In March, President Trump approached Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, and Daniel Coats, director of national intelligence, and asked them to publicly deny that there was evidence of collusion between his campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election, current and former officials told The Washington Post.
Both men refused to go along with Trump's request, which they found inappropriate, the officials said; one person close to Coats told the Post, "The problem wasn't so much asking them to issue statements, it was asking them to issue false statements about an ongoing investigation." Trump contacted Rogers and Coats separately, the officials said, after former FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 about an investigation into links between Trump associates and the Russian government. Senior White House officials also reportedly went to top intelligence officials to see if they would contact Comey and urge him to drop the FBI's investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, with one person with knowledge of the request saying the White House officials asked: "Can we ask him to shut down the investigation? Are you able to assist in this matter?"
A White House spokesman told the Post it "does not confirm or deny unsubstantiated claims based on illegal leaks from anonymous individuals. The president will continue to focus on his agenda that he was elected to pursue by the American people." You can read the entire report at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia
In a letter released Monday, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) revealed ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn apparently lied to Pentagon investigators about his foreign income and contacts with Russian officials when he was re-applying for his top-secret security clearance last year.
Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said the committee had obtained documents that "appear to indicate" Flynn "lied to investigators" while applying to renew his clearance in February 2016. Flynn claimed income that came from Russian state news site RT in return for his attendance at a Moscow gala actually came from "U.S. companies," Cummings wrote; Flynn received more than $45,000 for attending the event, at which he was seated next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Flynn also told investigators he had had "insubstantial contact" with foreign government representatives, Cummings wrote.
Cummings sent the letter to House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) after obtaining the Pentagon's own report on Flynn's clearance application, which was compiled in March 2016, and urged Chaffetz to subpoena Flynn. Earlier Monday, Flynn declined to cooperate with a Senate subpoena related to the upper chamber's Russia probe, invoking the Fifth Amendment.
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will invoke his Fifth Amendment right and refuse to comply with a Senate Intelligence Committee subpoena, citing the "escalating public frenzy against him," The Associated Press reports.
Flynn is at the heart of ongoing investigations into Russia's influence over the 2016 election, and whether any of President Trump's associates knowingly colluded with the Russians. Flynn ousted from the administration after the public learned he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his interactions with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Flynn's legal team's letter of intent claims "any testimony he provides could be used against him."
A Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee told The Associated Press, "We will get to the truth one way or another." Jeva Lange
The ongoing probe into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign has reportedly identified a current White House official as "a significant person of interest," The Washington Post reports. The individual was described by people familiar with the matter as being "someone close to the president," although the sources declined to name names.
So far, President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, have been the public centers of the investigation. Neither is a part of the current administration. "Current administration officials who have acknowledged contacts with Russian officials include Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as Cabinet members Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson," the Post writes.
Kushner, for one, was a "prominent voice advocating Comey's firing," CBS writes. On Friday, The New York Times reported that Trump told Russian officials he had fired Comey in order to ease the pressure of the ongoing probe.
The White House also has acknowledged that Kushner met with [Sergey] Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., in late November. Kushner also has acknowledged that he met with the head of a Russian development bank, Vnesheconombank, which has been under U.S. sanctions since July 2014. The president's son-in-law initially omitted contacts with foreign leaders from a national security questionnaire, though his lawyer has said publicly he submitted the form prematurely and informed the FBI soon after he would provide an update.
Vnesheconombank handles development for the state, and in early 2015, a man purporting to be one of its New York-based employees was arrested and accused of being an unregistered spy. [The Washington Post]
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told the Post that "as the president has stated before, a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity."
The Washington Post adds that "people familiar with the matter said investigators on the case are more focused on Russian influence operations and possible financial crimes" and that "the probe has sharpened into something more fraught for the White House, the FBI, and the Justice Department — particularly because of the public steps investigators know they now need to take." Read the full scoop at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange
President Trump reportedly told Russia's foreign minister and ambassador in a meeting last week that he fired FBI Director James Comey in order to take off the "pressure" of the Russia probe, The New York Times reports.
"I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job," Trump told the Russians. "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off." The comments were recorded in a White House document that was compiled based on notes taken during the meeting and distributed as an official account of the event; it was read by a U.S. official to the Times.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not contradict the report, saying: "By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia's actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia."
The White House's official story had been that Trump lost faith in Comey's ability to do his job due to his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state. Earlier Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended a memo he wrote to Trump outlining his concerns with Comey, in which he detailed a series of missteps he felt Comey had made that led him to believe "it was appropriate to seek a new leader" for the FBI.
A memo written by Comey, reported earlier this week, claimed Trump had tried to convince Comey to end his investigation into Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who is at the heart of the ongoing Russia investigations. Jeva Lange
Prosecutors claim that Richard Rojas, the suspect who drove into pedestrians in New York City's Times Square on Thursday, wanted to "kill them all," ABC7 NY reports.
Earlier on Friday, Rojas, who killed one person and injured several others, was charged with murder, 20 counts of attempted murder, and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide. He was arrested after he attempted to flee his vehicle; prosecutors said Friday that Rojas claimed police "should have shot him," ABC7 NY writes.
Initial tests indicated that Rojas, 26, a resident of the Bronx and a Navy veteran discharged due to disciplinary issues, was under the influence of the drug PCP. Police reported Rojas said he was "hearing voices." He will be held without bail. Jeva Lange
Federal agents are using a secret cell phone tracking device designed for counter-terrorism to catch undocumented immigrants as part of President Trump's crackdown, The Detroit News has learned. "The cell-site simulator device, known as a Hailstorm or Stingray, tricks nearby phones into providing location data and can interrupt cellular service of all devices within the targeted location," the paper writes. "Federal investigators are required to obtain a judge's approval to use the device."
FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents used the device in March, for example, to catch 23-year-old Salvadoran restaurant worker Rudy Carcamo-Carranza near Detroit. Carcamo-Carranza had been twice deported and faces drunken driving allegations and a hit-and-run crash. The federal agents were apparently able to use the device with a federal search warrant affidavit.
"While the warrant does ensure a modicum of judicial oversight, it is troubling to see the government using invasive surveillance technology on the streets of America to grease the wheels of the Trump administration's deportation machine," said Nathan Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. "This is the first warrant I have seen specifically showing ICE's use of a cell-site simulator in an immigration enforcement operation."
ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls called the simulators "invaluable law enforcement tools that locate or identify mobile devices during active criminal investigations." The FBI has 194 such devices, and Homeland Security 124. Read more about the device and how it's being used at The Detroit News. Jeva Lange
On Thursday, President Trump blasted the Justice Department's decision to appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. "I believe it hurts our country terribly, because it shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country," Trump said. He added: "Hopefully this can go quickly, because we have to show unity if we're going to do great things with respect to the rest of the world."
At lunch with TV anchors, POTUS says appointment of Special Counsel "hurts the country" pic.twitter.com/6oackFQBox
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) May 18, 2017
The DOJ's decision follows the revelation Tuesday night that former FBI Director James Comey kept detailed notes of his conversations with President Trump, including when Trump allegedly asked Comey to drop his Russia-linked investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Robert Mueller, who led the FBI for 12 years during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, will serve as special counsel. Jeva Lange