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Tag: james comey

Meet the Little-Known Trump Official Who Could End the Mueller Probe

Solicitor General Noel Francisco

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The fate of the special counsel investigation that has cast a long shadow of the White House may ultimately fall into the hands of Solicitor General Noel Francisco, a little-known Trump appointee who happens to be no fan of the FBI or its former director, James Comey.

Many legal experts believe Trump lacks the authority to fire Rosenstein on his own, so the next quickest way to end the special counsel probe is to get someone else to do it.

If Trump fires Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and is overseeing the investigation, the next in line to become Mueller’s boss is Francisco, who has a history of fighting to protect what he sees as broad executive privileges.

Like Trump, Francisco has claimed Comey, whom the president fired in May, is motivated by a political biased against Trump. That has raised concerns that Francisco would be more likely to follow orders to fire Mueller, whose 11-month investigation has landed indictments against more than 20 people and entities.

“I don’t think we know enough to be confident,” Eric Columbus, a former senior Obama Justice Department official, told Politico. “I doubt he would fire Mueller but could limit him, which has always been the greater concern.”

Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation, the removal of the deputy AG would give control of the Mueller investigation to the third-ranking Justice Department official, the associate attorney general, a job that has been vacant since Rachel Brand resigned from the position in February and has yet to be replaced.

Under Justice Department rules, Francisco, 48, is the next in line.

If Trump follows through, the move would be strikingly similar to President Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre in which he fired his attorney general and deputy attorney general for refusing to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox. The terminations left the decision up to Solicitor General Robert Bork, who fired Cox. A judge later ruled the termination was illegal.

 

Lengel: Comey Gets Kudos For Speaking Out, But Still No Free Pass For Doing Wrong Thing in Some Instances

Former FBI Director James Comey on A?BC’s 20/20.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Ex-FBI Director James Comey delivered some damaging blows to the Donald Trump presidency during his Sunday night interview on ABC, calling Trump unfit for office and suggesting Trump obstructed justice when he asked that the Michael Flynn probe be dropped.

It was a welcome interview, and a candid one, that was needed under the circumstances with a president who has so little respect for boundaries, the truth and the rule of law.

But I still don’t buy Comey’s defense for saying far too much when he issued a statement in 2016 that there would be no charges in the Hillary Clinton case. Ditto for his explanation for sending the letter to Congress that he was re-opening the Clinton investigation. I don’t buy it.

Comey was a popular director beloved by many inside the FBI. He was a modern-day G-man, articulate and smart. But he did have an ego, as many in official Washington have,  and sometimes he was a little too concerned about his boy scout image above all else.

First off, let’s get to the statement he made about the Clinton investigation in 2016. In Sunday’s interview he says:

“My view was– and this is a longstanding practice of the Department of Justice, that in rare cases, you should offer transparency so the American people can take a look at what you did and know that it was done in an honest, competent, independent way.”

There were certainly people inside the FBI, particularly in New York, who assumed the agency had enough to criminally charge Clinton. So, yes it’s understandable that Comey wanted to be transparent, defend himself and explain why he wasn’t charging. But right is right. Any federal prosecutor or agent knows you can’t announce that you’re not charging someone, then go on and trash them as if you just had.

It’s improper.

Then there’s the letter to Congress days before the election. The Justice Department policy is not to influence an election when at all possible.

Comey is asked by George Stephanopoulos: “If you knew that letter would elect Donald Trump, you’d still send it?”

Comey responds: “I would. I would. In fact, that was a question asked by one of my best people– a deputy general counsel in the FBI who is a very thoughtful and quiet person, who didn’t speak a lot. And that– that morning we were making that decision, she asked, ‘Should you consider that what you’re about do to may help elect Donald Trump president?’

“And I paused, and then I said, ‘Thank you for asking that question. That’s a great question. But the answer is not for a moment because down that path lies the death of the FBI as an independent force in American life. If I ever start considering whose political fortunes will be affected by a decision, we’re done. We’re no longer that group in America that is apart from the partisans, and that can be trusted. We’re just another player in the– in the tribal battle.”

Comey indicates his honor and the FBI’s honor was on the line and he had to tell Congress that there was a new development in the Clinton probe.

That being said, so too, on the line, was the integrity of the election.

He decided his image was more important than the election.

Plus, truth be told,  he had a cover. The Justice Department told him not to send the letter, and technically, the Justice Department is his boss.

If he had gotten grief from members of Congress about not notifying them of the new development before the election, he could have said he wanted to but the Justice Department told him not to.

All that being said,  Comey gets kudos for helping bring more transparency to a troubled presidency.

Ex-FBI Director Comey Compares Trump to Mafia Boss, Calls Presidency a ‘Forest Fire’

Former FBI Director James Comey.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Fired FBI Director James Comey pulls no punches in his explosive new memoir, portraying Donald Trump as a dangerous, delusional, self-obsessed and chronically dishonest bully whose presidency is a “forest fire” that threatens to undermine the nation’s values and norms.

“This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” Comey writes in “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership.” “His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

Comey, who served as FBI director from 2013 until Trump abruptly fired him in May 2017, also explains his handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation and shares details about his upbringing and career at the bureau and Justice Department.

Here are five takeaways from the book, which is scheduled to be released Tuesday.

1. Trump like the mob

Comey likened the president to the mobsters he used to pursue as a federal prosecutor: “The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.” 

The president’s chronic dishonesty and bullying, Comey wrote, was central “to the entire enterprise of organized crime on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Comey warned: “We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country,” Comey writes, “with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized and unethical behavior is ignored, excused or rewarded.”

2. Trump’s obsession with the “golden showers thing”

Comey wrote that the president asked him four times to discredit the salacious, but unverified dossier in which ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele alleged Trump watched prostitutes pee on each other in a Moscow hotel suite.

“‘I’m a germaphobe,'” Comey quoted Trump saying. “‘There’s no way I would let people pee on each other around me. No way.'”

Trump said the claims were distressing to his wife.

“For about the fourth time, he argued that the ‘golden showers thing’ wasn’t true,” Comey wrote, saying Trump asked, “‘Can you imagine me, hookers?'”

3. The president’s “expressionless blue eyes”

During his first in-person session with Trump, Comey recalled the president’s appearance with great attention attention to detail.

“His face appeared slightly orange, with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles,” Comey wrote, describing Trump as having “expressionless blue eyes” and “impressively coifed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his.”

Comey wrote that he never saw Trump laugh, which he suggested was a sign of the president’s “deep insecurity, his inability to be vulnerable or to risk himself by appreciating the humor of others, which, on reflection, is really very sad in a leader, and a little scary in a president.”

4. John Kelly calls Trump “dishonorable”

Just minutes after he was fired, Comey said he received “an emotional call” from John Kelly, then the head of Homeland Security and now the White House chief of staff.

During the call, Kelly said he intended to quit in protest because he didn’t want to work for dishonest people, referring specially to Trump. 

Comey wrote: “I urged Kelly not to do that, arguing that the country needed principled people around this president. Especially this president.”

5. Comey’s handling of the Clinton probe

In describing in controversial decision to publicly disclose the bureau was re-opening the Clinton investigation just 11 days before the election, Comey said he believed Clinton was going to win because of her favorable polls.

Comey wrote that he often questions whether that assumption influenced his decision to reveal the information.

“It is entirely possible that, because I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president, my concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in all polls. But I don’t know.”

Comey, who told the Senate Judiciary Committee in May 2017 that he felt “mildly nauseous” at the prospect that the disclosure changed the outcome of the election, wrote that he hopes “very much that what we did — what I did — wasn’t a deciding factor in the election.”

About a week after the testimony, Trump fired Comey, prompting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump Fires Back at Comey, Calling Ex-FBI Director an ‘Untruthful Slime Bag’

President Trump

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Donald Trump fired back at James Comey on Friday after the former FBI director in his new memoir likened the president to a mob boss – dangerous, dishonest and a bully.

Trump, as expected, lashed out on Twitter, calling Comey “a weak and untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI.”

James Comey is a proven LEAKER & LIAR,” Trump tweeted shortly after 8 a.m. “Virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job he did-until he was, in fact, fired. He leaked CLASSIFIED information, for which he should be prosecuted. He lied to Congress under OATH. He is a weak and untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst ‘botch jobs’ of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!”

Republicans have been planning on launching an attack campaign on Comey’s credibility before details of the book were released.

Trump fired Comey in May, prompting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint special counsel Robert Mueller.

In the book, Comey described Trump’s presidency as a “forest fire” that threatens to undermine the nation’s values and norms.

Steve Bannon Pitches Plan to Save President by Stymying Mueller Probe

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon has pitched a bold plan to protect President Trump from the advancing special counsel investigation.

The Washington Post reports that Bannon, who was ousted last summer, advised members of Trump’s inner circle and congressional allies to encourage the president to first fire Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who appointed special counsel Robert Mueller in May to investigate Russian melding in the 2016 presidential election and approved the raid on the office of Trump’s attorney. 

Bannon also suggested the White House should stop cooperating with Mueller, invoke executive privilege to prevent further interviews with staff and fire his current legal team. The former Breitbart chief said Trump could then make a legal case that past interviews between his staff and Mueller’s team should be stricken from the record because the president’s attorneys didn’t advise him of all his options.

“The president wasn’t fully briefed by his lawyers on the implications” of not invoking executive privilege, Bannon told The Washington Post in an interview Wednesday. “It was a strategic mistake to turn over everything without due process, and executive privilege should be exerted immediately and retroactively.”

Legal experts were skeptical of the plan, and it’s unclear whether Trump will consider, though he has suggested taking similar steps in the past.

Democrats and some Republicans said they would vote to impeach the president if he fires Mueller, who is investigating whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia and if the president obstructed justice by firing then-FBI Director James Comey.

According to past interviews, Bannon believes crimes were committed by Trump’s campaign. He even told author Michael Wolff that the Mueller probe likely will focus on money laundering, saying, “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.” 

Bannon also told 60 Minutes that firing Comey was the biggest mistake “maybe in modern political history.”

FBI’s General Counsel Turns Over Notes to Mueller About Comey and Trump

Former FBI Director James Comey

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Dana Boente, the FBI’s general counsel and former acting attorney general, has been interviewed by Robert Mueller and turned over notes that appear to corroborate fired FBI Director James Comey’s testimony that President Trump pressured him to end the Russia probe.

The news indicates Mueller is actively investigating whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey.

TheWashington Post reports that Mueller interviewed Boente, who was involved in the early part of the FBI’s investigation into Russian wedding during the election, “some months ago … on a wide range of topics, including his recollections of what former FBI Director James Comey told him about troubling interactions with Trump.”

Trump has claimed Comey was lying about the conversations, but the former FBI director’s notes – and now handwritten notes from Boente – cast doubt over the president’s claims.

 

Fired FBI Deputy McCabe More Than Triples Fundraising Goal for Legal Fund in 3 Days

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testifies before Congress.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, fired two days before he was eligible to retire with full benefits, more than tripling his original fundraising goal in just the first three days of his campaign to help cover the legal costs of impending federal government investigations.

The GoFundMe campaign’s original goal was $150,000, but McCabe quickly raised it to $250,000 after discovering the initial response had been “remarkable and beyond our expectations,” according to the legal defense fund.

McCabe, a longtime target of President Trump, maintained he did nothing wrong after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired him last month. McCabe has repeatedly denied Justice Department allegations that he misled investigators and said he was ousted as part of a Trump to discredit the FBI.

“Andrew McCabe’s FBI career was long, distinguished, and unblemished.  He embraced the most daunting, difficult, and important challenges that the FBI and the country could assign to him over the past 21 years,” the fundraising campaign stated. “He served the United States with courage and distinction in the days following the President’s summary dismissal of former Director James Comey, in one of the most tumultuous periods in the Bureau’s history.

His reward for that has been a termination that was completely unjustified, amidst repeated ad hominem attacks by the President of the United States.”

FBI’s Failure to Diversify Its Ranks Is a ‘Huge Occupational Risk’

Photo via FBI

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The FBI’s failure to diversify its ranks is a “huge operational risk” that diminishes the bureau’s ability to protect and serve the public, a senior official told the Pacific Standard

Despite the growing rate of diversity in private and public sector workplaces, the FBI’s agents remain predominately white men.

About 1o months before Trump fired him, James Comey called the lack of diversity “a crisis.”

“Slowly but steadily over the last decade or more, the percentage of special agents in the FBI who are white has been growing,” Comey said in a speech at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black school in Daytona Beach, Florida. “I’ve got nothing against white people—especially tall, awkward, male white people—but that is a crisis for reasons that you get, and that I’ve worked very hard to make sure the entire FBI understands.”

When it comes to diversity, the FBI has a bitter past. 

Nearly three decades ago, a group of black agents filed suit against the FBI, claiming systemic discrimination that affected performance reviews, promotions and overall workplace culture. Only about 5% of the bureau’s agents were black at the time.

A federal judge sided with the black agents, saying there was “statistical evidence” of racial bias at the FBI, resulting in a settlement in 1993.

“Still, all these years later, the most recent statistics posted publicly by the FBI indicate the bureau remains far less diverse than the population it is drawn from,” the Pacific Standard wrote. “Black agents in 2014 made up a lower percentage of special agents than they did when the discrimination lawsuit was filed, dropping from around 5.3 percent in 1995 to 4.4 percent, according to the FBI website. About 13 percent of the United States population is black. And while nearly 18 percent of the U.S. population is Latino, Latinos made up just 6.5 percent of special agents.”

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