russia investigation
December 11, 2019

President Trump and his defenders have latched onto the fact that two FBI employees involved in the bureau's investigation into 2016 Russian election interference — agent Peter Strzok and lawyer Lisa Page — exchanged text messages criticizing Trump while the probe was ongoing. But Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz may have poked a hole in that argument during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.

Horowitz discovered quite a few things wrong with the investigation, but his team concluded that political bias didn't hinder their efforts, which he reiterated while testifying. He also confirmed that other FBI employees were also discovered to have sent politically-charged text messages. And at least some of those conversations were supportive of Trump.

So, while it's clear individual agents were harboring specific sentiments about the commander-in-chief, things apparently didn't go down exactly the way Trump thought. Tim O'Donnell

December 11, 2019

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) just spent more than 40 minutes tearing into the FBI for its handling of the 2016 investigation into Russian election interference.

In his opening statement before Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's testimony before the Senate panel on his report on the probe, Graham said FBI agents were "biased" against President Trump and questioned whether the agency had selected its top individuals. Graham did say he respects the FBI as a whole, but is still troubled by Horowitz's report.

Several observers noted that during his oration, Graham didn't mention that Horowitz — despite finding several issues with the probe — also concluded that it was justified and free from political bias when launched.

Graham also surprised a few people when he mused over whether the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court should continue unless it's reformed. That's because he's been an ardent supporter in the past. Tim O'Donnell

November 27, 2019

Another reveal from the Justice Department's internal watchdog adds to the speculation that Trump likely won't get the boost he was looking for from a report into the department's 2016 Russian election interference investigation.

Reports from last week already revealed that Inspector General Michael Horowitz was not expected to find that political bias hindered the investigation as Trump has often argued. Now, The New York Times is additionally reporting that the inspector general didn't find evidence that the FBI attempted to place undercover agents or informants inside Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, which is another theory posed by the president.

The report apparently isn't final yet, so a lot could change, but it doesn't sound as if Horowitz found much backing up Trump's claims. Still, he's not expected to let the Justice Department off the hook — the report is expected to criticize FBI leaders for their handling of certain aspects of the investigation, including how they went about pursuing a wiretap of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page (though there was reportedly legal basis for the wiretap itself). Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

May 16, 2019

During his interviews with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn told investigators that people with ties to the Trump administration and Congress contacted him in an attempt to interfere with the Russia probe, Mueller wrote in newly unredacted court papers released Thursday.

The messages could have "affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation," Mueller said, adding that "in some instances," his office was "unaware of the outreach until being alerted to it by the defendant." Flynn provided a recording of one of the voicemails he received, the filing said. In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before President Trump's inauguration. Flynn faces up to six months in prison, but due to his "substantial assistance," Mueller's office suggested he receive little to no time in prison.

In Mueller's report, he did not make a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. The report also states that Trump's personal lawyer left a message for Flynn in November 2017, saying it "wouldn't surprise me if you've gone on to make a deal with ... the government," adding that if he shared any information implicating Trump, "then we've got a national security issue ... we need some kind of heads up."

Separately on Thursday, Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered federal prosecutors to file transcripts of the voicemail message left for Flynn and recordings of conversations Flynn had with Russian officials. Catherine Garcia

November 8, 2018

New Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who in the past has said that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling had gone too far, has no plans to recuse himself from it.

Associates close to Whitaker, who took over after former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced out Wednesday, expressed this to The Washington Post, adding that Whitaker would also likely not approve a request from Mueller to subpoena President Trump.

Democrats called on Whitaker to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation after it came out that he had been critical of Mueller's probe. Whitaker wrote a CNN editorial in 2017 opining that Mueller would be crossing a red line if he looked into Trump's finances.

"Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general, clearly wants to limit the Mueller investigation," wrote Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) Wednesday, adding that he "must recuse himself."

But considering that Sessions recusing himself from the Russia probe was precisely the reason Trump turned on him and ultimately pushed him out of the administration, this seems unlikely. In addition to his public comments, the Post reports that while working as Sessions' chief of staff at the Justice Department, Whitaker bemoaned the fact that the Mueller investigation has gone on too long and expressed "doubts about the scope" of it. Evidently, though, Whitaker disagrees with Trump in that he thinks Sessions had "no choice" but to recuse himself. Read more at The Washington Post. Brendan Morrow

October 11, 2018

President Trump's lawyers are preparing answers to written questions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, sources told CNN on Thursday.

The questions reportedly focus on collusion, and do not address obstruction of justice, a topic Trump's lawyers hoped to avoid. Mueller's office negotiated with Trump's legal team for months; investigators probing the Trump campaign's involvement in Russia's 2016 election interference were reportedly hoping for an in-person interview with Trump. The special counsel investigation decided last month that it would accept some answers in writing, perhaps returning to the issue of obstruction "at a later date."

Trump himself has said he is willing to answer any question in person, under oath, but his legal team has been working to limit the scope of the testimony, worried he might perjure himself during verbal responses. Neither Mueller's office nor Trump's team commented on whether the first round of questioning has officially begun — Trump attorney Jay Sekulow merely said they are "continuing discussions" with the probe. Read more at CNN. Summer Meza

September 21, 2018

The New York Times may not be so fake anymore.

Shortly after the Times reported Friday that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in 2017 floated the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office, many conservatives are now calling for Rosenstein to be fired. The Times also reported that Rosenstein suggested he wear a wire to surreptitiously record the president, though a Justice Department spokeswoman said Rosenstein proposed the idea "sarcastically."

But that hasn't stopped Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who tweeted Friday afternoon that "Rod Rosenstein must be fired today." Ingraham is one of the 47 people Trump follows on Twitter, and Politico reporter Alex Guillén ‏notes that former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned earlier this year not long after Ingraham called for his removal.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), a Fox News staple, agreed with Ingraham, tweeting that Rosenstein must be fired if the Times' reporting is accurate, because "Rosenstein doesn't seem to have the integrity to resign." Gregg Jarrett, who also appears as a frequent analyst for the network, tweeted that not only must Rosenstein be fired, but that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference must also end. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigations into Russian interference and the Trump campaign in March 2017, leaving Rosenstein to oversee the matter. Rosenstein appointed Mueller that May.

Yet another Fox News analyst weighing in is Jeanine Pirro, who tweeted that Rosenstein should have been fired long ago but that now is the time to act. As The Daily Beast's Asawin Suebsaeng points out, Pirro was once considered for Rosenstein's job. Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman reports that Bill Shine, the ousted Fox News executive who now helps lead Trump's communications team, is "rolling out [a] media plan to build public support for Trump to fire Rosenstein." Brendan Morrow

September 20, 2018

Michael Cohen is ready to talk.

A week after it was reported that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort would be cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Muller's Russia investigation, ABC News reports that Cohen is already far ahead of him.

Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, has already spent hours talking with Special Counsel Mueller's team, sitting for multiple interviews over the past month, ABC News reports. Cohen has evidently discussed "all aspects of Trump's dealings with Russia," and he has been asked about whether the president has offered to pardon him.

Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations in August, striking a plea deal with prosecutors that cut down his jail time but did not compel cooperation with federal investigators. But in addition to the Russia probe, ABC News reports that Cohen is speaking with authorities in New York about the ongoing investigation into the Trump Organization, where Cohen used to work as vice president.

Cohen had been Trump's personal lawyer and sometimes-fixer since 2006. In his August plea, he said that during the 2016 campaign, he had arranged payments to women who alleged they had affairs with Trump, specifying that he'd violated these campaign finance laws at Trump's behest. Cohen had previously released a secret tape of himself discussing this payment with Trump. The president responded on Twitter, saying that he would "strongly suggest" anyone looking for a good lawyer not hire Cohen. Brendan Morrow

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