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Wednesday
May172017

Lawmakers praise special counsel appointed to oversee Russia investigation

tupungato/iStock/ThinkstockThe news that the Department of Justice has appointed a special counsel to investigate Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election came as a bombshell in Washington.

The White House was informed of the decision less than an hour before the news was publicly announced, and many in the FBI had no notice at all, sources told ABC News.

"As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity," President Donald Trump said in a statement. "I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country."

On the Hill, a number of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle praised the selection of former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who also served as a U.S. attorney.

Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah -- who earlier today invited ousted FBI Director James Comey to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on issues related to the "FBI's independence" -- lauded Mueller's "impeccable credentials" and said he "should be widely accepted."

 

One of the first congressional Republicans to call for the appointment of a special prosecutor to address Russia's alleged election meddling, California Rep. Darrell Issa said today, "It's time to get to the bottom of this."

"I've been pressing the DOJ to take this step for nearly 3 months because Americans deserve nothing less than the truth," he added in a statement. "I have faith that Robert Mueller will provide the independence necessary to be sure this investigation is conducted with the trust and confidence of the American people."

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that is currently investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign said in a statement the announcement was "a good first step to get to the bottom of the many questions we have had about Russian interference in our election and possible ties to the president."

"Bob ... is respected, he is talented and he has the knowledge and ability to do the right thing," Feinstein said.

Her Republican counterpart on the Judiciary Committee, chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, praised the Justice Department's decision.

"I have a great deal of confidence Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and I respect his decision," Grassley said. Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions previously recused himself from the investigation, it was Rosenstein, not Sessions, who announced the special counsel. "At the end of the day, we need a public accounting of what went on to restore faith in government," Grassley added.

The chair and vice chair of the Senate Committee on Intelligence, which is also investigating the Trump/Russia issue, came together for a joint statement:

“The appointment of former FBI Director and respected lawyer Robert Mueller as special counsel for the Russia investigation is a positive development and will provide some certainty for the American people that the investigation will proceed fairly and free of political influence," Sens. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, and Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said in their statement, noting their committee would continue its own investigation.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, Hillary Clinton's running mate in 2016, called the appointment "a good move" on Twitter. "Now let's get some answers," he added.

Clinton's former spokesperson, Brian Fallon, also weighed in, saying Mueller "has Jim Comey's independent streak, minus Comey's lust for the spotlight." During the campaign, Fallon blasted Comey's decision to publicly announce the FBI was reopening the investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state.

 

 

Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, called Mueller's appointment "a victory for all Americans who believe in the integrity of the rule of law" and insisted the investigation "must be given the full resources and independence it needs to succeed."

 

 

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis. -- who stood by President Trump on Wednesday even as talk of Comey's memos about possibly inappropriate conversations swirled -- said he welcomed Mueller's appointment.

"My priority has been to ensure thorough and independent investigations are allowed to follow the facts wherever they may lead. That is what we’ve been doing here in the House," Ryan said in a statement. "The addition of Robert Mueller as special counsel is consistent with this goal, and I welcome his role at the Department of Justice. The important ongoing bipartisan investigation in the House will also continue."

Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, noted she was "pleased" by the Justice Department's designation of Mueller, but said the appointment "is the first step, but it cannot be the last. Director Mueller will still be in the chain of command under the Trump-appointed leadership of the Justice Department. He cannot take the place of a truly independent, outside commission."

"This takes the politics out of it, hopefully. This has gotten too political," Rep. Adam Kitzinger, R-Illinois, told reporters. "I think it's a good move and hopefully something that will give the American people some peace that we'll get to the bottom of this."

According to the Justice Department, Mueller -- who is resigning from his law firm to avoid any conflicts of interest -- will have all of the authorities of a U.S. attorney, including the ability to take the matter before a grand jury and the ability to issue subpoenas. Although he has wide latitude to hire his team, Mueller's budget will be subject to approval by Roseinstein.

Today's news comes on the heels of a series of startling revelations this month: First, Trump's announcement he had fired FBI director James Comey, who was leading the Russia probe, then the news that Trump disclosed classified intelligence to Russian officials, and finally, reports that Trump asked Comey to ease up on the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired after he mislead the vice president about the nature of his discussions with Russia's Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

President Trump has labeled allegations of collusion with Russia "a total hoax."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May172017

New special counsel Robert Mueller has long history at the FBI

Win McNamee/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Robert Mueller, who was announced late Wednesday afternoon as the special counsel to spearhead the FBI's investigation into Russian connections to the 2016 election "and related
matters," has a long history within the organization.

He served as the FBI director from Sept. 2001 until Sept. 2013, directly preceding James Comey, who was fired by President Donald Trump last week.

Mueller and Comey worked together in the past: The two were together during the dramatic hospital showdown in 2004 when they wanted to stop then-Attorney General John Ashcroft from reauthorizing
then-President George Bush's domestic surveillance program. Comey testified about the incident in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2007, and it is widely cited as an example of Comey's
political independence.

Mueller was nominated to run the FBI by Bush and Mueller assumed the position on Sept. 4, 2001, seven days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Mueller has been back in the spotlight more recently, too.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell put Mueller in charge of the investigation into the domestic assault incident involving Baltimore Ravens' running back Ray Rice in 2014.

According to his profile on the FBI website, he served in the marine corps and was a part of the rifle platoon in Vietnam. His profile says that he has received the Bronze Star, two Navy
Commendation medals, and a Purple Heart.

He went to Princeton University for his undergraduate degree and the University of Virginiafor law school after his military service.

Mueller worked as a litigator in San Francisco before working in the U.S. Attorney's Office in California's Northern District and later in Boston where he worked as Assistant U.S. Attorney,
according to the FBI profile.

He later returned to U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco before being nominated for his job at the FBI.

The Department of Justice reports that Mueller is resigning from his law firm in order to avoid any conflicts of interest with firm clients or attorneys.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May172017

Robert Mueller appointed special counsel to oversee probe into Russia's interference in 2016 election

FBI(WASHINGTON) -- The United States Department of Justice has announced that a special counsel has been appointed to investigate Russian interference into last year's presidential election and links or coordination with the campaign of President Donald Trump.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was assigned by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to "oversee the previously-confirmed FBI investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, and related matters."

In a statement, Rosenstein said, "My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command."

"I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability," said Mueller in a statement.

Mueller will have 60 days to put together a budget for resources to conduct the investigation and that budget must be approved by Rosenstein. Attorney General Jeff Sessions previously recused himself from all matters related to the presidential campaign.

"Special Counsel Mueller will have all appropriate resources to conduct a thorough and complete investigation, and I am confident that he will follow the facts, apply the law and reach a just result," said Rosenstein in the statement.

Justice Department officials were in touch with Mueller within days of the firing of FBI Director James Comey last week. Comey confirmed in March that the bureau was actively investigating Russian influence and collusion with the Trump campaign.

As special counsel, Mueller can be expected to have the full powers and independent authority to exercise all investigative and prosecutorial functions of any United States attorney. These powers include the ability to take matters before a grand jury, issue subpoenas and assign federal agents to the case.

The White House was informed of the decision an hour before it was publicly announced Wednesday and released a statement from the president over two hours later.

"As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know -- there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity," read the statement from Trump. "I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country."

Administration officials have previously said that they see no need for a special counsel. On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the investigations led by committees in the House and Senate, plus the FBI, were sufficient.

"I don’t know why you need additional resources when you already have three entities," said Spicer.

Mueller, 72, served as FBI director for 12 years after his nomination by President George W. Bush in 2001. Prior to leading the bureau, Mueller was the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California and served as an assistant attorney general in between stints in private practice.

The appointment of Mueller as special counsel comes amid a fraught week for the Trump administration. On Tuesday, ABC News learned from sources that Comey, Mueller's successor at the FBI, was asked by Trump in February to end the bureau's investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Comey then wrote of the request in a memo he shared with top FBI associates.

Flynn was fired after it was revealed that he misled administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, about the nature of his conversations with Russian officials, including Russia's Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, prior to Trump's inauguration.

On Monday, it was uncovered that Trump shared classified intelligence with Russian officials, one of whom was Kislyak, during a meeting at the White House last week. The president later said he had the "absolute right" to disclose the information, even as members of his administration disputed the story.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May172017

President Trump's schedule for his first foreign trip

mephsnorris/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump will travel to four countries over eight days for his first foreign trip as president.

Here is his schedule for his trip, as detailed by national security adviser H.R. McMaster:

Saturday, May 20

After arriving in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, Trump will have coffee with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, attend a royal banquet and hold bilateral meetings with the king, the crown prince and the
deputy crown prince.

Trump will participate in a signing ceremony of “several agreements that will further solidify U.S.-Saudi security and economic cooperation."

Trump and the first lady will attend an official dinner with the Saudi royal family.

Sunday, May 21

Trump holds bilateral meetings with Gulf Cooperation Council leaders as well as broader meetings with all Gulf states leaders.

In the afternoon, Trump has lunch with leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries and will deliver “an inspiring, direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology and the president’s hopes for
a peaceful vision of Islam.”

Trump participates in the inauguration of a new center to fight radicalism and promote moderation.

Trump participates in a Twitter forum with young people.

Monday, May 22

Trump travels to Jerusalem where he will meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and lay a wreath at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and deliver remarks at the Israel museum.

Trump meets privately later that day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump and the first lady join Netanyahu and his wife for a private dinner.

Tuesday, May 23

Trump meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.

Trump pays a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and says a prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Wednesday, May 24

Trump meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Trump also meets with the Cardinal Secretary of State and tour St. Peters.

The president meets with Italy's President Sergio Mattarella before departing Rome for Brussels, Belgium.

Thursday, May 25

Trump meets with King Philippe of Belgium and Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium and heads of state and government of the host country of the NATO alliance.

Trump heads to the European Union headquarters in Brussels to meet with the European Union and the European Council presidents.

Trump holds a working lunch with the newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron.

In the afternoon, Trump will deliver remarks at unveiling of NATO’s memorial in front of a piece of the Berlin Wall and World Trade Center.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis will join Trump for NATO leaders meeting and dinner before traveling to Sicily, Italy.

Friday, May 26

Trump attends the G7 Summit in Sicily and meets with leaders including Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

In the evening, Trump attends a concert of the La Scala Philharmonic followed by leader’s dinner hosted by the president of Italy.

Saturday, May 27

Before departing for Washington, D.C., Trump speaks to American and Allied servicemen and their families, recapping highlights and accomplishments of the trip.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May172017

Trump to meet with 4 candidates for FBI job, including Sen. Joe Lieberman

Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with four candidates for the position of FBI director on Wednesday evening.

Those set to meet with the president are: acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe; former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating; former Connecticut Senator and 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Lieberman; and former FBI official Richard McFeely, according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

On Monday, Spicer told reporters that the process to replace fired FBI director James Comey was being "driven by the Department of Justice" and that Trump would conduct interviews once there were recommendations.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein conducted interviews with a number of candidates over the weekend.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May172017

What is obstruction of justice and could it apply to Trump

BrianAJackson/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Amid searing reports that President Donald Trump asked then-FBI director James Comey to drop the agency’s investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, questions are being raised about whether the president obstructed justice.

A source close to Comey confirmed to ABC News that the former FBI director, who was fired last week, was asked by Trump in February to end the FBI probe into ties between Flynn and Russia, according to a memo Comey wrote about his conversation with the president.

In the memo, which was shared with top FBI associates, Comey wrote that Trump said "I hope you can let this go," in relation to the investigation into Flynn’s actions, according to a source who read the memo.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump said to Comey, according to the source. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

ABC News has not seen the memo and Comey has not commented on the matter.

The White House has denied that Trump tried to block the probe, saying in a statement, "While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and
protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn."

“The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations," the statement continues. "This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”

The New York Times was the first on Tuesday to report the discussion and subsequent memo.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., posted The New York Times article on Twitter along with the comments, “Just leaving Senate floor. Lots of chatter from [Democrats] and [Republicans] about the exact definition of ‘obstruction of justice.’”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement Tuesday, “If these reports are true, the president’s brazen attempt to shut down the FBI’s investigation of Michael Flynn is an assault on the rule of law that is fundamental to our democracy. At best, President Trump has committed a grave abuse of executive power. At worst, he has obstructed justice.”

So what is obstruction of justice and could it apply to the president?

What is obstruction of justice?

Obstruction of justice is a federal crime in which someone "corruptly" attempts to “influence, obstruct or impede” the “due and proper administration of the law” in a pending proceeding, as stated in 18 U.S.Code § 1505.

“Corruptly” is defined in an accompanying section, 18 U.S.Code § 1515 (b), as “acting with an improper purpose, personally or by influencing another, including making a false or misleading statement, or withholding, concealing, altering, or destroying a document or other information."

Liza Goitein, a former trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice who currently co-directs the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, put the statute in simpler terms.

“To boil this down, if the president corruptly attempted to influence the due administration of justice that is under the statute of justice,” Goitein told ABC News. “This is an incredibly serious offense.”

If the description of Comey's memo is accurate, does it detail actions that meet the definition of obstruction of justice?


Some legal experts say “yes.”

“This looks very much like obstruction of justice,” Goitein told ABC News. “It’s hard to reach a different conclusion. It is certainly possible that he incorrectly remembered the conversation or misrepresented it. But there’s no reason to think that’s the case.”

David Shapiro, a former FBI special agent and now an assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told ABC News, "It's hard to view this as anything other than obstruction of justice.”

Laurence Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, told ABC News that if Comey’s memo is accurately reported, then he believes it describes “an impeachable attempt to obstruct justice.”

John Lauro, a defense attorney with the Lauro Law Firm based in Tampa and New York City, told ABC News it remains unclear whether Trump obstructed justice.

"It depends on the evidence, which right now amounts to triple and quadruple hearsay," Lauro said. "If Comey felt there was obstruction he would have been obligated to advise the Attorney General and formally open an investigation, none of which appears to have happened."

David McIntosh, a lawyer and former congressman who is now the co-founder of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., defended Trump, saying the president
"acted appropriately" if he was providing guidance to Comey on the investigation.

"It is important for us to step back and remember that, under the Constitution, the president has the authority and power to enforce the laws," McIntosh said at a press conference Wednesday
morning. "The FBI director reports to the president and it is the president's decision to delegate authority on investigations. In delegating that authority, presidents have wisely chosen to
insulate the FBI from political interference. But the president still has the power and authority to direct the FBI how to do their job."

What are the potential legal ramifications?

Congress can launch an investigation into whether Trump’s actions amount to obstruction of justice, and the legislative body can issue a subpoena to obtain Comey's memo as evidence if necessary, according to House Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Adam Schiff.

Schiff said that Congress may be preparing to do so.

"Congress will need to subpoena them if indeed they're not provided voluntarily. I certainly support that. I think there are many committees that will," Schiff, D-Calif., told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview on "Good Morning America."

Legal experts said Congress can also subpoena other documented communications between Comey and Trump, including any recorded conversations or meetings.

"The key evidence is the notes that Comey took,” Shapiro told ABC News. "Corrupt intent is required to prove obstruction of justice. Comey's firing fits into the greater picture there."

Legal experts said obstruction of justice, if proven to be true, is a high crime and could be an impeachable offense.

Impeachment is a political process in which any civil officer, including a president and vice president, can be removed from office “for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes
and misdemeanors,” according to the Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution.

New York-based criminal defense lawyer Ronald Kuby told ABC News there is no definition of "high crimes and misdemeanors," but rather "it's whatever Congress thinks it should."

The House of Representatives wields the sole power to impeach a federal official, and the Senate has the sole power to convict and remove the individual.

The House needs a simple majority vote to approve an article of impeachment, which can be brought by any member. If the House votes to impeach an official, the case must then be presented to the
Senate, which will hold a trial. The Senate needs a two-thirds majority to find the official guilty and remove him or her from office.

Ultimately, some legal experts said, it’s unrealistic to expect the Justice Department to file criminal charges against Trump -- and it might not be legally possible. Impeachment would be the only
process through which a charge of obstruction of justice could realistically be brought against Trump, experts noted.

“No sitting president has ever been prosecuted of any crime,” Goitein told ABC News. “So that seems unlikely.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May172017

What we know about Comey's memo on Trump

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — Recently fired FBI Director James Comey was asked by President Trump to drop the bureau's investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to a memo Comey wrote of his meeting with the president. Details of the memo, first reported by The New York Times on Tuesday, were later confirmed to ABC by sources close to Comey.

In the memo, which Comey shared with top FBI associates, he wrote that Trump said, "I hope you can let this go," referring to the inquiry into Flynn's actions. "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go," said Trump, according to a source who read the memo. "He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."

Multiple sources who worked closely with Comey, including at the Justice Department, say he is known for his contemporaneous and thorough note-taking. "He documents everything," one source said.

ABC News has not seen the memo.

What sources say is in the memo


Trump's alleged request to Comey about the Flynn investigation came the day after Flynn was forced to resign after misleading the administration about his contacts with Russian officials. The FBI, which is investigating Russian interference in last year's presidential election, declined to comment on the story.

The newest allegations, which the White House strenuously denied, came as the Trump administration was still reeling from a Washington Post report on Monday that Trump shared classified information with Russian officials during a meeting at the White House last week.

Responding to the Comey memo reports, the White House on Tuesday said that "while the president has repeatedly expressed his view that Gen. Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving Gen. Flynn."

"The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies and all investigations," the White House statement added. "This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey."

A White House official emphasized that in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said, "There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date."

What the reaction has been


The Comey memo revelation was met with alarm on Capitol Hill on Tuesday night, not only among Democrats but among several Republicans as well.

"If these reports are true, the president's brazen attempt to shut down the FBI's investigation of Michael Flynn is an assault on the rule of law that is fundamental to our democracy," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "At best, President Trump has committed a grave abuse of executive power. At worst, he has obstructed justice."

"The country is being tested in unprecedented ways. I say to all my colleagues in the Senate, history is watching," tweeted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

"The memo is powerful evidence of obstruction of justice and certainly merits immediate and prompt investigation by an independent special prosecutor," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

The reactions on the Republican side, while more muted, nonetheless expressed serious concern.

"Congress needs to see the Comey memo," tweeted Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, "If Mr. Comey was alleging the president did something inappropriate, it's an open invitation to come to the Judiciary Committee and tell us about it. I don't want to read a memo. I want to hear it from him."

A spokesperson for Republican Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is leading an investigation into possible Trump associates' connections to Russia during the 2016 election season, said in a statement, "The committee relies on facts to guide the investigation ... Sen. Burr will follow relevant leads, but the committee has not seen what The New York Times reported today. It certainly raises questions, and he will follow up on acquiring those facts from credible sources."

On Tuesday evening, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter to McCabe requesting that the FBI provide "all memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the president" by May 24. Earlier in the day, Chaffetz tweeted that he has his "subpoena pen ready."

Responding to the Chaffetz letter, House Speaker Paul Ryan's spokeswoman AshLee Strong said, "We need to have all the facts, and it is appropriate for the House Oversight Committee to request this memo."

Actions taken


All 33 Democrats on the House Oversight and Judiciary committees penned letters to the chairmen of both committees demanding an investigation into the actions of Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and top White House aides and whether they "engaged in an ongoing conspiracy to obstruct the criminal, counterintelligence and oversight investigations" into the Trump campaign at the Justice Department and on Capitol Hill.

They also requested an immediate public hearing with Comey and copies of all his memos and records relating to Trump.

Wednesday morning, the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a letter formally asking Comey to appear in open and closed sessions before the committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee made a similar request later in the day.

The Judiciary Committee letter to McCabe said requested “all such memos, if they exist, that Mr. Comey created memorializing interactions he had with Presidents Trump and Obama, Attorneys General Sessions and Lynch, and Deputy Attorneys General Rosenstein, Boente, and Yates regarding the investigations of Trump associates’ alleged connections with Russia or the Clinton email investigation.” A deadline of May 24 was set for the information.

The committee also sent a second letter to McCabe seeking any notes or memos prepared by Comey related to any communications he may have had with White House or DOJ officials regarding the Russia investigation.

Trump fired Comey — who was not yet four years into a 10-year term — last week, and the president admitted later he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he made the decision. The White House originally pegged his decision on recommendations from Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but Trump pushed back, saying it was his decision alone.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

What we know about Comey's memo on Trump

(WASHINGTON) — Recently fired FBI Director James Comey was asked by President Trump to drop the bureau's investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to a memo Comey wrote of his meeting with the president. Details of the memo, first reported by The New York Times on Tuesday, were later confirmed to ABC by sources close to Comey.

In the memo, which Comey shared with top FBI associates, he wrote that Trump said, "I hope you can let this go," referring to the inquiry into Flynn's actions. "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go," said Trump, according to a source who read the memo. "He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."

Multiple sources who worked closely with Comey, including at the Justice Department, say he is known for his contemporaneous and thorough note-taking. "He documents everything," one source said.

ABC News has not seen the memo.

What sources say is in the memo

Trump's alleged request to Comey about the Flynn investigation came the day after Flynn was forced to resign after misleading the administration about his contacts with Russian officials. The FBI, which is investigating Russian interference in last year's presidential election, declined to comment on the story.

The newest allegations, which the White House strenuously denied, came as the Trump administration was still reeling from a Washington Post report on Monday that Trump shared classified information with Russian officials during a meeting at the White House last week.

Responding to the Comey memo reports, the White House on Tuesday said that "while the president has repeatedly expressed his view that Gen. Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving Gen. Flynn."

"The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies and all investigations," the White House statement added. "This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey."

A White House official emphasized that in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said, "There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date."

What the reaction has been

The Comey memo revelation was met with alarm on Capitol Hill on Tuesday night, not only among Democrats but among several Republicans as well.

"If these reports are true, the president's brazen attempt to shut down the FBI's investigation of Michael Flynn is an assault on the rule of law that is fundamental to our democracy," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "At best, President Trump has committed a grave abuse of executive power. At worst, he has obstructed justice."

"The country is being tested in unprecedented ways. I say to all my colleagues in the Senate, history is watching," tweeted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

"The memo is powerful evidence of obstruction of justice and certainly merits immediate and prompt investigation by an independent special prosecutor," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

The reactions on the Republican side, while more muted, nonetheless expressed serious concern.

"Congress needs to see the Comey memo," tweeted Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, "If Mr. Comey was alleging the president did something inappropriate, it's an open invitation to come to the Judiciary Committee and tell us about it. I don't want to read a memo. I want to hear it from him."

A spokesperson for Republican Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is leading an investigation into possible Trump associates' connections to Russia during the 2016 election season, said in a statement, "The committee relies on facts to guide the investigation ... Sen. Burr will follow relevant leads, but the committee has not seen what The New York Times reported today. It certainly raises questions, and he will follow up on acquiring those facts from credible sources."

On Tuesday evening, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter to McCabe requesting that the FBI provide "all memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the president" by May 24. Earlier in the day, Chaffetz tweeted that he has his "subpoena pen ready."

Responding to the Chaffetz letter, House Speaker Paul Ryan's spokeswoman AshLee Strong said, "We need to have all the facts, and it is appropriate for the House Oversight Committee to request this memo."

Actions taken

All 33 Democrats on the House Oversight and Judiciary committees penned letters to the chairmen of both committees demanding an investigation into the actions of Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and top White House aides and whether they "engaged in an ongoing conspiracy to obstruct the criminal, counterintelligence and oversight investigations" into the Trump campaign at the Justice Department and on Capitol Hill.

They also requested an immediate public hearing with Comey and copies of all his memos and records relating to Trump.

Wednesday morning, the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a letter formally asking Comey to appear in open and closed sessions before the committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee made a similar request later in the day.

The Judiciary Committee letter to McCabe said requested “all such memos, if they exist, that Mr. Comey created memorializing interactions he had with Presidents Trump and Obama, Attorneys General Sessions and Lynch, and Deputy Attorneys General Rosenstein, Boente, and Yates regarding the investigations of Trump associates’ alleged connections with Russia or the Clinton email investigation.” A deadline of May 24 was set for the information.

The committee also sent a second letter to McCabe seeking any notes or memos prepared by Comey related to any communications he may have had with White House or DOJ officials regarding the Russia investigation.

Trump fired Comey — who was not yet four years into a 10-year term — last week, and the president admitted later he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he made the decision. The White House originally pegged his decision on recommendations from Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but Trump pushed back, saying it was his decision alone.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Wednesday
May172017

Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton both faced impeachment over obstruction of justice

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — In the wake of reports that President Donald Trump requested then-FBI director James Comey to end an investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, there are mounting questions about Trump’s actions and whether he committed obstruction of justice, which could be an impeachable offense.

Impeachment is a political process, in which any civil officer, including the president and vice president, can be removed from office “for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” according to the Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution.

Only three presidents in American history have faced impeachment or imminent threats of impeachment, and just two were charged with obstruction of justice, a federal crime in which someone "corruptly" attempts to “influence, obstruct or impede" the “due and proper administration of the law” in a pending proceeding, as stated in 18 U.S.Code § 1505.

Andrew Johnson in 1868


President Andrew Johnson was impeached and nearly removed from office after his policies for reconstruction of the South angered radical Republicans in Congress who felt his approach was too lenient on the former Confederate states.

In February 1868, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Johnson. The House passed all 11 articles of impeachment, which, among other things, accused Johnson of illegally removing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, an opponent of president’s policies, from office.

The case went to trial in the Senate and the legislative body held a vote. Johnson came within a single vote of removal from office, and he was acquitted of the charges in May 1968.

Richard Nixon in 1974


President Richard Nixon stepped down halfway through his second term to avoid impeachment amid the Watergate scandal.

While Nixon was running for re-election in 1972, people associated with his campaign broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel and Office Building in Washington, D.C. Nixon denied any involvement in the incident.

On Feb. 6, 1974, the House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for Nixon’s impeachment and giving its Judiciary Committee authority to investigate.

In July 1974, the committee voted to bring three articles of impeachment against the president, including obstruction of justice, to the floor of the House. Nixon denied that his actions amounted to obstruction of justice.

Amid the committee’s investigation, the White House released subpoenaed recordings of conversations that revealed Nixon had taken part in his administration’s efforts to cover up its involvement in the break-in. With his political support vanishing and facing a likely impeachment by Congress, Nixon announced his resignation on Aug. 8, 1974.

Vice President Gerald Ford took Nixon’s place and, a month later, pardoned him for any wrongdoing.

Bill Clinton in 1998-1999


President Bill Clinton became the second American president to be impeached and he narrowly avoided his removal from office.

On Dec. 19, 1998, the House of Representatives impeached Clinton on the grounds of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with an extramarital affair he had with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Two other articles of impeachment — a second perjury charge and a charge of abuse of power — failed to pass in the House.

Clinton initially denied he had an affair with Lewinsky. But on Aug. 17, 1998, Clinton became the first sitting president to testify before a grand jury and, after questioning, Clinton admitted on national television that he had an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky.

The case went to trial in the Senate, which ultimately voted on Feb. 12, 1999, to acquit the president of the charges. Clinton remained in office.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May172017

Trump says 'no politician in history…has been treated worse'

ABC News(NEW LONDON, Conn.) —  In a commencement speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Wednesday, President Donald Trump said that he is determined to keep on fighting, and he urged cadets, "Put your head down and fight, fight, fight! Never ever, ever give up. Things will work out just fine."

“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately,” he said, seemingly alluding to the recent scandals surrounding his conversations with Russian officials and the former FBI director.

“No politician in history … has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can’t let them get you down. You can’t let the critics and naysayers get in the way of your dreams. I guess that’s why we won,” he said.

“Adversity makes you stronger. Don’t give in, don’t back down, and never stop doing what you know is right. Nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy,” he said.

Trump went on to list his accomplishments throughout the first 118 days of his presidency, saying that his administration has achieved “a tremendous amount in a very short time.”

He also briefly talked about his upcoming trip overseas, calling it a “very crucial journey.”

Earlier in the speech Trump focused on the volunteerism of the graduating class, and the work that the Coast Guard does on the world’s stage.

“Your devotion and dedication makes me truly proud to be your commander in chief,” he said.

Last Saturday Trump delivered a commencement speech to graduates at Liberty University, telling them, "The future belongs to the people who follow their heart no matter what the critics say because they truly believe in their vision."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May172017

What we know about Comey's memo to Trump

Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Recently fired FBI Director James Comey was personally asked by President Trump to drop the bureau's investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, according to a memo Comey wrote of his meeting with the president.

The report of the memo, whose details were first described by The New York Times on Tuesday, was later confirmed to ABC by sources close to the former director.

In the memo, which Comey shared with top FBI associates, the former director wrote that Trump said, "I hope you can let this go," in relation to the inquiry into Flynn's actions.

"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go," said Trump to Comey, according to the source who read the memo. "He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."

Multiple sources who have worked closely with Comey, including within the Justice Department, say the former director is known for his contemporaneous and thorough notetaking.

"He documents everything," one source said.

ABC News has not seen the memo.

Trump's alleged request to Comey about the Flynn investigation came the day after Flynn was forced to resign after misleading the administration about his contact with Russian officials. The FBI, which is investigating Russian interference into last year's presidential election, declined to comment on the story.

The newest allegations, which the White House strenuously denied, came as the Trump administration was still reeling from a Washington Post report on Monday that the president had shared classified information with Russian officials during a meeting at the White House last week.

Responding to the newest Comey memo reports, the White House on Tuesday said that "while the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn."

"The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations," the White House statement added. "This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey."

A White House official further emphasized that acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe gave testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee last week in which he said, "There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date."

The Comey memo revelation was met with alarm on Capitol Hill Tuesday night, not only among Democrats but with several Republicans as well.

"If these reports are true, the President's brazen attempt to shut down the FBI's investigation of Michael Flynn is an assault on the rule of law that is fundamental to our democracy," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "At best, President Trump has committed a grave abuse of executive power. At worst, he has obstructed justice."

"The country is being tested in unprecedented ways. I say to all my colleagues in the Senate, history is watching,” tweeted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

"The memo is powerful evidence of obstruction of justice and certainly merits immediate and prompt investigation by an independent special prosecutor," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

The reactions on the Republican side, while more muted, nonetheless expressed serious concern.

"Congress needs to see the Comey memo,” tweeted Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, "If Mr. Comey was alleging the president did something inappropriate, it's an open invitation to come to the Judiciary Committee and tell us about it. I don’t want to read a memo. I want to hear it from him."

A spokesperson for Republican Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee which is leading an investigation into possible Trump administration connections to Russian during the 2016 election, said, “The Committee relies on facts to guide the investigation."

The statement added, "Sen. Burr will follow relevant leads, but the Committee has not seen what the New York Times reported today. It certainly raises questions and he will follow up on acquiring those facts from credible sources."

On Tuesday evening, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chair of the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter to McCabe requesting that the FBI provide "all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the President" by May 24. Earlier in the night, Chaffetz tweeted that he has his "subpoena pen ready."

Responding to the Chaffetz letter, House Speaker Paul Ryan's spokesperson AshLee Strong said: "We need to have all the facts, and it is appropriate for the House Oversight Committee to request this memo."

All 33 Democrats on the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees penned additional letters to the chairmen of both panels demanding an investigation into the actions of Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and top White House aides -- and whether they "engaged in an ongoing conspiracy to obstruct the criminal, counter-intelligence, and oversight investigations" into the Trump campaign at the Justice Department and on Capitol Hill.

They also requested an immediate public hearing with Comey and copies of all of Comey's memos and records relating to Trump.

Trump fired Comey, not yet four years into his 10-year term, last week and admitted later he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he made the decision. The White House originally pegged the president's decision on the recommendation of Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but Trump himself pushed back, saying it was his decision alone.

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