There's a lot to cover today as Trump has gone completely off the rails, and there's little doubt now that the remaining Justice Department investigation into the Mueller probe itself is going to be used to put a lot of Trump's enemies, perceived and real, in jail.
Trump administration officials investigating the government’s response to Russia’s election interference in 2016 appear to be hunting for a basis to accuse Obama-era intelligence officials of hiding evidence or manipulating analysis about Moscow’s covert operation, according to people familiar with aspects of the inquiry.
Since his election, President Trump has attacked the intelligence agencies that concluded that Russia secretly tried to help him win, fostering a narrative that they sought to delegitimize his victory. He has long promoted the investigation by John H. Durham, the prosecutor examining their actions, as a potential pathway to proving that a deep-state cabal conspired against him.
Questions asked by Mr. Durham, who was assigned by Attorney General William P. Barr to scrutinize the early actions of law enforcement and intelligence officials struggling to understand the scope of Russia’s scheme, suggest that Mr. Durham may have come to view with suspicion several clashes between analysts at different intelligence agencies over who could see each other’s highly sensitive secrets, the people said.
Mr. Durham appears to be pursuing a theory that the C.I.A., under its former director John O. Brennan, had a preconceived notion about Russia or was trying to get to a particular result — and was nefariously trying to keep other agencies from seeing the full picture lest they interfere with that goal, the people said.
But officials from the F.B.I. and the National Security Agency have told Mr. Durham and his investigators that such an interpretation is wrong and based on a misunderstanding of how the intelligence community functions, the people said. National security officials are typically cautious about sharing their most delicate information, like source identities, even with other agencies inside the executive branch.
Mr. Durham’s questioning is certain to add to accusations that Mr. Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies, like Mr. Brennan, who has been an outspoken critic of the president. Mr. Barr, who is overseeing the investigation, has come under attack in recent days over senior Justice Department officials’ intervention to lighten a prison sentencing recommendation by lower-level prosecutors for Mr. Trump’s longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr.
A spokesman for Mr. Durham did not respond to phone and email inquiries. The C.I.A. and the National Security Agency declined to comment. The people familiar with aspects of Mr. Durham’s investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic.
The indictments of Trump's enemies are coming. Barr at this point is begging Trump to stop tweeting about them so that he can get them rolled out without it being too obvious.
In an exclusive interview, Attorney General Bill Barr told ABC News on Thursday that President Donald Trump "has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case” but should stop tweeting about the Justice Department because his tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job.”
Barr’s comments are a rare break with a president who the attorney general has aligned himself with and fiercely defended. But it also puts Barr in line with many of Trump’s supporters on Capitol Hill who say they support the president but wish he’d cut back on his tweets.
“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr told ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas.
When asked if he was prepared for the consequences of criticizing the president – his boss – Barr said “of course” because his job is to run the Justice Department and make decisions on “what I think is the right thing to do.”
But Trump won't be contained, and everyone knows the game is up anyway. He'll never stop tweeting. He doesn't care. The consiglieri is warning the boss that the feds will notice, and the boss keeps on buying yachts and cars and fur coats and telling everybody at the butcher shop that the guys who tried to prosecute him are gonna get whacked anyway.
He's openly making quid pro quo threats against NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo and laughing at him openly on Twitter.
President Donald Trump appeared Thursday to link his administration's policies toward New York to a demand that the state drop investigations and lawsuits related to his administration as well as his personal business and finances.
Hours before New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was set to meet the president at the White House, Trump tweeted that Cuomo “must understand” that National Security far exceeds politics,” a reference to his administration’s recent decision to halt New York’s access to the Global Entry and other “trusted traveler” programs that allow New Yorkers faster border crossings and shorter airport lines.
Trump continued, “New York must stop all of its unnecessary lawsuits & harrassment, start cleaning itself up, and lowering taxes.”
Trump’s invocation of “lawsuits & harrassment” was a reference to the state’s numerous lawsuits against his administration and also against Trump’s business, which is based in New York.
That prompted Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), one of the House managers who prosecuted Trump’s impeachment in the Senate, to accuse the president of “expanding his abuse of power to blackmailing U.S. states (threatening millions of people he supposedly works for). In this case, he's holding New York state hostage to try to stop investigations into his prior tax fraud.”
State attorney general Letitia James has subpoenaed for Trump’s financial records, and the state is pursuing multiple inquiries about the Trump Organization’s business practices. James also just secured a $2 million settlement from Trump’s now-defunct charitable foundation, which was accused of numerous violations of misuse of funds.
The settlement prompted a sharp rebuke from Trump, who tweeted on Nov. 7 that James’ suit against the foundation was for “political purposes.”
“When you stop violating the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, we will stand down,” James said Thursday, responding to Trump’s tweet. “Until then, we have a duty and responsibility to defend the Constitution and the rule of law. BTW, I file the lawsuits, not the Governor.”
Much more after the jump. It's been a while since I've split a post up like this, but the lawlessness is coming at breathtaking speed.
Like a mob boss, Trump is now going back to his most loyal capos and promoting from within, while locking down the people he got rid of earlier in his term.
President Donald Trump is surrounding himself with loyalists after a week of banishing staffers across the government in a post-impeachment revenge plot.
On Thursday, the White House confirmed that Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s most trusted confidants, will return to the White House to work directly for the president’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, as a senior adviser after nearly two years away. Trump’s “body man” Johnny McEntee is also being promoted to run the office responsible for filling hundreds of top political jobs throughout the federal agencies, according to three senior administration officials, replacing Sean Doocey, who will move over to the State Department.
One senior administration official said the West Wing personnel changes are likely to continue in the coming weeks to prepare for both the 2020 campaign season and a potential second term.
Taken together, the moves have signaled a pattern of reinstating and promoting those closest to Trump after purging staffers Trump viewed as insufficiently loyal or part of the alleged “deep state” plot to get him. The last seven days have seen a makeover of White House and agency offices, driven partly by Trump’s desire for revenge post-impeachment and partly by his wish to staff the West Wing with people with whom he feels comfortable.
The new hires and promotions like Hicks and McEntee also happen to be close with Kushner, who is overseeing the reelection campaign and has his own influential power center within the White House.
“POTUS is surrounding himself with people who believe in him and his policy agenda,” said Jason Miller, a former top communications adviser on the 2016 campaign who applauded Hicks and McEntee’s return to the West Wing.
Indeed, he's going back to well with people who failed him, but remained loyal out in the hinterlands, figuring loyalty is better than competence when you can just balls everything out.
President Donald Trump has rehired his former chief of staff Reince Priebus and former press secretary Sean Spicer almost three years after both men unceremoniously departed the White House.
Priebus and Spicer will each join the President's Commission on White House Fellowships, according to a White House announcement Tuesday. As a part of the commission, the pair will interview and recommend to their former boss national finalists for appointments.
Spicer, who resigned in July 2017 out of dissatisfaction with the hiring of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director, courted controversy for repeatedly telling lies on behalf the president. Among those were false claims that Trump's inauguration had the biggest crowds in history, that the president would have won the popular vote in the 2016 if not for voter fraud, that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower and that Adolf Hitler had not used chemical weapons.
Spicer has become something of a pop culture fixture since his exit from the White House. He joined the reality competition show "Dancing With the Stars," in which he and other famous contestants were paired with professional ballroom dancers as they competed for the mirror ball trophy, last year. He announced on Cameo that he would record Valentine's Day messages for people who were willing to pay him $199 earlier this week.
Priebus, whose six-month tenure as chief of staff was the shortest in history for anyone who did not hold the position on an interim basis, was fired in July 2017. A number of reasons cited for his termination, including: Trump's disappointment with Priebus' stewardship of the campaign to repeal the Affordable Care Act and a belief that Priebus lacked the strength to run the White House.
Trump is doing this for one primary reason: to establish executive privilege and to prevent Hicks, Priebus and Spicer (and others) from ever having to face testimony. He's not doing this to help them. He's doing this to save himself because they all know what he did.
Former Trump regime employees keep confirming the worst after they leave, the ones Trump won't hire back, at least, like John Kelly.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the former National Security Council aide and impeachment witness President Donald Trump fired Friday, was just doing his job, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told students and guests at a Drew University event here Wednesday night.
Over a 75-minute speech and Q&A session, Kelly laid out, in the clearest terms yet, his misgivings about Trump’s words and actions regarding North Korea, illegal immigration, military discipline, Ukraine, and the news media.
Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, said that Vindman is blameless and was simply following the training he’d received as a soldier; migrants are “overwhelmingly good people” and “not all rapists”; and Trump’s decision to condition military aid to Ukraine on an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden upended long-standing U.S. policy.
Vindman was rightly disturbed by Trump’s phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July, Kelly suggested: Having seen something “questionable,” Vindman properly notified his superiors, Kelly said. Vindman, who specialized in Ukraine policy at the National Security Council at the time, was among multiple U.S. officials who listened in on the call. When subpoenaed by Congress in the House impeachment hearings, Vindman complied and told the truth, Kelly said.
“He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave,” Kelly told the audience at the Mayo Performing Arts Center. “He went and told his boss what he just heard.”
Although Trump has long insisted that his call to Zelensky was “perfect,” Kelly made clear that Trump indeed conditioned military aid on Zelensky’s help digging up dirt on the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
That amounted to a momentous change in U.S. policy toward Ukraine—one that Vindman was right to flag, because other federal agencies needed to know about the shift, Kelly said.
“Through the Obama administration up until that phone call, the policy of the U.S. was militarily to support Ukraine in their defensive fight against … the Russians,” Kelly said. “And so, when the president said that continued support would be based on X, that essentially changed. And that’s what that guy [Vindman] was most interested in.”
When Vindman heard the president tell Zelensky he wanted to see the Biden family investigated, that was tantamount to hearing “an illegal order,” Kelly said. “We teach them, ‘Don’t follow an illegal order. And if you’re ever given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss.’”
Trump is going to the mattresses, as they say. He's getting his most loyal flunkies back together for the new era of absolute lawlessness, and there's going to be a lot of destruction in the next few months.
Of course, Trump acts like a mob boss, but he really does answer to someone. He's not the boss of bosses.
He answers to someone, alright. It's just not anyone in this country...