Trump Boasts: I Gave John Brennan a ‘Bigger Voice’ by Removing His Security Clearance

In light of President Donald Trump revoking the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, reporters asked the president today whether or not the move was part of an effort to “silence” one of his critics. Trump, in response, argued that he has — in fact — amplified Brennan, not stifled him.

“There’s no silence, if anything I’m giving him a bigger voice,” Trump said while outside the White House. “Many people don’t even know who he is. And now he has a bigger voice. And that’s okay with me, because I like talking on bigger voices like that.”

He continued:

“I’ve never respected him or I’ve never had a lot of respect. And Senator Burr said it best, ‘If you knew anything, why didn’t you report it when you were before all these committees?’ Including their committee. He had a chance to report. He never did. This was just — it just came up lately and it’s a disgusting thing, frankly. Look, I say it, I say it again. That whole situation is a rigged witch hunt. It is a totally rigged deal.”

Earlier in the press scrum, Trump told reporters that he’s “gotten tremendous response from having done that because security clearances are very important to me, very, very important.”

After teasing the idea earlier this month, Trump announced on Wednesday that Brennan’s clearance had officially been dropped — which was his way of getting back at former high ranking officials who have publicly taken to criticizing the Trump administration.

[Mediaite]

Trump Threatens the Career of Another Official Involved in the Russia Investigation

President Donald Trump said Friday that he would likely strip the security clearance of a Justice Department official “very quickly,” opening a new front in his battle with figures related to the special counsel investigation into his campaign and Russian election interference.

The official, Bruce Ohr, is a longtime government prosecutor who up until this week had not been a household name.

That changed on Wednesday when press secretary Sarah Sanders listed Ohr from the White House podium alongside a list of former national security and law enforcement officials who have been critical of the President and are now having their security clearances reviewed. On Friday, Trump expanded on his targeting of Ohr, whose name stood out on the list as the only official currently serving in government.

“I think Bruce Ohr is a disgrace,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “For him to be in the Justice Department and doing what he did, that is a disgrace.”

Ohr is currently an attorney within the DOJ’s criminal division, according to a source familiar with his position. He was demoted last year from a senior position within the deputy attorney general’s office, CNN reported, after it was discovered that he had communicated with Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy who crafted the dossier of salacious and unverified information about Trump and Russia, and the founder of the US firm, Fusion GPS, that was hired to dig up that dirt.

Little is known publicly about the extent of the relationships between Ohr and Steele and Glenn Simpson, the Fusion GPS founder, but some House Republicans have seized on them as proof of an untoward connection between government officials and the roots of the Russia investigation that they criticize.

The President has also tweeted criticism about Ohr and his wife, who was an employee of Fusion GPS. Simpson disclosed in a court filing last year that Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion on “research and analysis of Mr. Trump,” and that Simpson met with Bruce Ohr “at his request, after the November 2016 election to discuss our findings regarding Russia and the election.”

Neither Bruce nor Nellie Ohr have made public remarks about the President. CNN has reached out to Ohr’s personal attorney for comment.

In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in June, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein described Bruce Ohr’s role in sober terms.

“Mr. Ohr is a career employee of the department. He was there when I arrived. To my knowledge, he wasn’t working on the Russia matter,” Rosenstein said. “When we learned of the relevant information, we arranged to transfer Mr. Ohr to a different office.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman said she could not comment on personnel matters when asked about Ohr’s position within the department and the President’s criticism of him.

It’s not clear what level of clearance Ohr possesses, but former officials say all Justice Department attorneys have a security clearance and its loss would be detrimental to agency work.

“Within the Department of Justice, every federal prosecutor has some level of security clearance because they’re dealing with sensitive information,” said Jodi L. Avergun, a former section chief at the DOJ’s criminal division who now heads the white collar defense and investigations group at the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP.

“If someone in a sensitive position with the Department of Justice lost their security clearance it would likely make their job difficult to do,” Avergun said.

[CNN]

Trump Calls Manafort ‘Good Person’ and Criticizes Fraud Trial

President Donald Trump called his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort a “very good person” and criticized his trial on bank fraud and money laundering charges, as a jury began a second day of deliberations on a verdict.

“I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad,” Trump told reporters Friday before departing the White House for a fundraiser in New York. “I think it is a very sad day for our country. He worked for me for a very short period of time. But, you know what, he happens to be a very good person. And I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”

Trump declined to say whether he would pardon his former aide if convicted. Yet, his commentary about an ongoing criminal case before a jury marks a sharp departure from presidential norms guarding against political interference with the judicial process.

Manafort is the first person to be tried as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Mueller’s prosecutors have alleged that Manafort, before joining Trump’s campaign, for years hid millions of dollars in income earned from pro-Russia clients in Ukraine in foreign bank accounts while fraudulently obtaining bank loans to support an opulent lifestyle.

The charges Manafort faces are unrelated to his work for Trump’s campaign. Trump has repeatedly denied his campaign colluded with Russian efforts to manipulate the outcome of the election and regularly calls Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt.”

[Bloomberg]

Furious Trump told advisers that he wants Jeff Sessions to arrest Omarosa over her book

A new report from Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman claims that President Donald Trump now wants to see estranged aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman arrested over her recently published book.

According to one of Sherman’s sources, “Trump told advisers that he wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to have Manigault Newman arrested” despite the fact that “it’s unclear what law Trump believes she broke.”

One former Trump White House official said that Trump’s fury at Omarosa was setting him on a “death spiral” similar to the one that engulfed his campaign in the summer of 2016 when he attacked a Gold Star father who was critical of his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

Two former White House officials also tell Sherman that Omarosa has been masterful in the roll out of her book, as it seems her every move is designed purposefully to make Trump explode with rage.

“She is doing everything perfect if her ultimate goal is to troll Trump,” one official explained.

Trump this week has furiously attacked his former aide after she accused him of being racist and in “mental decline” in her book, “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House.” Among other things, the president has called Omarosa a “lowlife” and a “dog,” and his campaign has filed a complaint against her for allegedly violating a nondisclosure agreement she supposedly signed while she was working for the Trump campaign.

[Raw Story]

Trump Charges ‘Free Press’ With ‘Collusion.’ As Predicted.

In Trump’s world, there’s nothing wrong with “collusion” unless it’s being committed by Hillary Clinton… or the media.

The president woke up on Thursday to news that nearly 350 different newspapers across the country had all published editorials denouncing his attacks against the media. The project, spearheaded by The Boston Globe, called on papers to tackle the issue in their own words.

“We propose to publish an editorial on August 16 on the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press and ask others to commit to publishing their own editorials on the same date,” Marjorie Pritchard, deputy managing editor of Globe, wrote in a memo to editorial boards last week.

“We’re being portrayed as a domestic enemy rather than a loyal fellow countryman whose profession is to hold the powerful accountable,” she added in an interview with The New York Times. “This whole project is not anti-Trump. It’s really pro-press.”

Unsurprisingly, Trump didn’t see it that way.

The first tweet on the issue came just before 9 a.m. “THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY. It is very bad for our Great Country….BUT WE ARE WINNING!” Trump tweeted defiantly.

Then, about 15 minutes after Fox News first reported on the editorials, Trump lashed out at The Boston Globe directly. After highlighting the paper’s financial struggles, the president accused the Globe of being “in COLLUSION with other papers on free press.” He added, “PROVE IT!” though it was unclear who he was speaking to or what he wanted proven.

For good measure, Trump added a dismissive message about “true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS.”

Of course, Trump’s reaction to the project could not have been more predictable.

So much so that, writing for The San Francisco Chronicle, editorial-page editor John Diaz predicted it.

In a piece explaining why his paper would not be participating in the “coordinated editorial campaign,” Diaz expressed several concerns about the project, including this one:

“It plays into Trump’s narrative that the media are aligned against him. I can just anticipate his Thursday morning tweets accusing the ‘FAKE NEWS MEDIA’ of ‘COLLUSION!’ and ‘BIAS!’ He surely will attempt to cite this day of editorials to discredit critical and factual news stories in the future, even though no one involved in those pieces had anything to do with this campaign.”

[The Daily Beast]

Trump Admits He Revoked Brennan’s Security Clearance Over “Rigged Witch Hunt”

All it took for the White House’s James Comey story to collapse was a single TV appearance by Donald Trump. After the administration had sworn up and down that the former F.B.I. director was fired on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for mishandling the probe into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server, the president appeared on NBC and famously told Lester Holt, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘you know, this Russia thing . . . is a made-up story.’” Trump has since contradictedhis own words, denying that the Department of Justice’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election had anything to do with his decision to cut Comey loose.

Nevertheless, the incident is reportedly of critical interest to Robert Mueller as he seeks to determine whether the president obstructed justice. So it was with a strange sense of déjà vu that many read Trump’s Wednesday night interview with The Wall Street Journal,wherein he suggested that the security clearance of former C.I.A. director John Brennan was not revoked over fears that he would spill classified secrets on cable news, as the White House claimed, but because of the key role Brennan played in the beginning of the Russia probe. “I call it the rigged witch hunt, [it] is a sham. And these people led it!” Trump told the paper. “So I think it’s something that had to be done.”

His tirade, of course, flies in the face of the White House’s purported reason for stripping Brennan of his clearance: during Wednesday’s briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read aloud a statement declaring that Brennan’s alleged “lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary” and “wild outbursts on the internet and television” prompted the unprecedented move, arguing that someone prone to making “unfounded and outrageous” claims in public should not have access to the country’s most closely held secrets. Putting aside the obvious irony, many were skeptical of this line of reasoning, including Brennan himself. “This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics,” he wrote on Twitter.

By what the White House would almost certainly argue is pure coincidence, much of Brennan’s “frenzied commentary” has been anti-Trump. Last month, the former intelligence chief was critical of Trump’s performance during the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, likening him to Bernie Madoff in that the two share a “remarkably unethical ability to to deceive & manipulate others.” More recently, Brennan chided Trump over his characterization of Omarosa Manigault Newman as “that dog.” “It’s astounding how often you fail to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, & probity,” he wrote in a widely shared tweet.

In fact, the White House’s list of those whose security clearances are under review—Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; former F.B.I. Director James Comey; former Director of the National Security Agency Michael Hayden; former National Security Adviser Susan Rice; former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates; former Deputy Director of the F.B.I. Andrew McCabe; Peter Strzok, an F.B.I. agent who was fired over the weekend; former F.B.I. attorney__Lisa Page;__ and Bruce Ohr,who still works at the Justice Department but was demoted earlier this year—reads like a laundry list of people Trump views as his enemies. While speaking with the Journal, Trump suggested that any number of them could face the same retribution as Brennan. “I don’t trust many of those people on that list,” he said. “I think that they’re very duplicitous. I think they’re not good people.” He also referenced the F.B.I.’s Clinton e-mail probe, in which a number of those whose security clearances are now under scrutiny were involved. “You look at any of them and you see the things they’ve done,” he said. “In some cases, they’ve lied before Congress. The Hillary Clinton whole investigation was a total sham.” (Comey and McCabe have said that their security badges were automatically demagnetized after they were fired.)

Some level of blame-shifting is to be expected from Trump, who has repeatedly sought to turn the “collusion” spotlight on Democrats and the Clinton campaign. But here he seems to be cementing a new strategy, a sort of feedback loop in which actions taken by his own administration serve as evidence that Mueller’s investigation should be shut down. After Deputy F.B.I. Director David Bowdich overruled the recommendation of Inspector General Michael Horowitz and ordered that Strzok be fired over a series of anti-Trump texts, Trump wrote on Twitter, “Strzok started the illegal Rigged Witch Hunt – why isn’t this so-called ‘probe’ ended immediately? Why aren’t these angry and conflicted Democrats instead looking at Crooked Hillary?” On Wednesday morning, foreshadowing the Brennan announcement, he expanded on this argument: “The Rigged Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on as the ‘originators and founders’ of this scam continue to be fired and demoted for their corrupt and illegal activity,” he wrote. “All credibility is gone from this terrible Hoax, and much more will be lost as it proceeds.”

The president, of course, has routinely cast the Russia probe as orchestrated by his political enemies, failing to acknowledge the continued threat Russian hackers pose to U.S. elections, not to mention the dozens of indictments Mueller has delivered. But Trump’s spin could prove to be the only thing that matters. While Republican leadership has repeatedly signaled that any move against Mueller would be met with Congressional opposition, stripping Brennan’s security clearance may have been a litmus test of sorts—in an interview with CNN Wednesday night, Clapper confirmed that Trump could do the same to Mueller, effectively hamstringing him: “The president does have the authority to exercise here if he so chooses,” Clapper said. Indeed, if the White House was holding its breath for Congressional uproar, it’s unlikely to arrive: though Paul Ryan said the president was merely “trolling” people when the White House first floated the idea of revoking security clearances last month, he has so far stayed quiet on Trump’s choice to follow through with the threat.

[Vanity Fair]

Trump revokes former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance

President Donald Trump has withdrawn ex-CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance, in a move hitting one of the administration’s most vocal critics.

The action, announced Wednesday by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, appears to be more of a political than practical one. Brennan and most other prominent former White House officials do not use their clearances to consult with the Trump administration, and the move will not prevent them from speaking out publicly now.

In justifying pulling Brennan’s clearance, Sanders read a statement from Trump claiming that the former spy chief has shown “erratic conduct and behavior” and “has a history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility.” She said the move was about “protecting classified information,” though she did not provide any examples of Brennan using his access to improperly leverage sensitive information since he left the CIA post. Sanders denied that the move was political.

“Mr. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation’s most closely held secrets and facilities,” the president said in the statement read by Sanders.

Sanders said the White House will also consider whether to revoke security clearances of other former high-ranking law enforcement and intelligence officials — all of whom have earned Trump’s ire in some way. Those are: former FBI Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, ex-NSA Director Michael Hayden, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, ex-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI agent Peter Strzok, ex-FBI lawyer Lisa Page and Justice Department official Bruce Ohr.

Former top-ranking officials often keep their security clearances so that the White House can consult with them on important topics.

The announcement at least temporarily puts more scrutiny on Trump’s political opponents rather than the president himself. It comes amid repeated questions about nondisclosure agreements signed by former Trump campaign staffers brought about by accusations of racism and instability on Trump’s part brought by ex-administration official Omarosa Manigault Newman.

Brennan has frequently and pointedly criticized Trump since the president took office in January 2017. In a tweet on Tuesday responding to the president calling Manigault Newman a “dog,” Brennan wrote that “it’s astounding how often [Trump fails] to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility & probity.”

“Seems like you will never understand what it means to be president, nor what it takes to be a good, decent, & honest person. So disheartening, so dangerous for our Nation,” he wrote about the president.

On Tuesday night, he told MSNBC that “I think Donald Trump has badly sullied the reputation of the office of the presidency.”

In pulling Brennan’s clearance, the White House questioned his credibility in denying to Congress that the CIA “improperly accessed the computer files of congressional staffers.” Trump’s statement also claimed that Brennan showed inconsistency in telling Congress that the intelligence community did not use the so-called Steele dossier as part of its conclusion that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election.

Ohr is the only one of the people Sanders named at risk of losing a security clearance who currently works in the Trump administration. The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the evaluation of his clearance.

Last month, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that the president was “trolling people” with threats to pull their security clearances and noted that it falls under the executive branch’s purview.

Brennan had no immediate comment. The former CIA director who served during the Obama administration is a contributor to NBC News.

Other ex-intelligence and law enforcement officials criticized the move on Wednesday. Former Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin called the security clearance removal “ridiculous.” He told MSNBC that he doubts “anyone in the White House has thought through” the action.

Clapper told CNN that “the larger issue here … has been in infringement on First Amendment rights.” All of the people Sanders named have “either been outspoken about the administration, or have directly run afoul of it. And taken actions that were inimical to President Trump’s interests.”

[CNBC]

Trump campaign files for arbitration against Omarosa over confidentiality breach

President Trump‘s campaign has filed for arbitration against former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, alleging she violated a non-disclosure agreement by publishing a tell-all book.
A Trump campaign official said in a statement it filed a claim with the American Arbitration Association in New York City against Manigault Newman “for breach of her 2016 confidentiality agreement with the Trump Campaign.”
The legal action ramps up the feud between Trump and his former adviser, who has engaged in a days-long media tour to promote her new book “Unhinged,” in which she assails the president as a racist and an incompetent leader.
The book draws upon her time on Trumps’ 2016 campaign and in the White House.
Manigault Newman has also released secret audio recordings of Trump, White House chief of staff John Kelly and Trump associates Katrina Pierson and Lynne Patton that she says back up explosive claims in her book.
Manigault Newman, who was fired from the White House in 2017, has admitted she signed a confidentiality agreement with Trump’s 2016 campaign. She also claims she was offered $15,000 per month and a job with Trump’s reelection campaign in exchange for signing a new non-disclosure agreement that guaranteed her silence.
She did not take the offer. Her book is set to be officially released on Tuesday. 
Manigault Newman has caused a headache for the White House by making a series of explosive claims about Trump, including that he used the n-word on the set of “The Apprentice,” which the president has denied.
Trump has sought to undercut Manigault Newman’s credibility by attacking her and rebutting her claims. But by doing so, the president has drawn criticism for his scorched-earth approach.
The latest example came on Tuesday morning, when Trump called Manigault Newman, who was once the highest-ranking African-American in the White House, “that dog.”
“When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!” Trump tweeted.

Trump Claims Power to Bypass Limits Set by Congress in Defense Bill

When President Trump signed a $716 billion military spending bill on Monday, he claimed the authority to override dozens of provisions that he deemed improper constraints on his executive powers.

In a signing statement that the White House quietly issued after 9 p.m. on Monday — about six hours after Mr. Trump signed the bill in a televised ceremony at Fort Drum in New York — Mr. Trump deemed about 50 of its statutes to be unconstitutional intrusions on his presidential powers, meaning that the executive branch need not enforce or obey them as written.

Among them was a ban on spending military funds on “any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea,” the Ukrainian region annexed by Moscow in 2014 in an incursion considered illegal by the United States. He said he would treat the provision and similar ones as “consistent with the president’s exclusive constitutional authorities as commander in chief and as the sole representative of the nation in foreign affairs.”

The statement was the latest example of Mr. Trump’s emerging broad vision of executive power. His personal lawyers, for example, have claimed that his constitutional authority to supervise the Justice Department means that he can lawfully impede the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election no matter his motive, despite obstruction-of-justice statutes.

Signing statements, which are generally ghostwritten for presidents by Justice Department and White House lawyers, are official documents in which a president lays out his interpretation of new laws and instructs the executive branch to view them the same way.

Once obscure, the practice became controversial under President George W. Bush, who challenged more provisions of new laws than all previous presidents combined — most famously a 2005 ban on torture championed by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. (Democrats are pressing for access to any White House papers of Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh, related to that statement.)

Mr. McCain is now fighting brain cancer, and Congress named the new military law in his honor. But Mr. Trump pointedly did not mention his name when signing the bill, the latest slight in the long-running acrimony between the two men. Mr. Trump’s signing statement also quoted only part of the bill’s title, evading any acknowledgment of the senator.

Last month, Mr. McCain issued a statement calling Mr. Trump’s Helsinki summit meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

The American Bar Association in 2006 took the position that presidents should not use signing statements, but should instead veto legislation if it has constitutional defects so that Congress has an opportunity to override that veto if lawmakers disagree. But presidents of both parties, including Barack Obama, have continued to use them, with current and former executive branch lawyers arguing that the focus should be on the credibility of the legal theories that presidents invoke when they make their objections.

Mr. Trump’s new statement relied upon a mix of theories, some of which had greater support in Supreme Court precedent than others. For example, in 2015, the court upheld presidents’ constitutional authority to disregard a statute requiring American passports to say that Jerusalem is part of Israel, which could support Mr. Trump’s claim that he could recognize Crimea as part of Russia if he wanted.

But many of Mr. Trump’s challenges invoked his purported powers as commander in chief, a type of objection that the Bush administration frequently made but that the Obama administration generally shied away from.

For example, Mr. Trump also declared that he could bypass a provision in the bill that extended restrictions on certain bilateral military-to-military cooperation between the United States and Russia.

He also challenged a provision requiring the Pentagon to create a senior civilian position charged with coming up with uniform standards for counting — and reducing — civilian bystander deaths as a result of American military operations, and a provision that would halt certain in-flight refueling of Saudi and Emirati aircraft over Yemen unless those countries took more steps to bring an end to the civil war there and to reduce civilian suffering and collateral damage from their airstrikes.

And the president said he could disregard a restriction against reducing the number of active-duty troops stationed in South Korea below 22,000, unless Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis were to certify that doing so would be in the national-security interest of the United States and would not undermine the security of regional allies like South Korea and Japan.

In May, Mr. Trump had ordered the Pentagon to prepare options for drawing down troop levels in South Korea ahead of his Singapore summit meeting with North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un. But later in June, Mr. Mattis said that current troop levels of about 28,500 would remain in place.

[The New York Times]

FBI agent Peter Strzok fired over anti-Trump texts

The FBI has fired agent Peter Strzok, who helped lead the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election until officials discovered he had been sending anti-Trump texts.

Aitan Goelman, Strzok’s attorney, said FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich ordered the firing Friday, even though the director of the FBI office that normally handles employee discipline had decided Strzok should face only a demotion and 60-day suspension. Goelman said the move undercuts the FBI’s repeated assurances that Strzok would be afforded the normal disciplinary process.

“This isn’t the normal process in any way more than name,” Goelman said, adding in a statement, “This decision should be deeply troubling to all Americans.”

The FBI declined to comment.

The termination marks a remarkable downfall for Strzok, a 22-year veteran of the bureau who investigated Russian spies, defense officials accused of selling secrets to China and myriad other important cases. In the twilight of his career, Strzok was integral to two of the bureau’s most high-profile investigations — the Russia case and the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

But when a Justice Department inspector-general investigation uncovered politically charged messages that Strzok had exchanged with another FBI official, he was relegated to a position in human resources. Conservatives soon made Strzok the face of their attacks against the special-counsel investigation into the president’s campaign, and the FBI took steps to remove Strzok from its ranks.

Conservatives on Monday hailed the move. President Trump used it to suggest the Russia investigation should be dropped and the Clinton case redone.

“Agent Peter Strzok was just fired from the FBI – finally. The list of bad players in the FBI & DOJ gets longer & longer. Based on the fact that Strzok was in charge of the Witch Hunt, will it be dropped? It is a total Hoax. No Collusion, No Obstruction – I just fight back!” he wrote.

Minutes later, he added, “Just fired Agent Strzok, formerly of the FBI, was in charge of the Crooked Hillary Clinton sham investigation. It was a total fraud on the American public and should be properly redone!”

The reaction among Democrats was more understated. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said Strzok’s firing did not undercut Mueller’s probe, which had produced dozens of indictments.

“Sorry, @realDonaldTrump, the #RussiaInvestigation is bigger than one agent (who was at least willing to go under oath).” Swalwell tweeted, citing the president’s Twitter handle.

Bobby Goodlatte, the son of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), wrote on Twitter that he was “deeply embarrassed that Peter Strzok’s career was ruined by my father’s political grandstanding” and pointed to a recent congressional hearing at which Strzok testified.

“Thank you for your service sir,” Bobby Goodlatte wrote. “You are a patriot.”

Bobby Goodlatte recently endorsed the underdog Democrat running for his father’s seat.

Strzok’s team launched a GoFundMe page with a lengthy statement to raise money for his “legal costs and lost income” and said on the site that his firing was “apparently driven by political pressure.” The site had raised more than $40,000 by late Monday afternoon.

Because Strzok was a senior-level FBI employee, and because the FBI’s No. 2 official directed his firing, he has few realistic avenues left to get back his job. It was unclear whether he planned to pursue legal action against the bureau.

Strzok’s position in the bureau had been precarious since last summer, when the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, told special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that the lead agent on his team had been exchanging anti-Trump messages with an FBI lawyer. The next day, Mueller expelled Strzok from the group.

The lawyer, Lisa Page, had also been a part of Mueller’s team, though she left a few weeks earlier and no longer works for the FBI. She and Strzok were having an affair.

Trump has previously derided the pair as “FBI lovers,” and he and his conservative allies have pointed to their conduct in an attempt to discredit the Mueller probe. On Saturday, before the firing was known publicly, Trump tweeted an attack on Strzok, Page, former FBI director James B. Comey and former deputy director Andrew McCabe.

“Will the FBI ever recover it’s once stellar reputation, so badly damaged by Comey, McCabe, Peter S and his lover, the lovely Lisa Page, and other top officials now dismissed or fired?” Trump wrote on Twitter. “So many of the great men and women of the FBI have been hurt by these clowns and losers!”

Horowitz concluded that Strzok showed a “willingness to take official action” to hurt Trump’s electoral prospects, particularly in a text he sent telling Page “we’ll stop” Trump from being president.

Strzok, who was a deputy assistant director for counterintelligence at the bureau, has apologized for sending the messages and said they reflected personal views that did not affect his work. His attorney has said that had Strzok wanted to prevent Trump’s election, he could have leaked that Trump’s campaign was under investigation for possibly coordinating with Russia — a revelation that might have upended his bid to become president.

At a congressional hearing last month, Strzok sparred with Republican lawmakers who raised questions about his character and even his marriage. He asserted that there was “no evidence of bias in my professional actions” and that his having to testify was “just another victory notch in [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”

Strzok was escorted out of the FBI building in June and effectively relieved of work responsibilities, though he technically remained an FBI employee as he and his attorney challenged the effort to dismiss him. On July 24, they made a final pitch to Candice M. Will, who leads the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

Goelman said Will ultimately decided that Strzok should face a demotion and 60-day suspension and be subjected to a “last chance” agreement. That would have put him on thin ice if he were to commit another offense. But Goelman said Bowdich overruled that decision and ordered Strzok’s termination.

During a June congressional hearing, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said that Strzok had been referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility — which he referred to as the bureau’s “independent disciplinary arm” — and that officials would “not hesitate to hold people strictly accountable.” Wray promised that process would be “done by the book.”

Strzok is the third high-ranking FBI official involved in the Clinton and Russia investigations to be fired amid an intensely political backdrop. Trump removed Comey as the bureau’s director and said he did so thinking of the Russia case. Attorney General Jeff Sessions later removed Comey’s deputy, McCabe, after the inspector general alleged he lied about a media disclosure related to Clinton.

McCabe — who, unlike Comey, could not be removed at the will of the president — has said his termination was a politically motivated attempt to undermine the Mueller probe. He is facing a criminal investigation by prosecutors in the District of Columbia’s U.S. attorney’s office. McCabe’s attorney wrote Monday of Strzok’s firing: “Another patriot, public servant, and defender of the FBI fired to appease the WH,” using an abbreviation for White House.

It is possible that others could yet face discipline. The inspector general identified five FBI employees, including Strzok and Page, with some connection to the Clinton email case who had exchanged messages expressing hostility toward Trump, support for Clinton or other political views. Each was referred to the FBI for possible violations of the bureau’s code of conduct.

The inspector general’s office said it found no evidence “to connect the political views expressed in these messages to the specific investigative decisions” in the Clinton case. Its report singled out Strzok, though, for prioritizing the Russia investigation in October 2016 instead of following up on a Clinton-related lead. Strzok’s attorney has disputed that Strzok failed to pursue the Clinton lead aggressively.

[Washington Post]

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