President Donald Trump addressed the latest kerfuffle-cum-constitutional crisis in a Friday morning tweet following Attorney General Bill Barr’s apparent intervention in the sentencing of Roger Stone.
Stone was found guilty of seven felony counts last November, including lying to Congress and witness tampering during the investigation into Russian intelligence and interference in the general election. As such, prosecutors recommended a seven to nine-year prison sentence, which Trump criticized vocally. Barr eventually intervened to recommend a lighter sentence, to which Trump tweeted his thanks.
In an interview with ABC News, Barr claimed that he would never be bullied by anyone (including the president) and criticized Trump’s tweets for creating a distraction. It is worth noting that, despite his claims otherwise, Barr appeared to do exactly what Trump had asked, eventually earning Trump’s praise. So that’s the context… still with me?
Ever one to jump on a news cycle, and get ahead of a story, Trump addressed this story obliquely, saying that he has the “legal right” to ask his attorney general to do anything in a criminal case.
“Trump just openly and explicitly stated that it’s perfectly within his authority to direct his Attorney General to open criminal investigations into anyone he wants,” offered Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent, in as a pure expression of what many will see as an open flouting of checks and balances in the U.S. government.
This is the very point made Thursday night on CNN by Jeffrey Toobin following a Washington Post report about this very concept. “The idea [James Comey] committed a crime is absurd. The person in a really perilous condition right now is the CNN contributor Andrew McCabe, who is under investigation from the U.S. Attorney’s office right now. And, you know, has had his case dangling out there. The president obviously wants Andy McCabe prosecuted and it’s just grotesque that you have the President of the United States behaving this way with the power of prosecution exercised in this way.”
The attorney general IS appointed by the president, then confirmed by Congress. And it’s not unusual for the top law enforcement official to work hand in glove with the sitting president. Many might read Trump’s tweet, however, as a rather foreboding omen of what may come to Trump’s political foes.
If he feels that someone has done him wrong, and he can direct the AG to serve as his own personal henchman (of which there is an abundance of evidence) then what is to keep him from seeking investigations into those he feels might threaten his reelection? Oh wait, he’s already done that.
The prosecutors had been seeking a sentence of up to nine years in prison.
Liu, a former US attorney for Washington, DC, also supervised the case of one-time White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was found guilty of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials while working for the Trump campaign.
She was scheduled to begin her confirmation hearing in the Senate on Thursday.
If confirmed, Liu, 46, would have served as undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes.
Trump previously had considered nominating her as associate attorney general, the No. 3 slot in the Justice Department, but she withdrew her name last March.
President Donald Trump says he has the “absolute right” to direct the Dept. of Justice in who and how it prosecutes, but claims that he didn’t, despite his furious tweet overnight attacking the DOJ and calling prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation of Roger Stone a “miscarriage of justice.”
Trump also called the 7 to 9 year recommendation of jail time for Stone, his ally, confidant, and former campaign advisor, an “insult to our country.” Trump often conflates himself and the nation, as if he is the country.
Saying he did not speak to anyone at DOJ Trump then said, “I’d be able to do it if I wanted I have the absolute right to do it.”
Calling the sentencing recommendation “ridiculous” Trump added, “I thought the whole prosecution was ridiculous.”
“That was a horrible abberition,” he concluded, apparently meaning “aberration.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday is reportedly expected to change its sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone
a day after telling a federal judge the Trump associate should serve
between seven and nine years in prison, guidance that was sharply
criticized by President Trump.
Reports of the expected change came after Trump denounced the recommended prison term as “horrible and very unfair” in an early Tuesday morning Tweet.
“The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them.
Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!” Trump said, sharing a message
from a Daily Caller reporter about Stone’s prison sentence.
Stone, a 67 year-old right-wing provocateur, was convicted in
November of seven counts of obstructing and lying to Congress and
witness tampering related to his efforts to provide the Trump campaign
inside information about WikiLeaks in 2016.
Stone is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 20 by D.C. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointee.
Stone obstructed Congress’s investigation into Russian interference in
the 2016 election, lied under oath, and tampered with a witness,” the
DOJ court filing reads. “And when his crimes were revealed by the
indictment in this case, he displayed contempt for this Court and the
rule of law.”
Department prosecutors wrote that a sentence of up
to nine years would “accurately reflect the seriousness of his crimes
and promote respect for the law.”
Stone’s attorneys in a Monday night filing asked that the judge impose probation as an alternative to prison.
A Stone lawyer on Tuesday said the legal team had “read with interest” the new reporting on the DOJ’s shifting position.
sentencing memo stated our position on the recommendation made
yesterday by the government,” attorney Grant Smith told The Hill. “We
look forward to reviewing the government’s supplemental filing.”
The department will reportedly clarify its recommendation on Stone’s sentencing later Tuesday.
President Donald Trump attacked his security people as they dragged
protesters out of his Michigan rally on Wednesday. Protesters flashed
middle fingers as well as a giant banner reading, “Don the Con — you’re
“She’ll catch hell when she gets back home with mom,” Trump said.
“You know, she screams a little bit and you know what I like to do to
avoid them. Because I’ll tell you the big problem, I can hardly hear
her. What happens is all of you people go, ‘Look, look, look.’ And the
place — so there’s one disgusting person who made — wait, wait — who, I
wouldn’t say this, but who made a horrible gesture with the wrong
finger, right? Now, they won’t say that, the fake news media. They won’t
say it. If one of us did that it would be like the biggest story ever.”
“And I’ll tell you another thing,” Trump continued. “I don’t know who
the security company is but the police came up, but they want to be so
politically correct. So they don’t grab her wrist lightly. Get her out!
They say, ‘Oh, will you please come? Please come with me. Sir. Ma’am.
Will you — and then she gives the guy the finger. Oh. Oh. You gotta get a
little bit stronger than that folks.”
The finger was not for those dragging the protester out of the area, rather it was for Trump.
Trump has been attacked over the past months for refusing to pay for
security bills for his campaign. It’s unknown if this security team that
Trump attacked Wednesday will get paid.
Not long after Donald Trump took to the stage at a rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday night, the president launched into one of his biggest crowd-pleasers: pillorying the “deep state,” particularly by performing fan-fic-style dialogue between the “FBI lovers” Lisa Page and Peter Strzok.
It’s a routine that he’s been honing on the re-election campaign trail for months, perhaps most famously during an October campaign event in Minneapolis, where he appeared to make orgasmic, panting noises—much to the audience’s delight—while doing a mock-dialogue between the two “lovers” about how much they “love” each other and hate that “son of a bitch” Trump.
And on Tuesday night, the president went a step further, claiming he’d “heard” gossip about previously unknown relationship woes between the two former FBI employees—though Trump conceded he could just be spreading pure disinformation.
“So FBI lawyer Lisa Page was so in love she didn’t know what the hell was happening,” Trump blared. “Texted the head of counterintelligence Peter Strzok, likewise so in love he couldn’t see straight! This poor guy. Did I hear he needed a restraining order after this whole thing to keep him away from Lisa? That’s what I heard. I don’t know if it’s true. The fake news will never report it, but it could be true.”
After pointing out the reporters gathered in the back so the audience could loudly boo them, the president continued to make the baseless claim that a restraining order was put in place. At the same time, Trump gave a contorted explanation of the alleged restraining order.
“Now that’s what I heard, I don’t know,” he added. “I mean, who could believe a thing like that? No, I heard Peter Strzok needed a restraining order to keep him away from his once lover. Lisa, I hope you miss him. Lisa, he will never be the same.”
It is unclear where, if anywhere, Trump got this. The White House did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.
A source familiar with Page’s thinking told The Daily Beast on Tuesday night that Trump’s allegation is “absolutely untrue.”
On Wednesday morning, Page took to Twitter herself, saying “This is a lie. Nothing like this ever happened. I wish we had a president who knew how to act like one. SAD!”
Both Page and Strzok have become prominent bêtes noires for MAGA fans and Trumpworld, due to their illicit affair and the text messages they exchanged bashing Trump and discussing an “insurance policy” in the event the 2016 Republican nominee actually won against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
In an interview with The Daily Beast published this month, Page explained why she was choosing to publicly speak out now, stating: “Honestly, his demeaning fake orgasm was really the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“I had stayed quiet for years hoping it would fade away, but instead it got worse,” she said, adding that “it had been so hard not to defend myself, to let people who hate me control the narrative. I decided to take my power back.”
President Donald Trump at a rally in Pennsylvania on Tuesday night lashed out at the FBI, calling staff of the agency “scum.”
He also doubled down on discredited conspiracy theories following the release of a report that undermined the president’s claims that the Russia probe was a “deep state” plot meant to damage his presidency.
“They hid it so nobody could see it and they could keep this hoax going on for two more years,” Trump said. “They knew right at the beginning.”
The report in fact found that the Russia investigation was launched on the basis of multiple contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians.
“The FBI also sent multiple undercover human spies to surveil and record people associated with our campaign,” the president said.
“Look how they’ve hurt people. They’ve destroyed the lives of people that were great people, that are still great people. Their lives have been destroyed by scum. OK, by scum.”
While Trump and his allies have often characterized the FBI’s surveillance as “spying,” the long-anticipated report found that the FBI followed its rules in opening an investigation into contacts between Russia and Trump officials and concluded that top officials were not driven by “political bias or improper motivation” in doing so.
It did, however, did find an improper handling of applications for surveillance warrants, such as Page’s.
“I look forward to Bull Durham’s report, that’s the one I look forward to,” Trump said, referring to the 1988 baseball movie starring Kevin Costner in a riff on Durham’s name.
“And this report was great by the IG, especially since he was appointed by President Barack Hussein Obama,” Trump said. Using Obama’s middle name is often associated with a movement by the far right to falsely suggest Obama is Muslim.
Visiting Chicago for the first time as president, Donald Trump disparaged the city Monday as a haven for criminals that is “embarrassing to us as a nation.” The city’s top cop sat out Trump’s speech to protest the president’s immigration policies and frequently divisive rhetoric.
“There is one person who is not here today,” Trump told a friendly audience at a conference of police chiefs. “Where is he? I want to talk to him. In fact, more than anyone else, this person should be here because maybe he could learn something, and that’s the superintendent of the Chicago Police, Eddie Johnson.”
Johnson’s decision to boycott the event angered the city’s chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, which said in a Facebook post that “such a gesture would be an insult to both President Trump and the office of the presidency itself and would be a mark of disgrace upon the city throughout the entire nation, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot.”
But the Democratic mayor and Illinois’ Democratic governor stood in solidarity with Johnson, who announced days before the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference that he would not attend.
“This is the land of Lincoln and when you come to the state of Illinois you should respect all the people who live here in the state of Illinois,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Lightfoot also refused to meet with Trump, and said on Twitter that she supports Johnson.
“It’s no surprise that @realDonaldTrump brought his insulting, ignorant buffoonery to Chicago,” the mayor tweeted. “Luckily, in this city, we know the truth and we will not let anyone — no matter how high the office — denigrate who we are as a people or our status as a welcoming city.”
“Rather than belittle Chicago’s communities with hateful and dishonest rhetoric, he needs to go back to D.C. and face his fate,” Lightfoot said, apparently referring to the House impeachment inquiry against the president.
At a news conference later Monday, Johnson said Trump had ignored a “double digit” reduction in violent crime in the city over the past three years.
Trump has long held up the nation’s third-largest city as the poster child of urban violence and dysfunctional Democratic politics.
At one point in the address, Trump turned his daily complaint about the impeachment inquiry into a swipe at “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who authorities say fabricated a claim about being attacked by Trump supporters in Chicago earlier this year.
“You have the case of this wise guy Jessie Smollett … and he said MAGA country did it,” Trump said, using the acronym for his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. “It’s a real big scam, just like the impeachment of your president is a scam.”
The FOP Lodge 7, which represents rank-and-file Chicago police officers, announced that it had cast a vote of no confidence in Johnson. The union’s president, Kevin Graham, was first to greet Trump on the tarmac of O’Hare International Airport, after he landed in the city.
In the speech, Trump rattled off Chicago crime statistics and claimed that Johnson puts the needs of people living in the U.S. illegally above those of law-abiding residents of Chicago. “Those are his values and frankly those values to me are a disgrace,” Trump said. “I want Eddie Johnson to change his values and to change them fast.”
During the conference, Trump signed an executive order creating a presidential commission on law enforcement to study issues like substance abuse, homelessness and mental illness. The president also announced that the Justice Department will begin a “surge” to crack down on violent crime in the United States, targeting gang members and drug traffickers in high-crime areas.
Johnson, meanwhile, is under internal investigation after he was found sleeping in a city-owned vehicle earlier this month. Lightfoot said Johnson, who called for the investigation, told her he had “a couple of drinks with dinner” before he fell asleep at a stop sign while driving home. Johnson blamed the episode on a change in his blood pressure medication.
While in Chicago, Trump headlined a campaign luncheon at his hotel in the city, raising approximately $4 million for a joint fundraising committee benefiting Trump’s reelection effort and the Republican National Committee, according to the GOP.
Thousands of demonstrators rallied outside the hotel, waving colorful signs that said “Impeach Trump Now” and “Quid Pro Quo Trump Must Go.” They also shouted chants such as “Lock him up” and “Trump must go.”
Some said they came to protest out of a fear for the country they have never felt before.
“It will take decades to put things back in place,” said Caroline Mooney, a 61-year-old marketing analyst from the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park.
“If something doesn’t happen next November, we may not recover,” said her friend Steve Schaibley, who drove 2-1/2 hours from Livingston County.
The gathering was mostly peaceful. But two people were taken into custody after apparently attacking a man waving a Trump flag. The Trump supporter was bloodied but did not appear to have been seriously injured.
Donald Trump appeared to perform an impression of former FBI agent Peter Strzok and attorney Lisa Page having sex while the president was in the middle of a speech during a rally in Minnesota on Thursday.
Mr Trump slammed his hand on the podium and shouted “I love you, Lisa,” and “I love you too, Peter” before moaning “Lisa, I love you, Lisa! Lisa! Oh, God, I love you Lisa!”
The president had previously called Mr Strzok a “sick loser” amid investigations by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in US elections. Mr Mueller removed Mr Strzok from his team after discovering anti-Trump text messages between Mr Strzok and Ms Page, who had an affair.
The president has falsely claimed that the texts had been deleted and has frequently argued that the messages amount to “corruption” within an investigation that followed Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential election.
At his Minnesota rally, Mr Trump continued to mock the text messages: “And if she doesn’t win, Lisa, we’ve got an insurance policy, Lisa: we’ll get that son of a bitch out.”
The subpoena stems from Vance’s criminal investigation into the Trump Organization about hush money payments made to two women who have alleged affairs with the president. Trump has strongly denied the affairs.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, names Vance and the president’s tax preparer, Mazars USA, as defendants. It argues that the Manhattan district attorney should not receive Trump’s tax returns because “‘[v]irtually all legal commenters agree’ that a sitting President of the United States is not ‘subject to the criminal process’ while he is in office.”
“The framers of our Constitution understood that state and local prosecutors would be tempted to criminally investigate the President to advance their own careers and to advance their political agendas,” the lawsuit adds. “And they likewise understood that having to defend against these actions would distract the President from his constitutional duties. That is why the Framers eliminated this possibility and assigned the task to supermajorities of Congress acting with the imprimatur of the nation as a whole.”
Jay Sekulow, the president’s lawyer, commented on the constitutionality of Vance’s probe in a statement Thursday, saying, “In response to the subpoenas issued by the New York County District Attorney, we have filed a lawsuit this morning in Federal Court on behalf of the President in order to address the significant constitutional issues at stake in this case.”
Vance’s spokesman Danny Frost said in response to the lawsuit,”We have received the plaintiff’s complaint and will respond as appropriate in court. We will have no further comment as this process unfolds in court.”
Vance’s office is probing hush money payments made during the 2016 election to adult film star Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom have alleged affairs with Trump, which he has denied.
In addition to Trump’s company, Vance’s office has also subpoenaed the publisher of the National Enquirer, The New York Times has reported. The publication was involved in negotiations with adult Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Giffords, and paid $150,000 to silence McDougal, according to federal prosecutors.
The president’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, admitted in August of last year to making an illegal $130,000 payment to Daniels in order to keep her quiet in the days ahead of the 2016 election. Cohen is currently serving a three-year prison sentence for tax evasion, bank fraud, breaking campaign finance laws with the hush money payments, and lying to Congress.
Last year, American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company, entered into a nonprosecution agreement with federal prosecutors and admitted that it worked with the Trump campaign to buy the rights to the women’s stories in order to silence them. The practice, known in the industry as “catch-and-kill,” involves paying for the exclusive rights to stories with the intention of never actually publishing them.
Trump tweeted after the sentencing that he “never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called ‘advice of counsel,’ and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid.”