BREAKING: GOP Congressman Jeff Fortenberry Indicted By Federal Grand Jury

0

(AP) – A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, accusing him of lying to the FBI and concealing information from federal agents who were investigating campaign contributions funneled to him from a Nigerian billionaire.

The U.S. attorney’s office announced that the grand jury in Los Angeles had indicted the nine-term Republican on one charge of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators. Fortenberry is expected to appear for an arraignment Wednesday afternoon in federal court in Los Angeles.

The indictment stems from an FBI investigation into $180,000 in illegal campaign contributions from Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire of Lebanese descent.

The contributions were funneled through a group of Californians from 2012 through 2016 and went to four U.S. politicians, including $30,200 to Fortenberry in 2016. Using an analysis of federal election records, Politico has identified the other three Republican recipients as former U.S. Rep. Lee Terry, of Nebraska, in 2014; Rep. Darrell Issa, of California, in 2014; and Mitt Romney during his 2012 presidential campaign.

Federal authorities haven’t alleged that any of the other three campaigns or candidates were aware that the donations originated with Chagoury.

Chagoury, who lives in Paris, admitted to the crime in 2019, agreed to pay a $1.8 million fine and is cooperating with federal authorities. Prosecutors have said Chagoury made some of the illegal contributions to politicians from smaller states because he thought the amounts would be more noticeable and give him better access. He also drew attention years ago for giving more than $1 million to the Clinton Foundation.

The indictment alleges that a cohost of the 2016 fundraiser in Los Angeles told Fortenberry that the donations probably did come from Chagoury, but Fortenberry never filed an amended campaign report with the Federal Election Commission as required. It says he later “made false and misleading statements” to federal investigators during a March 23, 2019 interview at his home in Lincoln.

According to the indictment, Fortenberry falsely told investigators he wasn’t aware of an associate of Chagoury being involved in illegal contributions. He also allegedly said that his donors were publicly disclosed and he wasn’t aware of any contributions from a foreign national, which is illegal.

In a second interview in Washington in July 2019, the indictment says Fortenberry denied that he was aware of any illicit donation made during the 2016 fundraiser.

In a YouTube video posted Monday night, Fortenberry said he was “shocked” and “stunned” by the allegations and asked his supporters to rally behind him. Knowingly making false statements to a federal agent is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

“We will fight these charges,” he said in the video, filmed inside a 1963 pickup truck with his wife, Celeste, and their dog, against a backdrop of corn. “I did not lie to them. I told them what I knew. But we need your help.”

Fortenberry’s campaign has insisted that he didn’t know the donations, which the campaign received during a fundraiser in Los Angeles, originated with Chagoury.

Fortenberry, of Lincoln, said FBI agents from California came to his home after he had been out dealing with a major storm that had just hit Nebraska. He said they questioned him about the contributions then and in a follow-up interview.

“I told them what I knew and what I understood,” he said.

Fortenberry represents the state’s 1st Congressional District, a heavily Republican area that includes Lincoln and parts of several Omaha suburbs, as well as surrounding farmland and small towns in eastern Nebraska.

According to the Nebraska secretary of state’s office, no other Nebraska congressman or U.S. senator has been indicted since at least 1901.

Fortenberry was first elected to the seat in 2004. He won his last election in 2020 with 60% of the vote and has generally defeated Democratic challengers by lopsided margins.

The Nebraska Democratic Party said the indictment shows that Fortenberry is only interested in money and power.

“Fortenberry’s reported lies violate the trust of Nebraskans, only confirming that the swamp Trump promised to drain is actually the Republican Party,” said Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb. “Serving 16 years in Congress has tainted Fortenberry, who cares more about political donations than serving the people of our state.”

His statement that he expected to be indicted was first reported by the Omaha World-Herald.

His wife, Celeste Fortenberry, said her husband spoke with the agents voluntarily, without a lawyer, because he was under the impression that the agents needed his help to get to the bottom of the case.

She said he later called his friend, attorney and former congressman Trey Gowdy, for legal representation. She said her husband sat for another interview with agents in Washington and was repeatedly assured that he was not a target of the investigation.

https://apnews.com/article/campaigns-nebraska-indictments-omaha-campaign-contributions-015e1a7c565c3287117144830dc5bb6d

WOW: Marjorie Taylor Greene Defends Anti-Vax NBA Player With HIV Comparison

0

(HuffPost) – Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) chimed in on NBA star Kyrie Irving’s benching by the Brooklyn Nets for not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, and was labeled a “f**king monster” on Twitter for her offensive hot take.

Greene first wrongly blamed “the fascist NBA” for banning Irving, even though it was his own team that benched him because of New York City rules requiring professional athletes to be vaccinated.

The conspiracy theory-endorsing lawmaker then attempted to draw a false comparison with NBA legend Magic Johnson’s HIV diagnosis:

Greene was called out for spreading misinformation about the different ways HIV and the coronavirus are transmitted, just as a Florida GOP candidate for Congress, Lavern Spicer, was blasted when she posted a similar message Tuesday.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/marjorie-taylor-greene-kryie-irving_n_61692798e4b06573572c13c1

BREAKING: Ex-Spy Exposes the TRUTH About Major Trump Scandal

0

(Huffington Post) – Christopher Steele, the British former spy behind a salacious and unverified dossier about Donald Trump, said he believes one of the most infamous allegations in the document.

Steele told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that the “pee tape” is “probably” real, according to a promo for the upcoming series, “Out of the Shadows: The Man Behind the Steele Dossier.”

The dossier claims Trump in 2013 hired prostitutes in Moscow to perform a golden showers show as he watched.

Supposedly, they urinated on a bed in the presidential suite at the Ritz-Carlton that had been previously used by then-President Barack Obama, and Russian intelligence may have secretly recorded the incident.

Steele said he is “prepared to accept” that some of the things in the dossier might not be true.

But the pee tape?

“I think it probably does” exist, Steele said. “But I would not put 100 percent certainty on it.”

Stephanopoulos asked why the Russians haven’t released the tape if they have it.

“It hasn’t needed to be released because I think the Russians felt they’d got pretty good value out of Donald Trump when he was president of the U.S.,” Steele replied.

Trump last week randomly brought up the alleged pee tape himself, denying the allegations.

“I’m not into golden showers,” he said unprompted in a private speech at the National Republican Senatorial Committee retreat, according to The Washington Post. “You know the great thing, our great first lady — ‘That one,’ she said, ‘I don’t believe that one.’”

ABC notes that the intelligence agent who collected the reports on the incident later told the FBI that “the tenor of Steele’s reports was far more ‘conclusive’ than was justified” and that the pee tape allegation was based on “word of mouth and hearsay” and perhaps “made in jest.”

Steele told Stephanopoulos the collector may have “taken fright” after his cover was blown and tried to downplay his work as a result.

“I stand by the work we did, the sources that we had, and the professionalism which we applied to it,” Steele said.

“Out of the Shadows: The Man Behind the Steele Dossier” debuts Monday on Hulu.

huffpost.com/entry/donald-trump-christopher-steele-pee-tape_n_616ccfb9e4b06573572f809a

JUST IN: Huge Court News BLINDSIDES Trump – This Is IT

0

(Huffington Post) – A New York judge has ordered former President Donald Trump to give a videotaped deposition next week in a lawsuit by a group of protesters who allege that Trump and his security team assaulted them during a 2015 rally against his hateful rhetoric about Mexican immigrants.

The order by Bronx state Supreme Court judge Doris Gonzalez, which ABC News first reported Thursday, says that Trump must appear for a deposition on Oct. 18 at 10 a.m. Eastern, “or, in the event of illness or emergency, on another mutually agreed to date on or before” Oct. 31. The former president is expected to record the deposition on Monday in New York City’s Trump Tower, according to court papers.

The lawsuit by several protesters of Mexican descent names Trump, the Trump Organization, his former head of security Keith Schiller and four unnamed members of Trump’s then-security team. Schiller became director of Oval Office operations under Trump in 2017, and later that year, the Republican National Committee hired him as an adviser on security for the 2020 convention.

The lawsuit stems from a Sept. 3, 2015, protest outside Trump Tower over the then-presidential candidate’s inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants. Trump repeatedly blamed undocumented immigrants for the United States’ problems and called people crossing the border from Mexico criminals and rapists. The xenophobic rhetoric during his campaign only intensified when he became president.

Schiller and the four security guards attacked peaceful protesters, according to the lawsuit. Guards allegedly told protesters that the sidewalk was private property (it is not) and pushed them away while taking their protest signs. Video evidence shows Schiller aggressively taking away protest signs from plaintiff Efrain Galicia and striking him in the head when Galicia tried to retrieve his sign.

Trump tried to evade a subpoena ordering him to testify in the case in 2018, arguing that there must be “exceptional circumstances” to depose a high-ranking government official. Gonzalez denied the motion in 2019, saying that Trump’s argument did not apply because he was being called to answer for conduct that happened before he was in office.

A judicial order eventually allowed the then-president to avoid having to testify in person while serving in the White House, according to CNBC. In July, with Trump out of office, Gonzalez ordered him to sit for the deposition that would be scheduled at a later date. The parties first agreed that he would be deposed in September, but moved the date to Monday due to Trump’s availability.

“After defendants spent years unsuccessfully fighting to keep Donald Trump from testifying under oath, we will be taking his testimony in this case on Monday,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer Benjamin Dictor said on Thursday. “We look forward to presenting this case, including Mr. Trump’s video testimony, to the jury at his trial.”

huffpost.com/entry/judge-orders-trump-deposition-lawsuit-protesters_n_6168a574e4b06573572b93cd

House Capitol attack panel ready to urge prosecution of Trump aides, says Schiff

0

(The Guardian) – The House select committee investigating the deadly assault on the US Capitol on 6 January is prepared to urge federal prosecution of former aides to Donald Trump who refuse to comply with subpoenas, a key panel member said.

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, strategist Steve Bannon and Pentagon aide Kash Patel are defying subpoenas for documents and testimony, under instruction from the former president.

Amid fears that the panel will not seek to enforce its will, Adam Schiff, a member of the panel as well as chairman of the House intelligence committee, spoke to CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday.

The 6 January committee, the California congressman said, “wants to make sure that these witnesses come in and testify, and we are prepared to go forward and urge the justice department to criminally prosecute anyone who does not do their lawful duty”.

Liz Cheney of Wyoming, one of only two Republicans on the committee, has also said it will enforce subpoenas.

Schiff also greeted a decision by the Biden administration not to invoke executive privilege over documents pertaining to the Capitol attack.

The riot, around which five people including a police officer died, followed a rally near the White House at which Trump exhorted followers to “fight like hell” to overturn his election defeat.

Schiff said he hoped the House committee would see such materials “very soon”.

“I applaud the Biden administration for not asserting executive privilege,” he said, “not trying, because it’s protecting its own prerogative, to deprive the American people of the full facts. So hats off to the administration.

“We should I think get those documents soon because the sitting president has the primary say on executive privilege.”

On Friday, in a letter announcing their client’s decision not to comply with his subpoena, attorneys for Bannon attempted to assert executive privilege themselves. Observers pointed out that executive privilege applies to communications involving the president the White House wishes to keep confidential – but though Trump was in power on 6 January, Bannon was not working for him.

Trump repeated the lies about electoral fraud which fuelled the attack at a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday. Two senior Republicans, Senator Chuck Grassley and Governor Kim Reynolds, stood with him.

Referring to a Senate judiciary committee majority report this week about how Trump pressured his acting attorney general before the Capitol attack, Schiff said: “We saw Grassley [the senior Republican on the judiciary committee] in Iowa yesterday, unable to condemn the president’s effort to to get the justice department to overturn the election.”

Referring to Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House Republican whip, Schiff pointed to “another Republican leader unable to acknowledge that the election wasn’t stolen”. On Fox News Sunday, Scalise refused three times to say if he believed the election was stolen.

“It’s these personal capitulations that are putting our country at risk,” Schiff said, adding that the Republican party “is now an autocratic cult around Donald Trump … not interested in governing”.

Trump’s Iowa rally was part of a shadow campaign. The former president remains eligible to run for the White House because enough Republican senators stayed loyal in his second impeachment trial, for inciting the Capitol attack, to stave off conviction. But Trump has not formally declared a run.

Speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press, the Rhode Island senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, said the American people should see Trump aides testify under oath.

“When you consider that these were Trump appointees,” Whitehouse said, of events before the 6 January rally outlined in the Senate judiciary committee report, “people who are willing to go right to the chalk line, and in my view, even over it, when those folks saw this as outlandish and illegal and something that they don’t quit before they participate in, that shows how berserk this had gotten.”

Referring to Jeffrey Clark, a senior justice department lawyer whose willingness to help Trump was outlined in the Senate report, Whitehouse said: “We then go on to the further question of, ‘OK, how was this organised? Was this really just one little guy in the Department of Justice with a wild idea?’ I doubt it.”

Observers including the comedian Bill Maher have warned of a “slow-moving coup”, shorthand for processes by which Republicans at state levels have since 2020 moved to change voting and electoral laws and to install sympathetic officials in positions which monitor and certify elections.

The former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, author of a tell-all book about her former boss, also appeared on NBC on Sunday.

She said that if Trump “does run again in 2024, he’ll have no guardrails because he will never have to worry about re-election, so he will do whatever he wants. He will hire whomever he wants. And I think that includes people of the 6 January mind … imagine who he could put into the DoJ in 2024, knowing he’s got no consequences there.”

Asked if Trump would “destroy the democracy”, Grisham said: “I think it will be a very terrifying time.

“I think it will be nothing but revenge, retribution and how he can benefit himself. There will be pardons happening. I think there will be very draconian policies that go way too far. So I believe if he is re-elected it will be a really, really scary time.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/oct/10/adam-schiff-capitol-attack-trump-aides-house-panel-federal-prosecution

Georgia election official takes the fight to Trump

0

(Politico) – Donald Trump never wastes an opportunity to attack Georgia’s top statewide Republican officeholders for failing to help him overturn the 2020 election results in the key swing state.

Brad Raffensperger is the only one who refuses to shut up and take it.

Raffensperger, who has borne the brunt of Trump’s wrath as the top election official in the state, is running a damn-the-torpedoes reelection campaign that directly confronts the former president — even though it could cost him the GOP nomination.

In a party where Trump’s enemies tend to see their political careers abruptly ended, Raffensperger’s approach is being closely watched by Republicans within the state and outside.

“The last internal poll I saw said that 87 percent of Republican primary voters felt like the election was stolen,” said former Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.). “With those kinds of numbers, I don’t see Brad getting through the primary.”

If Raffensperger isn’t Trump’s top GOP nemesis, he’s close to it. The Georgia secretary of state refused Trump’s requests to alter the state’s vote count and feuded with the former president over Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. At one point, Raffensperger’s office secretly recorded Trump trying to persuade the secretary of state to “find” votes to make him the winner — a potential crime by Trump that local prosecutors are now investigating.

As a result, Trump has showered him with criticism for nearly a year, going so far as to call Raffensperger an “enemy of the people.”

Trump‘s obsession with Raffensperger shows no sign of fading. In July, the former president sent him a letter asking yet again to decertify the results of the 2020 election. As recently as two weeks ago, during a Georgia rally, Trump called Raffensperger “incompetent and strange.“

When Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) — a staunch Trump ally — announced earlier this year he’d challenge Raffensperger in the primary, Trump immediately endorsed him.

Trump also had Hice give brief remarks at the September rally where the former president also trashed Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and state Attorney General Chris Carr — all Republicans who rebuffed Trump’s calls to overturn the election results.

Duncan, who has been critical of Trump, decided against running for another term and instead wrote a book about the future of the party. Kemp and Carr are seeking reelection next year along with Raffensperger, but have largely ignored the president’s attacks.

Raffensperger has taken a different tack.

After Trump used his rally to mock-endorse Democrat Stacey Abrams — who is expected to mount her second campaign for Georgia governor after refusing to formally concede her last race for the office three years ago — Raffensperger wrote a USA Today op-ed comparing Trump to Abrams.

Next month he’ll publish a book called “Integrity Counts,” billed by Simon & Schuster as Raffensperger’s “inspiring story of commitment to the integrity of American democracy.”

“We’re out there setting the record straight. No. 1 is that President Trump did not carry the state of Georgia,” Raffensperger told POLITICO, pointing to multiple recounts, reviews and investigations that confirmed the accuracy of the Georgia results.

Seth Bringman, a spokesperson for Abrams, swiped at Raffensperger for comparing her 2018 loss to Trump’s, saying that “Abrams succeeded in court to count more Georgians’ votes, with reputable attorneys presenting coherent arguments, and the courts agreed and counted those votes. It surprises us that Raffensperger equates counting eligible votes based on fact with throwing out the will of the people based on the Big Lie.”

Raffensperger’s op-ed, Bringman said, amounts to “attacking Stacey and pushing election subversion in a sad attempt to win the votes of the insurrectionist wing in his upcoming primary.”

Raffensperger’s frontal assault on Trump is widely viewed as a doomed strategy in a state where Trump dominates the GOP and majorities of Republicans believe the 2020 election was stolen — a January poll showed only 45 percent of Republicans supported the secretary of state.

That survey was taken just after Republican incumbents lost their two U.S. Senate runoff races on Jan. 5. Both senators called on Raffensperger to resign at Trump’s insistence after he lost Georgia in November.

Speaking of Raffensperger’s confrontational approach toward Trump, Westmoreland said, “it’s probably not helpful in a primary. Republican voters think the election was stolen.” But he also said many Republicans were troubled with Trump’s rally comment that Abrams “might be better than having your existing governor.”

While Raffensperger acknowledges the difficulties he faces going forward, he said he has no choice but to speak out. He also did not fault Kemp or Carr for failing to denounce Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.

“It’s a conundrum on how to respond to some statements [from Trump] when they’re over the top, or they’re said pejoratively,” Raffensperger said. “If the former president has endorsed Stacey Abrams, I would think that would be shocking for most Republicans. ”

Raffensperger said he has faith that voters will reward him for running a race “with integrity” and that “they understand that I’ll make the hard, difficult calls of standing up … because it’s easy to follow your integrity. It may not be fun. But the decision was easy, because it was based on the law, based on the Constitution, and based on the truth.”

Trump is expected to return to the state before the 2022 primaries, and he’s certain to trash Raffensperger again. Raffensperger said he’s comfortable continuing to push back against Trump if the situation warrants.

“I think it’s always important to speak the truth,” he said. “I think it’s always important to do that respectfully.”

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/10/10/trump-georgia-election-raffensperger-515751

Biden Will Regret Sharing Trump WH Records With 1/6 Committee, Suggests Former President

0

(Newsweek) – Former President Donald Trump blasted President Joe Biden on Saturday after the White House’s latest move in the Capitol riot investigation.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed on Friday that Biden would not honor Trump’s claim of executive privilege to block the release of certain White House records to the January 6 House Select Committee.

In an official email statement, Trump decried the move and suggested that Biden would regret the decision, according to a report from Mediaite. His statement also references numerous false or unsubstantiated claims surrounding Biden and the 2020 presidential election. It refers to the election as “the insurrection that took place on November 3rd, often referred to as the Crime of the Century,” and later makes allegations of corruption by Biden’s son, Hunter.

“This will put the current White House in a terrible position when the inevitable request for information comes concerning the massive corruption by Hunter Biden and the already well-documented crimes committed by the Biden family, the least of which are Hunter’s paintings selling for as much as $500,000 a piece,” Trump’s statement read. “With our Country collapsing, with our Military disgraced, with our Borders nonexistent, when will the American people have had enough?”

Psaki said about Biden’s decision on Friday: “The president’s dedicated to ensuring that something like that could never happen again, which is why the administration is cooperating with ongoing investigations, including the January 6 select committee, to bring to light what happened.”

The former president has frequently attacked the House Select Committee and any other effort to investigate the January 6 Capitol riot. On Friday, after “formally” asserting executive privilege to block the National Archives and Records Administration from releasing information to the committee, Trump released a statement blasting the committee’s work as “a game” and called other investigations against him witch hunts.

“The Radical Left Democrats tried the RUSSIA Witch Hunt, they tried the fake impeachments, and now they are trying once again to use Congress to persecute their political opponents,” the statement read. “Their requests are not based in law or reality—it’s just a game to these politicians. They don’t care about our Country or the American people. The Democrats are drunk on power, but this dangerous assault on our Constitution and important legal precedent will not work.”

https://www.newsweek.com/biden-will-regret-sharing-trump-wh-records-1-6-committee-suggests-former-president-1637321

Trump misled public about Washington hotel finances, House panel says

0

(NBC News) – Former President Donald Trump provided “misleading information about the financial situation” of his hotel in Washington while he was in office, according to the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

The committee, which recently obtained documents from the General Services Administration, found that Trump reported his hotel in downtown D.C. brought in $150 million in income while he served in the White House, but the hotel actually incurred more than $70 million in losses.

“By filing these misleading public disclosures, President Trump grossly exaggerated the financial health of the Trump Hotel,” the committee said Friday in a news release.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Trump Organization called the committee’s assertions “intentionally misleading, irresponsible and unequivocally false” and said the former president’s company had rescued a “crumbling asset which was costing American taxpayers millions of dollars each year.”

“Simply stated, this report is nothing more than continued political harassment in a desperate attempt to mislead the American public and defame Trump in pursuit of their own agenda,” the spokesperson added.

When Trump first applied to lease the Old Post Office Building in 2011 for his hotel, he also provided the federal government with information that the committee said “appeared to conceal certain debts.” Records show Trump specifically didn’t show outstanding balances for properties he owned in other major cities like New York, Chicago and Las Vegas, the panel said.

The committee also said the newly obtained documents show that from 2017 through 2020, the Trump International Hotel in D.C. received about $3.7 million in payments from foreign governments, which it said raises “concerns about possible violations of the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause.”

While he served in the White House, Trump also received “a significant financial benefit” from Deutsche Bank that allowed him to postpone making payments on the $170 million loan for the hotel, the committee said.

“Mr. Trump did not publicly disclose this significant benefit from a foreign bank while he was president,” the committee said.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the committee, said Friday that her panel will continue to pursue its probe of Trump’s lease of the property. The committee has been investigating the issue since Trump was in office.

“For too long, the president has used his complex network of business holdings to hide the truth about his finances,” Maloney said. “The committee will continue to vigorously pursue its investigation until the full truth comes to light so that Congress can address the unresolved ethics crisis left by Trump and prevent future presidents from profiting off of the presidency.”

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/trump-misled-about-d-c-hotel-finances-house-panel-says-n1281103

Senate Judiciary Committee issues sweeping report detailing how Trump and a top DOJ lawyer attempted to overturn 2020 election

0

(CNN) – The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday released a sweeping report about how former President Donald Trump and a top lawyer in the Justice Department attempted to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Trump directly asked the Justice Department nine times to undermine the election result, and his chief of staff Mark Meadows broke administration policy by pressuring a Justice Department lawyer to investigate claims of election fraud, according to the report, which is based on witness interviews of top former Justice Department officials.

The Democratic-led committee also revealed that White House counsel Pat Cipollone threatened to quit in early January as Trump considered replacing then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Jeffrey Clark, a DOJ lawyer who supported election fraud conspiracies.

After the eight-month investigation, the findings highlight the relentlessness of Trump and some of his top advisers as they fixated on using the Justice Department to prop up false conspiracies of election fraud. The committee report, the most comprehensive account so far of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, described his conduct as an abuse of presidential power.

Soon after the release of the report Thursday morning, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office issued a GOP version, which pushes back on the Democrats’ findings and defends Trump, saying he “listened to his senior advisors and followed their advice and recommendations.”

Appearing on CNN’s “New Day” Thursday morning, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said the US was a “half a step away from a constitutional crisis, a full-blown constitutional crisis” and explained the events unfolded in three phases.

“First phase, Trump goes to court. Loses every lawsuit, which claims there was voter fraud in the election. Next, he decides he has to take over the Department of Justice and the attorney general, and have the attorney general push this narrative on to the states to tell them to stop from sending in their Electoral College vote totals. When that failed — and our report goes into graphic detail of the efforts that were made — the third step was to turn the mob loose on the Capitol the day we were counting the ballots,” Durbin said, referring to the January 6 riot.

The 400-page report by Senate Democrats, entitled “Subverting Justice,” slams the actions of Clark, who they say became a crucial player in Trump’s attempt to use the Justice Department for his political gain.

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced on Thursday they were referring him to the DC Bar for a review of his professional conduct, citing rules that bar attorneys from assisting in fraud and interfering with the administration of justice.

The committee said it has not yet made findings of possible criminality, since their investigation is not complete. Clark has not been charged with any crime, and an attorney for Clark didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Clark was not interviewed by the committee. Instead, top Justice Department officials described in interviews his and Trump’s plans to overturn the election.

Clark had pushed Rosen and Richard Donoghue, then the second-in-command at the Justice Department, to use the Justice Department to announce election fraud investigations and ask state leaders in Georgia to appoint electors, potentially disregarding the certified popular vote. Clark began making the pitch in late December after speaking with Trump directly, the committee found.

The Senate committee wrote he may have had assistance from “lower-level allies” within the Justice Department and even attempted to bargain with Rosen on his plan, saying he would turn down a chance at taking Rosen’s place if Rosen would agree to support his Georgia elector initiative.

“Clark’s proposal to wield DOJ’s power to override the already-certified popular vote reflected a stunning distortion of DOJ’s authority: DOJ protects ballot access and ballot integrity, but has no role in determining which candidate won a particular election,” the committee wrote.

Donoghue and Rosen both testified to the committee.

The series of interactions between the President and Rosen and Donoghue began in mid-December with an Oval Office meeting, included several phone calls and continued through January 3.

In multiple calls, Trump claimed there was election fraud in Pennsylvania and Arizona — both states he lost — telling Rosen “people are saying” and asking the Justice Department to look into the rumors, according to the committee.

Trump also told the DOJ leadership, “You guys aren’t following the internet the way I do,” according to both Donoghue and Rosen.

Rosen told the President the department “can’t and won’t just flip a switch and change the election.” That prompted Trump to simply ask for an official Justice announcement that the election was corrupt and then “leave the rest to me and the [Republican] Congressmen,” the committee report noted.

The department hadn’t found any widespread fraud in the election, and simultaneously Trump’s campaign was filing lawsuits to throw out millions of votes in the swing states.

Trump had Rosen and Clark vie for the attorney general’s job during the nearly three-hour meeting on January 3 before deciding not to replace Rosen with Clark, the report found. It also details how discussions about Clark’s plan in Georgia became inextricably linked to talks about him replacing Rosen.

“According to Rosen, Trump opened the meeting by saying, ‘One thing we know is you, Rosen, aren’t going to do anything to overturn the election,'” the report says.

“Over the course of the next three hours, the group had what Donoghue called ‘a wide-ranging conversation’ focused on whether Trump should replace DOJ’s leadership, install Clark in Rosen’s place, and send Clark’s proposed letter—and whether Clark was even qualified to assume the Acting Attorney General position. Rosen and Donoghue told us that by this point, Clark’s proposed letter and his potential role as Acting Attorney General were intertwined,” it adds.

The report goes on to note that at some point during the meeting, Donoghue and Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Steve Engel made clear that there would be mass resignations at DOJ if Trump moved forward with replacing Rosen with Clark — something he told the committee was “important context” for the then-president as he weighed his decision.

Donoghue and Rosen also recalled White House lawyers Cipollone and Patrick Philbin pushing back on the plan to replace Rosen with Clark, with Cipollone calling Clark’s letter a “murder-suicide pact” and the two White House lawyers indicating that they would also resign, according to the report.

Despite the threat of mass resignations, Trump “continued for some time to entertain the idea of installing Clark in Rosen’s place,” the report notes. It also says that Donoghue told the panel that Trump did not reject Clark’s course of action until “‘very deep into the conversation,’ within the final 15 minutes of the two- to three-hour meeting.”

CNN previously reported that Rosen, during his closed-door interview with the committee, spoke of numerous interactions with Clark, but much of the focus of his testimony was on five episodes where Clark went out of the chain of command to push the fraud claims — including the January 3 White House meeting.

https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/07/politics/senate-judiciary-committee-investigation-trump-2020-election/index.html

Report Cites New Details of Trump Pressure on Justice Dept. Over Election

0

(New York Times) – Even by the standards of President Donald J. Trump, it was an extraordinary Oval Office showdown. On the agenda was Mr. Trump’s desire to install a loyalist as acting attorney general to carry out his demands for more aggressive investigations into his baseless claims of election fraud.

On the other side during that meeting on the evening of Jan. 3 were the top leaders of the Justice Department, who warned Mr. Trump that they and other senior officials would resign en masse if he followed through. They received immediate support from another key participant: Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel. According to others at the meeting, Mr. Cipollone indicated that he and his top deputy, Patrick F. Philbin, would also step down if Mr. Trump acted on his plan.

Mr. Trump’s proposed plan, Mr. Cipollone argued, would be a “murder-suicide pact,” one participant recalled. Only near the end of the nearly three-hour meeting did Mr. Trump relent and agree to drop his threat.

Mr. Cipollone’s stand that night is among the new details contained in a lengthy interim report prepared by the Senate Judiciary Committee about Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to do his bidding in the chaotic final weeks of his presidency.

The report draws on documents, emails and testimony from three top Justice Department officials, including the acting attorney general for Mr. Trump’s last month in office, Jeffrey A. Rosen; the acting deputy attorney general, Richard P. Donoghue, and Byung J. Pak, who until early January was U.S. attorney in Atlanta. It provides the most complete account yet of Mr. Trump’s efforts to push the department to validate election fraud claims that had been disproved by the F.B.I. and state investigators.

The interim report, released on Thursday, describes how Justice Department officials scrambled to stave off the pressure during a period when Mr. Trump was getting advice about blocking certification of the election from a lawyer he had first seen on television, and the president’s actions were so unsettling that his top general and the House speaker discussed the nuclear chain of command.

“This report shows the American people just how close we came to a constitutional crisis,” Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “Thanks to a number of upstanding Americans in the Department of Justice, Donald Trump was unable to bend the department to his will. But it was not due to a lack of effort.”

Mr. Durbin said that he believes the former president, who remains a front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2024, would have “shredded the Constitution to stay in power.”

The report by Mr. Durbin’s committee hews closely to previous accounts of the final days of the Trump administration, which led multiple Congressional panels and the Justice Department’s watchdog to open investigations.

But, drawing in particular on interviews with Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue, both of whom were at the Jan. 3 Oval Office meeting, it brings to light new details that underscore the intensity and relentlessness with which Mr. Trump pursued his goal of upending the election, and the role that key government officials played in his efforts.

On at least nine occasions in December and early January, the report found, Mr. Trump asked officials to take actions that they believed would undermine an election result that they had deemed to be valid, and that he and his allies contacted department leaders nearly every day, sometimes multiple times a day.

On Dec. 14, the same day that Attorney General William P. Barr informed Mr. Trump that he was stepping down, leaving Mr. Rosen as acting attorney general, Mr. Trump had an aide email Mr. Rosen two items, the report said.

One was a set of talking points about claims of voter fraud in Michigan. The other was a purported examination of problems with Dominion Voting Systems machines in Michigan. For the next three weeks, the report said, Mr. Trump would continue to push the Justice Department to investigate similarly specious allegations.

The report fleshes out the role of Jeffrey Clark, a little-known Justice Department official who participated in multiple conversations with Mr. Trump about how to upend the election and who pushed his superiors to send Georgia officials a letter that falsely claimed the Justice Department had identified “significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election.”

Mr. Trump was weighing whether to replace Mr. Rosen with Mr. Clark. At the start of the Jan. 3 Oval Office meeting, Mr. Rosen recounted, Mr. Trump said, “One thing we know is you, Rosen, aren’t going to do anything to overturn the election.”

The report also detailed a Jan. 2 confrontation during which Mr. Clark seemed to both threaten and coerce Mr. Rosen to send the letter. He first raised the prospect that Mr. Trump could fire Mr. Rosen, and then said that he would decline any offer to replace Mr. Rosen as acting attorney general if Mr. Rosen sent the letter.

Mr. Clark also revealed during that meeting that he had secretly conducted a witness interview with someone in Georgia in connection with election fraud allegations that had already been disproved.

The report raised fresh questions about what role Representative Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, played in the White House effort to pressure the Justice Department to help upend the election. Mr. Perry called Mr. Donoghue to pressure him into investigating debunked election fraud allegations that had been made in Pennsylvania, the report said, and he complained to Mr. Donoghue that the Justice Department was not doing enough to look into such claims.

Mr. Clark, the report said, also told officials that he had participated in the White House’s efforts at Mr. Perry’s request, and that the lawmaker took him to a meeting at the Oval Office to discuss voter fraud. That meeting occurred at around the same time that Mr. Perry and members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus met at the White House to discuss the Jan. 6 certification of the election results.

The report confirmed that Mr. Trump was the reason that Mr. Pak hastily left his role as U.S. attorney in Atlanta, an area that Mr. Trump wrongly told people he had won. Mr. Trump told top Justice Department officials that Mr. Pak was a never-Trumper, and he blamed Mr. Pak for the F.B.I.’s failure to find evidence of mass election fraud there.

During the Jan. 3 meeting in the Oval Office, Mr. Donoghue and others tried to convince Mr. Trump not to fire Mr. Pak, as he planned to resign in just a few days. But Mr. Trump made it clear to the officials that Mr. Pak was to leave the following day, leading Mr. Donoghue to phone him that evening and tell him he should pre-emptively resign.

Mr. Trump also went outside the normal line of succession to push for a perceived loyalist, Bobby L. Christine, to run the Atlanta office. Mr. Christine had been the U.S. attorney in Savannah, and had donated to Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Republicans have sought for months to downplay reports of Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign, arguing that he simply cast a wide net for legal advice and correctly concluded that it would be a mistake to replace Mr. Rosen with Mr. Clark. Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, echoed those sentiments on Thursday with the release of a report by committee Republicans, which called Mr. Trump’s actions “consistent with his responsibilities as president to faithfully execute the law and oversee the Executive Branch.”

But Mr. Rosen, Mr. Donoghue and Mr. Pak — all Republicans — testified that Mr. Trump was not seeking their legal advice, but strong-arming them to violate their oaths of office, undermine the results of the election and subvert the Constitution.

The report is not the Senate Judiciary Committee’s final word on the pressure campaign.

The panel is still waiting for the National Archives to furnish documents, calendar appointments and communications involving the White House that concern efforts to subvert the election. It asked the National Archives, which stores correspondence and documents generated by previous presidential administrations, for the records this spring.

It is also waiting to see whether Mr. Clark will sit for an interview and help provide missing details about what was happening inside the White House during the Trump administration’s final weeks. Additionally, the committee has asked the District of Columbia Bar, which licenses and disciplines attorneys, to open a disciplinary investigation into Mr. Clark based on its findings.

The report recommended that the Justice Department tighten procedures concerning when it can take certain overt steps in election-related fraud investigations. As attorney general, the report said, Mr. Barr weakened the department’s decades-long strict policy of not taking investigative steps in fraud cases until after an election is certified, a measure that is meant to keep the fact of a federal investigation from impacting the election outcome.

The Senate panel found that Mr. Barr personally demanded that the department investigate voter fraud allegations, even if other authorities had looked into them and not found evidence of wrongdoing. These allegations included a claim by Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and a prime force behind the unfounded election fraud allegations, that he had a tape that showed Democratic poll workers kicking their Republican counterparts from a polling station and fraudulently adding votes for Joseph R. Biden Jr. into the count.

On Dec. 1, just two weeks before saying he would step down, Mr. Barr said that the Justice Department had found no evidence of voter fraud widespread enough to change the fact that Mr. Biden had won the presidency.

But Mr. Trump kept coming back to unsubstantiated accounts of election fraud.

Soon after the completion of the Oval Office meeting on the night of Jan. 3, the committee’s report said, Mr. Trump reached out to Mr. Donoghue, asking him to look into reports that the Department of Homeland Security had taken possession of a truck full of shredded ballots outside of Atlanta.

The report turned out to be false.

www.nytimes.com/2021/10/06/us/politics/trump-election-fraud-report.html