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James Comey Confirms Trump Tried To Make Him Drop Russia Probe And Pledge Loyalty To Him

 Former FBI Director James Comey will confirm past reports that Donald Trump pressured him to drop investigations related to an ongoing probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, according to prepared testimony.

Mr Comey’s prepared testimony appears to confirm past reports based upon memos that the former FBI director wrote about his interactions with the President, including a January dinner between the two when Mr Trump asked him if he wanted to stay on in his post as director before demanding loyalty.

In other interactions between the two in February, the President pressured Mr Comey to drop an FBI investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign from his post a day earlier and less than a month into the presidency amid concerns about his contacts with Russians.

“I hope you can see your way clear to let this go, to let Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” Mr Trump said to Mr Comey during that Valentines Day dinner, according to the testimony. Mr Comey didn’t say that he would drop it.

Mr Comey immediately prepared unclassified memos about his conversations with the President regarding Mr Flynn and had thought the request was concerning. After a call with FBI leadership, Mr Comey determined that it was important to try and avoid being alone with the President – he wrote that he was concerned that there was nobody who could corroborate that initial interaction regarding Mr Flynn – and later asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to restrict any further one-on-one meetings between the President and himself. The attorney general did not reply to that request.

The two would speak twice more before Mr Trump abruptly fired the former FBI director, according to the testimony.

In a late March phone call, Mr Trump repeatedly complained that the Russia probe was creating “a cloud” that made it very hard for him to perform his duties as president, and asked that Mr Comey to tell people that he was not investigating the President specifically. Mr Comey told Mr Trump that FBI protocol is to not make that information public because it would create an obligation to correct the record publicly if the probe ended up including the President.

“He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to ‘lift the cloud,'” Mr Comey’s testimony reads. “I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, nd that there would be a great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.”

During a final phone call between the two, Mr Trump asked why Mr Comey hadn’t gotten the word out that the President wasn’t personally being investigated, to which Mr Comey said that he had sent the request along to the Justice Department but hadn’t heard back. Mr Trump indicated that he would also ask the Justice Department to release that information, to which Mr Comey said that was the appropriate process for the request.

Mr Comey’s testimony in front of the Senate has become one of the most anticipated hearings in modern political history. The former FBI director was fired abruptly by the President, and reportedly learned about his ouster during a speech in California when he glimpsed the news playing on television. Following his firing, leaks detailing the information now corroborated by Mr Comey’s testimony began to trickle out, leading to outrage in Washington and concerns that Mr Trump’s actions constituted obstruction of justice.  (The Independent)

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Trump Russia Inquiry: Kushner Under FBI Scrutiny – US Media

President Donald Trump (left) and Jared Kushner. Photo: February 2017Image copyrightREUTERS Image captionJared Kushner (right) is a senior adviser to President Trump

 

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is under FBI scrutiny as part of the Russia investigation, according to US media.

Reports say investigators believe he has relevant information, but he is not necessarily suspected of a crime.

The FBI is looking into potential Russian meddling in the 2016 election and links with Mr Trump’s campaign. The president denies any collusion.

Mr Kushner’s lawyer said his client would co-operate with any inquiry.

President Trump has described the situation as “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history”.

US intelligence agencies believe Moscow tried to tip the election in favour of the Republican, who beat his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

US officials, who were not named, told NBC News that the interest in Mr Kushner, 36, did not mean the investigators suspected him of a crime or intended to charge him.

Separately, the Washington Post reported that the investigators were focusing on meetings he held last year with the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak, and a banker from Moscow.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Photo: 23 May 2017Image copyrightAFP: Jared Kushner is married to President Trump’s daughter Ivanka

 

Robert Mueller, a former FBI boss, last week was named by the justice department as special counsel to oversee the Russia inquiry.

Congress is also looking into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election and any Trump campaign ties.

Mr Kushner has already agreed to discuss his Russian contacts with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“Mr Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings,” Mr Kusnher’s lawyer Jamie Gorelick told the BBC.

“He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry,” the lawyer added.

Calls for a special investigation have mounted since President Trump fired the most recent FBI director, James Comey, earlier this month.

The White House has been engulfed in crisis over allegations that Mr Trump asked the ousted FBI chief to drop an inquiry into links between his ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russia.

Mr Flynn was forced out in February after he misled the vice-president about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador before Mr Trump took office in January.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the US presidential election.

(BBC)

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Former Trump Campaign Adviser, Page To Testify In Russia Probe On June 6 – ABC News

 

FILE PHOTO: One-time advisor of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump Carter Page addresses the audience during a presentation in Moscow, Russia, December 12, 2016.© REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo FILE PHOTO: One-time advisor of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump Carter Page addresses the audience during a presentation in Moscow, Russia, December 12, 2016.  

Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, will testify on June 6 before a House committee investigating alleged efforts by Russia to influence the U.S. election, ABC News reported on Wednesday.

ABC News, which said Page had told it about the scheduled testimony, also cited a letter the former Trump adviser wrote to the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation in which he said witnesses the panel had already heard from had presented “one biased viewpoint.”   (REUTERS)

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House Inquiry Turns Attention To Trump Campaign Worker With Russian Ties

 

By MAGGIE HABERMAN
Michael Caputo, who served as a communications adviser to the Trump campaign, in 2010. Mr. Caputo did work in the early 2000s for Gazprom Media, a Russian conglomerate that supported President Vladimir V. Putin.© Yana Paskova for The New York Times Michael Caputo, who served as a communications adviser to the Trump campaign, in 2010. Mr. Caputo did work in the early 2000s for Gazprom Media, a Russian conglomerate that supported President…

 

Michael Caputo, who served as a communications adviser to the Trump campaign, has been asked by the House committee investigating Russian election meddling to submit to a voluntary interview and to provide any documents he may have that are related to the inquiry.The House Intelligence Committee, which is examining possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, made its request in a letter on May 9. Mr. Caputo, who lives near Buffalo and spent six months on the Trump team, worked in Russia during the 1990s and came to know Kremlin officials. He also did work in the early 2000s for Gazprom Media, a Russian conglomerate that supported President Vladimir V. Putin.

Mr. Caputo has strongly denied that there was any collusion between him or anyone else on the campaign and Russian officials. He has also accused the committee of smearing him.

A Democratic member of the panel, Representative Jackie Speier of California, raised Mr. Caputo’s name during the March 20 hearing where James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, testified on Russia’s interference in the election. She noted Mr. Caputo’s work for Gazprom, and the fact that he met his second wife, who is Ukrainian, while working in 2007 on a parliamentary election in Kiev.

Mr. Caputo is the latest in a string of Trump campaign officials who have been approached by the committee. He is a protégé of Roger J. Stone Jr., one of President Trump’s longest-serving advisers and one of the people who has been a focus of investigators’ interest. Mr. Stone has also denied having any contact with Russian officials.

The panel’s letter asked Mr. Caputo to “produce documents and other materials to the committee and participate in a voluntary transcribed interview at the committee’s offices,” according to a copy obtained by The New York Times.

It asked for “any documents, records, electronically stored information including email, communication, recordings, data and tangible things” that could “reasonably lead to the discovery of any facts within the investigation’s publicly announced parameters.”

The committee said it wanted to discuss with Mr. Caputo a number of topics, “including Russian cyberactivities directed against the 2016 U.S. election, potential links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns, the U.S. government’s response to these Russian active measures, and related leaks of classified information.”

Mr. Caputo has denounced the allegations for months on social media, and said he tried to contact Ms. Speier the day after she mentioned him and his wife in the hearing.

In a written response to the committee, Mr. Caputo, who said he plans to comply with its request, said, “At no time during this period did I have any contact with Russian government officials or employees.” He said he did not discuss Russia with anyone else on the campaign, including Mr. Trump, during his employment from November 2015 to June 2016.

“The only time the president and I talked about Russia was in 2013, when he simply asked me in passing what it was like to live there in the context of a dinner conversation,” he wrote.           (The New York Times)

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REPORT: WH Lawyers Consulting Experts On Impeachment Proceedings

 

Brooke Seipel
Trump denounces media as White House goes quiet on Comey© Provided by The Hill Trump denounces media as White House goes quiet on Comey  

President Trump’s White House counsel has reportedly started looking to experts for information on impeachment proceedings to prepare for the possibility of Trump being forced out of office.

Sources from the White House told CNN Friday that while they believe Trump being impeached is unlikely, they have started researching impeachment proceedings amid more calls from Democratic lawmakers to impeach the president.

The news comes after almost two weeks of bombshell reports for the Trump administration. Comey’s abrupt firing last week and subsequent stories surrounding his firing have caused a firestorm in Washington.

On Monday it was revealed Trump shared top-secret information with Russian officials. On Friday it was reported that during that same exchange with Russian leaders, Trump said that firing Comey “eased” investigation pressures. And according to a Tuesday report, Trump once asked Comey to stop the FBI’s investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The multiple revelations have led lawmakers to question the intentions of Trump’s decision to fire Comey. Some call it an obstruction of justice meant to interfere with the bureau’s investigation of Trump’s campaign ties to Moscow. Others have called for impeachment over it.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) spoke out at a closed-door House Democratic Caucus meeting Wednesday morning to highlight the urgency of removing Trump, whom the Democrats increasingly see as a national security liability.

Almost simultaneously, Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) took to the House floor to trumpet the impeachment call he’d sounded earlier in the week. He characterized his decision as a “position of conscience.”

While Trump still has a strong Republican backing in Congress, his lawyers are reportedly taking the warnings seriously by learning how to approach possible impeachment.  (The Hill)

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Trump Told Russians That Firing ‘Nut Job’ Comey Eased Pressure From Investigation

 

By MATT APUZZO, MAGGIE HABERMAN and MATTHEW ROSENBERG
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, next to Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 10, 2017© .Russian Foreign Ministry Photo via AP U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, next to Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 10, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”

The conversation, during a May 10 meeting — the day after he fired Mr. Comey — reinforces the notion that Mr. Trump dismissed him primarily because of the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives. Mr. Trump said as much in one televised interview, but the White House has offered changing justifications for the firing.

The White House document that contained Mr. Trump’s comments was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office and has been circulated as the official account of the meeting. One official read quotations to The Times, and a second official confirmed the broad outlines of the discussion.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, did not dispute the account.

In a statement, he said that Mr. Comey had put unnecessary pressure on the president’s ability to conduct diplomacy with Russia on matters such as Syria, Ukraine and the Islamic State.

“By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia,” Mr. Spicer said. “The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.”

The day after firing Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump hosted Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, in the Oval Office, along with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak. The meeting ignited controversy this week when it was revealed that Mr. Trump had disclosed intelligence from an Israeli counterterrorism operation.

A third government official briefed on the meeting defended the president, saying Mr. Trump was using a negotiating tactic when he told Mr. Lavrov about the “pressure” he was under. The idea, the official suggested, was to create a sense of obligation with Russian officials and to coax concessions out of Mr. Lavrov — on Syria, Ukraine and other issues — by saying that Russian meddling in last year’s election had created enormous political problems for Mr. Trump.

The president has been adamant that the meddling did not alter the outcome of the race, but it has become a political cudgel for his opponents.

Many Democrats and some Republicans have raised alarms that the president may have tried to obstruct justice by firing Mr. Comey. The Justice Department’s newly appointed special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was given the authority to investigate not only potential collusion, but also related allegations, which would include obstruction of justice.

The F.B.I.’s investigation has bedeviled the Trump administration, and the president personally. Mr. Comey publicly confirmed the existence of the investigation in March, telling Congress that his agents were investigating Russian efforts to influence the outcome of the presidential election and whether anyone in the Trump campaign had been involved. Mr. Trump has denied any collusion and called the case a waste of money and time.

At first, the White House said Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey based on the recommendation of the Justice Department, and because of Mr. Comey’s handling of the F.B.I. investigation into Hillary Clinton last year. Officials said it had nothing to do with the Russia investigation.

But the president undercut that argument a day later, telling NBC News, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.”                (The New York Times)

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Rosenstein Briefing Suggests Russia Probe Now Criminal

Emily Cadei

Video by NBC News

 

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein briefed senators Thursday afternoon, and he didn’t present a lot of new information on the Department of Justice investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign or his decision to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller to head up that probe. But Rosenstein’s remarks to lawmakers suggested that what had been a “counterintelligence investigation” was now morphing into a criminal one, one senator said afterward.

“I think the shot to the body is it’s now considered a criminal investigation,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a former military prosecutor, said as he exited the closed-door briefing in the basement of the Capitol. And Graham said that could impede Congress’s “ability to conduct investigations of all things Russia.” For example, “I find it hard to subpoena records of somebody like [former National Security Adviser Michael] Flynn, who may be subject to a criminal investigation because he has a right not to incriminate himself,” Graham explained. “As to Mr. [James] Comey, the former director of the FBI, coming before the committee, if I were Mr. Mueller, I would jealously guard the witness pool.”

Graham acknowledged that Rosenstein did not explicitly confirm that the department was now looking into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign as a criminal matter. And Repubican Senator Bill Cassidy said Rosenstein stressed that the existence of the investigation itself does not mean that somebody definitively committed a crime. But Graham emphasized “the takeaway I have is that everything he said was that you need to treat this investigation as though it may be a criminal investigation.”

Until Wednesday, Rosenstein was the most senior Department of Justice official overseeing the investigation, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an active Trump supporter during the 2016 election, recused himself on all matters relating to Russia and the campaign. Then, following weeks of pressure from Democrats and outside commentators, Rosenstein announced Wednesday evening he was appointing Mueller as special counsel heading up the department’s probe. “Based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command,” Rosenstein explained in a statement.

Rod Rosenstein appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, on March 7. Rosenstein briefed senators behind closed doors May 18 on President Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.© Aaron P. Bernstein/REUTERS Rod Rosenstein appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, on March 7. Rosenstein briefed senators behind closed doors May 18 on President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director…

 

According to Democratic Senator Richard Durbin, Rosenstein didn’t say exactly when or why he decided a special counsel was necessary. “Clearly it wasn’t last night, it’s been a matter of a few days.” he said. The Illinois Democrat added that Rosenstein “kind of rejects the premise that he wasn’t going to appoint one” until pushed to do so by the recent headlines. In the past 10 days, the president abruptly decided to fire his FBI director and then acknowledged that it was due, in part, to his objections to the Russia investigation. News reports in recent days have indicated that Trump also previously asked Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn, who quit his post in January after lying to White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador after the election. Those developments have driven up the scrutiny of the Department of Justice probe exponentially.

Rosenstein himself has been under fire for his role in Comey’s firing. He wrote a memo criticizing Comey’s handling of last year’s investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information, which White House officials initially cited as the sole rationale for Comey’s ouster. In subsequent days, however, Trump acknowledged he’d decided to fire Comey even before he read Rosenstein’s memo. And senators from both parties said Rosenstein told them Thursday he was aware that the FBI director would be fired when he drafted it. But Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill said Rosenstein “was very careful about not going into any details surrounding [Comey’s] removal beause he wants to give Robert Mueller the opportunity to make his independent decision about where the investigation is going.”

Rosenstein’s decision to name a special counsel seems to have helped redeem his reputation as a nonpartisan operative. It was widely welcomed on Capitol Hill, even by Republicans who had long resisted the move. “I have full confidence in former Director Mueller. I think he’s an excellent choice,” GOP Senator Marco Rubio told reporters after the briefing. But Rubio differed with Graham on whether Mueller’s investigation would hinder ongoing probes into the matter by the Senate and House intelligence committees. “It is my hope that there will not be conflict between one another.”

While Rubio said he was glad Rosenstein came to the Hill to brief Senators, he and other lawmakers said they didn’t learn much more than they already knew. In part, that’s because Rosenstein didn’t want to step on Mueller’s toes, now that the latter is in charge. And it’s because he is apparently all too aware of how much senators talk to the media. “He did stress that he was concerned that whatever he said would be made public to the press,” Cassidy told reporters with a chuckle, “so therefore he felt limited in what he could say.”    (NEWSWEEK)

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House Majority Leader To Colleagues In 2016: ‘I Think Putin Pays’ Trump

 

By Adam Entous
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., followed by House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of La. arrive in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 4, 2017, after the House pushed through a health care bill.© AP Photo/Evan Vucci House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., followed by House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of La. arrive in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 4, 2017…

 

A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016 exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.

Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the U.S. Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions.

News had just broken the day before in The Washington Post that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee, prompting McCarthy to shift the conversation from Russian meddling in Europe to events closer to home.

Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: “Swear to God.”

Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: “No leaks…This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

The remarks remained secret for nearly a year.

[Read the transcript of the conversation among GOP leaders obtained by The Post]

The conversation provides a glimpse at the internal views of GOP leaders who now find themselves under mounting pressure over the conduct of President Trump. The exchange shows that the Republican leadership in the House privately discussed Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and Trump’s relationship to Putin, but wanted to keep their concerns secret. It is difficult to tell from the recording the extent to which the remarks were meant to be taken literally.

The House leadership has so far stood by the White House as it has lurched from one crisis to another, much of the turmoil fueled by contacts between Trump or his associates with Russia.

House Republican leaders have so far resisted calls for the appointment of an independent commission or a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference, though pressure has been mounting on them to do so after Trump’s firing of FBI director James B. Comey and the disclosure that the president shared intelligence with Russian diplomats.

Late Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced he had appointed Robert S. Mueller III, a former prosecutor who served as the FBI director from 2001 to 2013, as special counsel to oversee the Russia probe.

Evan McMullin, who in his role as policy director to the House Republican Conference participated in the June 15 conversation, said: “It’s true that Majority Leader McCarthy said that he thought candidate Trump was on the Kremlin’s payroll. Speaker Ryan was concerned about that leaking.”

McMullin ran for president last year as an independent and has been a vocal critic of Trump.

When initially asked to comment on the exchange, Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Ryan, said: “That never happened,” and Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, said: “The idea that McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false.”

After being told that The Post would cite a recording of the exchange, Buck, speaking for the GOP House leadership, said: “This entire year-old exchange was clearly an attempt at humor. No one believed the majority leader was seriously asserting that Donald Trump or any of our members were being paid by the Russians. What’s more, the speaker and leadership team have repeatedly spoken out against Russia’s interference in our election, and the House continues to investigate that activity.”

“This was a failed attempt at humor,” Sparks said.

Ken Grubbs, a spokesman for Rohrabacher, said the congressman has been a consistent advocate of “working closer with the Russians to combat radical Islamism. The congressman doesn’t need to be paid to come to such a necessary conclusion.”

When McCarthy voiced his assessment of whom Putin supports, suspicions were only beginning to swirl around Trump’s alleged Russia ties.

At the time, U.S. intelligence agencies knew that the Russians had hacked the DNC and other institutions, but Moscow had yet to start publicly releasing damaging emails through WikiLeaks to undermine Trump’s Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton. An FBI counterintelligence investigation into Russian efforts to influence the presidential election would open the following month, in late July, Comey has said in testimony to Congress.

Trump has sought to play down contacts between his campaign and the Russians, dismissing as a “witch hunt” the FBI and congressional investigations into Russian efforts to aid Trump and any possible coordination between the Kremlin and his associates. Trump denies any coordination with Moscow took place.

Presidential candidate Trump’s embrace of Putin and calls for closer cooperation with Moscow put him at odds with the House Republican caucus, whose members have long advocated a harder line on Russia, with the exception of Rohrabacher and a few others.

Among GOP leaders in the House, McCarthy stood out as a Putin critic who in 2015 called for the imposition of “more severe” sanctions for its actions in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.

In May 2016, McCarthy signed up to serve as a Trump delegate at the Republican National Convention, breaking ranks with Ryan who said he still wasn’t ready to endorse the candidate. McCarthy’s relationship with Trump became so close that the president would sometimes refer to him as “my Kevin.”

Trump was by then the lone Republican remaining in the contest for the nomination. Though Ryan continued to hold out, Trump picked up endorsements from the remaining GOP leaders in the House, including Rep. Steve Scalise, the Majority Whip from Louisiana, and Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) — both of whom took part in the June 15 conversation.

Ryan announced on June 2 that he would vote for Trump to help “unite the party so we can win in the fall” but continued to clash with the candidate, including over Putin. While Trump sought to cast Putin as a better leader than then-President Obama, Ryan dubbed him an “aggressor” who didn’t share U.S. interests.

On the same day as Ryan’s endorsement, Clinton stepped up her attacks on Trump over his public statements praising Putin. “If Donald gets his way, they’ll be celebrating in the Kremlin,” she said.

Ukrainian officials were unnerved by Trump’s statements in support of Putin. Republicans, they had believed, were supposed to be tougher on Russia.

When Trump named Paul Manafort as his campaign manager in April 2016, alarm bells in Kiev started ringing even louder. Manafort was already well known in Ukraine because of his influential role as a political consultant to Viktor Yanukovych, the country’s former Kremlin-friendly ruler until a popular uprising forced him to flee to Russia. Manafort had also consulted for a powerful Russian businessman with close ties to the Kremlin.

“Ukraine was, in a sense, a testing ground for Manafort,” said Ukrainian political scientist Taras Berezovets, who became a grudging admirer of Manafort’s skills in the so-called “dark arts” of political stagecraft while Berezovets was working for one of Yanukovych’s political rivals.

At the urging of Manafort, Yanukovych campaigned with populist slogans labeling NATO a “menace” and casting “elites” in the Ukrainian capital as out of touch, Berezovets said. Trump struck similar themes during the 2016 campaign.

The FBI is now investigating whether Manafort, who stepped down as Trump’s campaign manager in August, received off-the-books payments from Yanukovych’s party, U.S. officials said. As part of that investigation, FBI agents recently took possession of a newly-discovered document which allegedly details payments totaling $750,000. Ukrainian lawmaker Sergii Leshchenko, who first disclosed the new document, declined to comment on his contacts with the FBI.

A spokesperson for Manafort has said that Trump’s former campaign manager has not been contacted by the FBI. Manafort has also disputed the authenticity of the newly-discovered document.

Groysman, on an official visit to Washington, met separately with Ryan and McCarthy on June 15 at the Capitol.

He told them how the Russians meddled in European politics and called for “unity” in addressing the threat, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials. Ryan issued a statement after the meeting saying, “the United States stands with Ukraine as it works to rebuild its economy and confront Russian aggression.”

Later, Ryan spoke privately with McCarthy, Rodgers, Scalise and Rep. Patrick McHenry, the deputy whip, among others.

Ryan mentioned his meeting with Groysman, prompting Rodgers to ask: “How are things going in Ukraine?” according to the recording.

The situation was difficult, Ryan said. Groysman, he said, had told him that Russian-backed forces were firing 30-40 shells into Ukrainian territory every day. And the prime minister described Russian tactics that include “financing our populists, financing people in our governments to undo our governments.”

Ryan said Russia’s goal was to “turn Ukraine against itself.” Groysman underlined Russia’s intentions, saying “They’re just going to roll right through us and go to the Baltics and everyone else,” according to Ryan’s summary of the prime minister’s remarks in the recording.

“Yes,” Rodgers said in agreement, noting that the Russians were funding non-government organizations across Europe as part of a wider “propaganda war.”

“Maniacal,” Ryan said. “And guess, guess who’s the only one taking a strong stand up against it? We are.”

Rodgers disagreed. “We’re not…we’re not…but, we’re not,” she said.

That’s when McCarthy brought the conversation about Russian meddling around to the DNC hack, Trump and Rohrabacher.

“I’ll guarantee you that’s what it is…The Russians hacked the DNC and got the opp [opposition] research that they had on Trump,” McCarthy said with a laugh.

Ryan asked who the Russians “delivered” the opposition research to.

“There’s… there’s two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy said, drawing some laughter. “Swear to God,” McCarthy added.

“This is an off the record,” Ryan said.

Some lawmakers laughed at that.

“No leaks, alright?,” Ryan said, adding: “This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

“That’s how you know that we’re tight,” Scalise said.

“What’s said in the family stays in the family,” Ryan added.   (The Washington Post)

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New Special Counsel Robert Mueller Has History Of Standing Up To The White House

 

Matea Gold, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger
Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller is sworn in during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in 2013.© Alex Wong/Getty Images Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller is sworn in during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in 2013.  

Robert S. Mueller III, who served as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the last two administrations, brings to his new role as special counsel a proven willingness to take on a sitting president.

In a high-drama episode in 2004, he and then-Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey were preparing to resign from their positions if President Bush reauthorized the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretap program without changes. Bush backed down.

Now, Mueller is charged with another politically fraught mission: the investigation of possible coordination between President Trump’s associates and Russian officials seeking to meddle in the 2016 campaign.

Former colleagues said the ex- Marine Corps officer and former U.S. attorney, who was sworn in as FBI director a week before the 2001 terrorist attacks, is uniquely suited to the task.

“He doesn’t sway under political pressure,” said Thomas J. Pickard, who served as deputy director of the FBI under Mueller on Sept. 11, 2001. He noted that President Obama extended Mueller’s term, even after he had served through all eight years of the Bush administration. “For 12 years, he kept the FBI out of politics,” Pickard added.

George J. Terwilliger III, who has known Mueller since both were assistant U.S. attorneys three decades ago, said that “if a special counsel had to be appointed, I think Bob is a terrific choice.”

“I have no doubt that he will be even handed — including going hammer and tong after anyone who is leaking investigative or classified information,” said Terwilliger, who served as deputy attorney general while Mueller led DOJ’s criminal division. “Bob’s got a career that is marked by handling the highest-profile matters out of the public eye with his nose to the grindstone and attention to the business.”

Neil MacBride, a former U.S. attorney who has worked with Mueller in a variety of jobs, called him “the real deal, the most respected prosecutor in America.”

A former deputy attorney general who later did a stint prosecuting homicide cases in Washington, Mueller is a known as a no-nonsense, relentless prosecutor with a deep reverence for the rule of law.

“The most devastating thing that can happen to an institution is that people begin to shade and dissemble,” he told Washingtonian magazine in 2008.

Mueller also has long ties to major players in the tumultuous political story that has engulfed Trump’s presidency. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who tapped Mueller for the task, served under him at the Justice Department as a criminal prosecutor. Comey, whom Trump abruptly fired last week, was his ally during the Bush era and then succeeded him as FBI director.

Until his surprise appointment Wednesday, Mueller served as a partner at WilmerHale, a firm that represents former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump’s daughter Ivanka and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.

Robert T. Novick, the firm’s co-managing partner, said Wednesday that Mueller had left effective immediately. Two WilmerHale partners who worked with Mueller in the past are expected to join him in the special counsel’s office, according to Novick: Aaron Zebley, Mueller’s chief of staff when he was FBI director, and James L. Quarles III, who worked with Mueller at the law firm in the 1990s.

Mueller grew up in Philadelphia and went to St. Paul’s School, the elite prep school in New Hampshire, where he played hockey with John F. Kerry, the former secretary of state.

At Princeton, he was inspired to join the Marine Corps by a former student who died in Vietnam, according to Washingtonian. He led a rifle platoon in Vietnam, eventually receiving numerous commendations, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

After graduating from the University of Virginia Law School, Mueller worked for a dozen years as an assistant U.S. attorney in San Francisco and Boston, where U.S. attorney William Weld described him as a “straight arrow.”

“He didn’t try to be elegant or fancy; he just put the cards on the table,” Weld told Washingtonian.

Mueller succeeded Weld as U.S. attorney in Boston and then went to Washington in 1989 as an assistant to Attorney General Richard L. Thornburgh, eventually rising to be chief of the criminal division. During his tenure, he worked on high-profile cases such as the prosecution of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega and the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

After a stint at a private law firm, Mueller took a big pay cut to work as a homicide prosecutor in Washington for U.S. Attorney Eric H. Holder Jr. — a move that friends said showed how much prosecuting was in his blood.

Holder told The Post that Mueller called him and explained he was “shaken” by killings in the city and wanted a chance to be a line prosecutor and do something about it.

Holder called the conversation “one of the most extraordinary calls I’ve ever gotten.”

Holder later tapped Mueller to serve as U.S. attorney in San Francisco.

In 2001, Bush selected him to replace Louis J. Freeh as FBI director, a position friends said Mueller had long sought. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.

A week later, planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, upending his job and the bureau.

Pickard, who briefly served as his deputy, said that in the days after the attack, Mueller worked so hard that Pickard told his wife he needed to take a break: “I told her, ‘He’s killing us,’ ” Pickard recalled.

“He had a tremendous work ethic,” Pickard said. “He wouldn’t think anything of staying there until 9, 10, 11 p.m. at night and then showing up at 6 a.m. the next day, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready for work.”

Among Pickard’s duties was to brief Mueller. He said the FBI director would often reject summaries, asking instead to review the full notes taken by agents from their interviews. For exercise, he would stand for hours at a lectern, reading page after page. “He’s a real student — getting down into the details,” he said.

Less than three years later, Mueller and Comey were involved in the standoff with other Bush administration officials over an effort to extend the warrantless wiretapping program run by the National Security Agency.

At one point, Comey rushed to hospital bedside of Attorney General John D. Ashcroft to try to persuade him not to certify the extension sought by White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. Comey, who was serving as acting attorney general while Ashcroft recovered from gall bladder surgery, had refused to support the program’s continuation in its form.

Mueller arrived at the hospital shortly after the confrontation in Ashcroft’s room. He told the FBI agents guarding the room not to allow anyone else in to see Ashcroft without Comey’s permission.

When the Bush administration tried to proceed with the extension, Comey, Mueller and other Justice Department officials threatened to resign — forcing Bush to change the program.

After President Barack Obama was elected, he asked Congress to extend Mueller’s term past the statutory 10-year appointment, making him the second-longest-serving FBI director, after J. Edgar Hoover.

“Like the Marine that he’s always been, Bob never took his eyes off his mission,” Obama said when Mueller stepped down in 2013, adding: “I know very few people in public life who have shown more integrity, more consistently, under more pressure than Bob Mueller.”

As a partner at WilmerHale, which Mueller joined in 2014, he was frequently tapped by major corporations and institutions to conduct complex, sensitive internal investigations.

Among his recent clients was the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, which hired him to review the company’s security procedures after one of its employees was charged with stealing classified data from the NSA. Another was the National Football League, which tapped Mueller to examine how the league handled a domestic abuse case involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.  (The Washington Post)

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BREAKING: Senate Panel Subpoenas Flynn For Russia-related Documents

 

The Senate intelligence committee has subpoenaed former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn for documents related to the panel’s investigation into Russia’s election meddling.

Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican chairman, and Sen. Mark Warner, the committee’s Democratic vice chairman, say the panel had first requested the documents from Flynn on April 28. They say Flynn’s lawyer declined to cooperate with the request.

Flynn was fired by Trump after less than a month on the job. The White House said he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top officials about his communications with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

Flynn’s Russia ties are also being scrutinized by the FBI as it investigates whether Trump’s campaign was involved in Russia’s election interference.

This is a breaking news alert. Check back later for more.

Michael Flynn

AP

MORE DETAILS LATER…….

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