The FBI’s Peter Strzok, who sent anti-Trump texts and faced Trump’s rage, has been fired

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 12: Deputy Assistant FBI Director Peter Strzok testifies before a joint committee hearing of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill July 12, 2018 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

What’s the background here? Strzok was an FBI agent. He played a key role in the Hillary Clinton email investigation and was a top investigator on Robert Mueller’s team in the early stages of the Russia probe.
And what’s this about text messages? Back in December, Republicans who were accusing Mueller’s investigation of political bias pointed to 375 texts between Strzok and another FBI agent, Lisa Page, with whom he had a relationship.
What was in those text messages? Well, the texts referred to the president as “an utter idiot,” “a loathsome human,” and… you get the idea. Here’s more detail about the texts, if you need a refresher.
What happened after the texts became public? A lot. Mueller removed Strzok from the Russia investigation. Strzok defended his texts in a heated congressional hearing.
And what’s new now? Strzok was fired from the FBI. His lawyer said the decision was made by FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich — and “overruled the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility,” which had issued a 60-day suspension and a demotion as punishment.
And what happens now? Well, for one thing, Trump has suggested that now that Strzok’s been fired, the Clinton investigation should be “properly redone.”

Source Buzzfeed


Donald Trump is putting his entire Crime Family in jeopardy

As President Trump's attacks on the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference escalate, so does his distance from the facts — and his potential legal jeopardy.
Here are three ways Trump and his allies have been twisting themselves into logical and likely legal knots on Russia lately.
1. By arguing that collusion is not a crime: Trump and one of his top lawyers, Rudolph W. Giuliani, test-drove this talking point last week. It was a giant step back from the red line Trump has been repeatedly drawing for a year and a half: that there was “No Collusion!”
2. Acknowledging that Trump Tower meeting's true purpose: It apparently wasn't to talk with a Russian lawyer about Russian adoptions policy, as Trump initially told his son to tell the media. It was to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russians. Trump confirmed as much directly in a tweet Sunday.
The problem with that? Getting help from foreigners to win campaigns is illegal.
3. Calling for the Russia investigation to end: Since what feels like the beginning of time, Trump has made his feelings about the Russia investigation unmistakable.
Last week, the president appeared to go beyond griping when he asked the nation's top law enforcement officer, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to end it. Trump's legal jeopardy there could lie in the interpretation of “should stop” in the tweet below.
Was he ordering someone who works for him to end an independent investigation that so far seems to have been conducted by the book? Or was he just expressing his opinion, as his spokeswoman said later?

Source Washington Post


There’s plenty to digest from Tuesday’s primaries in New York, Maryland, Utah

There’s plenty to digest from Tuesday’s primaries in New York, Maryland, Utah and beyond, but here are a few initial thoughts encapsulated in some run-on sentences.
Crowley’s loss. North Carolina Rep. Robert Pittenger’s primary loss last month wasn’t a surprise (considering his narrow win in 2016), and South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford’s primary loss wasn’t stunning (considering his personal issues and reputation for opposing President Donald Trump). But New York Rep. Joe Crowley’s primary loss Tuesday to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a downright shocker considering his longevity and the fact that he was eyeing a top leadership post in the next Congress.
Democratic divide. It was remarkable to watch the NY1 debate earlier this month when Crowley consistently brought up his opposition to Trump and the chance for Democrats to take back the House. Meanwhile, Ocasio-Cortez consistently pounded the congressman for living outside the district and for his campaign contributions, including taking corporate PAC money.
Money can buy love. After spending more than $20 million of his own money in two congressional races over the last four years, Democrat David Trone is poised to win Maryland’s 6th District, which Hillary Clinton carried with 56 percent of the vote in 2016.
New York’s 14th District. Republicans, including the president, are reveling in Crowley’s loss, and even in Ocasio-Cortez’s identification with the Democratic Socialists of America. But she’s running in a seat Clinton carried with 78 percent and will face a GOP college professor who doesn’t appear to have raised or spent more than $5,000 through June 6.
Romney rolls. It’s pretty clear that the Utah GOP convention isn’t a particularly reliable predictor of the future after Senate candidate state Rep. Mike Kennedy finished first in April. But Mitt Romney won the primary Tuesday with more than 70 percent of the vote. 
Things losing candidates say. Former New York Rep. Michael G. Grimm told The Daily Beast last week, “Danny has just about every endorsement you can have, I have the people,” just before he lost the GOP primary, 64 percent to 36 percent, to Rep. Dan Donovan in the 11th District, which is probably enough to add it to “Things losing candidates say” except …
Things winning candidates say. “This race is about the people versus the money,” said Ocasio-Cortez before she defeated Crowley by double digits in the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th District.
Winter has come for the Democrats. From Bernie Sanders’ challenge to Clinton, to the 63 House Democrats who voted against Nancy Pelosi in the last Democratic leadership race, to the vocal opposition to the DCCC, to Ocasio-Cortez’s defeat of Crowley, Democrats are not immune to the anti-establishment sentiment Republicans have faced for years.
Winter will get worse for the Democrats. One of the last places Democrats have avoided a civil war is in Senate races, but that will change in 2020 when at least 20 Republican senators are up for re-election and Democrats will be flocking to challenge them.
Young guns. Ocasio-Cortez, 28, is likely to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, edging out Republican Elise Stefanik, who was elected from New York’s 21st District in 2014 when she was 30 years old.


Mueller investigation so far

Suspicious contacts between at least 13 people associated with Trump’s presidential campaign and Russians have fueled the debate over collusion.
Some of those encounters have been known for months: the Russian ambassador whose conversations forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation and led Michael Flynn to plead guilty to lying to the FBI. The Russians who wangled a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in July 2016 after dangling the promise of political dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Other encounters continue to emerge, including a Russian’s chat with veteran Trump adviser Roger Stone at a cafe in Florida.

‘Warning Lights’

Signs of suspicious Russian contacts first surfaced in late 2015, especially among U.S. allies who were conducting surveillance against Russians, according to a former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
By the spring of 2016 the frequent contacts set off alarm bells among U.S. intelligence officials, according to James Clapper, who was director of national intelligence at the time. The FBI’s Russia investigation officially began that July.
“The dashboard warning lights were on for all of us because of the meetings,” Clapper said in an interview this month. “We may not have known much about the content of these meetings, but it was certainly very curious why so many meetings with Russians.”
On three occasions, Russians offered people associated with Trump’s campaign dirt on Democrat Clinton -- all before it was publicly known that Russians had hacked the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman.
Mueller has interviewed or sought information about many of the people known to have met with Russians during the campaign. But it’s not known publicly whether the barrage of Russian contacts was instigated or coordinated by the Kremlin. Trump, for his part, has repeatedly denied any such plotting, tweeting on June 15, “WITCH HUNT! There was no Russian Collusion.”
Here are the players and their known interactions, with links to previous news stories:

Michael Cohen

Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer started working on a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow in September 2015 with Felix Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer who’s a felon and previously had helped collect intelligence for the U.S. government. Cohen said the Trump Organization signed a nonbinding letter of intent in October 2015 with Moscow-based I.C. Expert Investment Company.
The project ultimately fizzled. Cohen said he stopped working on it in January 2016, around the time he reached out to a Kremlin spokesman asking for help with the project. Yahoo News reported that in May Sater and Cohen were still talking about the tower, including a possible trip to Russia to have a meeting with government officials. Just before and after Trump’s inauguration, Cohen met with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg and Andrew Intrater, who invests money for Vekselberg. Shortly after, Intrater’s private equity firm, Columbus Nova, awarded Cohen a $1 million consulting contract.

Michael Flynn

The retired Army lieutenant general attended a December 2015 dinner in Russia where he sat at a table with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Several months later, Flynn started working as an informal adviser to the Trump campaign and in August attended Trump’s first intelligence briefing with the FBI. After the election he was named Trump’s national security adviser. During the presidential transition he had multiple contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in which they discussed U.S. sanctions. Flynn resigned as national security adviser after it become known he had lied about the nature of his conversations with Kislyak. He was later indicted by Mueller for making false statements to investigators and agreed to become a cooperating witness.

George Papadopoulos

Shortly after being named a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign in March 2016, Papadopoulos met with a London professor he believed had connections to the Russian government. That month, Papadopoulos suggested he could help arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin, an offer that was rejected by Sessions, who led the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team. In April, the professor told Papadopoulos that Russian officials had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. Papadopoulos also was in contact with a Russian who said he represented the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Papadopoulos was arrested in July 2017 and in October pleaded guilty to misleading investigators.

Jared Kushner

The president’s son-in-law met briefly with Kislyak at an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington in April 2016 in what he has described as an exchange of pleasantries. In December, after the election, Kushner met again with Kislyak and Russian banker Sergey Gorkov, who’s close to Putin.

Michael Caputo

The Republican political strategist -- who lived for a time in Moscow and worked for the campaign of the late President Boris Yeltsin -- worked briefly as an adviser to the Trump campaign. He was contacted by a Russian business partner who asked him to help facilitate a meeting between the Trump campaign and a Russian national who identified himself as Henry Greenberg. Caputo directed him to veteran Republican operative Stone, with whom Caputo has worked for decades.

Roger Stone

The longtime Trump political adviser confirmed for the first time this month that he met at a Florida cafe in May 2016 with Greenberg, who claimed to have information that would be “beneficial” to the Trump campaign but demanded $2 million in exchange. Stone -- who says he’d forgotten about the 20-minute meeting when he failed to disclose it in interviews with a congressional committee -- said he rejected the deal. Stone says he thinks the meeting was part of an FBI plot to entrap him in light of indications that Greenberg had worked in the past as an informant for the bureau.
Stone also told people during the campaign that he was in contact with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which published Democratic National Committee emails believed to have been stolen by Russian operatives. Stone has since denied that he communicated directly with Assange. Stone also exchanged private messages on Twitter with an online persona called Guccifer 2.0, believed to be linked to the Russian government.

Paul Manafort

While serving as Trump’s campaign chairman, Manafort was in contact with Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI has described as having ties to Russian intelligence. In July 2016, Manafort offered to give a campaign briefing to another business associate, Oleg Deripaska, who’s closely aligned with the Kremlin. Manafort was charged in October with a series of financial crimes and for failing to register as an agent of Ukraine. His bail was revoked and he was jailed after prosecutors claimed he tried to tamper with witnesses.

Donald Trump Jr.

The president’s son helped arrange the meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist. Kushner and Manafort also were there. While the Russians billed it as a chance to share damaging information on Clinton, participants have said nothing of value was offered.
Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting at the request of a pop star in Russia whose family has ties to Putin and has known the Trump family for several years. The meeting also has led to controversy over President Trump’s role in drafting a statement that falsely described the topic of the meeting as adoptions of Russian children.
In addition, Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank, has said he had shared a dinner table with Trump Jr. at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in May. Torshin, a former senator in Putin’s United Russia party directed dirty-money flows for mobsters in Moscow, according to investigators in Spain.

Carter Page

After being named a foreign policy adviser to the campaign in March 2016, Page traveled to Moscow that July for a speech and meetings. Page said he met briefly with Arkady Dvorkovich, then the deputy prime minister of Russia. Page said he also met Dvorkovich again at a dinner in December, after he was no longer affiliated with the Trump campaign. Page also met in July with Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations for the Russian energy company Rosneft. And Page met with Kislyak briefly at the Republican convention in July. U.S. intelligence agencies indicated Page was a target of Russian intelligence as early as 2013.

Jeff Sessions

The attorney general, who took an early role in Trump’s campaign while serving in the Senate, had conversations with Ambassador Kislyak at the Republican convention and in September in his Senate office. The Washington Post reported that U.S. intelligence intercepted Kislyak telling Russian officials that they discussed campaign-related issues. Session recused himself from the Russia investigation -- a move for which Trump has repeatedly vilified him because Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then appointed Mueller as special counsel.

J.D. Gordon

As a campaign foreign policy adviser, Gordon met briefly with Kislyak at the Republican convention. Page contacted Gordon, a former Pentagon spokesman, and others on the campaign in July to praise them for a change in the Republican Party platform that softened the party’s support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. Gordon also has said Page went around him to secure permission to make a trip to Russia.

Rick Gates

In September and October, Gates communicated directly with Kilimnik, according to court filings. Gates was a right-hand man to Manafort and worked as a campaign aide until he was fired by Trump in August. Even after being fired, Gates remained involved with the campaign through the Republican National Committee, and he worked on the presidential transition. Gates pleaded guilty in February to conspiring with Manafort to defraud the U.S. in charges not directly related to the Russia probe.

Erik Prince

The founder of Blackwater, a provider of private security forces in trouble spots such as Iraq, served as an informal adviser to Trump’s transition team. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is now education secretary. After Trump’s election but before the inauguration, Prince met Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian-government controlled wealth fund who’s close to Putin, during a visit to the Seychelles islands.
Prince told congressional investigators he was meeting with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates to discuss topics including Middle East tensions and bauxite mining when the prince’s brother casually suggested that he go downstairs to chat with “this Russian guy.” The New York Times has reported that the meeting was arranged in part to explore the possibility of a back channel for discussions between the incoming Trump administration and the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the meeting it didn’t identify.



Riling Up the Base May Backfire on Trump

By Stanley Greenberg
This op-ed appeared on The New York Times online on June 18, 2018
Political commentators and strategists write with some awe of President Trump’s outrageous, gutsy strategy of ginning up his base with one more attack on black athletes, one more crackdown on Central American mothers and children on the Mexican border, one more assault on Obamacare, one more tariff on imports. They think Mr. Trump’s drumbeat is intensifying loyalty and fervor among Republican partisans and that the Republican Party we used to know is “taking a nap somewhere,” as John Boehner, the former speaker of the House, put it.

Much more worrisome for those of us who think the country needs a blue wave in 2018 is the way Mr. Trump’s strategy appears to be raising his job approval ratings and closing the enthusiasm gap with Democrats that has been a critical element in the handful of off-year elections since 2016. Any wave election worth its salt — like the 1974 Watergate cleansing, the 1994 Gingrich revolution or the 2010 Tea Party shellacking — is produced by the elevated energy and enthusiasm of one party and the demoralization and fracturing of the other.

Well, Mr. Trump’s base strategy is producing precisely that kind of enthusiasm gap in the polls I am conducting for Democracy Corps and its partners, the Women’s Voices. Women Vote Action Fund and the American Federation of Teachers. Mr. Trump’s strategy is to continue to build support with the Tea Party supporters and evangelicals who make up a plurality of those who identify as Republicans, but they are by no means the whole of the party. And Mr. Trump shows as much interest in winning over those less enthusiastic Republicans as he does in winning independents and Democrats — which is to say, not much.

Democracy Corps is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to making the government of the United States more responsive to the American people. It was founded in 1999 by James Carville and Stanley Greenberg. Democracy Corps provides public opinion research and strategic advice to those dedicated to a more responsive Congress and Presidency. Learn more at


Michael Cohen's secret dream

Michael Cohen wanted to be mayor of New York.
On election night 2016, shortly after Donald Trump's team realized he would win the presidency, Michael Cohen told a handful of people on the 14th floor of Trump Tower about his own dreams for the future — to be mayor of New York.
"This is the beginning of a dynasty," Cohen told the group, according to a source who heard him.
Surprised by the remark, one of the people asked Trump's longtime personal attorney that if by "dynasty" he meant Ivanka or Don Junior was going to get the political bug next.
  • Cohen replied: "I've already got the bug."
  • Cohen then added: "Nobody's going to be able to fuck with us. I think I'm going to run for mayor."
Later that night, around 3:30 a.m., the Trump team was leaving its victory party at the Hilton Hotel on Manhattan's 6th Avenue. In the hotel, escalators took the crowd from the party down to the lobby. A member of Trump's entourage saw Cohen near the bottom of the escalator and yelled out: "Cohen for mayor!"
Cohen appeared to have no idea who said it, but looked over his shoulder and pumped his fist in the air.
Why this matters: The scene highlights the hubris of one of Trump's closest confidants in the hours after the election victory — and the extraordinary nature of his fall.
  • Cohen has since had his office raided by federal agents, as he's being investigated by the Southern District of New York on the referral of Robert Mueller.
  • Former allies in Trumpworld have told me they're avoiding Cohen because they assume his every move and phone call are being recorded.
Postscript: A second source told me that in the months after the election, Cohen asked their advice about setting up a campaign to run for New York City mayor. But he never ended up challenging Bill de Blasio.
  • Axios asked Cohen today about his mayoral plans. He told me: "Despite many friends suggesting that I run for mayor... I obviously chose not to. Additionally, I believe that Mayor de Blasio is doing a fine job for our city."
  • It's news to me that Cohen is a de Blasio fan!



How the summit got derailed

Trump releasing a dove, which drops to the ground
President Trump hasn’t shut the door on the possibility that a North Korea summit could still happen — but for now, he’s warning North Korea not to try anything.
Behind the scenes: A White House official told Axios’ Jonathan Swan: “They literally threatened nuclear war. …[N]o summit will work under these circumstances when they’re literally threatening our people.”
For now, it’s back to the days of “fire and fury.”
  • Here’s what Trump said this afternoon at the White House: “Our military, which is by far the most powerful anywhere in the world … is ready if necessary.”
  • South Korea and Japan are “ready should foolish or reckless acts be taken by North Korea.”
  • But, but, but: “It’s possible that the existing summit could take place or a summit at some later date. Nobody should be anxious. We have to get it right.”
Two views on where we’re headed, from Axios Expert Voices:
  • The case for pessimismfrom Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations: “There was no way the summit could have succeeded … Better that the summit was postponed than to have ended up in dramatic failure.”
  • The case for optimism, from Tony Blinken, former deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration: “Both leaders still likely want this meeting to happen.”
Go deeper:

From Axios


House Passes Holocaust Remembrance Amendment

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which included an amendment introduced by Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22), and Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10) that would order the Secretary of Defense to include Holocaust remembrance in any commemorations of the 75th anniversary of World War II.

Following passage of the NDAA with their amendment, the Representatives issued this joint statement:

World War II ended with the U.S. and Allied Forces defeating the Nazis and liberating Europe from Hitler’s murderous regime. But as they fought their way through Europe, they uncovered the horrific Nazi network of death camps set up to carry out their Final Solution – the complete annihilation of the Jewish people. As our country plans for commemoration events marking the end of World War II, we must also remember and teach future generations about the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust and honor the Allied liberators of Buchenwald, Auschwitz, and other Nazi concentration camps.


Mueller’s investigation has absolutely uncovered evidence of crimes

Image result for MuellerĂ¢€™s investigation has absolutely uncovered evidence of crimes
 Mueller’s investigation has absolutely uncovered evidence of crimes:
  • Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and a key Trump campaign surrogate, pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal investigators in December.
  • Rick Gates, a top aide on the Trump campaign and a longtime business partner of Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty to false statements and one count of conspiracy.
  • George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser on the campaign, pleaded guilty to false statements.
  • Alexander van der Zwaan, a London-based Dutch attorney, pleaded guilty to making false statements about his contacts with Gates and an unnamed Ukrainian.
  • 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies have been indicted on conspiracy charges, and some on identity theft charges, related to Russian social media and hacking efforts.
  • Richard Pinedo, a California resident, has pleaded guilty to an identity theft chargerelated to the Russian indictments.
  • Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chair, is facing two separate indictments — one in DCabout conspiracy, money laundering, false statements, and failure to disclose foreign assets; and one in Virginia about tax, financial, and bank fraud charges.


Rudy Giuliani is Very Confused

Jimmy Kimmel went to great lengths to fully comprehend what Rudy Giuliani said during an interview on This Week.
Kimmel began by addressing the “old” and “scary” volcano that “erupted over the weekend” (and no, not the one in Hawaii) and played a clip of his interview with George Stephanopoulos when he incoherently was responding to a question about whether President Trump knew about Michael Cohen‘s payment to Stormy Daniels after the campaign.
“I gotta tell you, I don’t even know what he was trying to say,” Kimmel reacted.