TPM News

Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

The Justice Department on Sunday confirmed that its inspector general would investigate whether “there was any impropriety or political motivation” in the FBI’s work during the 2016 campaign.

The new investigation, the DOJ said, would be added to an existing one into the FBI’s application for a FISA warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The announcement came just hours after President Donald Trump appeared to demand just that in a tweet:

Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement she shared with TPM:

The Department has asked the Inspector General to expand the ongoing review of the FISA application process to include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation of persons suspected of involvement with the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 presidential election. As always, the Inspector General will consult with the appropriate U.S. Attorney if there is any evidence of potential criminal conduct.

She added the following statement from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein:

“If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”

The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, announced in March that he would probe the FBI’s application for a surveillance warrant to suveil a member of Trump’s campaign — believed to be foreign policy adviser carter page.

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Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani claimed in an interview Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team had assured him that the obstruction of justice portion of Mueller’s probe would conclude by Sept. 1.

The New York Times reported Giuliani’s comments, but did not quote all of them verbatim.

Giuliani argued to the Times that the investigation could have improper political consequences if it went on too long. 

“You don’t want another repeat of the 2016 election where you get contrary reports at the end and you don’t know how it affected the election,” Giuliani said, referring to then-FBI Director James Comey’s reopening of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server days before the 2016 presidential election.

Giuliani claimed Mueller had shared his schedule for the obstruction probe “about two weeks ago,” in the paper’s words, “amid negotiations over whether Mr. Trump will be questioned by investigators.”

Allowing for preparation time, Giuliani told the Times, Trump could be questioned by Mueller’s team around July 4th.

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Trump confidante Roger Stone said Sunday that he was “prepared” to be indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller, “should that be the case.” 

Mueller has so far subpoenaed two associates of Stone’s, John Kakanis and Jason Sullivan, according to reporting by Reuters.

“We know that prosecutors have been asking witnesses about you,” NBC’s Chuck Todd told Stone in an interview Sunday after noting the subpoenas. “Are you preparing to be indicted?”

“I don’t know if I’m an interesting person or a person of interest,” Stone began in response.

“At least eight of my current or former associates, mostly young people, have been terrorized by Mr. Mueller’s investigators,” Stone said. “I can guarantee you they have found no evidence whatsoever of Russian collusion, nor trafficking of allegedly hacked emails with Wikileaks.”

“It is not inconceivable now that Mr. Mueller and his team may seek to conjure up some extraneous crime pertaining to my business, or maybe not even pertaining to the 2016 election,” he continued, before adding in reference to a potential indictment: “So I am prepared, should that be the case.”

Stone later said that neither he nor his lawyer had had contact with Mueller’s office.

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President Donald Trump on Sunday sent a flurry of angry tweets in response to a Saturday New York Times report that Donald Trump Jr. met in Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign with individuals offering foreign help for his father.

He concluded the tirade by saying he would order the Justice Department to investigate its own actions during the 2016 election, seemingly a reference to recent revelations that an FBI informant spoke prior to the election to various members of the Trump campaign.

The Witch Hunt finds no Collusion with Russia – so now they’re looking at the rest of the World,” Trump tweeted midday, after a morning full of similar messages. “Oh’ great!”

The Times on Saturday revealed an August 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Blackwater founder Erik Prince, George Nader (serving as an emissary for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), and Israeli social media manipulation specialist Joel Zamel.

Trump Jr., the Times reported, citing one unnamed person with knowledge of the meeting, responded “approvingly” to the suggestion that social media could be manipulated to help Trump’s campaign.

The article did not say, as Trump claimed, that Mueller’s investigation had found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

And aside from his claim that the Times’ article was “long & boring,” none of Trump’s tweets — chock full of oft-used attacks and conspiracy theories — addressed the paper’s reporting.

A lawyer for Donald Trump Jr., Alan Futerfas, acknowledged to the Times that the meeting occurred: “[P]rior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting with Erik Prince, George Nader and another individual who may be Joel Zamel,” he said. “They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy. He was not interested and that was the end of it.”

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Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Sunday that the United States was “putting the trade war [with China] on hold” in light of recent trade talks between the two nations, even though those talks produced no firm public commitments from China on reducing the two nations’ trade deficit, a priority for the Trump administration. 

“We’re putting the trade war on hold,” Mnuchin told Fox News’ Chris Wallace in an interview Sunday. “So right now, we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework.”

Trump has threatened to tariff tens of billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods over what he’s asserted is an unfair trade deficit and other issues, including the theft of American intellectual property. China, in turn, announced plans to target major American exports with sanctions.

The United States initially demanded a $200 billion reduction in its trade deficit with China, among other things, at the start of trade discussions earlier this month. Reuters noted that number is larger than annual U.S. agricultural and oil exports.

Wallace pressed Mnuchin on the lack of any firm commitment regarding the deficit coming out of the recent talks.

“One, no specific target of $200 billion [in reducing the trade deficit],” he noted.

“We have specific targets,” Mnuchin said. “I’m not going to publicly disclose what they are. They go industry-by-industry.”

“As far as the President’s threat, first of $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, then $150 billion, those are all on hold?” Wallace asked.

“They are,” Mnuchin said. “And the President had a very productive meeting with the vice premier in the Oval Office, with all of us and the Vice President. He heard these commitments himself.”

“And he can always decide to put the tariffs back on if China doesn’t go through with their commitments.”

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Incoming NRA President Oliver North said Sunday that school shootings won’t be stemmed “by taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens” with gun control legislation.

Rather, he said, schools should be “hardened” to match the security in airports, or Fox News’ Washington, D.C. studio.

“You and I came through the lobby here in this building where we are sitting right now,” North told Fox News’ Chris Wallace in an interview. “There was a security desk there. There’s a barrier for us to pass through. You can’t get on an airplane today without going through a metal detector.”

“There’s no metal detector in our building,” Wallace said. “Are you suggesting that there be a metal detector — and I’m not saying that’s wrong — a metal detector at the entrance to every school for millions and millions of students?”

“If you want to stop the carnage,” North began. “You are not going to fix it by taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens. You’ve got to fix it in a way that hardens the place sufficiently that those kids are safe inside the door. If that means five metal detectors getting in and out of the high school, you get five metal detectors.”

“The problem that we’ve got is we are trying like the dickens to treat the symptom without treating the disease,” North had said earlier. “And the disease in this case isn’t the Second Amendment. The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence. They have been drugged in many cases. Nearly all of these perpetrators are male, and they’re young teenagers in most cases. And they’ve come through a culture where violence is commonplace.”

“Many of these young boys have been on Ritalin since they were in kindergarten,” he added.

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The Times and the Post both had stories up Friday evening on a topic which has been roiling right-wing media over the last week or more but is only now getting sustained attention in the mainstream press. It is also an example of the ways in which the cacophony of on-message pro-Trump media and talking heads can have a demonstrable and malign distorting effect on the news we receive and how we understand it. The topic here is the FBI’s use of an informant to talk to and solicit information from at least three Trump officials and advisors starting in the summer of 2016.

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Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Sunday would not say whether he would support a law requiring the safe storage of firearms.

The Friday shooting at Santa Fe High School was believed to have been carried out with the gunman’s father’s pistol and shotgun. Responding to the shooting, Patrick urged gun-owning parents to “lock your guns safely away.”

“Should that be law?” CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Patrick in an interview Sunday.

“In many cases, there are laws, depending on the states, and I’m sure there is some federal law regarding your culpability in a crime using a gun if it is your gun, or if you own a gun,” Patrick responded.

Texas law, as in many other states, does impose some liability on adults who, through criminal negligence, allow children access to firearms they own. But the law applies to children under 17 years old — the alleged Santa Fe shooter was 17. The Austin American-Statesman found in 2015 that the so-called Child Access Prevention law had only resulted in 61 convictions since its implementation in the state in 1995.

Like most other states, Texas does not require guns to be locked or kept in a safe once in their owner’s possession — so called “safe storage” laws.

Tapper tried again: “Should it be law that you have to lock up your guns?”

“Again, Jake, depending on the state, I’d have to look at it–” Patrick began.

“What about Texas?” Tapper pressed.

“In Texas, again, we hold you very responsible if you are a gun owner,” the lieutenant governor responded. “For example, I’m a concealed carry, as are almost 1 million Texans. If I use my gun to stop a crime or to defend myself, and I fire a bullet that goes astray and strikes somebody else, I can be held not only civilly but criminally liable.”

Tapper tied once more: “There isn’t a law requiring safe storage.”

“Jake, Jake– ” Patrick began. “I didn’t come on with you this morning to go through the entire penal code of the federal government or the state.”

Watch below via CNN:

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NEW YORK (AP) — Criminal investigators are getting their first look at materials gathered from raids on the home and office of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer as a process to separate items subject to attorney-client privilege appears to be meeting a judge’s demand that it occur speedily and efficiently.

The progress comes just days before U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood will preside over a fourth hearing resulting from Michael Cohen’s efforts to gain influence over what potential evidence seized in the April 9 raids can be deemed subject to the privilege and blocked from the view of criminal prosecutors. Prosecutors say they are investigating possible fraud as they study Cohen’s personal business dealings.

Wood last month designated a former federal judge, Barbara Jones, to serve as a neutral party and resolve disputes over what items can be kept secret and out of the view of investigators.

Twice, Jones has filed letters updating the status of the privilege search, most recently a week ago. She said she will provide Wood with a timeline for concluding the privilege review once she has received enough of Cohen’s electronic property.

In a letter to the court on Friday, Cohen’s lawyers indicated they were encouraged by the system that was set up, noting the “careful review procedure that is currently being overseen by the special master.” The letter was filed as they sought to exclude Michael Avenatti, an attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels, from joining the court case.

The first materials to face the scrutiny of Jones and lawyers for Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization, were likely the easiest to study: eight boxes of paper documents.

The majority of what was seized, though, was contained on over a dozen electronic devices, including computers, cellular phones and an iPad. The paper documents, numbering in the hundreds or thousands, were processed over a two-week period, enabling criminal prosecutors in recent days to begin scrutinizing raid materials for the first time.

But it is likely that the electronic documents, containing a much larger volume of materials, will take longer to process.

Jones said in a letter to the court a week ago that the government was expected to produce all of the content from the raids except for the electronic contents of a single computer by next Friday. Then, lawyers for Cohen and Trump will designate items they think are subject to attorney-client privilege as the same time Jones is making her own designations.

At hearings last month, Wood said she wanted the process to move much faster than the more than a year that it took lawyers to resolve privilege disputes after a civil rights attorney was arrested in a terrorism probe in 2002.

Joanna Hendon, a lawyer for Trump, said last month that even the president was ready to “make himself available, as needed” to aid the attorney-client privilege search.

Lawyers for Cohen had pledged that they were ready to work around around-the-clock, if necessary, to ensure there was no delay.

Last month, Cohen’s lawyers revealed that his three clients in 2017 and 2018 were Trump, Elliott Broidy, a Trump fundraiser paid $1.6 million to a Playboy Playmate with whom he had an extramarital affair, and Fox News host Sean Hannity.

In court papers, prosecutors have said the searches “are the result of a months-long investigation into Cohen, and seek evidence of crimes, many of which have nothing to do with his work as an attorney, but rather relate to Cohen’s own business dealings.”

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri on Saturday defended her vote against President Donald Trump’s pick for CIA director but said the specific reasons were classified.

McCaskill was one of the few Democrats facing a difficult re-election this fall to oppose the nomination of Gina Haspel, who was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday after a heated debate about her role in the CIA’s torture program.

The Missouri Democrat told reporters at a Kansas City campaign event that her vote was influenced by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who had been tortured as a prisoner of war and also opposed Haspel’s confirmation. But she said the most important reason for her decision came during a classified discussion with Haspel.

“I cross-examined her on the classified material. And I was very uncomfortable with her answers,” McCaskill said. “I wish I could explain to all my constituents the details of all that, but the law will not allow me to do so. I can tell you this, if everyone in Missouri read and listened to her answers to the questions I asked, I believe that a vast majority of Missourians would have voted the same way I did.”

Earlier in the day, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas seized on McCaskill’s vote during a conference call arranged by the campaign of her Republican opponent, state Attorney General Josh Hawley.

McCaskill “proved once again that she is so liberal and so reflexively opposed to the president that she cannot represent Missouri in the Senate,” Cotton charged. “She put partisan politics over national security.”

McCaskill represents a state that has trended more Republican in recent years. Trump won Missouri by nearly 19 percentage points in 2016.

She sided with the majority of Democrats on Thursday to oppose Haspel’s nomination. A handful of red-state Democrats up for re-election in November voted to confirm her, including West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly and North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

Acknowledging the Republican shift in her state, McCaskill said Missouri voters would need “proof of independence” to support her re-election bid.

She noted that she supported Trump’s pick of Mike Pompeo to serve as secretary of state, adding that she voted with her party only about half the time.

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