Barr names Connecticut prosecutor to investigate Russia probe’s origins

Attorney General William Barr has reportedly assigned a federal prosecutor in Connecticut to examine the origins of the investigation into Russia’s election interference and alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow. 

The New York Times, citing two people familiar with the matter, reported on Monday night that John H. Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, had been tapped by Barr to look into the probe’s inception. The newspaper reported the inquiry is the third publicly known investigation focused on the FBI’s counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign. 

Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz is reviewing how investigators used wiretap applications and informants as well as whether political bias motivated decisionmaking. 

John W. Huber, the U.S. attorney in Utah, is also examining aspects of the investigation. 

A spokesman for Durham’s office and the DOJ declined a request for comment from the Times. The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill. 

Durham was nominated by Trump in 2017 and has served as a lawyer within the Justice Department for nearly 40 years, according to the Times. He has a history of performing special investigations. 

Former Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey assigned Durham to conduct a probe of the CIA in 2008 over the agency destroying videotapes that showed terrorism suspects being tortured. 

Bloomberg News reported in April that Barr had formed a team to review the actions of the Justice Department and FBI leading up to the Russia investigation. He told Congress around that time that he was “reviewing the conduct of the investigation and trying to get my arms around all the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016.”

He also testified before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that he believed “spying” took place. 

“The question is whether it was adequately predicated and I’m not suggesting it wasn’t adequately predicated, but I need to explore that,” he said. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray said last week that he wouldn’t use “spying” to describe lawful investigative activities taken up by the FBI. 

Durham’s new assignment comes just weeks after the Justice Department released special counsel Robert Mueller‘s report, which detailed the findings of his 22-month investigation into President Trump

Mueller’s investigation did not uncover evidence to conclude that a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow took place. But the report noted that Mueller could not come to a conclusive determination with regard to whether the president obstructed justice. 

[The Hill]

Trump suffers meltdown after James Comey tells CNN it is ‘possible’ that ‘the Russians have leverage over’ the president

President Donald Trump freaked out on Twitter after former FBI Director James Comey gave an exclusive interview to CNN on the two-year anniversary of being fired.

“Do you think the Russians have leverage over President Trump?” Anderson Cooper asked.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Comey replied.

“Do you think it’s possible?” Cooper asked.

“Yes,” Comey answered.

That was not the only news Comey made.

Comey also said that Attorney General Bill Barr has behaved “less than honorably” and that America can’t have a president “who lies constantly.”

Trump lashed out after the interview was televised.

“James Comey is a disgrace to the FBI and will go down as the worst director in its long and once proud history,” Trump argued, seemingly unaware of the Bureau’s history.

“He brought the FBI down, almost all Republicans and Democrats thought he should be fired, but the FBI will regain greatness because of the great men & women who work there!” Trump argued.

[Raw Story]

Media

Trump calls Putin and talks of ‘Russian hoax’

US President Donald Trump has said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an hour-long call, covering issues including the “Russian hoax”.

“Had a long and very good conversation with President Putin,” the US president tweeted.

Mr Trump rebuked a reporter who asked whether he had warned Mr Putin against meddling in the 2020 elections.

It was the leaders’ first conversation since the Mueller report cleared Mr Trump of colluding with Russia.

The Kremlin confirmed in a statement the two had spoken, saying the call had been initiated by the White House.

Mr Trump and Mr Putin last spoke informally at December’s G20 Summit in Buenos Aires.

The US president tweeted on Friday about their latest conversation: “As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone is a good thing not a bad thing.”

When asked in the White House on Friday whether he had warned Mr Putin that Moscow should not interfere in the next US presidential election, Mr Trump told the reporter she was “very rude”.

“We didn’t discuss that,” he said.

“Getting along with countries is a good thing and we want to have good relations with everybody.”

But the White House said the matter of alleged Russian meddling had been broached in the call.

[BBC]

Trump Calls FBI and Justice Department Officials ‘Scum’

During a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, President Donald Trump called FBI and Justice Department officials “scum.”

“We’re taking on the failed political establishment and restoring government of, by and for the people,” Trump said. “It’s the people, or you’re the people. You won the election.”

Then turning to talk of his own intelligence officials he said this: “And if you look at what’s happened with the scum that’s leaving the very top of government, people that others used to say, oh, that’s one — these were dirty cops. These were dirty players.”

He continued on: “You take a look at what’s going on, there’s 21 of ‘em already. And I’m not even doing — they’re just leaving because they got caught like nobody ever got caught.”

The crowd cheered.

“And in the truest sense of the word, what we are doing now is draining the swamp,” the president continued on to louder cheers. “That’s true.”

The crowd then chanted “Drain the Swamp!”

[Mediaite]

Donald Trump: Investigations Against Me Were a ‘Coup’ to ‘Overthrow the United States Government’

Throughout his interview with Sean Hannity on Thursday night, President Donald Trump raved that Robert Mueller‘s probe and the investigations into him were nothing less than an attempted “coup” to depose his administration.

As Trump lashed out at his various political foes and spoke to Hannity about his 2016 opponent who has been vanquished for about 2.5 years now, he said the counterintelligence investigations into his campaign’s possible Russian collusion was a scandal “far bigger than Watergate.”

T”his was a coup. This was an attempted overthrow of the United States government,” Trump said. “This was an overthrow and it’s a disgraceful thing…I think it’s possibly the biggest scandal in political history in this country.”

Trump continued by referring to the FBI and intelligence figures who’ve spoken against him as “sick people.”

[Mediaite]

Trump goes off script at opioid summit: ‘I know about rigging the system because I had the system rigged on me’

President Donald Trump alleged on Wednesday that the U.S. justice system had been “rigged” against him.

While speaking at an event on opioid abuse, the president argued that pharmaceutical companies are giving European countries better prices than they give U.S. customers.

Trump vowed to stop the practice and called his promise “a big deal.”

“At long last we’re stopping drug companies in foreign countries from rigging the system,” Trump said before straying from his prepared remarks.

“I know all about the rigging of the system because I had the system rigged on me,” the president said, likely referring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

“I think you know what I’m talking about,” Trump added. “Unfortunately, that will be your soundbite tonight but that’s okay. The system was rigged!”

[Raw Story]

Trump says he would challenge impeachment in Supreme Court

President Trump on Wednesday said that he would attempt to challenge impeachment in the Supreme Court if Democrats carried out such proceedings, though it’s unclear the high court would hear such a case.

“The Mueller Report, despite being written by Angry Democrats and Trump Haters, and with unlimited money behind it ($35,000,000), didn’t lay a glove on me. I DID NOTHING WRONG,” Trump tweeted.

“If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court. Not only are there no ‘High Crimes and Misdemeanors,’ there are no Crimes by me at all,” he continued.

The president accused Democrats, Hillary Clinton and “dirty cops” of being guilty of criminal activity.

“We waited for Mueller and WON, so now the Dems look to Congress as last hope!” Trump concluded.

The House holds the power to carry out impeachment proceedings, while the Senate is responsible for whether to convict the individual in question. The chief justice of the Supreme Court, currently John Roberts, would preside over the Senate trial.

There is little precedent to support the idea of the Supreme Court weighing in on the merits of impeachment, as a sitting president has not previously challenged impeachment proceedings in the high court.

The Supreme Court ruled in the 1993 case of federal Judge Walter Nixon that whether the Senate properly conducted an impeachment trial was a political question, and therefore nonjusticiable.

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, rejected the possibility of Trump taking an impeachment to the Supreme Court.

“Not even a SCOTUS filled with Trump appointees would get in the way of the House or Senate, where [Chief Justice] Roberts would preside over Trump’s Impeachment Trial,” tweeted Tribe, an outspoken critic of the president.

The president has been fixated in recent days on pushing back against the specter of impeachment proceedings, while maintaining that he is “not even a little bit” concerned about the possibility of removal from office.

Democratic leaders have largely said they don’t yet support starting the impeachment process, but remained open to the possibility in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller‘s full report.

In the partly redacted document, investigators did not establish that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 election, but did not exonerate Trump on the question of obstruction of justice. 

Investigators instead detailed 10 episodes they reviewed for potential obstruction by the president, with Mueller saying that Congress has the authority to conduct potential obstruction probes.

Talk of whether to carry out impeachment hearings has split Democrats, and discussions have intensified in the aftermath of Mueller’s report.

“I do believe that impeachment is one of the most divisive forces, paths that we could go down to in our country,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday. “But if the facts, the path of fact-finding takes us there, we have no choice. But we’re not there yet.”

House Democrats have launched a flurry of investigations into the president, seeking to review his finances, potential abuse of power and corruption within the administration.Trump later asserted in a pair of tweets that he had been cooperative with the Mueller investigation, and suggested Congress should focus on legislation instead of seeking additional information from the White House as part of its own probes. “Millions of pages of documents were given to the Mueller Angry Dems, plus I allowed everyone to testify, including W.H. counsel. I didn’t have to do this, but now they want more,” Trump tweeted. “Congress has no time to legislate, they only want to continue the Witch Hunt, which I have already won. They should start looking at The Criminals who are already very well known to all. This was a Rigged System – WE WILL DRAIN THE SWAMP!”

[The Hill]

‘So True’: Trump Tweets Out Seven Fox News Segments in One Day in Wake of Mueller Report

Today President Donald Trump has been sharing a number of clips from Fox News and Fox Business segments on the Mueller report.

The main Fox News account may have stopped tweeting since November as of now, but the president’s Twitter feed today has featured plenty of Fox content.

Trump shared clips of Mark LevinSteve HiltonByron YorkLou Dobbs, and Gregg Jarrett talking about the Mueller report and the fallout from the past few days:

[Mediaite]

Trump: ‘I could have fired everyone’ on Mueller team if I wanted to

President Trump on Thursday pushed back against questions about whether he may have obstructed the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, asserting that he could have “fired everyone,” including special counsel Robert Mueller, if he had so chosen. 

Trump quoted Fox News host Jesse Watters, who said on “The Five” that Trump “was being framed” and “fought back.”

“I had the right to end the whole Witch Hunt if I wanted,” the president tweeted. “I could have fired everyone, including Mueller, if I wanted. I chose not to. I had the RIGHT to use Executive Privilege. I didn’t!”

The president’s tweet came as he traveled aboard Air Force One to Palm Beach, Fla., where he will spend the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

A redacted version of Mueller’s full report was released Thursday morning. In it, the special counsel detailed 10 areas where investigators looked at whether Trump may have obstructed justice.

Mueller looked into, among other topics, Trump’s efforts to remove the special counsel, his conduct surrounding the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and his encouragement of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take control of the investigation.

The special counsel ultimately did not exonerate or implicate Trump on obstruction charges.

“[I]f we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment,” the report states.

Attorney General William Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did not find sufficient evidence to prove obstruction of justice on the part of the president. 

Mueller’s report further established there was “no collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russian government, Barr said.

Trump’s tweet marked one of his few public comments in the wake of the report’s release.

The president briefly addressed the report’s findings at an event for wounded military service members, saying that he was “having a good day” and reiterating his stance the report found “no collusion. No obstruction.”

He also tweeted a photo inspired by the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones” showing him staring into a fog behind the statement: “No collusion. No obstruction. For the haters and the radical left Democrats—Game Over.”

Trump did not address reporters as he departed the White House for Florida.

[The Hill]

Trump Curses Out Democrats on Live Television: ‘Defrauding the Public With Ridiculous Bullsh*t!’

As President Donald Trump tore into the Russia investigations throughout his frenzied speech in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Thursday night, he surely offended television censors at one point by cursing out Democrats for their “ridiculous bullshit.”

“So the Russia hoax proves more than ever that we need to finish exactly what we came here to do: Drain the swamp,” Trump said to wild cheers. He then exclaimed: “The Democrats have to now decide whether they will continue defrauding the public with ridiculous bullshit, partisan investigations, or ways they will apologize to the American people and it join us to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.”

Never a dull moment.

[Mediaite]

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