McCabe, Mueller and the memos - What's Your Point?

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This week's panel: Jessica Colon - Republican strategist, Nyanza Moore - progressive commentator and Houston attorney, Tony Diaz- Chicano educator and activist, Marcus Davis - host of "Sunday Morning Live", Bill King - businessman, columnist and former Kemah Mayor, and David Balat – health care executive  join Greg Groogan in a discussion about the firing of Andrew McCabe and the Mueller investigation

 

President Donald Trump is reviving concerns that the special counsel team investigating Russian election interference may be biased against him.

Trump tweeted Sunday: "Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added...does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!"

The tweet marks one of the first times that Trump has mentioned special counsel Robert Mueller by name.

Trump allies previously have questioned whether Mueller can lead an unbiased probe because some of his investigators have made campaign contributions to Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton. Mueller is a former FBI director appointed by Republican President George W. Bush.

Other Trump backers have noted that Mueller interviewed with Trump to serve another term as FBI director. Trump instead nominated Christopher Wray to lead the bureau.

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8:35 a.m.

President Donald Trump is raising doubts about whether former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe kept personal memos outlining McCabe's interactions with the president.

McCabe was fired Friday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Associated Press is reporting that McCabe's memos have been provided to special counsel Robert Mueller, who's investigating possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia.

Trump tweeted Sunday: "Spent very little time with Andrew McCabe, but he never took notes when he was with me. I don't believe he made memos except to help his own agenda, probably at a later date. Same with lying James Comey. Can we call them Fake Memos?"

McCabe has been the object of Trump's ire over McCabe's role in the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

Comey - the FBI director who was fired last year by Trump - also kept memos of his dealings with Trump.

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12:25 a.m.

The onetime FBI deputy director who's a James Comey confidant has been fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

And The Associated Press has learned that Andrew McCabe kept personal memos detailing interactions with President Donald Trump, and that those memos have been provided to special counsel Robert Mueller's office.

The AP reports that the memos are similar to the notes compiled by Comey, who was fired last year as FBI director.

McCabe's memos could factor into Mueller's investigation as his team examines Trump campaign ties to Russia and possible obstruction of justice.

McCabe's memos include details of his own interactions with the president. They also recount different conversations he had with Comey, who kept notes on meetings with Trump.

That's according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation who wasn't authorized to discuss the memos publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

(AP) -- Andrew McCabe, the onetime FBI deputy director long scorned by President Trump and just fired by the attorney general, kept personal memos regarding Trump that are similar to the notes compiled by dismissed FBI chief James Comey detailing interactions with him, The Associated Press has learned.

It was not immediately clear whether any of McCabe's memos have been turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller, whose criminal investigation is examining Trump campaign ties to Russia and possible obstruction of justice, or been requested by Mueller.

McCabe's memos include details of interactions with the president, among other topics, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation who wasn't authorized to discuss the memos publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The disclosure Saturday came hours after Trump called McCabe's firing by Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a "a great day for Democracy." Sessions, acting on the recommendation on the recommendation of FBI disciplinary officials, acted two days before McCabe's scheduled retirement date.

McCabe suggested the move was part of the Trump administration's "war on the FBI." Trump tweeted in praise of Sessions' announcement Friday night, asserting without elaboration that McCabe "knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels off the FBI!"

Later, Trump claimed there was "tremendous leaking, lying and corruption" atop the FBI, and departments of State of Justice, but offered no evidence.

An upcoming inspector general's report is expected to conclude that McCabe, a Comey confidant, authorized the release of information to the media and was not forthcoming with the watchdog office as it examined the bureau's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

"The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and accountability," Sessions said in a statement.

McCabe said his credibility had been attacked as "part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally" but also the FBI and law enforcement.

"It is part of this administration's ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the special counsel investigation, which continue to this day," he added, referring to Robert Mueller's probe into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. "Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the special counsel's work."

Trump's personal lawyer, John Dowd, cited the "brilliant and courageous example" by Sessions and the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility and said in a statement Saturday that the No. 2 Justice Department official, Rod Rosenstein, should "bring an end" to the Russia investigation "manufactured" by Comey.

Dowd told The Associated Press that he neither was calling on Rosenstein, the deputy attorney government overseeing Mueller's inquiry, to fire the special counsel immediately nor had discussed with Rosenstein the idea of dismissing Mueller or ending the probe.

McCabe asserted he was singled out because of the "role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath" of Comey's fired by Trump last May.

Mueller is investigating whether Trump's actions, including Comey's ouster, constitute obstruction of justice. McCabe could be an important witness.

Trump, in his Tweet early Saturday, said McCabe's firing was "a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI — A great day for Democracy." He said "Sanctimonious James Comey," as McCabe's boss, made McCabe "look like a choirboy."

McCabe said the release of the findings against him was accelerated after he told congressional officials that he could corroborate Comey's accounts of Comey's conversations with the president.

McCabe spent more than 20 years as a career FBI official and played key roles in some of the bureau's most recent significant investigations. Trump repeatedly condemned him over the past year as emblematic of an FBI leadership he contends is biased against his administration.

McCabe had been on leave from the FBI since January, when he abruptly left the deputy director position. He had planned to retire on Sunday, and the dismissal probably jeopardizes his ability to collect his full pension benefits. His removal could add to the turmoil that has enveloped the FBI since Comey's firing and as the FBI continues its Trump campaign investigation that the White House has dismissed as a hoax.

The firing arises from an inspector general review into how the FBI handled the Clinton email investigation. That inquiry focused not only on specific decisions made by FBI leadership but also on news media leaks.

McCabe came under scrutiny over an October 2016 news report that revealed differing approaches within the FBI and Justice Department over how aggressively the Clinton Foundation should be investigated. The watchdog office has concluded that McCabe authorized FBI officials to speak to a Wall Street Journal reporter for that story and that McCabe had not been forthcoming with investigators. McCabe denies it.

In his statement, McCabe said he had the authority to share information with journalists through the public affairs office, a practice he said was common and continued under the current FBI director, Christopher Wray. McCabe said he honestly answered questions about whom he had spoken to and when, and that when he thought his answers were misunderstood, he contacted investigators to correct them.

The media outreach came at a time when McCabe said he was facing public accusations of partisanship and followed reports that his wife, during a run for the state Senate in Virginia, had received campaign contributions from a Clinton ally. McCabe suggested in his statement that he was trying to "set the record straight" about the FBI's independence against the background of those allegations.

With the FBI disciplinarians recommending the firing, Justice Department leaders were in a difficult situation. Sessions, whose job status has for months appeared shaky under his own blistering criticism from Trump, risked inflaming the White House if he decided against firing McCabe. But a decision to dismiss McCabe days before his retirement nonetheless carried the risk of angering his rank-and-file supporters at the FBI.

McCabe became entangled in presidential politics in 2016 when it was revealed that his wife, during her unsuccessful legislative run, received campaign contributions from the political action committee of then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton friend. The FBI has said McCabe received the necessary ethics approval about his wife's candidacy and was not supervising the Clinton investigation at the time.

He became acting director following the firing last May of Comey, and immediately assumed direct oversight of the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign.

He quickly found himself at odds with the Trump administration.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump on Sunday questioned the impartiality of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and raised doubts about whether a fired top FBI official kept personal memos outlining his interactions with Trump.

Trump, in a series of tweets, elevated his simmering grievances to a boil against Mueller, whose team is examining Trump campaign ties to Russia and possible obstruction of justice; onetime FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who was dismissed Friday by the attorney general; and former FBI Director James Comey, ousted last year by Trump.

The president's Twitter barbs follow closely on the call by Trump's personal lawyer for the Trump-appointed No. 2 Justice Department official overseeing Mueller's inquiry to "bring an end" to that investigation. And Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee said this past week that they had completed a draft report concluding, after a yearlong investigation, that there was no collusion or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia; committee Democrats vehemently disagreed.

Trump asserted that Mueller's team of investigators has a large number of "hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? ... does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!"

It is true that some Mueller investigators have contributed to Democratic political candidates, including Trump's 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton. But Justice Department policy and federal service law bar discrimination in the hiring of career positions on the basis of political affiliation, and experts say there is no rule barring such donations.

Mueller, a Republican himself, was appointed FBI director by a GOP president, George W. Bush. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, an ex-U.S. attorney under Bush and Democratic President Barack Obama, was named to the Justice Department post by Trump and put in charge of Mueller's investigation by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former Republican senator tapped by Trump for his Cabinet. Sessions stepped aside from overseeing the investigation after the Justice Department acknowledged he had spoken twice with the Russian ambassador in 2016 and had failed to disclose the contacts during his Senate confirmation process.

Trump may have felt more emboldened when Sessions, acting on the recommendation of FBI disciplinary officials, sacked McCabe on Friday, two days before McCabe's retirement date. "A great day for Democracy," Trump tweeted afterward and asserted without elaboration that McCabe, whom the president has long scorned, knew "all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels off the FBI!"

The Associated Press later reported that McCabe kept personal memos detailing interactions with the president that have been provided to Mueller's office and are similar to notes compiled by Comey.

A skeptical Trump tweeted: "Spent very little time with Andrew McCabe, but he never took notes when he was with me. I don't believe he made memos except to help his own agenda, probably at a later date. Same with lying James Comey. Can we call them Fake Memos?"

It wouldn't be unusual for a senior official to make notes soon after meeting with the president.

McCabe's memos include details of his interactions with the president, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation who wasn't authorized to discuss the notes publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The memos also recount different conversations he had with Comey, who kept notes on meetings with Trump that unnerved him.

Comey was a target Sunday when Trump claimed that Comey lied under oath at a Senate hearing in 2017, shortly before his firing, when he said he had never been an anonymous source. Comey, who is releasing a book next month, tweeted on Saturday in response to McCabe's firing: "Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not."

The precise contents of McCabe's memos are unknown, but they possibly could help substantiate McCabe's assertion that he was unfairly maligned by a White House he says had declared "war" on the FBI and Mueller's investigation. They almost certainly contain, as Comey's memos did, previously undisclosed details about encounters between the Trump administration and FBI that could be of interest to Mueller.

Sessions said he dismissed McCabe on the recommendation of FBI disciplinary officials who said McCabe had not been candid with a watchdog office investigation. An upcoming inspector general's report is expected to conclude that McCabe, who spent more than 20 years with the FBI, had authorized the release of information to the media and was not forthcoming with the watchdog office as it examined the bureau's handling of an investigation into Clinton's emails.

McCabe has vigorously disputed the allegations and said his credibility had been attacked as "part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally" but also the FBI and law enforcement.

"It is part of this administration's ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the special counsel investigation, which continue to this day," he added. "Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the special counsel's work."

Also over the week, Trump's personal lawyer, John Dowd, cited the "brilliant and courageous example" by Sessions and the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility and said Rosenstein should "bring an end" to the Russia investigation "manufactured" by Comey.

Dowd told the AP that he neither was calling on Rosenstein to fire the special counsel immediately nor had discussed with Rosenstein the idea of dismissing Mueller or ending the probe.

Mueller is investigating whether Trump's actions, including Comey's ouster, constitute obstruction of justice. McCabe could be an important witness, and his memos could be used by investigators as they look into whether Trump sought to thwart the FBI probe. Comey's own memos, including one in which he says Trump encouraged him to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, have been provided to Mueller and are part of his investigation.

McCabe asserted he was singled out by the administration because of the "role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath" of Comey's firing last May.

He became acting director after that but clashed with the Trump administration, including when he publicly rejected White House assertions that Comey had lost the support of the rank and file. He abruptly left the deputy director position in January and went on leave.

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Associated Press writer Chad Day contributed to this report.

 

 

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