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How Special Counsel Probe of Russia Quickly to Trump’s Campaign, Administration

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker

The special counsel investigation that began over growing evidence that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election quickly expanded to Donald Trump’s campaign and administration officials following mounting allegations of wrongdoing.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed by Trump’s Justice Department in May, soon after the president fired then-FBI Director James Comey, who told congressional committees that his termination was an act of retaliation for refusing Tump’s orders to end an investigation into a former campaign and administration official, Michael Flynn.

About a month after taking over the potentially landmark case, Mueller requested documents from the General Services Administration (GSA), which plays a key role during presidential transitions, CNN reports, citing newly released email records. 

Months before Mueller’s appointment, the bureau’s investigation appeared to be limited to Russia’s campaign to undermine the 2016 presidential election, according to newly released documents, which include emails between the FBI and GSA. The probe quickly expanded to encompass the president’s campaign and his new administration’s ties to Russa, resulting so far with the indictments of four former Trump aides.

“As a follow up to our request, we thought it best to send GSA an official preservation letter. Your staff has been extraordinarily responsive and we appreciate their patience with our (my) questions,” the agent wrote, according to the email obtained by CNN. GSA redacted the name of the FBI agent who sent the email.

The special counsel team demanded the preservation of communications, records and electronics involving 13 of Trump’s campaign officials, marking a significant development in the probe.

Unable to fire Mueller, Trump launched a smear campaign against the FBI and DOJ. alleging widespread anti-Trump sentiment in the top law enforcement agencies, which traditionally have been considered widely Republican.

Now that the special counsel investigation has reached the front steps of the White House, following increasing allegations that the president obstructed justice by trying to yield his influence to disrupt a probe that could determine Trump’s fate as president.

George W. Bush: ‘There’s pretty clear evidence’ That Russia Interfered in 2016 Election

Former President George W. Bush

By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker

Former President George W. Bush said Thursday “there’s pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled” in the 2016 presidential election, an apparent rebuke of President Trump and his refusal to accept the findings of his intelligence agencies.

“Whether [Russia] affected the outcome is another question,” Bush said at a conference in Abu Dhabi, the USA Today reported. “It’s problematic that a foreign nation is involved in our election system. Our democracy is only as good as people trust the results.”

While the former president never mentioned Trump by name, Bush pointedly and very publicly countered the president as he and his allies continue to attack the credibility of the FBI and Justice Department, the two departments overseeing the special counsel investigation into Russia’s campaign to undermine the presidential election.  

The White House didn’t immediately respond to Bush’s statements.

FBI Found No Evidence That Border Patrol Agent Was Murdered

Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez was found dead at the bottom of a ravine in west Texas.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An exhaustive investigation into the mysterious death of a Border Patrol agent in West Texas in November uncovered no evidence of a “scuffle, altercation or attack,” countering hasty claims by President Trump and other conservatives that blamed rock-throwing immigrants.

An autopsy concluded Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez died of “blunt force trauma” to his head caused by an “undetermined manner of death.”

“To date none of the more than 650 interviews completed, locations searched, or evidence collected and analyzed have produced evidence that would support the existence of a scuffle, altercation, or attack on November 18, 2017,” said the release from the El Paso office of Emmerson Buie, a special agent in charge.

Martinez and his partner Stephen “Michael” Garland were responding to unknown activity on the night of Nov. 18 near Van Horn, a Texas town near the Mexico border and about 110 miles southeast of El Paso. Garland was seriously injured but has no memory of what happened. According to the FBI, Garland told a dispatcher, “We ran into a culvert.”

Shortly after the incident, President Trump tweeted, “Border Patrol Officer killed at Southern Border, another badly hurt. We will seek out and bring to justice those responsible. We will, and must, build the Wall!”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called the incident “a stark reminder of the ongoing threat that an unsecure border poses.” Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the agents’ union, hastily concluded the agents were brutally beaten with rocks.

Russian Hackers Penetrated U.S. Election Systems in Coordinated Attacks Targeting 21 States

Cyber crime expert, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker

A brazen Russian campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election included coordinated cyber attacks targeting the election system in 21 states  and successfully penetrated, some of which were successfully penetrated

Jeanette Manfra, the head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, told NBC News that Russian hackers gained access to voter registration rolls in several U.S. states ahead of the election. 

Manfra declined to identify the targeted states and said she’s forbidden from providing more details because a lot of the information is classified.

”We saw a targeting of 21 states and an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated.”

Jeh Johnson, who served as DHS secretary during the Trump campaign, said “2016 was a wake-up call and now it’s incumbent upon states and the Feds to do something about it before our democracy is attacked again.”

But Johnson said, many of the states have failed to take up no serious measures “to actually harden their cybersecurity.

Bannon Agrees to Mueller Interview, But May Face Contempt for Defying Congressional Subpoena

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who is facing threats of contempt charges for defying a subpoena ordering him to testify before a House committee’s investigation of President Trump and Russia, plans to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller next week and answer all of his questions.

The former Breitbart News chief agreed last week to meet with Robert Mueller’s team and fully cooperate as part of a deal to avoid testifying before a grand jury.

But Bannon continues to defy a subpoena compelling him to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, prompting U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff on Tuesday to pledge to “enforce the subpoena on Bannon” by beginning contempt proceedings, The Hill reports

“Testifying before the special counsel does not obviate Mr. Bannon’s obligations under the subpoena issued by the committee. Should Bannon maintain his refusal to return and testify fully to all questions, the committee should begin contempt proceedings to compel his testimony,” Schiff said in a statement.

Schiff said Bannon’s attorney informed the committee that his client does not plan to testify during a committee hearing next week.

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski also plans to skip out on the hearing.

“Neither Bannon nor Lewandowski have articulated legitimate grounds for refusing to appear and answer questions before Congress, and we fully expect them to return,” Schiff said.

Bannon, who resigned in August, is considered a key witness in the investigation because he was a close confident of Trump and played key roles in both the campaign and the presidential administration.

In an explosive book published last month, Bannon blasted the campaign’s handling of Russia and suggested the Mueller investigation will focus on money laundering. He also said it was “treasonous” for some in the Trump campaign, including the president’s son, to meet with a group of Russians at Trump Tower in June 2016.

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.