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Tag: special counsel

Top Senate Republicans Call for Investigation of Mueller Team for Deleting Cell Phone Data

Special counsel Robert Mueller. Photo via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Top Senate Republicans are calling on the Justice Department to investigate whether special counsel Robert Mueller and his team violated federal record-keeping laws by erasing their official cell phones of data.

In a letter to the FBI and Justice Department, Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also is requesting the Justice Department to determine whether the deleted data can be recovered.

“It appears that Special Counsel Mueller’s team may have deleted federal records that could be key to better understanding their decision-making process as they pursued their investigation and wrote their report,” Grassley wrote. “Indeed, many officials apparently deleted the records after the DOJ Inspector General began his inquiry into how the Department mishandled Crossfire Hurricane. Moreover, based on this new information, the number of times and the stated reasons for the deletions calls into question whether or not it was a widespread intentional effort.”

A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that at least 15 phones used during the Russia investigation were wiped of information.

Homeland Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson requested an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

On Twitter, President Trump compared the matter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deleting thousands of emails off a private server.

“ALERT: So now we find out that the entire Mueller ‘hit squad’ illegally wiped their phones clean just prior to the investigation of them, all using the same really dumb reason for this ‘accident’, just like Crooked Hillary smashing her phones with a hammer, & DELETING HER EMAILS!” Trump tweeted early Saturday morning.

Ex-FBI Agent Strzok Calls Trump a ‘Counterintelligence Threat’ in New Book

Former FBI Agent Peter Strzok, via EPA.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Peter Strzok, a former FBI agent who played a key role in the Russia-Trump investigation, described the president as a “counterintelligence threat” in a new memoir.

Strzok, who spent more than 20 years as a counterintelligence agent before he was removed from the special counsel team over disparaging texts about Trump in 2017, wrote in “Compromised” that he witnessed the president’s “willingness to accept political assistance from an opponent like Russia — and, it follows, his willingness to subvert everything America stands for,” The New York Times reports.

“That’s not patriotic,” Strzok wrote. “It’s the opposite.”

Strzok claimed Trump pressured the FBI to fire him in August 2018 and used the texts to whip up conspiracy theories. In August 2019, Strzok filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department and FBI, claiming his termination was politically motivated.

“The reporting about my texts hadn’t only whipped Trump into a frenzy,” Strzok wrote. “It had also sent Republicans in Congress into a righteous peeve, giving them fodder for right-wing indignation that would eventually ferment into the deep-state fairy tale that would consume conservative media.”

In the book, which is set to be released Tuesday, Strzok defended the investigation into Trump’s campaign,

The bureau was “investigating a credible allegation of foreign intelligence activity to see where it led,” Strzok wrote. “It started with Russia, and it was always about Russia.”

DOJ Quietly Limited Special Counsel Probe of Russia, Making It Difficult to Explore Ties to Trump’s Campaign

Rod Rosenstein and Robert S. Mueller III

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department secretly narrowed the focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a move that prevented authorities from fully pursuing links to Trump’s campaign, The New York Times reports.

Former Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein privately limited the investigation to a criminal one, rather than one that explored authorities’ concerns about counterintelligence issues related to Trump’s connections to Russia.

Rosenstein’s actions all but ensured the investigation “would go nowhere,” The Times wrote, citing former Justice Department and FBI officials.

Publicly, Rosenstein said Mueller’s job was to explore “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government,” which includes counterintelligence issues. Not even the bureau’s then-acting director Andrew McCabe knew Rosenstein had limited the scope of the investigation. Had he known, the FBI would have investigated the counterintelligence issues, McCabe said.

“We opened this case in May 2017 because we had information that indicated a national security threat might exist, specifically a counterintelligence threat involving the president and Russia,” McCabe said. “I expected that issue and issues related to it would be fully examined by the special counsel team. If a decision was made not to investigate those issues, I am surprised and disappointed. I was not aware of that.”

Rosenstein declined to respond to The Times story.

Trump Offered Top FBI Job to John Kelly If He pledged Loyalty to the President, New Book Says

President Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

A day after President Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, he offered the bureau’s top job to then-Homeland Security John Kelly.

But there was a catch: Kelly must pledge absolute loyalty to Trump, according to the forthcoming book Donald Trump v. United States, as reported by Axios.

To get the job, “Kelly needed to be loyal to him, and only him.”

“Kelly immediately realized the problem with Trump’s request for loyalty, and he pushed back on the president’s demand,” New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt writes in the book. “Kelly said that he would be loyal to the Constitution and the rule of law, but he refused to pledge his loyalty to Trump.”

The report doesn’t indicate how Trump responded, but a month after firing Comey, Trump nominated Christopher Wray to be the FBI’s next director.

Kelly later served as Trump’s chief of staff.

During the special counsel investigation, Robert Mueller didn’t find out about Trump offering the job to Kelly, whose interview with Mueller was limited to two hours.

Kelly announced he was resigning as chief of staff on December 2018.

Before Comey was fired, he said Trump urged him to pledge loyalty, and he refused, the former director has repeatedly said.

FBI Hid Copies of Russia Probe Documents to Prevent Trump from Interfering

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testifies before Congress.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Worried that President Trump would interfere with the FBI investigation into Russia, former FBI Director Andrew McCabe took steps to preserve documents related to the case in case he was ousted, CNN first reported.

McCabe instructed agents to make three copies of key documents and place them in remote locations around the FBI, according to an excerpt from CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin’s book, “True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump.”

Former FBI Director James Comey’s memos about his conversations with Trump were placed in SENTINEL, the bureau’s case management system.

“McCabe knew that once documents were inside the system, they were virtually impossible to remove,” CNN reported. “With Comey’s memos in the system, the investigators were certain to have access to them – even if McCabe himself would eventually be gone.”

The documents were eventually turned over to Robert Mueller, who was appointed special counsel to oversee the investigation. Those documents proved to be critical to the investigation.

After Trump Commuted Roger Stone’s Prison Term, Is Michael Flynn Next?

Former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Now that President Trump has commuted the prison term of Roger Stone, many are wondering if Michael Flynn is next.

Flynn is Trump’s first national security advisor and also was the target of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

When it comes to a potential pardon of Flynn, who was convicted of lying to FBI agents, Trump said Monday, “I don’t have a decision to make” about a potential pardon for Flynn “until I find out what’s going to happen” with Flynn’s attempt to get his conviction tossed, CNBC reports.

“I think he’s doing very well with respect to his case,” Trump told reporters. “I hope that he’s going to be able to win it.”

The Justice Department is asking Judge Emmett Sullivan to dismiss the conviction. After he was ordered to dismiss the case by a federal appeals court panel, Sullivan requested the court’s full line-up to reconsider the decision.

Trump has long insisted that the Mueller investigation was a hoax, even though numerous people have been convicted as a result of the probe.

Sen. Graham to Invite Mueller to Testify After Ex-Special Counsel Wrote Op-Ed about Roger Stone

Robert S. Mueller III testifies before Congress last summer.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Sen. Lindsey Graham plans to invite former special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before the Judiciary Committee after Mueller penned a rare op-ed in response to President Trump’s decision to commute Roger Stone’s prison sentence.

Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats have long called for Mueller to testify, but Graham has denied the request – until now.

“Apparently Mr. Mueller is willing – and also capable – of defending the Mueller investigation through an oped in the Washington Post,” Graham tweeted. “Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have previously requested Mr. Mueller appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify about his investigation. That request will be granted.”

A spokesman for Graham told NBC News that a “formal invivtation to Mr. Mueller is in the works.”

In The Washington Post op-ed, Mueller wrote that he was “compelled to respond both to broad claims that our investigation was illegitimate and our motives were improper, and to specific claims that Roger Stone was a victim of our office.”

“The Russia investigation was of paramount importance,” he said. “Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so.”

Trump drew criticism from Democrats and some Republicans after commuting Stone’s prison sentence on Friday.

Justice Department Moves to Drop Criminal Case Against Michael Flynn, Drawing Criticism

Former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department dropped its criminal case against Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, citing documents detailing how FBI officials planned to handle a January 2017 interview with Flynn.

The decision to recommend that a judge dismiss the case drew immediate criticism from legal experts and Democrats, who raised serious questions about the motivations of the DOJ and Attorney General William Barr.

Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian diplomat and even cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

In documents filed Thursday in federal court in Washington D.C., the Justice Department said, “The Government has concluded that the interview of Mr. Flynn was untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn,” NBC News reports.

“The Government is not persuaded that the January 24, 2017 interview was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis and therefore does not believe Mr. Flynn’s statements were material even if untrue,” the filing said.

The decision follows the release of an internal review into the handling of the case. Flynn’s lawyers claimed the review shows Flynn had been entrapped into lying when FBI agents interviewed him.

Trump applauded the DOJ’s recommendation.

“I didn’t know that was happening at this moment. I felt it was going to happen just by watching and seeing like everybody else does,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

“He was an innocent man,” he said of Flynn. “He is a great gentleman.”

The move was “outrageous,” chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said.

“The evidence against General Flynn is overwhelming. He pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. And now a politicized and thoroughly corrupt Department of Justice is going to let the President’s crony simply walk away,” Nadler said in a statement.

Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, who responded to the DOJ’s actions by saying “This is not justice,” urged Justice Department lawyers not to resign.

“DOJ lawyers of integrity will be tempted to resign over today’s motion to dismiss the Flynn case,” McQuade tweeted. “My advice is to please stay. We need you instead of those who might replace you.”

The recommendation still needs to be approved by Judge Emmet Sullivan.