The House wants to keep Special Counsel Robert Mueller's spending in check.
Lawmakers on Friday approved a spending measure that would require closer financial oversight of the investigation led by Mueller, The Hill reports.
The House of Representatives voted, largely along party lines, to move forward with an amendment introduced by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who says that the investigation needs closer financial scrutiny. The measure, if approved for inclusion in 2019's spending package, would task the Government Accountability Office with semi-annual financial audits for any special counsel investigation.
"A special counsel's work is important, but they should not be able to spend taxpayer dollars without accountability. Americans need to know where their money is going," said Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. The Hill reports that Meadows has called for a second special counsel to look into alleged misconduct in the Department of Justice.
Even though the measure was approved by the House, there is little support for such a provision in the Senate, reports The Hill. Lawmakers have largely expressed support for the $16.7 million investigation, which is probing whether President Trump's campaign colluded with Russian interference in the 2016 election. Summer Meza
In a 20-page letter to Special Counsel Robert Mueller obtained by The New York Times and published Saturday, President Trump's lawyers argue the president cannot obstruct justice because he has constitutional authority over all federal investigations, including the Russia probe. Trump can "terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon," the lawyers claim, and any actions he takes cannot "constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself."
The letter also confirms that Trump dictated the misleading statement made by his son, Donald Trump Jr., about the meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in 2016. Trump Jr. and the White House previously have denied the president's involvement in developing the statement.
Trump complained in advance of the letter's release on Twitter, suggesting Mueller is the person who leaked it:
There was No Collusion with Russia (except by the Democrats). When will this very expensive Witch Hunt Hoax ever end? So bad for our Country. Is the Special Counsel/Justice Department leaking my lawyers letters to the Fake News Media? Should be looking at Dems corruption instead?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 2, 2018
The letter's broad and novel interpretation of executive power will likely be challenged in court, particularly if Trump's team deploys it to avoid compliance with a subpoena from the Mueller investigation. "Presidents frequently assert executive privilege, their right to refuse demands for information about internal executive branch dealings, but its limits are murky and mostly untested," the Times report notes. The president's lawyers may be hoping Mueller does not care to fight the legal battle such a test would entail. Bonnie Kristian
CNN's Chris Cuomo incredulously presses Roger Stone on 'bizarre coincidences' between Trump team and WikiLeaks
Roger Stone, a former adviser to President Trump's campaign, told CNN's New Day on Monday that he has not been in contact with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Mueller, who is leading the investigation into whether the Trump team colluded with Russian interference in the 2016 election, is reportedly interested in statements that Stone has made, but Stone said that he hasn't been interviewed.
New Day host Chris Cuomo found it curious that Stone would be left out of the investigation, given the number of "bizarre coincidences" surrounding his relationship to people who are under intense scrutiny. Stone sought to downplay his relationship with former Trump adviser Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI in relation to the Russia probe, and reiterated his claim that he knew nothing of the Democratic National Committee's 2016 hacking. Stone said that he was merely joking when he told advisers he had communicated with Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, which published documents from the hacking related to then-candidate Hillary Clinton.
"The idea that I had advanced knowledge is speculation," said Stone of the hacked documents. Mueller is investigating that possibility in light of his "jokes," The Wall Street Journal reported last month — but apparently without speaking with Stone himself. Watch the clip below, via CNN. Summer Meza
Former Trump adviser Roger Stone says he has not been contacted by the special counsel team https://t.co/KakJFf7FgO
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 7, 2018
Neither Special Counsel Robert Mueller nor anyone on his team has been in touch with Natalia Veselnitskaya, she told The Associated Press for a report published Monday. Veselnitskaya is the Russian lawyer who in June 2016 met with Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump campaign officials who believed she had dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Veselnitskaya has spoken with investigators for the Senate Intelligence Committee's separate probe into Russian election meddling efforts. They interviewed her in a hotel in Berlin, Germany, for three hours in March. "That was essentially a monologue. They were not interrupting me," she said. "They listened very carefully. ... Their questions were very sharp, pin-pointed."
But the Mueller investigation, she says, has not contacted her despite her willingness to talk. "I'm ready to explain things that may seem odd to you or maybe you have suspicions," Veselnitskaya told Mueller via AP, suggesting that if he does not interview her, he "is not working to discover the truth." Bonnie Kristian
Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort late Friday night in court filings accused the FBI of searching his property in violation of Fourth Amendment protections against illicit search and seizure.
Shortly after Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed, FBI agents visited a storage locker belonging to Manafort's company. They were given access by an employee who did not have authorization to grant it, Manafort's attorneys allege, and returned the following day to take files wielding a warrant secured using information based on that initial access.
"The FBI agent had no legitimate basis to reasonably believe that the former employee had common authority to consent to the warrantless initial search of the storage unit," said Manafort's legal team, also arguing the resultant warrant was too broad and that the agents searched more than it encompassed.
Manafort was indicted for financial crimes in connection to Mueller's Russia probe and has pleaded innocent to the charges against him. His attorneys seek to get the evidence collected via this search labeled fruit of the poisonous tree. Bonnie Kristian
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly investigating a claim made by Roger Stone, a former adviser to President Trump's campaign team, that he met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Stone's email correspondence with former campaign adviser Sam Nunberg is under the microscope, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, because Stone claimed in one August 2016 message that he had "dined with Julian Assange last night." Assange's organization WikiLeaks published thousands of documents on then-candidate Hillary Clinton ahead of the 2016 presidential election, and U.S. officials said the materials were obtained by Kremlin-linked hackers who were trying to sway the election in Trump's favor.
In an interview, Stone told the Journal that he made the remark "in jest," and that no conversation between the two took place. But Stone's public applauding of WikiLeaks has already garnered some side-eyeing from federal investigators: The Washington Post reported last month that Mueller, who is leading the probe into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election, had asked Nunberg and one other source about Stone's possible contact with Assange. Mueller additionally asked about Stone's email during testimony before a grand jury, the Journal reports.
"I never dined with Assange," Stone told the Journal, saying that he can prove that he was in Los Angeles the night before he sent the email to Nunberg. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Summer Meza
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly close to completing the portion of his investigation dealing with whether President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice. After several more interviews — most significantly with Trump himself — Mueller is expected to reach a conclusion on the obstruction question.
But don't except to hear about it any time soon. Releasing a decision, whether positive or negative, could hurt the rest of Mueller's probe, Bloomberg reported Monday, citing unnamed sources. It could push Trump to shutter the investigation altogether, or it could change witnesses' calculations about cooperation.
Because Mueller's team is looking into a broad array of individuals and events, the special counsel may strategically delay the obstruction news to protect other parts of his inquiry. Such a wait is unlikely to be welcome news to the Trump administration, as Trump's lawyers have repeatedly assured the president that the investigation is nearly finished. Bonnie Kristian
Along with 13 Russian nationals, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team targeted three Russian organizations in the indictment announced Friday. Among them was a group called the Internet Research Agency (IRA), which The Wall Street Journal reports operated like "a propaganda startup," complete "with finance and graphics departments, performance targets, and a sophisticated social-media strategy designed to gain maximum attention."
The IRA's troll factory operated with the precision of, well, a factory, the Journal story says. "Operational goals were subject to internal audits," and messaging was tightly policed. The monthly budget was about $1.25 million, money spent refining online targeting to increase engagement with social media users who believed they were talking to fellow Americans.
But the action wasn't all online. The IRA used its digital reach to "organize flash-mobs in Florida," to "pay a U.S. resident to dress up like Hillary Clinton in a prison uniform at a West Palm Beach rally," and to "promote several pro-Trump rallies." Read the Journal's full report here. Bonnie Kristian