr 18 Comments
Happy Valentine’s Day, Sky Dancers!!
Andrew McCabe’s book The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump will be released on Tuesday, and he will be interviewed on 60 Minutes on Sunday night. This might be one 60 Minutes I decide to watch.
McCabe was deputy director of the FBI under James Comey and he became acting director after Trump fired Comey. Trump attacked McCabe repeatedly, and eventually succeeded in driving him out of office. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe one day before he could have retired with his full pension.
Today The Atlantic published an article adapted from McCabe’s book: Every Day Is a New Low in Trump’s White House.
On Wednesday, May 10, 2017, my first full day on the job as acting director of the FBI, I sat down with senior staff involved in the Russia case—the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. As the meeting began, my secretary relayed a message that the White House was calling. The president himself was on the line. I had spoken with him the night before, in the Oval Office, when he told me he had fired James Comey.
A call like this was highly unusual. Presidents do not, typically, call FBI directors. There should be no direct contact between the president and the director, except for national-security purposes. The reason is simple. Investigations and prosecutions need to be pursued without a hint of suspicion that someone who wields power has put a thumb on the scale.
The Russia team was in my office. I took the call on an unclassified line. That was another strange thing—the president was calling on a phone that was not secure. The voice on the other end said, It’s Don Trump calling. I said, Hello, Mr. President, how are you? Apart from my surprise that he was calling at all, I was surprised that he referred to himself as “Don.”
The president said, I’m good. You know—boy, it’s incredible, it’s such a great thing, people are really happy about the fact that the director’s gone, and it’s just remarkable what people are saying. Have you seen that? Are you seeing that, too?
He went on: I received hundreds of messages from FBI people—how happy they are that I fired him. There are people saying things on the media, have you seen that? What’s it like there in the building?
McCabe describes the reaction of FBI employees as one of shock and dismay. Trump then said he wanted to come to the FBI and “show all my FBI people how much I love them.” McCabe thought that was a terrible idea, but agreed to meet with Trump about it. Next, Trump:
…began to talk about how upset he was that Comey had flown home on his government plane from Los Angeles—Comey had been giving a speech there when he learned he was fired. The president wanted to know how that had happened.
I told him that bureau lawyers had assured me there was no legal issue with Comey coming home on the plane. I decided that he should do so. The existing threat assessment indicated he was still at risk, so he needed a protection detail. Since the members of the protection detail would all be coming home, it made sense to bring everybody back on the same plane they had used to fly out there. It was coming back anyway. The president flew off the handle: That’s not right! I don’t approve of that! That’s wrong! He reiterated his point five or seven times.
I said, I’m sorry that you disagree, sir. But it was my decision, and that’s how I decided. The president said, I want you to look into that! I thought to myself: What am I going to look into? I just told you I made that decision.
The ranting against Comey spiraled. I waited until he had talked himself out.
After that Trump taunted McCabe about his wife’s losing campaign for the Virginia Senate, asking McCabe, “How did she handle losing? Is it tough to lose?” and later saying “Yeah, that must’ve been really tough. To lose. To be a loser.”
I once had a boss who was a monstrous whack job like Trump. It was crazy-making. The entire department under this man functioned like an alcoholic family with an unpredictable, out-of-control father. You never knew what horrible thing would happen next. It was total chaos, as the White House seems to be. I’m glad McCabe is telling the truth about what he experienced.
Two more articles based on the McCabe book:
CBS News 60 Minutes: McCabe Says He Ordered the Obstruction of Justice Probe of President Trump.
The New York Times: McCabe Says Justice Officials Discussed Recruiting Cabinet Members to Push Trump Out of Office.
I expect Trump will be ranting about McCabe on Twitter and in the Oval Office, but he can’t do anything to shut McCabe up anymore.
Soon we’ll have a new U.S. Attorney General, William Barr, and already the corruption surrounding him has a very bad odor. CNN reports that Barr’s daughter and son-in-law are leaving the Justice Department for new jobs at FinCEN and the White House Counsel’s office respectively.
Mary Daly, Barr’s oldest daughter and the director of Opioid Enforcement and Prevention Efforts in the deputy attorney general’s office, is leaving for a position at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit, a Justice official said.
Tyler McGaughey, the husband of Barr’s youngest daughter, has been detailed from the powerful US attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, to the White House counsel’s office, two officials said.
It’s not clear if McGaughey’s switch is a result of Barr’s pending new role, and the kind of work he’ll be handling at the White House is not public knowledge.
Daly’s husband will remain in his position in the Justice Department’s National Security Division for now.
The moves were by choice and are not required under federal nepotism laws, but Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, called them “a good idea” to “avoid the bad optics that could come from the appearance of them working for him.”
However, Shaub added that McGaughey’s detail to the White House counsel’s office was “concerning.”
“That’s troubling because it raises further questions about Barr’s independence,” Shaub said.
Read more at the CNN link.
If you listened to Rachel Maddow’s podcast about Spiro Agnew (or even if you didn’t) you should read this op-ed at The Washington Post by three attorneys who were involved in that corruption case: We should demand high standards from William Barr. Spiro Agnew’s case shows why, by Barnet D. Skolnik, Russell T. Baker Jr., and Ronald S. Liebman.
In the winter of 1973, 46 years ago, the three of us were assistant U.S. attorneys in Baltimore starting a federal grand jury investigation of a corrupt Democratic county chief executive in Maryland. That investigation ultimately led to the prosecution of his corrupt Republican predecessor — the man who went on to become the state’s governor and then President Richard M. Nixon’s vice president, Spiro T. Agnew.
On Oct. 10, 1973, Agnew entered a plea to a criminal tax felony for failure to report the hundreds of thousands of dollars he’d received in bribes and kickbacks as county executive, governor and even vice president. All paid in cash, $100 bills delivered in white envelopes.
And he resigned.
From the beginning of our investigation, months before we had seen any indication that he had taken kickbacks, Agnew, along with top White House and administration officials and even Nixon himself, repeatedly tried to impede, obstruct and terminate the investigation in nefarious ways. Some of those efforts were unknown to us then and have come to light only now thanks to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and her “Bagman” podcast.
When newspapers began to report that he was under criminal investigation in the summer of 1973, Agnew aroused his base by screaming “witch hunt” and launching a vicious assault on the “lying” press, the “partisan” Justice Department, and the “biased” and “liberal Democrat” prosecutors in Baltimore.
If Agnew and Nixon had succeeded in derailing our investigation, the most corrupt man ever to sit a heartbeat away might have become the president of our country when Nixon was forced to resign less than a year later. But our investigation was protected — first, by our staunch and courageous boss, the late George Beall, the U.S. attorney for Maryland and a prominent Maryland Republican, and second, by the man who had become the new U.S. attorney general that spring, Elliot L. Richardson.
The authors then go on to explain why Barr should not be confirmed unless he commits to releasing Robert Mueller’s findings to the public. Read the whole thing at the WaPo.
There is so much more news! Here are some links to check out:
Just Security: Who is Richard Burr, Really? Why the public can’t trust his voice in the Russia probe. (This is an incredibly important story. Corruption is all around us.)
NBC News: ‘Whistleblower’ seeks protection after sounding alarm over White House security clearances.
Politico: Judge rules Manafort lied to Mueller about contacts with Russian.
The New York Times: House Votes to Halt Aid for Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen.
Gulf News: Trump backer Tom Barrack defends Saudi Arabia.
The Washington Post: Trump confidant Thomas Barrack apologizes for saying U.S. has committed ‘equal or worse’ atrocities to killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The New York Times: Maria Ressa, Philippine Journalist Critical of Rodrigo Duterte, Is Released After Arrest.
HuffPost: I Wish I’d Had A ‘Late-Term Abortion’ Instead Of Having My Daughter. (Trigger warning for rape description)
Vice: Being Raised by Two Narcissists Taught Me How to Deal with Trump.
The New York Times: Ryan Adams Dangled Success. Women Say They Paid a Price.
Contemptor: Fox News Rejects Commercial for Documentary that Says Nazis are Bad.
So . . . what stories have you been following?
Thursday Reads: Trump Has Major Meltdown on Fox and FriendsPosted: April 26, 2018 Filed under: corruption, Crime, Criminal Justice System, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Andrew McCabe, competency question, Department of Justice, Donald Trump, Fifth Amendment, Fox and Friends, James Comey, Jon Tester, Maggie Haberman, Michael Cohen, Ronny Jackson, Scott Pruitt, Southern District of New York, Stormy Daniels 34 Comments
The pressure is building on Trump. This morning he had a major meltdown on Fox and Friends. It was so bad that the hosts couldn’t hide their embarrassment and they finally had to cut off the call. Trump publicly accused James Comey and Andrew McCabe of committing crimes and for the first time he said the words “Stormy Daniels” and admitted that Michael Cohen was representing him (Trump) in Cohen’s dealings with Daniels. He also admitted that he spent the night in Moscow in 2013, despite what he told Comey. Finally, he said that he wasn’t going to keep his hands off the DOJ much longer.
Yahoo News: Trump sounds off on Comey, Cohen, Kanye and more in freewheeling ‘Fox and Friends’ interview.
President Trump called into his favorite morning show for a wide-ranging interview during which an animated — and, at times, angry — Trump weighed in on several scandals swirling around his administration. Chief among them: special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia.
The president chastised the Justice Department for greenlighting the Russia probe into his campaign’s alleged ties with Russia rather than pursuing a separate investigation into former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
“Our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point, I won’t, our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia,” Trump said. “There is no collusion with me with Russia and everyone knows it.”
Asked about the extent to which Cohen handles his legal affairs, Trump characterized his involvement as “a tiny, tiny little fraction.” But there was a notable exception.
“He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal,” Trump said, marking the first time he had ever spoken the porn actress’ name publicly. The disclosure also raised further questions about his earlier assertion that he had no knowledge that Cohen paid the porn actress $130,000 in hush money during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“He leaked classified information to get a special counsel and leaked the memos which are classified — the memos were about me and he didn’t write those memos accurately. He wrote a lot of phony stuff,” Trump said as the Fox & Friends hosts looked on in silence. “For instance, I went to Russia for a day or so, a day or two, because I own the Miss Universe pageant, so I went there to watch it because it was near Moscow. So I go to Russia, now, I didn’t go there, everybody knows the logs are there the planes are there. He said I didn’t stay there a night. Of course I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time but of course I stayed there. Well his memo said I left immediately, I never said that. I never said I left immediately.”Trump also said of Comey: “I did a great thing for the American people by firing him.”
Here’s his rant on McCabe.
I hope McCabe’s lawyer was listening, because I think he has a case for defamation.
Think Progress: Trump made 2 costly legal errors during unhinged Fox & Friends interview.
First, Trump claimed that Cohen — his longtime personal lawyer and fixer — only represented him in “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his overall legal work….
Trump’s comments come a day after a lawyer representing him told a federal judge that Trump himself “is ready to help recommend what materials seized from his personal attorney that relate to him should be withheld from federal investigators because of attorney-client privilege,” according to the Associated Press.
The day after the raid on his longtime personal attorney, Trump suggested that it shouldn’t even have happened because of attorney-client privilege.
But Trump’s claim that Cohen only deals with “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work will likely complicate his lawyers’ efforts to shield seized documents from federal investigators in prosecutors.
Trump acknowledged during the Fox & Friends interview that Cohen did represent him during his dealings with Daniels. Trump recently claimed he had no knowledge of the payment at the time.
“Michael would represent me and represent me on some things,” Trump said. “He represented me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me. He represented me and you know, from what I see he did absolutely nothing wrong.”
But Cohen’s story about the secret Daniels hush payment — which may have been illegal if it was meant to help Trump’s campaign — is that he made it from his personal funds, without Trump being looped in at all. Trump’s acknowledgement that Cohen “represented me” in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal” undermines the repeated public claims of his own lawyer.
Read more details at the link above. Also see this piece at The Guardian: Trump admits Michael Cohen was his lawyer in Stormy Daniels matter.
You can watch a long clip from the interview at this Business Insider link. If you can’t stand to listen to Trump’s voice, at least watch it with the sound muted to see the embarrassed looks on the faces of the Fox hosts.
Here’s what Trump whisperer Maggie Haberman had to say about Trump’s meltdown.
And here we go. The government’s attorneys quoted Trump’s Fox and Friends rant in their filing for the court hearing in the Michael Cohen case today at noon.
Click on that link to read the entire document.
One more related story from The New York Times: Michael Cohen to Take Fifth Amendment in Stormy Daniels Lawsuit.
Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, will invoke his Fifth Amendment right in a lawsuit filed against the president by Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film star better known as Stormy Daniels.
Mr. Cohen’s decision, disclosed Wednesday in a court filing in California, where the suit was filed, came a day before a federal judge in Manhattan was set to hold a hearing regarding materials seized from Mr. Cohen during an F.B.I. raid earlier this month.
Mr. Cohen cited the Manhattan investigation in his filing on Wednesday, saying that, if called as a witness in Ms. Clifford’s lawsuit, “I will assert my 5th Amendment rights in connection with all proceedings in this case due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the F.B.I. and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.” [….]
Citing the Fifth Amendment in the Clifford case allows Mr. Cohen to avoid being deposed and revealing sensitive information in the more important criminal investigation.
In Trump “I know the best people” news, The White House has withdrawn the nomination of Ronny Jackson to run the VA. The Washington Post:
The White House withdrew the nomination of Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, the White House physician, to lead the Veterans Affairs Department on Thursday after lawmakers went public with a torrent of accusations leveled against him by nearly two dozen current and former colleagues from the White House medical staff.
In a statement released Thursday morning, Dr. Jackson announced that he was withdrawing his name for consideration to be the secretary of Veteran Affairs.
“Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this president and the important issue we must be addressing — how we give the best care to our nation’s heroes,” Dr. Jackson said in a statement provided by the White House press office.
He said that the charges against him were “completely false and fabricated.”
Within minutes of the withdrawal, President Trump lamented the loss of his nomination, and said that Senator Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, would “have a big price to pay” for undercutting Dr. Jackson.
Happening right now: Scott Pruitt is testifying before Congress. He faces two hearings today.
Vox: Congress is grilling Scott Pruitt about his ethical breaches.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt will face a double whammy of hearings on Capitol Hill Thursday that could make or break his career at the EPA. You can watch the C-SPAN livestream here.
The hearings were originally intended to give Pruitt the chance to pitch his agency’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year. But members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Appropriations Committee, including some Republicans, are expected to grill Pruitt over his growing list of alleged ethical lapses.
A tsunami of accusations of improper dealings has emerged since Pruitt’s last trip to the Hill in January, from using sirens to get to dinner reservations to a sweetheart condo deal with a lobbyist to ousting staffers who questioned his luxury travel. These allegations have led to investigations from Congress, the White House, and government watchdogs. The Government Accountability Office already found that the $43,000 phone booth in Pruitt’s office broke the law.
And though his prepared statement for the Energy and Commerce Committee completely ignores the controversies around him, the New York Times reported that Pruitt is preparing for a confrontation with a set of talking points on his long list of scandals. He will argue, among other things, that he flew first class based on recommendations from his security staff and that he wasn’t involved in the decision to bypass the White House to get massive raises for two close aides.NB
Meanwhile, EPA employees protested outside the agency’s headquarters on Wednesday, decrying budget cuts alongside activists and lawmakers who want to “Boot Pruitt” out of office.
NBC News’ First Read suggests that Trump’s biggest problem might be the competency question.
This morning, President Trump’s pick to head the Department of Veterans Affairs withdrew his nomination after new allegations against him surfaced. Today, Congress is expected to grillthe president’s EPA administrator over alleged ethical lapses. And the president’s personal lawyer and fixer is pleading the Fifth Amendment.Yes, it’s chaos and controversy, which we’ve constantly chronicled here. But it’s also a matter of competency. According to this month’s NBC/WSJ poll, a majority of Americans — 56 percent — said that Trump’s administration isn’t competent, including 39 percent who said it isn’t competent at all. By contrast, 43 percent said it was competent, including 16 percent who said “very competent.”
To put those numbers into perspective, 50 percent of American said Barack Obama’s administration was competent in June 2014 (so after the Obamacare website crash during his second term), and 53 percent said George W. Bush’s administration was competent in March 2006 (after Hurricane Katrina).
So for all the potential dangers to Trump’s presidency — the Russia investigation, historically low approval ratings, Democrats possibly winning the House (and Senate) in November — the biggest could very well be the competency question.
Indeed, majorities of women (61 percent), seniors (58 percent), millennials (57 percent), independents (57 percent) and men (51 percent) said the Trump administration wasn’t too competent or not competent at all. Even whites were split down the middle — 50-50.
That’s a big problem.
That’s all I have for you this morning. I know I’ve only touched on a small part of what’s happening. So . . . what stories are you following today?
Monday Reads: Let’s talk about Comey and Culpability since he really didn’tPosted: April 16, 2018 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: James Comey, Michael Cohen 48 Comments
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
Well, I watched the ABC interview of disgraced FBI Director James Comey by George Stephanpolous and came away underwhelmed. I really don’t feel any news was made. The only thing I saw was a good case study of the White Male Savior prototype who just refuses to embrace the idea that he’s done wrong, he didn’t save the world, and likely caused an assault on all he says he holds dear. Comey is fighting to stay in denial. His demeanor spoke volumes.
My basic question remains despite the supposed answer of because he was saving Clinton from entering the Presidency under a cloud. Why did he say he’d do it all over again? Why didn’t he listen to Yates and Lynch who said don’t do it? I mean sheesh… he had to know the Republicans would make hay with all of that. They were gunning for Clinton for years. Why ignore Yates and Lynch (read this Vanity Fair piece for a good reminder) and tell Chavetz of all pseudo people? One hint to Chavetz that both candidates were under investigation would have knocked the wind right out of Chavetz leaking shit. The finer points of game theory do not mean you’re putting your finger on a scale. It just directs responses to a more manageable path. If you’re going to play great white male savior at least set the chess board up right. My answer keeps coming back to the white male savior complex. He ignored the advice of the powerful women around him convincing himself he’d be able to rescue the powerful damsel in distress and save the country.
Anyway, the only heads exploding over this interview are in the FBI itself. I’m just gobsmacked by the level of hubris personally even though it was wrapped up in a body language and facially expression that suggested a lot of counselling is required.
FBI sources who did not support Comey’s decision to announce the reopening of the Clinton email investigation still stood by him at the time and were outraged at the way in which Trump fired the director. He learned of his dismissal after reading it on a television screen inside the Los Angeles FBI building where he was speaking to agents.
Those same current and former FBI agents and officials—and others—did not respond well to Comey’s interview Sunday night.
Support for Comey has dwindled as those who worked closely with him and initially supported him began to see his book and his public interactions—including Twitter selfies in Iowa—as self-serving and gauche, four sources said.
Their anger has grown in recent months as agents have come to see Comey as the reason for the “current shitshow… that is the Trump presidency,” one former official, who voted for Trump, explained.
Here’s Lanny Davis writing Op Ed for The Hill that portrays Comey as a liar. The White House has been screaming “Leaker” and “Liar” for weeks now. Frankly, I think the only one Come has lied to is himself.
On Saturday night, the great Wolf Blitzer interviewed one of his panelists about James Comey’s justification for violating over a half-century of Justice Department policies in Republican and Democratic administrations when he sent his October 28 letter to Congress in 2016, which cost Hillary Clinton the presidency.
Comey has repeatedly claimed that he was “obligated” to write his speculative letter because of a promise he had made to Congress to do so if “anything new” came up after his July 5, 2016, press conference announcing a new prosecutable case could be brought against Clinton.
When one of Blitzer’s panelists on Saturday night inaccurately repeated the Comey lie that Comey was “obligated” to send his game-changing letter to Congress because he had promised to do so, Blitzer should have interrupted and corrected the record. “No that is not correct — Comey only promised to ‘look at’ any new evidence, not to write his letter in the closing days of the election.”
Another form of a lie is by omission.
Comey knows — and knows that we all now know — that if he had done what in fact he had told Congress he would do, i.e., looked first before writing his letter, he and the FBI would have completed their review within six days, as we know happened between Oct 30, 2016, when they first began to look at Clinton emails on Anthony Wiener’s laptop, and Nov. 5, when they completed their review. And we know that they would have determined — as they announced on Nov. 6, two days before the election— that there was no “there” there in the Clinton emails, i.e., nothing new to change their July 5 non-prosecution decision. Thus, there would have been no need for Comey to write the history-changing Oct. 28 letter. And hence, Hillary Clinton, as all the data prove over the last 11 days in crucial battleground states, would be president today. During the interview, Comey also said that his decision to announce shortly before the election that the FBI was going to reopen the case was influenced by his belief that Clinton would beat Trump and his desire to make sure that the election During the interview, Comey also said that his decision to announce shortly before the election that the FBI was going to reopen the case was influenced by his belief that Clinton would beat Trump and his desire to make sure that the election results were viewed as legitimate.results were viewed as legitimate.
Of course the Trump Hate machine was locked and loaded this morning.
President Trump took fresh aim at fired FBI director James B. Comey on Monday, lambasting his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server and asserting again that Comey and another FBI official had committed crimes.
Trump’s comments on Twitter were his first since Comey’s high-profile television interview Sunday night in which he said he believes Trump is “morally unfit” to be president and that he hopes Trump will be voted out of office.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Trump had watched “bits and pieces” of the interview but not the entire thing.
In his tweet, Trump complained that Comey “drafted the Crooked Hillary exoneration long before he talked to her” and asserted that in deciding how to handle the case, Comey “based his decisions on her poll numbers.”
This was the statement that galled me most. So, I’m calling it out again. This allowed the Trump Team venom to target Clinton again.
During the interview, Comey also said that his decision to announce shortly before the election9 that the FBI was going to reopen the case was influenced by his belief that Clinton would beat Trump and his desire to make sure that the election results were viewed as legitimate.
There is a lot of other news today. Cohen hasn’t released his client list and is headed back to court hoping a Trump-filed injunction will save his ass from its destiny in jail. The EPA chief is in serious trouble for all kinds of things.
I will likely watch the Consigliere match up this afternoon.
Withstanding the hearing is only the beginning of what could be an ugly legal situation for Cohen. No charges have been filed against him, but prosecutors asserted that he is under criminal investigation. Cohen, who professes a devout fealty to his boss, has spent more than a decade working alongside the Trumps, devoting his professional life to protecting them. He may now be in a position where he could be forced to choose between continuing that line of defense, or putting himself and his own family first. In my interviews with Cohen, he has always stated plainly, repeatedly, and in a Godfather-esque lingua franca, how unfailingly loyal he is to the president and to the Trump family. Over the summer, Cohen told me that he would take a bullet for Trump. In February, as the Stormy Daniels controversy heated up, he told me that he would do it again today for Trump and again for him tomorrow. “No question,” he said. Last month, he told me that it was his job to protect his client—his friend—and the Trump family.
Maybe, I’ll just take a nap instead.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Friday Reads: Ace G-Man Stories of the Trump Family Crime SyndicatePosted: April 13, 2018 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: A Higher Loyalty, James Comey, Pee tape. FBI investigation, Trump Family Crime Syndicate 44 Comments
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
It’s going to be the usual chaos on steroids as former FBI Director Jim Comey’s tell all comes out. The media began leaking excerpts yesterday of the book even as the official release date still looms on Tuesday. KKKremlin Caligula is not a happy Mad King as Comey even appears to have taken gratuitous pot shots at the size of his hands. Yes, De Hair Fury is in Teapot Tempest mode. Hide that damn football!
President Donald Trump went into attack mode against James Comey on Friday morning, calling the former FBI director an “untruthful slime ball” and a “liar & leaker” after Comey suggested in an ABC News interview that it is “possible” that salacious allegations about the president and prostitutes in Moscow are true.
“James Comey is a proven LEAKER & LIAR. Virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job he did-until he was, in fact, fired. He leaked CLASSIFIED information, for which he should be prosecuted. He lied to Congress under OATH,” Trump wrote in a statement that stretched across two Twitter posts. “He is a weak and untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst ‘botch jobs’ of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!”
Well, this is certainly an adult conversation! These items are from Politico and the keyboard of Louis Nelson.
Recalling his first meeting with Trump, the former FBI director told Stephanopoulos that the January, 2017, briefing he gave the then-president elect about his alleged rendezvous with prostitutes inside a Moscow hotel was “really weird” and “almost an out-of-body experience.” During their one-on-one briefing in Trump Tower, the former FBI director said Trump responded “very defensively” and “started talking about, you know, ‘do I look like a guy who needs hookers?’”
Comey said that earlier, upon briefing Trump and his transition team about Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, the then-president elect’s first question was whether or not those efforts had affected the outcome and then discussion turned immediately to a conversation about messaging and drafting a press release. At no point did Trump or any member of his team ask Comey or the other intelligence chiefs present at the briefing what might come next from Russia or how to stop future cyberattacks from Moscow, the former FBI director said.
“The reason that was so striking to me is that that’s just not done, that the intelligence community does intelligence, the White House does PR and spin,” Comey said. “It was all, what can we say about what they did and how it affects the election that we just had.”
Folks that have read the book say that Comey found a President obsessed with getting the FBI to disprove the existence of the Pee Pee tape. Evidently Cohen was busy fixing other Trump mishaps and couldn’t see to it. Can you imagine how he saw the FBI as his personal clean up crew?
Trump did not stay quiet for long. Comey describes Trump as having been obsessed with the portion dealing with prostitutes in the infamous dossier compiled by British former intelligence officer Christopher Steele, raising it at least four times with the FBI director. The document claimed that Trump had watched the prostitutes urinate on themselves in the same Moscow suite that President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama had stayed in “as a way of soiling the bed,” Comey writes.
Comey writes that Trump asked him to have the FBI investigate the allegations to prove they were not true, and offered varying explanations to convince him why. “I’m a germaphobe,” Trump told him in a follow-up call on Jan. 11, 2017, according to Comey’s account. “There’s no way I would let people pee on each other around me. No way.” Later, the president asked what could be done to “lift the cloud” because it was so painful for first lady Melania Trump.
Phillip Rucker of WAPO additionally unveils Comey’s real thoughts about Trump’s lack of ethics. This is a description of a sociopath.
In his memoir, Comey paints a devastating portrait of a president who built “a cocoon of alternative reality that he was busily wrapping around all of us.” Comey describes Trump as a congenital liar and unethical leader, devoid of human emotion and driven by personal ego.
Comey narrates in vivid detail, based on his contemporaneous notes, instances in which Trump violated the norms protecting the FBI’s independence in attempts to coerce Comey into being loyal to him — such as during a one-on-one dinner in the White House residence.
Interacting with Trump, Comey writes, gave him “flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”
The result, in Comey’s telling, is “the forest fire that is the Trump presidency.”
“What is happening now is not normal,” he writes. “It is not fake news. It is not okay.”
But again, Comey makes quite personal remarks. From David Moye at HuffPo:
You have to hand it to former FBI Director James Comey: He knows a good way to troll Donald Trump is to bring up the president’s reportedly small hands.
Comey touches on Trump’s hands in his new book, A Higher Loyalty, and admits the president’s mitts did appear smaller than he expected when they first met.
According to excerpts from the book posted by ABC News, the 6-foot-8-inch Comey said the 6-foot-3-inch Trump “appeared shorter than he seemed on a debate stage.”
Comey also wrote that when Trump reached out for a handshake, he couldn’t help but notice that the president’s hand “was smaller than mine” but added, it “did not seem unusually so.”
This is the type of comment liable to inspire a Trump tweet tantrum, as the president has long been sensitive to any suggestion his hands aren’t anything but “yuge.”
Steve Goldstein–DC Bureau Chief for Market Watch–argues that this puts both Mueller and Comey squarely on Trump’s turf.
If there’s any strategy in the world of President Donald Trump, it’s a simple one: Play on my field.
And the Trump playing field is a salacious one. The scandals and affairs are literally too numerous to be chronicled in a single article. Large and small, Trump University to Trump Steaks, bankruptcies and legal judgements, all manner of infidelity and aberrant behavior, real or imagined.
Former FBI Director James Comey and Special Counsel Robert Mueller were each charged with looking into an allegation of the most serious variety — colluding with a foreign hostile power to alter the presidential election.
This week the headlines emanating from Mueller’s investigation, and Comey’s book, involve a porn star, a Playboy bunny, a pee tape, the size of Trump’s hands and a doorman with a history of fibbing apparently alleging the existence of an illegitimate child.
That is playing on Trump’s field.
But wait. Isn’t it a violation of campaign law if Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen paid off Stormy Daniels just ahead of the election? If Cohen used a home-equity loan to fund the payment, did he lie to the bank? Doesn’t it speak to Trump’s truthfulness on a variety of a matters — including alleged collusion with Russia — whether his persistent denials of engaging with prostitutes in Moscow are truthful? Doesn’t it have relevance to the question of whether payoffs were legal if Trump bought off a doorman? And didn’t Mueller actually hand off the investigation on Daniels?
Yeah, sure, all of that.
Those are all on the level of the Ken Starr investigation into Bill Clinton’s perjury — legal matters, yes, that aren’t really the stuff of high crimes and misdemeanors. They’re all gotchas reinforcing what we basically knew about Trump and his behavior before the election.
By contrast, the consequences of playing on Trump’s field are enormous.
For Comey, baiting Trump into a reaction, which sure as water is wet came on Friday morning, will result in better book sales. But it will come at the expense of holding any future higher office. His legacy as FBI director — already tarnished for the ridiculous, torturous inconsistencies in how he handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails — is forever tarnished. Who in Washington could hire this guy? “Untruthful,” as Trump called him? No. “Slime ball?” Hmm.
Mueller, too, looks set to emerge damaged, if perhaps not as fatally. The question of whether Trump can, or should, fire him has returned. Mueller, also a former FBI director, does still have the support of both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to finish his investigation, and a few key Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, have expressed willingness to support legislation to protect him. But the idea of his dismissal is definitely more plausible — and, for that matter, the outrage it would generate a good bit lessened.
It is clear is that Trump and his band of slimy hucksters in the West Wing have made for the low ground. Comey has revealed some eye poppers on many of them. However, he’s teary eyed about Obama.
Comey apologizes to Hillary Clinton, nodding to her own takedown of him in her book What Happened. “I have read she has felt anger toward me personally, and I’m sorry for that,” he writes. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t do a better job explaining to her and her supporters why I made the decisions I made.”
Comey also says President Barack Obama reassured him after the election about his decision to send the letter about Clinton, according to the Post:
Comey writes that Obama sat alone with him in the Oval Office in late November and told him, “I picked you to be FBI director because of your integrity and your ability. I want you to know that nothing — nothing — has happened in the last year to change my view.”
On the verge of tears, Comey told Obama, “Boy, were those words I needed to hear . . . I’m just trying to do the right thing.”
“I know,” Obama said. “I know.”
You surely know that I am no Comey fan after this particular interlude that undoubtedly helped brought us the Orange plague. I just hope Trump doesn’t wag any dogs to relieve his marital problems. his popularity problems, and his multiple personality disorders. He still may be plotting to fire Rosenstein or Mueller and who knows what else?
So, one more Trump’s latest weirdness: “President Trump poised to pardon Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, sources say.”
President Donald Trump is poised to pardon Scooter J. Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, according to sources familiar with the president’s thinking.
The president has already signed off on the pardon, which is something he has been considering for several months, sources told ABC News.
The move would mark another controversial pardon for Trump and could raise questions as an increasing number of the president’s political allies have landed themselves in legal jeopardy. The White House has repeatedly said that no pardons are currently on the table for people caught up in the Russia investigation.
Early in his term, Trump pardoned controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio after he was found guilty in July on criminal contempt charges stemming from his refusal to stop imprisoning suspected undocumented immigrants.
Unlike your average Presidential Pardon, Trump’s pardons focus on pardoning law breaking white government officials. Is this a harbinger of more mercy for predatory slime balls?
So, now I need a shower. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?