Former Justice Dept. officials back Trump’s stalled nominee to head Criminal Division

Five former Justice Department officials who served both Republicans and Democrats are coming to the aide of President Donald Trump’s long-stalled nominee to head the DOJ’s Criminal Division, amid Democratic questions about his work for a Russian bank with ties to the Kremlin.

In a letter to the top lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, five former leaders of the Criminal Division — including three Obama appointees — vouched for Brian Benczkowski’s integrity.

"Each of us is familiar with Mr. Benczkowski, either through our work with him at the Department of Justice, in private practice, or in other ways," the former DOJ officials wrote to committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein. "We know him to be someone who is smart, fair, honest, and a tireless worker. Importantly, he respects the role of the Justice Department and will work hard to protect the integrity and independence of this Continue reading “Former Justice Dept. officials back Trump’s stalled nominee to head Criminal Division”

Warner: Identifying FBI source to undermine Russia probe could be a crime

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee warned Friday that his colleagues could be committing a crime if they obtain the identity of a secret FBI source and use it to undermine the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) raised the alarm in a Friday evening statement, as Republican allies of President Donald Trump have pressed the Justice Department for details about a source believed to have aided the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Trump campaign contacts with Russians.

“It would be at best irresponsible, and at worst potentially illegal, for members of Congress to use their positions to learn the identity of an FBI source for the purpose of undermining the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in our election," Warner said. "Anyone who is entrusted with our nation’s highest secrets should act with the gravity and seriousness Continue reading “Warner: Identifying FBI source to undermine Russia probe could be a crime”

Trump allies zero in on Mueller ‘scope memo’

President Donald Trump’s allies are increasing pressure on the Justice Department to release a classified memo revealing the parameters of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling.

In the last week, top Trump defenders in the House called on the president to order Attorney General Jeff Sessions to transmit the document to Republicans in Congress. And House Majority Whip Steve Scalise scolded the DOJ for refusing to disclose the full memo, holding up a heavily redacted version on Fox News and calling it “ridiculous” that Congress hadn’t seen more of it.

Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told POLITICO that the so-called “scope memo” should at least be shared with the president’s legal team.

“The only document we want to see is the document to give Mueller his authority,” he said. “For a year, they haven’t shown to us.”

Trump allies say the move is motivated by a desire Continue reading “Trump allies zero in on Mueller ‘scope memo’”

Mueller hands judge full memo detailing Russia probe scope

Special counsel Robert Mueller appears to have provided a federal judge with an unredacted version of the Justice Department memo laying out the scope of his investigation and the potential crimes he’s authorized to pursue.

However, the memo — long sought after by President Donald Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill, who regularly accuse Mueller of overstepping his bounds — remains classified and not public, leaving its details hidden.

The document was filed as an "unredacted memorandum" under seal with the U.S. District Court’s Eastern District of Virginia, where Mueller is expected to try former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on bank fraud charges.

Mueller’s decision to share the classified document comes two weeks after the judge, T.S. Ellis, demanded to see the full scope memo, authored by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Earlier this month, Ellis called for the document during a hearing on Manafort’s attempt to toss out some Continue reading “Mueller hands judge full memo detailing Russia probe scope”

Clinton impeachment veteran makes bid for Judiciary chairmanship

One of the last remaining Republican lawmakers who ran impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton is preparing for the possibility he could end up fending off Democrats who want to do the same to President Donald Trump in 2019.

Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot has made his lengthy service in the House — including his experience as an impeachment floor manager in 1998 — a central plank of his bid to succeed Bob Goodlatte after Goodlatte‘s retirement as the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, one of the most prominent posts in Congress.

"There are very few that have gone through it," Chabot said of impeachment proceedings in an interview. "You can imagine it. You can think what it might be like. But if you’ve actually been there, it’s certainly an advantage. It also makes one understand why that’s to be avoided, if at all possible."

Chabot is the newest Continue reading “Clinton impeachment veteran makes bid for Judiciary chairmanship”

GOP lawmakers to Trump: Make DOJ release Mueller documents

Top congressional allies of President Donald Trump are calling on him to order the release of sensitive documents connected to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

In a letter to Trump, Republican Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, as well as Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), urged the president to demand that Attorney General Jeff Sessions turn over the documents to Congress immediately.

Included in their request is a demand for a copy of an August 2017 document detailing the scope of Mueller’s probe, which would reveal the subjects of his investigation and details about the potential crimes he’s examining.

"We write to request that you exercise your authority as president of the United States," the lawmakers wrote in a missive dated Tuesday, "to instruct Attorney General Jeff Sessions to immediately produce all documents requested by Congress relating to our investigation of certain prosecutorial Continue reading “GOP lawmakers to Trump: Make DOJ release Mueller documents”

GOP lawmakers to Trump: Make DOJ release Mueller documents

Top congressional allies of President Donald Trump are calling on him to order the release of sensitive documents connected to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

In a letter to Trump, Republican Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, as well as Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), urged the president to demand that Attorney General Jeff Sessions turn over the documents to Congress immediately.

Included in their request is a demand for a copy of an August 2017 document detailing the scope of Mueller’s probe, which would reveal the subjects of his investigation and details about the potential crimes he’s examining.

"We write to request that you exercise your authority as president of the United States," the lawmakers wrote in a missive dated Tuesday, "to instruct Attorney General Jeff Sessions to immediately produce all documents requested by Congress relating to our investigation of certain prosecutorial Continue reading “GOP lawmakers to Trump: Make DOJ release Mueller documents”

Senate intelligence leaders: Russians schemed to help Trump

Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday endorsed the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 presidential election to help President Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.

It’s a powerful bipartisan endorsement of a conclusion that had been called into question by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, who have accused intelligence agencies of failing to employ proper "tradecraft" when they concluded Russia came to support Trump’s candidacy. Instead, it’s the Republicans on the House panel who find themselves isolated in their position in what has become an increasingly antagonistic relationship with the FBI and Justice Department.

“I’ve heard nothing to contradict anything from the [intelligence community assessment] particularly in terms of the fact Russian massively intervened in our elections to the purpose of helping Mr. Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton,” the committee’s top Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia, told reporters after Continue reading “Senate intelligence leaders: Russians schemed to help Trump”

Comey to skip hearing on Russian interference in 2016 campaign

Former FBI Director James Comey is skipping a closed-door Senate hearing next week to discuss the intelligence community’s findings about Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

"Because of a previously scheduled engagement, Jim will not be testifying at this hearing," said his attorney, Daniel Richman.

Comey was among four former intelligence community leaders invited to attend the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. The other three, former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan and former NSA Director Mike Rogers, are listed as attendees.

The hearing is a highly anticipated review of top intelligence officials’ judgments about Russia’s election meddling scheme and its intentions in conducting a wide-ranging influence and propaganda operation. The agencies concluded in a January 2017 report that Russia intended to hurt Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and later came to favor Donald Trump’s bid.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee recently accused the intelligence community of employing Continue reading “Comey to skip hearing on Russian interference in 2016 campaign”

Nunes-DOJ showdown over Mueller docs on hold

A confrontation between House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and top officials in the Justice Department over GOP demands for documents connected to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe appears to have been averted — for now.

Nunes trekked to the Justice Department on Thursday for a briefing with top officials about their concerns with his demands, which they warned could endanger lives and a crucial intelligence source. Afterward, Nunes and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who accompanied him, issued a statement describing the meeting as "productive."

“We had a productive discussion today with officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Department of Justice, and FBI in which we raised questions related to information requested from the Intelligence Community," Nunes and Gowdy said in a joint statement. "The officials committed to holding further discussions of these matters, and we look forward to continuing our dialogue next Continue reading “Nunes-DOJ showdown over Mueller docs on hold”

Dems want DOJ to release documents explaining why Comey docs kept secret

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee say the Justice Department is withholding documents that would provide a rationale for classifying records as top secret that appear to corroborate former FBI Director James Comey’s account of his interactions with President Donald Trump.

In a letter to the panel’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, top Democrats on the committee say they’ve been rebuffed in their request for an explanation of why notes kept by former top Justice Department Dana Boente about his conversations with Comey in early 2017 are being withheld.

At the time, Comey reportedly told Boente about interactions with Trump that made him feel pressured to back off of the bureau’s investigation of Russian contacts with the Trump campaign. A copy of Boente’s notes was later inappropriately marked as "top secret," the Democrats say, citing internal Justice Department records.

"It is unclear who at the Department of Justice tried to improperly Continue reading “Dems want DOJ to release documents explaining why Comey docs kept secret”

GOP lawmakers confident Trump will override DOJ on Nunes’ request

Key House Republicans said Tuesday they think President Donald Trump will override the Justice Department’s refusal to turn over documents that top officials there say would endanger national security and risk lives.

"We’re counting on the president to do the right thing," said Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Republicans on the intelligence panel huddled Tuesday morning to discuss Chairman Devin Nunes’ demand for unspecified documents related to the FBI’s surveillance program known as FISA, which some Republicans have argued was abused during the 2016 campaign. Nunes’ demands are classified, so it’s unclear what he’s seeking, but he’s revealed that it’s connected to "FISA abuses" and "other matters" he couldn’t discuss.

Nunes said Monday he intends to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress if he doesn’t receive the documents, and he’s appealed directly to the White House for the materials Continue reading “GOP lawmakers confident Trump will override DOJ on Nunes’ request”

Trump’s GOP ‘warriors’ lead charge against Mueller

They have demanded thousands of documents central to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. They threaten to impeach Mueller’s boss, who in turn accuses them of “extortion.” One has even likened the Russia probe to a possible “coup d’etat.”

President Donald Trump calls them his "warriors": a band of four House Republicans defending Trump with a relentless counterattack against the Justice Department’s Russia investigation that thrills the president even as it unsettles some House GOP colleagues who think they’re going too far.

This crew of hard-charging conservatives, whom Trump singled out by name in late April, have emerged as some of Washington’s most prominent Republicans, enjoying direct lines to the Trump White House and flights on Air Force One.

"Look, we have some absolute warriors," Trump told Fox News on April 26 when asked about his relationship with Congress, name-checking "Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows and Matt Gaetz and Continue reading “Trump’s GOP ‘warriors’ lead charge against Mueller”

Mueller interested in 2016 convention episode dismissed by House GOP

Robert Mueller wants to question President Donald Trump about a change to the 2016 Republican Party platform’s language about Ukraine and Russia, rekindling a subject that House Republicans dismissed as a non-starter.

President Donald Trump has denied any role in a decision by party activists at the 2016 Republican National Convention to strike language calling for the supply of U.S. arms to help Ukraine defend against Russian territorial aggression. Instead, the convention delegates approved only a vague call for the provision of “appropriate assistance” to Ukraine’s pro-Western forces.

“I wasn’t involved in that. Honestly, I was not involved,” Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in an interview in July 2016. Asked about his campaign’s role, he said, “They softened it, I heard, but I was not involved.”

Democrats who suspect Trump colluded with the Kremlin in the 2016 election have called the change suspicious, saying it could be an Continue reading “Mueller interested in 2016 convention episode dismissed by House GOP”

Jordan fires warning shot at McCarthy

Conservative firebrand Rep. Jim Jordan’s step toward a long-shot bid for House speaker Friday was most notable for the stern warning it delivered to the top contender for the post, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy: You don’t have the votes yet.

The House Freedom Caucus founder and his allies know he’s unlikely to ever garner the 218 votes needed to win the gavel. But Jordan’s declaration is likely less about winning than leverage.

The Ohio Republican could easily rally several dozen conservatives to support him, blocking any other candidate — including McCarthy — from becoming speaker. Jordan could then use their votes to extract concessions from whoever is seeking the position, in this case, likely McCarthy.

A campaign for speaker, in other words, could make Jordan a kingmaker even if he fails.

“They’re putting a marker down and saying, ‘You have to deal with me,’” said one Republican lawmaker who asked Continue reading “Jordan fires warning shot at McCarthy”

Schiff: Nothing ‘new or notable’ in unredacted document behind GOP-DOJ battle

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says he has reviewed the unredacted version of a document that has sparked increasingly fierce fights between congressional Republicans and the Justice Department — and he claims there’s not much in it that wasn’t already known.

“Nothing particularly new or notable,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

The two-page file, a formal record of the opening of the Russia investigation in 2016, brought the Justice Department and FBI to the brink of a ferocious clash with House Republicans. The GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, had seen redacted versions but insisted on receiving the full document by Wednesday. He threatened to pursue the impeachment of FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if he didn’t get it.

Nunes had complained that previous versions of the file provided to Congress blacked out portions of potentially relevant information Continue reading “Schiff: Nothing ‘new or notable’ in unredacted document behind GOP-DOJ battle”

House Democrats push Mueller protection bill

Seizing on sudden bipartisan momentum in the Senate, House Democrats introduced a measure Thursday to shield Special Counsel Robert Mueller from any attempts by President Donald Trump to fire him.

But unlike in the Senate, where a handful of Republicans have signaled an interest in proactively protecting Mueller, no Republicans have endorsed the House measure. Even the one Republican congressman, Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), who backed an earlier version of the plan, has declined for now to sign onto the latest iteration.

"Unfortunately, it seems Republican leadership in the House lacks the spine to take a stand against President Trump’s abuse of power or defend our country from the constitutional crisis we would face if Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation were terminated or interfered with in any way," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

It’s an indication of the potentially Continue reading “House Democrats push Mueller protection bill”

Ryan says Mueller, Rosenstein ‘should be allowed to do their jobs’ despite Trump threats

Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday that special counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — both subjects of President Donald Trump’s Twitter tirade earlier in the day — should not be fired.

"I think they should be allowed to do their jobs," Ryan said at a press conference announcing his plans to retire from Congress.

Ryan said he had no reason to think Trump would fire either man, despite railing against them as "conflicted" and in charge of a "corrupt" Russia investigation. Asked why he felt that way, Ryan said, "I’ve been talking to people in the White House about it."

Trump has grown increasingly agitated by Mueller, who was appointed special counsel last year after Trump fired FBI director James Comey and has overseen the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. That probe has expanded to include whether Trump obstructed justice and has led Continue reading “Ryan says Mueller, Rosenstein ‘should be allowed to do their jobs’ despite Trump threats”

Nunes threatens to impeach Wray and Rosenstein over document that launched Russia probe

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes threatened late Tuesday to "impeach" FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if they fail to turn over the document that in 2016 launched the FBI’s probe of Russian contacts with the Trump campaign.

"We’re not going to just hold in contempt, we will have a plan to hold in contempt and impeach," Nunes said on Fox News.

Nunes is furious with the agencies over attempts to obtain the two-page document the FBI used to initiate its probe of the Trump campaign’s Russia contacts. That document, which the New York Times reported on in December, revealed that the probe was launched over an intelligence tip that George Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy aide, had revealed to an Australian diplomat that Russia had obtained dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The revelation undercut claims that the investigation had been launched as a result of Continue reading “Nunes threatens to impeach Wray and Rosenstein over document that launched Russia probe”

House Dems demand action on Mueller protection bills

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are seeking immediate action on bills to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from any effort by President Donald Trump to remove him.

In a letter to Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) obtained by POLITICO, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the panel, joined Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), in calling for urgent action on a pair of bills to protect Mueller against a unilateral ouster.

"[W]e have grown increasingly concerned that the President may either order the firing of Special Counsel Mueller, or take other action to disrupt his and other pending investigations, such as firing Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions or Deputy Attorney General [Rod] Rosenstein," the Democrats wrote.

The bills, filed months ago, have drawn widespread support among Democrats but have gotten no traction among House Republicans, who have argued that Trump is unlikely to fire Mueller Continue reading “House Dems demand action on Mueller protection bills”