Archive

ShareThis Page
Trump elevates simmering Mueller, McCabe grievances to boil | TribLIVE.com
Politics/Election

Trump elevates simmering Mueller, McCabe grievances to boil

The Associated Press
| Sunday, March 18, 2018 9:21 a.m
AFP12O3Y0
AFP/Getty Images
A spokeswoman for fired deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe didn’t immediately rule out a job with one of the most liberal members of Congress, which might only need to last for a day or so for McCabe to get his full retirement benefits
TrumpFactCheck04524jpg8b825
In this Thursday, March 15, 2018, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump talks with reporters during a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington.
CllintonEmailsInspectorGeneral89113jpg8ee69
In this June 7, 2017 file photo, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe appears before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Capitol Hill in Washington. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday, March 16, 2018, that he has fired former FBI Deputy Director McCabe, a longtime and frequent target of President Donald Trump's anger, just two days before his scheduled retirement date. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON — President Trump is questioning the impartiality of Robert Mueller’s investigation and says the probe is groundless, while raising doubts about whether a fired top FBI official kept personal memos outlining his interactions with Trump.

Trump on Sunday elevated his simmering grievances to a boil against Mueller, whose team is examining Trump campaign ties to Russia and possible obstruction of justice; onetime FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who was dismissed Friday by the attorney general; and former FBI Director James Comey, ousted last year by Trump.

The president’s Twitter barbs follow closely on the call by Trump’s personal lawyer for the Trump-appointed No. 2 Justice Department official overseeing Mueller’s inquiry to “bring an end” to that investigation. And Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee said this past week that they had completed a draft report concluding, after a yearlong investigation, that there was no collusion or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia; committee Democrats vehemently disagreed.

Trump first asserted on Saturday evening the “Mueller probe should never have started” and then followed that up the next morning by claiming “the Mueller team” of investigators has a large number of “hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? … does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”

They were his first direct tweets to name the special counsel.

Members of Congress worried that the president could be telegraphing his intention to fire Mueller and spoke of renewing efforts to pass legislation to protect the special counsel.

“If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we’re a rule-of-law nation,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Added, GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Trump critic: “I don’t know what the designs are on Mueller, but it seems to be building toward that.”

It is true that some Mueller investigators have contributed to Democratic political candidates, including Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton. But Justice Department policy and federal service law bar discrimination in the hiring of career positions on the basis of political affiliation, and experts say there is no rule barring such donations.

The president has long been torn over how to approach the Mueller probe. Trump’s legal team, namely attorney Ty Cobb, has counseled the president to cooperate with Mueller. But some former campaign advisers have urged Trump to be combative, warning him that the investigation poses an existential threat to his presidency.

Cobb said late Sunday that Trump is not thinking about or talking about firing Mueller.

“In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller,” Cobb said in a written statement.

Trump’s attacks raised new concerns among members of Congress that he could be seeking to orchestrate Mueller’s firing. Republican and Democratic lawmakers warned Trump to not even think about it.

Mueller, a Republican himself, was appointed FBI director by a GOP president, George W. Bush. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, an ex-U.S. attorney under Bush and Democratic President Barack Obama, was named to the Justice Department post by Trump and put in charge of Mueller’s investigation by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former Republican senator tapped by Trump for his Cabinet. Sessions stepped aside from overseeing the investigation after the Justice Department acknowledged he had spoken twice with the Russian ambassador in 2016 and had failed to disclose the contacts during his Senate confirmation process.

“You seem to have forgotten, Mr. President, that there is at least one very notable Republican on Mueller’s team — Mueller,” said California Rep. Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “And his boss, Rod Rosenstein, appointed by Bush. And his boss, Jeff Sessions, also Republican and chosen by … you.”

Trump may have felt more emboldened when Sessions, acting on the recommendation of FBI disciplinary officials, sacked McCabe on Friday, two days before McCabe’s retirement date. “A great day for Democracy,” Trump tweeted afterward and asserted without elaboration that McCabe, whom the president has long scorned, knew “all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels off the FBI!”

The Associated Press later reported that McCabe kept personal memos detailing interactions with the president that have been provided to Mueller’s office and are similar to notes compiled by Comey.

A skeptical Trump tweeted: “Spent very little time with Andrew McCabe, but he never took notes when he was with me. I don’t believe he made memos except to help his own agenda, probably at a later date. Same with lying James Comey. Can we call them Fake Memos?”

It wouldn’t be unusual for a senior official to make notes soon after meeting with the president.

McCabe’s memos include details of his interactions with the president, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation who wasn’t authorized to discuss the notes publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The memos also recount different conversations he had with Comey, who kept notes on meetings with Trump that unnerved him.

Comey was a target Sunday when Trump claimed that Comey lied under oath at a Senate hearing in 2017, shortly before his firing, when he said he had never been an anonymous source. Comey, who is releasing a book next month, tweeted on Saturday in response to McCabe’s firing: “Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not.”

The precise contents of McCabe’s memos are unknown, but they possibly could help substantiate McCabe’s assertion that he was unfairly maligned by a White House he says had declared “war” on the FBI and Mueller’s investigation. They almost certainly contain, as Comey’s memos did, previously undisclosed details about encounters between the Trump administration and FBI that could be of interest to Mueller.

Sessions said he dismissed McCabe on the recommendation of FBI disciplinary officials who said McCabe had not been candid with a watchdog office investigation. An upcoming inspector general’s report is expected to conclude that McCabe, who spent more than 20 years with the FBI, had authorized the release of information to the media and was not forthcoming with the watchdog office as it examined the bureau’s handling of an investigation into Clinton’s emails.

McCabe has disputed the allegations and said his credibility had been attacked. “It is part of this administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the special counsel investigation, which continue to this day,” he said.

Also over the weekend, Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, cited the “brilliant and courageous example” by Sessions and the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility and said Rosenstein should “bring an end” to the Russia investigation “manufactured” by Comey.

In response, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said: “To suggest that Mueller should shut down and all that he is looking at is collusion, if you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it.”

Dowd told the AP that he neither was calling on Rosenstein to fire the special counsel immediately nor had discussed with Rosenstein the idea of dismissing Mueller or ending the probe.

Mueller is investigating whether Trump’s actions, including Comey’s ouster, constitute obstruction of justice. McCabe could be an important witness, and his memos could be used by investigators as they look into whether Trump sought to thwart the FBI probe. Comey’s own memos, including one in which he says Trump encouraged him to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, have been provided to Mueller and are part of his investigation.

Gowdy spoke on “Fox News Sunday,” while Graham and Flake were on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Correction: March 18, 2018

This story has been updated to correct the quote from Rep. Trey Gowdy. He mentioned Mueller, not McCabe.

Categories: News | Politics Election
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.