President Donald Trump‘s annoyances with the Russia investigation boiled over on Air force One last week where reference is learned that a top Justice Department official had warned against liberating a memoranda that could undercut the probe, according to four people with knowledge of the matter.
Trump erupted in wrath while traveling to Davos after learning that Associate Attorney General Stephen Boyd warned that it would be” extraordinarily reckless” to liberate a classified memo writes to House Republican staffers. The memoranda drawings alleged misdeeds at the FBI and Justice Department related to the Russia investigation.
For Trump, the letter was yet another example of the Justice Department undermining him and stymieing Republican efforts to uncover what the president sees as the politically motivated agenda behind Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
Trump’s outburst capped a week where Trump and senior White House bureaucrats personally reproached Attorney General Jeff Sessions and asked White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to speak to others — episodes that illustrate Trump’s preoccupation with the Justice Department, according to two of the people.
Trump advised Sessions and others they need to excel at their jobs or go down as the worst in history, the two people said.
The incidents — and the extraordinary level of Trump’s personal involvement with Justice Department officials on the matter — are the latest signs of the growing pressure on Trump as a federal investigation into him, his campaign and its management stretchings into its second year.
Trump met with Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray at the White House last Monday to discuss missing text messages sent between two FBI agents who had expressed anti-Trump views. One of the agents afterward left his investigation and Mueller removed the other after learning of the texts.
Kelly held separate meets or phone calls with senior Justice Department officials last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to give Trump’s displeasure and lecture them on the White House’s expectations, according to the people. Kelly has taken to ending such conversations with a disclaimer that the White House isn’t expecting officials to do anything illegal or unethical.
After Trump’s strong reaction on Air Force One over the Boyd letter, White House officials, including Kelly, sprang into action again, flogging Justice Department officials Thursday over the decision to send the letter, according to the people. Sarah Isgur Flores, director of public affairs at the Department of Justice, declined to comment.
Despite the president’s frustrations over the probe, Trump’s lawyers have been cooperating with Mueller and plan to continue working with him, but they are starting to push for him to wrap things up, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Mueller is getting close to wrapping up a portion of his probe that is focusing on whether the president or his associates obstructed justice, although other parts of the investigation are expected to last at least several months longer, according to present and former U.S. officials.
Several people close to Trump insist he isn’t preparing to fire Wray, Sessions or other senior officials. But the Justice Department’s decision to send the Boyd letter to the House Intelligence Committee last week has intensified Trump’s concern that his own department is undercutting him, several people familiar with the issues said.
The president is frustrated that Justice Department officials keep getting involved in issues related to the probe when they don’t need to, contributing him to wonder if anyone was trying to protect people implicated in the GOP memo, according to one person very well known the matter.
Kelly called Sessions immediately to complain about the letter, and several other White House officials chided bureaucrats at Justice as well. Sessions was likewise at the White House Monday for an immigration fulfill and for its general discussion Tuesday of the department’s goals for the coming months.
On Monday, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, “whos been” blasted by Trump and other Republicans, stepped down and will be on leave until he retires sometime in the spring, person or persons familiar with the issues said. Republican had blamed McCabe’s participation in aspects of the Trump probe and the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices, even though his wife had accepted donations from Democratic political organisations for an unsuccessful election bid in 2015.
Trump’s anger was exacerbated by reports last week that the president had wanted to fire Mueller last June. The New York Times reported Thursday that the pressure to flame Mueller was forestalled after White House counsel Don McGahn made clear he would vacate before carrying out such an order.
Two people familiar with the matter said the actual events were more complicated and that Trump never issued a formal ordering to fire Mueller. Trump was surprised by Mueller’s appointment, went on to say that he had previously had a business dispute with the special counselor, and reacted angrily until McGahn soothed him down.
The emergence of the Mueller burning story troubled White House aides, who said Trump had been proving more restraint in recent months at not stimulating pronouncements or menaces that would cross dangerous political lines in dealing with Mueller’s probe.
It also comes at a time when conservative media and Fox News have been doing blanket coverage of a Republican move to question the motives of FBI and Justice bureaucrats as part of a campaign to undermine the Mueller probe.
The House Intelligence Committee plans to vote Monday evening on whether to release its classified memoranda, which contains allegations regarding counterintelligence surveillance abuses against at the least one Trump campaign aide. If the members of the commission elections to release it, it would fall to the White House, perhaps with the advice of intelligence agencies, be seen whether some of the contents are too sensitive and required to redacted.
Three House lawmakers who have read it said the memo claims FBI officers didn’t provide a complete set of facts in petitions made to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court to procure a warrant or warrants on Carter Page, a Trump campaign associate.
The memo assertions important details were left out that might have continued a judge from issuing a surveillance warrant, or perhaps two, targeting Page, according to the lawmakers, who asked for anonymity to describe the sensitive record. Those include its claims that investigators were relying partly on an unverified dossier put together by an opponent research firm that hired a former British spy, Christopher Steele — work that was funded by Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, and Democrats.
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and other Republican have also explosion the FBI over thousands of text messages sent between the two anti-Trump FBI officers, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who criticized Trump in their exchanges. Some Republicans were angered when the bureau said it had lost some of the texts before the Justice Department’s inspector general announced Thursday that the missing texts had been recovered with forensic tools.
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