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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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