- Trump reportedly urged Comey to drop Michael Flynn investigation
- Netanyahu and Trump speak on phone amid row over Russia leak
- Comey, Russia and a ‘smoking gun’: a roundup of Trump’s current woes
We’re going to put this blog on hold for the time being, pending any further developments. Thanks for reading and I’ll leave you with a summary of the latest events.
And here’s the promised analysis from world affairs editor Julian Borger.
The BBC spoke to Trump supporters in Nashville. They’re backing him all the way. They said they have seen no evidence of Russian ties and are “sick and tired” of the media’s stories.
Our world affairs editor, Julian Borger, has written an analysis of Trump’s moves that have made his presidency significantly more precarious.
We will have it published shortly but here is a preview of some of his points. Trump has acted as if the post of president was an elected monarchy and made numerous missteps in his firing of James Comey. Namely, he tried to smear Comey’s strong reputation, and make it look like deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein was behind the sacking.
Rod Rosenstein’s letter (pdf) formally appointing Robert Mueller suggests the special counsel may have wide terms of reference.
He is authorised to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and (ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”.
This keyword had to happen, however premature it may be.
Moving back to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel to one of the three Russia investigations. This report from the Washington Post paints a picture of an incident in 2004 in which Mueller (the then FBI director) and James Comey (the then deputy attorney general) joined forces to prevent the George W Bush administration from extending a warrantless wiretapping program.
It includes furious politicking at the bedside of attorney general John D Ashcroft and multiple threats to resign.
He [Comey] doesn’t sway under political pressure.
For 12 years, he kept the FBI out of politics.
The Financial Times cuts to the chase in an editorial that considers the removal of Trump from the White House.
It would also trigger a destabilising crisis in the US, the most important democracy in the world.
Yet the situation in Washington is grave. Mr Trump is openly at war with his intelligence services. He has fired his Federal Bureau of Investigation director. The White House is paralysed by leaks, and its legislative agenda is at a standstill. Prospects for tax reform, a trillion-dollar infrastructure programme, let alone the replacement of Obamacare, are remote at best.
A very handy illustration here of why it’s so difficult to get an independent investigation into Russia. Party politics and firings figure strongly.
Here’s what you need to know about the role of special counsel.
In a nutshell:
More on Flynn. McClatchyDC reports that one of Flynn’s decisions as national security adviser directly agreed with the wishes of Turkey, whose interests he had been paid to represent.
It reports the Obama administration briefed Trump’s team on a Pentagon plan to retake Raqqa from Isis with help from Syrian Kurdish forces, something Turkey objects to.
Do you remember the crisis of about 24 hours ago regarding Michael Flynn and Trump’s reported attempt to make James Comey drop his investigation into the former national security adviser? (“He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”) The New York Times now reports that Flynn told the president Trump’s transition team as far back as January that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey. Trump proceeded to appoint him.
Flynn told the Trump team’s chief lawyer, Donald F McGahn II, who is now the White House counsel, on 4 January.
So can Donald Trump fire Robert Mueller? It seems something of a vexed question. It appears he could, but indirectly. He could theoretically place pressure on (i.e. threaten to fire) Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mueller, to remove Mueller. How palatable that would be politically is hard to tell in today’s landscape.
This from Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House oversight committee investigating Russian influence:
Mueller is a great selection. Impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted.
Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity. Media should now calm down
An item for Mueller’s fast-growing agenda: House majority leader Kevin McCarthy’s conversation in 2016 with fellow senior colleagues in which he said: “There’s two people, I think, Putin pays: [California Representative Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump …[laughter] … swear to God.”
According to the transcript, Speaker Paul Ryan immediately responded: “This is an off the record … [laughter] … NO LEAKS … [laughter] … alright?!”
Tucker Carlson says Kellyanne Conway cancelled scheduled interview for “reasons that weren’t exactly clear.” I have a guess. https://t.co/Skk65wxTw6
The heads of the Senate select committee on intelligence have welcomed Mueller’s appointment. Senator Richard Burr, its chairman, and his deputy, senator Mark Warner, said the move was a “positive development” that would “provide some certainty for the American people that the investigation will proceed fairly and free of political influence”.
They also remind everyone that they have their own investigation going, and anticipate working with Mueller in case there is the need for any “deconfliction”.
I… did not foresee this hashtag being used in this way https://t.co/FqhMEueXF4
Marco Rubio is the latest to give Mueller his approval.
Mr Mueller is widely respected for his independence and professionalism. I have confidence that he will conduct a fair and thorough investigation. For the sake of the country, all parties must fully cooperate with his efforts that are focused on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
This effort should in no way be allowed to impede the ability of the Senate intelligence committee to conduct and conclude its investigation into the same subject. It is my hope that these investigations will now move expeditiously.
JUST IN: Individual familiar w/James Comey’s thinking tells @CBSNews he “most definitely” wants opportunity to testify publicly HT@AndyTriay
Graham Russell here, picking up from Julia. So who is Robert Mueller? I’m glad you asked me that question because we have a profile of the former FBI director here.
He is a Vietnam veteran whose tenure at the FBI began days before the September 11 attacks. He oversaw a huge expansion of the bureau to prevent another such atrocity.
It’s time for that hallowed tradition: the outdated Trump tweet that suddenly has new resonance. Here’s one from October 2016.
If I win-I am going to instruct my AG to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation bc there’s never been anything like your lies.
While politicians continue to issue statements, some observers are salivating over the possibilities for newly appointed special counsel’s subpoena powers.
Here’s hoping that special counsel Robert Mueller subpoenas Donald Trump’s tax returns! It’s within his rights. And it’s germane. pic.twitter.com/MICqMQTP4s
Wonder if Mueller will subpoena his tax returns?
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan also issued a decidedly neutral statement.
“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. 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.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reaction to the appointment is more of a non-reaction. The move “confirms that the investigation into Russian intervention into our election will continue, as stated last week by Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe,” he said in a statement. “The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will also continue its investigation into this matter.”
More reactions from lawmakers are rolling in…
Senator Bernie Sanders called Mueller’s appointment “a positive step”.
The White House just released the following statement from Donald Trump:
“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. 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.”
As we await White House reaction to the news of the special prosecutor, here’s a peek inside…
an official white house photographer just showed up to take pictures of the press gathered outside sean’s office, so that’s fun
The White House was not informed of the appointment of the special counsel until after the order was signed, the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs confirms.
Robert Mueller, the newly appointed special counsel, has issued the following statement: “I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability.”
Some praise from Republicans is coming in as well.
Republican congressman Darrell Issa called Mueller a “good choice”, saying “It’s good that we now have a focal point of somebody that we all trust.”
An important difference between the FBI director and a special counsel, according to CBS: the special counsel cannot be fired by Trump.
Looks like it wasn’t just the White House that was kept out of the loop on the special counsel, per CNN’s Jim Acosta.
Speaker’s office did not get a heads up on Mueller at all we are told
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has a more measured response to the appointment of a special counsel.
“A special prosecutor is the first step, but it cannot be the last,” the congresswoman said in a statement, pointing out that Mueller “will still be in the chain of command” of the justice department.
Charles Schumer, the Senate minority leader, has issued the following statement: “A special counsel is very much needed in this situation and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein has done the right thing. Former Director Mueller is exactly the right kind of individual for this job. I now have significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead.”
NBC is reporting that former NSA director Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort are “key figures” in the FBI’s investigation, which will now be taken over by the special counsel.
The two men have been the subject of “multiple grand jury subpoenas and records requests” over the past two months, sources told NBC.
Paul Manafort’s spokesman declined to comment to @GuardianUS about the appointment of Mueller as special prosecutor
Here’s reaction from Preet Bharara, former US attorney and one of three justice department officials fired by Donald Trump. (The other two are James Comey and Sally Yates.)
Having known him for years, I believe special counsel Mueller is a very good thing. He is one of the best — independent and no-nonsense. https://t.co/nMQo6aHalM
Reminder: Mueller was FBI Director when he & then-DAG James Comey together intervened at Ashcroft’s bedside in 2004 & threatened to resign. https://t.co/7tlb0q9fSQ
Democratic lawmakers are applauding the news of Mueller’s appointment.
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said, “I applaud this decision. I think Bob Mueller is the kind of prosecutor and investigator that we need here. He is an experienced prosecutor as well as a distinguished veteran and marine who has fought for our nation.
“I’ve known him for many many years… and I think he is about as good as we could have hoped to get.”
Good move. Now let’s get some answers. https://t.co/bmoxla9FMc
The White House did not have much warning this was coming, according to ABC chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl.
The White House was blinded by the Special Counsel announcement — given only about a 30-minute heads up
The decision to appoint a special prosecutor was made by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein because attorney general Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the investigation into Trump’s campaign.
Rosenstein was also the author of the memo criticizing James Comey’s handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server that was originally touted by the White House as the reason for Comey’s firing.
The justice department has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate alleged ties between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian operatives.
Former FBI director Robert Mueller has been tapped by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to lead the inquiry.
On a day consumed by discussions of the several scandals weighing down the Trump administration, including the first mention by Republicans of impeachment, there are scarcely more answers at the end of the day then there were at the beginning. Trump addressed a Coast Guard Academy commencement but did not directly take on any of the allegations against him.
Press secretary Sean Spicer offered a shorter than usual press conference and also offered little in the way of new information, but did update reporters on the administration’s search for a new FBI director with ex-senator Joseph Lieberman an unexpected name on the shortlist.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke announced Wednesday he has accepted a position in the Trump administration as an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The controversial Clarke was an early and vocal supporter of Trump’s candidacy, and often repeated Trump’s unfounded crime wave rhetoric as a surrogate on the campaign trail.
Former Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman is on the short list of candidates interviewing with the Trump administration to take over the top job at the FBI. A former Democratic vice-presidential candidate on the 2000 ticket with Al Gore, Lieberman lost a 2006 Senate primary to a more liberal candidate before winning the general election as an independent. Long thought of as among the most conservative Democrats on capitol hill, in 2008 he supported John McCain for president. In 2016 he endorsed Hillary Clinton.
As long as House Oversight and Government Reform committee chairman Jason Chaffetz can find a working number for the former FBI chief, it appears James Comey will testify in a congressional hearing a week from today, on 24 May at 9.30 AM.
Officially noticed a hearing for next Wed at 9:30am ET with former FBI Dir Comey. But I still need to speak with him…evidently has a new #
ProPublica tested the cyber security at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, occasionally dubbed the “winter White House” and found that “any half-decent hacker could break in.”
The publication, in conjunction with Gizmodo, also tested three other Trump properties has visited as president and found “weak and open Wi-Fi networks, wireless printers without passwords, servers with outdated and vulnerable software, and unencrypted login pages to back-end databases containing sensitive information.”
Two unnamed friends of Barack Obama said that he privately called Donald Trump “nothing but a bullsh–ter” shortly after the election, according to People Magazine.
The former president has avoided direct criticism of Trump since the inauguration, even despite the unique nature of Trump’s presidency and the vicious lines of criticism Trump leveled at Obama through most of his two terms, famously challenging the location of Obama’s birth.
Obama did criticize Trump’s travel ban indirectly in January, releasing a statement that read in part: “The president fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”
Donald Trump did not directly address any of the alleged scandals currently plaguing his administration in remarks today, but struck a familiar defiant, victimized and self-congratulatory tone during his speech to Coast Guard Academy graduates.
Over the course of your life, you will find that things are not always fair. You will find that things happen to you that you do not deserve and that are not always warranted…
Look at the way I’ve been treated lately. Especially by the media. No politician in history, and I say with with great surety, has been treated worse, or more unfairly. You can’t let them get you down. You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams…
US investigators are looking into ties between Russian financial institutions, Donald Trump and “anyone in his orbit” according to a Wednesday report from the Wall Street Journal.
The investigation is tied to allegations that Vnesheconombank, a state-run Russian bank long under US scrutiny, financed a deal involving Trump’s onetime partner in a Toronto construction deal. The bank, according to WSJ, “has long been viewed by Russian analysts as a vehicle for the Russian government to fund politically important projects”.
Donald Trump is walking out to lectern at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut where he will deliver the commencement address to cadets there amid the flurry of scandals tied to his administration.
Texas Congressman Al Green took the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday morning to call for Trump’s impeachment. “He has committed an impeachable act and must be charged,” Green said.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has offered Congress a transcript of Donald Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Russian officials as proof that Trump did not reveal any intelligence. It was not immediately clear how Putin would have such a transcript available.
Earlier this morning Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff called Putin “Probably the last person [Trump] needs to vouch for him right now”.
Kremlin aide says Putin prepared to provide transcript, not audio recording, of POTUS/Lavrov meeting
National security officials strategically mention Trump’s name in “as many paragraphs as [they] can”, according to a report from Reuters, “because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned.”
The report cites a source who relayed conversations he had with national security officials.
Republican congressman Justin Amash told reporters on Wednesday morning that if the allegations about the “Comey memo” are true, it would be grounds for Trump’s impeachment. Amash is the first Republican legislator to publicly discuss the potential of the president being impeached since the scandal broke.
Amash tells reporters that if Comey memo allegations are true, it’s grounds for impeachment. Says he trusts Comey more than Trump.
What started as a bad Tuesday for Donald Trump got even worse when it was reported by the New York Times that the president had asked former FBI James Comey to drop his investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump was already mired in serious controversy for having divulged highly classified material to Russian diplomats in an Oval Office meeting last week, as first reported by the Washington Post.