Mueller gives Trump’s legal team questions for potential interview: report

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE has presented President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out ‘subversion’ at VA MORE‘s legal team with a list of questions as investigators seek an interview with the president.

The New York Times reported Saturday that the questions were a sort of starting point for Mueller, whose team is working to negotiate an interview with Trump as part of the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election. 

It was after his legal team received the questions that Trump launched into a series of tweets, in which he denied that his campaign coordinated with Moscow during the 2016 election and lambasted Mueller’s investigation as unnecessary.

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In one Saturday night tweet, Trump asserted that Mueller’s investigation should never have been opened in the first place, because there was “no collusion” and “no crime.”

That tweet came hours after John Dowd, one of the president’s lawyers, called on Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinOvernight Cybersecurity: Lawyer charged in Mueller probe pleads guilty to lying | Sessions launches cyber task force | White House tallies economic impact of cyber crime Sessions creates cyber task force to study election interference Dopey Russian ads didn’t swing voters — federal coverups did MORE, who oversees the Russia investigation, to shutter the probe. 

The statement from Dowd was unusual for an attorney who has repeatedly insisted that Trump and the White House cooperate with Mueller’s investigation in hopes that it would come to a natural end.

But according to the Times, Trump’s lawyers appear increasingly on edge, especially after Trump met earlier this month with attorney Emmet Flood. He reportedly discussed bringing Flood on to handle his interactions with Mueller’s team. He also discussed Flood as a possible replacement for White House counsel Don McGahn, the Times reported.

Dowd and another one of Trump’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow, were not aware of the meeting with Flood, and reportedly became concerned upon learning about it that they could be pushed aside.

Trump’s tweets on Saturday also followed the abrupt firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeDopey Russian ads didn’t swing voters — federal coverups did Federal abuses on Obama’s watch represent a growing blight on his legacy In the case of the FISA memos, transparency is national security MORE just two days before he was set to retire. The president praised McCabe’s ouster, tweeting that it was a “great day for Democracy.”

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Senate Judiciary Dem calls on Zuckerberg to testify before committee

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharOvernight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won’t stand Dems seek reversal of nursing home regulatory rollback MORE (D-Minn.) on Saturday called on Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergOvernight Tech: Dems turn up the heat on Equifax | Trump’s science budget | Inside Rupert Murdoch’s fight with Facebook | Cyber experts identify Olympics malware Rupert Murdoch pressured Facebook for changes to help news publishers: report Overnight Tech: GOP bill would bar agencies from using Chinese tech | How Russian accounts used Tumblr during the election | Warren, Equifax spar over breach claims | Dem worries about tech addiction | New lobster emoji MORE to testify before the Senate Judiciary committee following reports that a data firm took Facebook users private information for President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. 

“Facebook breach: This is a major breach that must be investigated. It’s clear these platforms can’t police themselves. I’ve called for more transparency & accountability for online political ads. They say “trust us.” Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify before Senate Judiciary,” Klobuchar, a member of the committee, wrote on Twitter.

Her comment came in response to the news that  Cambridge Analytica, the data firm used by the Trump campaign, obtained private information of more than 50 million people without their permission for campaign uses. 

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It was also reported that senior members of Cambridge Analytica met with Russian business executives ahead of the 2016 campaign. 

Facebook suspended the group on Friday for not fully deleting all of the data it had obtained.

Klobucar also said that Cambridge Analytica taking data on Facebook users is further justification for regulating technology companies via her Honest Ads Act. She introduced the bill in late 2017, which would hold internet platforms like Facebook to similar political ad disclosure standards as radio, TV and print outlets.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology Mueller indictment reveals sophisticated Russian manipulation effort GOP cautious, Dems strident in reaction to new indictments MORE (D-Va.) who co-sponsored the legislation, also said that Facebook’s dealings with Cambridge Analytica are reason to pass the Honest Ads Act.

“Whether it’s allowing Russians to purchase political ads, or extensive micro-targeting based on ill-gotten user data, it’s clear that, left unregulated, this market will continue to be prone to deception and lacking in transparency,” he said in a statement on Saturday. “This is another strong indication of the need for Congress to quickly pass the Honest Ads Act to bring transparency and accountability to online political advertisements.”

Facebook’s general counsel, Colin Stretch, testified in front of the Judiciary Committee alongside top lawyers from Google and Twitter, at the end of October about Russian manipulation on its platform. At the time, some lawmakers said that they would also like to see top executives from the firm appear before Congress.

The social media platform has already been under increased scrutiny after it was revealed that Russian actors potentially linked to Russia spent $100,000 on political advertisements on the site during the presidential campaign.

Facebook has been cooperating with investigators. The information about the ads was handed to Congress and special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE for their investigations into Russian interference in the election. 

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Trump: ‘Mueller probe should never have been started’

President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out ‘subversion’ at VA MORE asserted on Saturday that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE‘s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia should never have been opened in the first place.

“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

“It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!”

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The tweet came hours after Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, released a statement calling on Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinOvernight Cybersecurity: Lawyer charged in Mueller probe pleads guilty to lying | Sessions launches cyber task force | White House tallies economic impact of cyber crime Sessions creates cyber task force to study election interference Dopey Russian ads didn’t swing voters — federal coverups did MORE, who oversees Mueller’s investigation, to shut down the probe.

Dowd initially told the Daily Beast that the statement was issued on behalf of Trump, but later reversed course, saying it was given in his personal capacity. 

Still, Trump has repeatedly lambasted Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt,” arguing that there was no improper contact or coordination between his campaign and Moscow. He reportedly sought last summer to have Mueller fired, but backed down from that position after White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign.

Trump’s tweet on Saturday night also came a day after Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsUnder pressure, Trump shifts blame for Russia intrusion Overnight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won’t stand MORE fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeDopey Russian ads didn’t swing voters — federal coverups did Federal abuses on Obama’s watch represent a growing blight on his legacy In the case of the FISA memos, transparency is national security MORE, arguing that McCabe misled congressional investigators and leaked information to the press. 

McCabe swiftly pushed back on those charges, saying that his ouster was politically motivated and intended to undercut Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling.

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Washington Post editorial board warns Trump: No one is above the law, not even the president

The Washington Post editorial board wrote a scathing response to President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out ‘subversion’ at VA MORE’s celebration over the the ouster of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeDopey Russian ads didn’t swing voters — federal coverups did Federal abuses on Obama’s watch represent a growing blight on his legacy In the case of the FISA memos, transparency is national security MORE, calling Trump a “nasty, small-minded despot.” 

Trump took to Twitter early Saturday to celebrate McCabe being fired after over 20 years at the bureau, claiming it was a “great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – a great day for democracy.” 

The Washington Post said in an opinion on Saturday that Trump’s behavior stood out as bullying. 

“Mr. Trump acts like a nasty, small-minded despot, not the leader of a democracy more than two centuries old in which rule of law is a sturdy pillar. If there is doubt that the timing of Mr. McCabe’s dismissal was driven by political vengeance, Mr. Trump does everything he can to prove the worst with his own sordid words.” 

Trump did not speak like the leader of the United States but as a  tyrant from a “banana republic” like Azerbaijan, Cambodia or Turkey. 

“In nations without a strong democratic foundation, tyrants cling to power by belittling perceived enemies and insulting and co-opting other institutions, such as a free press, law enforcement and the military, coercing them into subservience,” the editorial board wrote. 

McCabe’s fate at the FBI apparently hung in the balance of a Justice Department inspector general’s report that hasn’t been made public yet. 

But the Post argued that Trump is trying to capitalize on that report to silence McCabe’s potential testimony in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation into the possible obstruction of justice Trump committee when he fired McCabe’s former boss, James Comey. 

“Now the president has attempted to discredit, and lauded the punishment of, a potential witness against him, an affront to the integrity and independence of law enforcement,” the Post wrote. 

Trump jumped on McCabe with “unseemly ferocity” but contrary to Trump’s tweet, the hardworking men and women of the FBI are far more distinguished for their fairness.

“In fact, the hardworking men and women of the FBI, the Justice Department, the intelligence agencies and elsewhere in government come to work every day to uphold the values of a democratic system based on rule of law — a system that is distinguished by the simple principle that everyone is judged fairly, not by grudge or whim, and that no one is above the law, not even the president.”

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Trump’s adversaries steal the spotlight after wild 24 hours

Donald Trump’s supporters want to see porn actress Stormy Daniels and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe silenced and sidelined. But after an explosive 24 hours that featured an unprecedented legal threat from a sitting president against Daniels and the public firing of McCabe Friday, Trump’s two troublesome adversaries have a bigger platform than ever before.

By Saturday, Daniels and McCabe were the subject of wall-to-wall cable news coverage — much of it unflattering to the president. And the White House was back on the defensive, facing uncomfortable questions about whether the president’s repeated criticism of McCabe influenced Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to fire him, and whether Trump was directly involved in efforts to silence Daniels.

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The sequence of events began late Friday night, when Trump, through his personal lawyers, weighed in for the first time on the legal fight stemming from allegations that he had an affair with Daniels. The president’s team asserted that Trump has the right to seek more than $20 million from Daniels for repeatedly violating a non-disclosure agreement.

If Trump’s lawyers follow through on the threat, discovery and depositions could result, pushing Trump further into the middle of the legal fight over the allegations, on which Trump has avoided commenting in public.

Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ lawyer, pounced on the president’s legal tactic, casting it as a strategic misstep.

“This clearly was not well thought out before it was done — either that or they haven’t been paying attention over the last two weeks,” Avenatti told POLITICO in an interview Saturday afternoon.

“These tactics only work if the other side blinks and in our case neither my client nor I have any intention of blinking. As a result, the president and Mr. Cohen have only compounded their problems by bringing suit against my client for $20 million of bogus damages,” Avenatti said, referring to Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer.

Cohen did not respond to a request for comment.

Before the public could digest the Daniels news, Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday night announced his decision to fire McCabe, just over 24 hours before he was set to retire, rendering him ineligible for his federal pension.

Sessions insisted his decision was the result of internal reviews that concluded McCabe violated Justice Department policies and was not forthcoming with investigators probing FBI actions before the 2016 presidential election. But McCabe and his allies worked furiously to raise doubts about the Justice Department’s official explanation for his firing.

In an interview with POLITICO published on Friday night, McCabe said his firing was connected to a broader effort to discredit him for his likely cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“But at some point, this has to be seen in the larger context,” McCabe said. “And I firmly believe that this is an ongoing effort to undermine my credibility because of the work that I did on the Russia case, because of the investigations that I oversaw and impacted that target this administration.”

“They have every reason to believe that I could end up being a significant witness in whatever the special counsel comes up with, and so they are trying to create this counter-narrative that I am not someone who can be believed or trusted,” McCabe added. “And as someone who has been believed and trusted by really good people for 21 years, it’s just infuriating to me.”

Saturday’s news cycle further complicated the situation for the White House. First came Trump lawyer John Dowd’s call for an end to Mueller’s investigation — which Dowd initially said was made in his official capacity as Trump’s lawyer before later clarifying that his statement was made in a personal capacity.

Then POLITICO and other news outlets reported Saturday that McCabe, like former FBI Director James Comey, kept memos detailing his interactions with Trump, and handed them over to Mueller.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on McCabe’s firing.

Amid all of this, Trump was watching everything unfold from the White House, where he has no public events on his schedule this weekend. In an indication he is following the events on cable news — as he almost always does — Trump repeatedly tweeted his disdain for the critical coverage of the McCabe firing.

“The Fake News is beside themselves that McCabe was caught, called out and fired. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars was given to wife’s campaign by Crooked H friend, Terry M, who was also under investigation? How many lies? How many leaks? Comey knew it all, and much more!” he wrote on Twitter Saturday afternoon.

Less than 10 minutes later, Comey, who will soon publish a book recounting his experiences, shot back: “Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not.”

Elana Schor and Darren Samuelsohn contributed to this report.

http://www.politico.com