70 Yr Old Lady Makes Ricin Poison Test It On Nursing Home Residents

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM NEWS)

 

By Jamie Ducharme

10:03 AM EST

A Vermont retiree planning to “injure herself” tested the efficacy of homemade ricin poison on other residents of Shelburne’s Wake Robin retirement community, federal investigators said.

Betty Miller, 70, made the poison herself and sprinkled it in other residents’ food and beverages, apparently to see how it would work, the Burlington Free Press reports. Miller told health care providers about her scheme on Tuesday, and law enforcement was called.

Ricin is a poison derived from castor beans, which are used to make castor oil. (Miller apparently made her homemade version using castor beans on the retirement community’s property, according to the Free Press.) The poison invades the body’s cells, preventing them from creating the right proteins until they eventually die, according to the CDC. Ricin poisoning can be fatal.

No residents reported symptoms of ricin poisoning — which, when ingested, can include vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, low blood pressure, seizures and organ failure, according to the CDC — although the Free Press reports that the Vermont Department of Health became aware of one person who may have been infected but was no longer ill.

“This was an isolated incident. The toxic substance was contained; no residents were evacuated. The affected apartment was closed off and thoroughly searched,” Wake Robin President and CEO Patrick McKee said in a statement. “We have received assurances from the VT Department of Health and the FBI that no one’s health is at risk. The resident of the apartment in question is now involved with the criminal justice system and will not be returning to Wake Robin.”

Miller appeared in court on Friday, the Free Press reports, where the judge made a reference to her “mental health history.”

She is currently in custody and will return to court on Wednesday. She could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

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The History Of The CIA

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘CIA FACTBOOK’)

 

History of the CIA

CIA’s Family Tree

CIA Family Tree

Like all government agencies, the CIA was not created overnight and functioning at full capacity the following morning. In fact, there were various renditions of an intelligence agency for 6 years prior to the formal establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency. At the beginning of World War II America’s first peacetime, non-departmental intelligence organization was created. That organization moved and morphed and changed names and ownership, was dissected and dismantled before President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 creating a permanent Central Intelligence Agency.

Though our directives have changed and generations have turned, our goal to further US national security objectives remains the same. The Agency embraces its roots and celebrates the path that led to the making of America’s premier foreign intelligence agency. As we look to the future we glance at our past to trace the lineage of the CIA to its very beginnings, and to reflect on the different phases it went through, culminating in the creation of the CIA.

* * * *

Office of the Coordinator of Information (COI)

Established 11 July 1941, Duration: 337 Days

When World War II started in 1939 the State Department, Army, Navy and FBI were randomly collecting intelligence with no direction or coordination. Nor were these agencies designed to collect the strategic and economic intelligence that was needed during WWII. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, desperate for solid intelligence, was frustrated by the piecemeal, stove-piped information these agencies were providing him. To solve the problem, he created the Office of the Coordinator of Information (COI) to streamline the collection, organization, and dissemination of the intelligence that the government agencies collected. The COI was also created to conduct unconventional warfare. Roosevelt appointed World War I hero, General William “Wild Bill” Donovan, to lead the organization with a $10 million budget and 600 staffers.

William Donovan
General William “Wild Bill” Donovan

COI’s first operation was debriefing refugees in New York City who had fled war-torn Europe. Additionally, COI gathered intelligence overseas and worked closely with the British in London to gain information, training, and experience from their intelligence organizations.

As the war progressed Donovan came to the realization that he needed to move his budding organization under the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) to ensure the support of the military. President Roosevelt agreed, but, he wanted to keep a portion of COI’s elements out of military hands. Roosevelt moved white propaganda, along with half of the COI’s staff, to the Office of War Information.

What was left of COI after the transition became the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) on June 13, 1942. The name change fulfilled Donovan’s wish for a title that reflected the importance of ‘strategy’ in intelligence gathering and clandestine operations.

* * * *

Office of Strategic Services (OSS)

Established 13 June 1942, Duration: 3 years, 3 months

The OSS had a mandate to collect and analyze strategic information requested by the JCS and to conduct unconventional and paramilitary operations. To do this Donovan sent OSS personnel to North Africa, Europe, China, Burma, and India. However, the OSS never received complete jurisdiction over all foreign intelligence activities. The Department of State and the armed services arranged a Presidential decree that effectively banned most of OSS and several other agencies from acquiring and decoding the war’s most important intelligence intercepts. General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz kept OSS from contributing to the main American campaigns against Imperial Japan and the FBI, G-2 and Navy intelligence stood together to protect their monopoly on domestic counterintelligence work.

Nonetheless, OSS did eventually develop a capable counterintelligence apparatus of its own overseas and utilizing military, diplomatic and non-official cover, began to build a world-wide clandestine capability.

At its peak OSS employed almost 13,000 people, 35% of whom were women. Two-thirds of its ranks were comprised of US Army and Army Air Forces personnel. Civilians made up another quarter, the rest were from the Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard. Nearly 7,500 OSS employees, men and women, served overseas.

OSS Organization Chart
OSS Organization Chart

There was never an expectation that the OSS would continue to operate after the war despite Donovan’s insistence on the necessity of a peacetime intelligence Agency. President Truman took office and in late August 1945, he ordered that OSS be dismantled.

Donovan had just ten days to disassemble his agency. The Research & Analysis Branch moved to the State Department. Donovan’s Deputy was asked to stay on and help preserve the Counterintelligence Branch and the Secret Intelligence Branch, both now under the War Department in a new office dubbed the Strategic Services Unit (SSU). Donovan was not asked to stay on. On October 1, 1945, the OSS closed its doors.

* * * *

Strategic Services Unit (SSU)

Established 1 October 1945, Duration: 1 year, 5 months

SSU temporarily took over the former OSS posts in London, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Cairo, Chungking, Calcutta, New Delhi, and Rangoon, as well as various smaller posts until a more permanent solution could be put in place.

In January 1946, a new National Intelligence Authority was established along with a small Central Intelligence Group (CIG). In the spring of 1946 the President and Congress decided to give SSU’s duties, responsibilities, personnel, overseas field stations, communications and logistical capabilities to CIG. The decision to do this was based exclusively on the challenge of producing coordinated intelligence assessments.

Souers
Rear Admiral Sidney Souers

The Deputy Chief of Naval Intelligence, Rear Admiral Sidney Souers, USNR, was appointed Executive Secretary of CIG and was responsible for carrying out the integration of SSU into CIG. Souers openly admitted he had no desire to run the new organization and would only do so for as long as it took to establish the organization, which was six months.

CIG screened all SSU employees and offered positions to the best of them. CIG then took over SSU’s headquarter elements in Washington and SSU ceased to exist.

* * * *

Central Intelligence Group (CIG)

Established January 1946, Duration: 1 year, 6 months

CIG was responsible for coordinating, planning, evaluating and disseminating intelligence. CIG also acquired a clandestine collection capability as well as authority to conduct independent research and analysis. This was key as CIG was no longer just coordinating the intelligence it received from government agencies, but was now producing intelligence on its own. This enlarged CIG’s personnel strength considerably.

The new organization spied overseas with employees lent to it from the Army, Navy and Department of State. CIG functioned under the National Intelligence Authority, which was composed of a presidential representative and the secretaries of State, War and Navy. Within months of its creation, CIG became the nation’s primary agency for strategic warning and management of clandestine activities abroad. Yet, it was shackled to the constraints and resistance of the Department of State and the armed services. And so, to free itself, CIG became an independent department and was renamed the Central Intelligence Agency.

* * * *

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

Established 18 September 1947, Duration: 70 years

The CIA was created under the National Security Act of 1947, which President Truman signed on July 26, 1947. The CIA officially came into existence on September 18 that same year. President Truman appointed the Deputy Director of CIG, Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter as the first Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. One third of the CIA’s personnel were OSS veterans.

DCI_Roscoe Hillenkoetter.jpg
Former DCI Roscoe Hillenkoetter

The 1947 Act loosely defined CIA’s mission and while the Act did not alter the functions of CIG, it did add four broad tasks: (1) advise the National Security Council (NSC) on matters related to national security; (2) make recommendations to the NSC regarding the coordination of intelligence activities of the Departments; (3) correlate and evaluate intelligence and provide for its appropriate dissemination and (4) ” perform such other functions… as the NSC will from time to time direct…”

Two years later, President Truman signed the Central Intelligence Agency Act, which authorized CIA to secretly fund intelligence operations and conduct personnel actions outside of standard US Government procedures.

E Street Sign
CIA’s first street sign

By 1953, the Agency was an established element of government. Its contributions in the areas of political action and paramilitary warfare were recognized and respected. The Agency attracted some of the most able lawyers, academicians, and young, committed patriots in the country. They brought with them professional associations and friendships which extended to the senior levels of government.The Agency had also achieved the basic structure and scale it retained for the next twenty years. The Korean War, United States foreign policy objectives, and the Agency’s internal organizational arrangements combined to produce an enormous impetus for growth. The CIA was six times the size it had been in 1947 and three of its current five directorates had been established.

Originally housed in a sprawling set of buildings in the center of Washington, D.C., the CIA’s physical presence gave it the advantage of seeming an integral part of, rather than a separate element of, the government.

In late 1961, CIA employees began relocating from a disparate collection of buildings in Washington, DC, to a newly constructed headquarters complex in Langley, Virginia. The Original Headquarters Building (OHB) was the first home designed specifically for Agency officers, and it still serves today as an iconic symbol of CIA and its mission.

Artist's Rendering of OHB
On August 4, 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill authorizing $46 million for construction of a CIA Headquarters Building. This is an artist’s rendering of OHB.

On December 17, 2004, President George W. Bush signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act which restructured the Intelligence Community by abolishing the position of Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (DDCI) and creating the position the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (D/CIA). The Act also created the position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI), which oversees the Intelligence Community and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).The CIA has continued to adjust and adapt to the emerging trends of an ever-changing global landscape. Today the CIA is America’s and the world’s premier foreign intelligence agency, shaped by its resilient past. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go. We are the Nations eyes and ears, and sometimes, its hidden hand. We will continue our mission of collecting, analyzing, evaluating, and disseminating foreign intelligence to assist the President and senior US government policymakers in making decisions relating to national security now and indefinitely into the future.

Posted: Apr 10, 2007 08:04 AM
Last Updated: Sep 18, 2017 01:13 PM

 

 

FBI Chief: Agency Has 1,000 Open Domestic Terrorism Investigations

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM NEWS)

 

FBI Chief: Agency Has 1,000 Open Domestic Terrorism Investigations

8:40 AM ET

The FBI has about 1,000 active investigations into potential domestic terrorists, which includes people linked to white nationalism, extremist white supremacy and environmental movements, the agency’s Director Christopher Wray told Congress during his first testimony as the agency’s chief.

Speaking to the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, Wray said domestic terrorism is a “very serious” issue that the agency spends “a lot of our time focused on,” ABC reports. “We have about 1,000 open domestic-terrorism investigations as we speak,” he said, a figure that is in addition to about the same number of probes into “homegrown violent extremists,” like those inspired by ISIS.

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill said attacks by white supremacists and anti-government are “almost triple” those carried out by people inspired or tied to international terrorist organizations.

“[Americans] would assume that the threat from ISIS influence is much greater, and the reality and the facts don’t support that,” she said, ABC reports.

There are a large “number of agents who are working very, very hard” against the threat of domestic terrorism, Wray said.

FBI Raided Paul Manafort’s Home July 26th, 2017

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Washington (CNN) FBI agents raided a home of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort last month, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.

The agents seized materials in Manafort’s home as part of the ongoing Russia investigation led by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the source said.
“FBI agents executed a search warrant at one of Mr. Manafort’s residences. Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well,” Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, told CNN. He declined to provide further details.
The so-called no-knock warrant, which was first reported by The Washington Post, was served at Manafort’s home in Washington’s northern Virginia suburbs on July 26, the day after Manafort met with Senate intelligence committee investigators.
The tactic appears unusual for a case that has been under investigation for months and for which Manafort has already turned over hundreds of pages of documents to Senate investigators. The source told CNN the documents seized included financial and tax records and at least some of the information had already been provided to Senate investigators.
Since his appointment in May, Mueller has quietly gathered a team of more than three dozen attorneys, investigators and other staff in a nondescript office in Washington. Officials familiar with the probe describe it as akin to a small US attorney’s office, with FBI agents and prosecutors assigned to separate groups looking into various aspects of the investigation.
These include groups of investigators and lawyers focused separately on Russian collusion and obstruction of justice, as well as the investigations focused on Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a US official briefed on the investigation has told CNN.
So far, Trump’s campaign has turned over approximately 20,000 pages to the Senate judiciary committee, which is investigating Russia’s interference in the election, while Manafort turned over approximately 400 pages and Donald Trump Jr. turned over about 250 pages.
Fusion GPS, the firm that compiled a dossier at the center of the federal Russia probe, has not yet turned over any documents, according to the committee’s spokesperson, though a source told CNN the firm plans to provide the committee with “thousands” of pages of documents Wednesday.
The spokesperson declined to provide details about the specific contents of the documents.

Is It Past Time To Arrest AG Jeff Sessions For Obstruction Of Justice And For Lying To Congress?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show

 Play Video 2:09
Sessions discussed Trump campaign matters with Russian ambassador, according to U.S. intercepts
The accounts from Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to his superiors, intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, contradict public assertions by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Post’s Greg Miller explains. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)
 July 21 at 6:51 PM
Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials both in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.

Sessions has said repeatedly that he never discussed campaign-related issues with Russian officials and that it was only in his capacity as a U.S. senator that he met with Kislyak.

“I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” Sessions said in March when he announced that he would recuse himself from matters relating to the FBI probe of Russian interference in the election and any connections to the Trump campaign.

Current and former U.S. officials said that assertion is at odds with Kislyak’s accounts of conversations during two encounters over the course of the campaign, one in April ahead of Trump’s first major foreign policy speech and another in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention.

The apparent discrepancy could pose new problems for Sessions at a time when his position in the administration appears increasingly tenuous.

Trump, in an interview this week, expressed frustration with Sessions’s recusing himself from the Russia probe and indicated that he regretted his decision to make the lawmaker from Alabama the nation’s top law enforcement officer. Trump also faulted Sessions as giving “bad answers” during his confirmation hearing about his Russian contacts during the campaign.

Officials emphasized that the information contradicting Sessions comes from U.S. intelligence on Kislyak’s communications with the Kremlin, and acknowledged that the Russian ambassador could have mischaracterized or exaggerated the nature of his interactions.

“Obviously I cannot comment on the reliability of what anonymous sources describe in a wholly uncorroborated intelligence intercept that the Washington Post has not seen and that has not been provided to me,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman in a statement. She reiterated that Sessions did not discuss interference in the election.

Russian and other foreign diplomats in Washington and elsewhere have been known, at times, to report false or misleading information to bolster their standing with their superiors or to confuse U.S. intelligence agencies.

But U.S. officials with regular access to Russian intelligence reports say Kislyak — whose tenure as ambassador to the United States ended recently — has a reputation for accurately relaying details about his interactions with officials in Washington.

Sessions removed himself from direct involvement in the Russia investigation after it was revealed in The Washington Post that he had met with Kislyak at least twice in 2016, contacts he failed to disclose during his confirmation hearing in January.

“I did not have communications with the Russians,” Sessions said when asked whether anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign had communicated with representatives of the Russian government.

He has since maintained that he misunderstood the scope of the question and that his meetings with Kislyak were strictly in his capacity as a U.S. senator. In a March appearance on Fox television, Sessions said, “I don’t recall any discussion of the campaign in any significant way.”

Sessions appeared to narrow that assertion further in extensive testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June, saying that he “never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.”

But when pressed for details, Sessions qualified many of his answers during that hearing by saying that he could “not recall” or did not have “any recollection.”

A former U.S. official who read the Kislyak reports said that the Russian ambassador reported speaking with Sessions about issues that were central to the campaign, including Trump’s positions on key policy matters of significance to Moscow.

Sessions had a third meeting with Kislyak in his Senate office in September. Officials declined to say whether U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted any Russian communications describing the third encounter.

As a result, the discrepancies center on two earlier Sessions-Kislyak conversations, including one that Sessions has acknowledged took place in July 2016 on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention.

By that point, Russian President Vladimir Putin had decided to embark on a secret campaign to help Trump win the White House by leaking damaging emails about his rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.

Although it remains unclear how involved Kislyak was in the covert Russian campaign to aid Trump, his superiors in Moscow were eager for updates about the candidate’s positions, particularly regarding U.S. sanctions on Russia and long-standing disputes with the Obama administration over conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

Kislyak also reported having a conversation with Sessions in April at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where then-candidate Trump delivered his first major foreign policy address, according to the officials familiar with intelligence on Kislyak.

Sessions has said he does not remember any encounter with Kislyak at that event. In his June testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sessions said, “I do not recall any conversations with any Russian official at the Mayflower Hotel.”

Later in that hearing, Sessions said that “it’s conceivable that that occurred. I just don’t remember it.”

Kislyak was also a key figure in the departure of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to leave that job after The Post revealed that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Kislyak even while telling others in the Trump administration that he had not done so.

In that case, however, Flynn’s phone conversations with Kislyak were intercepted by U.S. intelligence, providing irrefutable evidence. The intelligence on Sessions, by contrast, is based on Kislyak’s accounts and not corroborated by other sources.

Former FBI director James B. Comey fueled speculation about the possibility of a Sessions-Kislyak meeting at the Mayflower when he told the same Senate committee on June 8 that the bureau had information about Sessions that would have made it “problematic” for him to be involved in the Russia probe.

Comey would not provide details of what information the FBI had, except to say that he could only discuss it privately with the senators. Current and former officials said he appeared to be alluding to intelligence on Kislyak’s account of an encounter with Sessions at the Mayflower.

Senate Democrats later called on the FBI to investigate the event in April at the Mayflower hotel.

Sessions’s role in removing Comey as FBI director angered many at the bureau and set in motion events that led to the appointment of former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III as a special counsel overseeing the Russia probe.

Trump’s harsh words toward the attorney general fueled speculation this week that Sessions would be fired or would resign. So far, he has resisted resigning, saying that he intends to stay in the job “as long as that is appropriate.”

Matt Zapotosky and Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Trumps New Choice For FBI Director Deleted Russian Case From His Bio

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK AND CNN)

President Donald Trump’s FBI director pick, attorney Chris Wray, reportedly represented an American energy executive who was facing a criminal investigation by Russia in 2006. However, as Trump deals with multiple investigations amid speculation about his campaign’s ties to Russia, one wouldn’t know that particular detail of Wray’s career history.

Why? Wray himself deleted the reference this year, well before he was up for one of the country’s top law enforcement jobs, CNN reported Tuesday.

As early as 2009, Wray’s profile for law firm King and Spalding described his clients and included the line: “An energy company president in a criminal investigation by Russian authorities.”

The firm said that Wray made the changes in January but that he wasn’t the only attorney to work on the case over the years for a client the firm would not name. With offices spread across the globe, King and Spalding have previously represented companies that dealt with Russian state-run energy companies Rosneft and Gazprom, CNN reported.

“Chris made this change to his bio, along with other minor tweaks, in an attempt to make the material more current. At the time, he made the adjustments, January 12, 2017, he was not being considered for, and did not anticipate being nominated for, FBI director or any position in government,” a firm spokeswoman told CNN. “Moreover, the representation that was dropped from his online bio related to a matter where Chris, King and Spalding and the client were adverse to the Russian government. Mr. Wray worked on this matter in 2006. Other attorneys at the firm worked on the matter in 2006, 2007 and 2011.

“The executive is an American citizen and lives in the United States,” the spokeswoman continued. “During the course of the dispute, the Russian government sought to exert leverage against this executive and the company by initiating a criminal investigation in Russia against him. Chris and the firm were engaged to handle the U.S. legal issues that arose from the situation.”

A call, with a request for comment, from Newsweek to Wray’s Washington, D.C., office was not immediately returned. Based on internet archive service Wayback Machine, the reference to the client facing Russian scrutiny was found on Wray’s profile as recently as November 18.

To date, Trump has not formally nominated Wray. To do so, the formal nominee must be sent to the U.S. Senate, but the White House has yet to do so, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Thursday during a press briefing.

“There’s a pretty lengthy paperwork process, I know, that goes with selecting that individual,” Sanders said. “And so I believe they’re in the middle of that process. And as soon as it’s completed, it will be sent over.”

Wray, who will face a Senate confirmation hearing to replace James Comey at the FBI, previously served as head of the Justice Department’s criminal division from 2003 to 2005 during President George W. Bush’s administration.

Though a date has not been scheduled for Wray’s nomination hearing, he has faced increased scrutiny of late. Wray represented New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the infamous “Bridgegate” scandal and is reportedly still working for Christie, the Asbury Park Press reported Monday.

Wray’s firm has made $2.1 million after being hired by Christie in 2014, a sum that includes more than $650,000 for work on Bridgegate-related material.

Tensions are building inside the Justice Department

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Tensions are building inside the Justice Department as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein contemplates whether he will become a witness in the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections.

Rosenstein, in office for less than two months, is the top Justice official overseeing the probe because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself.
But Rosenstein could end up recusing himself, too, Justice officials say, in part because he played a role in President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. The Comey dismissal could become part of a widening investigation into whether the President tried to interfere with the ongoing Russia probe.
Officials familiar with the matter describe friction on the Justice Department’s fourth and fifth floors, home to the suite of offices belonging to the deputy attorney general and the attorney general, respectively, in part because of Rosenstein’s handling of the Russia matter.
Rosenstein was among those who advised Sessions to recuse himself, according to officials briefed on the matter. But then Rosenstein made the surprise move to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the Russia investigation, a development that people close to Sessions and Trump believe has worsened matters for everyone involved.
Sessions learned of the Mueller appointment at about the same time that the press was told, according to people briefed on the matter. The attorney general was at a White House meeting when the notification came from Rosenstein, prompting the enraged President to scold the attorney general for the turn of events. Trump had viewed Sessions’ recusal as unnecessary, even though Justice Department regulations made it almost impossible to avoid.
The focus on Rosenstein sharpened Friday because the President attacked the deputy attorney general in a tweet, blaming him for what he terms a “witch hunt.”
“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt,” the President tweeted.
The President’s tweet — seeming to confirm the probe based on news reports — came as a surprise to the President’s own legal team, according to a person briefed on the matter.
Mueller continues to hire a team of lawyers, and with FBI investigators is gathering information that is widely expected to lead to a formal investigation into whether President Trump attempted to interfere in the investigation. Comey’s firing likely will be part of that probe.

Special counsel members donated to Dems

Special counsel members donated to Dems 02:26
Rosenstein told the Associated Press earlier this month that when he hired Mueller he discussed the possibility of having recuse himself “if anything that I did winds up being relevant to his investigation” and if recusal is necessary.
The strain on Rosenstein has increasingly become visible in recent weeks, according to Justice officials.
At a ceremony last month to welcome Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the Justice Department’s third-ranking official, Rosenstein joked awkwardly about being at the center of criticism since taking office, according to people who were in the room.
If Rosenstein recuses himself, Brand, a Trump appointee, would become the top Justice official overseeing Mueller’s work.
On Thursday night, he issued a statement lashing out at news stories sourced to anonymous officials and that he believes are causing the President and Republicans to attack the Justice Department, the FBI and Mueller for alleged leaks.
Rosenstein’s unusual statement, which he issued over the objections of some advisers, said in part: “Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials.'”
A Justice official said Rosenstein was motivated in part because of frustration that recent news stories have unfairly brought on a torrent of “leak” accusations against the FBI and Mueller’s team.

Trump lashes out at Russia probe; Pence hires a lawyer  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Trump lashes out at Russia probe; Pence hires a lawyer

June 15 at 9:39 PM
A heightened sense of unease gripped the White House on Thursday, as President Trump lashed out at reports that he’s under scrutiny over whether he obstructed justice, aides repeatedly deflected questions about the probe and Vice President Pence acknowledged hiring a private lawyer to handle fallout from investigations into Russian election meddling.Pence’s decision to hire Richard Cullen, a Richmond-based lawyer who previously served as a U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, came less than a month after Trump hired his own private lawyer.

The hiring of Cullen, whom an aide said Pence was paying for himself, was made public a day after The Washington Post reported that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is widening his investigation to examine whether the president attempted to obstruct justice.

A defiant Trump at multiple points Thursday expressed his frustration with reports about that development, tweeting that he is the subject of “the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history,” and one that he said is being led by “some very bad and conflicted people.”

Trump, who only a day earlier had called for a more civil tone in Washington after a shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., fired off several more tweets in the afternoon voicing disbelief that he was under scrutiny while his “crooked” Democratic opponent in last year’s election, Hillary Clinton, escaped prosecution in relation to her use of a private email server while secretary of state.

Special counsel investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice
The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials to determine whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said. (Patrick Martin,McKenna Ewen/The Washington Post)

Before the day ended, the White House was hit with the latest in a cascade of headlines relating to the Russian probe: a Post story reporting that Mueller is investigating the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-law and adviser.

“The legal jeopardy increases by the day,” said one informal Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss conversations with White House aides more freely. “If you’re a White House staffer, you’re trying to do your best to keep your head low and do your job.”

At the White House on Thursday, aides sought to portray a sense of normalcy, staging an elaborate event to promote a Trump job-training initiative, while simultaneously going into lockdown mode regarding Mueller’s probe.

At a previously scheduled off-camera briefing for reporters, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the principal deputy White House press secretary, was peppered with more than a dozen questions about ongoing investigations over about 20 minutes.

In keeping with a new practice, she referred one question after another to Trump’s personal lawyer.

Sanders, for example, was asked whether Trump still felt “vindicated” by the extraordinary congressional testimony last week by James B. Comey, the FBI director whose firing by Trump has contributed to questions about whether the president obstructed justice.

“I believe so,” Sanders said, before referring reporters to Marc E. Kasowitz, Trump’s private attorney.

As Trump’s No. 2 and as head of the transition team, Pence has increasingly found himself drawn into the widening Russia investigation.

Pence — along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Kushner, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House Counsel Donald McGahn — was one of the small group of senior advisers the president consulted as he mulled his decision to fire Comey, which is now a focus of Mueller’s investigation.

He also was entangled in the events leading up to the dismissal of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, who originally misled Pence about his contact with Russian officials — incorrect claims that Pence himself then repeated publicly.

The vice president was kept in the dark for nearly two weeks about Flynn’s misstatements, before learning the truth in a Post report. Trump ultimately fired Flynn for misleading the vice president.

There were also news reports that Flynn’s attorneys had alerted Trump’s transition team, which Pence led, that Flynn was under federal investigation for his secret ties to the Turkish government as a paid lobbyist — a claim the White House disputes. And aides to Pence, who was running the transition team, said the vice president was never informed of Flynn’s overseas work with Turkey, either.

On Capitol Hill on Thursday, Russian election meddling and related issues were a prominent part of the agenda.

Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats spent more than three hours in a closed session with the Senate Intelligence Committee, just days after he refused to answer lawmakers’ questions in an open session about his conversations with Trump regarding the Russia investigation.

Several GOP lawmakers said they think Mueller should be able to do his job — including probing possible obstruction by Trump — but added that they were eager to put the probe behind them.

Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), the second-ranking Senate Republican, said he retains confidence in Mueller and that he’s seen nothing so far that would amount to obstruction by Trump. His assessment, Cornyn said, includes the testimony last week by Comey, who said he presumed he was fired because of Trump’s concerns about the FBI’s handling of the Russian probe.

“I think based on what he said then, there doesn’t appear to be any there there,” Cornyn said. “Director Mueller’s got extensive staff and authorities to investigate further. But based on what we know now, I don’t see any basis.”

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said he didn’t find news that Mueller is exploring obstruction of justice particularly surprising given it’s clear he is “going to look at everything.”

“There has been a lot of time spent on the collusion issue — 11 months by the FBI and six months by Congress — and both sides agree they haven’t found anything there,” Thune said. “I hope at some point all this stuff will lead to an ultimate conclusion, and we’ll put this to rest.”

In the meantime, the Republican National Committee appears to be girding for a fight.

“Talking points” sent Wednesday night to Trump allies provided a road map for trying to undercut the significance of the latest revelation related to possible obstruction of justice.

“This apparent pivot by the investigative team shows that they have struck out on trying to prove collusion and are now trying to switch to another baseless charge,” the document said.

The RNC also encouraged Trump allies to decry the “inexcusable, outrageous and illegal” leaks on which it said the story was based and to argue that there is a double standard at work.

The document said there was “an obvious case” of obstruction that was never investigated against former attorney general Loretta E. Lynch related to the FBI investigation of Clinton’s email server.

In his afternoon tweets, Trump picked up on that argument. In one tweet, the president wrote: “Crooked H destroyed phones w/ hammer, ‘bleached’ emails, & had husband meet w/AG days before she was cleared- & they talk about obstruction?”

“Why is that Hillary Clintons family and Dems dealings with Russia are not looked at, but my non-dealings are?” Trump said in another.

Trump restricted his musing Thursday on Mueller’s investigation to social media, passing on opportunities to talk about it in public.

The president did not respond to shouted questions about whether he believes he is under investigation as he departed an event Thursday morning designed to highlight his administration’s support of apprenticeship programs.

That event was part of a schedule that suggested no outward signs of concern by Trump about his latest troubles.

He was joined at the apprenticeship event by several governors, lawmakers and other dignitaries. Before turning to the subject at hand, Trump provided an update on the condition of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who was shot Wednesday during the attack on Republican lawmakers at an early-morning baseball practice.

Attempting to strike a unifying chord, Trump said: “Steve, in his own way, may have brought some unity to our long-divided country.”

Later in the afternoon, Trump and the first lady traveled to the Supreme Court for the investiture ceremony for Justice Neil M. Gorsuch.

Among the questions Sanders deflected Thursday was to whom exactly Trump was referring as “bad and conflicted people” in one of his early morning tweets.

“Again, I would refer you to the president’s outside counsel on all questions relating to the investigation,” Sanders said.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the outside counsel, did not respond to an email and phone call seeking comment on the questions Sanders referred to him.

Earlier this week, one of the president’s sons, Donald Trump Jr., highlighted on Twitter an op-ed in USA Today that argued that Mueller should recuse himself from the Russia investigation because he has a potential conflict of interest, given his longtime friendship with Comey, a crucial witness.

The piece, which Donald Trump Jr. retweeted, was written by William G. Otis, an adjunct law professor at Georgetown University who was a special counsel for President George H.W. Bush.

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Christopher Ruddy, a friend of Trump’s, made headlines this week when he said during a PBS interview that he believed Trump was considering firing Mueller.

The White House didn’t immediately deny that notion but made clear that Ruddy was not speaking for Trump. The following day, Sanders said Trump had no intention of trying to dislodge Mueller.

Sanders was asked again Thursday whether Trump still has confidence in Mueller.

“I believe so,” she said, later adding: “I haven’t had a specific conversation about that, but I think if he didn’t, he would probably have intentions to make a change, and he certainly doesn’t.

Ed O’Keefe, Karoun Demirjian and Abby Phillip contributed to this report.

Trump keeps creating his own personal hell—Because He Is To Ignorant And Stupid To Shut Up

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Trump keeps creating his own personal hell

June 15 
Special counsel investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice
The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials to determine whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said. (Patrick Martin,McKenna Ewen/The Washington Post)

Last month President Trump apparently told the Russians he fired FBI director James B. Comey to relieve pressure on him. Except, in firing Comey, Trump has upped the pressure cooker he’s in by a factor of 10.

“I’m not under investigation,” Trump then told the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office, according to the New York Times.

Now, it appears he is.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, related to Comey’s testimony alleging that Trump tried to interfere in some of the FBI’s Russia investigations.

Until recently, the FBI’s investigation had focused on Russia meddling in the presidential campaign and whether Trump’s campaign helped. We knew the investigation was looking into Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, but we had no idea how much higher it would go. Now, that investigation has branched out into obstruction into its first investigation. And the spotlight on the obstruction case is entirely on the president himself.

This is the great irony for Trump, an irony he doesn’t seem to have comprehended: When he feels backed into a corner, he lashes out in politically inadvisable ways that often makes his life much more difficult. But he can’t seem to stop doing it.

As a candidate behind in the polls, Trump lurched at Hillary Clinton in a way that gave her supporters leverage to claim Trump wasn’t supportive of women. As a president who watched health-care legislation stall in the House of Representatives, he blamed conservatives in a way that fractured his delicate relationship with Congress. When he tweeted about an impending court decision on his travel ban, a federal court used that against him.

Some of that still worked out for him, some of it hasn’t.

But when Trump feels encroached by a serious and multipronged legal investigation, lashing out attracts a different set of consequences for the president: Legal ones that directly threaten him.

You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!

 

Jacobovitz doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that, last week, a friend of the president said Trump was considering firing Mueller. (A consideration the White House didn’t deny: They later said Trump has “no intention” of firing Mueller.)

A few days later, sources with knowledge of the closed-door special counsel investigation leaked to The Post that Trump himself is under investigation. That’s a shocking development.

But making the scope public is like a buffer for Mueller’s job security — and it could act as a buffer to try to save the president from himself.

“Now it’s clear that he’s being investigated, it makes it even more difficult to fire Mueller,” Jacobovitz said, “because it looks like he’s trying to terminate an investigation against himself. … It would be political suicide.”

If Trump were to follow through on his natural instinct to lash out and fire Mueller, he would have little support. Pretty much everyone who’s anyone in Washington has made clear they think it’d be a terrible, terrible idea for Trump to sack Mueller.

“I think the best advice is to let Robert Mueller do his job,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters on Tuesday.

For how Trump could, feasibly, fire Mueller, here’s a flow chart by Washington Post’s Philip Bump, who explains the process in detail here:

That doesn’t mean Trump will keep his head down. Especially since things could get even worse for him on the legal front.

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Attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit against the president, alleging he’s violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution by not fully separating himself from his business. (He retains an ownership stake in the business his sons run.) So has a government watchdog advocacy group. And nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress will soon file a similar lawsuit.

If any one of those gets traction in the courts (and Jacobovitz thinks one will), Trump could be investigated for his personal finances as well as his actions as president. Oh, and Mueller’s investigation is also reportedly looking into unexplained “broad financial crimes.”

Add it all up and you have a president who could soon be under attack on multiple legal fronts. Trump’s go-to move when he feels under attack is to respond in a way that exacerbates the situation. That’s why there’s an obstruction of justice investigation in the first place.

At this point, the president has boxed himself into a corner where following his instincts could make his life exponentially worse.

Senate Intelligence Committee: AG Sessions Flip-Flops And Lies His Way Throughout

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to have his cake and eat it too when it came to his explanations during congressional testimony Tuesday for the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

On the one hand, Sessions didn’t feel like he needed to stay in the Oval Office on February 14 when President Trump said he wanted to speak privately with Comey. And he didn’t feel the need to do anything following a meeting the two men had in the days that followed in which Comey expressed his discomfort with these one-on-one conversations with the president.
Sessions’ justification in both instances was that Comey was a total pro, that he knew his stuff and that Sessions trusted him to handle his business.
“I felt (Comey), so long in the department — former deputy attorney general, as I recall — knew those policies probably a good deal better than I did,” said Sessions at one point. At another, Sessions said: “Our Department of Justice rules on proper communications between the department and the White House have been in place for years. Mr. Comey well knew them, I thought and assumed, correctly, that he complied with them.”
On the other hand, Sessions told the Senate intelligence committee that he and deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had discussed removing Comey as FBI director and agreed that it was time for a “fresh start” at the bureau before either man was confirmed to their current positions.
Huh?
Either Comey was the ultimate pro who could be trusted to handle his business or he was someone who Sessions had decided months before needed to go because he had badly mismanaged his role in the 2016 election. Comey can’t simultaneously be highly competent and a bungling, bumbling fool depending on what image suits Sessions’ needs at the moment.
But, time and again, Sessions tried to hold those totally oppositional thoughts in his head — and insisted that they weren’t at all contradictory.
As Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, noted in Tuesday’s hearing, in July and again in October — following Comey’s initial announcement that Hillary Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her handling of her private email server and his decision to re-open the case in October — Sessions praised the then FBI director.
This exchange between Reed and Sessions is telling:
REED: So, in July and November, Director Comey was doing exactly the right thing. You had no criticism of him. You felt that in fact he was a skilled professional prosecutor. You felt that his last statement in October was fully justified. So how can you go from those statements to agreeing with Mr. Rosenstein and then asking the President, or recommending he be fired?
SESSIONS: I think, in retrospect, as all of us begin to look at that clearly and talk about it, as perspectives of the Department of Justice, once the director had first got involved and embroiled in a public discussion of this investigation, which would have been better never to have been discussed publicly, and said he — it was over. Then when he found new evidence that came up, I think he probably was required to tell Congress that it wasn’t over, that new evidence had been developed.
Uh, what?
If you get what Sessions is driving at in his response to Reed, you are a better — and smarter — person than me.
(Also worth noting: Comey testified, under oath, that Trump called him several times in the first part of this year to tell him how great a job he was doing.)
Then there was the fact, revealed in Sessions’ testimony yesterday, that he had never met with Comey to discuss what he took to be his poor performance.
This back and forth with Mark Warner, D-Virginia, the vice chairman of the intelligence committee, gets at that oddity:
WARNER: So you were his — his superior, and there were some fairly harsh things said about Director Comey. You never thought it was appropriate to raise those concerns before he was actually terminated by the President?
SESSIONS: I did not do so. A memorandum was prepared by the deputy attorney general, who evaluated his performance and noted some serious problems with it.
Take one giant step back. We know, because Donald Trump told us, that the real reason he fired Comey was because of the former FBI director’s approach to the Russia investigation. Trump said that after his administration had tried to sell the same case Sessions was selling on Tuesday: That Comey was removed because of a memo from Rosenstein.
That’s the fact. Everything else — including Sessions’ attempts to spin his views on Comey and the circumstances surrounding his firing — are simply post-action spin.
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