TPM News

Trump supporter and Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy is under investigation for alleged attempts to sell influence with the Trump administration, the Washington Post reported Friday citing three unnamed people familiar with the probe.

In recent weeks,” the Post reported, “prosecutors with the Justice Department’s public integrity section — which examines possible political and government corruption — have sought documents related to Broidy’s business dealings.”

Among the subjects of the investigation are Broidy’s alleged plan to persuade the Trump administration to extradite exiled Chinese dissident Guo Wengui back to China, per two of the Post’s sources, and an effort to have the Justice Department drop an embezzlement probe into a Malaysian investment fund, for which Broidy and his wife allegedly sought $75 million.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators asked at least one witness about Broidy’s activities, according to one unnamed person familiar with the matter.

The casino magnate, former GOP finance chair and alleged sexual harasser Steve Wynn’s lawyer confirmed to the Post that Wynn “is completely cooperating with the investigation,” though the lawyer noted Wynn “has no reason to believe that anyone acted improperly in anything he knew about or was involved in.”

The Post noted that the New York Times and Wall Street Journal previously reported on Broidy’s Malaysian and Chinese dealings.

The same Elliot Broidy is currently the subject of a lawsuit from ex-Playboy model Shera Bechard, who alleges he improperly called off a promised $1.6 million payment — which Trump fixer Michael Cohen arranged with Bechard’s lawyer at the time, Keith Davidson — to her after others leaked details of their affair in violation of a nondisclosure agreement. Broidy resigned as deputy RNC finance chair after news of the payment broke.

An extensive Associated Press report in May revealed in detail Broidy and George Nader’s work with leaders in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, part of an effort to promote anti-Qatar policies to the Trump administration.

Broidy blamed Qatar and a former CIA operative and his partner, who’d both just opened an office for their consulting firm in the country, for leaking the hacked emails that formed the foundation of the AP report. The Journal and Times’ stories on Broidy’s Malaysian and Chinese work also cite caches of emails.

“Elliott Broidy has never agreed to work for, been retained by nor been compensated by any foreign government for any interaction with the United States Government, ever,” an attorney for Broidy told the Post. “Any implication to the contrary is a lie.”

Read the Post’s full, much more detailed story here.

Read More →

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A federal judge on Friday called on the U.S. government and the American Civil Liberties Union to come up with a plan to address the rights of parents and children separated at the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum.

The request was made during a hearing a day after U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw extended a freeze on deportations of recently reunified families, giving a reprieve to hundreds of children and their parents who want to remain in the United States.

Sabraw wrote in issuing the order that “hasty removal of these children and their parents at the expense of an ordered process provided by law” would go against the public’s interest and deprive the minors of their right to seek asylum.

During Friday’s hearing, Sabraw asked the two sides to come to an agreement over whether some parents who were deported without their children should be returned to the U.S. to pursue asylum with the minors.

Lee Gelernt, an ACLU attorney representing separated families, said some deported parents should be allowed to return to accompany their children through the asylum process. He told the judge others should be let back in because they were misled into believing that if they agreed to be deported, they would be reunited with their children.

As many as 366 parents who were deported to their homelands have not yet been reunited with their children. Sabraw asked the government to provide a detailed report next week on the progress of its efforts to reunify those families.

The government has opposed delaying deportations, saying parents waived the rights of their children to pursue asylum claims after the adults signed deportation forms.

The order to extend the freeze, which Sabraw first put in place July 16, affects many of the more than 2,500 children who were separated from their parents.

Sabraw said delaying the deportations “would not unfairly or unduly tax available government resources.”

He said claims of people persecuted in their homelands should at least be heard as they seek asylum. Many families have said they were fleeing violence in their home countries in Central America and planned to seek asylum.

“The court is upholding the rights provided to all persons under the United States Constitution, rights that are particularly important to minor children seeking refuge through asylum,” Sabraw wrote.

In late June, Sabraw ordered that children under 5 be rejoined with their parents in 14 days and children 5 and older be rejoined in 30 days.

The order came days after President Donald Trump, amid public outrage about children being taken from their parents, halted the “zero-tolerance” policy implemented in the spring that split up families at the border.

The government so far has reunified at least 2,089 children with their parents or others, including sponsors. More than 560 were still separated.

____

Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this story.

Read More →

White House counsel Don McGahn has spoken to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators for at least 30 hours in total over three voluntary interviews, the New York Times reported Saturday, citing “a dozen current and former White House officials and others briefed on the matter.”

The Times said that although Trump’s legal team initially offered no objection to McGahn speaking with investigators  Trump’s former lawyers John Dowd and Ty Cobb pursued an “open-book” legal strategy, encouraging White House staff to cooperate with the investigation “It is not clear that Mr. Trump appreciates the extent to which Mr. McGahn has cooperated with the special counsel.”

McGahn, the Times reported, was initially suspicious that Trump’s team’s openness to having him talk with investigators was a sign Trump planned to blame McGahn for future legal troubles. So McGahn and his lawyer “devised their own strategy to do as much as possible to cooperate” with the probe, in the Times’ words. 

With the first meeting occurring in November, the Times reported that McGahn provided information on “the president’s most intimate moments with his lawyer”:

Among them were Mr. Trump’s comments and actions during the firing of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and Mr. Trump’s obsession with putting a loyalist in charge of the inquiry, including his repeated urging of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to claim oversight of it. Mr. McGahn was also centrally involved in Mr. Trump’s attempts to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, which investigators might not have discovered without him.

Later, the article details the discussions further:

Mr. McGahn gave to Mr. Mueller’s investigators, the people said, a sense of the president’s mind-set in the days leading to the firing of Mr. Comey; how the White House handled the firing of the former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn; and how Mr. Trump repeatedly berated Mr. Sessions, tried to get him to assert control over the investigation and threatened to fire him.

McGahn, the Times said, told investigators about how Trump had tried to “ensure control” of the investigation.

“The president and Don have a great relationship,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the Times. “He appreciates all the hard work he’s done, particularly his help and expertise with the judges, and the Supreme Court” nominees.

The Times reported it wasn’t clear whether Mueller’s team and McGahn have spoken “about whether Trump associates coordinated with Russia’s effort to influence the election.”

In January, the Times reported that McGahn had threatened to quit after Trump ordered him to have Mueller fired the previous summer. Trump subsequently backed down, only to later ask McGahn through an aide to publicly refute the Times article detailing the stand-off. (McGahn had to remind Trump that he had indeed asked him to instruct Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein fire Mueller.)

McGahn, in the summer of 2017, recused the entire counsel’s office from Mueller’s probe, given that many of the lawyers working in his office were “significant participants” in matters central to the investigation, Cobb said in June.

Mueller is reportedly in possession of a Feb. 15, 2017 memo written by McGahn and two deputies that “explicitly states that when Trump pressured Comey [to let the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn “go”] he had just been told by two of his top aides — his then chief of staff Reince Priebus and his White House counsel Don McGahn — that Flynn was under criminal investigation,” in the words of a New York Reivew of Books article.

Read More →

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Friday that he suspects he’ll “very quickly” revoke the security clearance for a Justice Department official whose wife worked for the firm involved in producing a dossier on Trump’s ties to Russia.

Signaling that his efforts to target clearances over his frustration with the Russia investigation were not over, Trump tweeted that it was a “disgrace” for Bruce Ohr to be in the Justice Department.

His comments came two days after he yanked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, saying he had to do “something” about the “rigged” federal probe of Russian election interference. Critics have cast it as an act of political vengeance.

Ohr has come under Republican scrutiny for his contacts to Glenn Simpson, co-founder of Fusion GPS. The opposition research firm hired former British spy Christopher Steele during the 2016 presidential campaign to compile the dossier on Trump and his Russia ties.

Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS during the campaign — something Trump has tweeted about to highlight his assertions of political bias behind the Russia investigation.

Former U.S. security officials on Thursday issued scathing rebukes to Trump for moving against Brennan. Trump’s admission that he acted out of frustration with the Russia probe underscored his willingness to use his executive power to fight back against an investigation he sees as a threat to his presidency. Legal experts said the dispute may add to the evidence being reviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Brennan said Trump’s decision, announced Wednesday, to deny him access to classified information was a desperate attempt to end Mueller’s investigation. Brennan, who served under President Barack Obama and has become a vocal Trump critic, called Trump’s claims that he did not collude with Russia “hogwash.”

The only question remaining is whether the collusion amounts to a “constituted criminally liable conspiracy,” Brennan wrote.

Later Thursday, the retired Navy admiral who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden called Trump’s moves “McCarthy-era tactics.” Writing in The Washington Post, William H. McRaven said he would “consider it an honor” if Trump would revoke his clearance, as well.

“Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation,” McRaven wrote.

That was followed late Thursday by a joint letter from 15 former senior intelligence officials calling Trump’s action “ill-considered and unprecedented.” They said it “has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances — and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech.”

The signees included seven former CIA directors, six former CIA deputy directors and two former national intelligence directors, James Clapper and retired Navy Adm. Denny Blair. Clapper and former CIA Director Michael Hayden have appeared on a White House list of people who may also have their security clearances revoked.

Then on Friday, 60 former CIA officials issued their own statement, joining a chorus of opposition from the intelligence community to Trump’s decisions to threaten to or actually pull clearances. They said former government officials have a right to express unclassified views on national security issues without fear of being punished for doing so.

They said they did not necessarily concur with all the opinions expressed by Brennan, or the way in which he expressed them. But they said they believe the “country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views.”

Trump on Wednesday openly tied his decision to strip Brennan of his clearance — and threaten nearly a dozen other former and current officials — to the ongoing investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with his campaign. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump again called the probe a “rigged witch hunt” and said “these people led it!”

“So I think it’s something that had to be done,” he said.

The president’s comments were a swift departure from the official explanation given by the White House earlier Wednesday that cited the “the risks” posed by Brennan’s supposed “erratic conduct and behavior.” It marked the latest example of the president contradicting a story his aides had put forward to explain his motivations.

Attorneys said the revocation appeared to be within the president’s authority. But they noted the power play also could be used to reinforce a case alleging obstruction of justice, following the president’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey and his repeated tweets calling for the investigation to end.

Patrick Cotter, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York and a longtime white-collar defense attorney, said that while a prosecutor could argue that Trump’s targeting of clearances was intended as a warning that “if you contribute to, participate in, support the Russia probe and I find out about it, I’m going to punish you,” it is likely not obstruction in itself.

But, he said the move would be a “powerful piece of evidence” for prosecutors as part of a pattern to demonstrate an intent to use presidential power in connection with the probe.

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor agreed.

“What it shows is that the president is fixated on the Russia investigation, he’s angry about it, and he wants to do everything he can to discourage or slow down the investigation,” he said.

Mueller and his team have been looking at Trump’s public statements and tweets as they investigate whether the president could be guilty of obstruction.

“I don’t think it advances the criminal obstruction case, but I think it’s factually relevant,” said Mark Zaid, a national security attorney. “I think it shows the state of mind and intent to interfere or impede any unfavorable discussion of his potential connection to Russia.”

Former CIA directors and other top national security officials are typically allowed to keep their clearances, at least for some period.

___

Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann and Jessica Gresko contributed to this report.

__

Follow Colvin and Lucey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/colvinj and https://twitter.com/catherine_lucey

Read More →

Joel Arrona Lara was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents while driving his wife to the hospital to deliver their child, CBSLA, Univision and other outlets have reported.

Maria del Carmen Venegas, Arrona’s then-pregnant wife, drove herself to a San Bernardino, California hospital for her own Cesarean section Wednesday after ICE arrested her husband at a gas station on the drive over.

The ICE agents asked him to step out of the vehicle after he was unable to produce identification, despite the couple protesting that they lived nearby and could go get it, Venegas said.

“The last thing he knew was that I was here in the hospital,” she told Univision.

Arrona Lara has never been in trouble with the law, she said.

But, beginning early in the Trump administration, ICE announced that it “no longer exempt[s] classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” meaning even law-abiding undocumented people face the constant threat of deportation.

ICE told CBSLA in a statement:

“Mr. Arrona-Lara, a citizen of Mexico illegally residing in the United States, was taken into custody Wednesday by ICE Fugitive Operations Team officers in San Bernardino, Calif. Mr. Arrona-Lara is currently in ICE custody pending removal proceedings with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).

“ICE continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy. However, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”

Read More →

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Trump campaign adviser should spend at least some time in prison for lying to the FBI during the Russia probe, prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller said in a court filing Friday that also revealed several new details about the early days of the investigation.

The prosecutors disclosed that George Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 presidential race, caused irreparable damage to the investigation because he lied repeatedly during a January 2017 interview.

Those lies, they said, resulted in the FBI missing an opportunity to properly question a professor Papadopoulos was in contact with during the campaign who told him that the Russians possessed “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of emails.

The filing by the special counsel’s office strongly suggests the FBI had contact with Professor Joseph Mifsud while he was in the U.S. during the early part of the investigation into Russian election interference and possible coordination with Trump associates.

According to prosecutors, the FBI “located” the professor in Washington about two weeks after Papadopoulos’ interview and Papadopoulos’ lies “substantially hindered investigators’ ability to effectively question” him. But it doesn’t specifically relate any details of an interview with the professor as it recounts what prosecutors say was a missed opportunity caused by Papadopoulos.

“The defendant’s lies undermined investigators’ ability to challenge the Professor or potentially detain or arrest him while he was still in the United States,” Mueller’s team wrote, noting that the professor left the U.S. in February 2017 and has not returned since.

Prosecutors note that investigators also missed an opportunity to interview others about the professor’s comments or anyone else at that time who might have known about Russian efforts to obtain derogatory information on Clinton during the campaign.

“Had the defendant told the FBI the truth when he was interviewed in January 2017, the FBI could have quickly taken numerous investigative steps to help determine, for example, how and where the Professor obtained the information, why the Professor provided the information to the defendant, and what the defendant did with the information after receiving it,” according to the court filing.

Prosecutors also detail a series of difficult interviews with Papadopoulos after he was arrested in July 2017, saying he didn’t provide “substantial assistance” to the investigation. Papadopoulos later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI as part of a plea deal.

The filing recommends that Papadopoulos spend at least some time incarcerated and pay a nearly $10,000 fine. His recommended sentence under federal guidelines is zero to six months, but prosecutors note another defendant in the case spent 30 days in jail for lying to the FBI.

Papadopoulos has played a central role in the Russia investigation since its beginning as an FBI counterintelligence probe in July 2016. In fact, information the U.S. government received about Papadopoulos was what triggered the counterintelligence investigation in the first place. That probe was later take over by Mueller.

Papadopoulos was also the first Trump campaign adviser to plead guilty in Mueller’s investigation.

Since then, Mueller has returned two sweeping indictments that detail a multi-faceted Russian campaign to undermine the U.S. presidential election in an attempt to hurt Clinton’s candidacy and help Trump.

Thirteen Russian nationals and three companies are charged with participating in a conspiracy to sow discord in the U.S. political system primarily by manipulating social media platforms.

In addition, Mueller brought an indictment last month against 12 Russian intelligence operatives, accusing them of hacking into the computer systems of Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic Party and then releasing tens of thousands of private emails through WikiLeaks.

According to that indictment, by April 2016, the Russian intelligence operatives had already stolen emails from several Democratic groups including the Clinton campaign and were beginning to plan how they were going to release the documents. That same month, according to court papers, Mifsud told Papadopoulos that he had met with senior Russian government officials in Moscow and had learned that they had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”

___

Read the sentencing memo: http://apne.ws/tNIPFAC

Read More →

Former CIA Director John Brennan was defiant Friday night in response to President Donald Trump’s revocation of his security clearance, and to Trump’s threatening to revoke the clearances of several other former intelligence and national security officials who’ve become harsh critics of his.

“I think this is an egregious act that it flies in the face of traditional practice, as well as common sense, as well as national security,” Brennan told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “I think that’s why there’s been such an outcry from many intelligence professionals.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Wednesday that Brennan’s clearance had been revoked, tellingly accusing him of making “outrageous allegations” about the administration. Trump later told the Wall Street Journal that the revocation was the result of Brennan’s involvement in the Russia probe.

“A number of lawyers have reached out to say that there is a very strong case here, not so much to reclaim [my clearance] but to prevent this from happening in the future,” Brennan told Maddow, asked if he was considering legal action against the administration.

Some groups, including the ACLU, have alleged that revoking Brennan’s clearance in retaliation for his criticism of Trump, as the White House said was the case, was a violation of the former CIA director’s First Amendment rights. Trump appeared to respond to the MSNBC interview the next morning, now citing new reasons for the revocation. 

Brennan repeated his accusation that Trump’s Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir was “nothing short of treasonous.”

And he said a Washington Post report that his clearance revocation had been timed “to divert attention from nonstop coverage of a critical book released by fired Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman” was “just another demonstration of [Trump’s] irresponsibility.”

“The fact that he’s using a security clearance of a former CIA director as a pawn in his public relations strategy, I think, is just so reflective of somebody who, quite frankly — I don’t want to use this term, maybe — but he’s drunk on power.”

Brennan wondered: “What else is he going to do in order to distract attention?”

He ultimately charged congressional Republicans with reining in the President.

“So, again, how desperate is he going to get?” Brennan asked. “And do the Republicans really want to have to clean up after a disaster or do they want to stop this before it becomes disastrous? It’s their choice. And if things become disastrous, it’s going to be on their shoulders, on their conscience.”

Watch the full interview below, or read a transcript here.

Read More →

FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted a Florida man on charges that he threatened to kill the children of U.S. Rep. Brian Mast (pictured above) because he was upset about President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

Laurence Key was indicted Thursday on charges of communication of a threat to kidnap or injure a person. The 68-year-old was arrested in June after an intern said he called the Florida congressman’s office in Washington and threatened to kidnap and kill Mast’s three young children because of policies about immigrant children being separated from their parents.

Authorities say Key had contacted Mast’s office 478 times before.

He could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

TC Palm reports Key denied the charges and invoked his right to remain silent.

Read More →

On Fridays We Wear Pink

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, the blonde-haired, pink-clad Regina George of the federal government, read aloud many pages of her Burn Book this week. From her main man to the White House press corps, Queen Conway took no prisoners.

On Sunday, the verbal contortions Conway usually performs with great aplomb on the morning shows faltered when ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked her to name the most prominent African-American official currently serving the President in the West Wing.

Conway paused before trying to berate Karl for not accepting the appointment of HUD Director Ben Carson as the requisite token minority.

She also name dropped “Ja’Ron,” referring to Ja’Ron Smith who, like Carson, does not work in the West Wing.

Not fetch.

A few days later, Conway lashed out at her husband, George, for committing a crime on par with wearing sweatpants to lunch on Mondays. Never a fan of George’s anti-Trump tweets, Conway decided to air her grievances in the most passive aggressive way possible.

She told a reporter that George’s tweeting is “disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows,” then tried to retroactively take the comments off the record to be attributed to someone familiar with the relationship.

That’s not how reporter-source agreements work.

Conway wrapped up the week by zinging all the losers following her around the White House campus.

“Why is everybody so obsessed with the President of the United States that they can’t even begin or finish a sentence without mentioning his name five times. It’s kind of weird,” she said, flipping her blonde tresses over her shoulder.

For proving that the limit of headlines she can generate by being rude, offensive or ignorant does not exist, Kellyanne Conway is our Duke of the Week.

Read More →

LiveWire