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Archive for February, 2018

Star Tribune: Partisan Attacks on FBI Have No Place in Mueller Probe

Special counsel Robert Mueller

By Editorial Board
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

When U.S. House Republicans opted to release the now infamous Nunes memo, which attempted to discredit the FBI on the Russia investigation, fairness demanded they simultaneously vote to release the Democratic response. That they did not made clear their true motive: to allow U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, head of the House Intelligence Committee, to have the field to himself for a while, setting the narrative that the FBI was part of a nefarious “deep state” attempt to take down President Donald Trump.

The memo, of course, showed nothing of the kind and instead offered a surprisingly weak assortment of information and innuendo that led FBI Director Christopher Wray — a Trump appointee — to voice grave concernsover mischaracterizations and lack of context that he said presented an inaccurate picture. Trump declassified the memo anyway and crowed that it vindicated him on the Russia investigation. It did not.

Now after the Nunes memo has dominated headlines for days, in the name of “transparency” Intelligence Committee Republicans have joined Democrats in voting to release a Democratic rebuttal that next goes to Trump for final declassification. Trump should make it public at once, although we have little hope that he will. He already has attacked the ranking Democrat on the committee, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, calling him “one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington,” saying — without proof — that Schiff left closed hearings “to illegally leak confidential information” and closing ominously by saying that “Little Adam Schiff … must be stopped.”

It’s clear that the Nunes memo is part of a multilayered attempt to undermine and discredit the results of Robert Mueller’s investigation before findings are even released. Mueller, a former FBI director himself, has led a disciplined and wide-ranging investigation into alleged foreign influence in the U.S. election. That investigation must proceed, unimpeded, without interference in the release of its findings — least of all by the man who may have been the direct beneficiary of foreign actions.

Click here to read more. 

Colbert Taunts Trump, Suggesting He’s Too ‘Chicken’ for Mueller Interview

Late Show host Stephen Colbert.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Late Show host Stephen Colbert taunted Donald Trump on Tuesday night, suggesting the president was too “chicken” to sit down face-to-face Robert Mueller, the special counsel in the Russia investigation.

“I know Trump watches this show, because it’s on TV, so right now I’ve got a special message for him,” Colbert said. “Mr. President, ignore your lawyers, sir. You follow your instincts and you sit down with Robert Mueller. Otherwise, everyone’s going to think that you’re scared. But we know that you’re not — oh, oh, your fried chicken has arrived,” he quipped, holding up an empty KFC bucket. “Where is that — oh, I think I know where the chicken is. Bawk bawk-aw.”

Trump’s lawyers are trying to discourage the president from meeting the special counsel team that is now investigating whether the president obstructed justice by interfering with the probe.

Trump boasted last week during an impromptu press conference that he was “looking forward” to the interview because he did nothing wrong, but the president’s lawyers worry he will commit perjury.

Trump Says Nunes, Who Spearheaded Memo’s Release, Has Makings of ‘Great American Hero’

President Trump

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Republican Devin Nunes, the California congressman who set off a political firestorm by spearheading the controversial release of a secret, much-disputed memo drafted by GOP staff, “may someday” be considered a “Great American Hero,” President Trump said Monday.

Trump, who claimed over the weekend that the GOP-drafted memo “totally vindicates” him in the growing special counsel investigation, tweeted that Nunes is “a man of tremendous courage and grit” who “may someday be recognized as a Great American Hero for what he has exposed and what he has had to endure!”

As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes caught widespread criticism, including from members of his own party, for taking the highly unusual step of declassifying intelligence-gathering information over fierce opposition from the FBI and Justice Department. The memo, which the DOJ and committee Democrats vigorously disputed, alleges the intelligence agencies abused their surveillance powers by spying on Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, who was suspected of being a Russian agent.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

Trump’s gushing tweet came just hours before the House Intelligence Committee was voted unanimously to support the release of a classified memo drafted by Democrats to counter the surveillance abuse claims.

Now Donald Trump has five days to decide whether he wants to block the document’s release. If he objects to the disclosure, the full House has the option of accepting the decision or trying to override the president in what certainly would set the stage for an ugly, high-stakes standoff with Democrats, some Republicans and federal law enforcement agencies.

A Trump spokesman said the president won’t make a decision until he and a national security team review the memo, which could undermine the president’s narrative that the special counsel probe is part of a “witch hunt” to remove him from office.

Worried Trump Will Lie, President’s Attorneys Urge Him to Decline Mueller Interview

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Worried that President Trump will commit perjury in a proposed sit-down interview with Robert Mueller’s special counsel team, the president’s attorneys are urging him to avoid the perilous encounter.

Just last month, Trump boasted at an impromptu press conference that he was “looking forward” to the interview because he did nothing wrong.

Mueller’s team, which began investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, has turned its attention on the president following accusations that he obstructed justice by trying to interfere with the probe.

His lawyers are worried that Trump, who has a habit of fabricating information to suit his purpose, could be charged with lying to investigators, The New York Times reports

Trump is expected to decide in the coming whether he will agree to the interview. If he doesn’t, Mueller may compel the testimony with a subpoena.

Trump’s Legal Team Explores Appointment of Second Special Counsel to Probe FBI, DOJ

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s relentless, unsubstantiated claims that the FBI and Justice Department are conducing a “witch hunt” to purge him from office may get new muscle in the form of a second special prosecutor.

The president’s legal team supports the appointment of another counsel to investigate unfounded allegations that the Robert Mueller probe has been tainted by an anti-Trump bias among investigators and the top ranks of the FBI and Justice Department, Axios reported Monday

To make that happen, the Justice Department would have to appoint a special prosecutor, who would examine claims trumpeted by the president that the investigation has been compromised by law enforcement with a vendetta.

It’s not yet clear whether the Justice Department, which Trump has repeatedly claimed is out to get him, would be open to appointing a second counsel.

Emails Show FBI Shocked, Saddened by Comey’s Firing, Countering Trump Narrative

Special counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s controversial decision to fire James Comey as FBI director last year shocked and saddened many people in the bureau, according to more than 100 pages of emails written by agents in the days following the termination.

While the emails poured in, Trump claimed the bureau had “lost confidence” in its leader, which many inside the FBI feverishly denied and dismissed as the president’s shameless campaign to smear the bureau. 

The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by security analyst Benjamin Wittes, editor of the legal affairs blog Lawfare. The bureau turned over 103 of the 116 emails that were identified.

“We are not going to let this defeat us … it will only make us stronger,” the head of the Knoxville field office emailed her staff. “I know you all know our director stood for what is right and what is true. He truly made us better when we needed it the most.”

The special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit office emailed, “I hope this is an instance of fake news.”

The assistant director of the FBI’s Office of Victim Assistance wrote in an email, “Our hearts may be heavy but we must continue to do what we do best, which is to protect and serve the American people.”

The emails starkly contrast with Trump’s contention that morale had plummeted under Comey, who told congressional investigators that the president pressured him to an investigation into a former aide.

Just weeks later, Trump’s Justice Department appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Trump and Russia.

Trump’s Tough Choice: Release Memo Rebuttal Or Risk Perilous Standoff

President Trump, via White House

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Republican-led House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously Monday to publicly disclose a classified, Democratic rebuttal of the much-disputed GOP memo that set off a political firestorm that continued to rage this week.

Now Donald Trump has five days to decide whether he wants to block the document’s release. If he objects to the disclosure, the full House has the option of accepting the decision or trying to override the president in what certainly would set the stage for an ugly, high-stakes standoff with Democrats, some Republicans and federal law enforcement agencies.

The Democratic rebuttal disputes the GOP memo, which alleges the FBI and Justice Department abused their powers to spy on former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, who was suspected of being a Russian agent.

The president and his congressional allies contend the alleged surveillance abuses demonstrate an anti-Trump bias in the FBI and Justice Department, which are overseeing the special counsel investigation of Trump and Russia.

As the investigation heats up and is focusing on whether the president obstructed justice by interfering in the probe, Trump’s strategy has been to cast himself as the victim of the “single biggest witch hunt” in U.S. history. The Republican memo provided the president with ammunition to ramp up his assault on the agencies’ reputations.

But the release of the Democratic memo could undermine Trump’s narrative, which has been dismissed by congressional members from both parties and the FBI and DOJ as a reckless, shameless campaign to cast doubts about any conclusions drawn during the probe.

A White House official told the New York Times that it would review the memo before deciding whether to block it. 

“We will consider it along the same terms that we considered the Nunes memo — which is to allow for a legal review — national security review — led by the White House Counsel’s Office,” spokesman Raj Shah told reporters aboard Air Force One.

Trump Slams Leading Memo Critic Ahead of Push to Release Democrats’ Rebuttal

President Trump

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump woke up this morning ready for war.

Two days after he claimed a much-disputed memo “totally vindicates” him in the special counsel investigation, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee plan to fight tonight for the release of their rebuttal memo, which strongly disputes the Republican-drafted document. 

At stake is a Trump-driven narrative, fueled by the memo’s release last week, that claims the FBI and Justice Department are bent on destroying the president and therefore cannot be trusted to oversee Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the president obstructed justice or his campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

The argument stems from the committee’s GOP-drafted memo, which Republicans released last week over the strong objections of the FBI and DOJ. The narrative is vital to shed doubt on the integrity of the special counsel probe, which is picking up steam and has reached the doors of the White House.

Some committee Republicans, including Chairman Devin Nunes, R-California, have expressed a willingness to release the rebuttal once it’s properly vetted.

On Twitter this morning, Trump launched a preemptive strike at Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, the committee’s most vocal critic of the Republican memo, which suggests the FBI and DOJ abused their authority to spy on former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, who was suspected of being a Russian agent.

“Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper!” Trump tweeted. “Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information. Must be stopped!”

The president didn’t elaborate.

Even if the committee approves the release of the rebuttal, Trump would have five days to review the document and decide whether it should be declassified and released.

If the president objects, the committee has the option of sending the memo to the full House for another vote.