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Statements about me in Mueller report are ‘total bulls—‘

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By Adam Edelman

President Donald Trump on Friday ripped special counsel Robert Mueller’s “crazy” report, saying that it contained statements about him that “are total bullshit.”

“Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue. Watch out for people that take so-called ‘notes,’ when the notes never existed until needed,” Trump wrote.

“Because I never……agreed to testify, it was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the ‘Report’ about me, some of which are total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad),” he added.

“This was an Illegally Started Hoax that never should have happened,” Trump wrote.

The comments were his harshest so far since the redacted report was released Thursday by Attorney General William Barr.

The 448-page report reviewed Trump’s attempts to muddy the Russia investigation, including efforts to tamper with witnesses, but decided not to charge him with obstruction in part because there was no underlying crime and many of the attempts were carried out in plain view.

Download the NBC News app for full coverage of the Mueller report

Trump’s comments about “notes” may have been a reference to parts of the Mueller report that detailed the president’s surprise that his White House Counsel Don McGahn was taking notes of their meetings.

“Why do you takes notes? Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes,” Trump told McGahn, according to an interview the attorney had with investigators that was detailed in Mueller’s report.

McGahn responded he was a “real lawyer.”

Trump also may have been referencing notes taken by McGahn’s chief of staff Annie Donaldson, who had written during a 2017 meeting, according to Mueller, that “POTUS in panic/chaos … Need binders to put in front of POTUS. (1) All things related to Russia.”

McGahn’s attorney, William A. Burck, criticized comments made by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani in the wake of the release of the report.

“It’s a mystery why Rudy Giuliani feels the need to re-litigate incidents the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General have concluded were not obstruction. But they are accurately described in the report,” Burck said in a statement to NBC News on Friday night.

“Don, nonetheless, appreciates that the President gave him the opportunity to serve as White House Counsel and assist him with his signature accomplishments,” Burck said.

Download the NBC News app for full coverage of the Mueller report

Peter Alexander contributed.



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Warren calls on House to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump

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By Rebecca Shabad

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Friday became the first Democratic presidential candidate to call on the House to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

Warren, of Massachusetts, said her announcement was based on the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller.

“The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty,” she tweeted. “That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.”

In an interview Friday night on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” Warren said starting impeachment proceedings was a point of principle.

“The report is absolutely clear that a foreign government attacked our electoral system to help Donald Trump,” she said. “He welcomed that help, and then when it was investigated by our own federal authorities Donald Trump took multiple steps to try to obstruct justice.”

Before Warren’s statement, another 2020 candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters at a campaign stop in New Hampshire that the senators in the race seemed to be choosing their words carefully on the issue.

“I think you’ve seen all the senators are very cautious about talking about this because we would be the jury if there was any kind of an action brought over from the House,” she said, adding that “the key thing” for her was to have special counsel Robert Mueller testify before the Judiciary Committee.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, responding to Warren’s call, said, “As the speaker has said repeatedly, one step at a time.”

“We’re focused on getting the full unredacted version of the report and its underlying documents — as well as hearing from Mueller,” the spokeswoman said in a statement. “The report raises more questions and concerns that we believe the American people deserve answers to.”

Tom Steyer, a billionaire Democratic donor who has led a crusade to impeach Trump, called Warren “one of the people in Washington who has the moral courage to do what’s right.”

“Eight million Americans are thanking her for her leadership and for taking a strong stand against this dangerous President,” he said in a statement Friday.

Steyer had flirted with a presidential run himself but ruled it out in January, choosing instead to dedicate himself to the impeachment effort through his organization, “Need to Impeach.”

Other Democratic presidential candidates said Friday that Trump’s conduct as detailed in the redacted version of the report made impeachment worth discussing, although one, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., ignored questions from reporters on the subject at a campaign stop in Greenville, South Carolina.

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, told NBC News on Friday that while there’s “evidence that this president deserves to be impeached,” he is not in Congress so will leave it those who are to decide whether to pursue proceedings.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., who recently announced a White House bid, said on MSNBC Friday that impeachment is “a conversation we have to have as far as holding this president accountable,” but when asked to clarify whether that means he supports impeachment, he said, “I’m for bringing Bob Mueller in and see what the evidence is.”

Julián Castro, a former Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Barack Obama, tweeted his view that it “would be perfectly reasonable for Congress to open up impeachment hearings against President Trump. Robert Mueller clearly left that option in the hands of Congress.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., did not rule it out in an interview Thursday on MSNBC’s “All in With Chris Hayes.”

“I think that there is definitely a conversation to be had on that subject, but first I want to hear from Bob Mueller,” Harris said, “and really understand what exactly is the evidence that supports the summary that we have been given today.”

As Democrats continue to sift through the redacted Mueller report, some lawmakers who previously downplayed the idea of impeaching Trump said the investigation’s findings may require them to initiate such proceedings in the House.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday that the Mueller report shows that what Trump has done is “at least 100 times worse” than the actions that led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998. Cummings previously had called talk of impeachment premature, but said Friday, “We may very well come to that very soon.”

“We’ve got to go against this, we’ve got to expose it. A lot of people keep asking about the question of impeachment,” Cummings said.

“But right now, let’s make sure we understand what Mueller was doing, understand what Barr was doing, and see the report in an unredacted form, and all of the underlying documents,” he said, referring to Attorney General William Barr.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., in an interview on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” Friday, said that the obstruction material laid out by the special counsel is “damning enough,” but that Congress needs to take some time to digest the seriousness of the report to determine the right course of action.

Schiff added that “here we are less than 24 hours after the report, and I think we need as a caucus to have a discussion about what’s the import of this and what’s the way forward.”

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif, said Friday on Fox News that the decision on whether to pursue impeachment rests with Pelosi.

“There is only one person who matters — Nancy Pelosi,” he said. “She sets the agenda for House Democrats. Every member of Congress has an opinion, but Nancy Pelosi is going to set the agenda. And she has said, let’s have Mueller testify, let’s have the committees do their work and gather evidence. But it is premature to be making any other judgments.”

Several hours after the 448-page redacted report was released to Congress and the public on Thursday, talk of impeachment gathered steam among some rank-and-file Democrats, including freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who announced on Twitter that she will sign on to an impeachment resolution introduced by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., in March.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who in March said he had a “high bar” for impeachment, also did not rule out such a scenario Thursday. His committee has the power to initiate an impeachment inquiry and proceedings.

Asked if holding Trump accountable means impeachment, Nadler said, “That’s one possibility — there are others.”

Some Democrats said that impeachment would be too divisive, and that the issue of whether to keep Trump as president should be left up to voters in the 2020 election.

“In my view, there’s an even better political process coming right down the road on almost the same time frame and that’s the elections of 2020,” Sen. Angus King, an Independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, told CNN Friday. “For Congress to go through an impeachment process would be, it would take probably 18 months, which would lead right up to the election. And it would be divisive.”

On Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., reportedly told CNN that “impeachment is not worthwhile at this point.” Afterward, he appeared to walk that comment back, saying that “all options ought to remain on the table.”

Articles of impeachment would require a simply majority to pass in the House, which is currently controlled by Democrats. The Senate, on the other hand, which has the power to remove a president through a two-thirds vote, is highly unlikely to convict Trump and remove him from office because the chamber is controlled by Republicans. Only two presidents have been impeached in U.S. history: Clinton in 1998, and President Andrew Johnson in 1868. Neither was convicted in the Senate.

Ali Vitali, Josh Lederman, Frank Thorp V, Shaquille Brewster and Ludwig Hurtado contributed.



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The counterintelligence investigation of the Trump team and Russia hasn’t stopped

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By Ken Dilanian

WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation may be over, but the FBI’s efforts to assess and counter Russian efforts to influence the U.S. political system — including the Trump administration — is continuing, current and former U.S. officials say.

The FBI and other intelligence agencies are pursuing a counterintelligence effort to thwart Russian influence operations in the U.S. and stymie an anticipated Russian effort to interfere in the 2020 election, the officials tell NBC News.

As part of that mission, analysts will continue to drill down on exactly how the Russians interfered in the 2016 election, whether any Americans helped them unwittingly, and whether any American continues to be compromised by Russia, experts say.

These are different questions than whether crimes were committed, which is what Mueller explored in his 448-page report. Mueller’s report is silent on some of the key counterintelligence issues raised in his probe. It doesn’t mention, for example, the counterintelligence investigation the FBI opened into the president — an inquiry former acting director Andrew McCabe said was designed to examine whether he was compromised by Russia. Nor does the report cite the counterintelligence briefing the Trump campaign is said to have received from the FBI, warning that Russia and other adversaries would seek to infiltrate the campaign.

“The fact that it’s not present in the report tells me the ball is now and remains in the court of the FBI and the intelligence community,” said Frank Figliuzzi, an NBC News contributor and former head of counterintelligence at the FBI.

It’s unclear whether the counterintelligence investigation into Trump remains open. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.

Counterintelligence is also an issue the House Intelligence Committee will explore, said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., its chairman. The committee has requested an intelligence briefing on the Mueller investigation but has yet to receive a response, according to a congressional source.

“That’s very important for our committee as well as the Financial Services Committee to make sure there’s no financial leverage or other leverage that the Russians or the Gulf or anyone else have over the president of the United States,” Schiff told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Thursday.

In explaining his prosecution decisions, Mueller’s report explores how a Russian intelligence operation sought to help Donald Trump get elected and how the Russian government later tried to influence his transition team and nascent administration. Mueller found no provable criminal conspiracy in those interactions.

But the report conspicuously avoids making an assessment about whether any of that conduct harmed national security. It scarcely mentions counterintelligence, and it doesn’t say whether Mueller looked for financial ties between Trump and Russians or determined whether Russia has any leverage over the president or any member of his team.

In the one short section devoted to counterintelligence, the Mueller report makes clear that the issue of thwarting Russian influence went beyond the criminal probe.

For the last year, FBI counterintelligence analysts who were not working on the criminal investigation were embedded in Mueller’s office, sending written summaries of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence to FBI headquarters and relevant field offices, the report says.

“From its inception, the office recognized that its investigation could identify foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information relevant to the FBI’s broader national security mission,” the report says.

Much of that information is not contained in the report, which was designed to summarize prosecution decisions. Left unsaid is that much of that information is also classified.

The sort of information that might have been included in those summaries — and which does not appear in the redacted report — might include details about Vladimir Putin’s role in the election interference operation, or the relationship between Russian intelligence and the St. Petersburg troll farm that manipulated U.S. social media.

“In fairness to Mueller, they were operating under rules built for a traditional criminal investigation,” said Joshua Geltzer, a former senior attorney at the National Security Council under Presidents Obama and Trump.

“Those regulations had at least a somewhat different paradigm in mind. Counterintelligence investigations are by their nature sensitive and classified. It’s not clear that there is much more that could or should be said publicly. But I do think the question of whether there are folks acting in ways contrary to our national interest is at least as important as the question of who is charged with a crime.”

In a New York Times opinion piece Friday, Geltzer and Ryan Goodman, editor of the blog Just Security, call counterintelligence “the missing piece of the Mueller report.”

“President Trump may claim ‘exoneration’ on a narrowly defined criminal coordination charge. But a counterintelligence investigation can yield something even more important: an intelligence assessment of how likely it is that someone — in this case, the president — is acting, wittingly or unwittingly, under the influence of or in collaboration with a foreign power,” they write. “Was Donald Trump a knowing or unknowing Russian asset, used in some capacity to undermine our democracy and national security?”

A person on Trump’s legal team, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, told NBC News that it was ridiculous to suggest that Trump is compromised by Russia after Mueller cleared him of conspiracy.

But the Mueller report seems to keep that question in play by explicitly stating that the Trump campaign and the Russian government had a shared interest.

“The investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” the report says.

After the election, the report says, “Russian government officials and prominent Russian businessmen began trying to make inroads into the new administration. The most senior levels of the Russian government encouraged these efforts.”

And members of the incoming Trump administration, including Mike Flynn and Jared Kushner, greeted the efforts with open arms, the report shows. Trump, for his part, continually expressed his desire to improve relations with Russia, and he said he would examine lifting certain sanctions.

Geltzer and other foreign policy experts have long said that Trump’s favorable view of Russian President Vladimir Putin is so out of step with his own party, and seems so contrary to American interests, that it raises counterintelligence questions. When Trump proclaimed during last year’s Helsinki summit he accepted Putin’s claim that the Russians didn’t meddle in the 2016 election, those questions deepened, Geltzer said.

These are not criminal questions that can be resolved in a court of law, experts say.

“Often in the worlds of intelligence it’s about shades of gray that don’t approach certainty,” Geltzer said.

As part of its counterintelligence mission, the FBI makes assessments, including assessments about whether a particular American is acting as an agent of a foreign power, wittingly or not.

The next step is mitigation, which usually happens secretly. A foreigner can be placed under surveillance, or deported. A U.S. government official can be deprived of her security clearance or fired.

“I have been involved in cases where the objective was to determine whether a government official was playing for the other side or unwittingly duped or co-opted,” Figliuzzi said. “The objective is to neutralize — detect, deter and defeat the threat.”

But, Figliuzzi said, “deterring it and defeating it becomes problematic if it’s the president of the U.S.”

Tom Winter contributed.



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