Former White House staff secretary was allowed to remain in his top job long after his colleagues had been told about spousal abuse allegations from his two former wives. FBI director Christopher Wray’s account differed from the one offered by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
The White House changed its story on Tuesday on how it handled allegations of spousal abuse against Rob Porter, the staff secretary who quit in disgrace last week. Officials conceded that the FBI told White House career officials last summer about problems in Porter’s background check. Ttop advisers in the West Wing were kept in the dark. The White House revised its version of events after testimony by FBI director, Christopher Wray, contradicted earlier and shifting White House claims, the New York Times reports. Wray said the FBI had given the White House final results in January of its background investigation on Porter. That account was directly at odds with assertions by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said Porter’s background check was still underway when the domestic violence abuse allegations from his two former wives came to light last week in news reports.
Wray’s words suggested that Porter, who had been given an interim security clearance, was allowed to continue serving in his influential post long after officials had received word of the troublesome accusations. Wray’s testimony raised questions about the credibility of Trump’s most senior advisers and the degree of tolerance they may have shown to a colleague apparently eager to cover up a past. Wray said the FBI updated the White House three times in 2017 — in March, July and November — about Porter’s background check as it progressed. Sanders insisted that senior West Wing officials had not learned about the allegations against Porter until they surfaced in The Daily Mail because the FBI gave the information to the White House Personnel Security Office, which handles security clearances.
Mike Kortan, FBI assistant director for public affairs, will retire next week. The chief of the Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, David Laufman, resigned this week. Both are discussed in text messages sent by FBI Agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page.
Two senior Justice Department officials who were prominently discussed in text messages exchanged by FBI personnel formerly assigned to the Trump-Russia investigation are leaving their positions, Politico reports. Mike Kortan, FBI assistant director for public affairs, will retire next week. The chief of the Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, David Laufman, resigned this week. Both are discussed in text messages sent by FBI Agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page. President Trump and Republican lawmakers have argued that the texts are evidence of anti-Trump bias at senior levels of the Justice Department.
While the texts contain derogatory mentions of Trump, the messages made public so far don’t attribute that sentiment to Kortan or Laufman, and there’s no indication that either departure is related to the recent flap. Kortan has headed the FBI’s media operation since 2009. Laufman told colleagues he was leaving for personal reasons. Laufman had served since 2014 as the top Justice Department official overseeing espionage investigations, as well as cases involving foreign lobbying and leaks of classified information. That put Laufman in charge of the Hillary Clinton email probe and aspects of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, an inquiry handed off to special counsel Robert Mueller. The Strzok-Page texts suggest they held an unflattering view of Laufman and Kortan. “Kortan majorly screwed up,” said one text from Page. “I am getting aggravated at Laufman,” a message from Strzok said.T he list of officials frequently discussed in the texts who are no longer in their jobs seems to grow by the day.
The FBI needs to win back the confidence and trust of the American people after two years of controversy surround its investigations of Hillary Clinton and President Trump, says Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions says that the FBI needs a “fresh start” to win back the confidence and trust of the American people after two years of controversy surrounding the FBI’s investigations of Hillary Clinton and President Trump, the Hill reports. In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Sessions was asked to respond to the resignation of deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who left the agency after months of criticism from Republicans. “Well, I have believed it was important to have a fresh start at the FBI”, Sessions said.
When asked about voters’ confidence in the bureau, Sessions said he believed that there had been an “erosion” of trust surrounding the FBI. “Well, I would just say it this way. The Department of Justice, which includes the FBI, we all, we tend to be defensive. At this point in time, I think we need to go the extra mile to make sure that everything we do is not political,” Sessions said. “Everything we do is based on law and facts. And, whether we like it or not, there’s been erosion some in the confidence of the American people at the FBI and Department of Justice.” FBI Director Christopher Wray suggested to agents last week that McCabe’s departure was due to an inspector general investigation surrounding the former deputy director’s handling of the Clinton email investigation.
The controversial House Republican staff memo, released on Friday, says the main Justice Department and the FBI relied partly on information from Christopher Steele, a former intelligence officer with an anti-Trump agenda, to obtain and renew a surveillance warrant on a Trump campaign adviser.
The four-page, newly declassified memo written by Republican staffers for the House Intelligence Committee said the group’s findings “raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain [Justice Department] and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).” It cites “a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process,” a reference to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Washington Post reports. The memo alleges that a surveillance warrant was obtained and renewed on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, with information from Christopher Steele, a former intelligence officer in Britain who had an anti-Trump agenda.
It accuses officials who approved the surveillance applications, including then-FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, of signing off on court surveillance requests that omitted key facts about Steele’s political motivations. The memo says Steele “was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations — an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI.’’ The memo argues that Steele’s contacts with reporters in 2016 “violated the cardinal rule of source handling — maintaining confidentiality — and demonstrated that Steele had become a less than reliable source for the FBI.” In September 2016, according to the memo, Steele admitted that he was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” The memo charges that law enforcement officials vouched for Steele as someone who had provided valuable information in an earlier corruption probe involving FIFA, the world soccer organization, but that they did not tell the court about his views on Trump. After the FBI terminated Steele as a source, an internal FBI report assessed that Steele’s information had been “only minimally corroborated,” the memo said.
The president tweets more criticism of the main Justice Department and the FBI before telling Congress it can release a memo outlining supposed bias against Republicans in the investigative agencies.
President Trump said on Friday that the top officials and investigators at the FBI and main Justice Department had “politicized the sacred investigative process,” shortly before the White House is expected to clear the way for Congress to release a controversial memo that is said to describe a bias among senior officials in the agencies, reports the New York Times. The Twitter post reinforced reports that Trump, in allowing the memo to be released, is seeking to clean house in DOJ’s upper ranks, even at the risk of losing his own FBI director, Christopher Wray. Wray made an unusual public plea not to release the document, which could reveal classified sources and methods.
Blaming senior government officials for favoring Democratics over Republicans is among the main themes in the memo, which said to accuse federal law enforcement officials of abusing their authorities when they sought permission to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Trump had an opportunity to block the memo, which his own national security officials have requested. Still, the president was expected to tell Congress that the memo could be released without redactions. The document was written by aides to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and an avid supporter of Trump. Democrats say the memo is a Republican attempt to push a narrative that would undercut the investigation into Russia’s 2016 election meddling and possible coordination with the Trump campaign. Former FBI Director James Comey has defended the agency on Twitter, writing, “All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would.” Comey urged his former colleagues to “take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up.”
In a sign of the unusual public tension between the FBI and the president, the bureau issued a statement Wednesday after Director Christopher Wray tried privately to persuade the White House to keep the memo under wraps. The document is a summary of classified information written by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee.
The FBI publicly urged President Trump not to release a classified memo, escalating a dispute over Republican allegations of improper surveillance in the probe examining whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election, the Wall Street Journal reports. In a sign of the unusual public tension between the bureau and the president, the FBI issued a statement Wednesday after Director Christopher Wray tried privately to persuade the White House to keep the memo under wraps. The document is a summary of classified information written by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee. “The FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the bureau’s statement said. “We have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
Rarely has a president clashed as repeatedly and as publicly with federal intelligence agencies as has Trump. Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn on Monday. Wray and Rosenstein expressed their opposition to the release of the memo. Kelly told the men that the president was inclined to release the memo, but assured them it first would be vetted by the National Security Council and White House attorneys. After Trump told a Republican lawmaker that he was “100 percent” certain he would release the document, White House officials insisted the president hadn’t yet read the document. The memo was written under the direction of Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Ca.), House Intelligence Committee chairman and a Trump ally. It outlines allegations of improper surveillance against an Trump associate during the 2016 campaign.
The Justice Department is probing why Andrew McCabe, as the No. 2 official at the FBI, appeared not to act for about three weeks on a request to examine a batch of Hillary Clinton-related emails found in the latter stages of the 2016 election campaign. McCabe left the FBI this week amid criticism from Republicans.
The Justice Department’s inspector general has been focused for months on why Andrew McCabe, as the No. 2 official at the FBI, appeared not to act for about three weeks on a request to examine a batch of Hillary Clinton-related emails found in the latter stages of the 2016 election campaign, the Washington Post reports. Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been asking witnesses why FBI leadership seemed unwilling to move forward on the examination of emails found on the laptop of former congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) until late October — about three weeks after first being alerted to the issue.
A key question is whether McCabe or anyone else at the FBI wanted to avoid taking action on the laptop findings until after the Nov. 8 election. A major line of inquiry for the inspector general has been trying to determine who at the FBI and the main Justice Department knew about the Clinton emails on the Weiner laptop, and when they learned about them. McCabe is a central figure in those inquiries. On Monday, McCabe left the FBI after a meeting with director Christopher Wray in which they discussed the inspector general’s investigation. Horowitz announced in January 2017 that he was examining the Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton investigation. His report is expected in the spring. The Weiner laptop email issue has been discussed since the election because many Clinton supporters say the FBI tilted the 2016 race toward Donald Trump when it announced in late October that it was reopening its probe into Clinton’s use of a private email server when she served as secretary of state.
David Bowdich, the expected successor to Andrew McCabe, was an FBI SWAT team member and sniper in San Diego and later head of the FBI’s large Los Angeles office.
Here is what the Washington Post reports about David Bowdich, who is expected to replace Andrew McCabe as deputy FBI director: The Albuquerque native graduated from New Mexico State University in 1991. He worked as an officer with the Albuquerque Police Department from 1991 to 1995. “He was very ambitious, very smart and very physically fit,” Deputy Police Chief Robert Huntsman told the Albuquerque Journal. Bowdich joined the FBI in 1995 as a special agent and served as a SWAT team member and sniper at the agency’s San Diego field office. There, he investigated violent crimes and gangs. One of his investigations included a year-long wiretap that resulted in the first federal criminal racketeering convictions brought against a street gang in Southern California.
In 2005, he started leading a multiagency gang task force that through undercover operations and wiretaps investigated drug and racketeering cases against the Mexican Mafia, Bloods and Crips gangs and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. In 2014, he was named the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office. In L.A., he was on alert for the possibility of a terrorist attack months before the San Bernardino mass shooting. In February 2015, Bowdich told the Los Angeles Times he believed Southern California was a potential terrorist target. He then led the investigation of the December 2015 San Bernardino attack that killed 14 people and wounded 22 others.
FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a target of President Trump’s ire dating to the 2016 election, has stepped down as he nears the date in March when he can retire with full pension benefits. He is expected to be succeeded by David Bowdich, who led the agency’s response to the San Bernardino terror attack.
FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a target of President Trump’s ire dating to the 2016 election, has stepped down as he nears the date in March when he can retire with full pension benefits. He is expected to be succeeded by David Bowdich, who led the agency's response to the San Bernardino terror attack.
The controversy over the FBI’s investigations concerning the 2016 election is just the latest in a long history of the bureau’s involvement in political issues, especially during the long reign of director J. Edgar Hoover.
NPR calls commentary that the FBI is not a political agency “a massive case of collective amnesia afflicting Washington and much of the media commentariat.” In fact, “achieving political goals of one kind or another have been part of the reason for the FBI since its inception,” NPR says. Everyone agrees that the FBI should be as professional and impartial as possible, and that its investigations should not be driven by any political agenda or vendetta. Yet it’s not correct to say that controversies surrounding the investigations involving the 2016 presidential election are the first time the bureau may have fallen short of that ideal.
Former FBI official Chris Swecker told NPR that, “there’s been plenty of controversies, but never accusations that the FBI has become a political tool for one party or another, or one set of political beliefs or another.” President Theodore Roosevelt started the FBI’s predecessor, the Bureau of Investigation, in 1908. During World War I, it harassed political radicals of various stripes. In the 1950s, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover FBI collaborated with Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, whose years of committee hearings wounded many reputations but wound up unmasking no actual Communists. Plenty of Americans have regarded all these uses of the FBI’s resources as entirely legitimate; plenty of others have found them entirely unacceptable. It can’t be argued that they were not political.