‘Mr. Trump’ makes surprise appearance at Manafort trial

President Donald Trump has insisted that Paul Manafort’s federal trial has nothing to do with him, and his name has made only cameo appearances during the trial.

Which is why courtroom observers were startled on Thursday morning to hear the presiding judge, T.S. Ellis III, ask a “Mr. Trump” if he was present. And indeed he was.

“Mr. Trump, you’re here for what?” Ellis asked the court after he finished instructing jurors on their deliberations in Manafort’s case and as he turned his attention to the day’s other cases.

Heads craned around the room. Even by the standards of Trump’s wild reality-show presidency, the president’s appearance at Manfort’s trial would be an astonishing spectacle.

Perhaps he had come to personally announce that he was granting his disgraced former campaign chairman a pardon? Or might one of his sons, including the publicly combative Donald Trump Jr., be making Continue reading “‘Mr. Trump’ makes surprise appearance at Manafort trial”

Manafort trial Day 13: Jury deliberations begin, verdict timing unknown

Jurors began deliberating Thursday in Paul Manafort’s trial on bank- and tax-fraud charges, but the possible timing of a verdict remains unknown.

U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III sent the 12-person jury off with a lengthy list of instructions on how they are to weigh reams of evidence and testimony delivered by special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors and the former Trump campaign chairman’s lawyers over the course of the two-plus week trial in Alexandria, Virginia.

“You may deliberate as long or as little as you like,” Ellis told the jurors before he officially impaneled them. “How long you deliberate is entirely up to you.”

A court security official who briefed reporters later Thursday morning said the jury can work as long as they want each day, even beyond the 5:30 p.m. end time they’ve typically had. The official said a verdict will be read in Continue reading “Manafort trial Day 13: Jury deliberations begin, verdict timing unknown”

Manafort trial Day 10: Trump-aligned bank CEO intervened for Manafort, witness says

A Chicago bank CEO who was seeking a top job in the Trump administration overrode the objections of the bank’s president in order to green light a $9.5 million loan for Paul Manafort in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign, a bank executive testified Monday.

The testimony came as prosecutors in Manafort’s tax- and bank-fraud trial prepared to rest their case Monday afternoon against the former Trump campaign chairman after nearly two weeks of witnesses, often presented at a breakneck speed insisted upon by U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team brought the charges against Manafort as part of its wideranging investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The CEO of the Chicago-based Federal Savings Bank, Stephen Calk, interceded after the president of the bank, Javier Ubarri, decided it was too risky to allow Manafort to draw the $9.5 Continue reading “Manafort trial Day 10: Trump-aligned bank CEO intervened for Manafort, witness says”

FBI fires Peter Strzok, agent who sent anti-Trump texts

Peter Strzok, the FBI counterintelligence agent who came under withering criticism from Republicans for a series of anti-Trump text messages he sent during the 2016 campaign, was fired on Friday, his attorney said.

According to Strzok’s lawyer, Aitan Goelman, an internal disciplinary review had recommended Strzok’s demotion and a 60-day suspension. But Goelman said Monday that the deputy director of the FBI overruled that determination and decided to fire him.

"The decision to fire Special Agent Strzok is not only a departure from typical Bureau practice, but also contradicts Director Wray’s testimony to Congress and his assurances that the FBI intended to follow its regular process in this and all personnel matters," Goelman said.

The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly assailed Strzok and former FBI attorney Lisa Page after text messages between the two became public and revealed their deep Continue reading “FBI fires Peter Strzok, agent who sent anti-Trump texts”

Trump-appointed judge upholds Mueller’s legitimacy

A federal judge appointed by President Donald Trump ruled Monday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is constitutional and legitimate, rejecting an effort by a Russian company — accused of financing a massive political influence operation in the United States — to stamp out the ongoing investigation.

Judge Dabney Friedrich, who Trump appointed to the U.S. District Court of Washington D.C. last year, is the fourth judge to quash efforts to upend Mueller’s legitimacy and cancel his investigation. Judges overseeing the two trials of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort — D.C. judge Amy Berman Jackson and Eastern District of Virginia Judge T.S. Ellis — rejected Manafort’s bid to invalidate Mueller.

Earlier this month, the D.C. circuit’s Chief Judge Beryl Howell issued a lengthy ruling rejecting similar legal arguments offered by Andrew Miller, a longtime associate of Trump confidant Roger Stone, who was attempting to Continue reading “Trump-appointed judge upholds Mueller’s legitimacy”

Rep. Chris Collins, fighting prosecution, seeks to end reelection bid

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who was charged this week as part of an insider trading scheme, is suspending his re-election campaign and will attempt to remove his name from the ballot.

The third-term congressman announced the decision Saturday morning, just days after he vowed to clear his name and remain on the ballot.

Collins is facing multiple counts of securities fraud, as well as charges of wire fraud and lying to investigators. His son and another associate were charged in the scheme as well.

Federal prosecutors allege Collins — who sits on the board of an Australian pharmaceutical company — shared non-public details about he failure of a multiple sclerosis drug in clinical trials. Using that information, Collins’ family members were able to sell off shares and avoid more than $760,000 in losses, prosecutors say.

Collins, the first member of congress to endorse President Donald Trump in 2016, Continue reading “Rep. Chris Collins, fighting prosecution, seeks to end reelection bid”

Judge finds Roger Stone associate in contempt for refusing to appear before grand jury

A close associate of Roger Stone — the longtime confidant of President Donald Trump — has been held in contempt of court for refusing to appear before special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury, his attorney confirmed Friday.

Andrew Miller’s attorney Paul Kamenar told reporters outside a federal courthouse in Washington that Miller — who lost a court fight to invalidate Mueller’s investigation — won’t face immediate punishment. The court, he said, agreed to stay penalties until after Miller appeals the ruling upholding the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation.

Miller has ignored subpoenas to appear before the grand jury three times in recent weeks. He’s one of a slew of Stone associates who have been called to testify in the probe. Another, Kristin Davis — who famously ran a prostitution ring in New York City — was slated to appear Friday afternoon.

Kamenar emphasized that Miller had already been interviewed by Continue reading “Judge finds Roger Stone associate in contempt for refusing to appear before grand jury”

Judge finds Roger Stone associate in contempt for refusing to appear before grand jury

A close associate of Roger Stone — the longtime confidant of President Donald Trump — has been held in contempt of court for refusing to appear before special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury, his attorney confirmed Friday.

Andrew Miller’s attorney Paul Kamenar told reporters outside a federal courthouse in Washington that Miller — who lost a court fight to invalidate Mueller’s investigation — won’t face immediate punishment. The court, he said, agreed to stay penalties until after Miller appeals the ruling upholding the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation.

Miller has ignored subpoenas to appear before the grand jury three times in recent weeks. He’s one of a slew of Stone associates who have been called to testify in the probe. Another, Kristin Davis — who famously ran a prostitution ring in New York City — was slated to appear Friday afternoon.

Kamenar emphasized that Miller had already been interviewed by Continue reading “Judge finds Roger Stone associate in contempt for refusing to appear before grand jury”

Mystery surrounds former sex-ring operator’s Mueller probe role

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe has entangled a strange and colorful cast of characters, from a Russian pop singer to a porn star to a convicted pedophile with murky foreign ties.

Now the list has expanded again, to include a notorious former prostitution-ring manager, also known as the “Manhattan Madam.”

Kristin Davis, who has claimed she delivered escorts to the disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, among other elite Empire State clientele, is expected to face questions before Mueller’s grand jury on Friday.

Davis’ appearance is shrouded in mystery and it remains unclear what Mueller’s interest in her may be. But she is close with Roger Stone, a longtime political adviser to President Donald Trump and one of his brashest defenders. Davis worked closely with Stone for years during her fleeting forays into New York politics — she ran for governor in 2010 — and is even Continue reading “Mystery surrounds former sex-ring operator’s Mueller probe role”

Trump’s lawyers respond to Mueller’s proposal for interview

President Donald Trump’s lawyers said Wednesday they sent a formal response to Robert Mueller’s proposal for terms of a possible presidential interview, extending the months-long drama over whether the president will meet with the special counsel’s investigators.

Trump’s lawyers Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani declined to characterize the details of their counter-offer, but Giuliani said the reply is a restatement of their broader desire that Mueller’s investigation conclude "without further delay."

Still, the back-and-forth dialogue indicates that Trump hasn’t closed the door on a formal interview with Mueller, who is investigating potential Trump campaign contacts with Russians who interfered in the 2016 election — and whether Trump attempted to obstruct the probe since taking office.

Giuliani has forcefully attacked the investigation as corrupt and at times appeared to rule out permitting the president to take questions about possible obstruction of justice. But he told POLITICO on Tuesday that there Continue reading “Trump’s lawyers respond to Mueller’s proposal for interview”

GOP Rep. Collins indicted, charged with securities fraud

Rep. Christopher Collins (R-N.Y.) was indicted Wednesday by federal prosecutors and charged with wrongdoing connected to an alleged insider trading scheme linked to his investments in an Australian biotech firm.

The third-term congressman, who represents a district in western New York, was the first member of Congress to back President Donald Trump’s candidacy during the 2016 election. He was charged, along with his son, with securities fraud, wire fraud and making false statements to the FBI.

Collins had been under scrutiny from the Office of Congressional Ethics for his connection to the biotech company, Innate Immunotherapeutics. He is alleged to have passed inside information to his son, who then passed it to another alleged conspirator. The three avoided about $768,000 in losses as a result of the information, prosecutors allege.

Collins’ attorneys rejected the allegations.

"We will answer the charges filed against Congressman Collins in Court and will Continue reading “GOP Rep. Collins indicted, charged with securities fraud”

Trump allies give thousands of dollars for aides’ legal defense in Russia probe

Longtime associates and political allies of President Donald Trump forked over tens of thousands of dollars this year for his aides’ legal defense in the ongoing Russia probe, according to quarterly filings obtained by POLITICO Monday.

Philip Ruffin, a billionaire casino mogul who has worked with Trump and accompanied him to Moscow for the Miss Universe Pageant in 2013, contributed $50,000 in April, the documents show. Continental Resources Inc., an oil shale company whose CEO, Harold Hamm, has advised Trump on policy, kicked in $25,000 in May.

The largest donation in the most recent quarter came from Geoffrey Palmer, a Los Angeles developer who has been a large political contributor to Trump. He contributed $100,000 in late June.

The contributions are being collected by the Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust, a vehicle established by Trump allies in February and managed by former New York GOP congresswoman Nan Hayworth.

The Continue reading “Trump allies give thousands of dollars for aides’ legal defense in Russia probe”

Judge orders intel agencies to answer some ‘dossier’ questions in BuzzFeed case

A federal judge on Friday ordered intelligence agencies to formally respond to a BuzzFeed subpoena seeking details about their awareness and possession of the so-called Steele dossier prior to the media organization’s decision to publish it on Jan. 10, 2017.

In the ruling, Washington D.C.-based District Court Judge Amit Mehta determined that most of the disclosures BuzzFeed is seeking from the agencies have been discussed publicly and, in some cases, confirmed by President Donald Trump’s decision to declassify information connected to the dossier earlier this year.

"Ordinarily, this court would be disinclined to compel even modest factual disclosures about an ongoing law enforcement investigation," Mehta wrote. "The risk attendant to such judicial intervention is obvious. But this is no ordinary investigation. Caution and discretion — typically hallmarks of federal criminal and national security investigations—have given way to unprecedented public disclosures."

BuzzFeed has demanded limited details about the Continue reading “Judge orders intel agencies to answer some ‘dossier’ questions in BuzzFeed case”

‘Be brave’: Russian firm urges judge to nix Mueller indictment

Lawyers for a Russian company accused of financing a massive political influence operation in the United States urged a federal judge Friday to “be brave” and declare special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment invalid.

At a federal courthouse just steps from the U.S. Capitol, the Russian firm’s attorney — James Martin, an appellate lawyer with the Pittsburgh-based firm Reed Smith — urged District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich to look past Supreme Court precedent recognizing the appointment of the Watergate special prosecutor in the 1970s.

Mueller indicted the Russian company, Concord Management, in February along with 13 individual Russians — including a Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The indictment alleges that Concord, Prigozhin’s firm, funded and organized an army of internet trolls, the purchasing of social media ads and even directed operatives to travel to the United States to set up political rallies. Their goal, Mueller Continue reading “‘Be brave’: Russian firm urges judge to nix Mueller indictment”

Giuliani: Trump to make Mueller sit-down call within 10 days

President Donald Trump and his legal team are likely to decide whether to grant special counsel Robert Mueller an interview with Trump within a “week to 10 days,” Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Thursday.

The former New York City mayor said Trump’s legal team will spend the weekend contemplating a new set of parameters proposed by Mueller for an interview with the president, then make a decision shortly thereafter.

“I think our decisions will get made in the next week to 10 days,” Giuliani told POLITICO, noting that Trump intends to reside at his property in Bedminster, New Jersey until mid-August.

But he added that the team is still considering declining an interview altogether, despite what he described as Trump’s ongoing desire to meet with Mueller. The two sides remain deadlocked over whether Mueller will get to ask Trump about possible efforts to obstruct the FBI’s investigation of Russian Continue reading “Giuliani: Trump to make Mueller sit-down call within 10 days”

Judge rejects latest bid to invalidate Mueller probe

A federal judge on Thursday rejected the latest challenge to special counsel Robert Mueller’s authority, marking another legal win for Mueller as he defends his right to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Andrew Miller, a longtime aide to Trump confidant Roger Stone, had brought the challenge that was rejected on Thursday.

"The scope of the Special Counsel’s power falls well within the boundaries the Constitution permits," ruled Judge Beryl Howell, who sits on the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Miller was pushing back on a string of subpoenas issued by Mueller’s team seeking documents and testimony in connection with Mueller’s probe.

The ex-Stone aide is just the latest to question the special counsel’s authority. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort also filed a civil lawsuit — that has since been dismissed — in a bid to halt Mueller’s investigation of him. And lawyers representing a Continue reading “Judge rejects latest bid to invalidate Mueller probe”

House conservatives move to impeach Rosenstein

House conservatives have filed articles of impeachment in an effort to oust Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the overseer of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

The articles, filed late Wednesday by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — two top Trump allies — blast Rosenstein for what they allege was a failure to respond to congressional document demands. Senior Justice Department officials have rejected the criticism and described historic levels of cooperation with Congress to share files connected to the FBI investigations of Hillary Clinton’s email server and Trump campaign contacts with Russia.

Though the move marks an escalation by Trump allies against Rosenstein, who has drawn Trump’s ire for appointing Mueller last year, Meadows sidestepped a procedural move that could have forced the issue to a vote this week and laid bare divisions among Republicans. Instead, the House is leaving Thursday for a five-week recess Continue reading “House conservatives move to impeach Rosenstein”

Dems plan longshot gambit to force action on Mueller protection bill

House Democrats are moving Friday to force Republicans to hold a hearing on a measure that would prevent President Donald Trump from unilaterally removing special counsel Robert Mueller.

Three Democrats on the powerful Judiciary Committee are invoking an obscure House rule that permits a handful of lawmakers to call for a "special meeting" on any bill. If the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), declines to approve the meeting within three days, the panel’s 40 members of the panel — 23 Republicans and 17 Democrats — have an opportunity to overrule him and hold the meeting anyway.

"We do not take these actions lightly, but believe that we are left with no other choice given the circumstances," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, in a letter also signed by Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.)

It’s a longshot Continue reading “Dems plan longshot gambit to force action on Mueller protection bill”

George Papadopoulos’ wife gets grilled by lawmakers

Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos, the wife of a former Trump campaign aide whose actions helped trigger the FBI’s Russia investigation in 2016, said lawmakers grilled her Wednesday about her husband George’s role in the campaign and that she’s had no contact with the White House about her call for a presidential pardon for him.

Papadopoulos described her four-hour interview with Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee as “very professional” and said lawmakers were “kind” and “receptive” to her testimony.

Though she once raised eyebrows by comparing her husband to John Dean — the former White House lawyer whose testimony was crucial in the Watergate probe that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation — she downplayed any suggestion that his role would result in a similar outcome.

“John Dean has many characteristics,” she told reporters, adding that the primary parallel is that like Dean, her husband would “reveal something very interesting and major, Continue reading “George Papadopoulos’ wife gets grilled by lawmakers”

Ryan clashes with Trump allies over Rosenstein impeachment

A long-simmering rift between Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump’s top Hill allies is starting to boil over as both sides fight over an effort to oust Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The Wisconsin Republican along with retiring House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) have stifled conservatives’ weekslong push to impeach Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian contacts with Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Gowdy scoffed at the suggestion on national television Sunday. And Ryan — who has long sought to avoid such confrontations with the Justice Department — told reporters Tuesday morning that DOJ is “now coming into compliance” with congressional subpoenas as part of lawmakers’ scrutiny into alleged FBI bias against Trump.

But those comments drew a swift rebuke from conservative Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who are leading the impeachment campaign and argue that Rosenstein is Continue reading “Ryan clashes with Trump allies over Rosenstein impeachment”