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FBI Director, James Comey Fired By Trump, Citing Clinton Email Enquiry

 

By MICHAEL D. SHEAR and MATT APUZZO
Video by The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, abruptly terminating the law enforcement official leading a wide-ranging criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

The stunning development in Mr. Trump’s presidency raised the specter of political interference by a sitting president into an existing investigation by the nation’s leading law enforcement agency. It immediately ignited Democratic calls for an independent prosecutor to lead the Russia inquiry.

Mr. Trump explained the firing by citing Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, even though the president was widely seen to have benefited politically from that inquiry and had once praised Mr. Comey for having “guts” in his pursuit of Mrs. Clinton during the campaign.

But in his letter to Mr. Comey, released to reporters by the White House, the president betrayed his focus on the continuing inquiry into Russia and his aides.

“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr. Trump said in a letter to Mr. Comey dated Tuesday.

The White House said Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, pushed for Mr. Comey’s dismissal.

James B. Comey last week during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington.© Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times James B. Comey last week during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington.

“I cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails,” Mr. Rosenstein wrote in a letter that was released by the White House, “and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken.”

Reaction in Washington was swift and fierce. In a call with Mr. Trump, Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, told the president he was making a big mistake; publicly, Mr. Schumer called the firing a cover-up. Many Republicans assailed the president for making a rash decision that could have deep implications for their party.

Mr. Comey, who is three years into a 10-year term at the helm of the F.B.I., learned from news reports that he had been fired while addressing bureau employees in Los Angeles. While Mr. Comey spoke, television screens in the background began flashing the news. In response to the reports, Mr. Comey laughed, saying that he thought it was a fairly funny prank.

But shortly after, Mr. Trump’s letter was delivered to F.B.I. Headquarters in Washington.

The sudden dismissal of one of Washington’s most prominent officials added to the sense of chaos in a White House that has been roiled by controversy, dogged by scandal and engaged in a furious fight with adversaries.

Mr. Trump had already fired his acting attorney general for insubordination and his national security adviser for lying to the vice president about contacts with Russians. But firing Mr. Comey raises much deeper questions about the independence of the F.B.I. and the future of its investigations under Mr. Trump.

F.B.I. officers were enraged by the firing and worried openly that Mr. Trump would appoint someone seen as a White House ally. Mr. Comey was widely liked in the F.B.I., even by those who criticized his handling of the Clinton investigation, and officers regarded him as a good manager and an independent leader.

Mr. Comey was on Capitol Hill last week when he offered his first public explanation of his handling of the Clinton email case. He said he had no regrets about the decisions he made, but said he felt “mildly nauseous” that his actions might have tipped the election to Mr. Trump.

Last July, Mr. Comey broke with longstanding tradition and policies by publicly discussing the Clinton case and chastising her “careless” handling of classified information. Then, in the campaign’s final days, Mr. Comey announced that the F.B.I. was reopening the investigation, a move that earned him widespread criticism.

Yet many of the facts cited as evidence for Mr. Comey’s dismissal were well known when Mr. Trump kept him on the job: Mr. Comey was three years in to a 10-year term. And both Mr. Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had praised Mr. Comey back then for reopening the Clinton investigation by saying his public announcement “took guts.” On Tuesday, that action was at the heart of Mr. Comey’s firing.

“It is essential that we find new leadership for the F.B.I. that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” Mr. Trump wrote.

Officials at the F.B.I. said they learned through news reports of Mr. Comey’s dismissal, which Mr. Trump described as effective immediately. The president has the authority to fire the F.B.I. director for any reason.

Under the F.B.I.’s normal rules of succession, Mr. Comey’s deputy, Andrew G. McCabe, a career F.B.I. officer, becomes acting director. The White House said the search for a director will begin immediately.

The firing puts Democrats in a difficult position. Many had hoped that Mrs. Clinton would fire Mr. Comey soon after taking office, and blamed him for costing her the election. But under Mr. Trump, the outspoken and independent-minded Mr. Comey was seen as an important check on the new administration.

“Any attempt to stop or undermine this F.B.I. investigation would raise grave constitutional issues,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois. “We await clarification by the White House as soon as possible as to whether this investigation will continue and whether it will have a credible lead so that we know that it’ll have a just outcome.”

Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, praised Mr. Comey’s service but said new leadership at the F.B.I. “will restore confidence in the organization.”

“Many, including myself, have questioned his actions more than once over the last year,” Mr. Blunt, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

Mr. Trump’s decision to fire Mr. Comey marks the second time since taking office that the president has fired a top law enforcement official. In early February, Mr. Trump fired Sally Q. Yates, who had worked in the Obama administration but was serving as acting attorney general.

But the president’s firing of Mr. Comey was far more consequential. Ms. Yates was a holdover, and would have served in the Trump administration for only a matter of days or weeks.

A longtime prosecutor who served as the deputy attorney general during the George W. Bush administration, Mr. Comey came into office in 2013 with widespread bipartisan support. He has essentially been in a public feud with Mr. Trump since long before the presidential election.

In a Twitter message this week, Mr. Trump accused Mr. Comey of being “the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton,” accusing him of giving her “a free pass for many bad deeds.”

Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a post on Twitter that Mr. Comey “should be immediately called to testify in an open hearing about the status of Russia/Trump investigation at the time he was fired.”

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, offered a veiled hint of the bombshell earlier in the day on Tuesday, though no reporters picked up on it.

During his daily briefing, Mr. Spicer was asked — as he frequently is — whether Mr. Comey still has the confidence of the president. Instead of saying yes, Mr. Spicer danced around the question.

“I have no reason to believe — I haven’t asked him,” Mr. Spicer said. “I have not asked the president since the last time we spoke about this.”

A reporter noted that Mr. Spicer had previously indicated that the president did have confidence in Mr. Comey, but asked whether recent revelations about Mr. Comey’s misstatement during testimony on Capitol Hill would change that.

“In light of what you’re telling me, I don’t want to start speaking on behalf of the president without speaking to him first,” Mr. Spicer said.

The president’s decision to fire Mr. Comey appeared to be the culmination of the bad will between the men that intensified in early March, when the president posted Twitter messages accusing former President Barack Obama of wiretapping his office.

The next morning, word spread quickly that Mr. Comey wanted the Justice Department to issue a statement saying that he had no evidence to support the president’s accusation. The department did not issue such a statement.

For weeks after, Mr. Trump insisted that his accusation was correct. In dramatic testimony later in March, Mr. Comey said that he had no information to back up the president’s allegations.

That set up a remarkable dynamic — an F.B.I. director directly contradicting a sitting president at the same time that the bureau was pursuing a possible criminal investigation into the president’s aides.   (The New York Times)

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FBI Director, James Comey ‘Mildly Nauseated’ Clinton Email Probe Decision May Have Impacted Election

 

Kevin Johnson
Video by the Associated Press

WASHINGTON – FBI Director James Comey staunchly defended his decision to publicly announce the reopening of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server 11 days before the November election, telling a Senate panel on Wednesday it would have been the “death of the FBI as an institution in America” had he remained silent about possible new evidence.

Still, Comey acknowledged the possible repercussions of such a move. “It makes me mildly nauseous that we would have had an impact on the election,” Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee in his most detailed explanation yet of his controversial October action.

Comey said he had no choice but to inform lawmakers about the investigation’s developments in late October, after he learned thousands of Clinton emails had been recovered from a laptop used by former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, the husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. He recalled the decision as a personal struggle to either “conceal or speak” about the rapidly unfolding developments so close to the election.

“We had to walk into a world of really bad,” Comey said. “I could not see a door labeled, ‘No action needed.'” He declined to respond to repeated questions from senators about whether former Attorney General Loretta Lynch had sought to provide cover for Clinton during the bureau’s investigation.

Nevertheless, the director acknowledged that he “worried” about the Justice Department’s credibility to resolve the inquiry after Lynch’s impromptu meeting with former President Bill Clinton last summer when their planes were parked nearby at the Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport. So, Comey said he took it upon himself to first publicly announce the outcome of the FBI’s inquiry in July and then re-open it in October. “Her meeting…was the capper,” Comey said.

Still, the director added, “I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I don’t have any regrets.”

Clinton has blamed Comey as recently as Tuesday for torpedoing her campaign as the Democratic presidential nominee. The FBI ultimately cleared Clinton of any wrongdoing on the weekend before the election.

Judiciary Committee Democrats, including Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, contended that the director had applied a double standard by making public remarks about the Clinton inquiry but not acknowledging the FBI’s inquiry into possible collusion between associates of President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, which had begun in July.

But Comey asserted that he handled the investigations with equal care, adding that the Trump campaign probe, a classified counter-intelligence inquiry, was still in its early stages at the time he announced the closing of the Clinton inquiry in July, re-opened it in October and closed it again without charges in the days before the election.

Yet Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the Republican chairman of the committee, said that “a cloud of doubt hangs over the FBI” even as it pursues allegations of possible collusion.

Grassley called into question the very basis of the inquiry, saying that agency had provided him “inconsistent information” about the probe.

“Where is all the speculation about [Russian] collusion coming from?” Grassley asked. “For the good of the country, the FBI needs to get to the truth soon. But we can’t wait until this is over to ask the hard questions.”

Comey, in his first public testimony since acknowledging the Russia inquiry to another congressional panel in March, declined to name the targets of the inquiry and specifically refused to address whether Trump was a subject of it.

“We will follow the evidence wherever it leads,” the director said.

The U.S. intelligence community has blamed Moscow for orchestrating a campaign to hack Democratic political organizations and release stolen information to undermine faith in the democratic process and candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The FBI’s investigation of the hack subsequently expanded to included possible “coordination” involving Trump associates, but Comey has declined to elaborate on whether any such evidence has been uncovered.

On Wednesday, Comey said Russia’s cyberwarfare capacity presented the “greatest threat of any nation on earth.”

“Is it fair to say that the Russian government is still involved in American politics?” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked.

“Yes,” Comey said.

FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation."© AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”  

 

At the March hearing, Comey said that the Russians appeared to use a third party — what he called a “cutout” — in its communications with WikiLeaks, which published internal communications obtained in the hack of the DNC. The identity of the third party was not disclosed.

Also in his last Capitol Hill appearance, before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey also delivered a definitive repudiation of Trump’s claims that the Obama administration had wiretapped the president’s New York offices in advance of the 2016 elections. “The FBI and the Justice Department have no information to support” the president’s assertions, Comey said during the more than five-hour session.

Since then, at least two former Trump advisers – Michael Flynn and Carter Page – have been the subjects of fresh scrutiny about their Russian ties.

Flynn, who was fired as Trump’s national security adviser, is now under investigation by the Pentagon Inspector General for failing to inform Defense Department officials about seeking payments from foreign governments.

In February, Flynn registered retroactively as a foreign agent. He disclosed that he had earned $530,000 from a Dutch firm with ties to Turkey’s government. Documents released by Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Maryland Democrat and ranking member of the Oversight Committee, also show that Flynn took more than $33,000 from the Kremlin-backed RT television network for a 2015 speech in Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin also attended the event.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, last week called on the Army to determine if Flynn had violated the law and should be required to repay the government. Flynn, “by all appearances,” violated federal law by accepting payments from foreign governments without obtaining prior approval, Chaffetz said.

Last month, the Washington Post also disclosed that the FBI had obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of Page, an adviser to then-candidate Trump, because the government had reason to believe Page was acting as a Russian agent.

Page has denied any wrongdoing and Flynn has sought immunity from any possible prosecution. Both the House and Senate Intelligence committees, in the midst of continuing Russia probes, have indicated that it is too early in their investigations to cut a deal for Flynn’s testimony. Separately, preliminary discussions about Flynn’s prospects for immunity in the FBI investigation also have yielded no agreement.  (USA TODAY)

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Hillary Clinton Explains Why She Really Lost To Trump |The Republican News

 

by KENDALL BREITMAN

Almost four months after her stunning defeat, Hillary Clinton on Thursday primarily blamed her loss to President Donald Trump on four factors that were beyond her control.

The former Democratic presidential candidate cited Russian meddling in the election, FBI Director James Comey’s involvement toward the end of the race, WikiLeaks theft of emails from her campaign chairman, and misogyny.

Clinton’s comments came during her first post-election interview at Tina Brown’s eighth annual Women in the World Summit in New York City. She was questioned by Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times.

She largely cited these factors for her defeat:

– Russia. “A foreign power meddled with our election,” she said, labeling it “an act of aggression.” She called for an independent, bipartisan investigation into the Kremlin’s involvement and said the probe should examine whether there was collusion with the Trump campaign.

– Misogyny. “Certainly, misogyny played a role. That has to be admitted,” she said. Clinton added that “some people — women included — had real problems” with the idea of a woman president.

– Comey. Clinton cited as damaging to her campaign his unusual decision to release of a letter on October 28, less than two weeks before Election Day, that said he was looking at additional emails related to the FBI probe of the former secretary of state’s use of a private server.

– WikiLeaks. Weeks of disclosures of stolen emails from the personal account of then-Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, were particularly harmful, Clinton said, adding that it “played a much bigger role than I think many people yet understand.”

She said the combination of Comey’s actions and the WikiLeaks’ revelations “had the determinative effect.”

Former United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton speaks during the Eighth Annual Women In The World Summit at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on April 6, 2017 in New York City.© Michael Loccisano/Getty Images Former United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton speaks during the Eighth Annual Women In The World Summit at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on April 6, 2017 in New York City.

 

About her own role, she said, “There were things I could have done better.”

While Clinton said there were “lots of contributing factors” to her failure to secure the nation’s highest office, she called Russia’s interference the “weaponization of information.”

“I didn’t fully understand how impactful that was and so it created doubts in people,” Clinton said. “But then the Comey letter coming as it did — just 10 days before the election — really raised questions in a lot of people.”

Two days before the election, Comey announced that none of the emails would lead to criminal charges — leaving in place the FBI’s determination from July. Officials told NBC News that nearly all of the emails were duplicates of emails that had been examined already.

Kristof also asked Clinton about Trump.

“I don’t understand the commitment to hurt so many people that this administration, this White House, seems to be pursuing,” Clinton said, pointing to the immigration ban, the slashing of U.S. funding for the UN Population Fund, and the failed health care bill.

“What they did or tried to do on the health care bill, which I will confess to this — having listened to them talking about repeal and replace for 8 years, or 7 years now, and they had not a clue what that meant,” she said. “They had no idea. I don’t know that any of them had ever even read the bill.”

Clinton, who is writing a book that she said would examine her defeat last year, said she doubted she would ever seek public office again.

“Devastating,” was how she described her loss.

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Trump Calls Storm Over Hacking A ‘Witch Hunt’ |The Republican News

 

By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
President-elect Donald J. Trump and his wife, Melania, on New Years Eve at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla.© Hilary Swift for The New York Times President-elect Donald J. Trump and his wife, Melania, on New Years Eve at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla.  

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump said in an interview Friday morning that the storm surrounding Russian hacking during the presidential campaign is a political witch hunt being carried out by his adversaries, who he said were embarrassed by their loss to him in the election last year.

Mr. Trump spoke to The New York Times by telephone three hours before he was set to be briefed by the nation’s top intelligence and law enforcement officials about Russian hacking of American political institutions. In the conversation, he repeatedly criticized the intense focus on the alleged cyber intrusions by Russia.

Read more: Russian Hack Almost Brought The U.S. Military To Its Knees |The Republican News

“China, relatively recently, hacked 20 million government names,” he said, referring to the breach of computers at the Office of Personnel Management in late 2014 and early 2015. “How come nobody even talks about that? This is a political witch hunt.”

He noted that there have been prior successful hacks of the White House and Congress, suggesting that it was unfair because those attacks on American institutions have not received the attention that the Russian cyber-intrusions have. But none of the information from those intrusions was made public as it was in the case of the hack of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.

“With all that being said, I don’t want countries to be hacking our country,” Mr. Trump said. “They’ve hacked the White House. They’ve hacked Congress. We’re like the hacking capital of the world.”

Mr. Trump, who has consistently expressed doubts about the evidence of Russian hacking during the election, did so again on Friday. Asked why he thought there was so much attention being given to the Russian cyber attacks, the president-elect said the motivation is political.

Read more: U.S. Intercepts Capture Senior Russian Officials Celebrating Trump Win |The Republican News

“They got beaten very badly in the election. I won more counties in the election than Ronald Reagan,” Mr. Trump said during an eight-minute phone conversation. “They are very embarrassed about it. To some extent, it’s a witch hunt. They just focus on this.”

The president-elect also noted reports this week that the Democratic National Committee had refused to give the Federal Bureau of Investigations access to their computer servers after they were hacked.

“The D.N.C. wouldn’t let them see the servers,” Mr. Trump said. “How can you be sure about hacking when you can’t even get to the servers?” The D.N.C. has previously said the law enforcement agency had not asked to examine the computers.

A senior law enforcement official said the F.B.I. had repeatedly stressed to the D.N.C. the necessity of obtaining direct access to servers and data. The F.B.I was rebuffed, and had to rely upon a third party — a computer security firm brought in by the D.N.C. — for information.

He also said that the hack of emails from the D.N.C. and top campaign officials for Mrs. Clinton had revealed that Mrs. Clinton received advance notice of debate questions and “many many other things that were horrible. How come nobody complains about that?” Mr. Trump was referring to a tip that a CNN commentator and Clinton supporter, Donna Brazile, gave to Mr. Podesta ahead of a Democratic Party presidential debate in Flint, Mich.

Mr. Trump said he is looking forward to his meeting Friday afternoon about the hacking by James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence; F.B.I. Director James B. Comey and other intelligence officials. He said that Mr. Clapper “wrote me a beautiful letter a few weeks ago wishing me the best.”

Read more: Russian Hackers Penetrated U.S Electricity Grid Through A Utility In Vermont |The Republican News

But he said that “a lot of mistakes were made” by the intelligence community in the past, noting in particular the attacks on the World Trade Center and saying that “weapons of mass destruction was one of the great mistakes of all time.”

The president-elect said that he is eager to work with the intelligence community as president and he praised the people he has selected to lead the intelligence agencies, in particular Representative Mike Pompeo, Republican of Kansas, who is his nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

He said that Mr. Pompeo was “first in his class” at West Point.

“We have great people going into those slots,” Mr. Trump said in the interview. “I expect to have a very, very good relationship with them.”

The Washington Post

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State Department Releases New Batch Of Clinton Emails |The Republican News

 

Katie Bo Williams
State releases new batch of Clinton emails            © Provided by The Hill State releases new batch of Clinton emails  

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The State Department on Tuesday released 371 of the 15,000 Hillary Clinton emails uncovered by the FBI during its investigation into the former secretary of State’s personal email server.
Many of the documents – consisting of about 1,031 pages – are “near duplicates” of documents Clinton provided to the State Department in 2014 and have already been made public, according to the agency.

A “near duplicate,” according to the agency, would include emails identical to previously released chains that were forwarded from Clinton to aides with the note “Please print,” for example.

The newly released documents are records of emails sent or received by Clinton directly in her official capacity as secretary of State.

Under orders from a federal judge, the State Department reviewed approximately 1,000 emails prior to Election Day, releasing in batches those that were subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that has been driving the release – about 600 emails.

Going forward, the agency will review 500 pages a month, producing as many relevant documents as exist in each batch.

Clinton deleted about 30,000 emails from the private server she used while secretary of State, saying they were not work-related, before turning over thousands more to the government. But during its examination, the FBI recovered some additional emails that could be relevant to the FOIA lawsuit.

A preliminary review of the 15,000 emails revealed that about 60 percent were of a purely personal nature. Around 37 percent – or 5,600 documents – were deemed work-related, but of those, a “substantial number” were exact duplicates of the 30,000 emails that Clinton turned over to the agency in December 2014, according to State Department lawyers.

Those emails are excluded from each production and will not be re-released.

The Hill

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