When Attorney General Jeff Sessions responded to criticism from President Donald Trump with a statement issued on Aug. 23, major media outlets zeroed in on what appeared to be a tiff between the commander-in-chief and his top attorney. Few devoted any time to the substance of Trump’s response to that statement the next day.
In his response, the president lauded Sessions for his dedication to not being swayed by political considerations and implored him to investigate a list of 12 cases of potential corruption, many of which Trump has been vocal about for months.
“Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” Trump wrote on Twitter, quoting the statement by Sessions.
“Jeff, this is GREAT, what everyone wants, so look into all of the corruption on the ‘other side,’ including deleted Emails, Comey lies & leaks, Mueller conflicts, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr, FISA abuse, Christopher Steele & his phony and corrupt Dossier, the Clinton Foundation, illegal surveillance of Trump Campaign, Russian collusion by Dems – and so much more,” Trump continued.
“Open up the papers & documents without redaction? Come on Jeff, you can do it, the country is waiting!”
Sessions earlier had confirmed investigations into 10 of the 12 matters Trump referenced in the message. The attorney general hasn’t confirmed that an investigation exists into either former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “deleted emails” or into the potential conflicts of interest of the office of special counsel Robert Mueller. Both of those matters are extensively tied to other items on Trump’s list and the topics likely reflect the president’s priorities for the attorney general.
Though each of the matters on Trump’s list has been covered extensively in the past, the recent declassification of documents and reporting on previously undisclosed communications has shed light on what may be suspicious steps taken by government officials and foreign actors before and after the 2016 presidential election.
The case of Clinton’s use of an unauthorized private email to server to conduct government business tops Trump’s list, likely because of a major investigative report published days earlier, detailing how biased FBI officials reviewed less than 1 percent of emails stored on the laptop of convicted sex-offender Anthony Weiner, the husband of top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
The last known investigation into the matter concluded earlier this year with the release of the inspector general’s report on the email investigation. The report concluded that although improper bias among FBI personnel cast a cloud over the investigation, the inspector general believes there is no evidence to prove that the bias led to concrete actions in the investigation.
While the report officially wrapped up the Clinton mail matter, the specifics of its findings, especially regarding the mishandling of the Weiner laptop analysis, opened up avenues for further investigation.
Comey and McCabe
Former FBI Director James Comey admitted that he leaked memos of his meetings with Trump to a friend, in order to trigger the appointment of a special counsel. According to congressional investigators, at least one of the memos contained classified material. Meanwhile, Comey’s top deputy at the time, Andrew McCabe, was fired for leaking to the media and lying about it to investigators. Both have been referred for investigation.
The investigative report released last week about the handling of the Weiner laptop presented Americans with extensive evidence that Comey lied to Congress when he certified that the FBI had “reviewed all of the communications” on the device.
That wasn’t the only time Comey may have lied.
According to a letter (pdf) to Sessions from Sen. Charles Grassley, Comey also misled Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) during a private briefing on the timeline of the FBI’s interactions with former British spy Christopher Steele.
Grassley referred the findings on Comey and a long list of other issues to Sessions on March 15. Two weeks later, Sessions confirmed that he had referred these matters, among a host of others, to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who is working closely with U.S. Attorney John Huber.
On June 18, Horowitz confirmed the investigation of Comey in sworn testimony before the House judiciary committee.
At least 13 members of Mueller’s team are registered Democrats and 11 have donated to Democratic candidates. As of June, none of the known members of the team were registered Republicans.
But the potential conflicts don’t end there. Mueller inherited the investigation into the Trump campaign from an FBI team with an intense bias against the president. Peter Strzok, the lead FBI agent on the case in 2016 and part of 2017, sent messages bashing Trump and favoring Clinton to his mistress, FBI attorney Lisa Page.
Both Strzok and Page were briefly on Mueller’s team. The FBI fired Strzok on Aug. 13, in part for his problematic communications. Page left the bureau earlier this year.
Strzok, Page, Ohr, and Steele
While Strzok and Page have become the poster children of the problematic probe into the Trump campaign, Justice Department official Bruce Ohr is a recent addition to the story.
Ohr’s involvement with the probe of the Trump campaign became public several months ago, but recently revealed communications between him and British ex-spy Steele, the author of the infamous anti-Trump dossier, showed that he was one of the central players in the scheme.
According to text messages between Ohr and Steele and statements by congressional investigators, Ohr became Steele’s conduit for funneling information to the FBI after the bureau had terminated Steele for leaking to the media. Ohr is expected to answer lawmakers’ question on Capitol Hill behind closed doors on Aug. 28.
Ohr stayed in regular contact with Steele and the FBI regularly interviewed Ohr at least 12 times between Nov. 22, 2016, and May 15, 2017. Notably, Ohr met with Strzok and Page the day before his first interview. The regular interviews stopped after Trump fired Comey.
Strzok, Page, and Ohr are all implicated in the potential abuse of the spying powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Strzok’s team obtained a FISA warrant to surveil Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page using the anti-Trump dossier funneled to the bureau by Ohr.
During a crucial period in 2016, Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked on the same anti-Trump project at Fusion GPS as Steele. The Clinton campaign and the DNC ultimately paid for Steele and Ohr’s work.
Strzok’s team at the FBI used Steele’s dossier to apply for a warrant to spy on Page. The officials who applied for the warrant failed to mention that Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPS, that Clinton and the DNC paid for the dossier, and that Steele had an intense bias against Trump, among other issues.
Russian Collusion by Dems
All of the above has led Trump and Republican lawmakers to believe that the real collusion with Russia was committed by Democrats and their allies.
Steele compiled his dossier using second- and third-hand sources linked to the Kremlin. According to Ohr’s notes, most of the information in Steele’s dossier came from a Russian intelligence operative living in the United States.
When Strzok and others applied to spy on Carter Page, the application didn’t mention that Fusion GPS was subject to an official complaint that it had failed to register as a foreign agent of Russia in connection to its lobbying work opposing the Global Magnitsky Act.
While Steele and Ohr performed their duties for Fusion GPS, the firm accepted money from Russia for the lobbying project.