Trump accuses NYT reporter of breaking the law by alerting FBI to Kushner meetings with Russians

President Donald Trump accused a New York Times reporter of breaking the law by tipping off the FBI to developments in the Russia investigation.

Times reporter Michael Schmidt alerted the FBI’s assistant director for public affairs in March 2017 that he and some colleagues had found out Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn had met in December 2016 with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who then set up a meeting between Trump’s son-in-law and a Russian banker.

Schmidt’s email was then forwarded to FBI special agent Peter Strzok, who was leading the bureau’s Russia investigation, and Jonathan Moffa, an FBI counterintelligence officer, reported the Washington Examiner.

Trump reacted with a pair of tweets suggesting that Schmidt had fed false information to the FBI.

“Just revealed that the Failing and Desperate New York Times was feeding false stories about me, & those associated with me, to the FBI,” Trump tweeted. “This shows the kind of unprecedented hatred I have been putting up with for years with this Crooked newspaper. Is what they have done legal?”

[Raw Story]

Trump says he’d accept dirt from a foreign government to see ‘if it’s bad’

Fox & Friends knows President Trump’s got some explaining to do.

After Trump caught heat for telling ABC News that he’d be open to receiving dirt on an opponent from a foreign government, the subject inevitably came up when he called in to Fox & Friends on Friday. The hosts invited Trump to “clarify” his comments on Thursday, but his birthday-morning call didn’t do much to settle the dust.

While Trump told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he would “maybe” report information from a foreign government to the FBI, he told Fox “of course” he’d present “anything bad” to the agency.

“I don’t think anyone would present me with anything bad because they know how much I love this country,” he began. But if he were hypothetically offered dirt by someone who momentarily forgot about his patriotism, he would definitely check it out. “Of course you have to look at it because, if you don’t look at it, you’re not going to know if it’s bad,” he explained, suggesting a foreign government could be reaching out to let him know how great his opponent is. “But of course you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that.”

While Trump previously conflated opposition research and interference from a foreign government, on Friday he only mentioned undefined “bad” information, leaving it up to interpretation exactly what would be worth reporting. He wouldn’t want “bad” things affecting an election, Trump concluded — “I thought that was made clear.” 

[The Week]

Trump tries to defend foreign dirt comments by noting he meets with world leaders all the time

President Trump is out with a defense of his foreign dirt comments, and it’s a real doozy.

Trump took to Twitter on Thursday after coming under fire for saying in an interview with ABC that he would accept dirt on an election opponent offered by a foreign government and wouldn’t necessarily alert the FBI.

Amid this firestorm, the president on Twitter suggested that taking dirt from a foreign government and holding meetings with heads of state are basically the same thing, sarcastically asking if he should call the FBI after meeting with Queen Elizabeth II or the Prince of Wales. Trump deleted and reposted the tweet after originally writing “Prince of Whales.”

Trump also complained about his “full answer” not being played on the news while not explaining what context or nuance is supposedly missing. In the interview, George Stephanopoulos specifically asked Trump whether 2020 candidates should accept information on their opponents from foreign governments, and he said that “I think I’d take it” and would only “maybe” go to the FBI if he “thought there was something wrong” while defending this as not being “interference.” ABC’s Meridith McGraw noted on Twitter that the network “did not edit” his answer.

[The Week]

Trump tests out new ‘no obstruction’ claims: ‘Facts that led to no obstruction’

President Donald Trump ended a day on the golf course Sunday with another attack on Democrats claiming “no collusion and no obstruction,” but with a unique twist.

This time around, Trump claims that the “facts led to no obstruction,” he tweeted. The facts actually led special counsel Robert Mueller to ten examples of obstruction that he handed over to Congress.

“And as set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime,” Mueller said during his press conference in May.

[Raw Story]

Reality

Donald Trump wrote the Democrats should “Go back to work” while on a golf course.

Kushner unsure whether he’d alert FBI if Russians request another meeting

On “Axios on HBO,” Jared Kushner said he doesn’t know whether he’d call the FBI if he were to receive an email today like the one before the campaign’s Trump Tower meeting, which had the subject line: “Re: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential.”

  • Kushner said this after a tense exchange about the email he received to set up the infamous Trump Tower meeting. 

Why this matters: Kushner is now in the West Wing as senior adviser to the president. Shouldn’t an email with an offer of help from Russians trigger a mental alarm? This bolsters the perception that President Trump’s inner circle still doesn’t fully recognize the ongoing threat of Russian interference in American elections. 

  • Kushner’s response comes after FBI Director Christopher Wray said in congressional testimony that he would recommend that in the future, people contact the FBI if a foreign government offers campaign support.

What he’s saying: Kushner said people are being “self-righteous” and playing “Monday morning quarterback” by asking him why he didn’t call the FBI when he saw the email offering help for the Trump campaign from Russia.

  • “Let me put you in my shoes at that time. OK, I’m running three companies, I’m helping run the campaign. I get an email that says show up at 4 instead of 3 to a meeting that I had been told about earlier that I didn’t know what the hell it was about.”

Asked if he’d call the FBI if it happened again, Kushner said: “I don’t know. It’s hard to do hypotheticals, but the reality is is that we were not given anything that was salacious.”

[Axios]

Media

Trump says Russia helped elect him – then quickly backtracks

Donald Trump has denied that Russia helped elect him president, less than an hour after he admitted Russia did help to elect him president.

In a flurry of tweets lashing out at people and concepts including the special counsel Robert Mueller, “fake news media” and “this phony crime”, Trump, for the first time, said Russia aided his 2016 presidential win.

“Russia, Russia, Russia!” the president tweeted on Thursday morning.

“That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax. And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.”

For a president who has previously denied Russia interfered in the 2016 election at all – despite the conclusions of US intelligence agencies – the admission of Russian help was startling.

But soon after Trump’s statement, he made a prompt about-turn.

“Russia did not help me get elected. You know who got me elected? You know who got me elected? I got me elected. Russia did not help me at all,” Trump said during a White House press conference.

On Wednesday Mueller said his two-year investigation had “established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome”.

Mueller’s report states that “the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion”.

The report also detailed 11 instances of potential obstruction of justice by Trump and his campaign. Mueller has said charging Trump with a crime was “not an option we could consider”, because of justice department policy.

Mueller added: “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that.”

Trump was en route to Colorado on Thursday morning, to address a graduation ceremony for the US air force academy.

[The Guardian]

Trump Admits Donald Trump Jr Called Him Before the Trump Tower Meeting With Russian Lawyer

President Donald Trump’s Rose Garden speech on Wednesday was notable largely just because it was so absurd, but he also dropped a piece of information about the infamous Trump Tower meeting before the 2016 election for the first time.

The president suggested that an opposition research firm was behind the Trump Tower meeting, told the press that they should be “ashamed” of themselves and announced that he won’t work with Democrats until they stop investigating him.

But, at one moment, the president said that his son, Donald Trump Jr., called him just before the famous Trump Tower meeting in which he met with a Russian lawyer.

Trump was talking about the meeting and the phone calls that were made around the time that had been scrutinized by Mueller’s team. The president said, “[Donald Trump Jr.] had the meeting and he called me and he had the meeting after.”

This is just another revelation in the long string of disclosures about that meeting. At first, President Trump told Reuters that he didn’t know about the meeting until the New York Times broke a story on it.

When the Times wrote that story, Trump Jr. released a statement. At first, the president said that he had nothing to do with the statement but, finally, the White House admitted that he at least helped his son put the statement together.

Then, in the summer of 2018, Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen said that the president knew about the meeting in advance.

The meeting is important because it took place in the summer of 2016, only a few months before the election and because Trump’s then-campaign manager Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner were both in the meeting. Kushner struggled to get a security clearance because he lied about his contacts with foreign officials

But, Wednesday is the first time that the president said that he talked to Donald Trump Jr. before he went into the meeting.

[IJR]

Rudy Giuliani says he’s going to Ukraine to meddle in probes in hopes of helping Trump

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani says he’s traveling to Ukraine to urge that country’s president-elect to push forward with investigations that he anticipates could help Trump’s re-election campaign.

“We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do,” Giuliani said in an interview with The New York Times published Thursday.

According The Times, Giuliani plans to ask Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian comedian elected to lead the nation in April, to move ahead with probes involving the son of potential Trump rival Joe Biden as well inquiries related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

“There’s nothing illegal about it,” he told the paper.

But, the former New York City mayor allowed in the interview, “Somebody could say it’s improper.”

Democrats quickly did.

“We have come to a very sorry state when it is considered OK for an American politician, never mind an attorney for the president, to go and seek foreign intervention in American politics,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to reporters Friday.

Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee,tweeted that Giuliani’s efforts are not only improper, but “immoral, unethical, unpatriotic and, now, standard procedure.”

Giuliani told The Times Thursday that Trump fully supports his plans.

“The President is openly asking a foreign government to investigate his political rival. This is next level,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., tweeted Friday.

Giuliani tweeted back, “Explain to me why Biden shouldn’t be investigated if his son got millions from a Russian loving crooked Ukrainian oligarch while He was VP and point man for Ukraine.”

In a text message, Giuliani told NBC News that what he’s planning is “perfectly legal” since it involves an investigation. The 2020 “election is 17 months away,” he wrote.

In recent days, Giuliani has repeatedly alleged a conspiracy involving the former vice president, who has emerged as the early front-runner in the race to be the Democratic nominee. In an interview with NBC News earlier this week, Giuliani said he stumbled upon the story by accident as he was investigating a claim he’d heard about Democratic National Committee officials “using the American embassy in Ukraine as their focal point to get dirt on Trump” and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who earned millions working for a corrupt pro-Russian political party in Ukrainefor nearly a decade.

“All of a sudden, as I’m interviewing these people, they tell me the Biden story,” Giuliani said.

The “Biden story” involves the then-vice president’s 2016 call for Ukraine to crack down on corruption, including removing a Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, seen as ineffective. As Giuliani has noted, one of the cases that Shokin had been investigating involved a company called Burisma Holdings. Biden’s son Hunter Biden was on the board of the company at the time.

But Bloomberg News, citing documents and an interview with a former Ukrainian official, reported earlier this week that the Burisma investigation had been dormant for over a year when Biden called for the crackdown on corruption. PolitiFact, meanwhile, reported that it found no evidence to “support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son’s interests in mind.”

Giuliani has said, and The Times has reported, that Ukrainian prosecutors have reopened the Burisma investigation, but a spokesperson for the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office told Bloomberg that it had not done so.

That spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

Hunter Biden, who stepped down from Burisma’s board last month, told The Times, “At no time have I discussed with my father the company’s business, or my board service.”

Giuliani told NBC News, “I assure you I am not trying to take him [Biden] out. I’m actually — he won’t appreciate it — but I’m doing him a favor by trying to get it investigated now. Because it wasn’t going to live through November of next year.”

The DNC has repeatedly denied working with the Ukrainian government to obtain dirt on Manafort. The incriminating Ukrainian information about Manafort that emerged during the campaign — a ledger showing $12.7 million in unreported payments from a Russia-backed Ukrainian political party — was from public records. However, Ukraine’s current top prosecutor has reportedly opened an investigation into whether the Manafort information was released in order to help Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Manafort, 70, is now serving a seven-and-a-half year federal prison sentence for undisclosed lobbying work in Ukraine, as well as tax and bank fraud — charges that were brought as part of Mueller’s investigation but were unconnected to Manafort’s work with the Trump campaign.

The New York Times previously reported on Giuliani’s interest in the Biden and Manafort-related inquiries as well as his meetings with Ukrainian officials about the probes. Giuliani said then he’d been keeping the president apprised of his efforts.

Trump spoke about the Biden story in an interview with Fox News last week.

“I’m hearing it’s a major scandal, major problem,” Trump said. “I hope for him it is fake news. I don’t think it is.”

[NBC News]

Trump Quotes Ari Fleischer on Fox: Trying to ‘Switch from Collusion’ Makes Dems Look Like ‘Sore Losers’

President Donald Trump quoted former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer blasting Democrats on the issue of collusion this afternoon.

Fleischer spoke with Harris Faulkner on Outnumbered Overtime today, talking about the document requests from the House Judiciary Committee and saying the investigations may end up backfiring on the Democrats.

He said Democrats are showing “policy is secondary, getting Trump is primary.”

Faulkner asked if this will continue to be a “distraction” for POTUS. Fleischer said it will, arguing, “Democrats cannot keep using the words ‘crime crime crime’ without setting in motion an impeachment path that they cannot avoid. That’s going to backfire.”

Faulkner showed a clip of Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) saying that Democrats are launching investigations “in search of a crime,” before Fleischer said Democrats are trying to change lanes:

“Now that the Democrats are going to try and switch from collusion to some other reason, it makes the continue to look like sore losers who didn’t accept the will of the people in the last election. So they’ll do anything to get rid of the president. So I think the president is doing the right messaging on collusion, and then let Mueller report.”

And the president was clearly watching:

[Mediaite]

‘These People Are Sick’: Trump Mocks Media for Coverage of His ‘Russia, If You’re Listening…’ Comments at CPAC

President Donald Trump teed off on the media today at his CPAC speech, mocking them for taking his infamous “Russia, if you’re listening…” campaign comments about Hillary Clinton‘s emails seriously.

When he brought up the “fake news,” the president said, “If you tell a joke, if you are sarcastic, if you’re having fun with the audience, if you’re on live television with millions of people and 25,000 people in an arena people in an arena, and if you say something like ‘Russia, please, if you can get us Hillary Clinton’s emails! Please, Russia, please!’”

He said it in a mocking voice, which was immediately followed up by chants of “Lock her up!”

“Then that fake CNN and others say, ‘He asked Russia to get the emails. Horrible,’” Trump continued. “I mean, I saw it like two weeks ago. I’m watching and they’re talking about one of the points. ‘He asked Russia for the emails.’ These people are sick. And I’m telling you, they know the game. They know the game. And they play it dirty.”

[Mediaite]

Reality

It wasn’t a joke, Donald Trump was well aware in July 2016 that Russia had hacked DNC emails and were preparing to release them. Donald Trump Jr. told him. Roger Stone told him. George Papadapolous told him.

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