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Archive for January, 2018

Trump Asked Mueller’s Boss If He Was ‘On My Team’

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, via Justice Department.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump asked the top Justice Department official overseeing the special counsel investigation whether he was “on my team” during a December meeting at the White House, according to CNN

The candid question to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein came in the midst of an obstruction of justice investigation that began when the president fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017 for allegedly refusing to pledge “loyalty” to the president by dropping an investigation of a former Trump aide who has since been indicted.

During the White House meeting, Trump also asked about the direction of the investigation, according to sources familiar with the meeting.

Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller in May to launch an investigation into the possibility of collusion between the Trump administration and Russia to undermine the presidential election in 2016. Rosenstein is in charge of overseeing the investigation because his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, recused himself because he met with Russian officials while supporting Trump during the campaign.

A few days after the encounter  between Trump and Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general testified before a House committee that he saw no good reason to fire Mueller.

Sources told CNN in January that Trump was furious with Rosenstein and griped about wanting him removed. 

FBI Clashes with Trump over ‘Grave Concerns’ about Secret GOP Memo

FBI Director Christopher Wray speaking at a congressional committee hearing.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

In a rare move, the FBI on Wednesday released a public statement expressing “grave concerns” about the release of a secret, Republican-drafted memo that purports to show the Justice Department and FBI improperly surveilled the Trump campaign during the 2016 election campaign.

The sharply worded statement marks the first public clash between the president and his FBI director, Christopher Wray, as tensions flare over a much-disputed memo that Democrats say is a shameless ploy by Trump allies to undermine the special counsel investigation.

The “F.B.I. was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the bureau said in the statement today. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.

Trump supports the release of the memo because he believes it will undermine confidence in an investigation that ultimately could determine the fate of his presidency.

The Justice Department previously warned it would be “extraordinarily reckless” for the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee to approve the release of the document because it draws from highly sensitive material.

The committee ignored the warnings Monday, voting along party lines to publicly release the four-page document, which claims the Justice Department and FBI – the two agencies overseeing the special counsel probe – abused their authority by extending surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser and suspected Russian agent Carter Page. Trump, who has indicated he wants to publicly release the memo, has three days to sign off on the document’s disclosure.

Some Republicans want to use the document to suggest the special counsel investigation was tainted from the start by an anti-Trump bias.

Democrats dismissed the memo as propaganda in the escalating campaign by the president and his allies to undermine the two agencies tasked with overseeing the ongoing investigation of the president, his campaign and Russia. The probe has produced indictments of four former Trump aides so far, and Mueller plans to soon interview the president to determine whether he obstructed justice by trying to tamper with the investigation.

Thousands of Russian-linked social media accounts have cropped up in the past month to spread support for releasing the document. Many of them have joined a viral hashtag campaign on Twitter – #ReleaseTheMemo – to press for the public disclosure of the memo.

Second Person of Interest Identified in Las Vegas Mass Shooting

Las Vegas mass shooter Stephen Paddock

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Newly released court documents reveal that investigators of the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and hundreds wounded identified two people of interest in the early phases of the case.

One person of interest, the deceased shooter’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, has since been publicly cleared. The other, whose name was not included in the documents released Tuesday, was identified by the Las Vegas Review-Journal as Douglas Haig, a senior engineer at the aerospace who told reporters outside his home in Mesa, Ariz., that he is “the guy that sold ammunition to (shooter) Stephen Paddock.” 

Haig told reporters that he met the gunman once but declined to answer additional questions.

Newsweek reports that Haig was interviewed by ATF agents shortly after the massacre for about 20 minutes and hasn’t talked to them since.

“I’ve been interviewed, and that’s as far as it went. They were following up on a lead, and obviously it went nowhere,” he told Newsweek.

Haig said he “used to sell ammunition reloading components,” but he referred additional questions to his attorney.

“Until the investigation can rule otherwise, Marilou Danley and Douglas Haig have become persons of interest who may have conspired with Stephen Paddock to commit Murder with a Deadly Weapon,” according to an October document prepared by the Metropolitan Police Department document.

Trump Reportedly Considering Asking Sessions to Prosecute Special Counsel Mueller

Special counsel Robert Mueller.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Donald Trump has considered asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prosecute Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the president, his former aides and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

NBC reports that Trump told friends that prosecuting Mueller is a better alternative to firing him because a termination “would not only create a firestorm, it would play right into Mueller’s hands,” according an unidentified Trump companion. 

Here’s how it would work: ‘We’re sorry, Mr. Mueller, you won’t be able to run the federal grand jury today because he has to go testify to another federal grand jury,'” said one Trump adviser.

It’s unclear what charges Mueller would face since he was appointed by Trump’s Justice Department.

Numerous news reports last week revealed that Trump told the White House counsel that he wanted to fire Mueller, but the attorney threatened to resign if the president pushed forward with that plan. Even some Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, said firing Mueller would likely end in impeachment

Trump and his allies in Congress have chosen a third option – discrediting the investigation as an anti-Trump crusade.

The White House didn’t respond to questions about the possibility of prosecuting Mueller, whose investigation so far has produced indictments against four former Trump associates.

Trump’s Attorneys Are Resisting Mueller’s plans to Interview the President

President Trump, via White House.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Just a week after a defiant and confident Donald Trump said he was “looking forward” to testifying in the special counsel’s investigation into the possibility that he obstructed justice, his attorneys are now saying Robert Mueller has not met the high threshold for an interview with the president.

CNN, citing people familiar with the ongoing deliberations, Trump’s lawyers don’t want the president to sit down for an interview. 

To meet the threshold for an interview, Trump’s attorneys said Mueller must demonstrate that the president is the only person who can provide them with information they are seeking.

But Trump’s attorneys don’t get the final say. Mueller could force an interview through a grand jury subpoena, which could lead to a protracted legal battle.

Trump’s aides privately worry that the president could perjure himself in an interview.

DOJ Turns Over Documents about AG Sessions’ Proposed Resignation

Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing in January.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department tuned over documents to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team revealing Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ proposed resignation last year.

ABC News reports that the documents were handed over to the DOJ before Sessions was interviewed by Mueller as part of the investigation that now includes allegations that the president obstructed justice by interfering with the probe. 

Trump was furious with Sessions when he recused himself in the Russia probe, which enabled Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Mueller in May to investigate possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin to undermine the 2016 presidential election.

Sessions offered to resign last year because he “needed the freedom to do his job,” but the New York Times reported at the time the Trump didn’t accept the idea. 

House Speaker Ryan Urges Republicans to Resist Linking Memo to Mueller Probe

Rep.Paul Ryan

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

House Speaker Paul Ryan urged fellow Republicans on Tuesday to resist using a politically divisive memo alleging “shocking” misconduct in the FBI and Justice Department to undermine confidence in the special counsel investigation of President Trump and Russia.

Speaking during a closed-door meeting with Republicans, Ryan implored them not to exaggerate the contents of the four-page memo and to abstain from linking it to the ongoing probe spearheaded by Robert Mueller, a source in the room told The Hill

“First, there are legitimate questions about whether an American’s civil liberties were violated by the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] process,” he told reporters after the meeting. “This is a completely separate matter from Bob Mueller’s investigation and his investigation should be allowed to take its course.”

Ryan’s words of caution come one day after Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to publicly release a classified, GOP-drafted memo that alleges the Justice Department and FBI abused their authority by extending surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser and suspected Russian agent Carter Page. 

Some Republicans have already said the memo, which the Justice Department warned would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release, demonstrates an anti-Trump bias in the FBI.

Democrats dismissed the memo as propaganda in the escalating campaign by the president and his allies to undermine the two agencies tasked with overseeing the ongoing investigation of the president, his campaign and Russia. The probe has produced indictments of four former Trump aides so far, and Mueller plans to soon interview the president to determine whether he obstructed justice by trying to tamper with the investigation.

The memo has been delivered to the White House, and Trump has four days to determine whether to approve the document’s release. He initially indicated he supports the memo’s release.

Thousands of Russian-linked social media accounts have cropped up in the past month to spread support for releasing the document. Many of them have joined a viral hashtag campaign on Twitter – #ReleaseTheMemo – to press for the public disclosure of the memo.

Russian Trolls Make Resurgence on Social Media to Interfere with Special Counsel Probe

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Russian-linked social media accounts that spread immeasurable propaganda during the 2016 presidential election are making a comeback in an escalating campaign to influence the investigations of possible ties between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.

Two top Democrats sent a letter to Twitter and Facebook earlier this month, warning that Russian-linked accounts are cropping up in alarming numbers to spread information intended to undermine investigations by congressional committees and  special counsel Robert Mueller.

“It is critically important that the Special Counsel’s investigation be allowed to proceed without interference from inside or outside the United States,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff, both of California, in the letter, according to CNBC.

Each serves on a committee investigation Russian interference during the election.

Thousands of automated accounts, called bots, have cropped up lately in response to the widening investigations that have reached the White House.

Many of them have joined a viral hashtag campaign – #ReleaseTheMemo – to press for the public disclosure of a Republican memorandum that claims the FBI and Justice Department are tainted by political biases. On Monday, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to publicly release the secret, much-disputed memo that alleges the agencies abused their authority by extending surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser and suspected Russian agent Carter Page.

The vote, along party lines, ignored Justice Department warnings that the release would be “extraordinarily reckless” because the memo draws from classified information. 

The lawmakers expressed concern that the reemergence of Russian bots “are intended to influence congressional action and undermine Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation,” of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Russian-linked trolls also are spreading content from Fox News host Sean Hannity, who has relentlessly blasted the intelligence agencies for alleged anti-Trump biases, Mother Jones reported, basing the information on data compiled by the nonpartisan Alliance for Security Democracy. 

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last year that Russia launched an aggressive, sophisticated smear campaign designed to disseminate disinformation on social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Google. The propaganda targeted controversial subjects such as police brutality, Black Lives Matter, immigration and Muslims.

Wired reported earlier this month that Mueller’s team interviewed at least one member of Facebook’s team connected Trump’s campaign as part of the investigation into Russian interference.

During a series of congressional hearings last year, Twitter, Facebook and Google were criticized by lawmakers for failing to take steps to eliminate the Russian propaganda campaign.

Twitter plans to notify nearly 700,000 users who interacted with suspected Russian propagandists.

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