Two more senior FBI officials review memo: "could not point to any factual inaccuracies"

Reporting by Catherine Herridge, Fox News

Two Senior FBI officials, one from the bureau’s counter intelligence division, the other from legal, have now reviewed the republican staff memo, alleging abuses of government surveillance programs during the 2016 election, a source familiar with the matter tells Fox News, adding that the officials “could not point to any factual inaccuracies.”

The two bureau officials followed up, after an initial review of the memo, in a rare Sunday trip to Capitol Hill, by FBI Director Christopher Wray.  The FBI offered no comment today for Fox’s reporting about the officials, and their findings.

After the contentious house intelligence committee vote Monday night, the source confirms that house staffers physically took the memo over to the White House for the President, who has five working days to voice reservations or objections.

While the Justice Department, in a January 24 letter from Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd, called the republican staff memo’s release, “unprecedented” and “reckless,”  Fox News is told that the memo was “drafted deliberately to eliminate national security information” that could be harmed if viewed by individuals outside congress.  Boyd also stated “Though we (Justice Department) are currently unaware of any wrongdoing relating to the FISA process, we agree that any abuse of that system cannot be tolerated.”

The source said the FBI and Justice Department had “fought tooth and nail” for close to a year to avoid providing the surveillance related records to congress, including the handling of the Trump dossier and whether it was used, as recently as last year, to secure or extend surveillance warrants for US persons.   The source said additional records provided this month, after the Republican committee chairman Devin Nunes threatened to move forward with contempt of congress citations, backed up investigators’ earlier findings.

The committee is in the process of lining up the remaining FBI and DOJ interviews which are expected in early February.  The house intelligence committee republicans have two outstanding records’ requests: additional Strzok/Page texts, and records documenting an April 2017 meeting between DOJ lawyer/now senior Special Counsel prosecutor Andrew Weissman and a major media organization.     The Weissman deadline was January 11th. 

In a January 4th letter, documenting  his agreement with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to avoid contempt citations,  Nunes wrote “I understand that your office is researching records related to the details of an April 2017 meeting between DOJ Attorney Andrew Weissman (now the senior attorney for Special Counsel Robert Mueller) and the media which will be provided to this Committee by close of business Thursday January 11, 2018.”

The source said the FBI and Justice Department said they wanted additional time to gather all of the Weissman records, to provide them at once. Fox understands the committee will make a new push for the remaining Weissman records as early as this week. 

Republican congressman Jim Jordan recently told Fox “I am interested in anything the FBI did to leak information to further their narrative.”

 

 

Special Counsel continues interviews

Reporting by Catherine Herridge

On the same day the Justice Department confirmed the Attorney General’s Special Counsel Interview, new text messages suggest senior FBI investigators were skeptical about the Russia probe from the outset.

Two days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller took over the Russia probe in May, newly released text messages between demoted FBI agent Peter Strzok and re-assigned lawyer Lisa Page, suggest they discussed the merits of joining Mueller’s team.

Strzok writes, “You and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely, I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern there’s no big there there.”

On Fox, Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said the texts are more evidence of political bias.

“I care a lot about the Department of Justice and the FBI and it breaks my heart that we are having to have this conversation about two agents that only wanted to get the president. They didn’t have any interest in clearing him.”

Another GOP lawmaker, Congressman John Ratcliffe (R-TX), who read the texts said the FBI officials talk about a quote “secret society” within days of President Trump’s victory.

“There was a society of at least two people to include Peter Strzok and Lisa Page that had a desire to keep Donald Trump from becoming president and then an expressed intent to work against him after he was elected president.”

In a cryptic text, Strzok writes, “I personally have a sense of unfinished business…unleashed it with MYE (or mid-year exam, the FBI’s code name for the Clinton email case). Now I need to fix it and finish it.”

The FBI blames a technical problem for a five month gap in the Strozk/Page texts, and would not comment on whether the bureau has taken physical custody of their phones to recover the messages.

Writing in a tweet, President Trump called the missing texts one of the biggest stories in a long time. The senate’s senior Democrat, Chuck Schumer, called out Republicans for undermining Mueller.

“He shouldn’t be thwarted in any way and the diversion that they are trying to do, both with Muller and with others, is not good for the country.”

In a separate development, President Trump said the White House had no advance notice of Attorney General Jeff Sessions Special Counsel interview last week.

The President also denied media reports that FBI Director Christopher Wray threatened to quit after pressure to remove his deputy, Andrew McCabe, a long time lieutenant of fired FBI Director James Comey.

Shutdown-Showdown

Reporting by Mike Emanuel

Facing a government shutdown tonight at midnight, President Trump invited the Senate democratic leader to the White House trying to see if they can find common ground.  

Senator Chuck Schumer spoke briefly when he returned to the U.S. Capitol—

“We had a long and detailed meeting. We discussed all of the major outstanding issues. We made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements. Discussions will continue.

Needing 60 yes votes to pass the Senate, Republicans must cant Democrat support to avert the government shutdown tonight.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, “ this is completely unfair and uncompassionate for my Democratic colleagues to filibuster government funding, harm our troops, and jeopardize health coverage to 9 million children because extreme elements of their base want illegal immigration to crowd out every other priority.”

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin says it’s gotten to this point due to a failure of GOP leadership—“When you look across the spectrum of the three branches of government, the Republicans are in control. What are they offering us? The fourth CR.”

This marks the fourth continuing resolution since October 1st, and Senator Chris Van Hollen says that’s unacceptable.

“Yes, we should extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program, we need to do that but we also need to do our job which we should’ve done back in October 1st, the first day of this fiscal year, and actually adopt a bipartisan budget for the United States of America.”

The House passed the four week government funding extension Thursday night. The vote was 230-197, mostly carried by Republicans with some Democrats joining in the end.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says there’s nothing controversial about keeping the government running and providing health insurance to nine million children for six more years, which led some Republicans to insist this is all about politics and the Democrat’s liberal base demanding an outcome now.

There are ongoing bipartisan House and Senate negotiations for a fix on immigration featuring John Cornyn and Dick Durbin in the Senate and Kevin McCarthy and Steny Hoyer in the House.

The President set a March 5th deadline to tackle the issue.

Republicans sound confident that Schumer has led Democrats into a box canyon. They suggest rank and file Democrats will be looking for a deal in the hours ahead before what they’re calling a “Schumer Showdown.” 

House committee gets access to remaining dossier records

Reporting by Catherine Herridge

A source close to the matter tells Fox News that the house intelligence committee investigators got access to the remaining Russia documents during a classified session at the Justice Department Friday.   Investigators were allowed to review the records and take notes, but not take copies which is standard in sensitive cases.

These are described as core records about the Russia dossier, and its handling by the FBI, to include witness interview summaries, known in FBI circles as 302s, and 1023s which are for confidential sources or informants.    In the dossier case,  former British Spy Christopher Steele was a source for the FBI – first relaying some information in July 2016, the same month the Clinton email case closed for the first time, and the Russia Counter Intelligence case opened.

The Justice Department and FBI are on a tight timeline to provide records and witnesses, based on the agreement reached between Republican chairman Devin Nunes and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.   The committee is in the process of scheduling 8 witnesses including demoted FBI agent Peter Strzok, re-assigned FBI lawyer Lisa Page with whom he was having an extramarital affair, FBI Attorney Sally Moyer who worked the Russia issue, former FBI General Counsel James Baker,  FBI Special Agent and chief of staff James Rybicki; FBI Congressional Liaison Greg Brower who can explain who or what created the roadblocks for compliance, FBI Assistant Director for counter intelligence Bill Priestap who former Director Comey testified instructed him not to brief the Gang of Eight on the Russia case during the 2016 election, citing its sensitivity.  And on the DOJ side, Jake Gibson reports DOJ official Bruce Ohr is scheduled for January 17 – closed session.

Separately,  the source said TD bank had the Fusion GPS bank records “primed” to go once the court decision was made, and the committee got access to the records Friday, making any appeal by Fusion GPS moot.

At issue are 70 transactions, over a two year period, covering clients, journalists, two media organizations and researchers.  In his ruling, Judge Leon wrote about Fusion’s Russian work and the overlap between the dossier, and Fusion’s efforts to undermine the Magnitsky Act.  “Together, these reports confirmed that various law firms and businesses had retained Fusion on behalf of their clients to perform Russia-related work, thus triggering the Committee’s investigative interest in identifying other businesses that sought Fusion’s services during the same relevant period.”

Justice Department investigating Clinton Foundation

Reporting by Catherine Herridge
 
In a series of phone calls, more than one White House official lobbied Attorney General Jeff Sessions, discouraging his recusal from the Russia case. 
 
Sources familiar with the discussions said White House Counsel Don McGahn, former Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus all spoke with Sessions as pressure mounted on the Attorney General, after his meeting with the Russian Ambassador came to light. Fox News has reached out to Spicer and Priebus for comment. 
 
Sessions has long maintained he announced his recusal due to a standing Justice Department regulation. A separate source said the president was deeply frustrated with Sessions because while he was under consideration for Attorney General, he gave no indication he would recuse himself.
 
Lawmakers have pressed the Attorney General on the recusal and its fall out.
 
In a separate development, senior senate Republicans Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham are referring the former British spy Christopher Steele, who compiled the Trump dossier, to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.  The senator’s accuse Steele of lying about the dossier’s distribution, which included reporters.
 
A source tells Fox News the Justice Department is investigating allegations the Clinton Foundation used ‘pay to play’ tactics when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.
 
The investigation is being led by the U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI in Little Rock, Arkansas, and they are considering whether the Clinton Foundation violated tax law, promising or delivering favors in exchange for donations or gifts. Multiple witnesses have been interviewed.
 
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told Fox the investigation is justified.
 
“I think that’s good news. Certainly I think there have been a lot of things that give us cause for concern. I think it’s a great thing that it’s being looked at. We’ll have to wait and see what happens but there’s certainly been a lot of information out there that I think gives all of us concern and it’s important they’re taking a look at it.”
 
A Clinton spokesperson responded: “Time after time, the Clinton Foundation has been subjected to politically motivated allegations, and time after time these allegations have been proven false. None of this has made us waver in our mission to help people.”
 

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin launched in 2009, after the global credit crisis, when many people lost faith in the government and in the financial systems. 

From a practical stand-point, Bitcoin is a digital currency; there is no government guaranteeing it, there is no central bank printing it. It is a peer-to-peer soft-ware system that mimics what cash does in the physical world.

Every Bitcoin bought and sold is recorded in an open ledger and constantly updated across every participating computer's program, in a public spreadsheet that is maintained by its users.  This is called the block-chain.

As for Bitcoin safety, and whether you should buy it, most experts say "not without a strong stomach.”

There are few vendors that accept Bitcoin in exchange for a physical good, such as a slice of pizza.

Even Bitcoin experts say they are not sure the day will ever come that Americans use Bitcoin instead of dollars; it is too early to tell.

The people who are jumping on the bit-coin bandwagon right now are investors.  The reason:  the value is soaring.  On Thursday alone, the value of a Bitcoin rose 40% in 40 hours and its year-to-date gain is now at more than 1,500%.

For the investing community, Bitcoin is becoming mainstream. Starting on Sunday, the Chicago board of exchange will begin offering trade in Bitcoin futures. A competing exchange will offer the same later this month; the NASDAQ will start in the 1st half of 2018. 

So far, Wall Street has a mixed reaction.  JP Morgan CEO J Dimon says it is a fraud and will fire anyone who trades it/ Morgan Stanley will wait and see. Goldman Sachs said it will process Bitcoin futures trades on a case by case basis. 

Protests over Trump's Jerusalem move

Reporting by David Lee Miller

On the street of Bethlehem, and other parts of the West Bank, thousands of Palestinians again demonstrated in protest against President Trump’s Jerusalem Declaration.

In Gaza, two demonstrators were killed by live ammunition. Nearly 700 Palestinians were wounded. Israeli authorities, anticipating even larger crowds following Friday prayers, beefed up troop deployments, but the size of the protests were about the same as the last two days.

Palestinian extremists fired rockets from Gaza into Israel, but they were either intercepted or landed in unpopulated areas causing no injuries. Israel retaliated with air strikes.

Meanwhile, other anti-US, anti-Israel demonstrations took place throughout the Muslim world including Jordan, Indonesia and Pakistan. Al Qaeda called for a holy war targeting what the United States called its Zionist and crusader allies.

At the UN Security Council, US allies, the UK, France and other countries criticized the US position in Jerusalem. US Ambassador Nikki Haley defended President Trump’s decision saying Jerusalem’s final status, including its physical boundaries, would be determined by negotiation. She also had a message for Palestinians about the US’s hopes for a peace deal.

“To my Palestinian brothers and sisters, I can tell you with complete confidence that the Unites States is deeply committed to achieving a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

The Palestinian permanent UN observer who attended the Security Council meeting urged diplomats to denounce the US’s recognition of Israel’s capital. He also said Washington can no longer be an honest broker in negotiating an agreement.

“One party cannot continue to monopolize the peace process, especially not one that acts with bias in favor of the occupying power, at the expense of the law and rights of the occupied people.”

In little more than a week Vice President Pence is scheduled to visit the region, although a high ranking Palestinian official has said he would not be welcome to meet with President Abbas. No official decision has been made, but much could depend on events on the ground and whether or not the violence continues.

Add another footnote to the problems with US military aviation….

Reporting by Lucas Tomlinson

The Air Force announced Wednesday it had relieved the commander of the service’s flight demonstration team following two crashes since the summer of 2016.

The first crash occurred during the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony and the traditional fly-by from the Thunderbirds F-16 jets, not long after passing over then-President Obama and the graduating cadets and their families.  One of the F-16s crashed after the single engine on the jet shut down (not ran out of fuel as many speculated at the time).

A year later, a Thunderbirds pilot and passenger were hospitalized following a crash while landing at the Dayton International Airport.

The US Air Force today is smaller than it has ever been in its history.  In 1991, the service had 8,600 aircraft in 134 squadrons.  Today, 5,500 aircraft in 55 squadrons.

The average age of an Air Force plane is 27 years old.  The service is roughly 2,000 pilots short today, according to the secretary of the Air Force.

The service is also running low on bombs.  “When it comes to munitions, we are stretched,” said Heather Wilson, secretary of the Air Force recently.

Fox News has reported extensively about the problems facing all of US military aviation, including:

-70% of US Marine Corps jets can’t fly

-half US Air Force B-1 and B-2 bombers can’t fly

-half the Navy’s 542 F-18 Super Hornets can’t fly

 

Roy Moore Fights On

Reporting by Jonathan Serrie

With no signs of quitting, Roy Moore’s Senate campaign released a new ad fighting back against allegations of sexual impropriety.

Basketball legend Charles Barkley, back home in Alabama for the Iron Bowl, said he’s disturbed by Moore’s association with former White House strategist Steve Bannon.

“We have a lot of black people in this state who are amazing people but to run a campaign with a guy as your chief advocate who is a white nationalist, a white separatist. That should have disqualified Roy Moore way before this women stuff came up,” Barkley said.

In order to beat Moore, Democrat Doug Jones needs to mobilize African-American voters, who make up about a quarter of Alabama’s electorate, but a Washington Post article suggests black voters may not be energized by the senate race.

On the Sunday morning talk shows, three more additional GOP senators dropped their support for Moore—Ohio Senator Rob Portman, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and South Dakota Senator John Thune.

A White House official tells FOX News, President Trump has no plans to campaign for Moore and has yet to offer him a full throated endorsement, instead attacking Jones, tweeting: “The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is weak on crime, weak on the boarder, bad for our military and our great vets, bad for our 2nd Amendment, and wants to raise taxes to the sky. Jones would be a disaster!”

Later, Trump tweeted his endorsement of Luther Strange “wasn’t enough” and that quote, “I endorsed Luther Strange in the Alabama primary. He shot way up in the polls but it wasn’t enough. Can’t let Schumer/Pelosi win this race. Liberal Jones would be bad!”

Today the Jones campaign sent out an email accusing Moore of “hiding.” Moore is scheduled to speak at a rally in Henager, Alabama in what will be his first public appearance since the November 16 news conference that his campaign abruptly ended when reporters asked questions about the allegations against him.

Sexual Harassment on Capitol Hill

Reporting by James Rosen

In his first news conference since four women accused him of sexual misconduct, Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota said he’s “tremendously sorry.”

Franken pledged to cooperate with an ethics committee probe and vowed to work to regain voters’ trust, but he declined to specify where he disputes his accusers’ accounts and couldn’t guarantee additional claims won’t surface.

“I take a lot of pictures in Minnesota—thousands of pictures; meet tens of thousands of people. So those are instances that I do not remember,” Franken told the press.

One colleague had already demanded more, with Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida saying, “the things he’s already admitted to I find to be outrageous and offensive—and I do think on that alone he should consider resigning.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, America’s top elected woman, surprised many with her defense of Democratic colleague John Conyers of Michigan, whom she called “an icon.”

The 88 year old lawmaker stepped down as a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee on Sunday following his acknowledgment that he settled a misconduct claim by a female staffer in 2015,

VOX editor Laura McGann tweeted, “Nancy Pelosi went on national TV and ran through a list of excuses for John Conyers that are the very reasons women are afraid to report sexual harassment in the first place.”

Matt Schlapp, Chair of the American Conservative Union, wrote, “Pelosi is a survivor and knows she can’t lose support in black caucus so she is gentle with Conyers. It’s always about power.”

Conyers has denied all charges, but two more women have come forward. Former staffer Melanie Sloan alleges Conyers once appeared for a meeting in his underwear and behaved inappropriately on other occasions.

“He once pulled me out of a meeting with domestic violence advocates, no less, and started screaming at me in the hallway and berating me, I believe, for not wearing stockings on some hundred-degree Washington day.”

And Republican Congressman Joe Barton of Texas, having apologized for a nude selfie he took for a woman with whom he had an affair, has confirmed to the ‘Washington Post’ the authenticity of a recording the woman made of a phone call in which Barton threatened to unleash the Capitol Police on her.

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