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Ben Carson accused of ‘witch-hunt’ by senior member of his department

Criticism comes after a week of controversy over Carson’s department spending on expensive office furniture

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Ben Carson accused of ‘witch-hunt’ by senior member of his department” was written by Jamiles Lartey and Jon Swaine, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 6th March 2018 21.14 UTC

A second senior official in the Department of Housing and Urban Development has publicly criticised the secretary, Ben Carson, accusing him of leading a “witch-hunt” against some career bureaucrats in the department.

Marcus Smallwood told Carson in an email on Tuesday that Hud’s civil servants were working in fear after the demotion of his colleague Helen Foster and Carson’s rejection of her claims.

The Guardian revealed last week that Foster had alleged to a federal watchdog that she was reassigned to a lesser role in part because she refused to break a legal spending limit on the redecoration of Carson’s office in Washington. Her demotion is now being examined by the Republican-controlled House oversight committee.

“Helen Foster is not the only person at Hud that has been persecuted in this witch-hunt under your watch,” Smallwood, Hud’s director of records management, wrote in the email, which he shared with the Guardian.

“She is the only person who has been brave enough to stand on principle and put her career, reputation, and livelihood on the line. The rest of us have operated in fear.”

Raffi Williams, a spokesman for Hud, said: “Mr Smallwood’s email is under review.”

Smallwood accused Carson of smearing Foster as a liar by suggesting in a tweet that her allegation was unsubstantiated. In a Facebook post on Monday, Carson further complained without evidence that he had been the victim of “character attacks”.

“A week has gone by and it is now very clear that Helen Foster was not lying about the furniture purchases,” said Smallwood.

After Foster’s complaint was made public, it emerged that Hud had ordered a ,000 dining set for Carson’s office. Hud claimed the set was not subject to the ,000 limit Foster said she sought to uphold, because it was for the benefit of all staff. Carson later asked for the furniture order to be scrapped.

Smallwood asked Carson to make a public apology to Foster and to note “that all employees at Hud should feel free to follow the law, ask when they are unsure, and not fear retribution”.

The email on Tuesday, which was copied to several of Carson’s top deputies, alleged that Hud would probably be unable to comply with the House oversight committee’s request for all emails relating to Foster’s demotion “because there has been a concerted effort to stop email traffic regarding these matters”.

Williams, the Hud spokesman, denied there had been any halt to emails on the topic and said: “The House oversight committee will receive a complete response to their query.”

Smallwood also lent support to a separate allegation by Foster that politically sensitive requests made to the department under the Freedom of Information Act (Foia) were handled unusually.

Foster said that despite overseeing Foia requests for the department, she was sidelined when a pair of requests were made for emails including discussions of Donald Trump. She said she was told by a department lawyer that this was because she was perceived to be a Democrat.

Smallwood told Carson that “undue influence was placed on Helen, and myself to process FOIA request of a political nature in a fashion different from the normal process”.

Smallwood accused Carson and senior Hud managers of reprisals against not only Foster for blowing the whistle on the furniture spending, but also of letting important business go uncompleted due to the interdepartmental feud.

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Trump announces former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton to serve as national security adviser, replacing H.R. McMaster

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is replacing national security adviser H.R. McMaster with John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Gen. H.R. McMaster Statement:

“After thirty-four years of service to our nation, I am requesting retirement from the U.S. Army effective this summer after which I will leave public service. Throughout my career it has been my greatest privilege to serve alongside extraordinary servicemembers and dedicated civilians.
I am thankful to President Donald J. Trump for the opportunity to serve him and our nation as national security advisor. I am grateful for the friendship and support of the members of the National Security Council who worked together to provide the President with the best options to protect and advance our national interests.
I am especially proud to have served alongside the men and women of the National Security Council Staff who established a strong foundation for protecting the American people, promoting American prosperity, achieving peace through strength, and advancing American influence.  I know that these patriots will continue to serve our President and our nation with distinction.”

President Trump Statement

“H.R. McMaster has served his country with distinction for more than 30 years. He has won many battles and his bravery and toughness are legendary. General McMaster’s leadership of the National Security Council staff has helped my administration accomplish great things to bolster America’s national security. He helped develop our America First National Security Strategy, revitalize our alliances in the Middle East, smash ISIS, bring North Korea to the table, and strengthen our nation’s prosperity. This work and those achievements will ensure that America builds on its economic and military advantages. I thank General McMaster and his family for their service and wish them the very best.”

Trump has repeatedly clashed with McMaster, a respected three-star general, and talk that McMaster would soon leave the administration had picked up in recent weeks.

His departure follows Trump’s dramatic ouster of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week.

It also comes after someone at the White House leaked that Trump was urged in briefing documents not to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin about his recent re-election win. Trump did it anyway.

McMaster was brought in after Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was dismissed.

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Top White House lawyer John Dowd quits

John Dowd, Donald Trump’s lead lawyer in the Mueller investigation, has resigned.

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “John Dowd, Trump’s lead lawyer in Mueller investigation, quits” was written by Ben Jacobs in Washington, for theguardian.com on Thursday 22nd March 2018 15.55 UTC

John Dowd, Donald Trump’s lead lawyer in the Mueller investigation, has resigned.

The news was first reported by the Washington Post. In an email to the Guardian, Dowd confirmed his departure and said: “I love the president and wish him well.”

The 77-year-old left Trump’s legal team days after the hiring of Joseph DiGenova, a cable news commentator and former US attorney who has claimed the investigation into Russian election interference and alleged links between Trump aides and Moscow is an attempt by the FBI and Department of Justice to frame the president.

Dowd drew attention on Saturday when he told the Daily Beast he hoped Mueller’s investigation would be shut down.

In an email, Dowd said “I pray” deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller, “will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility [OPR] and attorney general Jeff Sessions”, who fired deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe on Friday.

That, Dowd said, would “bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier”.

Dowd first said he was speaking for the president but then rowed back, saying he had spoken in a personal capacity. He then told the Axios website Trump “didn’t have any problem” with his statement.

Before representing Trump, Dowd was best known for his role in Major League Baseball’s investigation of the all time hits leader Pete Rose, for gambling. As a result of Dowd’s controversial report, Rose was banned from baseball and made ineligible for induction in the Hall of Fame.

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Fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe reportedly oversaw criminal probe of Jeff Sessions

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Nearly a year before Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired senior FBI official Andrew McCabe for what Sessions called a “lack of candor,” McCabe oversaw a federal criminal investigation into whether Sessions lacked candor when testifying before Congress about contacts with Russian operatives, sources familiar with the matter have told ABC News.

ABC News reports that Sessions was not aware of the investigation when he decided to fire McCabe last Friday less than 48 hours before McCabe, a former FBI deputy director, was due to retire from government and obtain a full pension, but an attorney representing Sessions declined to confirm that.

 

Jeff Sessions became US attorney general last year after serving as a Republican senator from Alabama. He began as a lawyer in Alabama in 1973, served as assistant US attorney for the Southern District of Alabama and as Alabama attorney general before being elected to the Senate in 1996.

Sessions have repeatedly come under attack by President Trump;

  • In December 2017, Trump told The New York Times that he would never have named Sessions as attorney general if he had known Sessions was going to recuse himself from the investigation into Russia’s attempted meddling in the 2016 election.
  • In late July 2017, Trump referred to Sessions as “beleaguered” and hit him for not looking more into the alleged crimes of Hillary Clinton.
  • The next day, Trump savaged Sessions as “very weak” for his handling of “Hillary Clinton crimes.”
  • That same day, Trump told The Wall Street Journal he was “disappointed” in Sessions’ recusal: “Why didn’t you tell me that you were going to do that, and I wouldn’t have appointed you?” he said.
  • In May 2017, following the news that Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation, Trump, according to The New York Times, called Sessions an “idiot” and said he should resign.

 

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