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On page 1 of Saturday's print edition of The New York Times…


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Kiwithrottlejockey
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Having fun in the hills!


« on: January 12, 2019, 04:14:33 pm »


Hehehe … the “emperor with no clothes” will be seething with rage and will chuck his toys out of the cot again…



from The New York Times…

F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump
Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia


The investigation, whose fate is unclear, led counter-intelligence investigators
to consider an explosive question: whether the president's actions
constituted a possible threat to national security
.


By ADAM GOLDMAN, MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and NICHOLAS FANDOS | 9:15PM EST — Friday, January 11, 2019

Following President Donald J. Trump's firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, the bureau grew increasingly concerned about whether the president's actions constituted anti-American activity. — Photograph: Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times.
Following President Donald J. Trump's firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, the bureau grew increasingly concerned about whether
the president's actions constituted anti-American activity. — Photograph: Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times.


WASHINGTON D.C. — In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president's behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counter-intelligence investigators had to consider whether the president's own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow's influence.

The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.

Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump's ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president's activities before and after Mr. Comey's firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counter-intelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, took over the inquiry into Mr. Trump when he was appointed, days after F.B.I. officials opened it. That inquiry is part of Mr. Mueller's broader examination of how Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with them. It is unclear whether Mr. Mueller is still pursuing the counter-intelligence matter, and some former law enforcement officials outside the investigation have questioned whether agents overstepped in opening it.

The criminal and counter-intelligence elements were coupled together into one investigation, former law enforcement officials said in interviews in recent weeks, because if Mr. Trump had ousted the head of the F.B.I. to impede or even end the Russia investigation, that was both a possible crime and a national security concern. The F.B.I.'s counter-intelligence division handles national security matters.

If the president had fired Mr. Comey to stop the Russia investigation, the action would have been a national security issue because it naturally would have hurt the bureau's effort to learn how Moscow interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Americans were involved, according to James A. Baker, who served as F.B.I. general counsel until late 2017. He privately testified in October before House investigators who were examining the F.B.I.'s handling of the full Russia inquiry.

“Not only would it be an issue of obstructing an investigation, but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure out what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security,” Mr. Baker said in his testimony, portions of which were read to The New York Times. Mr. Baker did not explicitly acknowledge the existence of the investigation of Mr. Trump to congressional investigators.

No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials. An F.B.I. spokeswoman and a spokesman for the special counsel's office both declined to comment.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, sought to play down the significance of the investigation. “The fact that it goes back a year and a half and nothing came of it that showed a breach of national security means they found nothing,” Mr. Giuliani said on Friday, though he acknowledged that he had no insight into the inquiry.

The cloud of the Russia investigation has hung over Mr. Trump since even before he took office, though he has long vigorously denied any illicit connection to Moscow. The obstruction inquiry,  revealed by The Washington Post a few weeks after Mr. Mueller was appointed, represented a direct threat that he was unable to simply brush off as an overzealous examination of a handful of advisers. But few details have been made public about the counter-intelligence aspect of the investigation.

The decision to investigate Mr. Trump himself was an aggressive move by F.B.I. officials who were confronting the chaotic aftermath of the firing of Mr. Comey and enduring the president's verbal assaults on the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt.”

A vigorous debate has taken shape among some former law enforcement officials outside the case over whether F.B.I. investigators over-reacted in opening the counter-intelligence inquiry during a tumultuous period at the Justice Department. Other former officials noted that those critics were not privy to all of the evidence and argued that sitting on it would have been an abdication of duty.

The F.B.I. conducts two types of inquiries, criminal and counter-intelligence investigations. Unlike criminal investigations, which are typically aimed at solving a crime and can result in arrests and convictions, counter-intelligence inquiries are generally fact-finding missions to understand what a foreign power is doing and to stop any anti-American activity, like thefts of United States government secrets or covert efforts to influence policy. In most cases, the investigations are carried out quietly, sometimes for years. Often, they result in no arrests.

Mr. Trump had caught the attention of F.B.I. counter-intelligence agents when he called on Russia during a campaign news conference in July 2016 to hack into the emails of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump had refused to criticize Russia on the campaign trail, praising President Vladimir V. Putin. And investigators had watched with alarm as the Republican Party softened its convention platform on the Ukraine crisis in a way that seemed to benefit Russia.

Other factors fueled the F.B.I.'s concerns, according to the people familiar with the inquiry. Christopher Steele, a former British spy who worked as an F.B.I. informant, had compiled memos in mid-2016 containing unsubstantiated claims that Russian officials tried to obtain influence over Mr. Trump by preparing to blackmail and bribe him.


The F.B.I. investigated whether the firing of Mr. Comey was a national security threat following President Donald J. Trump's dismissal of Comey. — Photograph: Erik S Lesser/European Pressphoto Agency/via Shutterstock.
The F.B.I. investigated whether the firing of Mr. Comey was a national security threat following President Donald J. Trump's dismissal of Comey.
 — Photograph: Erik S Lesser/European Pressphoto Agency/via Shutterstock.


In the months before the 2016 election, the F.B.I. was also already investigating four of Mr. Trump's associates over their ties to Russia. The constellation of events disquieted F.B.I. officials who were simultaneously watching as Russia's campaign unfolded to undermine the presidential election by exploiting existing divisions among Americans.

“In the Russian Federation and in President Putin himself, you have an individual whose aim is to disrupt the Western alliance and whose aim is to make Western democracy more fractious in order to weaken our ability, America's ability and the West's ability to spread our democratic ideals,” Lisa Page, a former bureau lawyer, told House investigators in private testimony reviewed by The New York Times.

“That's the goal, to make us less of a moral authority to spread democratic values,” she added. Parts of her testimony were first reported by The Epoch Times.

And when a newly inaugurated Mr. Trump sought a loyalty pledge from Mr. Comey and later asked that he end an investigation into the president's national security adviser, the requests set off discussions among F.B.I. officials about opening an inquiry into whether Mr. Trump had tried to obstruct that case.

But law enforcement officials put off the decision to open the investigation until they had learned more, according to people familiar with their thinking. As for a counter-intelligence inquiry, they concluded that they would need strong evidence to take the sensitive step of investigating the president, and they were also concerned that the existence of such an inquiry could be leaked to the news media, undermining the entire investigation into Russia's meddling in the election.

After Mr. Comey was fired on May 9, 2017, two more of Mr. Trump's actions prompted them to quickly abandon those reservations.

The first was a letter Mr. Trump wanted to send to Mr. Comey about his firing, but never did, in which he mentioned the Russia investigation. In the letter, Mr. Trump thanked Mr. Comey for previously telling him he was not a subject of the F.B.I.'s Russia investigation.

Even after the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, wrote a more restrained draft of the letter and told Mr. Trump that he did not have to mention the Russia investigation — Mr. Comey's poor handling of the Clinton email investigation would suffice as a fireable offense, he explained — Mr. Trump directed Mr. Rosenstein to mention the Russia investigation anyway.

He disregarded the president's order, irritating Mr. Trump. The president ultimately added a reference to the Russia investigation to the note he had delivered, thanking Mr. Comey for telling him three times that he was not under investigation.

The second event that troubled investigators was an NBC News interview two days after Mr. Comey's firing in which Mr. Trump appeared to say he had dismissed Mr. Comey because of the Russia inquiry.

“I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it,” he said. “And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should've won.”

Mr. Trump's aides have said that a fuller examination of his comments demonstrates that he did not fire Mr. Comey to end the Russia inquiry. “I might even lengthen out the investigation, but I have to do the right thing for the American people,” Mr. Trump added. “He's the wrong man for that position.”

As F.B.I. officials debated whether to open the investigation, some of them pushed to move quickly before Mr. Trump appointed a director who might slow down or even end their investigation into Russia's interference. Many involved in the case viewed Russia as the chief threat to American democratic values.

“With respect to Western ideals and who it is and what it is we stand for as Americans, Russia poses the most dangerous threat to that way of life,” Ms. Page told investigators for a joint House Judiciary and Oversight Committee investigation into Moscow's election interference.

F.B.I. officials viewed their decision to move quickly as validated when a comment the president made to visiting Russian officials in the Oval Office shortly after he fired Mr. Comey was revealed days later.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to a document summarizing the meeting. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off.”


__________________________________________________________________________

Adam Goldman reports on the F.B.I. for The New York Times and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for national reporting on Russia's meddling in the presidential election. Previously, he covered national security for The Washington Post and worked on the investigative team at the Associated Press, where he and his colleagues revealed the New York Police Department's Muslim spying programs. Their reporting on the department won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. Adam is the co-author of Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden's Final Plot Against America He lives in Washington D.C.

Michael S. Schmidt is a Washington correspondent for The New York Times who covers national security and federal investigations. He was part of two teams that won Pulitzer Prizes in 2018 — one for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues and the other for coverage of President Donald Trump and his campaign's ties to Russia. For the past year, Michael's coverage has focused on Robert S. Mueller III's investigation into Mr. Trump's campaign and whether the president obstructed justice. From 2012 to 2016, Michael covered the F.B.I., Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon. Michael spent 2011 in Iraq chronicling the last year of the American occupation. From 2007 to 2010, he covered doping and off-the-field issues for the sports section. He started his career at The N.Y. Times in 2005 as a clerk on the foreign desk. Michael has broken several high profile stories. Among them was that former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, wrote a series of memos on how the president asked for his loyalty and tried to interfere with the F.B.I.'s investigations. Mr. Mueller was appointed after those disclosures. Michael was first to reveal the fact that Hillary Clinton exclusively relied on a personal email account when she was secretary of state. In sports, he broke the stories that Sammy Sosa, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and wrote about the treatment of young baseball players in the Dominican Republic who were exploited by American investors and agents. In 2017, Michael co-authored the stories that outlined how the former Fox News host, Bill O'Reilly, paid off a series of women who made sexual harassment allegations against him. For that coverage, he won the Livingston Award for national reporting, which recognizes the best work of journalists under the age of 35. Michael is a graduate of Lafayette College.

Nicholas Fandos is a reporter in The New York Times' Washington bureau covering Congress.

• A version of this article appears in The New York Times on Saturday, January 12, 2019, on Page A1 of the New York print edition with the headline: “F.B.I. Investigated If Trump Worked For The Russians”.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • Robert Mueller and His Prosecutors: Who They Are and What They've Done

 • Everyone Who's Been Charged in Investigations Related to the 2016 Election

 • How the Mueller Investigation Could Play Out for Trump

 • The Russia Investigation Is Complicated. Here's What It All Means.

 • Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation


https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/11/us/politics/fbi-trump-russia-inquiry.html
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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2019, 04:07:37 pm »


from The New York Times…

Trump Tweets Lengthy Attack on F.B.I. Over
Inquiry Into Possible Aid to Russia


President Trump cast James B. Comey and other former top F.B.I. officials as corrupt and politically
motivated, saying they had opened the counter-intelligence investigation for “no reason”.


By NICHOLAS FANDOS and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT | Saturday, January 12, 2019

President Donald J. Trump said on Twitter on Saturday that now-departed F.B.I. officials had “tried to do a number on your President” by investigating whether he had acted on behalf of Russia. — Photograph: Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times.
President Donald J. Trump said on Twitter on Saturday that now-departed F.B.I. officials had “tried to do a number on your President”
by investigating whether he had acted on behalf of Russia. — Photograph: Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times.


WASHINGTON D.C. — President Trump on Saturday unleashed an extended assault on the F.B.I. and the special counsel's investigation, knitting together a comprehensive alternative story in which he had been framed by disgraced “losers” at the bureau's highest levels.

In a two-hour span starting at 7 a.m., the president made a series of false claims on Twitter about his adversaries and the events surrounding the inquiry. He was responding to a report in The New York Times that, after he fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director in 2017, the bureau began investigating whether the president had acted on behalf of Russia.

In his tweets, the president accused Hillary Clinton, without evidence, of breaking the law by lying to the F.B.I. He claimed that Mr. Comey was corrupt and best friends with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. He said Mr. Mueller was employing a team of Democrats — another misleading assertion — bent on taking him down.

Individually, the president's claims were familiar. But as the special counsel's inquiry edges ever closer to him, Democrats vow a blizzard of investigations of their own and the government shutdown reaches record lengths, Mr. Trump compiled all the threads of the conspiracy theory he has pushed for many months in an effort to discredit the investigation.

Mr. Trump accused the F.B.I. of opening “for no reason” and “with no proof” an investigation in 2017 into whether he had been working against American interests on behalf of Russia, painting his own actions toward Russia as actually “FAR tougher” than those of his predecessors.

The New York Times article, published on Friday evening, reported that law enforcement officials became so alarmed by Mr. Trump's behavior surrounding his firing of Mr. Comey that they took the explosive step of opening a counter-intelligence investigation against him.

Naming several of the bureau's now-departed top officials, including Mr. Comey and his deputy, Andrew G. McCabe, Mr. Trump said the F.B.I. had “tried to do a number on your President,” accusing the “losers” of essentially fabricating a case. “Part of the Witch Hunt,” he wrote — referring dismissively to the investigation now being overseen by Mr. Mueller.




At the time he was fired in May 2017, Mr. Comey had been leading the F.B.I.'s investigation into Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election, and the officials believed that his removal, in hindering the inquiry, posed a possible threat to national security. Their decision to open the case was informed, in part, by two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the firing to the Russia investigation.

The inquiry they opened had two aspects, including both the newly disclosed counterintelligence element and a criminal element that has long been publicly known: whether the firing constituted obstruction of justice.

When Mr. Mueller was appointed days later, he took over the joint inquiry as part of his larger investigation of Russia's action in 2016 and whether anyone on the Trump campaign conspired with Moscow. It is not clear whether he is still pursuing the counter-intelligence matter, and no public evidence has emerged that Mr. Trump himself secretly conspired with the Russian government or took directions from it.


James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, responded to Mr. Trump with a quotation attributed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.” — Photograph: Tom Brenner/for The New York Times.
James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, responded to Mr. Trump with a quotation attributed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “I ask you
to judge me by the enemies I have made.” — Photograph: Tom Brenner/for The New York Times.


Mr. Trump indicated on Saturday that he had not known of the existence of the counter-intelligence investigation before The New York Times article, and he did not dispute the newspaper's reporting.

But he made clear that he viewed any such inquiry as illegitimate from the start. He presented it, without evidence, as part of a vast, years-long conspiracy to undo his presidency.

In the tweets, Mr. Trump defended his decision to fire Mr. Comey — “a total sleaze!” — at length, accusing the former director of overseeing a “rigged & botched” investigation of Mrs. Clinton, and leading the agency into “complete turmoil.” Democrats and Republicans alike wanted Mr. Comey removed, he said.

“My firing of James Comey was a great day for America,” Mr. Trump wrote. “He was a Crooked Cop.”






But an investigation conducted by the Justice Department's inspector general and internal surveys of F.B.I. agents have undercut Mr. Trump's portrayal of Mr. Comey as corrupt and unpopular within the bureau.

Mr. Trump's comments echoed those that his White House spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, released on Friday night.

“This is absurd. James Comey was fired because he's a disgraced partisan hack, and his deputy, Andrew McCabe, who was in charge at the time, is a known liar fired by the F.B.I.,” Ms. Sanders said. “Unlike President Obama, who let Russia and other foreign adversaries push America around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russia.”

Parts of the statements by Mr. Trump and Ms. Sanders are at odds with the public record and with the findings of the inspector general's report. While Democrats were furious with Mr. Comey over his public statements about the Clinton email server case — at a news conference and in a pair of letters in the middle of the campaign — they were deeply alarmed by his removal, given his role in the Russia investigation.

In his report, the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, pointedly criticized Mr. Comey for breaking with long-standing policy to publicly discuss the Clinton case, and he castigated “insubordinate” senior officials who worked with Mr. Comey for privately criticizing Mr. Trump even as they investigated him. But he ultimately said he had found no evidence to believe that the decisions not to charge Mrs. Clinton for her use of a private email server in handling classified information “were affected by bias or other improper considerations.”

“Rather, we concluded that they were based on the prosecutor's assessment of facts, the law and past department practice,” he wrote.


Andrew G. McCabe has argued that his firing by Mr. Trump as deputy F.B.I. director was politically motivated and designed to hinder the Russia investigation. — Photograph: Pete Marovich/Getty Images.
Andrew G. McCabe has argued that his firing by Mr. Trump as deputy F.B.I. director was politically motivated and designed to hinder
the Russia investigation. — Photograph: Pete Marovich/Getty Images.


Mr. McCabe, who briefly served as acting director after Mr. Comey was removed, was fired last March for failing to be forthcoming with investigators about an unrelated conversation he had authorized between F.B.I. officials and a journalist. Mr. McCabe argued that the firing was politically motivated and designed to hinder the Russia investigation. Other members of Mr. Comey's team have also been fired or left the bureau.

Mr. Comey responded on Twitter on Saturday with a quotation attributed to former President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.”

The New York Times report cited former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation, as well as private testimony that the F.B.I.'s former general counsel, James A. Baker, delivered to Congress related to the inquiry.

“Not only would it be an issue of obstructing an investigation, but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure out what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security,” Mr. Baker said in his testimony, portions of which were read to The New York Times.

Some former law enforcement officials outside the case have since debated whether F.B.I. investigators over-reacted in opening the counter-intelligence inquiry during a chaotic period after Mr. Comey's firing. Other former officials noted that those critics were not privy to all of the evidence and argued that sitting on it would have been an abdication of duty.


__________________________________________________________________________

Nicholas Fandos is a reporter in The New York Times' Washington bureau covering Congress.

Michael S. Schmidt is a Washington correspondent for The New York Times who covers national security and federal investigations. He was part of two teams that won Pulitzer Prizes in 2018 — one for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues and the other for coverage of President Donald Trump and his campaign's ties to Russia. For the past year, Michael's coverage has focused on Robert S. Mueller III's investigation into Mr. Trump's campaign and whether the president obstructed justice. From 2012 to 2016, Michael covered the F.B.I., Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon. Michael spent 2011 in Iraq chronicling the last year of the American occupation. From 2007 to 2010, he covered doping and off-the-field issues for the sports section. He started his career at The N.Y. Times in 2005 as a clerk on the foreign desk. Michael has broken several high profile stories. Among them was that former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, wrote a series of memos on how the president asked for his loyalty and tried to interfere with the F.B.I.'s investigations. Mr. Mueller was appointed after those disclosures. Michael was first to reveal the fact that Hillary Clinton exclusively relied on a personal email account when she was secretary of state. In sports, he broke the stories that Sammy Sosa, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and wrote about the treatment of young baseball players in the Dominican Republic who were exploited by American investors and agents. In 2017, Michael co-authored the stories that outlined how the former Fox News host, Bill O'Reilly, paid off a series of women who made sexual harassment allegations against him. For that coverage, he won the Livingston Award for national reporting, which recognizes the best work of journalists under the age of 35. Michael is a graduate of Lafayette College.

• A version of this article appears in The New York Times on Sunday, January 13, 2019, on Page A20 of the New York print edition with the headline: “Trump Assails F.B.I. Inquiry Into Possible Russia Sympathies”.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/12/us/politics/trump-fbi-counterintelligence-investigation.html
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