While testifying Tuesday before the House Intelligence Committee, former CIA Director John Brennan revealed that FBI intelligence uncovered "contacts and interactions" between Russian officials and individuals involved with the Trump campaign. Brennan said he had grown "concerned" that those individuals may have been influenced to act on behalf of the Russian government.
Those worries persisted when he stepped down as CIA director on Jan. 20, Brennan testified. "I had unresolved questions in my mind, as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf again, either in a witting or unwitting fashion," Brennan said, calling the FBI investigation into Trump associates and Russians "well-founded."
Though he's certain that "Russia brazenly interfered in the 2016 election process," Brennan noted he does not "know whether such collusion [with Trump associates] existed."
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) May 23, 2017
Brennan said he explicitly warned Russia against meddling in the U.S. presidential election in a phone call on Aug. 4 to the head of the Russian intelligence service. Brennan testified that he'd threatened such interference would "destroy any near-term prospect of improvement" in U.S.-Russia relations. "I believe I was the first U.S. official to brace Russia on this matter," Brennan said. Becca Stanek
In a closed-door meeting Friday with House and Senate members, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stood by the memo he wrote to President Trump outlining his concerns with FBI Director James Comey. After opening with a candid statement about his "personal affection" for Comey, he detailed the series of missteps he felt Comey had made that led him to believe "it was appropriate to seek a new leader" for the FBI.
Rosenstein confirmed he had learned on May 8 that Trump intended to dismiss Comey and wanted his advice; the memo is dated May 9, the day that Trump fired Comey. "I wrote it. I believe it. I stand by it," Rosenstein said. He insisted there has not been "any political interference."
House members described Rosenstein's statement as "very guarded" and "frustratingly cautious." "It's clear he just wanted to defer to Mueller on everything tough," one Democratic lawmaker told CNN, referring to former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to probe Trump's ties to Russia.
Rosenstein also claimed Friday that neither he nor his staff were "aware of any such request" by the FBI for "additional resources" for the FBI's investigation into Russia's election interference. Reports have indicated Comey asked for more resources to expedite the investigation just days before Trump fired him. Becca Stanek
Richard Rojas, the driver who plowed into pedestrians in New York City's Times Square on Thursday, has been charged with murder, 20 counts of attempted murder, and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide. Rojas, 26, was arrested Thursday after he drove his car through the crowded tourist site just before noon, killing an 18-year-old tourist and injuring 22 others, four of them critically. He was arrested after he attempted to flee his vehicle.
Initial tests indicated that Rojas, a resident of the Bronx and a Navy veteran discharged due to disciplinary issues, was under the influence of the drug PCP, The Washington Post reported. Police reported Rojas said he was "hearing voices." He has been arrested twice before for drunken driving. Becca Stanek
Controversial Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has accepted a position as an assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, he announced Wednesday in an interview with 1130 WISN Radio. "I'm both honored and humbled to be appointed to this position by [DHS Secretary John Kelly], working for the Trump administration in this position," Clarke reportedly said. He will reportedly assume the job in June; The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted the position "does not require Senate confirmation."
Clarke, a registered Democrat but a fervent Trump surrogate, has made quite a name for himself in his four terms as sheriff. He is currently facing a lawsuit over an inmate's death in his jail from "profound dehydration," after the prisoner's pleas for water were ignored for days; a medical examiner classified the death as a homicide. Clarke has also made headlines for suggesting Black Lives Matter should be labeled as a "hate group"; proposing "putting an assault rifle in the talons of the bald eagle on the U.S. national seal"; and refusing to disclose details of a trip he took to Moscow in 2015 on behalf of the National Rifle Association.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Clarke will work in the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Partnership and Engagement as "a liaison with state, local, and tribal law enforcement and governments." Clarke also said he plans to advocate for his local law enforcement counterparts who "feel like they're being ignored." Becca Stanek
Update 5:15 p.m. ET: The Department of Homeland Security clarified on its official Twitter account that announcements are only official when announced by DHS, and DHS has made "no such announcement."
Sr. positions are announced when made official by the Sec. No such announcement w/ regard to the Office of Public Engagement has been made.
— Homeland Security (@DHSgov) May 17, 2017
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster briefed the press Tuesday regarding reports President Trump disclosed highly sensitive intelligence information to Russian officials. McMaster said Trump's conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was "wholly appropriate," and said Trump "wasn't even aware" of where the information he revealed "came from."
McMaster says Pres. Trump "wasn't even aware of where this information came from" before discussing intel with Russian foreign minister. pic.twitter.com/3dhz0L4Yof
— ABC News (@ABC) May 16, 2017
Experts had said Trump's disclosure could have compromised intelligence sources. McMaster said Trump "wasn't briefed on the sources and methods" of the intelligence collection, and insisted Trump "in no way compromised any sources or methods in the course of this conversation."
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe on Thursday declared the ongoing FBI investigation into President Trump's ties to Russia "highly significant." McCabe's statement, made while testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, contradicted the White House's claim that this investigation is "probably one of the smallest things" the FBI has "got going on their plate." McCabe said he would not provide updates to the White House regarding the ongoing investigation.
McCabe also flatly denied the White House's claim that James Comey had lost the support of FBI rank-and-file before Trump abruptly fired him Tuesday. "[Former FBI] Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day," McCabe said, adding that the "vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection" to Comey. On Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed Comey had "lost the confidence" of FBI employees.
On top of the contradictions revealed Thursday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein requested a meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee. Rosenstein's letter to Trump outlining a rationale for firing Comey has largely been credited as the impetus behind the decision, but reports suggest Rosenstein is irate the White House is blaming him for the ouster. Becca Stanek
President Trump requested that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein draft the letters that ultimately led him to fire FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, McClatchy reports. Sessions and Rosenstein reportedly met with Trump on Monday in the Oval Office and urged him to fire Comey, and Trump asked them to write out their concerns.
Rosenstein wrote a three-page memo condemning Comey's "wrong" handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. Just "hours" after receiving that memo Tuesday, Trump drafted his own letter firing Comey, which did not mention the email investigation. The letter was reportedly delivered to FBI headquarters by Trump's director of Oval Office operations and former bodyguard, Keith Schiller. Comey was not in the building, however, as he was addressing bureau employees in Los Angeles.
A White House spokeswoman initially denied that Trump asked Rosenstein for the memo, but then later said that while Trump asked Rosenstein to put his concerns in writing, it was Rosenstein who approached Trump about Comey. Becca Stanek
Spicer claims the White House didn't act immediately on Flynn warning because Yates is a 'political opponent'
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer suggested Tuesday that the Trump administration waited weeks to heed former acting Attorney General Sally Yates' warning about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn because Yates was "a political opponent." Claiming without evidence that Yates, a longtime Department of Justice employee appointed in the Bush era, was a "strong supporter of Clinton," Spicer argued it would have been "pretty irrational" if the White House "dismissed somebody because a political opponent of the president had made an utterance."
Yates testified Monday before Congress that she warned the White House on Jan. 26 that Flynn was "compromised with respect to the Russians" because the Kremlin knew he'd misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversation with a Russian ambassador. Flynn was fired on Feb. 13. Becca Stanek