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The Russia Investigation

Citing GOP Congressman’s Alternative Explanation, Trump Denies Anger At Sessions Was Due To Russia Investigation

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WASHINGTON, May 30, 2018 — In a series of tweets, President Donald Trump said Wednesday that his frustration with Attorney General Jeff Sessions stemmed from a lack of candor over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from having any involvement in the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The extent of the president’s anger at Sessions was revealed Tuesday in a New York Times story detailing how he’d demanded that Sessions reverse his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation — a demand Sessions refused.

Trump subsequently ordered then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to ask for Sessions’ resignation shortly after he’d recused himself, but Priebus never completed the task. The president would later savage his Attorney General in a series of tweets, reportedly hoping he’d be humiliated enough to resign and pave the way for a more “loyal” replacement who’d presumably sideline the investigation.

The president’s tweets invoked an alternative explanation for the story offered by South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy, in which Gowdy said Trump’s anger at Sessions stemmed not from Sessions’ failure to “protect” him from the ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign had any ties to Russia but from Sessions failure to inform Trump before he took the job.

“I think what the President is doing is expressing frustration that Attorney General Sessions should have shared these reasons for recusal before he took the job, not afterward. If I were the President and I picked someone to be the country’s chief law enforcement officer, and they told me later, ‘oh, by the way, I’m not going to be able to participate in the most important case in the office,’ I would be frustrated too…and that’s how I read that,” Gowdy said before imagining the president asking Sessions why he didn’t inform Trump and allow him to pick somebody else out of the many “really good lawyers in the country.”

“I wish I did!” Trump added.

But as a previous New York Times story reported, Trump’s anger at Sessions stemmed from his view that the job of the Attorney General — the nation’s chief law enforcement officer — was more akin to a “fixer” who’d “protect” the president from investigations. He also reportedly demanded that White House Counsel Donald McGahn interceded to dissuade Sessions from recusing himself.

McGahn did carry out the president’s request, but was unsuccessful, as Sessions refused and recused himself in accordance with Justice Department rules.

Trump also reportedly claimed that he expected the head of the Justice Department to protect him in the way then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy supposedly protected his brother, President John F. Kennedy. He reportedly asked, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” referring to the onetime counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisc., who represented Trump during his early years as a New York real estate developer.

 

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Andrew Feinberg is the Managing Editor and lead Washington Correspondent for Breakfast Media, and covers the White House, Capitol Hill, courts and regulatory agencies for BeltwayBreakfast and BroadbandBreakfast.com. He has written about policy and politics in the nation's capital since 2007.

The Russia Investigation

Justice Department Watchdog To Expand Probe After Trump Meets With Wray, Coates, Rosenstein

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WASHINGTON, May 21, 2018 — The Department of Justice Office of Inspector General will expand its new investigation into the use of an informant in the FBI’s Trump-Russia to include “to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s or the Department of Justice’s tactics concerning the Trump Campaign,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Monday.

Additionally, Sanders said White House Chief of Staff John Kelly “will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ, and DNI together with Congressional Leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested.”

The announcement came shortly after Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray left the White House after a meeting with President Trump to which he’d summoned them earlier that day.

Trump ordered the meeting a day after he’d announced in a tweet that he “hereby demanded that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration.”

Although Rosenstein is nominally the Deputy Attorney General, he is the Acting Attorney General for the purposes of anything having to do with the investigation into the 2016 campaign because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself last year after it was discovered that he’d met with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during 2016, when he was an adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign.

The decision by Rosenstein to assign the DOJ’s internal watchdog the investigation into FBI’s use of an informant when looking into whether members of his Trump’s 2016 campaign worked with the Russian government rather than open a criminal investigation appeared to head off a confrontation that could have provoked a constitutional crisis.

Today’s announcement that the probe will be expanded appeared meant to mollify the president, but it is unclear whether it will satisfy his allies’ demand for a parallel investigation they can use to cloud the waters around Mueller’s investigation.

One potential confrontation that remains, however, is whether the FBI will reveal all it knows about the 2016 probe to House Republicans who’ve been pushing for more and more information.

While they maintain that their requests have been made as part of their normal oversight role, media reports have indicated that Justice Department officials are concerned that some Trump partisans, particularly Reps. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, are using their oversight authority to gain intelligence on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in order to pass it to the White House.

 

 

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The Russia Investigation

Trump Says He’ll Order Investigation Into His Own Claim That FBI ‘Infiltrated’ 2016 Campaign

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WASHINGTON, May 20, 2018 — President Donald Trump went back to Twitter once more Sunday afternoon to announce that he’d be ordering the Department of Justice to investigate whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation had “infiltrated” his campaign “for political purposes.”

“I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration,” Trump wrote.

What apparently set Trump off was a series of stories in The New York Times which shed light on the early stages of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

A separate report story this weekend also revealed that the FBI and the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller have also been looking whether other countries besides Russia sought to work on the Trump campaign’s behalf.

Trump and his allies in conservative media have seized on the FBI’s use of an outside informant who met with two figures within the Trump campaign as evidence that the FBI, as Trump put it, “infiltrated” the campaign.

However, Trump and his allies have shown no evidence that the FBI was acting on behalf of the Obama administration and not in the normal counterintelligence role it has had since the days of the Cold War, nor has any been shown to exist.

In fact, the New York Times story detailing the early stages of the investigation, which the FBI later codenamed “Crossfire Hurricane,” was kept from Obama administration political appointees within the DOJ, noting that at the beginning, only five people within the FBI were aware of the probe, which began after Trump campaign adviser George Papadapoulos drunkenly bragged to an Australian diplomat that Russia had “dirt” on Clinton.

Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from any matters involving the Russia investigation or Trump’s 2016 campaign, the actual decision as to whether or not to launch an investigation as Trump has asked will fall to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

While the president can make referrals to the Department of Justice — as can any federal official — longstanding Department of Justice rules and procedures do not permit the president to directly order an investigation himself.

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The Russia Investigation

With Another Early Morning Twitter Tirade, Trump Wonders When Russia Probe Will ‘Stop’

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WASHINGTON, May 20, 2018 — Apparently upset at a New York Times story indicating Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III is still digging into his eldest son’s campaign conduct, President Donald Trump let his fingers do the talking Sunday as he lashed out at adversaries past and president.

“Things are really getting ridiculous,” the President wrote, noting a “long and boring” story in The New York Times (which he once again referred to as “failing” and added “crooked” for good measure) which reported that Mueller’s investigation has allegedly expanded to include a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, and officials representing the governments of Israel and Qatar.

Mueller’s probe has reportedly examined a July 2016 meeting between the younger Trump and a lawyer with connections to Russia’s government in he’d expected to receive derogatory information on Hillary Clinton.

The president described the story as “indicating that the world’s most expensive witch hunt has found nothing on Russia and [him] so now they are looking at the rest of the world!”

He then wondered when the investigation, which he claims has cost $20,000,000 and is being staffed by “composed of 13 Angry and Heavily Conflicted Democrats and two people who have worked for Obama for 8 years” would “STOP!”

The “two people who have worked for [President] Obama for 8 years” Trump referred to are Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Mueller, a former federal prosecutor and the longest-serving director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation save for J. Edgar Hoover.

While Trump has repeatedly described Rosenstein as a Democrat, both he and Mueller are registered Republicans and have served under multiple presidents of both parties.

The team Mueller has assembled does contain some attorneys who’ve donated to Democratic candidates. However, both the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act and the Code of Federal Regulations would prohibit him from taking political affiliations into account when assembling his team, the members of which are considered career employees and not political appointees.

Trump continued his tirade, lashing out at what he has viewed as the failure by “his” Department of Justice to examine so-called “corruption” among prominent Democrats, most specifically former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

 

“They have found no collusion with Russia, No obstruction, but they aren’t looking at the corruption in the Hillary Clinton Campaign where she deleted 33,000 Emails, got $145,000,000 while Secretary of State, paid [former FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe’s wife $700,000 (and got off the FBI hook along with Terry M) and so much more,” he wrote before adding that Republicans and “real Americans” should “start getting tough” on what he called a “scam.”

In fact, there was a long-running investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was leading the State Department. However, Justice Department officials concluded there was not enough evidence to charge her with a crime.

 

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