Politics

Rubio: Trump should be 'clear-eyed' about who Putin is

Rubio: Trump should be 'clear-eyed' about who Putin is

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio said Sunday that he supports President Donald Trump interacting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but said Trump should be aware of Putin's human r ... Continue Reading
Kavanaugh: Supreme Court case on Watergate tapes might have been 'wrongly decided'

Kavanaugh: Supreme Court case on Watergate tapes might have been 'wrongly decided'

WASHINGTON (CNN) - US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said back in 1999 that the landmark Supreme Court opinion that ordered President Richard Nixon to turn over White House recordings toward th ... Continue Reading
Trump attorneys waive privilege on secret recording about ex-Playmate payment

Trump attorneys waive privilege on secret recording about ex-Playmate payment

(CNN) - President Donald Trump's lawyers have waived attorney-client privilege on his behalf regarding a secretly recorded conversation he had in September 2016 with his former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen in which they discussed payments to an ex-Playboy model who says she had an affair with the President, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The move comes as an attorney for Cohen openly questioned Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani's claim that the tape showed no wrongdoing by the President, furthering the growing divide between Trump and Cohen, who had once said he'd take a bullet for the President.

Trump's lawyers asking on behalf of the President to remove the privilege designation from the recording means that the government now has access to it as part of the US attorney for the Southern District of New York's probe into Cohen. It effectively gives prosecutors the ability to use the recording if they find it relevant to their criminal investigation of Cohen.

The prosecutors working on the case had not reviewed the recording because it, along with millions of other documents and files seized in FBI searches of Cohen's home, hotel room and office in April, was undergoing the special master process, in which an independent party reviews whether the items should be regarded as privileged and thus withheld from prosecutors. The special master had designated the recording as privileged, according to two sources familiar with the process, but Trump's lawyers subsequently waived their right to maintain that designation.

After The New York Times first revealed the existence of the tape -- and Giuliani claimed the tape was exculpatory evidence that did no harm to Trump --- his legal team decided to remove any protection relating to the attorney-client relationship on this specific matter.

The President's attorneys clearly believe that the tape will not show any wrongdoing by their client. The transaction never happened, Giuliani told CNN.

But Giuliani's claims that the tape does Trump no damage was disputed by a source close to Cohen who said that Giuliani is "trying to say what is bad is good." Later Lanny Davis, Cohen's newest attorney, put out a statement claiming that "when the recording is heard, it will not hurt Michael Cohen. Any attempt at spin cannot change what is on the tape."

Team Cohen remains surprised that Trump's lawyers removed the protective claim of privilege, given their view that the tape is harmful to the President. They claim that Giuliani is mischaracterizing the tape in key ways that contradict the facts of the conversation as they see them. But they declined to offer a description of their exact view of the conversation beyond saying that Giuliani's more benign descriptions of the tape are contradictory to what actually occurred.

What's more, they see Giuliani's public comments as a way to change the subject from the President's near-universally panned performance in Helsinki, Finland, at the beginning of last week.

Giuliani put a positive spin on the content of the in-person conversation on Friday, describing it as Trump discussing potential payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who alleges Trump an affair with her. Trump denies the allegation.

"Cohen is talking about buying the rights from AMI (American Media Inc.)," Giuliani told CNN on Friday. "They're talking about a corporation doing it, one of their corporations doing it. The President says 'make sure it's done correctly, and make sure it's done by check.'"

Giuliani's point is that Trump did nothing wrong -- that before the conversation he knew nothing about any payments, noting that no payment was made and that he suggested paying by check so there would be a record of it.

The President's lawyer also sought to position the President as wronged by the recording. Trump was stunned to hear about the tape, Giuliani said, and, according to a source familiar with the matter, responded when informed of its existence that "I can't believe Michael would do this to me." Giuliani said the recording is short---less than two minutes, according to another source -- and was simply a professional exchange between a client and his lawyer.

That was echoed Saturday by the President, who tweeted that it was "inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client - totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!"

In response, Cohen attorney Davis tweeted, "The strategy of @realdonaldtrump @potus @RudyGiuliani is flawed; just as is #Trump's false #Twitter statement made against @michaelcohen212 this morning. Rudy claims the tape is "exculpatory". Why so angry?"

Asked about the Davis tweet, Giuliani told CNN on Saturday: "How would you feel if your lawyer was recording you without telling you? The tweet is straightforward and correct."

One of the sources familiar with the matter pointed out that New York is a "one-party" consent state, meaning that as long as one participant in the conversation gives permission to record, it is legal.

"Taping a conversation is the functional equivalent of retaining notes," the source said.

The source added that the recording and any lawyer's notes are privileged and non-public and called it ironic that Trump would complain about the recording and yet also choose to release it.

"It is the client who owns the privilege and not the lawyer," the source said. "In this specific instance, it was Trump who waived the privilege after Special Master Jones ruled the tape was privileged. Team Trump actually contacted the judge and waived the privilege, thus, permitting Rudy (Giuliani) the ability to release his version of the tape's content. It is ironic that Trump would complain about a privileged tape that would not have been released and then chooses to make it public himself. Very foolish strategy by team Trump."

When the existence of the apparent deal with AMI was first reported by The Wall Street Journal just days before the election, the campaign said that the President was unaware of anything relating to a McDougal payoff, and Hope Hicks---then a spokeswoman---denied that Trump even had an affair with McDougal. But the recording, made two months earlier, suggests otherwise.

In addition, Giuliani has said there is only one real conversation with the President and the rest are non-substantive, short, more mundane conversations about ministerial matters, like setting up discussions.

But one source close to Cohen, without specifying any conversation or naming Trump himself, says there are "definitely all kinds of tapes out there." Two other sources said that beyond the tape with the President there were other recordings of "powerful" people speaking with Cohen that the FBI seized.

At this point, Cohen has not has any conversations with prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, one source says. But lately Cohen has gone out of his way to distance himself from the President, tweeting shade about the president's Helsinki performance. In a CNN story earlier this month, a source close to Cohen indicated that "the truth is not you or your client's friend." The source also said that Cohen "is no longer taking a bullet for you (Trump), is no longer a flunky," calling his declaration of independence "his July 4th moment."

Trump is growing impatient with the slow pace of North Korea talks

Trump is growing impatient with the slow pace of North Korea talks

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Here are the stories our D.C. insiders are talking about in this week's "Inside Politics" forecast, where you get a glimpse of tomorrow's headlines today.Less than six weeks afte ... Continue Reading
Democratic lawmaker calls for 'new generation' of leadership in party

Democratic lawmaker calls for 'new generation' of leadership in party

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A Democratic congressman from Massachusetts is calling for "a new generation of leadership" to emerge in the party come November. "This is bigger than one person, what we need is ... Continue Reading
Carter Page says FISA warrant accusations 'so ridiculous' and 'misleading'

Carter Page says FISA warrant accusations 'so ridiculous' and 'misleading'

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Carter Page on Sunday called the accusations against him detailed in the foreign surveillance warrant application released by the FBI "so ridiculous."

"You talk about misleading the courts, it's just so misleading," Page said about the warrant application in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union with Jake Tapper."

"It's literally a complete joke," he told Tapper.

On Saturday, the FBI released a redacted version of the warrant application on Page, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, after news organizations and advocacy groups sued for its disclosure.

Tapper asked Page about being a past adviser to Russia, to which Page said the term adviser was "way over the top."

"I sat in on some meetings," Page said.

However, when Tapper pressed him about his previous comments referring to himself as an informal adviser to the Kremlin, Page downplayed his earlier remarks, responding, "informal, having some conversations with people, I mean, this is really nothing and just an attempt to distract from the real crimes shown in this misleading document."

The release of the document is noteworthy as it marks the first public disclosure of a highly sensitive FISA request. Information included in the request had been largely reported through two declassified memos released separately by Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, but Saturday's disclosure put the FBI's own argument in black and white for the first time.

President Donald Trump on Sunday also accused the Justice Department and the FBI of misleading the courts, following the release of a previously classified foreign surveillance warrant application.

Trump wrote in a Sunday morning tweet that the FISA documents "confirm with little doubt," that the Justice Department and FBI "misled the courts," despite the fact that the document itself acted as legal justification for the FBI to obtain the 2016 warrant.

"Congratulations to @JudicialWatch and @TomFitton on being successful in getting the Carter Page FISA documents," Trump wrote. "As usual they are ridiculously heavily redacted but confirm with little doubt that the Department of 'Justice' and FBI misled the courts. Witch Hunt Rigged, a Scam!"

Trump went on to allege in a second tweet that his campaign was potentially being "illegally" surveilled for "the political gain of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC."

"Looking more & more like the Trump Campaign for President was illegally being spied upon (surveillance) for the political gain of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC. Ask her how that worked out - she did better with Crazy Bernie. Republicans must get tough now. An illegal Scam!" Trump's follow up tweet on Sunday morning said.

The warrant has been a major point of contention between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans have charged that it's evidence of a pattern of abuse by the Justice Department and the FBI targeting the Trump campaign. They also say the warrant is tainted --- based on the opposition research dossier on Trump and Russia that was paid for by Democrats --- and that because the FISA warrant helped launch the FBI investigation into Trump and Russia, the whole investigation is tainted.

Democrats, however, say the FISA warrant on Page was justified because of his contacts with Russia, and they argue that the FBI and Justice Department followed proper procedure in seeking and getting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to approve the warrant.

Democrats also argue the FBI's interest in Page predated its knowledge of the opposition research dossier and say it was not the dossier and the Page FISA warrant that prompted the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into Russia, but rather an earlier conversation that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had with an Australian diplomat about alleged Russian dirt on Clinton.

On Sunday, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida defended the warrant in an interview on "State of the Union."

"I don't think they did anything wrong," he said. "I think they went to the court, they got the judges to approve it, they laid out all the information, and there was a lot of reasons unrelated to the dossier for why they wanted to look at Carter Page, and Carter Page was not a key member of the Trump campaign."

The document released Saturday, which is more than 400 pages and includes the initial October 2016 FISA warrant on Page as well as three subsequent renewals, says that the FBI "believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government."

"The FBI believes that Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government," the application states, adding that "there is probable cause that such activities involve or are about to involve violations of the criminal statutes of the United States."

Page on Sunday denied claims that he worked for the Kremlin, and called accusations that he had advised Moscow "spin."

"No, I've never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination," he said. "I may have, back in the G20 when they were getting ready to do that in St. Petersburg, I might have participated in a few meetings that a lot of people -- including people from the Obama administration -- were sitting on, and Geneva, Paris, et cetera, but I've never been anywhere near what's being described here."

Trump also continued to tweet Sunday about the document's release, quoting Fox News' Pete Hegseth and Andrew McCarthy.

"Andrew McCarthy - 'I said this could never happen. This is so bad that they should be looking at the judges who signed off on this stuff, not just the people who gave it. It is so bad it screams out at you.' On the whole FISA scam which led to the rigged Mueller Witch Hunt!" Trump wrote.

Trump continued in another tweet: ".@PeteHegseth on @FoxNews 'Source #1 was the (Fake) Dossier. Yes, the Dirty Dossier, paid for by Democrats as a hit piece against Trump, and looking for information that could discredit Candidate #1 Trump. Carter Page was just the foot to surveil the Trump campaign...' ILLEGAL!"

Fellow Sioux Falls residents speak out on alleged spy's boyfriend

Fellow Sioux Falls residents speak out on alleged spy's boyfriend

SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota (CNN) - A man who had a close relationship with suspected Russian spy Maria Butina is a charming political operative who left a trail of aggrieved former business partners co ... Continue Reading
Democrats eye expanded map of governor's races in key year for redistricting

Democrats eye expanded map of governor's races in key year for redistricting

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How long will Mueller's investigation go on?

How long will Mueller's investigation go on?

(CNN) - With the recent criminal indictment of 12 Russian intelligence agents, the special counsel's office made clear it has a treasure trove of information for its investigation into Russia's inter ... Continue Reading
FBI releases Carter Page surveillance warrant documents

FBI releases Carter Page surveillance warrant documents

(CNN) - The FBI on Saturday released a redacted version of its previously classified foreign surveillance warrant application on Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, which has been the subject of a heated partisan debate over the FBI's tactics investigating members of the Trump campaign.

The FBI released the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant application after news organizations and advocacy groups like Judicial Watch sued for its disclosure.

The warrant, which was approved for Page in 2016, allowed the FBI to conduct surveillance on Page. It's been one of the key moves that Republicans have charged is evidence of a pattern of abuse by the Justice Department and the FBI targeting the Trump campaign.

The release itself is significant as it marks the first public disclosure of a highly sensitive FISA request. Information included in the request had been largely reported through two declassified memos released separately by Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, but Saturday's disclosure puts the FBI's own argument in black and white for the first time.

The more than 400-page document released Saturday, which includes the initial October 2016 FISA warrant on Page and three subsequent renewals, is heavily redacted.

It states that the FBI "believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government."

"The FBI believes that Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government," the application states, adding that "there is probable cause that such activities involve or are about to involve violations of the criminal statutes of the United States."

The application says that a significant purpose of the request is to "collect foreign intelligence information as part of the FBI's investigation of this target."

It does have some information about Page's activities, which included a July 2016 trip to Russia in which Page was accused in the opposition research dossier of having met with a top Russian energy official, something Page denies.

The application notes that Page sent a letter to then-FBI Director James Comey to deny the accusation two days after a news story came out stating that Page was under investigation.

Signatures from top FBI and Justice Department officials, including Comey, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appear on each of the four applications.

Page has denied that he ever cut any political deals with the Kremlin.

The FISA warrant that was issued and renewed multiple times for Page was the subject of the memo written by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes that charged the FBI abused its surveillance powers.

Conservative critics of special counsel Robert Mueller have argued that the FISA warrant is tainted --- based on the opposition research dossier on Trump and Russia that was paid for by Democrats --- and that because the FISA warrant helped launch the FBI investigation into Trump and Russia, the whole investigation is tainted.

Democrats, however, say that the FISA warrant on Page was justified because of his contacts with Russia, and they argue that the FBI and Justice Department followed proper procedure in seeking and getting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to approve the warrant.

In a statement Saturday, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, said the applications "underscore the legitimate concern FBI had about Page's activities as it was investigating Russia's interference."

"These documents affirm that our nation faced a profound counterintelligence threat prior to the 2016 election, and the Department of Justice and FBI took appropriate steps to investigate whether any U.S. persons were acting as an agent of a foreign power," Schiff said.

The dispute over Page's FISA warrant has been previously fought in the form of dueling memos that Nunes and Schiff issued earlier this year.

Nunes' memo, which was cited by President Donald Trump in his attacks on the Mueller investigation, alleges that the author of the dossier, ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, harbored anti-Trump motivations that were not disclosed in the FISA application.

Worse, the memo alleges, the FISA court was not told that Steele's dossier was funded through a law firm by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Democrats responded with their own memo, which argued that the FBI's interest in Page predated the FBI's knowledge of the Steele dossier. It also argues that it was not the dossier and the Page FISA warrant that prompted the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into Russia, but rather an earlier conversation that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had with an Australian diplomat about alleged Russian dirt on Clinton.

The material in a FISA warrant is considered highly classified, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court proceedings are also conducted in secret.

But after Nunes issued a subpoena to gain access to the documents, he used a House procedure to make public classified materials, so long as the White House did not object.

The release of some information related to the Page FISA document in both the Republican and Democratic memos led to lawsuits from groups like Judicial Watch seeking more information from the Page FISA warrant.

Clinton criticizes Trump, saying 'hardly anybody who believes in freedom gets along with' Putin

Clinton criticizes Trump, saying 'hardly anybody who believes in freedom gets along with' Putin

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Hillary Clinton on Saturday criticized President Donald Trump over his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that "hardly anybody who believes in freedom gets ... Continue Reading
Intelligence chief says he didn't mean 'to be disrespectful' about Trump's Putin invite

Intelligence chief says he didn't mean 'to be disrespectful' about Trump's Putin invite

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Mnuchin 'very hopeful' on trade talks with EU, Japan

Mnuchin 'very hopeful' on trade talks with EU, Japan

(CNN) - Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is "very hopeful" the US can make progress brokering separate free trade deals with the European Union and Japan during a weekend summit in Buenos Aires. ... Continue Reading
Democratic governors set to take on the bigger names in 2020 race

Democratic governors set to take on the bigger names in 2020 race

SANTA FE, New Mexico (CNN) - A handful of Democratic governors are wading into the early stages of the 2020 presidential contest. Three governors -- Montana's Steve Bullock, Colorado's John Hickenl ... Continue Reading
Trump says 'inconceivable' that Cohen recorded conversation about ex-Playmate payment

Trump says 'inconceivable' that Cohen recorded conversation about ex-Playmate payment

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Donald Trump lashed out Saturday morning at his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and mischaracterized the government's April raid of Cohen's home and business, one day after reports that Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump about a former Playboy model who says Trump had an affair with her.

"Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer's office (early in the morning) - almost unheard of," Trump wrote on Twitter Saturday morning. "Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client - totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!"

The recording about the former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, which occurred prior to the election, was among the troves of documents and materials that the FBI seized from Cohen's office, home and hotel in New York back in April amid a criminal investigation of Cohen by the US attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. Although Trump charged in his tweet that the FBI broke into Cohen's office, the agency was executing court-approved warrants in conducting the searches.

Despite the President's comment Saturday, he has waived privilege on the recording, said two sources briefed on legal discussions surrounding the materials seized in April. The recording had been deemed privileged by a former federal judge, known as a special master, one of the sources said, adding that Trump's lawyers asked the special master to withdraw the privilege. This gives the government access to the recording as part of the US attorney for the Southern District of New York investigation into Cohen.

Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CNN that Trump had no idea he was being recorded during his conversation with Cohen, which took place in the then-candidate's office at Trump Tower in September 2016.

McDougal signed a contract with American Media Inc., the company that owns the National Enquirer, which barred her from publicly speaking about the alleged affair before the 2016 election. Trump has denied having an affair with McDougal.

On the recording, Cohen and Trump discuss buying the rights to that contract from AMI, according to Giuliani, who described the contract as a "nondisclosure agreement." The discussion, Giuliani said, involved their intention "to reimburse AMI for what they laid out and to do it by check, properly recorded."

A source familiar with the tape said Cohen recommends buying the rights to the story, and Trump asks questions about how they would go about doing that. The discussed payment to AMI ultimately never happened, according to Giuliani.

A spokeswoman for the US attorney's office and Cohen declined to comment. Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, told CNN in a statement the recording will not hurt Cohen.

"Obviously, there is an ongoing investigation and we are sensitive to that," Davis said. "But, suffice it so say, that when the recording that has been widely reported is heard, it will not hurt Mr. Cohen. And any attempt to spin cannot change what is on the tape."

On Saturday, Davis questioned on Twitter why Trump appeared upset in his tweet, pointing out that Giuliani had claimed in the press that the recording is not detrimental to the President.

Trump and Giuliani's strategy is "flawed; just as Trump's false Twitter statement made against Cohen this morning," Davis said. "Rudy claims the tape is 'exculpatory.' Why so angry?" he wrote, referring to Giuliani's comments to the New York Times that the taping is "exculpatory evidence."

When asked about Davis' tweet, Giuliani told CNN, "How would you feel if your lawyer was recording you without telling you?" He added that Trump's "tweet is straightforward and correct."

In recent weeks, documents and other evidence obtained during the April searches have begun to be turned over to the government as the special master, Cohen's lawyers and lawyers representing Trump and the Trump Organization have moved through the process of determining which of the millions of items are subject to attorney-client privilege. The special master, Barbara Jones, has found the vast majority of the items reviewed to be not privileged, according to court filings, indicating that very little of what Cohen did in recent years qualified as legal work.

Cohen's recent public remarks have raised suspicions that he could be willing to seek a cooperation agreement with the US attorney's office that would require him to provide information federal prosecutors could use against other individuals they are examining. It's not clear, however, whether the US attorney's office would be willing to grant Cohen such a deal.

New York is a "one-party" consent state, meaning that as long as one participant in the conversation gives permission to record, it is legal.

The ethics committee of the New York City Bar Association issued an opinion in 2003 that a lawyer may tape a conversation without disclosing so "if the lawyer has a reasonable basis for believing that disclosure of the taping would impair pursuit of a generally accepted societal good."

However, the committee discourages lawyers from routinely recording conversations without disclosing they're recording, calling it "ethically impermissible" because it includes a "sufficient lack of candor" and "element of trickery."

Cohen recorded Trump discussing payment to ex-Playboy model

Cohen recorded Trump discussing payment to ex-Playboy model

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The FBI is in possession of a recording between President Donald Trump and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen in which the two men prior to the election discuss a payment to ... Continue Reading
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says Trump 'supports' the Fed's independence

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says Trump 'supports' the Fed's independence

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CNN) - Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tried to soothe fears President Donald Trump is trying to sway the Federal Reserve's plans to raise interest rates this year."The a ... Continue Reading
The age of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

The age of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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Cynthia Nixon, like Bernie Sanders before her, has a problem with black Democrats

Cynthia Nixon, like Bernie Sanders before her, has a problem with black Democrats

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What is kompromat?

What is kompromat?

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