TrumpWatch, Day 146: Trump Investigated for Obstruction of Justice

Doanld Trump declares US withdrawal from the Paris Accord on climate change, June 2, 2017

Five officials confirm that investigation of Trump started soon after May 9 firing of FBI Director James Comey

Developments on Day 146 of the Trump Administration:

See also Podcast: Trump Under Investigation for Obstruction of Justice

Special Counsel Begins Investigation of Trump for Obstruction of Justice

Special counsel Robert Mueller begins investigating Donald Trump for possible obstruction of justice.

Officials said Mueller, in charge of the inquiry into links between Trump associates and Russia, is interviewing senior intelligence staff. Investigators are also looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes in connections between Moscow and the Trump campaign in the 2016 election.

“Five people briefed on the interview requests” said that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, National Security Agency head Mike Rogers, and Rogers’s recently-departed deputy Richard Ledgett have agree to interviews as early as this week.

Officials said that the investigation of Trump began soon after he fired FBI Director James Comey on May 9. Mueller, the FBI director from 2001 to 2013, was appointed special counsel a week later.

Comey had told Trump on three occasions that he was not a personal target of the inquiry, although the FBI director refused to say this publicly because the President might later come under scrutiny.

“The FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal,” said Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump’s personal attorney Marc Kasowitz, who is now handling questions about the expanding Trump-Russia investigation.

Corallo’s statement was part of a two-page document of White House talking points which have been leaked. They insist that Trump has not obstructed justice and try to shift attention to President Barack Obama and his Attorney General in 2016, Loretta Lynch.

In addition to detailing Trump’s attempts to limit the investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Comey said in public testimony last week that he had been prompted to announce a re-opened inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails in late October because Lynch had tried to downplay the matter.

On Thursday morning, Trump reacted on Twitter:

Trump’s Intervention in late March

Officials said one incident under investigation occurred on March 22, two days after Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI was investigating possible “coordination” between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

At a White House briefing, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except Director of National Intelligence Coats — confirmed only days earlier by the Senate — and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Coats told associates that Trump asked him if he could intervene with Comey to get the FBI to back off its focus on Flynn, according to officials. The request followed Trump’s February 14 request to the FBI Director — again after clearing everyone else from the Oval Office — to halt the inquiry into the National Security Advisor, who was belatedly fired a day earlier over his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

A day or two after the March 22 meeting, Trump telephoned Coats and Rogers separately, asking them to issue public statements denying the existence of any evidence of coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with Trump’s request. Rogers’ deputy Ledgett wrote a memo documenting his boss’s call from Trump. During the conversation, Trump questioned the intelligence community’s judgment that Russia had interfered with the election as he tried to persuade Rogers to say there was no evidence of collusion.

The two men refused to answer questions about the matter last week in an open hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Mueller’s office has also asked the National Security Agency for any documents or notes related to its interactions with the White House as part of the Russia investigation, according to an intelligence official.

Despite Saudi Crisis & Trump’s Criticism, Qatar Signs $12 Billion Arms Deal

Qatar has signed a $12 billion deal for up to 36 F-15 jets from the US, despite Donald Trump’s recent declarations that the Gulf state supports “terrorism” and “extremism”.

Qatar’s Gulf neighbor Saudi Arabia and several other countries have broken relations and imposed a blockade on Doha amid allegations of cyber-warfare, hostile propaganda, and support for regional groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

Trump has backed the Saudi line, in contrast to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s advocacy of a calming of tensions and encouragement of dialogue.

Despite Trump’s stance, Qatari Defense Minister Khalid al-Attiyah and US Defense Secretary James Mattis completed the agreement on Wednesday.

The sale “will give Qatar a state of the art capability and increase security cooperation and interoperability between the United States and Qatar,” the US Defense Department said in a statement.

Senate Rebuffs Administration With 98-2 Vote for More Sanctions On Russia

The Senate pushes back the Trump Administration with a 98-2 vote imposing more sanctions on Russia over its “malicious cyber-operations” and interference in the 2016 US Presidential election.

The lawmakers overrode the objections of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said further restrictions would prohibit “dialogue” with Moscow on issues like counterterrorism. He said later at a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting

I certainly agree with the sentiment that has been conveyed by several members from both parties that Russia must be held accountable for its meddling in U.S. elections.

I would urge Congress to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation.

The Senate legislation gives Congress the power to review and potentially block President Trump from easing or lifting Russia sanctions, including measures imposed by President Obama on December 29.

As Obama announced the restrictions, Michael Flynn — later Trump’s National Security Advisor — spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak about the devleopments.

Judge Orders Reconsideration of Environmenal Impact of Dakota Pipeline

A federal judge orders the US Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider its environmental review of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

US District Judge James Boasberg in Washington said the Army Corps did not adequately consider the effects of a possible oil spill on the fishing and hunting rights of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

The operations of the $3.8 billion pipeline, which began interstate crude oil delivery in May, have not been suspended but may be considered at a later date.

The parties are expected to meet Boasberg next Wednesday to discuss future steps, with the Standing Rock Sioux likely to argue that pipeline operations should be halted.

The tribe had sued the Army Corps with the argument that the line could contaminate their water source, the Missouri River.

Donald Trump issued an executive order in late January directing the Army Corps to smooth the path to finishing the pipeline. Within days, the Army Corps granted the final easement needed, ending delays for several months amid protests by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and climate activists.

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