Comey to Testify, Transcript Out in 24 Hours

Former FBI director James Comey agreed to testify to House members behind closed doors about investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails and whether President Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 election. Republicans will release a transcript within 24 hours.

Former FBI director James Comey reached an agreement with Republican lawmakers to testify behind closed doors on Friday about investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails and whether President Trump’s campaign advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, the New York Times reports. Republicans agreed to release a transcript of his testimony in 24 hours and to allow Comey to speak about the meeting publicly. “This is the closest I can get to public testimony,” Comey said. He had been subpoenaed to testify privately on Monday before the House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees. He asked a federal judge to quash the subpoena and allow him to testify publicly. The compromise about his testimony was reached a day before a federal court hearing on Comey’s request.

House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said, “There was no need to use baseless litigation in an attempt to run out the clock on this Congress, and I am glad that it was withdrawn. Mr. Comey will join us for a closed-door transcribed interview later this week. We will release the transcript of his interview to the public as soon as possible after the interview, in the name of our combined desire for transparency.” With Democrats soon to seize the majority in the House and preparing to issue their own wave of subpoenas against Trump administration officials, House Republicans are trying to leverage the time they have left in power to question Comey and make a case that the FBI and main Justice Department have been tainted by partisan bias against the president.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Does Tape Show Trump Knew of Playboy Model Deal?

Donald Trump appeared familiar with a deal that a Playboy model made to sell the rights to her story of an alleged affair with him when Trump discussed the matter in 2016 with his attorney Michael Cohen. Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani says, “That’s open to interpretation.”

Donald Trump appeared familiar with a deal that a Playboy model made to sell the rights to her story of an alleged affair with him when Trump discussed the matter in 2016 with his attorney Michael Cohen, according to a transcript of their conversation, the Washington Post reports. The transcript, which was provided by President Trump’s legal team, shows that the then-GOP presidential nominee does not register surprise when Cohen refers to a plan to purchase the rights to model Karen McDougal’s story from American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer. AMI, whose chief executive is David Pecker, had signed a $150,000 deal with McDougal in August 2016 for her story but never published it.

Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani disputed the idea that the recording shows that Trump knew about the McDougal deal. “It doesn’t,” he told the Post. “That’s open to interpretation, and we can have a fight about that.” The president’s legal team released the transcript after one of Cohen’s attorneys, Lanny Davis, provided CNN with the audio of the tape, marking a dramatic escalation of rhetoric and turn against Trump by the Cohen camp. The Cohen team was pushed to act by statements Giuliani had made about Cohen’s role in the conversation, Davis said. “It became necessary to rebut false statements,” he said. “We were not going to let Michael become a punching bag.” When asked whether the Cohen team would release more recordings of Trump in the coming weeks, Davis said, “There are a lot of other tapes.” The recordings were seized by FBI agents in April after they raided Cohen’s office and residences. Giuliani said he spoke to the president Tuesday night and said, “He’s disappointed his own lawyer recorded him.”

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Sessions Chuckles as Students Chant ‘Lock Her Up’

Attorney General Jeff Sessions chuckled along as a group of high school students chanted “lock her up.” The chant, a reference among President Trump’s supporters to Hillary Clinton, began after Sessions lamented the spread of “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” on college campuses.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions chuckled along as a group of high school students he spoke to chanted “lock her up.” The chant, a reference among President Trump’s supporters to Hillary Clinton, began after Sessions lamented the spread of “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” on college campuses during remarks at Turning Point USA’s High School Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., which hundreds of high school students attended, The Hill reports.

Sessions reacted with approval after the crowd jeered examples of schools that have offered therapy dogs and coloring books to help students cope with stress. “I like this bunch,” Sessions said. “You’re not going to be backing down. Go get ‘em.” A few calls of “lock her up” then expanded into a room-wide chant, prompting chuckles from Sessions. “Lock her up,” he repeated into the microphone. “I heard that a long time over the last campaign.” He continued with his prepared remarks, in which he claimed some schools are trying to cultivate “a generation of …  supercilious snowflakes.” Sessions’s prepared remarks did not mention Clinton. Trump supporters called for Clinton to be jailed during the 2016 campaign. The chant continues to surface whenever the president mentions Clinton during campaign rallies.

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Sessions Won’t Name Second Special Counsel — Yet

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says a special counsel isn’t necessary, at least so far, to investigate FBI actions in 2016 regarding Hillary Clinton and the Trump campaign. He says a U.S. Attorney in Utah is checking on the bureau.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions disclosed that he had tapped a longtime federal prosecutor to investigate FBI decisions in 2016, saying a new special counsel was not yet needed to look into Republican criticism about the bureau’s handling of investigations into Hillary Clinton and the Trump campaign, reports Politico. In a letter to congressional Republicans, Sessions said that in November, he named U.S. Attorney John Huber of Utah to partner with the Justice Department’s inspector general. The move adds legal muscle to an investigation being run by Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who is nearing the release of an extensive report on the FBI’s handling of its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state.

Sessions’ move won’t placate the faction of House Republicans that wants a new special counsel. “Mr. Sessions, what’s it going to take?” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). “I’m hopeful this is just one last step Jeff Sessions wants to take before he realizes the obvious, which is there needs to be a second special counsel.” Jordan, vice chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said Sessions’ explanation for why he opted against an immediate appointment of another special counsel rang hollow. Sessions’ letter responded to a push by the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), for a special counsel to examine the FBI’s handling of its 2016 decision-making.

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Inauguration Day Charges Dropped Against 129

The U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., is dropping charges against 129 people accused of rioting on President Trump’s inauguration day, Prosecutors made the decision after a jury found the first six defendants to stand trial not guilty. The government said it would focus on a “smaller, core group” of 59 defendants.

The U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., is dropping charges against 129 people accused of rioting on President Trump’s inauguration day, reports USA Today. Prosecutors made the decision after a jury found the first six defendants to stand trial not guilty. The government said it would “focus its efforts on this smaller, core group that we believe is most responsible for the destruction and violence that took place on Inauguration Day.” Protests on Jan. 20, 2017, resulted in 234 people being charged or arrested with mostly felony charges. Prosecutors will move forward against 59 defendants who they said helped plan the demonstration and displayed “black-bloc” tactics.

Critics had charged that prosecutors were dragging the defendants through the legal process in order to send a message.  At the first trial, prosecutors conceded there was no evidence to support that the six defendants had committed any violence. Instead, they tried to explain the protesters were complicit in the violence because they did not remove themselves from the destruction. Previously, 20 defendants have had their cases dismissed and another 20 have pleaded to lesser charges, often misdemeanor rioting carrying a fine and community service. One person, Dane Powell, 32, went to prison. He pleaded guilty to felony rioting and assault on a police officer and got a four-month prison term.

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Senate Republicans Seek Charges Against Dossier Writer

Senators Charles Grassley and Lindsey Graham made a criminal referral against former British spy Christopher Steele. The move infuriated Democrats and raised the stakes in the growing partisan battle over the investigations into Trump, his campaign team and Russia.

More than a year after Republican leaders promised to investigate Russian interference in the presidential election, two top Senate Republicans made the first known congressional criminal referral in the case, against one of the people who sought to expose it, the New York Times reports. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a senior committee member, told the Justice Department they had reason to believe that a former British spy, Christopher Steele, lied to federal authorities about his contacts with reporters regarding information in a dossier. The committee is running one of three congressional investigations into Russian election meddling. Its inquiry has come to focus on Steele’s explosive dossier that purported to detail Russia’s interference and the Trump campaign’s complicity.

Grassley and Graham’s decision to single out the former intelligence officer behind the dossier infuriated Democrats and raised the stakes in the growing partisan battle over the investigations into Trump, his campaign team and Russia. The Judiciary Committee effort played into a broader campaign by conservatives to cast doubt on the Trump-Russia investigations, and instead turn the veracity of the dossier and the credibility of its promulgators into the central issue. Representative Devin Nunes of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has also been pressing to focus its Russia investigation on the dossier. He has aggressively pursued Fusion GPS, the research firm that hired Steele. The panel has issued only a single subpoena in its investigation for bank records, those of Fusion GPS. It was not clear why, if a crime is apparent in the FBI reports that were reviewed by the Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department had not charged Steele already.

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Kansas’ Kobach Files Criminal Charges in Voter Cases

After President Trump dismantled a voter fraud commission, its vice-chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, filed criminal charges against two people he says voted illegally in the 2016 election. Kobach obtained prosecutorial power in 2015 and is the only secretary of state in the nation with such authority. He has filed charges against 15 people.

Shortly after President Trump dismantled his voter fraud commission, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach filed criminal charges against two people he says voted illegally in the 2016 election, the Kansas City Star reports. Kobach, a candidate for Kansas governor who had served as the commission’s vice chair, obtained prosecutorial power in 2015 and is the only secretary of state in the nation with such authority. He has filed charges against 15 people since then for a variety of election crimes, resulting in nine convictions or plea deals and one dismissal.

Most of those cases have involved U.S. citizens who have allegedly voted in more than one jurisdiction rather than non-citizens, despite Kobach’s claims that hundreds of non-citizens are on the voter rolls. Kobach charged Que Fullmer, 67, with two counts of voting without being qualified, one count of voting more than once and one count of “advance voting unlawful acts” for allegedly casting ballots in both Colorado and Kansas. Bailey Ann McCaughey, 20, also faces one count of election perjury and one count of voting more than once for allegedly voting in both Colorado and Kansas. Trump disbanded the commission as it faced lawsuits and resistance from numerous states after Kobach’s request for personal information on every U.S. voter. Trump, who has repeatedly claimed without proof that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote in 2016, shifted the duty of investigating voter fraud to the Department of Homeland Security.

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Jury Acquits Six in Inauguration Rioting Case

Federal prosecutors are trying to convict 200 people in Inauguration Day protests that turned violent. A jury cleared the first half-dozen defendants after one of their attorneys urged them to protect the “rights of free speech.”

The first six people to face trial in Inauguration Day protests that turned destructive in the Washington, D.C., were acquitted of all charges, the Washington Post reports. It was a victory not only for the defendants but also for advocates who argued the government overreached in its effort to prosecute more than 200 people arrested as they marched through the city. After a nearly four-week trial and two days of deliberations, a  Superior Court jury delivered not-guilty verdicts Thursday on multiple charges of rioting and destruction of property. The defendants — including a nurse for cancer patients, a freelance photographer and a college student — joined throngs of protesters who took to the streets Jan. 20 to protest Donald Trump’s election.

Prosecutors said the six were in a group that cut a violent swath through 16 blocks of the city, smashing businesses’ windows, tossing newspaper boxes into the street and damaging a limousine. Authorities tallied the damage at more than $100,000. Jennifer Armento, 38, a Philadelphia woman who was among the defendants, said the verdict “shows the country that the jury was unwilling to do what the government wanted them to do, which was criminalize dissent.” Defense attorneys said most in the group of about 500 were peacefully protesting, while only a handful peeled off and became violent. They criticized police for failing to identify those people and said officers unfairly herded a group of 200 and charged them with rioting. Defense attorney Steven McCool appealed to jurors to protect the “rights of free speech.” Prosecutors said the demonstration, planned by a group called DisruptJ20, was aimed at destruction, not freedom of expression. Authorities say the group used “black bloc” tactics — wearing dark clothing and hiding their faces with masks and goggles so it would be harder to identify them.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump Seeks DOJ Investigation of Democratic Party

The president tweeted that the “legendary Crooked Hillary Clinton, rigged the Primaries! Lets [sic] go FBI & Justice Dept.” A president’s directing a particular investigation — especially of a former political rival — would be viewed by most officials in law enforcement as improper. 

President Trump has called on the Department of Justice to investigate his Democratic political opponents.The Washington Post calls it “a breach of the traditional executive branch boundaries designed to prevent the criminal justice system from becoming politicized.” Trump urged federal law enforcement to “do what is right and proper” by launching criminal probes of presidential rival Hillary Clinton and her party, a surprising use of his bully pulpit considering he had acknowledged that presidents are not supposed to intervene in such decisions.

Trump claimed there was mounting public pressure for new Clinton probes, including over her campaign’s joint fundraising agreement with the Democratic National Committee that effectively gave her some control over the party’s finances, strategy and staffing before the primaries began. Trump invoked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.), who said she believed the Democratic primaries were rigged in Clinton’s favor based on details of the arrangement in a book by former DNC interim chair Donna Brazile. Using his pejorative nickname for Warren, Trump tweeted: “Pocahontas just stated that the Democrats, lead [sic] by the legendary Crooked Hillary Clinton, rigged the Primaries! Lets [sic] go FBI & Justice Dept.” The president directing a particular investigation — especially of a former political rival — would be viewed by most officials in law enforcement as improper.

from https://thecrimereport.org

DOJ Identifies Russian Officials in DNC Hack

The Justice Department has identified more than six members of the Russian government involved in hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computers and swiping sensitive information that became public during the 2016 presidential election, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Justice Department has identified more than six members of the Russian government involved in hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computers and swiping sensitive information that became public during the 2016 presidential election, the Wall Street Journal reports. Prosecutors and agents have assembled evidence to charge the Russian officials and could bring a case next year. The case could provide the clearest picture yet of the actors behind the DNC intrusion. U.S. intelligence agencies have attributed the attack to Russian intelligence services, but haven’t provided detailed information about how they concluded those services were responsible or details about the individuals involved.

The high-profile hack of the DNC’s computers played a central role in the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.” Putin and the Russian government have denied meddling in the U.S. election. Thousands of the DNC’s emails and other data, as well as emails from the personal account of John Podesta, campaign chairman to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, were made public by WikiLeaks. The pinpointing of particular Russian military and intelligence hackers highlights the exhaustive nature of the government’s probe. The result of naming alleged perpetrators publicly may make it difficult for them to travel rather than incarcerating them. Arresting Russian operatives is highly unlikely. The Justice Department’s charged two Russian operatives and two others with hacking into Yahoo’s computers starting in 2014 and pilfering information about 500 million accounts. One of the defendants, a Canadian national, was arrested; the other defendants are believed to be in Russia.

 

from https://thecrimereport.org