Senate panel questions Lynch over ‘political interference’ in Clinton probe

The Senate Judiciary Committee has formally asked ex-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and others to respond to allegations of “political interference” in the FBI’s Hillary Clinton email probe, according to a letter released Friday.

The inquiry was prompted, in part, by a series of media reports raising questions about whether Lynch tried to stifle the investigation into former Secretary of State Clinton’s use of a private email server. Fired FBI Director James Comey also suggested in recent Senate testimony that Lynch sought to downplay the investigation.

“The reports come amidst numerous allegations of political inference in controversial and high-profile investigations spanning the current and previous administrations,” Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s office said in a statement.

While Democrats have questioned whether President Trump tried to interfere in the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, Republicans have countered by stepping up scrutiny of Lynch’s actions.

The letters released Friday, though, were bipartisan. Grassley, R-Iowa; ranking Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., penned letters to Lynch and others seeking documentation and other details.

Graham already had expressed interest in Lynch testifying before the committee in the wake of Comey’s testimony.

In the latest letters, the senators sought information that might determine the veracity of media reports suggesting Lynch may have offered assurances to the Clinton campaign about the probe.

Those articles are based on hacked documents whose authenticity has not been confirmed.

The letter cited an April New York Times article about a batch of hacked files obtained by the FBI, including one reportedly authored by a Democratic operative who voiced confidence Lynch would keep the Clinton probe from going too far.

Lynch and others who received the committee’s letters have until July 6 to comply with the request.

The senators also refer to concerns stemming from Comey’s testimony about being uncomfortable with Lynch’s tarmac meeting last summer with Bill Clinton.

Comey also told Congress “the attorney general directed me not to call it an investigation and call it a matter — which confused me.”

Judicial Watch seeking documents ‘unlawfully removed’ by Comey

Brooke Singman

Conservative watchdog Judicial Watch is calling on Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to recover and release federal records and memos it claims were “unlawfully” removed by former Director James Comey, threatening the FBI with a lawsuit should the bureau not comply.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, penned a letter to McCabe on June 14 warning of a potential violation of the Federal Records Act, which is the basis for the federal government’s policies regarding the “creating, maintaining, and disposing” of federal records.

“As you may be aware, the Federal Records Act imposes a direct responsibility on you to take steps to recover any records unlawfully removed from the FBI,” Fitton wrote in the letter, claiming Comey unlawfully removed memos that could contain contents regarding the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. “Upon learning that records have been unlawfully removed from the FBI, you then are required to initiate action through the Attorney General for the recovery of records.”

The FBI told Fox News that they have no comment on the letter from Fitton.

“We’re looking to get action on the records that Comey unlawfully took from the FBI, and we know initially there are memos, but depending on what the nature of the documents are, there could be liabilities for Mr. Comey,” Fitton told Fox News.

The “memos” in question were written by Comey himself, leaving unclear how the FBI or the courts would view them; Judicial Watch insists they are official records.

Earlier this month, Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he gave one of his memos regarding a meeting with President Trump to a friend, Columbia University Professor Daniel Richman, who then leaked the contents of the memo to the New York Times.

“I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter—I thought that might prompt the appointment of special counsel,” Comey said in his testimony.

Fitton said that the case of Comey removing documents from the FBI is “the Hillary Clinton email scandal all over again.”

But retired FBI special agent and former national FBI spokesman, John Iannarelli, told Fox News that he didn’t see “the case.”

“The things Comey allegedly took are not classified,” Iannarelli said. “The issue is not him taking documents, but the matter of how he released them—classified or not, there is a procedure in doing that which he did not follow.”

But Fitton insisted Comey’s memos and other related documents he may have were federal records which the Justice Department and FBI are “obligated” to get back.

“The former FBI director isn’t above the law and current leadership of the FBI should stop protecting him and take action,” he said.

The letter said that if McCabe and the FBI do not respond by June 26, Judicial Watch will file a lawsuit in federal district court “seeking that you be compelled to comply with the law.”

Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Feinstein: Trump ‘in for a rude awakening’ if he tries to shut down Russia probe

Gabby Kaufman 20 hours ago

Trump Acknowledges He Is Under Investigation in Russia Inquiry

Photo

President Trump at the White House on Wednesday. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump acknowledged publicly for the first time on Friday that he was under investigation in the expanding inquiry into Russian influence in the election, and he appeared to attack the integrity of the Justice Department official in charge of leading it.

In an early-morning tweet, the president declared that he was “being investigated” for his decision to fire James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director. And he seemed to accuse Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, of leading a “witch hunt.”

The tweet was the first explicit concession by the president that Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel for the Russia inquiry, had begun examining whether Mr. Trump’s firing of Mr. Comey last month was an attempt to obstruct the investigation.

And Mr. Trump’s apparent reference to Mr. Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from it, came just hours after an oddly worded statement from Mr. Rosenstein complaining about leaks in the case.

Continue reading the main story

In the statement, Mr. Rosenstein wrote that “Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch or agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated.”

He added: “Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.”

Mr. Rosenstein’s statement followed two articles by The Washington Post that cited unnamed officials, one saying that Mr. Mueller’s investigation had widened to include whether Mr. Trump committed obstruction of justice, the other that it was looking at financial transactions involving Jared Kushner, the president’s adviser and son-in-law. After the statement, The Post updated the Kushner article so that its first sourcing reference was to “U.S. officials.”

The highly unusual statement by the deputy attorney general raised the question of whether Mr. Trump or some other White House official had asked him to publicly discredit the reports. Part of the revelations surrounding the Russia investigation and the firing of Mr. Comey has been that Mr. Trump repeatedly pushed top intelligence officials to say in public that Mr. Trump was not personally under investigation and that there was no evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia in its interference in the 2016 election.

But there was some evidence that Mr. Rosenstein’s motivation may instead have been his own mounting frustration at seeing details of the law enforcement investigation appear nearly daily in the news media.

A Justice Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters, said that no one had asked Mr. Rosenstein to make the statement and that he acted on his own.

Still, the statement, followed by Mr. Trump’s tweet, demonstrated the pressure on the deputy attorney general.

This week, a friend of Mr. Trump’s said the president was considering firing Mr. Mueller — a task that would be complicated by Justice Department regulations, which say that only the attorney general may fire a special counsel and only if there is good cause. Mr. Rosenstein is acting as the attorney general in the inquiry because Mr. Sessions recused himself from investigations that touch on the 2016 presidential campaigns.

According to people briefed on his thinking, while Mr. Trump has left open the possibility of dismissing Mr. Mueller, his anger has been mostly trained on Mr. Sessions and Mr. Rosenstein. The president blames Mr. Rosenstein for appointing Mr. Mueller in the first place, and he faults Mr. Sessions for his earlier recusal from Russia-related issues.

But the people briefed on the president’s thinking said Mr. Trump also knows that firing Mr. Rosenstein would be politically dangerous.

Responding to Mr. Trump’s statement on Twitter, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said she was “growing increasingly concerned” that Mr. Trump might attempt to fire both Mr. Mueller and Mr. Rosenstein.

“If the president thinks he can fire Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and replace him with someone who will shut down the investigation, he’s in for a rude awakening,” she said in a statement. “Even his staunchest supporters will balk at such a blatant effort to subvert the law.”

Separately, the apparent expansion of Mr. Mueller’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice, including by firing Mr. Comey, has raised the question of whether Mr. Rosenstein, as a witness to and participant in the events in 2017 that culminated in that ouster, may have to also recuse himself.

If Mr. Rosenstein recuses himself from overseeing the special counsel investigation or were to resign or be fired by Mr. Trump — acting attorney general duties for the inquiry would fall to the department’s No. 3 official, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand.

Ms. Brand has never served as a prosecutor. She advised the Bush Justice Department on selecting judicial nominees, and she served as a Republican appointee on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

Photo

Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, appearing before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

“As the deputy attorney general has said numerous times, if there comes a point when he needs to recuse, he will,” said Ian Prior, a Justice Department spokesman. “However, nothing has changed.”

On Friday morning, Mr. Rosenstein made a public appearance at the Justice Department, presenting awards to dozens of department employees. He did not take questions from reporters.

In testimony on Tuesday, Mr. Rosenstein said that he had seen no reason to remove Mr. Mueller, whom he appointed last month, and vowed to “defend the integrity” of the special counsel investigation.

Mr. Trump’s tweet appeared to be inaccurate or oversimplified in two respects. The presient has said he had already made his decision to fire Mr. Comey before Mr. Rosenstein wrote a memo recommending Mr. Comey’s dismissal. He then wrote a memo laying out that line of criticism, not explicitly recommend removing Mr. Comey.

The president’s latest tweet came after a series of others in which Mr. Trump continued to complain about the Russia investigations swirling around him, and just hours after members of Congress from both parties gathered at a baseball field to call for unity after the shooting at a Republican baseball practice this week.

In two other early-morning tweets, the president insisted that no one had found any “proof” that he colluded with Russians to meddle with the 2016 presidential elections, and he once again assailed the news media.

Mr. Trump’s claim to have 100 million social media followers is an exaggeration based on adding his followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — many of whom are most likely the same people.

But however many people actually follow him on social media, the president clearly views them as a refuge from the barrage of newspaper headlines and cable news stories about the Russia investigations.

611COMMENTS

Faced with a Russia investigation that appears to be broadening, Mr. Trump appears eager to use Twitter to undermine the credibility of the inquiry and to convince his supporters that they do not need to worry.

In a third tweet Friday morning, Mr. Trump repeated his assertion that the investigations were a “phony Witch Hunt” and bragged that the nation’s economy was improving quickly.

Continue reading the main story

Jeff Sessions denies Russia collusion, defends Comey firing

The US Attorney General has denied allegations he was aware of links between Russia and the Trump campaign in a Senate hearing. He also said he recommended a “fresh start” at the FBI when asked about the firing of Comey.

Watch video00:57

Sessions calls notion he colluded with Russia ‘detestable lie’

In a closely-watched testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions strongly denied the suggestion he colluded with Russian officials during the campaign to swing the election in US President Donald Trump‘s favor.

“The suggestion that I participated in any collusion, that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country … or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie,” Sessions said.

Sessions said his decision to recuse himself from all ongoing Russia investigations was based on a regulation that required him to step aside due to his involvement in the Trump campaign. He insisted that he didn’t know about the Russia probe or was involved in the investigation.

Sessions also defended against accusations that he misrepresented himself by saying he had not met with Russian officials during the campaign during his confirmation hearing.

The attorney general did not actually step aside from the Russia probe until March 2, one day after The Washington Post reported on his two previously undisclosed meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Watch video03:43

Sessions hearing – DW’s Carsten von Nahmen reports

Grilling over Comey firing

Sessions also fielded several questions over his role in the firing of James Comey. The former FBI director said in his testimony last week that US President Donald Trump sacked him as part of a bid to influence the Russia investigation.

The nation’s top law enforcement official said he had recommended a “fresh start” for the FBI, but wouldn’t provide any details about his conversation with Trump concerning the matter.

He also refused to say whether he discussed the Russia investigation with Trump, saying he couldn’t disclose private conversations with the president.

During last week’s testimony, Comey suggested that there was something “problematic” about Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe. When asked what problematic issues existed, Sessions became visibly incensed.

“Why don’t you tell me? There are none,” Sessions insisted, his voice rising. “This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don’t appreciate it.”

Asked about Trump’s contention that he had fired Comey with the Russia probe in mind and regardless of recommendations from anyone else, sessions said: “I guess I’ll just have to let his words speak for themselves. I’m not sure what was in his mind specifically.”

“Many have suggested that my recusal is because I felt I was a subject of the investigation myself, that I may have done something wrong,” Sessions added. “But this is the reason I recused myself. I felt I was required to under the rules of the Department of Justice.”

“I did not recuse myself from defending my honor gainst scurrilous and false allegations,” he added.

Tuesday’s hearing was Sessions’ first public testimony since being confirmed as attorney general in February, and comes amid several open investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

rs,jh/rt   (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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Americans trust Comey over Trump following his ‘prevalent’ leaks – poll

Americans trust Comey over Trump following his ‘prevalent’ leaks – poll
A poll conducted following former FBI chief James Comey’s testimony has shown that Americans find the fired intelligence official more trustworthy than President Trump. The latter, however, has slammed some of Comey’s actions as being “cowardly.”

Forty-six percent of US citizens aged 18 and over think Comey is “more honest and trustworthy” than US President Donald Trump, who is trusted by 26 percent of the respondents, a recent Huffington Post/YouGov poll has shown. Almost a third of the 1,000 people interviewed said they are “not sure” which of the two they trust more.

Trump’s favorability rating also appeared not to be too favorable for him, as 43 percent of those asked find the president “very unfavorable.” In regard to Comey, respondents appeared to be less decisive, with 12 percent having a “very favorable” opinion of the former official, and 16 percent – “very unfavorable.” Thirty-two percent said they were not sure how to reply.

Forty-five percent also believe Trump has made a mistake by firing Comey, with 28 percent saying they see the president’s decision as “right.” Almost half of the respondents said they think “Trump fired Comey at least partly to disrupt the Russia investigation,” and 29 percent said the dismissal “was unrelated” to it.

In light of Comey’s testimony, more US officials will appear before the Senate panel, with US Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirming he will testify before the intelligence committee next week.

JUST IN: Attorney General Jeff Sessions agrees to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday

The web-based interviews were conducted from June 8 to 9, following the former FBI boss’ Thursday testimony.

Outlining his relationship with Trump, Comey confirmed that he had leaked his meeting with the US president to the media. He also accused the Trump administration of having defamed him personally “and, more importantly, the FBI,” by saying they had lost confidence in him.

In response to Comey’s testimony, Trump has already accused the former FBI director of “false statements” and “lies.” On Sunday, he went on to suggest that Comey’s “leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible.” He also proclaimed ex-FBI boss’ actions as “very ‘cowardly.’

I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal? Very ‘cowardly!’

Trump has also denied Comey’s claims that the president had asked him to pledge loyalty. However, according to the poll, half of US citizens appear to be on Comey’s side on this point, saying they think Trump did ask the former FBI chief “to pledge loyalty to him.” Only 15 percent said they thought “he did not ask this.”

Comey was asked explicitly whether Trump requested him to stop the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election, to which the former FBI head responded by saying “not to my understanding, no.” He then went on to say that he had not been asked by anyone to end the investigation.

According to the poll, 36 percent see “the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia” as “a very serious problem.” Twenty-two percent regard it as “not a problem at all.”

Lynch should testify in wake of Comey claims, Graham says

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch should testify before the Senate, top Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday, in the wake of fired FBI Director James Comey calling into question her handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe.

“I want to hear from Loretta Lynch,” Graham said.

The call follows Comey’s claim during a Senate committee hearing that Lynch once directed him to describe the email probe as a “matter” and not an “investigation” — an alleged intervention Comey said made him “queasy.” He also said that directive, combined with Lynch’s unusual Arizona tarmac meeting with former President Bill Clinton, led him to make his independent announcement regarding the Clinton email probe last July.

Asked Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” whether he wants Lynch to appear before the judiciary committee on which he sits, Graham, R-S.C., said: “Absolutely.”

Several GOP lawmakers have shown interest in learning more about Lynch’s actions following Comey’s testimony.

COMEY SAYS LYNCH ACTIONS PROMPTED HIM TO GO ROGUE

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday he wants to see whether Comey kept any notes regarding conversations with Lynch.

“I want to see if he had any memos on Loretta Lynch,” King said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo.”

The intelligence committee has asked Comey for any notes or memos he took. Comey has made clear he took extensive notes regarding his conversations with Trump, which detailed the president’s alleged attempt to seek his “loyalty” during a late January meeting, among other conversations — a claim Trump adamantly denies.

But Comey’s allegations about Lynch drew widespread attention.

He said Lynch’s tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton was a “deciding factor” in his decision to act alone to update the public on the Clinton probe — and protect the bureau’s reputation.

“There were other things, significant items,” he added, citing how “the attorney general directed me not to call it an investigation and call it a matter — which confused me.”

“That was one of the bricks in the load that I needed to step away from the department,” Comey said, later adding he was concerned Lynch was trying to align the DOJ’s comments with the way the campaign was talking about the probe. “That gave me a queasy feeling,” he said.

Lynch and former President Clinton met on a tarmac in Phoenix, Ariz., on June 27, 2016, which immediately raised questions about whether she — or the Justice Department — could be impartial in the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Days later, Comey called Hillary Clinton’s actions “extremely careless” but declined to recommend charges.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that she would have had a “queasy feeling, too.” She said lawmakers need to know more about that, and the judiciary committee should “take a look” at it.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., though, said he hasn’t heard Lynch’s side of the story and cannot say “whether it rises to the level that she should come and testify.”

“All I’m saying with Loretta Lynch is before anyone jumps to any conclusions, we ought to hear what she has to say,” he said on “Face the Nation.” “And let her state something privately and see if it makes much of a difference. I don’t know that it will.”

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