WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI developed a backup plan to protect evidence in its Russia investigation soon after the firing of FBI Director James Comey in the event that other senior officials were dismissed as well, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.
The plan was crafted in the chaotic days after Comey was fired, when the FBI began investigating whether President Donald Trump had obstructed justice and whether he might be, wittingly or not, in league with the Russians. The goal was to ensure that the information collected under the investigations, which included probes of Trump associates and possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, would survive the firings or reassignments of top law enforcement officials. Those officials included special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed eight days after Trump fired Comey in May 2017.
Andrew McCabe, who became acting director after Comey was fired, asked investigators to develop a plan to ensure evidence would be protected, said the person, who was not authorized to talk about those discussions publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press. A plan was then created, according to the person, who would not provide specifics. A second person familiar with the talks, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, also said the FBI discussed preserving evidence so that it would outlast any firing or effort to stymie the investigation.
A spokeswoman for the FBI declined to comment Tuesday.
McCabe hinted at that anxiety in an interview that aired Sunday with CBS News’s “60 Minutes,” saying he met with investigators after Comey’s firing.
“I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground, in an indelible fashion,” McCabe said. “That were I removed quickly, or reassigned or fired, that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace.”
He added, “I wanted to make sure that our case was on solid ground and if somebody came in behind me and closed it and tried to walk away from it, they would not be able to do that without creating a record of why they made that decision.”
Trump has repeatedly decried the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt” and has suggested that investigators themselves should be investigated. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced out last year amid the president’s anger over his recusal from the Russia investigation.
McCabe himself was fired last year after the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded that he had misled officials about his role in a news media disclosure. McCabe has denied the allegations, described his firing as politically motivated and, in a series of interviews this week, has said he plans to sue the Justice Department over it.
Judge Orders Parts of Mueller Report Un-Redacted In Michael Flynn Case
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has ordered portions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to be un-redacted and made public in the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan issued the limited order Thursday. Portions of the report relating to Flynn are redacted and would be made public under the order.
It is the first time a federal judge has ordered the Justice Department to make public portions of the report the agency had kept secret.
Mueller officially concluded his investigation in March. Attorney General William Barr released a redacted version of Mueller’s report in April.
Flynn is awaiting sentence after admitting to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
Michael Flynn Assisted In Mueller’s Obstruction, WikiLeaks Investigations
As part of his guilty plea, President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn assisted special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigations into the Trump campaign’s discussions of WikiLeaks, as well as “potential efforts to interfere or otherwise obstruct” the special counsel, according to a new court filing.
Details: The filing, which states that Flynn is ready for sentencing, claims that the former top Trump aide informed prosecutors of multiple instances in which “either he or his lawyers received communications from persons connected to the Administration or Congress that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation.” The filing also states that Flynn “provided a voicemail recording of one such communication.”
- On the WikiLeaks front, Flynn gave prosecutors statements made in 2016 by Trump campaign officials after the release of the Podesta emails in which “the prospect of reaching out to WikiLeaks was discussed.”
Why it matters: This filing suggests Flynn was a far more valuable witness to Mueller than previously known.
(Reporting by Axios)
Read the full court filing:
Senate Intelligence Committee Reaches Deal With Donald Trump Jr. For Interview
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Intelligence Committee has struck a deal with Donald Trump Jr. to appear for a closed-door interview next month, pulling the two sides back, for now, from a confrontation over a subpoena as part of the panel’s Russia investigation.
Under the terms of the deal, according to two people familiar with the agreement, Trump Jr. will talk to the committee in mid-June for up to four hours. The people spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday to discuss the confidential terms.
The deal comes after the panel subpoenaed President Donald Trump’s eldest son to discuss answers he gave the panel’s staff in a 2017 interview. Trump Jr. had backed out of interviews twice, prompting the subpoena, according to people familiar with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr’s remarks to a GOP luncheon last week. Those people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Burr’s remarks in the private senators’ meeting.
The deadline for Trump Jr. to respond was Monday, according to one of the people familiar with the terms, and he expected to be held in contempt for declining to be interviewed. But the committee reached out Monday evening and the deal was struck.
A spokeswoman for Burr declined to comment. The North Carolina Republican has weathered fierce criticism for the subpoena from the president and his GOP colleagues.
Trump said on Tuesday said he believed that his son was being treated poorly.
“It’s really a tough situation because my son spent, I guess, over 20 hours testifying about something that Mueller said was 100 percent OK and now they want him to testify again,” Trump told reporters at the White House before traveling to Louisiana. “I don’t know why. I have no idea why. But it seems very unfair to me.”
It’s the first known subpoena of a member of the president’s immediate family, and some Republicans went as far as to say they thought Trump Jr. shouldn’t comply.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., tweeted, “It’s time to move on & start focusing on issues that matter to Americans.” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a GOP member of the panel, said he understood Trump Jr.’s frustration. Cornyn’s Texas colleague, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, said there was “no need” for the subpoena.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on “Fox News Sunday” that if he were Trump Jr.’s lawyer, “I would tell him, ‘You don’t need to go back into this environment anymore.’”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has defended Burr, telling his colleagues during the private GOP luncheon last week that he trusted the intelligence committee chairman. On Tuesday, McConnell told reporters that “none of us tell Chairman Burr how to run his committee.”
Still, McConnell made it clear that he is eager to be finished with the probe, which has now gone on for more than two years.
Burr has “indicated publicly he believes they will find no collusion” with Russia, McConnell said. “We’re hoping we will get a report on that subject sometime soon.”
It’s uncertain when the panel will issue a final report. Burr told The Associated Press earlier this month that he hopes to be finished with the investigation by the end of the year.
The subpoena has highlighted a delicate bind facing Burr, a third-term senator who has said he is not running for reelection in 2022. He has been adamant that the panel’s Russia probe be bipartisan and fair and has worked closely with the panel’s top Democrat, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner.
Burr’s committee had renewed interest in talking to Trump Jr. after Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, told a House committee in February that he had briefed Trump Jr. approximately 10 times about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow before the presidential election. Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a separate interview in 2017 he was only “peripherally aware” of the proposal.
The panel is also interested in talking to the president’s eldest son about other topics, including a campaign meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer.
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