Special Counsel Robert Mueller is seeking to question President Trump over his firing of former FBI Director James Comey and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to a Washington Post report Tuesday.
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Mueller's latest move indicates the special counsel may be aiming to build a case against the president accusing him of obstruction of justice.
The Post cited two people who claim Mueller is now determined to ask the president questions about his decisions to oust Flynn in February and Comey in May.
Mueller's team is hoping to get answers both in a face-to-face interview and in a written statement, according to the report. Trump's lawyers are currently negotiating the terms of the interview.
White House: 'Ready to move on'
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Also on Tuesday came news that Mueller's investigators have already spoken with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Comey.
While the White House says it remains "fully cooperative" with Mueller, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the Trump administration – and America – is "ready to move on."
"Look, as we've said probably just about every day this year since we've been here that we're going to be fully cooperative with the special counsel and we'll continue to do that throughout the process," Sanders said Tuesday.
"We're also not going to comment on who may or may not or could be interviewed at any point," she said. "We're going to continue to be fully cooperative with the process."
The press secretary added: "Frankly, this administration, we've said it time and time before, there was no collusion and there's nothing to it. We're ready to move on. Clearly the American people are."
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Flynn left his position as national security adviser in February 2017 and pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI. He was charged with making false statements to the FBI about communications he had in December 2016 with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, reportedly concerning sanctions the Obama administration had imposed against Russia at the time. Flynn's time at the White House was extraordinarily brief, as he was forced to resign in February after it was revealed that he had misled White House officials about the sanctions discussions with the Russian ambassador.
President Trump fired Comey on May 9 of last year.
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No 'obstruction case' over Trump's firing of Comey
When WND asked Mueller's team if it is seeking to build a case against Trump for obstruction, the office declined comment.
As lifelong Democrat Alan Dershowitz, a prominent Harvard Law School professor and constitutional scholar, has explained, under the Constitution, the president has the power to terminate any executive branch official at will. And the FBI director is an executive branch official. So President Trump was well within his authority to fire Comey, even for no reason at all.
Former top federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy told WND in December: "Whether you think firing Comey was a good idea or bad idea, the fact is the president has the power to terminate any officer of the executive branch at will. He doesn't need a reason. He could wake up Tuesday morning and say, 'Gee, I feel like firing somebody,' and he can fire the FBI director. He has that power because the only official in the executive branch who has power is the president. Everyone else in the executive branch is a delegate of the president's power.
"You're not going to be able to make an obstruction case out of the fact that Trump removed Comey. And you're not going to be able to make an obstruction case out of the fact that Trump told Comey, 'I'd really like to see you let the case go on Flynn.'"
Trump's critics may believe the president's reported appeals to Comey to drop the investigation of of his national security adviser were "an unsavory thing for the president to have done," McCarthy said, but that argument for obstruction doesn't hold water.
"Every federal prosecutor in the country every single day makes decisions on when to exercise prosecutorial discretion and to decide whether somebody who has committed a crime should be charged with it, whether it's a worthwhile use of federal resources to prosecute this particular case," he said. "It's an executive power. And since prosecutors execute the president's power – not their own power – it's absurd to say the prosecutor has the power to do that kind of thing but the president doesn't. You're not going get an obstruction case out of that, either."
However, that's not to say a president cannot be accused of "obstruction of justice" as a basis for articles of impeachment.
'Secret society': New Strzok texts emerge
Just after President Trump fired Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel to investigate possible interference by Russia in the 2016 presidential election.
The Justice Department gave Mueller an extraordinarily broad mandate to investigate "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign" and "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation."
As WND reported, Mueller then assembled a legal team for his Russia investigation that was apparently full of Democrats and Democrat-connected lawyers.
One member of Mueller's team, Peter Strzok, was kicked off the case after it was learned he had texted anti-Trump messages to a fellow Mueller investigator, Lisa Page, with whom he was romantically involved.
The contents of several text messages sent by Strzok were revealed Tuesday.
In a May 19 text, Strzok suggested he didn't see any evidence that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia and was hesitant to join Mueller's team: "You and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely, I'd be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern that there's no big there there."
Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, tweeted Tuesday: "The thousands of texts @TGowdySC and I reviewed today revealed manifest bias among top FBI officials against @realDonaldTrump. The texts between Strzok and Page referenced a 'secret society.'"
That "secret society" apparently met the day after Trump's election as president.
In yet another text, Strzok called the Russia probe "an investigation leading to impeachment" before he joined the Mueller team.
As WND reported in December, Strzok also discussed an "insurance policy" in the event that Trump won election to the White House.
After months of bashing Trump in texts and stating that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton "just has to win," Strzok and Page exchanged a cryptic text concerning a so-called "insurance policy" against a possible Trump win.
On Aug. 15, 2016, Strzok wrote: "I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in [Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe's] office that there's no way he gets elected – but I'm afraid we can't take that risk. It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40 ..."
It's unclear what the "insurance policy" against Trump's election might have involved. However, as WND reported, the FBI's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the presidential election began in late July 2016, just weeks before Strzok's mysterious text. And only a month before the "insurance policy" comment, the anti-Trump dossier had been given to the FBI "near the start of July," according to former British spy Christopher Steele.
Strzok and Page also exchanged some other noteworthy texts, including the following:
- Strzok called Trump a "f---ing idiot" in a message sent Oct. 20, 2016.
- On Aug. 6, 2016, Strzok said, "F Trump." And Page told him, "Maybe you're meant to stay where you are because you're meant to protect the country from that menace." Strzok responded: "I can protect our country at many levels, not sure if that helps."
- On March 2, 2016, Strzok indicated he planned to vote for Clinton. He told Page, "God Hillary should win 100,000,000 - 0."
- In a July 26, 2016, text to Page, Strzok cheered Clinton after she received the Democratic Party nomination: "Congrats on a woman nominated for President in a major party! About damn time!"
Strzok and Page exchange 'text about not keeping texts'
The FBI has claimed its internal archive system failed to keep records on texts between Strzok and Page for a five-month period lasting from Dec. 14, 2016, to May 17, 2017.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., told Fox News that he and Rep. Ratcliffe saw "a text about not keeping texts."
"We saw more manifest bias against President Trump all the way through the election into transition," Gowdy said.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., called for a second special counsel to investigate potential political bias at the FBI. He tweeted: "This is a 'my dog ate my homework' level excuse. Americans deserve to know if there was rampant anti-Trump bias at the FBI, and certainly if there was an effort to cover it up. We need a second special counsel."
Sessions said he's ordering an investigation of the FBI's failure to retain the text messages and turn them over to Congress as requested.
"I have spoken to the inspector general and a review is already underway to ascertain what occurred and to determine if these records can be recovered in any other way," Sessions said Tuesday. "If any wrongdoing were to be found to have caused this gap, appropriate legal disciplinary action measures will be taken.
"We will leave no stone unturned to confirm with certainty why these text messages are not now available to be produced and will use every technology available to determine whether the missing messages are recoverable from another source. If we are successful, we will update the congressional committees immediately."
FISA memo: Political bias at FBI
Meanwhile, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and other Republicans on his committee compiled a four-page memo last week that accuses the FBI and Justice Department of various abuses linked to the anti-Trump dossier and secret FISA warrants obtained by the Obama administration to spy on Trump campaign officials.
That memo is stored in a secure location on Capitol Hill and has been seen by more than 200 lawmakers. Some congressmen have said the memo's classified contents are "alarming." More than a dozen Republicans have urged Nunes to release the memo and the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo began trending on Twitter.
Now Republicans are seriously considering publication of the bombshell memo.
"Based on feedback from members who've seen the memo, [House Intelligence Committee] Republicans moving strongly in direction of publishing it," a committee source told the Daily Caller Tuesday.
But Rep. Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, called the memo "profoundly misleading," based on highly classified sourcing used to compile it.
"Those materials tell a very different story than the conspiracy theory concocted by Chairman Nunes and being repeated in the press," Nadler wrote in a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, according to Politico.
Democrats claim Republicans are trying to use the memo to discredit Mueller's investigation.
Attack of the 'Russian bots'!
Now Democrats in the House and Senate insist the Russians are pushing the social-media campaign to release the memo.
On Tuesday, they demanded that Twitter and Facebook launch investigations into accounts that may be linked to Russia and that are advocating for the memo's release.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wrote a letter to both Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey calling for them to "provide a public report to Congress and the American public by January 26" on the issue.
A Twitter spokesperson replied: "Twitter is committed to addressing malicious activity on our platform, and we take any assertions of such activity very seriously. We look forward to working closely with Senator Feinstein and Congressman Schiff to address their questions."
Schiff and Feinstein claim Russian bots on Twitter are pushing for publication of the memo.
They said the Russian bots are trying "to influence congressional action and undermine Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller's investigation."
"It is critically important that the Special Counsel's investigation be allowed to proceed without interference from inside or outside the United States," the lawmakers wrote. "That is why we seek your assistance in our efforts to counter Russia's continuing efforts to manipulate public opinion and undermine American democracy and the rule of law."