Gregg Re

The New York federal judge who ruled on Wednesday that the Trump administration must comply with two subpoenas from House Financial Services and Intelligence Committees has donated in the past to a slew of big name Democrats — including two who currently sit on those committees, according to federal election filings.

After an hour of oral arguments, Barack Obama-appointed U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled the subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Capital One have “a legitimate legislative purpose,” and that Trump was unlikely to prevail in a lawsuit to quash the requests. Judges have the option to recuse themselves if there is an appearance of bias.

U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos.

U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos.

Federal election records show that, when he was a partner at the law firm Day Pitney LLP, Ramos sent $350 to Connecticut Democrat Rep. Jim Himes from 2007 to 2008, as well as $500 to elect New York Rep. Nydia Velazquez in 2010. Himes sits on both the Intelligence and Financial Services Committees, while Velazquez sits on Financial Services.

Ramos also contributed $1,000 to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s Senate campaign in 2009, another $1,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and several thousand dollars over several years to Obama for America.

Trump’s lawyers had asked Ramos to temporarily block Congress from gaining access to the records. They said it was a “safe bet” they would appeal the decision.

Ramos’ ruling came two days after another federal judge in Washington upheld a congressional subpoena seeking financial documents dating back to 2011 from Trump accounting firm Mazars USA. It also comes a day after Trump blocked former White House lawyer Don McGhan from appearing before the House Judiciary Committee.

Some congressional Republicans have characterized the subpoenas as an abuse of authority and blasted the Trump-focused investigations.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, called the inquiry into Mazars USA “an unprecedented abuse of the Committee’s subpoena authority to target and expose the private financial information of the President of the United States.”

Fox News’ Bill Mears contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

The Pentagon on Thursday presented proposals to the White House at a meeting on sending military reinforcements to the Middle East to beef up defenses against Iran amid heightened tensions in the region, Fox News has learned.

Meanwhile, in comments aired by Iranian state-run media, Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, declared that the U.S. was an “arrogant and pharaonic threat” that invited “all Iranians to enter the fields of jihad, full alert, and the mobilization of more power.”

“Our hands are on the trigger and we are firmly prepared to annihilate any aggressor and greedy eyes against the Islamic Iran,” Baqueri added.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters the Defense Department has not yet determined how many troops might be sent to reinforce the existing U.S. military presence in the region.

He disputed reports that the Pentagon was proposing to send up to 10,000 more troops. He said reports citing specific figures were “not correct,” but he would not say whether the number under consideration was higher or lower.

DEMS ‘DEAD WRONG’ TO DOWNPLAY IRAN INTEL, LAWMAKER SAYS

“There is no 10,000 and there is no 5,000. That’s not accurate,” Shanahan said, explaining that those figures had not been proposed.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, left, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak to members of the media after a classified briefing for members of Congress on Iran, Tuesday, May 21, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, left, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak to members of the media after a classified briefing for members of Congress on Iran, Tuesday, May 21, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

“What we’re focused on right now is, do we have the right force protection in the Middle East,” he added, referring to defensive forces. “It may involve sending additional troops.”

He said he was in regular contact with Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the Central Command chief, about how to shape the U.S. force presence in the Mideast with potential Iranian threats in mind.

Asked whether the U.S. was provoking conflict with Iran, Shanahan countered that the Pentagon was focused on deterring Iran.

“Well, my response is I think they have the same sensitivity as all of us, and that is we want to avoid the risk of Iranian miscalculation,” Shanahan said.  “I think those are fair comments. Our job is deterrence. This is not about war. We have a mission there in the Middle East.”

Some of these additional forces could include more warships to the region with Marines, more Patriot missile batteries, U.S. Army brigades (consisting of roughly 4,000 troops each), or a cruise-missile submarine such as USS Florida, which can hold more than150 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

“Our hands are on the trigger and we are firmly prepared to annihilate any aggressor and greedy eyes against the Islamic Iran.”

— Iranian Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri

The USS Florida was last seen in Souda Bay, Greece two months ago at a naval weapons base where bombs and missiles are stored. In 2011, USS Florida fired over 90 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya.

It’s not clear whether the White House would approve sending all of the troops proposed by the Pentagon, whatever the number. Officials said the proposed troop reinforcements are not a response to any new threat from Iran but are aimed at strengthening security for the U.S. forces already in the region. They said the troops would be defensive forces, and the discussions include additional Patriot missile batteries, more ships and increased efforts to monitor Iran.

WATCH: TRUMP TALKS RISING TENSIONS WITH IRAN

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans have not been formally announced.

Thursday’s meeting comes as tensions with Iran continue to simmer. Any move to deploy more forces to the Middle East would signal a shift for President Trump, who has repeatedly emphasized the need to reduce America’s troop presence in the region.

In this June 3, 2011, file photo, the Pentagon is seen from air from Air Force One. Nearly two dozen progressive groups are launching a new push to persuade Democratic presidential candidates to support dramatic spending cuts at the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

In this June 3, 2011, file photo, the Pentagon is seen from air from Air Force One. Nearly two dozen progressive groups are launching a new push to persuade Democratic presidential candidates to support dramatic spending cuts at the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday Trump was evaluating the force posture in the region “every day.”

“We’re evaluating the risks, making sure that we have it right,” he told “Fox and Friends.”

U.S. officials have provided few details about possible Iranian threats but indicated they initially involved missiles loaded onto small Iranian boats. This week officials said the missiles have been taken off the boats near Iran’s shore, but other maritime threats continue.

Sending more troops could also raise questions on Capitol Hill. During back-to-back closed briefings for the House and Senate on Tuesday, defense leaders told congressional officials the U.S. doesn’t want to go to war with Iran and wants to de-escalate the situation.

Pompeo and Shanahan told lawmakers the U.S. is seeking to deter, not provoke, Iran, even while accusing Tehran of threatening U.S. interests in the Mideast. Shanahan told reporters, “Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation.”

Many in Congress are skeptical of the administration’s approach to Iran, questioning whether it is responding to significant new Iranian threats or escalating a situation that could lead to war.

WATCH: ANTI-TRUMP FORMER CIA DIRECTOR BRENNAN ATTENDS IRAN BRIEFING

The Trump administration has evacuated nonessential personnel from Iraq, amid unspecified threats the administration said are linked to Iranian-backed militias in the country.

n this Jan. 9, 2019, file photo, released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks at a meeting in Tehran, Iran. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, File)

n this Jan. 9, 2019, file photo, released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks at a meeting in Tehran, Iran. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, File)

On Sunday, a rocket was fired into Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, landing less than a mile from the sprawling U.S. Embassy. There were no injuries and no group claimed responsibility, but the rocket was believed to have been fired from east Baghdad — which is home to Iran-backed Shiite militias.

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Some Democrats say Trump is responsible for drawing Iran’s ire. Last year he abruptly pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal, negotiated during the Obama administration to prevent Iran from nuclear weapons production, without crafting a coherent strategy for how to combat other Iranian behavior like supporting extremist organizations.

He also has reimposed punishing sanctions that have crippled Tehran’s economy, and designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization in April.

“I have yet to see any exhibited strategy,” said Democrat Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, a former CIA officer. She said she finds many of the administration’s recent statements on Iran to be “deeply troubling.”

On Wednesday, Iran’s supreme leader publicly chastised the country’s moderate president and foreign minister, saying he disagreed with the implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal they had negotiated with world powers.

The extraordinary comments by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the first time he’s criticized both politicians by name, came a year after Washington’s withdrawal from the accord.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Michigan Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib told Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at a testy hearing on Wednesday that he should seek “personal” legal advice, effectively issuing a thinly veiled threat following his refusal to turn President Trump’s personal tax information over to Congress.

“I would be remiss, as somebody that truly believes in the rule of law, as somebody that has practiced law and is an attorney, I would advise you, secretary, to get personal legal advice,” Tlaib said, smirking slightly. “The cover-up by this administration, it goes beyond just providing the taxes.

“You can consult the Department of Justice but you, personally, making decisions – not on the best part of the American people, but to cover up the occupant of the White House – I think you need to be very, very clear about what your role is and what your responsibility is to the American people,” she continued.

Tlaib added: “So, secretary, please seek out legal advice, personally, of what your obligations are, because the Department of Justice is not protecting you, it’s protecting the president.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi echoed Tlaib’s remarks, charging later Wednesday that the president was “engaged in a cover-up.” Responding to Pelosi’s claim in a fiery Rose Garden press conference, Trump said simply, “I don’t do cover-ups,” and called for an end to “phony investigations.”

Trump added that he had walked out of a meeting with Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and he asserted that pursuing infrastructure legislation would be impossible while he was still under aggressive investigation.

Mnuchin, for his part, testified he has no idea who wrote a confidential Internal Revenue Service legal memo that says that tax returns must be given to Congress unless the president asserts executive privilege.

DEM WANTS TRUMP OFFICIALS JAILED FOR NOT TURNING OVER TAX RETURNS

Appearing before the House Financial Services Committee, Mnuchin said he was not aware of the existence of the memo until reporters from The Washington Post asked about it.

Mnuchin said it was a draft document. He told the committee he believed he was following the law by refusing to turn over six years of Trump’s tax returns, which have been requested by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass.

Mnuchin said he expected the dispute to ultimately be decided by the courts.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies before the House Committee on Financial Services on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies before the House Committee on Financial Services on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Mnuchin has refused to turn over the tax returns despite a 1924 law that gives the chairs of the tax-writing committees in Congress the power to request the returns of any taxpayer.

Mnuchin last Friday refused to obey a congressional subpoena to turn over the returns, saying the request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”

Mnuchin told lawmakers that he had not had any discussions on the issue with Trump, who has said repeatedly that he can’t turn over his taxes because he is under IRS audit. Trump has not asserted executive privilege to protect the returns.

WHAT DID CONFIDENTIAL DRAFT IRS MEMO ON TRUMP TAX RETURNS SAY?

Neal has said he expects to bring a lawsuit to force the administration to comply with his subpoena.

When a number of Democrats pressed Mnuchin on the 1924 law, Mnuchin said that “weaponizing the IRS is a major concern of ours which affects taxpayers of both parties.”

“So, Secretary, please seek out legal advice, personally, of what your obligations are.”

— Michigan Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib

Mnuchin’s appearance Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee was a continuation of a hearing that had ended with a tense standoff earlier in the month. Back then, Mnuchin complained to Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., that the hearing was going on too long and forcing him to miss a meeting with the head of a foreign country.

Waters and Mnuchin were cordial with each other during Wednesday’s hearing. Mnuchin stayed until all lawmakers on the panel had the chance to ask their questions, which covered a number of issues — from Trump’s taxes to the status of the redesign of the $20 bill and the trade dispute with China.

The administration increased tariffs on an initial $200 billion of Chinese goods last week from 10 percent to 25 percent. But broadening the tariffs to another $300 billion in goods will not go into effect until after public hearings and a final decision by the administration.

Fox News’ Alex Pappas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday urged President Trump to ask Prime Minister Theresa May whether British officials supported intelligence-gathering activities targeted at his campaign associates or coordinated in any way with the author of the unverified Trump “dossier” — as the president prepares to make a state visit to Britain in June.

“I respectfully request that you ask Prime Minister May about the British government’s knowledge of the Steele dossier and whether the British government took any unilateral actions based on information provided by [Christopher] Steele or at the request of any U.S. departments,” California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes wrote in a letter to Trump, exclusively obtained by Fox News.

GAETZ: ‘MOST COMPELLING’ EVIDENCE OF FBI MISCONDUCT, CONCERNING EXCULPATORY FISA INFO, COULD BE DAYS AWAY

Nunes cited a May 19 article in The Telegraph titled, “Theresa May’s spy chiefs were briefed on explosive Christopher Steele dossier before Donald Trump.” The report said the heads of MI5 and MI6  and a top May adviser were told about Steele’s salacious memos on the Trump campaign after his 2016 election victory — before Trump was made aware.

Saying the article raised “important questions about the potential role foreign government officials may have played in spreading the dossier’s false allegations and what actions they may have taken in response to the allegations,” Nunes posed a series of questions for Trump to ask May.

“Is the British government aware of, did it give permission for, or did it participate in, activities by any government to surveil or otherwise target active or former associates of the Trump campaign, if any such surveillance activities took place?” Nunes wrote.

Another proposed question reads: “Describe any communications or relationship, if any, Joseph Mifsud … has had with British intelligence and any information the British government possesses about Mifsud’s connection to any other government or intelligence agency.”

Nunes, who has access to classified records on the matter, has been at the forefront of investigating the genesis of the Trump-Russia collusion probe. Trump told Fox News earlier this month that he would declassify related materials soon.

Earlier this week, Nunes told Fox News that the FBI had “something to hide” concerning Mifsud, a Maltese academic who allegedly told former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in April 2016 that Russia had damaging information about Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton, eventually touching off the original FBI probe. Papadopoulos has accused Mifsud of acting as one of many spies intent on corroborating “bad intelligence.”

George Papadopoulos (left) pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud (right).

George Papadopoulos (left) pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud (right). (Twitter/Youtube)

“He is the first person that we know of on earth that supposedly knows something about the Russians having Hillary’s emails,” Nunes told “Fox News @ Night.” “He has since denied that, but [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller in his report claimed that Mifsud — or insinuated that Mifsud — was some sort of Russian asset. We know that this is not the case. In fact, we know that he was in the U.S. Capitol … just steps away from an intelligence committee.”

Nunes’ letter to Trump also drills down on how deeply reliant the intelligence community was on Steele, whose dossier played a central role in obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to monitor former Trump aide Carter Page.

A report from The Hill’s John Solomon earlier this month found that the FBI was told that Steele had admitted to a contact at the State Department that he was “keen” to leak the dossier for purposes of influencing the 2016 election. The State Department official, further, raised concerns about the accuracy of his claims. Steele also acknowledged the dossier was funded by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton campaign. The FBI did not make either fact clear to the FISA court.

LYNCH ACCUSES COMEY OF MISREPRESENTING KEY CLINTON PROBE CONVERSATION UNDER OATH

Additionally, on four occasions, the FBI told the FISA court that it “did not believe” Steele was the direct source for a Yahoo News article implicating Page in Russian collusion. But London court records show that contrary to the FBI’s assessments, Steele briefed Yahoo News and other reporters in the fall of 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm behind the dossier.

Reads one question in Nunes’ letter: “Did Christopher Steele inform any current or former British intelligence or government officials about the allegations he put forward in the Steele dossier or any other allegations about President Trump or Trump campaign associates colluding with Russians? If so, describe what action British officials took in response to this information.”

And a follow-up: “Did any current or former British intelligence or government officials discuss with Christopher Steele the possibility of Steele writing additional memos about President Trump or Trump associates colluding with Russians? If so, what guidance did British officials give to Steele and when was this guidance provided?”

Nunes also sought to probe any possible coordination between U.S. and British officials.

“Did any current or former U.S. government or intelligence officials inform any current or former British government or intelligence officials about Steele’s allegations or any other allegations about President Trump or Trump campaign associates colluding with Russians, if other such allegations exist? If so, describe the circumstances and timing of this communication and any resulting action that was taken,” Nunes wrote.

CLICK TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP 

As Trump’s own Justice Department launches a review into the origins of the Russia probes, Nunes’ letter suggests the hunt for details could lead overseas. He also asked whether any British officials relayed “classified or unclassified information to any current or former U.S. officials about alleged contacts between Trump associates and suspected Russian intelligence officials, if any such information exists?”

Nunes concluded: “Did any current or former British officials provide an assessment of Christopher Steele, including a determination of his credibility or motivations, to any current or former U.S. intelligence, law enforcement, or government officials, or presidential transition team members?”

Source: Fox News Politics

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who is backed by President Trump, has cleared his first hurdle in the pursuit of a second term, defeating three challengers to win the Republican nomination.

Bevin beat state Rep. Robert Goforth, William Woods and Ike Lawrence.

The governor’s strong showing on Tuesday gives him a boost heading into the fall campaign, in a state that has trended overwhelmingly toward the GOP.

At least among Republican voters, Bevin overcame a series of self-inflicted political wounds from his feud with groups representing public school teachers. Bevin’s approval ratings slumped after his failed attempt to change the state’s struggling public pension systems.

Trump, in a tweet, encouraged Kentuckians to vote for Bevin on Tuesday, saying he “has done a fantastic job for you and America!”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch has flatly accused former FBI Director James Comey of mischaracterizing her statements by repeatedly alleging, under oath, that Lynch privately instructed him to call the Hillary Clinton email probe a “matter” instead of an “investigation.”

Lynch, who testified that Comey’s claim left her “quite surprised,” made the dramatic remarks at a closed-door House Oversight Committee hearing last December. A transcript of her testimony was released on Monday by House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga.

The episode marked the latest public dispute to break out among high-level ex-Obama administration officials, as multiple government reviews of potential FBI and Justice Department misconduct continue.

In a June 17 interview under oath with the House Intelligence Committee, Comey said Lynch had pressed him to downplay the significance of the Clinton email review. He said the moment led him to question her independence and contributed to his decision to unilaterally hold a press conference in July 2016 announcing the conclusions of the probe.

“The attorney general had directed me not to call it an investigation, but instead to call it a matter, which confused me and concerned me,” Comey testified. “That was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude, ‘I have to step away from the department if we’re to close this case credibly.’”

FEDERAL JUDGE SIDES WITH HOUSE DEMOCRATS OVER SUBPOENA FOR TRUMP’S FINANCIAL RECORDS

Comey continued: “The Clinton campaign, at the time, was using all kind of euphemisms — security review, matters, things like that, for what was going on. We were getting to a place where the attorney general and I were both going to have to testify and talk publicly about. And I wanted to know, was she going to authorize us to confirm we had an investigation? … And she said, ‘Yes, but don’t call it that, call it a matter.’ And I said, ‘Why would I do that?’ And she said, ‘Just call it a matter.’”

Comey later said that Lynch’s secret airport tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton in the summer of 2016 cemented his assessment that Lynch lacked independence.

But in her testimony in December, Lynch said Comey had completely mischaracterized the situation.

Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 8, 2017. (Reuters)

Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 8, 2017. (Reuters)

“I did not,” Lynch responded when asked if she had ever told Comey to call the investigation a “matter.”

“I have never instructed a witness as to what to say specifically. Never have, never will,” Lynch continued. “In the meeting that I had with the Director, we were discussing how best to keep Congress informed of progress and discuss requesting resources for the Department overall. We were going to testify separately. And the concern that both of us had in the meeting that I was having with him in September of 2015 was how to have that discussion without stepping across the Department policy of confirming or denying an investigation, separate policy from testifying.

“Obviously, we wanted to testify fully, fulsomely, and provide the information that was needed, but we were not at that point, in September of 2015, ready to confirm that there was an investigation into the email matter — or deny it,” Lynch added. “We were sticking with policy, and that was my position on that. I didn’t direct anyone to use specific phraseology. When the Director asked me how to best to handle that, I said: What I have been saying is we have received a referral and we are working on the matter, working on the issue, or we have all the resources we need to handle the matter, handle the issue. So that was the suggestion that I made to him.”

Pressed for her reaction to Comey’s statements, Lynch said they had come as a shock.

WATCH: COMEY SAYS LYNCH TOLD HIM TO DOWNPLAY CLINTON PROBE

“I was quite surprised that he characterized it in that way,” Lynch said. “We did have a conversation about it, so I wasn’t surprised that he remembered that we met about it and talked about it. But I was quite surprised that that was his characterization of it, because that was not how it was conveyed to him, certainly not how it was intended.”

House Oversight Commitee ranking member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio — then the panel’s chairman — interjected.

“Excuse me. Ms. Lynch, so in the meeting with the FBI Director you referred to the Clinton investigation as a matter — I just want to make sure I understand — but you did not instruct the Director when he testified in front of Congress to call it a matter. Is that accurate?” Jordan asked.

“I said that I had been referring to — I had been using the phraseology,” Lynch responded. “We’ve received a referral. Because we received a public referral, which we were confirming. And that is Department policy, that when we receive a public referral from any agency, that we confirm the referral but we neither confirm nor deny the investigation. That’s actually a standard DOJ policy.

“So in the meeting with the Director, which was, again, around September — I don’t recall the date — of 2015, it was very early in the investigation, I expressed the view that it was, in my opinion, too early for us to confirm that we had an investigation,” Lynch said. ” At some point in the course of investigations, as you all know from your oversight, it becomes such common knowledge that we talk about it using the language of investigation and things, but at that point we had not done that and we were not confirming or denying it. We weren’t denying it at all. There was, just essentially, in my view, we were following the policy. And when the Director asked me about my thoughts, I said, yes, we had to be — we had to be completely cooperative and fulsome with Congress for both of us, and that we needed to provide as much information as we could on the issue of resources.”

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Last week, a high-level dispute over which senior government officials pushed the unverified Steele dossier amid efforts to surveil the Trump campaign has broken out into the open, after it emerged that Attorney General William Barr appointed a U.S. attorney to examine the origins of the Russia investigation and determine if the FBI and DOJ’s actions were “lawful and appropriate.”

Sources familiar with the records told Fox News that a late-2016 email chain indicated Comey told bureau subordinates that then-CIA Director John Brennan insisted the dossier be included in the intelligence community assessment on Russian interference, known as the ICA. But in a statement to Fox News, a former CIA official put the blame squarely on Comey.

A separate, comprehensive. report from the Justice Department Inspector General (IG) into possible FBI and DOJ misconduct and surveillance abuse is expected within a matter of weeks.

Source: Fox News Politics

Insurgent Democrat presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg acknowledged at the Fox News town hall in Claremont, New Hampshire Sunday evening that he needs to do more to appeal to “black and brown” voters, even as he confidently parried a series of policy questions — and, on several occasions, went directly after President Trump.

Buttigieg argued that minority voters are “skeptical of people who seem to come out of nowhere,” after moderator Chris Wallace noted that he was polling at one-percent support among nonwhite primary voters according to a recent Fox News poll.

PETE BUTTIGIEG TOWN HALL WITH FOX NEWS: AS IT HAPPENED

With little equivocating, Buttigieg largely stuck to reminding voters of his core campaign pledges, and the lessons he learned from his six-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2014: “We do not send young men and women to war when there’s an alternative,” he emphasized.

Throughout, Buttigieg repeatedly drew applause — even when he defended his calls to abolish the Electoral College, a move that would gut New Hampshire’s influence in selecting the next president.

“States don’t vote, people vote,” Buttigieg said. He added that “if we’re going to call ourselves a democracy,” the U.S. should move to a popular vote system.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: EVEN MAYOR PETE SAYS HE’S SURPRISED BY HIS SURGE IN THE POLLS

Responding to the newly passed pro-life legislation passed in Alabama, as well as similar bills making their way through other state legislatures, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana told Wallace that “abortion is a national right.”

Asked about third-trimester abortions, Buttigieg asserted that such cases were rare and typically involved an unforeseen circumstance, before refusing to endorse any restrictions whatsoever on late-term abortions. Government statistics indicate that in 2015, approximately 1.3 percent of abortions were performed after 20 weeks.

“I trust women to draw the line,” Buttigieg said. “That decision [to have an abortion] is not going to be made any better, medically or morally, because the government is dictating how that decision should be made.”

South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during the Fox News Town Hall Sunday evening.

South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during the Fox News Town Hall Sunday evening. (Fox News)

Vice President Joe Biden is now the clear front-runner in the crowded Democrat Party primary field, but Buttigieg indicated that the long odds didn’t faze him.

“There’s a lot of us running for president on the Democratic side, but I think it’s safe to say I’m not like the others,” Buttigieg told Wallace, noting that seeking the presidency is inherently “audacious” — especially given that he would be the youngest person to ever become president.

“I would say being a mayor in a city of any size in America right now is about as relevant as it gets,” Buttigieg added.

On fiscal policy, Buttigieg said he favored a “fairer, or slightly higher” marginal income tax, a “reasonable” wealth tax, a financial transactions tax, and closing corporate tax loopholes.

“You don’t blow a hole in the budget with an unnecessary and unaffordable tax cut for the very wealthiest,” Buttigieg told Wallace, referring to President Trump’s tax legislation.

TRUMP TELLS ANTI-ABORTION ACTIVISTS TO STAY UNITED IN 2020

“The tweets are — I don’t care,” Buttigieg to raucous applause at one point, referring to Trump’s Twitter posts, including some that mocked Buttigieg.

In a closing lightning-round of questions, Buttigieg downplayed his comments during a radio interview on Friday, in which he called for removing Thomas Jefferson’s name from buildings and events like the Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner.

“You would have thought I would proposed blowing up the Jefferson Memorial in D.C.,” Buttigieg joked, noting that his campaign headquarters is on a street named for Jefferson.

Buttigieg also cited the HBO show “Game of Thrones” as one of his “guilty pleasures,” noting that the finale would be televised shortly after the conclusion of the town hall.

Before the town hall, Buttigieg took stock of his campaign’s unexpectedly strong position early in the race.

“We were expecting at this stage of the game to still be introducing ourselves and even defending the idea that something this audacious was appropriate,” Buttigieg told Fox News. “Instead we find that we’ve bolted into the top tier.”

In an email to supporters Saturday night, Buttigieg defended his decision to appear at the Fox town hall, as progressives have increasingly pushed for Democrats to appear only on left-leaning networks. On Sunday, Trump himself took aim at Buttigieg’s appearance at the town hall, saying it was “hard to believe” Fox had hosted the candidate.

“If we ignore the viewers of Fox News and every news platform that doesn’t share our worldview, we will surrender our ability to speak directly to millions of American voters,” Buttigieg asserted. “If we don’t show up, the conservative media will tell our side of the story for us.”

Separately, Trump told Fox News’ “The Next Revolution with Steve Hilton” in an interview aired Sunday that “I think it’s absolutely fine” that Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, are open about their relationship on the campaign trail.

Trump agreed with Hilton that Buttigieg’s candidacy is a sign of progress for the country.

“I think that’s something that perhaps some people will have a problem with,” Trump said. “I have no problem with it whatsoever. I think it’s good.”

CLICK HERE FOR THE FOX NEWS APP

During his 2016 campaign, Trump suggested he’d appoint conservative justices to overturn a Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. But he called the issue “settled” shortly after his election.

Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Michael Flynn was under FBI investigation earlier than previously thought, according to a little-noticed section in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report — and the former national security adviser’s brother told Fox News exclusively this week that the revelation suggested a long-running, high-level effort to “trip him up” and “trap” him.

Buried in the second volume of the Mueller report was a mention of an existing FBI investigation of Flynn “based on his relationship with the Russian government,” which predated Flynn’s phone calls during the presidential transition in December 2016 with then-Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak that ultimately led to his termination for lying.

It was previously thought that Flynn’s communications with Kislyak – picked up by the U.S. intelligence community – made the FBI suspicious, sparking the Flynn probe.

According to Mueller’s report, “members of the intelligence community were surprised by Russia’s decision not to retaliate in response to the sanctions. When analyzing Russia’s response, they became aware of Flynn’s discussion of sanctions with Kislyak. Previously, the FBI had opened an investigation of Flynn based on his relationship with the Russian government. Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak became a key component of that investigation.”

FOX NEWS EXCLUSIVE: RUSSIAN ACADEMIC SAYS HER CONTACTS WITH FLYNN WERE USED TO ‘SMEAR’ HIM 

After Fox News reported on the development Friday morning, President Trump questioned, in a tweet, why he wasn’t briefed on the probe in 2016 “so that I could make a change?”

That section of the report cites interviews, documented in witness reports known as FBI “302s,” with former acting assistant attorney general Mary McCord, who helped steer the Russia probe, and former FBI director James Comey.

“It was an absolute surprise when the Mueller report came out,” Flynn’s brother Joe told Fox News.

He said his brother “went through 19 sessions with the special counsel — approximately 90 hours of torturous interviews — and this never came up the entire time. And you would have thought it would have, and they would have maybe focused on that, but it didn’t come up at all.”

Joe Flynn, right, said it was an "absolute surprise" to learn that authorities had apparently been investigating his brother, Michael, during the 2016 transition or earlier. (Joe Flynn)

Joe Flynn, right, said it was an “absolute surprise” to learn that authorities had apparently been investigating his brother, Michael, during the 2016 transition or earlier. (Joe Flynn)

The special counsel’s disclosure also sheds new light on a cryptic passage in the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s report on Russian interference released last year. The report said Comey, in closed-door testimony, indicated there was an open case on Flynn — which was about to be closed, until Flynn’s calls with the Russian ambassador.

“Director Comey testified that he authorized the closure of the CI [counter-intelligence] investigation into General Flynn by late December 2016; however, the investigation was kept open due to the public discrepancy surrounding General Flynn’s communications with Ambassador Kislyak,” the report said. “Deputy Director [Andrew] McCabe stated that, ‘We really had not substantiated anything particularly significant against General Flynn,’ but did not recall that a closure of the CI investigation was imminent.”

The same Republican report found there was no briefing to warn the Trump campaign that a senior figure like Flynn was under investigation.

“The Trump campaign was not notified that members of the campaign were potential counterintelligence concerns,” even though such a defensive briefing would not have been unusual, the report said.

“My suspicion is that they were doing everything they could to trip him up and to trap him.”

— Joe Flynn, on his brother Michael

“The Trump campaign,” the report continued, “did not receive a general counterintelligence briefing until August 2016, and even then, it was never specifically notified about [George] Papadopoulos, [Carter] Page, [Paul] Manafort or General Flynn’s Russia ties.”

James Trusty, a 27-year Justice Department veteran who worked in the criminal division and served as chief of the organized crime section, told Fox News the wording in the Mueller report likely indicated the existence of an underreported investigation.

“It looks pretty clear to me that the use of the word ‘previously’ is suggesting an independent investigation, but there’s always room for a little fog of war,” Trusty said. “I think there was probably some other investigation; whether a dormant one, or a big one, a little one, we don’t know, but it looks like there was something else out there.”

Flynn’s brother said the passage backed up the family’s long-held concerns.

“Because of his vocal criticism of the Obama administration and specifically the intelligence community which he came out of, my suspicion is that they were doing everything they could to trip him up and to trap him,” Joe Flynn told Fox News.

The Obama administration fired Flynn as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)  in 2014.

The Mueller report’s statement concerning Flynn’s Russian government contacts may have referred to a 2015 dinner in Moscow, in which Flynn sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin and was paid $45,000 for a speech.

But Joe Flynn said his brother, who had led military intelligence, had kept colleagues in the loop.

“He did participate in an event where he made a speech over in Moscow,” Flynn said. “But he briefed the DIA prior to that and he briefed the DIA after that. He maintained his top-secret security clearance right up until the point. He resigned from his job as national security adviser. So if there was a big problem with what his actions were, why wouldn’t they have revoked his security clearance and told him that there’s an issue here?”

Michael Flynn is still awaiting sentencing in the wake of his guilty plea for lying to investigators about conversations with the Russian ambassador. His case returned to the headlines earlier this week after prosecutors said in a court filing that Flynn had told Mueller’s office that people tied to Congress and the administration tried to influence his cooperation with the probe. The judge has ordered relevant sections of Mueller’s report to be unredacted. The special counsel’s report did not reach a conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice, but Attorney General Bill Barr and then-deputy Rod Rosenstein determined the evidence did not warrant a criminal charge.

Former FBI general counsel James Baker, meanwhile, was recently pressed on other probes involving the Trump team before late July 2016, when the FBI opened an investigation into whether and why Trump aide George Papadopoulos had told an Australian diplomat that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

“Just to clarify, was there an open investigation against anybody associated with the Trump campaign before this Papadopoulos investigation was opened, you know, in response to this information?” Baker was asked at the Brookings Institution.

“Not to my knowledge,” Baker replied. It’s not publicly known when the earlier Flynn investigation began.

Fox News asked a spokesperson for the special counsel about the Flynn investigation, including when it started, what was the predicate and whether it was separate from the FBI probe that opened in July 2016. The spokesperson declined to comment.

Source: Fox News Politics

Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn told Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office that people connected to the Trump administration and Congress reached out and contacted him as he was cooperating with the Russia investigation, and he provided a voicemail recording of one such communication, prosecutors said in a court filing made public on Thursday.

Mueller did not ultimately charge Trump or anyone in his orbit concerning those communications, even though the special counsel’s office examined nearly a dozen episodes for potential obstruction, including purported efforts by the president to discourage cooperation.

For his part, the judge in the case ordered that portions of Mueller’s report that relate to Flynn be unredacted and made public by the end of the month.

Thursday’s order from U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan is the first time a judge is known to have directed the Justice Department to make public any portion of the report that the agency had kept secret. It could set up a conflict with Attorney General William Barr, whose team spent weeks blacking out grand jury information to comply with federal law, along with details of ongoing investigations and other sensitive information.

Prosecutors revealed details about Flynn’s communications in a court filing aimed at showing the extent of his cooperation with Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Flynn, a vital witness in the probe, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts during the presidential transition period in 2016 with the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller exits St. John's Episcopal Church after attending services, across from the White House, in Washington back in March. Mueller closed his long and contentious Russia investigation with no new charges. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller exits St. John’s Episcopal Church after attending services, across from the White House, in Washington back in March. Mueller closed his long and contentious Russia investigation with no new charges. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Prosecutors did not identify the people with whom Flynn was in touch, nor did they detail the conversations.

But they said Flynn recounted multiple instances in which “he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the administration or Congress that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation.”

Prosecutors say they were unaware of some of those instances, which took place before and after his guilty plea, until Flynn told them about them.

DEEP STATE OF PANIC: BRENNAN, COMEY ASSOCIATES DISPUTE WHO PUSHED DISCREDITED STEELE DOSSIER, AS DOJ PROBE HEATS UP

The report reveals that after Flynn began cooperating with the government, an unidentified Trump lawyer left a message with Flynn’s attorneys reminding them that the president still had warm feelings for Flynn and asking for a “heads-up” if he knew any damaging information about the president.

Sullivan ordered prosecutors Thursday to give him a copy of the audio recording they reference in the court filing, and to make public a transcript of that call.

He also directed them to file publicly the transcripts of any calls with Russian officials such as the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

Flynn was supposed to have been sentenced in December, with prosecutors saying he was so cooperative and helpful in their investigation that he was entitled to avoid prison. But after a judge sharply criticized Flynn during his sentencing hearing, Flynn asked for that reckoning to be postponed so that he could continue cooperating with prosecutors and reduce the likelihood of spending time behind bars.

The document also details how Flynn assisted investigators as they looked into whether the Trump campaign conspired with the Kremlin to sway the outcome of the 2016 election.

Flynn described to investigators statements from senior campaign officials in 2016 about WikiLeaks — which received and published Democratic emails that were hacked by Russian intelligence officers “to which only a select few people were privy,” prosecutors said. That includes conversations with senior campaign officials “during which the prospect of reaching out to WikiLeaks was discussed.”

A redacted version of Mueller’s report released last month said that the evidence did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Russia and the campaign, despite multiple efforts by Russian actors to involve the Trump campaign apparatus in election hacking.

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn told Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office that people connected to the Trump administration and Congress reached out and contacted him as he was cooperating with the Russia investigation, and he provided a voicemail recording of one such communication, prosecutors said in a court filing made public on Thursday.

Mueller did not ultimately charge Trump or anyone in his orbit concerning those communications, even though the special counsel’s office examined nearly a dozen episodes for potential obstruction, including purported efforts by the president to discourage cooperation.

For his part, the judge in the case ordered that portions of Mueller’s report that relate to Flynn be unredacted and made public by the end of the month.

Thursday’s order from U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan is the first time a judge is known to have directed the Justice Department to make public any portion of the report that the agency had kept secret. It could set up a conflict with Attorney General William Barr, whose team spent weeks blacking out grand jury information to comply with federal law, along with details of ongoing investigations and other sensitive information.

Prosecutors revealed details about Flynn’s communications in a court filing aimed at showing the extent of his cooperation with Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Flynn, a vital witness in the probe, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts during the presidential transition period in 2016 with the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller exits St. John's Episcopal Church after attending services, across from the White House, in Washington back in March. Mueller closed his long and contentious Russia investigation with no new charges. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller exits St. John’s Episcopal Church after attending services, across from the White House, in Washington back in March. Mueller closed his long and contentious Russia investigation with no new charges. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Prosecutors did not identify the people with whom Flynn was in touch, nor did they detail the conversations.

But they said Flynn recounted multiple instances in which “he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the administration or Congress that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation.”

Prosecutors say they were unaware of some of those instances, which took place before and after his guilty plea, until Flynn told them about them.

DEEP STATE OF PANIC: BRENNAN, COMEY ASSOCIATES DISPUTE WHO PUSHED DISCREDITED STEELE DOSSIER, AS DOJ PROBE HEATS UP

The report reveals that after Flynn began cooperating with the government, an unidentified Trump lawyer left a message with Flynn’s attorneys reminding them that the president still had warm feelings for Flynn and asking for a “heads-up” if he knew any damaging information about the president.

Sullivan ordered prosecutors Thursday to give him a copy of the audio recording they reference in the court filing, and to make public a transcript of that call.

He also directed them to file publicly the transcripts of any calls with Russian officials such as the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

Flynn was supposed to have been sentenced in December, with prosecutors saying he was so cooperative and helpful in their investigation that he was entitled to avoid prison. But after a judge sharply criticized Flynn during his sentencing hearing, Flynn asked for that reckoning to be postponed so that he could continue cooperating with prosecutors and reduce the likelihood of spending time behind bars.

The document also details how Flynn assisted investigators as they looked into whether the Trump campaign conspired with the Kremlin to sway the outcome of the 2016 election.

Flynn described to investigators statements from senior campaign officials in 2016 about WikiLeaks — which received and published Democratic emails that were hacked by Russian intelligence officers “to which only a select few people were privy,” prosecutors said. That includes conversations with senior campaign officials “during which the prospect of reaching out to WikiLeaks was discussed.”

A redacted version of Mueller’s report released last month said that the evidence did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Russia and the campaign, despite multiple efforts by Russian actors to involve the Trump campaign apparatus in election hacking.

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics


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