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.


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.



Sessions Tells Senate Little, is Accused of Impeding Probe

Attorney General Jeff Sessions insists in appearance before Senate Intelligence Committee, “I am not stonewalling. I am following the historic policies of the Department of Justice.”

Attorney General eff Sessions did exactly what he needed to do Tuesday — help himself in the eyes of his boss, President Trump, and, in turn, help Trump, NPR reports. Using vague legal justification, Sessions shut down potentially important lines of investigative questioning. He showed flashes of anger rarely seen from the 70-year-old Alabamian, calling any suggestion that he colluded with Russia to interfere in the U.S. presidential election a “detestable lie.” Sessions tactics may have provided a roadmap for the White House to keep its secrets without the public-relations blowback of invoking executive privilege.

His refusal to disclose conversations between himself and the president cut off lines of inquiry about the exact circumstances surrounding FBI director James Comey’s firing, what may have happened in the Feb. 14 Oval Office meeting where Trump spoke one-on-one with Comey, as well as Trump’s reaction to Sessions’ recusal. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) told Sessions: “You’re not answering questions. You’re impeding this investigation.” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), said, “The American people have had it with stonewalling.” Sessions said, “I am not stonewalling. I am following the historic policies of the Department of Justice.”  Sessions’ silence kept a lid on important details that could have illuminated much more of the Russia story. He said he couldn’t “recall” 18 times.


Trump Allies Turn Their Fire Against Mueller

President’s supporters fear that a long probe of last year’s election will overshadow the White House agenda for months. Trump friend Chris Ruddy says the president may fire special counsel Mueller.

High-profile supporters of President Trump are turning on special counsel Robert Mueller, the man charged with investigating Russian interference in the U.S. election and possible collusion with Trump’s campaign, the Associated Press reports. As Mueller builds his legal team, Trump’s allies are raising questions about the former FBI director’s impartiality, suggesting he cannot be trusted to lead the probe. The comments come amid increasing frustration at the White House and among Trump supporters that the investigation will overshadow the president’s agenda for months, a prospect that has Democrats salivating. Trump friend Chris Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax, went so far as to suggest the president was already thinking about “terminating” Mueller.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump adviser, tweeted, “Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair. Look who he is hiring,” tweeted. Earlier, Gingrich heaped praise on Mueller, hailing him as a “superb choice” for special counsel whose reputation was “impeccable for honesty and integrity.” After the testimony of former FBI Director James Comey last week, Gingrich said, “Time to rethink,” citing Mueller’s hiring decisions and Comey’s admission that he’d instructed a friend to share with reporters notes he’d taken of his private conversations with Trump in order to force the appointment of special counsel. The talk about dismissing Mueller appeared to be coming from Trump allies, including some close to White House strategist Steve Bannon , who are frustrated with the prospect of a long probe.


Russia Intel Investigation Becomes Criminal Probe

So says Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who attended a briefing yesterday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The briefing occurred a day after Rosenstein chose former FBI director Robert Mueller to lead the probe.

The counterintelligence investigation into possible collusion by the campaign of President Trump with Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections has become a criminal probe, several U.S. senators said after a briefing yesterday, McClatchy Newspapers reports. That revelation came after nearly the entire U.S. Senate attended a briefing with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The briefing came a day after Rosenstein named ex-FBI director Robert Mueller to lead the probe. “The takeaway I had,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), “was that you need to treat this investigation as if it may be a criminal investigation. The biggest legal change seems to be that Mr. Mueller is going to move forward with the idea of a criminal investigation versus a counterintelligence investigation.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), calling the briefing “sobering,”said, “As it became clear how little he was willing to talk about it, it also became clear how broad this investigation that Mueller is about to undertake actually is.” Rostenstein disputed early White House claims that a memo he wrote critical of Comey had been the genesis of Trump’s decision to fire the FBI head. “He did say that Comey was to be removed from office before he wrote his memo,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-MO). One question that lingered was how Mueller’s appointment and the change in the nature of the probe would affect the multiple congressional investigations underway in the matter. Graham predicted it would slow those probes. Congressional investigators “will have to be very leery of crossing into Mr. Mueller’s lane,” he said. “Mr. Mueller will tell us what we can get and what we can’t.”


Comey’s ‘Starkly Different’ Clinton and Trump Probes

FBI director James Comey said his work wouldn’t be influenced by politics, yet he spoke publicly about the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails while not disclosing a simultaneous probe of Donald Trump’s campaign.

The New York Times takes a detailed look at how FBI director James Comey handled the politically charged investigation of Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails. When he announced last October that he was reopening a probe that had been closed in July, Comey told FBI colleagues that he could not let politics affect his decision, saying, “If we ever start considering who might be affected, and in what way, by what we do, we’re done.” Yet Comey did not say that the FBI also was investigating the campaign of Donald Trump. Only in March, long after the election, did Comey confirm that there was one.

Comey handled the two investigations in “starkly different ways,” the Times says. In the Clinton case, “he rewrote the script, partly based on the FBI’s expectation that she would win and fearing the bureau would be accused of helping her.” In Trump’s case, he conducted the investigation “by the book, with the FBI’s traditional secrecy.”  The newspaper says Comey’s strategy was shaped by his distrust of senior officials at the main Justice Department, who he and colleagues believed had provided Clinton with political cover. “This was unique in the history of the FBI,” said former bureau official Michael Steinbach. “People say, ‘This has never been done before.’ Well, there never was a before. Or ‘That’s not normally how you do it.’ There wasn’t anything normal about this.”


Brennan Center: Trump May ‘Chill’ Sentencing Reform

In a critique of the Trump administration’s first 100 days in office, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University complains that the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions talk about a “nonexistent crime wave.”

In a critique of criminal justice policies and statements from the Trump administration during its first 100 days in office, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University predicts that the President and his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, will issue “continued warnings about a nonexistent crime wave.” The center complains that Trump and Sessions “have spoken about the imminent danger posed by rising crime in nearly every major speech” on the subject.

The center believes that “this steady drumbeat of fear could chill bipartisan attempts to reduce unnecessary incarceration at the federal, state, and local levels.” The center says several Trump’s executive orders on crime are vague and do not implement any immediate change, “but these orders entrust the attorney general with charting a new course of criminal justice.” The Brennan Center foresees “recommendations for more punitive immigration, drug, and policing actions.” It notes that a crime task force established by Sessions is scheduled to deliver its first report by July 27. The center believes the group may calls for “a rescission of Obama-era memos on prosecutorial discretion, which helped decrease the federal prison population, and diverted low-level drug offenders away from incarceration.”



FBI Got Court Order to Monitor Trump Campaign Adviser

Carter Page, an adviser to the Trump campaign, says he is being made a political scapegoat in the probe of possible ties between Trump associates and Russia.

Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to President Trump’s campaign says a report the FBI obtained a secret court order to monitor his communications last summer are “very encouraging,” because it shows he is being made a political scapegoat in the investigations into potential ties between Trump associates and the Russian government, reports Politico. Page said “further confirmation is now being revealed” about how he has been the subject of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA, warrant. Targets of them are not notified. The Washington Post reported that the FBI had compiled a lengthy file and obtained a FISA warrant against Page in July because there was probable cause to believe the energy consultant was acting as an agent of a foreign power.

Page told Politico he was being investigated, at least in part, for remarks he has made – including during a speech in Russia last year – that were highly critical of U.S. energy policy. The FISA court was created after a series of embarrassing disclosures about how the U.S. government improperly spied on dissenters. Despite claims by Page and others that FISA warrants have been used to gather intelligence for political reasons, the application process has layers of oversight to prevent that from happening.



Can Secret Service Keep Up With Trump Family?

The agency needs tens of millions in supplemental funding to protect President Trump and his family. There are 40 percent more people under protection than in other non-campaign years.

The Secret Service is grappling with how to constrain the rising costs and unexpected strain that have come with protecting a new first family as large, mobile and high-profile as any in modern history, the New York Times reports. Dozens of agents from New York and field offices across the country are being temporarily pulled off criminal investigations to serve two-week stints protecting Trump family members, including the first lady and the youngest son in Manhattan’s Trump Tower. Others assigned to the highly selective presidential protective division had hoped for relief after a grueling election year. That hope evaporated as they work more overtime hours and spend long stretches away from home because of the Trump family’s far-flung travel.

Agency leaders are negotiating for tens of millions of dollars in supplemental funding to help offset the sky-high costs of securing Trump Tower and other high-profile family assets like Mar-a-Lago in Florida. It is a figure that will only continue to rise. “They are flat-out worn out,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  The agency must contend with what amounts to an increase of 40 percent more people under its protection compared to a noncampaign year. There are growing concerns among current and former officials in the Homeland Security Department and on Capitol Hill not only about how the Secret Service will keep up, but also what it might mean for its recovery from the high attrition, low morale and spending caps that have plagued it in recent years.


Trump Acuses Obama of Wiretapping His NYC Office

In tweets, Trump says Obama headed a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to wiretap his Trump Tower headquarters last fall. Experts doubt that it happened. “You can’t just go around a tap buildings,” one tells the Washington Post.

President Trump angrily accused former president Obama of orchestrating a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last fall, the Washington Post reports. Citing no evidence to support the explosive allegation, Trump said in five tweets that Obama was “wire tapping” his New York offices before the election in a move he compared to McCarthyism. “Bad (or sick) guy!” he said of his predecessor, adding that the surveillance resulted in “nothing found.” A Breitbart report Friday suggested that Obama used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team.

Trump has been feuding with the intelligence community since before he took office, convinced that career officers as well as holdovers from the Obama administration have been trying to sabotage his presidency.  “It’s highly unlikely there was a wiretap,” said one former senior intelligence official familiar with surveillance law. “It seems unthinkable. If that were the case by some chance, that means that a federal judge would have found that there was either probable cause that he had committed a crime or was an agent of a foreign power. A wiretap cannot be directed at a U.S. facility without finding probable cause that the phone lines or Internet addresses were being used by agents of a foreign power or by someone spying for or acting on behalf of a foreign government. “You can’t just go around and tap buildings,” the official said.