Posts tagged with "Justice Department"

Trump tells former aides to defy subpoenas from January 6 House panel

October 11, 2021

Former President Donald Trump has instructed his former aides not to comply with subpoenas from the special congressional committee investigating the Capitol riot—raising the prospect of the panel issuing criminal referrals for some of his closest advisers as early as Friday, October 8, The New York Times reports.

In a letter reviewed by the Times. Trump’s lawyer asked that witnesses not provide testimony or documents related to their “official” duties, and instead to invoke any immunities they might have “to the fullest extent permitted by law.”

The House committee has ordered four former Trump administration officials — Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; Dan Scavino Jr., a deputy chief of staff; Stephen K. Bannon, an adviser; and Kash Patel, a Pentagon chief of staff — to sit for depositions and furnish documents and other materials relevant to its investigation. They all faced a Thursday, October 7, deadline to respond.

Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi—and the chairman of the select committee—has threatened criminal referrals for witnesses who do not comply with the subpoenas, and said the panel expected witnesses “to cooperate fully with our probe.”

The move amounted to a declaration of war by Trump on the investigation, and raised legal questions about how far the committee could go in compelling information from a former president and his advisers, the Times said.

The committee is demanding that Meadows and Patel submit to questioning on Thursday, October 14; and Bannon and Scavino, the following day.

While President Biden already has said that extending Trump’s “executive privilege” is unlikely, it remains unclear whether his Administration will see fit to offer the privilege to those who have been subpoenaed.

The Justice Department and the White House already have waived executive privilege for a previous batch of witnesses who were asked to testify before the Senate Judiciary and House Oversight committees, which were investigating both the January 6 attack and the Trump Administration’s efforts to subvert the results of the presidential election. The Justice Department argued that privilege was conferred to protect the institution of the presidency—not to provide immunity for wrongdoing.

Taylor Budowich, a spokesperson for Trump, said that the records request by the select committee was “outrageously broad” and that it lacked “both legal precedent and legislative merit.

The instructions from Trump were reported earlier by The Guardian.

Research contact: @nytimes

Two men charged with conspiracy to attack Democratic HQ in Sacramento

july 19, 2021

On July 16, federal authorities announced they had arrested two men in California who allegedly wanted to organize a movement to overthrow the government—and who had discussed blowing up the Democratic headquarters in Sacramento—in a new, major case of would-be domestic terrorists motivated by former President Donald Trump’s election defeat, CNN reports.

Five days before the presidential inauguration on January 20—which prosecutors believe was to be a key date in the planning of the attack—the Justice Department apprehended one of the men, who had amassed a large arsenal. Ian Benjamin Rogers, 45, of Napa, California, showed strong support for White supremacy and for Trump, and said in text messages he realized he would be labeled a domestic terrorist, according to Justice Department court filings.

A man Rogers communicated with, Jarrod Copeland, 37, of Vallejo, California, was arrested in Sacramento this week, DOJ said.

According to CNN, court records citing extensive encrypted messages between Rogers and Copeland raise the alarm of how the men sought to inspire domestic terrorism toward Democrats—and how their anti-government motivations may still persist.

In January, Rogers had told Copeland, “I want to blow up a democrat building bad,” and Copeland responded in agreement, writing, “Plan attack.”

The pair discussed “war” after President Joe Biden’s inauguration, the Justice Department said. They also discussed attacking George Soros, a billionaire donor who supports liberal causes; and Twitter, which by then had removed Trump from the social media platform.Enter your email to sign up for CNN’s “What Matters” newsletter.”I hope 45 goes to war if he doesn’t I will,” Rogers allegedly wrote.

The larger idea, the FBI and prosecutors say, was for Rogers to become violent near where he lived, to prompt others into similar actions nationwide, according to the court record.

Both men are charged with conspiracy to destroy by fire or explosive a building used or in affecting interstate commerce.

Rogers also faces weapons charges after investigators found 49 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition and five pipe bombs at his home and business in January, shortly after they discussed the plan but before January 20, according to court records. One of the guns, investigators noted, appeared to be a replica of a fully automatic machine gun that Nazi troops had used during World War II, according to a charging document for Rogers. Rogers told investigators after his arrest the pipe bombs were for “entertainment.”

Secret Service intel briefings ahead of January 6 concluded there was no indication of civil disobedience

Rogers and Copeland are currently being held in custody and have yet to be arraigned, and a federal prosecutor said Thursday they remain a threat. “All of the political and social conditions that motivated them to plan what they themselves described as a terrorist attack remain,” the prosecutor write in a court filing.

Rogers’ attorney declined to comment, and it was not immediately clear if Copeland had a lawyer. Copeland is due in court in San Francisco on July 20.

Prosecutors, national security officials and politicians have warned that after Trump and his allies ramped up his lies of a stolen election in November and after a mob of hundreds of Trump supporters attacked the US Capitol on January 6, their inflammatory rhetoric could lead to violence.

An FBI agent specializing in domestic terrorism wrote in court about the messages, “I believe that these latter messages indicate Rogers’ belief that Trump (“45″) actually won the presidential election and should ‘go to war’ to ensure he remained in power.”

Prosecutors also say Rogers had written to Copeland months before, in November, that he wanted to “hit the enemy in the mouth” with homemade explosives attacking the Governor’s Mansion and the Democratic headquarters building in Sacramento, according to DOJ.

Copeland had told Rogers he was in touch with an anti-government militia group and also had made contact with a militia leader after Rogers’ arrest, who advised him to delete his communications, which he allegedly did, the Justice Department also said.

In various searches, investigators found Copeland had rifles, a “go bag” with a helmet, elbow and knee pads, ammunition magazines and zip tie handcuffs, and anabolic steroids.

The zip ties, prosecutors say, were intended for the men’s plot. “The fact that he still had them six months later indicates that he still believed a situation would arise where he would need to take prisoners,” a Justice Department court filing said. “His sentiments are deeply felt and long-standing and reflect a belief that the government is illegitimate. He is not likely to obey rules imposed on him by someone he views as part of a tyrannical government.”

Prosecutors note that Copeland served in the military but had deserted in 2016 under an “other than honorable” discharge.

“It doesn’t matter for our purposes whether the steroids make Copeland more violent and aggressive, or he seeks out steroids because he tends to be more violent and aggressive. Either way, he is a greater danger to the community,” prosecutors noted about the steroids.

At first, CNN reports, Rogers’ idea was to use Molotov cocktails and gasoline, and his a “first target” of the governor’s mansion, because he believed it was empty and there would be no casualties. “Would send a message,” Rogers allegedly wrote to Copeland, according to the court record. “That’s the best target I think too,” Copeland responded.

Prosecutors say Rogers then decided to change the target to the Democratic headquarters building in Sacramento. The two men allegedly made plans over the next two months, prosecutors say. The discussed pipe bombs and gallons of gasoline, among other violence at the building, according to their messages included in court records.

Research contact: @CNN

China vows reprisals after USA shutters Houston consulate in what Beijing calls ‘unprecedented escalation’

July 23, 2020

President Donald Trump is raising the stake internationally. China vowed retaliation on July 22 after the United States forced its trade foe to close its Houston consulate, in one of the biggest threats to diplomatic ties between the two nations in decades, Bloomberg News reports..

The U.S. government gave China three days to close its consulate in America’s fourth-most populous city in an “unprecedented escalation,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Wednesday in Beijing.

China planned to “react with firm countermeasures” if the Trump Administration didn’t “revoke this erroneous decision,” Wang said.

According to Bloomberg, the U.S. State Department said it ordered the consulate shut “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information,” without giving more details. At least two Chinese citizens have been convicted of stealing energy industry trade secrets in Houston in recent years. The consulate is one of five China maintains in the United States, along with its embassy in Washington, D.C.

Asked for specifics on why the consulate was being closed, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo responded with broad remarks about China’s actions on intellectual property, saying it was “costing hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

“We are setting out clear expectations for how the Chinese Communist Party is going to behave and, when they don’t, we’re going to take actions that protect the American people,” Pompeo said at a briefing on Wednesday in Denmark where he was meeting the country’s foreign minister.

 “So much has happened so quickly that it’s hard not to feel like this is a cycle of major escalation,” said Mira Rapp-Hooper, a senior fellow for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, adding, “To close a consulate on 72-hours notice should be the result only of major infractions by that country and certainly signals a level of diplomatic rancor that is quite intense.”

America has clashed with China over everything from trade and 5G networks to territorial disputes and responsibility for the pandemic, Bloomberg noted. On Tuesday, the Justice Department accused two Chinese hackers of working for Beijing to steal or try to steal terabytes of data, including coronavirus research, from Western companies in 11 nations.

Typically, China would be expected to take similar action against a U.S. consulate. Besides the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China could target consulates in the cities of Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang and Wuhan.

Research contact: Bloombergnews2

Barr’s handpicked prosecutor for Russia case says he cannot back theory of ‘U.S. intelligence setup’

December 6, 2019

The prosecutor whom Attorney General William Barr personally tapped to scrutinize how U.S. intelligence agencies investigated President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign—and its connections to Russia—has refused to back a conspiracy theory around which the case has been built, according to a report by The Washington Post.

U.S. Attorney John Durham said he could not offer evidence to the Justice Department’s inspector general to support the suspicions of some conservatives that the case was a setup by American intelligence, sources told the news outlet.

Specifically, Durham could not confirm to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz that a Maltese professor, Joseph Mifsud, who interacted with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in April 2016 was actually a U.S. intelligence asset deployed to ensnare the campaign, sources said.

But the intelligence agencies said the professor was not among their assets, the informants said. And Durham informed Horowitz’s office that his investigation had not produced any evidence that might contradict the inspector general’s similar findings on that point.

Spokespeople for the inspector general’s office, Durham, and the Justice Department declined to comment, The Washington Post reported.

The previously unreported interaction between Durham and Horowitz is documented in the IG’s forthcoming report on the Russia investigation; which concludes that the FBI had adequate cause to launch its Russia investigation, people familiar with the matter said. Its public release is set for Monday.

That could rebut conservatives’ worries—which Barr has shared with associates in recent weeks—that Horowitz might be blessing the FBI’s Russia investigation prematurely and that Durham could potentially find more, particularly with regard to the Maltese professor.

The news outlet said, however, that the draft is not final.  The inspector general has yet to release any conclusions, and The Washington Post has not reviewed Horowitz’s entire report, even in draft form. It is also unclear whether Durham has shared the entirety of his findings and evidence with the inspector general or merely answered a specific question.

In response to recent reports that Barr is skeptical about the forthcoming report, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement that the watchdog’s investigation “is a credit to the Department of Justice.”

She added, “Rather than speculating, people should read the report for themselves next week, watch the Inspector General’s testimony before the Senate

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Graham will ask Australia, Italy, and UK to aid and abet AG Barr’s probe into Russia investigation

October 2, 2019

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) obviously is “drinking the Kool-Aid,” along with the president, the attorney general, and the secretary of state.

On October 1, The Hill reports, Graham laid out plans to send a letter asking other nations to cooperate with the Justice Department’s probe into the origins of the Mueller investigation.

Graham, during an on-air interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Monday, knocked a report by The New York Times that alleged that President Donald Trump had asked the Australian government to assist Attorney General William Barr as part of the DOJ investigation.

“Barr should be talking to Australia. He should be talking to Italy. He should be talking to the U.K. to find out if their intelligence services worked with our intelligence services improperly to open up a counterintelligence investigation of Trump’s campaign. If he’s not doing that he’s not doing his job,” Graham said according to The Hill. 

“So I’m going to write a letter to all three countries … asking them to cooperate with Barr,” he added. 

Graham’s Fox News interview comes after The New York Times reported that Trump urged Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to help Barr, according to two officials with knowledge of the call. The Justice Department subsequently confirmed that Trump had contacted foreign governments at Barr’s request.

Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and has emerged as a Trump crony, blasted the Times piece, The Hill said—characterizing it as “the beginning of an effort to shut down Barr’s investigation.”

“This New York Times article is an effort to stop Barr. … What are they afraid of? This really bothers me a lot that the left is going to try to say there’s something wrong with Barr talking to Australia, Italy and the United Kingdom,” he added.

In addition to the Times story, The Washington Post reported on Monday that Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham of the District of Connecticut, who is leading the DOJ’s inquiry, met with senior Italian officials.

Barr also has reportedly requested assistance from British intelligence officials in connection with the inquiry.

Research contact: @thehill

Look who’s talking! Mueller agrees to testify for TV cameras in July; Trump vents anger

June 27, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump flailed out in all directions—at the Democrats, at former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, at two former FBI officials—on June 26, after he learned that Mueller had agreed to testify in public before Congress next month about his investigation into Russia’s election interference and possible obstruction of justice, The New York Times reported.

Coming nearly three months after the release of what is commonly referred to as the Mueller Report, two back-to-back hearings on July 17 before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees promise to be among the most closely watched spectacles of Trump’s presidency to date, the Times said.

For those who have not read the lengthy report—including, in all probability, the majority of Congress and the U.S. population—this will represent an opportunity for the lead investigator on the case to recount what his team found, up-close and personal.

Indeed, unlike the print presentation, the live video will zoom in on Mueller’s demeanor, providing a chance for viewers to evaluate the Special Counsel’s verbal emphasis and body language.

The testimony will have the power to change minds and, potentially, to reshape the political landscape around the president’s re-election campaign and the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

In a statement released on the evening of June 25, Chairmen Jerry Nadler (D-New York) of the Judiciary Committee and Adam Schiff (D-California) of the Intelligence Committee noted, “Americans have demanded to hear directly from the special counsel so they can understand what he and his team examined, uncovered, and determined about Russia’s attack on our democracy, the Trump campaign’s acceptance and use of that help, and President Trump and his associates’ obstruction of the investigation into that attack.”

For his part, upon hearing that the former special counsel would respond to the Congressional subpoenas and testify before two committees publicly, President Trump lashed out at Mueller on Wednesday, dredging up false accusations about the conduct of investigators.

The president offered no evidence as he repeated earlier accusations that Mueller destroyed text messages between two former F.B.I. officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who worked on the Russia investigation and, personally, were not fans of the president. “They’re gone and that is illegal,” the president said of the texts in an interview with Fox Business Network. “That’s a crime.”

According to the Times report, Trump was referring to a December Justice Department inspector general report—which revealed that 19,000 text messages had been lost because of technical problems; not intentionally deleted by Mr. Mueller or anyone.

“It never ends,” Mr. Trump said about Democratic efforts to investigate his conduct. He repeated, as he has done many times, that Mueller’s report found “no collusion with the Russians, “and he again offered a false assertion that he was cleared of obstruction of justice.

In a press conference at the end of May, Mueller emphasized that Mr. Trump has not been cleared of obstruction crimes, remarking, “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Federal judge ponders review of Mueller report redactions

April 19, 2019

The federal judge who reviews documents for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) dissemination is asking to scrutinize the redacted version of the Mueller Report, in order to ensure that all deletions have been made for legal purposes—and not with the intent of withholding information from the Congress or the American public.

As reported by The Daily Beast, Federal District Judge Reggie Walton expressed interest in reviewing the Mueller report redactions in order to expedite Freedom of Information Act requests for the highly anticipated report.

“Obviously there is a real concern as to whether there is full transparency,” Walton said at a Tuesday court hearing regarding a request from BuzzFeed to have the Justice Department release the report quickly under FOIA. “The attorney general has created an environment that has caused a significant part of the American public to be concerned.”

If Walton is successful, the review would be a win for those suing for the report’s release because it would bring in a judge to look at the reasoning over redactions. It is unclear whether the version of the report made public Thursday will be identical to what the department releases under FOIA.

“That’s something we’ll have to work through and something I’ll have to think about,” Walton said.

Indeed, according to Politico, Justice Department attorney Courtney Enlow declined to say whether the version of the report made public Thursday will be identical to what the department releases under FOIA. Nor could she say whether she’d be prepared to commit to that during another hearing set for May 2 on the BuzzFeed case and a related suit.

“I can’t give you a timeline,” Enlow said.

However, the judge said Tuesday that he plans to “fast track” the issue of the report and what information in it must be disclosed, then deal with other records from Mueller’s probe.

Walton said he hopes any disputes will be limited because the Justice Department makes the bulk of the document public.

“I would hope that the government is as transparent as it can be,” the judge said.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Dems deride Barr’s obstruction of justice conclusion; demand full Mueller report

March 26, 2019

When President Donald Trump’s personally selected and nominated attorney general, William Barr, quickly decided this past weekend that there had been no obstruction of justice during the Russia investigation, Democrats had their doubts.

After all, before his nomination, Barr had deeply damaged his credibility by sending an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department and the White House on June 8 of last year, arguing that Special Counsel Robert Muellershould not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction.”

Barr noted at that time, “I know you will agree that, if a DOJ investigation is going to take down a democratically elected President, it is imperative to the health of our system and to our national cohesion that any claim of wrongdoing is solidly based on evidence of a real crime—not a debatable one. It is time to travel well-worn paths; not to veer into novel, unsettled or contested areas of the law; and not to indulge the fancies by overly zealous prosecutors.”

Did Robert Mueller get that message before he decided to demur? And who can blame Democrats for wondering whether—when Barr said the special counsel had not reached a conclusion on obstruction of justice—he was merely grabbing the opportunity that he had hoped to take advantage of all along?

Indeed, Democrats accused Barr of putting his own finding on Mueller’s report, noting that Mueller himself did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice, even if he did not explicitly state that Trump had committed obstruction, The Hill reported. 

“A sanitized summary from Trump’s handpicked bodyguard is not acceptable,” said Representative Bill Pascrell (D-New Jersey). “Barr has his finger on the scale to protect Trump. The full report should be released immediately.”

From day one, Trump obstructed this investigation and refused to cooperate. Several of his top aides have been convicted in court. If Trump’s AG won’t hold him accountable for his crimes, it’s up to Congress to investigate,” Pascrell continued, adding that “the ball is now squarely in our court.”

Democrats seeking the party’s nomination to run against Trump in 2020—including Senators Cory Booker (New Jersey)Kirsten Gillibrand (New York)Kamala Harris (California), and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts)—also called for the full report to be released, The Hill said.

“The American public deserves the full report and findings from the Mueller investigation immediately—not just the in-house summary from a Trump Administration official,” Booker tweeted.

In her call for the full report, Warren cited a House measure earlier this month in which lawmakers unanimously voted for the special counsel’s entire report to be made public.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-New York) said his panel would be calling on Barr to testify, the news outlet reported.

“In light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision-making at the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report, where Mueller did not exonerate the President, we will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify before House Judiciary in the near future,” he said.

Trump and the White House seized on Barr’s letter summarizing Mueller’s report as a vindication. “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!” Trump tweeted on March 24 at 4:42 p.m.

Research contact: @the hill

Judiciary Committee delays confirmation vote on Barr amid doubts by Dems

January 30, 2019

A scheduled Senate Judiciary Committee vote on the nomination of William Barr to be U.S. attorney general has been delayed by a week, to February 5, as Democrats on the panel continue to worry that he will cut the Russia inquiry short—or fail to release Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s full report to the Congress and the American people.

According to coverage by U.S. News & World Report, such delays—known as holdovers—are not uncommon. However, this one comes during a “pronounced partisan divide” over seating Barr, coming just one day after Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker told the media that the Mueller “investigation is, I think, close to being completed.”

Barr came under intense scrutiny from Democrats late last year, the news outlet said, when he sent an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department expressing doubts about the legitimacy of any inquiry into whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice.

During the hearing, Barr has avowed, “…it is in the best interest of everyone—the president, Congress, and the American people—that this matter be resolved by allowing the special counsel to complete his work.”

However, to date, he has not promised to make the full report available when it is completed. Instead, Barr has pledged, “to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law”—a statement that brings little comfort to the opposition party.

Research contact: @alneuhauser

Ornstein: Nunes should be expelled from House

July 25, 2018

Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the conservative public policy think tank American Enterprise Institute, has called for U.S. Representative Devin Nunes (R-California) to be expelled from the House of Representatives, saying that the Intelligence Committee chairman—who was supposed to recuse himself from the Russia investigation due to his involvement as an Executive Committee member on the Trump transition team—has “brought dishonor” to the chamber.

Appearing on MSNBC on July 23, The Hill reports, Ornstein said Nunes’s repeated attacks on the U.S. intelligence community and his willingness to coordinate with the White House “against the interests of Congress” demonstrated that the California Republican had provided “aid and comfort to our enemies.”

“I think what we’ve seen with Nunes going back to way before the attacks on the FISA report, on the intelligence community; undermining key security of the United States; to when he was working with the White House against the interests of Congress, shutting out the minority as the chairman of the intelligence community—this is giving aid and comfort to our enemies,” Ornstein said.

“He has, I think, brought dishonor upon the House and endangered the country,” Ornstein added. “And I don’t say it lightly.”

Ornstein’s comments on MSNBC came days after the Justice Department released redacted documents related to surveillance warrants on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser with links to Russia.

Nunes previously had pushed the release of a memo authored by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee that alleged missteps and abuses by FBI officials in obtaining the Page warrants, The Hill said.

Nunes is among President Trump‘s most ardent congressional allies in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The intel chairman has repeatedly raised concerns about potential surveillance abuses against members of Trump’s campaign.

According to findings of a July 24 Quinnipiac University Poll, american votes believe (51%-35%)”that the Russian government has compromising information about President Donald Trump. Only Republicans do not believe that Russia has compromising information on the POTUS (70%-18%). Similarly, 54% of U.S,. voters think that the Helsinki summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin was a failure for the United States (52%-27%), but not the Republicans (73%-8%).

Research contact: peter.brown@quinnipiac.edu