‘WITCH HUNT’: Judicial Watch sues for ‘coup’ documents

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice for all records of communication of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the Office of the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, or the Office of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein discussing the 25th Amendment or presidential fitness. Additionally, the lawsuit seeks all recordings made by any official in the Office of the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General of meetings in the Executive Office of the President or Vice President.

The suit was filed after the Justice Department failed to respond to three separate FOIA requests dated September 21, 2018 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:19-cv-00388)). The lawsuit seeks all written and audio/visual records of any FBI/DOJ discussions regarding the 25th Amendment and plans to secretly record President Trump in the Oval Office.

On February 14, 2019, former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe stated in an interview with CBS that “there were conversations about the possibility of removing Trump under the 25th Amendment and confirming that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had offered to wear a wire around the president.”

After President Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey, reportedly top DOJ officials discussed whether to recruit cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office.

President Trump recently tweeted: “The biggest abuse of power and corruption scandal in our history, and it’s much worse than we thought. Andrew McCabe (FBI) admitted to plotting a coup (government overthrow) when he was serving in the FBI, before he was fired for lying & leaking.”

It was reported in September 2018 that Deputy Attorney General, Rod J. Rosenstein, suggested that he secretly record President Trump in the White House in an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment and have President Trump removed. Judicial Watch’s immediate follow-up FOIA requests were ignored.

“It is no surprise that we are facing an immense cover-up of senior FBI and DOJ leadership discussions to pursue a seditious coup against President Trump,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This effort to overthrow President Trump is a fundamental threat to our constitutional republic so Judicial Watch will do everything it can in the courts to expose everything possible about this lawlessness.”

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‘LOCK HIM UP’: Dems raise prospect of impeachment, jail for Trump in wake of ‘hush money’ allegations

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top House Democrats have raised the prospect of impeachment or the real possibility of prison time for President Donald Trump if it’s proved that he directed illegal hush money payments to women, adding to the legal pressure on the president over the Russia investigation and other scandals.

“There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the incoming chairman of the House intelligence committee. “The bigger pardon question may come down the road as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, described the details in prosecutors’ filings Friday in the case of Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, as evidence that Trump was “at the center of a massive fraud.”

“They would be impeachable offenses,” Nadler said.

In the filings, prosecutors in New York for the first time link Trump to a federal crime of illegal payments to buy the silence of two women during the 2016 campaign. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office also laid out previously undisclosed contacts between Trump associates and Russian intermediaries and suggested the Kremlin aimed early on to influence Trump and his Republican campaign by playing to both his political and personal business interests.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and has compared the investigations to a “witch hunt.”

Nadler, D-N.Y., said it was too early to say whether Congress would pursue impeachment proceedings based on the illegal payments alone because lawmakers would need to weigh the gravity of the offense to justify “overturning” the 2016 election. Nadler and other lawmakers said Sunday they would await additional details from Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and possible coordination with the Trump campaign to determine the extent of Trump’s misconduct.

Regarding the illegal payments, “whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question, but certainly they’d be impeachable offenses because even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office,” Nadler said.

Mueller has not said when he will complete a report of any findings, and it isn’t clear that any such report would be made available to Congress. That would be up to the attorney general. Trump on Friday said he would nominate former Attorney General William Barr to the post to succeed Jeff Sessions.

Nadler indicated that Democrats, who will control the House in January, will step up their own investigations. He said Congress, the Justice Department and the special counsel need to dig deeper into the allegations, which include questions about whether Trump lied about his business arrangements with Russians and about possible obstruction of justice.

“The new Congress will not try to shield the president,” he said. “We will try to get to the bottom of this, in order to serve the American people and to stop this massive conspiracy — this massive fraud on the American people.”

Schiff, D-Calif., also stressed a need to wait “until we see the full picture.” He has previously indicated his panel would seek to look into the Trump family’s business ties with Russia.

“I think we also need to see this as a part of a broader pattern of potential misconduct by the president, and it’s that broad pattern, I think, that will lead us to a conclusion about whether it rises to the level to warrant removal from office,” Schiff said.

In the legal filings, the Justice Department stopped short of accusing Trump of directly committing a crime. But it said Trump told Cohen to make illegal payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom claimed to have had affairs with Trump more than a decade ago.

In separate filings, Mueller’s team detail how Cohen spoke to a Russian who “claimed to be a ‘trusted person’ in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign ‘political synergy’ and ‘synergy on a government level.’” Cohen said he never followed up on that meeting. Mueller’s team also said former campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to them about his contacts with a Russian associate and Trump administration officials, including in 2018.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called the latest filings “relevant” in judging Trump’s fitness for office but said lawmakers need more information to render judgment. He also warned the White House about considering a pardon for Manafort, saying such a step could trigger congressional debate about limiting a president’s pardon powers.

Such a move would be “a terrible mistake,” Rubio said. “Pardons should be used judiciously. They’re used for cases with extraordinary circumstances.”

Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine and a member of the Senate intelligence committee, cautioned against a rush to impeachment, which he said citizens could interpret as “political revenge and a coup against the president.”

“The best way to solve a problem like this, to me, is elections,” King said. “I’m a conservative when it comes to impeachment. I think it’s a last resort and only when the evidence is clear of a really substantial legal violation. We may get there, but we’re not there now.”

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut urged Mueller to “show his cards soon” so that Congress can make a determination early next year on whether to act on impeachment.

“Let’s be clear: We have reached a new level in the investigation,” Murphy said. “It’s important for Congress to get all of the underlying facts and data and evidence that the special counsel has.”

Nadler spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Rubio was on CNN and ABC’s “This Week,” and Schiff appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Murphy spoke on ABC, and King was on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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Hope Yen of the Associated Press contributed to the contents of this report.

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TICK TOCK: Grassley files criminal referral against Michael Avenatti and woman who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct

WASHINGTON — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley on Thursday announced he’s referred attorney Michael Avenatti and Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick for criminal investigation regarding a potential “conspiracy” to provide false statements to Congress and to obstruct justice.

Avenatti, who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in a failed defamation suit against President Donald Trump, also represented Swetnick, who accused newly appointed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of being part of “gang” and “train” rapes at high school parties she claims to have attended in the 1980s, claims that Kavanaugh has vehemently denied.

In a letter written to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday, Grassley questioned the timing of Swetnick and Avenatti’s allegations.

“When a well-meaning citizen comes forward with information relevant to the committee’s work, I take it seriously. It takes courage to come forward, especially with allegations of sexual misconduct or personal trauma. I’m grateful for those who find that courage,” Grassley wrote.

“But in the heat of partisan moments, some do try to knowingly mislead the committee. That’s unfair to my colleagues, the nominees, and others providing information who are seeking the truth,” Grassley went on. “It stifles our ability to work on legitimate lines of inquiry. It also wastes time and resources for destructive reasons.”

In the letter, Grassley called out contradictory statements made by both Avenatti and Swetnick in media interviews, specifically citing an NBC interview on Oct. 1, when Swetnick withdrew a claim that she saw Kavanaugh spiking punch at the parties with alcohol and/or drugs.

“I saw [Kavanaugh] giving red solo cups to quite a few girls,” Swetnick later admitted during the interview, adding that she didn’t “know what he did.”

Swetnick merely claimed she “saw him” by the punch—a comment that contradicted her sworn statement to the committee, Grassley pointed out.

An angry Avenatti was quick to fire back.

“This is clearly political,” he told Fox News. “And fortunately for us, Senator Grassley isn’t too smart — or I should say bright. This was a major mistake on his part. He just cracked open the door and I’m going to drive a Mack Truck through it.”

Avenatti then took to Twitter to call Grassley out, referencing what he referred to as Justice Kavanaugh’s ongoing “lies”.

“It is ironic that Senator Grassley now is interested in investigations,” Avenatti tweeted. “He didn’t care when it came to putting a man on the SCOTUS for life. We welcome the investigation as now we can finally get to the bottom of Judge Kavanaugh’s lies and conduct. Let the truth be known.”

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TICK TOCK: FBI braces as IG’s second report looms

Washington, D.C. (Fox News) — The country is still digesting Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s scathing report on the FBI and the DOJ’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, but more bombshells could be looming from the same team of investigators.

Horowitz, a former federal prosecutor, announced in March that he is probing allegations of government surveillance abuse, in light of memos released on Capitol Hill about FBI and DOJ efforts to obtain FISA warrants to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page as part of its Russia investigation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also said U.S. Attorney John Huber is investigating claims of FBI and DOJ misconduct related to these actions, noting that Huber would be “conducting his work from outside the Washington D.C. area and “in cooperation” with Horowitz.

Not much else is known about Horowitz’s review, though in March, the inspector general’s office said it “will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review” if circumstances warrant. The Clinton review took about 18 months.

On Thursday, Horowitz released his nearly 600-page report scrutinizing the actions of numerous figures who played a key role in the Justice Department and FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s email practices while she was secretary of state. That report specifically criticized former FBI Director James Comey, FBI official Peter Strzok, Obama era-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, as well as other officials.

While the report cited instances of bias – or the appearance of bias – Horowitz’s review found “no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations.”

But the report made clear it was only speaking to the Clinton investigation. Most of the officials criticized in Thursday’s report also played significant roles in the early days of the Russia probe, which is looking at whether anyone on the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 election.

“Most of my fellow citizens would say, yeah, I want to know what Russia was doing to us in 2016 but I also want the person that is finding out and investigating it to be free of bias and free of taint,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said Thursday on Fox News’ “Special Report.”

One of the most stunning findings concerns texts between agent Peter Strzok and bureau colleague Lisa Page.

According to the report, Page texted Strzok in August 2016 and said: “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”

“No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok responded.

Strzok was a lead investigator on the Clinton case and later worked the Russia investigation before being removed from that assignment.

On Friday, President Trump took aim at Strzok, pointing out his role in the Russia probe.

“FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who headed the Clinton & Russia investigations, texted to his lover Lisa Page, in the IG Report, that ‘we’ll stop’ candidate Trump from becoming President,” Trump tweeted. “Doesn’t get any lower than that!”

He also tweeted that he now has to “beat a phony Witch Hunt and all of the dishonest people covered in the IG Report.”

Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

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‘ENOUGH’: Former Clinton adviser says Mueller probe against Trump ‘must be stopped’

Washington, D.C. — Former Clinton pollster Mark Penn called out Robert Mueller on Monday, saying the special counsel’s investigation of President Donald Trump “must now be stopped”.

In an op-ed piece published by The Hill, Penn, who served as a pollster and adviser to former President Bill Clinton and as a chief political strategist for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, called Mueller “impartial” and a “threat to all those who ever want to participate in a national campaign or an administration again”.

“The “deep state” is in a deep state of desperation. With little time left before the Justice Department inspector general’s report becomes public, and with special counsel Robert Mueller having failed to bring down Donald Trump after a year of trying, they know a reckoning is coming,” wrote Penn.

“At this point, there is little doubt that the highest echelons of the FBI and the Justice Department broke their own rules to end the Hillary Clinton “matter,” but we can expect the inspector general to document what was done or, more pointedly, not done,” Penn continued.

“It is hard to see how a yearlong investigation of this won’t come down hard on former FBI Director James Comey and perhaps even former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who definitely wasn’t playing mahjong in a secret “no aides allowed” meeting with former President Clinton on a Phoenix airport tarmac. With this report on the way and congressional investigators beginning to zero in on the lack of hard, verified evidence for starting the Trump probe, current and former intelligence and Justice Department officials are dumping everything they can think of to save their reputations,” Penn cautioned.

“But it is backfiring,” he added. “They started by telling the story of Alexander Downer, an Australian diplomat, as having remembered a bar conversation with George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. But how did the FBI know they should talk to him? That’s left out of their narrative. Downer’s signature appears on a $25 million contribution to the Clinton Foundation. You don’t need much imagination to figure that he was close with Clinton Foundation operatives who relayed information to the State Department, which then called the FBI to complete the loop. This wasn’t intelligence. It was likely opposition research from the start.”

“With Attorney General Jeff Sessions shoved out of the way,”  Penn challenged, “Rosenstein and Mueller then ignored their own conflicts and took charge anyway. Rosenstein is a fact witness, and Mueller is a friend of Comey, disqualifying them both,” Penn wrote, adding that Sessions “needs to take back his Justice Department.”

The scathing article comes in the wake of President Trump’s call for the DOJ to look into whether they “infiltrated” his campaign to advance 2016 presidential election rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has since been tasked with looking into any possible “impropriety or political motivation” in the FBI’s Russia probe.

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STAYING PUT: Sessions says he will not recuse himself from Trump attorney probe

Washington, D.C. (Bloomberg) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions has decided against recusing himself from the investigation into President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, but will consider stepping back from specific questions tied to the probe, according to a person familiar with the matter.

By contrast, Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election that’s now led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a decision that angered Trump and left Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge of the inquiry.

Sessions, who was a top adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign, announced in March 2017 that he had decided he should steer clear of “any matters arising from the campaigns” for president. Trump has called Sessions weak for doing so and said he never would have named him as attorney general had he known the recusal would follow.

By staying involved in the Cohen probe, Sessions is entitled to briefings on the status of the investigation, which is being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York. That could put Sessions in the position of being asked by Trump, who strongly condemned the FBI raid on his longtime lawyer, to divulge information about the Cohen investigation.

Sessions could also weigh in on specific decisions by prosecutors, including whether to pursue subpoenas and indictments. The attorney general may be asked about his role in the Cohen investigation when he testifies before congressional panels on Wednesday and Thursday.

The investigation into Cohen’s finances and past work was opened based in part on a referral from Mueller.

The Justice Department declined to comment specifically about decisions on recusal in the Cohen investigation, saying only that Sessions follows appropriate procedures.

“The attorney general considers his potential recusal on a matter-by-matter basis as may be needed,” the department said in a statement. “To the extent a matter comes to the attention of his office that may warrant consideration of recusal, the attorney general would review the issue and consult with the appropriate Department ethics experts.”

But Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, has recused himself from the Cohen probe, according to a U.S. official. It’s unclear what triggered his recusal.

Rosenstein, as the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, is responsible for coordinating and resolving any conflicts between the Mueller probe and the Cohen investigation.

In a sign of how senior Justice Department officials can become involved in investigative matters, Rosenstein approved an FBI raid earlier this month on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room that seized a trove of information.

Read more at Bloomberg

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Meadows: Lawmakers ‘seriously’ considering charging DOJ officials with contempt of Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a stunning announcement Tuesday night, Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, (R)-N.C., said some House lawmakers are “seriously” considering holding officials at the Department of Justice (DOJ) in contempt of Congress.

Meadows’ comments come in the wake of growing Republican frustration over DOJ officials’ failure to produce subpoenaed documents related to the FBI’s investigation into the 2016 presidential election.

“It’s a Judiciary Committee decision. They would vote it out and it would go to the House floor,” Meadows told reporters. “It is being seriously considered.”

The comments follow days of speculation over whether President Donald Trump will choose to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who ordered an FBI raid of the office of Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, and/or Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who last week signed off on the raid. Federal prosecutors were reportedly seeking information on payments made to former adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had affairs with Trump years ago, in exchange for a confidentiality agreement she signed during Trump’s 2016 presidential election.

Trump, slammed the decision to raid Cohen’s office during a press conference at the White House on Monday, has made no secret of his disdain for Mueller, who he feels is being one-sided in regard to his investigation.

Meadows, who has been a vocal supporter of the president, said that while he feels there is sufficient cause to fire Rosenstein, he thinks things need to be handled one matter at a time.

“It’s too early to put forth a case on that,” he said.

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TRUMP’S WAR: POTUS takes on city leaders in Sanctuary City showdown

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump’s well-documented war on illegal immigration waged a new battle on Wednesday as the Justice Departement threatened to subpoena 23 jurisdictions if they failed to turn over information regarding their “sanctuary city” policies.

The office of Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent letters to city leaders in Denver, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, West Palm Beach, and others ordering the surrender of records relating to whether or not their jurisdictions are “unlawfully restricting information sharing by law enforcement officers with federal immigration authorities.”

I continue to urge all jurisdictions under review to reconsider policies that place the safety of their communities and their residents at risk,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Protecting criminal aliens from federal immigration authorities defies common sense and undermines the rule of law.”

City leaders who had received the letters were quick to attack the Trump administration over it’s “discriminatory” efforts, with many threatening to boycott a planned White House meeting on infrastructure in response.

“I will NOT be attending today’s meeting at the White House after @realDonaldTrump’s Department of Justice decided to renew their racist assault on our immigrant communities,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) tweeted. “It doesn’t make us safer and it violates America’s core values.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) echoed de Blasio’s comments, stating officers in his city strive to build trust with residents to reduce public safety threats, and “you cannot do that if you drive a wedge between any immigrant community and the law enforcement.”

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who also serves as the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said he too would boycott the meeting in response to the threat.

“Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s decision to threaten mayors and demonize immigrants yet again – and use cities as political props in the process – has made this meeting untenable,” Landrieu said.

Unphased, the White House said the meeting would go on regardless of who chose not to attend.

“We are disappointed that a number of mayors have chosen to make a political stunt instead of participating in an important discussion with the President and his administration,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters said in response to the backlash.

The move by the Trump administration is just the latest in a series of efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, an issue that President Trump campaigned heavily on during the 2016 presidential election.

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‘THERE’S NOTHING THERE’: FBI agent in text to lover admits no evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Peter Strzok, the FBI agent embroiled in controversy after more than 50,000 text messages were exposed in which he and fellow FBI agent Lisa Page criticized and mocked President Donald Trump, admitted during one exchange that there was no proof of Trump, Russia collusion, according to published reports.

The text, which chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, calls “jaw-dropping” suggests that Strzok saw no evidence of presidential wrongdoing.

“You and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely, I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern that there’s no big there there,” the text reads.

In an interview with WISN-Milwaukee radio host Jay Weber (https://www.iheart.com/podcast/477-WISN-Clips-28429450/episode/sen-ron-johnson-drops-a-bombshell-28860177/), Johnson read the text, which Strzok sent to Page, who has since been revealed as his mistress.

“I think that’s kind of jaw-dropping,” said Johnson.

“In other words, Peter Strzok, who was the FBI deputy assistant director of the counterintelligence division, the man who had a plan to do something because he just couldn’t abide Donald Trump being president, is saying that his gut sense is that there’s no big there there when it comes to the Mueller special counsel investigation,” he said.

The content of many of the texts has sparked a flurry of interest since it was revealed that approximately 5 months worth, reportedly sent between December 14, 2017 to May 17, 2017, have disappeared, leaving many to question what, if anything, the FBI may have tried to hide.

The controversy forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to comment on the issue, releasing a statement in which he promised to get to the bottom of the matter.

“After reviewing the voluminous records on the FBI’s servers, which included over 50,000 texts, the Inspector General discovered the FBI’s system failed to retain text messages for approximately 5 months between December 14, 2017 to May 17, 2017,” Sessions said. “I have spoken to the Inspector General and a review is already underway to ascertain what occurred and to determine if these records can be recovered in any other way. If any wrongdoing were to be found to have caused this gap, appropriate legal disciplinary action measures will be taken.”

The issue of the missing texts is just the most recent turn of events in the ongoing saga surrounding the FBI’s investigation into alleged collusion with Russian officials to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

According to a report published Tuesday by The New York Times, Sessions, himself, was interviewed at length over the matter last week by Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Both Sessions and Trump have vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

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