Over the weekend, and ahead of what may be an imminent release of the notorious FISA memo, we reported that President Trump allegedly broke off with the Department of Justice last week by calling for the release of the four-page “FISA memo” purportedly summarizing widespread surveillance abuses by the FBI, DOJ and Obama Administration.
As the WaPo detailed then, the President’s desire was relayed to AG Jeff Sessions by White House Chief-of-Staff John Kelly last Wednesday – putting the Trump White House at odds with the DOJ – which said that releasing the classified memo written by congressional republicans “extraordinarily reckless” without allowing the Department of Justice to first review the memo detailing its own criminal malfeasance during and after the 2016 presidential election.
And now, we have some additional information on how Trump’s furious disagreement with the DOJ evolved.
According to a Bloomberg report, Trump “erupted in anger” while traveling to Davos on Air Force One when he learned that a top DOJ official – Associate Attorney General Stephen Boyd – sent a letter, warning that it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release the classified 4-page FISA memo written by House Republican staffers, and that it would undercut the Russian collusion probe.
For Trump, the letter was “yet another example of the Justice Department undermining him and stymieing Republican efforts to expose what the president sees as the politically motivated agenda behind Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.”
Ultimately, Jeff Sessions’ job may be on the line depending on whether the FISA memo is kept secret:
Trump’s outburst capped a week where Trump and senior White House officials personally reproached Attorney General Jeff Sessions and asked White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to speak to others — episodes that illustrate Trump’s preoccupation with the Justice Department, according to two of the people.
Trump warned Sessions and others they need to excel at their jobs or go down as the worst in history, the two people said.
After Trump’s strong reaction on Air Force One over the Boyd letter, White House officials, including Kelly, sprang into action again, lashing Justice Department officials Thursday over the decision to send the letter, according to the people.
Furthermore, according to Bloomberg while Trump insist he isn’t preparing to fire Wray, Sessions or other senior officials, “the DOJ’s decision to send the Boyd letter to the House Intelligence Committee last week has intensified Trump’s concern that his own department is undercutting him, several people familiar with the matter said.”
The president is frustrated that Justice Department officials keep getting involved in issues related to the probe when they don’t need to, leading him to wonder if anyone was trying to protect people implicated in the Nunes memo, according to one person familiar with the matter.
In a separate striking development, today FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who has been blasted by Trump and other Republicans, stepped down and will be on leave until he retires sometime in the spring, just hours before the FISA memo’s contents may be publicly disclosed.
Republicans had criticized McCabe’s involvement in aspects of the Trump probe and the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices, even though his wife had accepted donations from Democratic political organizations for an unsuccessful election bid in 2015.
Trump’s anger was exacerbated by reports last week that the president had wanted to fire Mueller last June. The New York Times reported Thursday that the pressure to fire Mueller was averted after White House counsel Don McGahn made clear he would resign before carrying out such an order
As reported earlier, the House Intelligence Committee plans to vote Monday evening on whether to release its classified memo, which contains allegations of counterintelligence surveillance abuses against at least one Trump campaign aide. If the panel votes to release it, it would fall to the White House, perhaps with the advice of intelligence agencies, to decide whether some of the contents are too sensitive and need to be redacted.
Three House lawmakers who have read it said the memo claims FBI officials didn’t provide a complete set of facts in requests made to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court to obtain a warrant or warrants on Carter Page, a Trump campaign associate.
And the punchline: the memo claims important details were left out that might have kept a judge from issuing a surveillance warrant, or possibly two, targeting Page, according to the lawmakers, who asked for anonymity to describe the sensitive document. Those include its claims that investigators were relying partly on an unverified dossier put together by an opposition research firm that hired a former British spy, Christopher Steele — work that was funded by Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, and Democrats.
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and other Republicans have also blasted the FBI over thousands of text messages sent between the two anti-Trump FBI officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who criticized Trump in their exchanges. Some Republicans were angered when the bureau said it had lost some of the texts before the Justice Department’s inspector general announced Thursday that the missing texts had been recovered with forensic tools.
One almost wonders why Trump is so “paranoid” that the deep state is out to get him when – not only do we get we hints of that every single day – but we may be just one memo release away from confirming all of the president’s worst fears.