‘Prepared for war’: As Mueller moves to finalize obstruction report, Trump’s allies ready for political battle


President Trump speaks to reporters at the White House on Friday. (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Trump’s lawyers and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III are hurtling toward a showdown over a year-long investigation into the president’s conduct, with Mueller pushing to write up his findings by summer’s end and Trump’s lawyers strategizing how to rebut a report that could spur impeachment hearings.

The confrontation is coming to a head as Trump and his allies ratchet up their attacks on the special counsel probe, seizing on a report released Thursday by the Justice Department’s inspector general that castigated FBI officials for their conduct during the 2016 Hillary Clinton email investigation.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, said that he planned to use the inspector general’s conclusions to undermine Mueller, suggesting he may ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a second special counsel to examine the current probe.

“We want to see if we can have the investigation and special counsel declared illegal and unauthorized,” Giuliani said in an interview Friday.

In the meantime, Trump must decide whether to do a face-to-face interview with Mueller’s team — an answer the president’s legal team expects to have in the next two weeks.

If the president agreed to a sit-down, the special counsel has told Trump’s lawyers that he could finish within roughly 90 days a report on whether Trump sought to obstruct a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, according to two people familiar with the discussions. A separate report outlining Mueller’s broader findings on Russian attempts to bolster Trump’s candidacy is expected to take longer.

 5:09
The ‘scandals’ and progress of the Russia probe

President Trump has tried to shift public attention from the Russia investigation with outlandish claims but they haven’t slowed the progress. 

The confidential obstruction report, which would be delivered to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, is expected to contain the prosecutors’ conclusions about whether Trump engaged in any criminal wrongdoing by trying to derail the investigation into his campaign’s contact with Russians, according to the people.

The filing of the report could trigger a political firestorm over whether to make the special counsel’s findings public — just as this fall’s midterm campaign season kicks off.

“It’ll be a moment that polarizes the country, exposing just how divided the country is about this investigation and who’s on the other side, said former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who added that he and other Trump allies are “prepared for war.”

Among those suited up for battle: the president’s attorneys, who are readying to write a rebuttal disputing any conclusions that the president’s actions were improper or illegal.

At the center of that standoff would be Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe. Friends and foes predict he would face intense pushback over every aspect of the report — when to release the information to Congress, whether to refer the report to Congress to consider impeachment and whether to make any aspect of the report public.

“He’s the final decision-maker,” said Giuliani, adding: “There will be pressure from all ways.”

Rosenstein, who has repeatedly sought to defuse attacks on the Justice Department by the president and his congressional allies, has indicated he will only bend so far. Last month, after House Republicans threatened to impeach him for withholding investigative documents, he warned that “the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.”

A spokesman for Rosenstein declined to comment.

That round of political and legal drama could be delayed until after the November elections if Mueller decides to hold back the report to avoid releasing it too close to Election Day, or if Trump refuses an interview and the special counsel tries to issue a subpoena, kicking off a lengthy court struggle.

In the meantime, anticipation for Mueller’s report has put Washington on a kind of emergency storm watch.

“What we’re going through now is a walk in the park compared to what’s coming when the report [on Trump’s conduct] comes out,” said Peter Wehner, a Trump critic who has advised several past Republican presidents. “Even if the report is a devastating indictment of Trump, the political tribalism in the country is so deep and won’t suddenly go away.”

For months, Trump has been setting the stage by repeatedly attacking the Justice Department and the FBI and accusing Mueller of waging a “witch hunt” against him — language echoed by White House officials and Giuliani.

After the Justice Department’s inspector general released his findings Thursday, Giuliani said he and fellow Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow conferred about legal options they could take to stymie Mueller — including possibly sending a letter to the Justice Department raising questions about the credibility of the special counsel investigation. They also discussed whether to ask Sessions to appoint a second special counsel to investigate the Mueller probe, based on the inspector general’s report and some FBI agents’ conduct, Giuliani said.

“We’re going to take the weekend to talk it all through, with our team and with the president,” Giuliani said.

The Mueller investigation is already facing internal scrutiny. Last month, under pressure from Trump, the Justice Department asked its inspector general to assess whether political motivation tainted the FBI investigation into ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign after revelations that a longtime FBI source secretly assisted the probe.

The attacks by the president and his advisers on the special counsel appear to be having an impact: Public support for Mueller’s investigation has been gradually eroding. A Quinnipiac University poll taken in early June found that 50 percent of registered voters say Mueller is conducting a fair investigation, a drop of 10 points since November.

While Trump’s lawyers ponder ways to rupture the investigation, the president has dwindling time to decide whether to sit down for an interview with the special counsel. The idea is sharply opposed by many of his allies and advisers.

“Listen, I don’t trust these people as far as I can throw them,” his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., told Fox News on Thursday. “I wouldn’t do it. I think it’d be stupid.”

Giuliani said he expects Trump to make a final decision on an interview by the end of June.

“He wants to do it, but he doesn’t want to do it if he’s being taken advantage of,” he said.

If Trump refuses an interview, Mueller will have to decide his next move.

Doug Kmiec, a legal scholar on presidential power and a former Reagan administration Justice official who knew Mueller from his prior work at the department, said the special counsel wants — but does not need — to question the president to finish his report.

“He wants to give the president an opportunity to explain any ambiguity and any impression that he was favoring a foreign adversary,” Kmiec said. “Robert Mueller would say it would be irresponsible not to give the president a chance to explain himself.”

If Trump declines to do a sit-down and the special counsel decides not to pursue a subpoena of the president, Mueller could deliver an obstruction report to Rosenstein in the coming months.

However, former prosecutors and colleagues of Mueller predict he will probably avoid any public action six to eight weeks before the November midterm elections, following Justice Department guidance that prosecutors should avoid making moves that could reasonably be expected to affect a political campaign.

The regulations governing Mueller’s investigation, which were written in 1999, require that a special counsel submit a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions” reached by the office. Some of Trump’s lawyers believe that limits Mueller solely to describing why he chose to prosecute or not prosecute.

And they argue the rules would frown on Rosenstein releasing to Congress or the public any findings of a grand jury investigation that ended without charges.

The goal of the regulations was to avoid requiring a sprawling public report like the one issued by independent counsel Kenneth Starr at the conclusion of his investigation into President Clinton in the 1990s, said Neal Katyal, who helped write the rules as a Justice Department official.

But, Katyal said, the aim was also to provide flexibility to future Justice Department officials. The regulations would allow Rosenstein to refer the report to Congress, Katyal said, and release it to the public if he decides doing so could better serve the public.

“That is the standard I believe should be applied: what is in the public interest,” he said.

Rosenstein will have near-total control over how the probe concludes and what the public learns about the findings. It will fall to Rosenstein to decide whether Mueller’s report contains findings about Trump that warrant some remedy or punishment by Congress.

It remains to be seen how he will navigate the pressure.

At a speech in Philadelphia earlier this month, Rosenstein appeared to allude to the punches thrown so far and those perhaps coming his way, quoting the classic boxing movie “Rocky.”

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows . . . But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward,” Rosenstein said. “That advice applies in boxing, in law and in life.”

Scott Clement, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman and Sari Horwitz contributed to this report.

Trump associate Roger Stone reveals new contact with Russian national during 2016 campaign

 3:40
Roger Stone did, actually, meet with a Russian

Roger Stone, a close Trump ally, met with a Russian man in May 2016 claiming to have “dirt” that could help Trump be elected. 

 — One day in late May 2016, Roger Stone — the political dark sorcerer and longtime confidant of Donald Trump — slipped into his Jaguar and headed out to meet a man with a “Make America Great Again” hat and a viscous Russian accent.

The man, who called himself Henry Greenberg, offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton, Trump’s presumptive Democratic opponent in the upcoming presidential election, according to Stone, who spoke about the previously unreported incident in interviews with The Washington Post. Greenberg, who did not reveal the information he claimed to possess, wanted Trump to pay $2 million for the political dirt, Stone said.

“You don’t understand Donald Trump,” Stone recalled saying before rejecting the offer at a restaurant in the Russian-expat magnet of Sunny Isles, Fla. “He doesn’t pay for anything.”

Later, Stone got a text message from Michael Caputo, a Trump campaign communications official who’d arranged the meeting after Greenberg had approached Caputo’s Russian-immigrant business partner.

“How crazy is the Russian?” Caputo wrote, according to a text message reviewed by The Post. Noting that Greenberg wanted “big” money, Stone replied, “waste of time.”


(The Washington Post)

Two years later, the brief sit-down in Florida has resurfaced as part of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s sprawling investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, according to Caputo. Caputo said he was asked about the meeting by prosecutors during a sometimes-heated questioning session last month.

Stone and Caputo, who did not previously disclose the meeting to congressional investigators, now say they believe they were the targets of a setup by U.S. law enforcement officials hostile to Trump.

They cite records — independently examined by The Post — showing that the man who approached Stone is actually a Russian national who has claimed to work as an FBI informant.

Interviews and additional documents show that Greenberg has at times used the name Henry Oknyansky. Under that name, he claimed in a 2015 court filing related to his immigration status that he had provided information to the FBI for 17 years. He attached records showing that the government had granted him special permission to enter the United States because his presence represented a “significant public benefit.”

There is no evidence that Greenberg was working with the FBI in his interactions with Stone, and in his court filing, Greenberg said he had stopped his FBI cooperation sometime after 2013.

Greenberg, in text messages with The Post, denied that he had been acting on the FBI’s behalf when he met with Stone.


Henry Greenberg, who has also called himself Henry Oknyansky, at a Jan. 31 meeting of the Miami Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board at Miami City Hall. (Miami City Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board)

An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Mueller’s office.

The meeting took place two months earlier than federal officials have said a counterintelligence operation was officially opened and before WikiLeaks began releasing hacked Democratic emails.

It came in the same time period as other episodes in which Russian interests approached the Trump campaign. A few weeks earlier, Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos was told in London that the Russians had dirt on Clinton. And it was two weeks before the sit-down at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who he had been told could offer information that would hurt Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father.

Trump and his allies have said that the meetings were inconsequential and that there was no collusion.

Stone and Caputo’s interactions with Greenberg mean that at least 11 Trump associates or campaign officials have acknowledged interactions with a Russian during the election season or presidential transition. Those interactions have become public in the year and a half since a Trump spokeswoman said no one associated with the campaign had communications with Russians or other foreign entities.

It is not clear how seriously investigators are taking the Florida meeting. Caputo said prosecutors during his interview seemed to have intense interest in the interaction, as well as the role of Greenberg.

Reached by phone, Greenberg, 59, initially denied Stone’s account of a meeting.

“This is wrong information,” Greenberg said.

Later, in text messages to a Post reporter, Greenberg changed his story, acknowledging that he’d met with Stone and providing a skeletal account of the encounter that matched Stone’s in some ways. Unprompted, Greenberg used essentially the same language as Stone to describe Stone’s reaction: “Trump will never pay for anything.”

Stone said Greenberg was alone at the meeting. But Greenberg said he was accompanied by a Ukrainian friend he identified only as Alexei, who he said had been fired from a job with the Clinton Foundation, a global charitable organization founded by Hillary Clinton’s husband, former president Bill Clinton. Greenberg provided no evidence the man had worked for the Clinton Foundation, and a foundation spokesman said the group has never employed a man with the first name of Alexei.

“He was very upset, and he wants to tell his story,” Greenberg said in a text. “He told Mr. Stone what he knew and what he want.”

Greenberg denied that he asked for money, saying that it was his friend who spoke with Stone.

President Trump and his allies previously accused the FBI of unfairly targeting his campaign following revelations that another FBI informant, Cambridge University professor Stefan A. Halper, approached Papadopoulos and two other campaign advisers starting in July 2016 to gather information about their possible ties to Russia.

“If you believe that [Greenberg] took time off from his long career as an FBI informant to reach out to us in his spare time, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to sell you,” Caputo said in an interview.

In a separate interview, Stone said, “I didn’t realize it was an FBI sting operation at the time, but it sure looks like one now.”

The Florida meeting adds another layer of complexity to Stone’s involvement in the Russia probe. For months, as several of Stone’s employees and associates have been subpoenaed or have appeared before the Mueller grand jury, it has been clear that the special counsel has been scrutinizing repeated claims by Stone that he communicated with WikiLeaks via a back-channel source before the group’s 2016 release of hacked Democratic Party emails.

Stone has said it’s possible he will be indicted, speculating that Mueller might charge him with a crime unrelated to the election to silence him. He said he anticipates that his meeting with Greenberg could be used in an attempt to pressure him to testify against Trump — something he says he would never do.

Last year, in a videotaped interview with The Post, Stone denied having any contacts with Russians during the campaign.

“I’ve never been to Russia. I didn’t talk to anybody who was identifiably Russian during the two-year run-up to this campaign,” he said. “I very definitely can’t think of anybody who might have been a Russian without my knowledge. It’s a canard.”

Stone and Caputo said in separate interviews that they did not disclose the Greenberg meeting during testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence because they had forgotten about an incident that Stone calls unimportant “due diligence” that would have been “political malpractice” not to explore.

Caputo said that he was asked during a session with the committee in July whether he’d ever been offered information about the Clinton campaign by a Russian, and he either answered “no” or that he could not recall.

However, Stone and Caputo said their memories were refreshed by text messages that Caputo said he no longer has in his possession but was shown during a May 2 interview.

Caputo’s attorney on Friday sent a letter amending his House testimony, and he plans to present Caputo’s account of the Greenberg incident to the Office of Inspector General for the Justice Department, which has announced it is examining the FBI’s use of informants during the Russia probe. Stone said his attorney has done the same.

Documents and interviews reveal a quirk-filled story that spans three decades and two continents. It touches down in locales as distinct as a hipster Miami art gallery and a riverfront construction site. But, like so much of the drama swirling around the 2016 election, its roots lie far away from American ballot boxes — in the Russian capital of Moscow.


Michael Caputo arrives at the Hart Senate Office Building to be interviewed by Senate Intelligence Committee staffers on May 1. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Though they never met, both Caputo and Greenberg lived heady existences in Moscow in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a period when the city had a frisson of artistic and creative energy that Caputo compares to “Paris of the 1920s, but with Kalashnikovs.” Caputo had moved to Russia to develop a Rock-the-Vote-style campaign for Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Greenberg was already a familiar figure in the city’s social whirl. He married a Russian actress and moved to Los Angeles. Court records show that, after being charged in 1994 with assault with a deadly weapon, he entered a plea in which he was convicted without accepting guilt.

According to a declaration he filed in court, Greenberg spent almost two years in the custody of the U.S. immigration service. He said he decided in 2000 to return to Russia, where, according to interviews and local media coverage, he resumed a glamorous life.

For a time, he shared an apartment at a fashionable Moscow address with John Daly, a producer of hit films including “The Terminator,” and he was well known by expats from the Moscow club scene.

“He was an up and down kind of guy. Charming. Very ingratiating and personal,” said Edward Bass, a movie producer who knew Greenberg in Moscow in that time.

According to accounts in Russian media, he was arrested in 2002 and charged with a decade-old $2.7 million fraud. The Moscow Times reportedthat authorities found three passports with false names in his apartment and photographs that appeared to show him posing with movie directors Steven Spielberg and Oliver Stone.

The Post was unable to determine the outcome of the case from public records. Greenberg denied wrongdoing, saying that he was not convicted and that the case was closed.

Greenberg returned to the United States, according to immigration records that he submitted as part of his federal court filing in 2015.

He attached to the statement government documents outlining his immigration history.

Between 2008 and 2012, the records show, he repeatedly was extended permission to enter the United States under a “significant public benefit parole.” The documents list an FBI agent as a contact person. The agent declined to comment.

Immigration lawyer David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the documents described an immigration history generally consistent with Greenberg’s claims that he had been allowed to enter the United States to assist law enforcement.

In a 2015 court declaration, Greenberg — using the last name Oknyansky — said he’d been giving information to the FBI since returning to Russia from the United States in 2000.

“Wherever I was, from Iran to North Korea, I always send information to” the FBI, he wrote. “I cooperated with the FBI for 17 years, often put my life in danger. Based on my information, there is so many arrests criminal from drugs and human trafficking, money laundering and insurance frauds.”

Greenberg did not respond to questions about his use of multiple names but said in a text that he had worked for the “federal government” for 17 years.

“I risked my life and put myself in danger to do so, as you can imagine,” he said.

By May 2016, Greenberg was in the midst of an eventually unsuccessful zoning fight to open a restaurant on the Miami River, according to public records. He showed up without an invitation at a gallery opening organized by Caputo’s public relations firm, according to Caputo’s business partner, Sergey “George” Petrushin.

Greenberg approached Petrushin and invited him to check out the possible restaurant site the next day, Petrushin said. According to Petrushin, Greenberg eventually said that he knew Petrushin was partners with Caputo and that he had information he wanted to share that would be helpful to Trump’s campaign.

Petrushin called Caputo and handed the phone to Greenberg to make his pitch.

At the time, Caputo said, Russia was not a major campaign issue, and the man’s accent raised no red flags for him.

“I said, ‘Let me get somebody to vet it for you,’ ” Caputo recalls saying.

Caputo knew just the guy: Roger Stone.

Stone had spent decades trying to persuade Trump to run for president. In the spring of 2016, Stone was no longer with the campaign — but he remained in touch with Trump and some in his orbit.

When Stone arrived at the restaurant in Sunny Isles, he said, Greenberg was wearing a “Make America Great Again” T-shirt and hat. On his phone, Greenberg pulled up a photo of himself with Trump at a rally, Stone said.

“We really want to help Trump,” Stone recalled Greenberg saying during the brief encounter.

By Greenberg’s account, he had limited contact with Stone, sitting at a nearby table while his friend Alexei conducted the meeting. “Alexei talk to Mr. Stone, not me,” he wrote. He added that he believes Alexei has moved back to Ukraine and that they are not in contact.

When Caputo followed up with Stone via text to ask if “anything at all interesting” took place, Stone responded with a single word: “No.”

Helderman reported from Washington. Alice Crites and Devlin Barrett in Washington and Natasha Abbakumova in Moscow contributed to this report.

House Intelligence Committee Republicans release final Russia report

 1:09
Trump praises House Intelligence Committee GOP report

President Trump said April 27 he was “very honored” by a report by House Intelligence Committee Republicans from a probe into Russia’s influence campaign. 

House Intelligence Committee Republicans on Friday released a redacted version of their final report from a year-long probe of Russia’s “multifaceted” influence operation, generally clearing President Trump and his associates of wrongdoing while accusing the intelligence community and the FBI of failures in how they assessed and responded to the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election.

The report charges the intelligence community with “significant intelligence tradecraft failings,” suggesting, without saying explicitly, that Russia’s main goal was to sow discord in the United States and not to help Trump win the election. It says investigators found “no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government,” even as it details contacts between campaign officials and Russians or Russian intermediaries.

Though the report — and a rebuttal from Democrats — offers little in the way of new information, the dueling documents give each side of the aisle ammunition to support its long-held arguments about how and why Russia interfered in the 2016 election. They come at a moment when the investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who has already secured guilty pleas from a number of Trump associates, has largely overtaken the probes in Congress. The Senate Intelligence Committee is also pursuing its own investigation.

Trump seized on the House report to call for an end to the probe by Mueller, who is seeking an interview with the president.

“Just Out: House Intelligence Committee Report released. ‘No evidence’ that the Trump Campaign ‘colluded, coordinated or conspired with Russia,’ ” the president wrote on Twitter. “Clinton Campaign paid for Opposition Research obtained from Russia- Wow! A total Witch Hunt! MUST END NOW!”

The House Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe took on the character of a boxing ring over the past year, as Republicans and Democrats repeatedly came to blows over whether GOP leaders were trying to end the investigation in order to paint the president in the most flattering light. The committee is led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), one of Trump’s staunchest allies in Congress and a former adviser to his transition team. Nunes was forced to step down from involvement in large portions of the investigation while he was under an ethics probe that eventually cleared him of wrongdoing.

The Kremlin in Moscow. A report from House Intelligence Committee Republicans says there is no evidence that Donald Trump’s pre-campaign business dealings paved the way for election help from Russia. (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg News)

Committee Democrats quickly charged Friday that their Republican colleagues had rushed to end their work prematurely in a “a systematic effort to muddy the waters and to deflect attention away from the President.”

Though Republicans said they believed that the public would now have access to the information that led them to conclude there was no evidence of Trump-Kremlin coordination, they also said they were prevented from revealing everything they wanted to because of intelligence community (IC) redactions.

“When we started this investigation, we set out to give the American people the answers to the questions they’ve been asking and we promised to be as transparent as possible in our final report,” Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.) said in a statement. “I don’t believe the information we’re releasing today meets that standard, which is why my team and I will continue to challenge the IC’s many unnecessary redactions with the hopes of releasing more of the report in the coming months.”

Trump’s opponents, meanwhile, warned he should not conclude that he and his campaign are out of the woods until Mueller finishes his work.

“A highly partisan, incomplete, and deeply flawed report by a broken House Committee means nothing,” former CIA director John Brennan wrote on Twitter. “The Special Counsel’s work is being carried out by professional investigators—not political staffers. SC’s findings will be comprehensive & authoritative. Stay tuned, Mr. Trump….”

 1:10
8 times Trump denied collusion with Russia

President Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and Russia.

The Democrats released nearly 100 pages of their own findings, asserting that Russian intelligence “used intermediaries and cutouts to probe, establish contact, and possibly glean valuable information from a diverse set of actors associated with President Trump and his campaign,” though more work needed to be done to determine whether and to what extent Trump staffers were aware of or helped that effort.

They often cited the same facts as their Republican colleagues — though they drew opposite conclusions.

“One year into the Russia investigation, the Minority has obtained a body of classified and unclassified evidence pointing to an unprecedented effort by the Russian government — consistent with Russian intelligence tradecraft — to gain entrée to and influence with individuals associated with the Trump campaign, including the candidate himself,” the Democrats wrote.

The Republican report makes an extensive case that allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin are unfounded. It devotes an entire chapter to the campaign’s alleged links with Russia, and attempts to knock down many of the most damaging claims against the campaign or minimize the significance of well-established interactions.

For instance, the report says a meeting that the candidate’s son Donald Trump Jr. organized with a Russian lawyer and other key campaign advisers in June 2016 showed that he was “open to discussing derogatory information” about Democrat Hillary Clinton, including material potentially provided by the Russian government.

But the report concludes that there is no evidence any such material was provided and that a music promoter testified that he made up the claim about having damaging Clinton information to get the meeting.

Trump has always said that at the time, he was not aware of the June 2016 meeting. In their report, the Democrats reveal that Aras Agalarov, the Moscow developer who helped organize the meeting, sent Trump an “expensive painting” as a birthday gift on June 10, the day after the meeting. Trump’s birthday is June 14.

The Republican report adds that the Russians found “willing interlocutors” in Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, two previously unknown aides named to the campaign because Trump had trouble recruiting from the Republican national security establishment. But the report asserts that the two were “peripheral figures” and neither was “in a position to influence Trump or his campaign.”

The report also says there is no evidence that Trump confidante Roger Stone or others who publicly suggested advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ releases of hacked emails before the election actually had such knowledge.

However, the Republicans released a previously undisclosed email sent by former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn on July 15, 2016, in which he wrote, “There are a number of things happening (and will happen) this election via cyber operations (by both hacktivists, nation states and the DNC).”

The email came after news reports that the DNC had been hacked but before WikiLeaks released those emails publicly, on July 22. Committee Republicans concluded that the email did “not necessarily indicate non-public knowledge.” They acknowledged that Trump associates “went beyond mere praise and established communication with WikiLeaks” during the campaign.

The report says there is no evidence that Trump’s pre-campaign business dealings paved the way for election help from Russia, even though Trump’s financial dealings appear to be under investigation by the special counsel. It also asserts that apparent efforts by the campaign and Russia to set up a “back channel” after the election were, counterintuitively, evidence that there was not earlier collusion.

The report disparages the infamous “dossier” compiled by a former British spy as full of “second and third-hand” information and claims that the file was used to justify putting Trump campaign associates under surveillance — an assertion vehemently disputed by the FBI. And it all but accuses intelligence officials of deliberately leaking damaging information about Trump to the media before and after the election. It devotes little attention to Trump’s often inconstant explanations of events, while accusing then-Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. of providing inconsistent testimony to the committee about his contacts with the media.

Much of the report’s section on intelligence leaks is redacted, so it is unclear exactly how Republicans reached those conclusions, but the committee does single out reports by The Washington Post, the New York Times, NBC and CNN as among those that raised concerns.

“Continued leaks of classified information have damaged national security and potentially endangered lives,” the report says, followed by several redacted paragraphs.

The Republican report also urges Congress to consider rescinding the Logan Act, the law that prohibits American citizens from undercutting the U.S. government by engaging in unauthorized negotiations with foreign leaders. It is the law that Flynn was suspected of possibly violating in his interactions with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office. Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the ambassador, though the report asserts that agents “did not detect any deception during Flynn’s interview.”

The Democrats’ rebuttal, meanwhile, excoriates “a majority” of the GOP report’s conclusions as “misleading and unsupported by the facts and the investigative record.”

The GOP’s findings, Democrats charge, “have been crafted to advance a political narrative that exonerates the President, downplays Russia’s preference and support for then-candidate Trump, explains away repeated contacts by Trump associates with Russia-aligned actors, and seeks to shift suspicion towards President Trump’s political opponents and the prior administration.”

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the GOP document demonstrates “the Majority’s fundamentally flawed approach to the investigation and the superficial and political nature of its conclusions.” He said Democrats are still receiving documents from people who said they were “waiting to be asked” for the materials, and said he hoped that what they could not get, Mueller would ultimately subpoena.

Committee Democrats said they intended to continue their own work, exploring, among other things, financial dealings and efforts by Trump to interfere with the special counsel investigation.

“Congress has an obligation to find out the truth and inform the American people,” the Democrats said in their report. “. . . To the best of our ability, we will continue to do so, until such time as the full Congress once again lives up to its oversight responsibilities.”

Rosalind S. Helderman and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.

Trump is creating a vetting center. Is it ‘extreme’ enough to end his travel ban?

A girl dances with an American flag at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas while women pray behind her during a protest against the travel ban imposed by President Trump. (Laura Buckman/Reuters)
 April 23 at 6:00 AM 
“Extreme vetting” was a frequent campaign promise of President Trump’s, and within days of taking office he ordered broad restrictions on travelers from several Muslim-majority countries, measures he deemed necessary until such a system was in place.

Trump directed Department of Homeland Security officials to effectuate his ideas, and in February the White House announced the creation of a National Vetting Center, or NVC, that would bring unprecedented rigor to screening foreigners.

Since then, however, the administration has not explained how the center will vet travelers more extremely than the array of other federal agencies already performing the task. It is also unclear whether the White House plans to lift the controversial travel restrictions once the NVC is up and running.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments challenging those restrictions, alleging that the ban is a form of religious discrimination and that the president exceeded his authority in ordering it.

Trump has given security, intelligence and other agencies until August to submit proposals for how they will work with the new center and share information with it.

“The Federal Government’s current vetting efforts are ad hoc, which impedes our ability to keep up with today’s threats,” the White House said in a Feb. 6 memo. “The NVC will better coordinate these activities in a central location, enabling officials to further leverage critical intelligence and law enforcement information to identify terrorists, criminals, and other nefarious actors trying to enter and remain within our country.”

 6:42
Vetted, then blocked: Will this Syrian family make it to their final destination?

After President Trump’s immigration order, follow this Syrian refugee family as they learn their fate.

Former DHS officials and security analysts agree that this sounds like a good idea, but they note that the United States already has a unified, state-of-the-art nerve center to screen travelers and share information among federal databases: the National Targeting Center in Sterling, Va.

Established after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the center is responsible for checking U.S.-bound cargo and foreign travelers by gathering information across federal agencies and assessing security risks.

“I don’t know why you would want to duplicate something that has already been built when we already have the National Targeting Center, which does and is capable of doing serious vetting with respect to any foreign national seeking to enter the United States,” said Robert Bonner, a former U.S. attorney who led U.S. Customs and Border Protection under President George W. Bush and established the center.

The targeting center begins screening travelers as soon as they book flights to the United States. Airlines automatically forward their reservations to the center, in part to avoid having their passengers turned back if U.S. customs agents don’t admit them.

In response to questions about the NVC’s future role, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official said the new center will “use and expand upon some of the physical infrastructure at CBP’s National Targeting Center” but will also use “virtual relationships” to save costs and “overcome the logistical challenges that required co-location can present.”

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because planning for the NVC is not complete, said the new center is not intended to replicate or supplant the screening efforts performed by other federal agencies.

Instead, the official said, it will “improve the connection between information about potential threats and the U.S. officials who have the authority to use that information to make their own determinations.”

The NVC will “work closely” with the National Targeting Center, the Terrorist Screening Center, the National Counterterrorism Center and the intelligence community, the official added, “to ensure there is appropriate coordination and minimize duplication of effort.”

When Trump toured the National Targeting Center on Feb. 2 before issuing his order, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told him it stops “70 terrorists a day” from entering the country.

Calling it “quite a facility,” Trump told the staff: “We’ve really put a lot behind [the National Targeting Center], and we’re going to be putting a lot more behind it.”

According to the limited descriptions of the NVC provided by the White House and DHS, it could play a wider role in screening foreigners already present in the United States who may be seeking to obtain residency or citizenship. The Feb. 6 White House memo said the NVC will screen those “who seek a visa, visa waiver, or an immigration benefit, or a protected status.”

Trump renewed his calls for “extreme vetting” in October after Uzbek immigrant Sayfullo Saipov allegedly plowed a rental truck into cyclists and pedestrians in a Manhattan terrorist attack that killed eight and injured 11.

Weeks later, Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi national, allegedly attempted to detonate a pipe bomb in a New York subway tunnel while swearing allegiance to the Islamic State.

Investigators believe both men were radicalized after arriving in the United States, a scenario no form of travel screening could have prevented. The work of tracking foreigners who develop extremist views after living in the United States is primarily the responsibility of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

Homeland Security officials have not outlined how those agencies will work with the NVC.

report published this month by the libertarian Cato Institute found that U.S. security agencies already practice “extreme vetting” and have been highly successful at stopping terrorist plots and potential attacks.

“I would argue it’s quite extreme as it currently exists,” said David Bier, the report’s author. He said the only post-9/11 instance of a “vetting failure” was San Bernardino attacker Tashfeen Malik, whose extremist views went unnoticed during her visa application process.

“The threat to American lives as a result of vetting failure in post-9/11 America is incredibly small,” Bier said, “so the idea that we should invest a billion dollars in a new center to prevent such a small risk doesn’t make sense.”

“The more agencies that any individual has to go through to receive approval to travel to the United States, the more we delay travelers’ entry,” he continued. “They’re prevented from spending money as a tourist or being able to work in the U.S. and increase the size of the U.S. economy. Those are costs that need to be considered when talking about delaying people’s ability to travel and immigrate.”

Foreign travelers who need U.S. visas typically apply through American embassies and consulates abroad, and the State Department runs their information through terrorism watch lists and other security databases. Information considered “derogatory” is identified and could be forwarded to DHS and other U.S. agencies for additional screening to determine whether the applicant has a criminal background, potential links to extremists, or could be planning to immigrate illegally.

Travelers then submit to biometric screening and other personal data collection — all of which is forwarded to the Transportation Security Administration and centralized through the National Targeting Center.

When asked to cite specific examples of vetting deficiencies, Homeland Security officials say screeners need to do more to check the social media profiles of foreigners seeking to enter the United States or obtain residency. But skeptics of the administration’s proposals argue that such functions do not require the creation of a new screening center, and could be enhanced at existing DHS and intelligence facilities.

Justice Department Watchdog Probes Comey Memos Over Classified Information

Former FBI director has said he considered the memos, which he gave to a friend to release to media, personal documents

The Justice Department inspector general is conducting an investigation into classification issues related to memos written by former FBI director James Comey.
The Justice Department inspector general is conducting an investigation into classification issues related to memos written by former FBI director James Comey. PHOTO: RALPH ALSWANG/ABC/ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON—At least two of the memos that former FBI Director James Comey gave to a friend outside of the government contained information that officials now consider classified, according to people familiar with the matter, prompting a review by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog.

Of those two memos, Mr. Comey himself redacted elements of one that he knew to be classified to protect secrets before he handed the documents over to his friend. He determined at the time that another memo contained no classified information, but after he left the Federal Bureau of Investigation, bureau officials upgraded it to “confidential,” the lowest level of classification.

The Justice Department inspector general is now conducting an investigation into classification issues related to the Comey memos, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Comey has said he considered the memos personal rather than government documents. He has told Congress that he wrote them and authorized their release to the media “as a private citizen.”

Mr. Comey gave four total memos to his friend Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Columbia Law School, people familiar with the matter said. Three were considered unclassified at the time and the one was that was classified contained the redactions made by Mr. Comey.

As FBI director, Mr. Comey had the legal authority to determine what bureau information was classified and what wasn’t. Once he left government, however, the determination fell to other officials. The FBI deemed the memos classified sometime during 2017, one of the people familiar with the matter said.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly accused Mr. Comey of mishandling classified information in a bid to discredit the former FBI director, whom he fired last year. The public feud between the two men has intensified this week, as Mr. Comey has granted several interviews while promoting a memoir that is highly critical of Mr. Trump.

“James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday.

In interviews, Mr. Comey has called Mr. Trump “morally unfit” to serve in the White House. He and Mr. Richman didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

“A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it, that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds,” Mr. Comey told ABC News this month.

The situation around Mr. Comey’s handling of his memos is analogous to the investigation the FBI under his leadership conducted of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. While serving as secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton used a personal email server rather than a government account. After leaving government, thousands of her emails were determined to have contained classified information.

Mrs. Clinton’s defense was that they weren’t classified at the time she circulated them and were only upgraded to classified later. A small number of her emails were determined to have been classified at the time they were sent. Mr. Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.

Republicans said Mrs. Clinton should have been charged, while Democrats said the investigation was without legal basis and was mishandled—particularly Mr. Comey’s decision to announce shortly before Election Day that he was reopening the probe. Mrs. Clinton lost the election to Mr. Trump.

No charges were ever filed against Mrs. Clinton or her aides and Mr. Comey said that his investigation found no evidence of intent to violate the laws governing the handling of classified information.

As Mr. Comey noted in his statement explaining his decision not to bring charges against Mrs. Clinton, typically the Justice Department doesn’t bring cases concerning mishandling of classified information unless there is some intent. Careless or inadvertent release of classified information is rarely prosecuted.

Mr. Comey’s memos were written contemporaneously to create a record of his interactions with Mr. Trump. He told Congress last year he hadn’t kept written records of his interactions with previous presidents but decided to do so with Mr. Trump because of the “nature of the person.”

Mr. Comey has said he intended to get the information to the public through the media by giving the memos to Mr. Richman—in part to prompt the appointment of a special prosecutor designed to continue the FBI’s investigation without political inference.

“My judgment was, I need to get that out into the public square,” Mr. Comey told Congress last year. “I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons. I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”

Those memos formed the basis for Mr. Comey’s testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee last year, in which he accused the president of trying to shut down an investigation into purported Russian interference in the 2016 election. The president has denied trying to thwart the probe.

Mr. Comey’s tactics were successful—special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed shortly after he was fired as FBI director. Mr. Comey’s memos are now part of the wide-ranging probe being conducted by Mr. Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well into whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice when he fired Mr. Comey last year, allegations that Mr. Trump denies. Russia has denied interfering in the election.

“I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting so I thought it important to document. That combination of things I had never experienced before, but had led me to believe I got to write it down and write it down in a very detailed way,” Mr. Comey told the committee.

The memos were given to Congress this week. They were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets. Much of the material in the memos has been previously disclosed in congressional testimony and Mr. Comey’s book.

Write to Byron Tau at byron.tau@wsj.com and Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications 
President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday about James Comey’s memos. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Mr. Trump tweeted Friday. (April 20, 2018)

Courtesy: WSJ

A particularly tumultuous week suggests a more isolated and erratic Trump

A particularly tumultuous week suggests a more isolated and erratic Trump
President Trump speaks in the Cabinet Room on Monday at the start of a meeting with military leaders. (Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

 

At the midpoint of one of the most tumultuous weeks in his presidency, President Trump on Wednesday dined on ravioli, hen and fruit compote with a celebrity lawyer he hardly knows, Alan Dershowitz, an iconoclastic legal scholar who has emerged as a prime Trump defender in cable television’s court of public opinion.

“What I saw was an upbeat president having a nice dinner,” Dershowitz said.

The moment of calm stood in contrast to the days that bracketed it, as Trump cycled through assorted controversies, public rages, policy vacillations, salacious tabloid scandals, diplomatic snafus and conflicting military strategies that each would have created a month’s worth of political fallout in another presidency.

Yet for Trump, the congenial dinner in the midst of crises, some self-inflicted, illustrated just how ordinary chaos is in his White House, and the degree to which Trump’s erratic behavior is the dominant feature of his presidency.

“The White House is no different than the 26th floor,” said Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, referring to the floor of Trump Tower where Trump ran his business, presiding over a small group of loyalists and family members accustomed to indulging his whims.

What has changed lately is that Trump has seemed to grow more isolated by the departures of longtime confidants, including some who date to the Trump Tower days. That has elicited fears among Republicans from the White House to Capitol Hill that he has abandoned whatever inclination he had to steer in a straight line.

Trump’s most trusted aide and sounding board, Hope Hicks, left the White House late last month. His “body man” and sometime fixer, Keith Schiller, departed last fall. Rob Porter, a young aide who had become a trusted West Wing filter, was forced out in February amid allegations of spousal abuse. Daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner both have seen their stature and access diminish.

“I think he is lonely,” one longtime confidant said. “The absence of Hope Hicks, the absence of Schiller … all those things make him lonely.”

At the week’s start, Trump’s sense of loss — and personal violation — seemed to boil over when the FBI raided the office, home and hotel room of his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen — a possible signal that the wide-ranging inquiry of Trump’s closest associates was edging closer to the president himself. Cohen is at the center of several controversies, including preelection payments to silence women who said they had affairs with Trump.

The loss of close aides coincided with the arrival of less familiar newcomers. Trump prepared an attack on Syria, in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens, just as his new national security advisor, John Bolton, showed up to work at the White House on Monday and began immediately reshuffling the team. His new chief economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, was a week into the job when Trump, at a meeting with Republican senators Thursday, floated a major reversal on trade policy.

Neither man is a natural Trump ally. Bolton was a leading proponent of the Iraq war for President George W. Bush, a conflict that Trump has called “the single worst decision ever made.” Kudlow has spent much of his career pushing free trade proposals that Trump has lambasted for “raping” American workers.

“I don’t know if Trump’s ever found a group of people he’s quote ‘used to,'” said a former Bush administration official in regular contact with the White House, listing Cabinet officers who have come and gone in Trump’s first 15 months.

Some of those who have known Trump on a personal level say he is continuing to rely heavily on people outside the White House — a collection of New York business people, media moguls, old political hands, wealthy members of his private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida and those, like Dershowitz and Sean Hannity, whom he’s befriended for being supportive cable television personalities.

Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker and sometime Trump advisor, saw in Dershowitz’s dinner invitation a suggestion that the lawyer might be moving into the president’s inner circle, noting that Bolton and others have come for meals before they won a place as insiders.

Yet Gingrich also noted how quickly Trump can run through such confidants. “He’s a guy who has gone through his entire business career having people come and go,” Gingrich said.

Trump often calls outside advisors in the evenings or on weekends to evade the notice of John F. Kelly, his White House chief of staff who has tried with limited success to provide a more orderly decision-making process and information flow. Those who speak with Trump most often try to downplay their access, to avoid losing it.

As Trump shifts among advisors, however, their confusion about him and about their place in his network grows.

“It’s very hard to understand in this atmosphere who he’s listening to,” one confidant said.

The response to the international crisis over Syria was a prominent example of Trump’s shifting posture on a fundamental issue.

Late last month, he promised to withdraw troops from Syria “very soon” and “let the other people take care of it.” That prospect unnerved his national security advisors because the United States’ departure would leave Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime — three parties at odds with American policy — in charge without check.

Yet this week, the chemical attack allegedly by the Syrian government changed Trump’s calculus.

Trump was quick to denounce what he called a humanitarian atrocity and warned Moscow he’d launch a barrage of “nice and new and ‘smart!'” missiles in the face of Russia’s threats to shoot them down, an exchange that risked widening the conflict.

He also abruptly canceled a trip to Latin America this weekend for an annual summit of Western Hemisphere nations, sending Vice President Mike Pence in his place and surely vexing allies already antagonistic to his rhetoric and policy against Latino immigrants.

But soon after promising swift action in Syria, Trump pulled back again, ignoring timelines that he set earlier in the week to launch an attack.

“Never said when an attack on Syria would take place,” he tweeted Thursday. “Could be very soon or not so soon at all!”

The attack finally came Friday night, with a prime-time announcement.

“We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,” Trump said.

Trump surprised advisors on another core issue, trade. Along with immigration, Trump’s opposition to trade deals was at the center of his campaign and his political appeal. Days after taking office, he withdrew the United States from the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement with 11 nations that he frequently called a disaster, and boasted of fulfilling a promise to American workers.

Yet Trump on Thursday told a group of farm-state Republican senators who favor the deal that he would review his decision to withdraw. Hours later, he tweeted a message that cast doubt on any such possibility, reiterating his demands for better terms and endorsing bilateral pacts as alternatives.

In each case, Trump’s aides have been forced to adjust strategy and messaging to meet his unexpected and changing pronouncements.

Late Thursday night, Trump signed an executive order to review the finances of the United States Postal Service, following weeks of angry tweets falsely blaming Amazon for the agency’s shortfalls. Amazon is run by Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post, whose coverage has angered Trump.

Amid the policy shifts, Trump engaged in public tirades — sparked by the Cohen raid — suggesting anew that he might fire Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who oversees the Mueller inquiry of Russian election campaign interference and possible Trump campaign complicity.

Trump called the raid on Cohen an attack on democracy and the end of attorney-client privilege, assertions that were widely dismissed, including by the legal community.

“His attitude is, it’s my turn. I’m going to do things my way,” said Steele, the former GOP chair.

On Friday, Trump dropped another surprise, pardoning I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former Bush administration official who was convicted of lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice. Bush had declined to pardon Libby, and Libby’s cause hardly seemed one for Trump to take up. Not only was Libby behind the Iraq war effort, but the investigation that led to his conviction centered around leaking classified information, which Trump has criticized others for.

Only hours before announcing the pardon, Trump had lashed out on Twitter against fired FBI Director James B. Comey, calling him a “proven LEAKER & LIAR.” Comey has begun promoting a new memoir in which he criticizes Trump as an immoral liar who acts like a mob boss, demanding unquestioning loyalty.

Comey is to appear on ABC on Sunday night for an hourlong interview about the book — an event all but certain to mean another wild week for the Trump presidency.

Twitter: @noahbierman

FBI Has Questions About Michael Cohen’s Shady Taxicab Business

The president’s attorney has been linked to some of the most notorious owners in the industry.

The FBI raid on lawyer Michael Cohen was reportedly prompted by a business entanglement that could sink his career ― but investigators are also seeking information about Cohen’s involvement in the New York City taxi business where he got his start, sources told CNN.

Since President Donald Trump’s personal attorney first entered the taxi business in the mid-1990s, his modest fleet has linked him to some of the most notorious owners in the industry. According to one recent estimate that Cohen himself disputes, he owns 34 medallions. Most are operated by Evgeny Freidman ― the “taxi king” of New York City until last spring, when the city stripped Friedman of his ability to hold a license. Freidman was arrested in June for an unpaid state tax bill totaling $5 million.

President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen arrives at the Hart Senate Office Building to be interviewed by the Se

MARK WILSON VIA GETTY IMAGES
President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen arrives at the Hart Senate Office Building to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Sept. 19, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

Cohen’s checkered business partnerships stretch back to the very beginning of his taxi ventures. According to documents HuffPost viewed, Cohen inherited part of his taxi empire from his wife’s parents. His father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, became embroiled in a major industry scandal, pleading guilty in 1993 to structuring money transactions to get around legal reporting requirements. Shusterman’s crime was endorsing a $38,000 check signed by Harold Wapnick, a tax preparer with a widespread reputation for helping taxi drivers avoid taxes. Wapnick was later convicted of tax evasion.

In the years following, Cohen joined or assumed ownership of five companies his in-laws had formed or financed to purchase taxicab medallions. And his alliances with questionable business partners continued as all five companies placed some of their medallions under “taxi king” Friedman’s management.

Cohen has also said he ran his business for many years with Simon Garber until selling Garber his stake in their shared business. That business later incurred a $1.6 million fine for a scheme allowing it to steal drivers’ wages.

Cohen has never been charged with a crime related to his involvement in the rough-and-tumble taxi industry. But in August, the New York Daily News reported that he and his wife, Laura, owe back taxes to the state topping $37,000.

Cohen has said he took out a home equity loan to pay adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 ahead of the 2016 presidential election and suggested that it was in exchange for her agreement to remain silent about her alleged sexual relationship with Trump. Cohen made the payment through a limited liability company and used his Trump Organization email account to arrange the payment.

Trump lashed out at the news of the FBI raid on Cohen, calling the investigation “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!” and declaring that “Attorney–client privilege is dead!

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the Trump-nominated No. 2 official at the Justice Department whom Trump has repeatedly criticized, signed off on the raid.

Cohen told CNN on Tuesday that while he was not happy his home, office and hotel room were raided, that the “members of the FBI that conducted the search and seizure were all extremely professional, courteous and respectful,” and that he thanked them when it concluded.

Cohen did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

Ryan J. Reilly contributed reporting.

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