Christopher Wray Sworn in as FBI Chief

Wray

Christopher Wray was sworn in on Wednesday as the new director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Sworn in by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Wray described the appointment as the “honor of a lifetime”, adding that he is humbled and excited to serve.

Wray was overwhelmingly confirmed by the US Senate as FBI chief on Tuesday, three months after President Donald Trump fired his predecessor James Comey.

Comey was fired in May amid an FBI investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

In a statement, Sessions said Wray “has the experience and the strength of character that the American people want in an FBI director.”

The high-flying criminal lawyer was an uncontroversial choice for the post, winning widespread bipartisan backing after telling lawmakers he would rather resign than bow to political interference. Senators voted 92-5 to confirm him.

He assumes charge at a difficult time for the FBI.

Comey’s sacking led to the appointment of independent prosecutor Robert Mueller as a special counsel.

Wray’s first challenge will likely be to reassure the bureau’s more than 30,000 employees of his commitment to their independence, after insisting to lawmakers he would be his own man.

“You can’t do a job like this without being prepared to either quit or be fired at a moment’s notice you’re asked to do something or confronted with something that is either illegal, unconstitutional or even morally repugnant,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee last month.

“You have to be able to stand firm to your principles.”

Born into a family of New York lawyers, Wray, 50, graduated from Yale Law School and was a Justice Department prosecutor for years.

In 2003, he rose up to assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division, where he mostly oversaw fraud investigations, including the huge case of Enron, the Texas energy firm that imploded with billions of dollars of losses tied to corruption.

In 2005, he resigned to join private practice as a partner at King & Spalding law firm in Washington and Atlanta.

Wray has represented major companies in litigation but also, most recently, worked for Trump ally Chris Christie in the so-called “Bridgegate” political scandal in New Jersey.

FBI chiefs have alternately bolstered and made life miserable for presidents over decades. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton’s eight years in office were plagued by investigations led by Louis Freeh, whom he personally chose to run the agency.

US Soldier Remained in Army despite Support for ISIS

Honolulu — The Army knew Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang had shown support for ISIS years ago. It even took away his security clearance for a while.

But he stayed in the service, deploying to Afghanistan in 2013, The Associated Press reported.

Then, last weekend, the FBI arrested the 34-year-old on terrorism charges following a yearlong investigation, shortly after Kang declared his loyalty to the terrorist group and exclaimed that he wanted to “kill a bunch of people,” according to authorities.

The case highlights the challenges investigators face with protecting the public from a potentially dangerous actor on one hand and gathering sufficient evidence to enable prosecution on the other.

Kang is on record making pro-ISIS comments and threatening to hurt or kill other service members back in 2011, according to an FBI affidavit filed Monday in federal court.

The Army revoked his security clearance in 2012, but gave it back to him the following year. Last year, the Army called the FBI when it “appeared that Kang was becoming radicalized,” the affidavit said.

Retired Army judge and prosecutor Col. Gregory A. Gross said he was perplexed that the Army allowed Kang to remain a soldier even after his favorable comments toward ISIS.

But Gross said the Army may have decided Kang was just mouthing off and was not a threat.

Gross served as the initial judge in the court martial of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 in a 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas. He said Tuesday he was concerned by the similarities between Kang and Hasan’s case.

“He was making all these statements, and giving these presentations,” said Gross, who is currently a civilian defense attorney for military service members.

Lt. Col. Curtis J. Kellogg, a spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division, declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

Kang’s court-appointed lawyer, Birney Bervar, said his client may suffer from service-related mental health issues of which the government was aware but neglected to treat. He declined to elaborate.

Noel Tipon, an attorney in military and civilian courts, said there’s nothing in the Army manual on removing soldiers from the service that would address allegations like speaking favorably about a group like ISIS.

He suspects the FBI wanted Kang to stay in the Army while they investigated whether he had collaborators.

“They probably said ‘let’s monitor it and see if we can get a real terrorist cell,'” said Tipon, who served in the Marine Corps.

The FBI said its investigation showed Kang was acting on his own.

Spokesman Arnold Laanui said the probe took nearly a year given the evidence that needed to be collected and the constitutional rights that needed to be protected.

“These tend to be very meticulous and time-consuming matters,” Laanui said. Public safety, was at the forefront of the case, he said.

The FBI outlined its evidence against Kang in a 26-page affidavit filed Monday. It includes allegations that Kang filmed a combat training video for ISIS and bought a drone he believed would be sent to the Middle East to help the group’s fighters.

Agents said none of the military documents — classified and unclassified — that Kang gave to people he believed were affiliated with ISIS ever got to the group.

Kang’s father told Honolulu television station KHON and the Star-Advertiser newspaper his son may have had post-traumatic stress disorder. Kang told the newspaper he became concerned after his son’s return from Afghanistan. He said his son was withdrawn.

Kang enlisted in the Army in December 2001, just months after the Sept. 11 attacks. He served in South Korea from 2002 to 2003. He deployed to Iraq from March 2010 to February 2011 and Afghanistan from July 2013 to April 2014.

US Soldier Arrested for Purchasing Drone for ISIS

Kang

Washington – Nearly two months after the trial of an American soldier who had provided aid to ISIS, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Honolulu announced the arrest of another for also helping the terrorist group.

Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang was taken into custody over the weekend after the 34-year-old veteran of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan declared his loyalty to the terrorist group and exclaimed that he wanted to “kill a bunch of people,” according to authorities.

The detainee had also bought a drone in order to send it to ISIS extremists.

Kang was arrested in Hawaii where he was deployed at a military base, announced an FBI spokesman on Monday.

A 26-page affidavit from FBI agent Jimmy Chen filed in court Monday detailed how Kang thought he was dealing with people working for ISIS but who were actually undercover agents.

Kang and the agents together made combat training videos he believed would be taken to the Middle East to help prepare the group’s soldiers to fight American forces, according to the affidavit.

On Saturday, Kang and an undercover agent allegedly went shopping for a drone to give to ISIS extremists.

Kang said the drone would allow the fighters to view the battlefield from above “to find tank positions and avenues for escape” from US soldiers, the affidavit said. He used his debit card to pay nearly $1,400 for the drone, Go-Pro camera and related equipment. The agent paid him $700 to split the cost.

A trained air traffic controller based at Hawaii’s Wheeler Army Airfield, Kang had his military clearance revoked in 2012 for making pro-ISIS comments. His clearance was reinstated a year later after he completed military requirements.

However, the affidavit said, the army believed Kang was becoming radicalized in 2016 and asked the FBI to investigate.

The document also showed that Kan was sympathetic of Hitler and the American-Afghani, who shot and killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida in 2016.

Kang enlisted in the army in December 2001, just months after the Septemb11 11 attacks. He served in South Korea from 2002 to 2003. He deployed to Iraq from March 2010 to February 2011 and Afghanistan from July 2013 to April 2014.

He was scheduled to appear in court Thursday for a detention hearing.

In May, a New York federal court sentenced a US Air Forces veteran convicted of terrorism charges to 35 years in prison for attempting to join ISIS.

Tairod Pugh declared his innocence and condemned discrimination in the United States, saying: “My country has become scared and racist.”

“I am a black man. I am a soldier. I am a Muslim. I defended this nation and its constitution, but my service was met with abuse,” he said according to Reuters.

“My only regret is that it took me so long to realize that my country has grown scared and racist,” he added.

The judge had rejected his claims, saying that the case had nothing to do with race or religion.

“This isn’t about whether you’re a Muslim or a Christian or Jewish,” US District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis told Pugh, who’s 49. “This is about whether you’re going to stand up for your country.”

Pugh’s lawyer later said that he will appeal the ruling.

Trump Blasts Media Report on Obstruction of Justice

US President Donald Trump lashed out early Thursday after a report that he was under investigation for possible obstruction of justice by the special counsel probing alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The Washington Post, citing unidentified officials, on Wednesday reported that special counsel Robert Mueller is probing Trump for possible obstruction of justice.

Mueller is leading the Russian probe after being appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in the Department of Justice, which oversees the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Last week, former FBI Director James Comey told Congress he believes he was fired by Trump to undermine the agency’s Russia probe.

The obstruction of justice investigation into Trump began days after Comey was fired on May 9, according to people
familiar with the matter, the Washington Post said.

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, and Richard Ledgett, the former deputy director at the NSA, had agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week, the Post said. It cited five people briefed on the requests who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The New York Times corroborated the report, citing a person briefed on the investigation.

It also quoted an intelligence official who said Mueller’s office had asked the NSA for documents related to the agency’s interactions with the administration as part of the investigation into Russian meddling into the presidential election, and whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Moscow.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump’s legal team, on Wednesday denounced the reports, saying: “The FBI leak of
information regarding the President is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal.”

Testimony of Ex-FBI Director Leaves Door Open to Speculation

Washington- The testimony of former director of the FBI James Comey in a public hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday kept the doors open to speculations concerning US President Donald Trump’s interference in the investigation on collusion with Russia.

Speaking for the first time on the matter publicly, Comey testified that Trump did not ask him to stop his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.

Asked specifically if anyone ever asked him to stop the Russia probe, Comey replied: “No.”

On the other hand, Comey said he considered a request by the president to “let go” the investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, as a “direction” to drop the Flynn probe.

“This is a president of the United States with me alone saying, ‘I hope this’. I took it as, this is what he wants me to do,” Comey said.

For his part, Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, has rejected the allegations made by Comey and denied the claim that the president asked the ex-FBI chief’s loyalty.

During his testimony, Comey said Trump told him: “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”

The president “never told Comey, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,’ in form or substance,” Kasowitz said in a statement.

Kasowitz also accused Comey of disclosing privileged communications with the president to the news media, without authorization.

“Comey’s excuse for this unauthorized disclosure of privileged information … appears to be entirely retaliatory,” Kasowitz said in the statement.

Trump Nominates Ex-Justice Dept. Official to Head FBI

Trump

US President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he will nominate former Justice Department official Christopher Wray as director of the FBI.

He made the announcement via Twitter, saying Wray is “a man of impeccable credentials.”

There was no more information in the two-sentence tweet that ends, “Details to follow.”

Wray, a lawyer, emerged from a list of former prosecutors, politicians and law enforcement officials interviewed by Trump since the president fired FBI Director James Comey last month.

Wray works at the King & Spalding law firm. He represented New Jersey Governor Chris Christie during the investigation into the George Washington Bridge lane-closing case. Two former Christie aides were convicted of plotting to close bridge lanes to punish a Democratic mayor who would not endorse the Republican governor.

Wray worked for the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.

Meanwhile, suspense is building as Comey prepares to claim the microphone Thursday in an austere, modern hearing room of the Hart Senate Office Building.

He is to testify about his dealings with Trump and the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s connections with Russia.

A former US intelligence official said Wednesday the Watergate scandal that brought down a president “pales” in comparison with allegations that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians.

James Clapper, director of national intelligence until Trump took office in January, told Australia’s National Press Club the cover-up of a 1972 burglary at the Democratic Party national headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency “was a scary time.”

But the allegations under multiple investigations of Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election were more concerning, he said.

“I think (if) you compare the two that Watergate pales really in my view compared to what we’re confronting now,” Clapper said.

Clapper said Trump firing Comey, whom Clapper described as a “personal friend and a personal hero of mine,” reflected “complete disregard for the independence and autonomy” of the bureau.

Trump’s sharing of classified intelligence with Russian diplomats of the ISIS group’s plotting reflected “either ignorance or disrespect and either is very problematic,” Clapper said.

He said the sharing compromised the Israeli source of the intelligence.

President-elect Trump branding the intelligence agencies as Nazis over their assessment of Russian political interference was prompted by “his team’s extreme paranoia about and resentment of any doubt cast on the legitimacy of his election,” Clapper said.

“I am very concerned about the assault on our institutions coming from both an external source — read Russia — and an internal source — the president himself,” Clapper said.

Trump Criticizes Appointment of Counsel in Russian Probe

Washington- US President Donald Trump criticized on Thursday the appointment of a special counsel to lead the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Trump wrote on his twitter account: “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”
He also accused Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Obama administration of conducting “illegal acts” with no special counsel appointed for them.

“Why no special counsel was appointed for what he called all of the illegal acts of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Obama administration,” Trump said.

The president also denied any collusion between his campaign and any foreign entity concerning the Russian links.

On Wednesday, the US Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to lead the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 US election, fueling up the crisis that threatens to paralyze Trump’s presidency, particularly after the President was accused of trying to shut down the ongoing investigation into possible links between him and Russia by his attempt to obstruct the investigations conducted by the office of ex-FBI Director James Comey.

However, Mueller’s appointment saw a rare consensus between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, who applauded the pick.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said: “Bob was a fine US attorney, a great FBI director and there’s no better person who could be asked to perform this function.”

Republican Senator Jason Chaffetz also said in a tweet that Mueller was a great selection with “impeccable credentials.”

Another Republican, Senator Susan Collins, said Muller “has sterling credentials and is above reproach.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said at a press conference: “We need the facts.”

He added: “It is obvious there are some people out there who want to harm the president, but we have an obligation to carry out our oversight regardless of which party is in the White House.”

Mueller to Head Trump-Russia Ties Probe amid Report on 18 Undisclosed Contacts

FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed as a special counsel to lead a federal investigation on whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to tilt the 2016 election in his favor. Mueller will have sweeping powers and the authority to prosecute any crimes he uncovers.

The move by the Justice Department, which had resisted increasingly loud calls from Democrats for an outside prosecutor, was surprising and came as current and former US officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters that Michael Flynn and other advisers to Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the presidential race.

The previously undisclosed interactions form part of the record now being reviewed by FBI and congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the election and contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who made the announcement on Mueller’s appointment, said: “Based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”

The White House counsel’s office was alerted only after the order appointing Mueller was signed, said a senior White House official, who was not authorized to speak publicly by name.

In a written statement, Trump insisted anew there were no nefarious ties between his campaign and Russia.

“A thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” he declared. “I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.”

Mueller’s broad mandate gives him not only oversight of the Russia probe, but also “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” That would surely include Trump’s firing last week of FBI Director James Comey.

The president has been accused of seeking to block the investigation by sacking Comey.

The people who described the contacts to Reuters said they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia in the communications reviewed so far. But the disclosure could increase the pressure on Trump and his aides to provide the FBI and Congress with a full account of interactions with Russian officials and others with links to the Kremlin during and immediately after the 2016 election.

Former Attorney General: Trump Made the Right Call on Comey

FBI Director James B. Comey. (Nicholas Kamm/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

Having served as both attorney general and deputy attorney general in the Justice Department, I had responsibility for supervising the FBI, working on virtually a daily basis with its senior leadership. From that experience I came to understand how fortunate we are as a nation to have in the FBI the finest law-enforcement organization in the world — one that is thoroughly professional and free of partisanship. I offer this perspective on President Trump’s removal of FBI Director James B. Comey.

Comey is an extraordinarily gifted man who has contributed much during his many years of public service. Unfortunately, beginning in July, when he announced the outcome of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, he crossed a line that is fundamental to the allocation of authority in the Justice Department.

While the FBI carries out investigative work, the responsibility for supervising, directing and ultimately determining the resolution of investigations is solely the province of the Justice Department’s prosecutors. With an investigation as sensitive as the one involving Clinton, the ultimate decision-making is reserved to the attorney general or, when the attorney general is recused, the deputy attorney general. By unilaterally announcing his conclusions regarding how the matter should be resolved, Comey arrogated the attorney general’s authority to himself.

It is true, as I pointed out in a Post op-ed in October, that Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, after her tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton, had left a vacuum by neither formally recusing herself nor exercising supervision over the case. But the remedy for that was for Comey to present his factual findings to the deputy attorney general, not to exercise the prosecutorial power himself on a matter of such grave importance.

Until Comey’s testimony last week, I had assumed that Lynch had authorized Comey to act unilaterally. It is now clear that the department’s leadership was sandbagged. I know of no former senior Justice Department official — Democrat or Republican — who does not view Comey’s conduct in July to have been a grave usurpation of authority.

Comey’s basic misjudgment boxed him in, compelling him to take increasingly controversial actions giving the impression that the FBI was enmeshed in politics. Once Comey staked out a position in July, he had no choice on the near-eve of the election but to reopen the investigation when new evidence materialized. Regrettably, however, this performance made Comey himself the issue, placing him on center stage in public political discourse and causing him to lose credibility on both sides of the aisle. It was widely recognized that Comey’s job was in jeopardy regardless of who won the election.

It is not surprising that Trump would be inclined to make a fresh start at the bureau and would consult with the leadership of the Justice Department about whether Comey should remain. Those deliberations could not begin in earnest until the new deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, to whom Comey would report, was confirmed and in a position to assess Comey and his performance. No matter how far along the president was in his own thinking, Rosenstein’s assessment is cogent and vindicates the president’s decision.

Rosenstein made clear in his memorandum that he was concerned not so much with Comey’s past arrogation of power, as astonishing as it was, but rather with his ongoing refusal to acknowledge his errors. I do not dispute that Comey sincerely believes he acted properly in the best interests of the country. But at the same time, I think it is quite understandable that the administration would not want an FBI director who did not recognize established limits on his powers.

It is telling that none of the president’s critics are challenging the decision on the merits. None argue that Comey’s performance warranted keeping him on as director. Instead, they are attacking the president’s motives, claiming the president acted to neuter the investigation into Russia’s role in the election.

The notion that the integrity of this investigation depends on Comey’s presence just does not hold water. Contrary to the critics’ talking points, Comey was not “in charge” of the investigation.

In the Justice Department, responsibility for overseeing and directing investigations is lodged in the department’s prosecutors. Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself, the investigation into Russian interference is being supervised by Rosenstein and Dana Boente, acting head of the department’s National Security Division. Both men have long and exemplary service as career prosecutors in the department and were selected to hold political office as US attorneys by President Barack Obama.

In short, responsibility for the integrity of the Russia investigation is vested in the hands of two highly regarded Obama veterans. Senate Democrats were well aware that Rosenstein would be overseeing the Russia investigation when they overwhelmingly joined with Republican senators in confirming him by a 94-to-6 vote.

Furthermore, the day-to-day work in that investigation was being done not by Comey but by career prosecutors and FBI agents, whose professionalism and integrity do not depend on the identity of the FBI director. Indeed, as the acting director, Andrew McCabe, just testified, FBI agents working on the investigation will do a thorough and professional job regardless of who is serving as the bureau’s director.

According to news reports, the investigation is in full swing, with the Justice Department using a grand jury to subpoena relevant information, indicating a degree of thoroughness not evident in the investigation into Clinton’s email server. Comey’s removal simply has no relevance to the integrity of the Russian investigation as it moves ahead.

(The Washington Post)

William Barr was US attorney general from 1991 to 1993.

Trump to ‘Quickly’ Replace FBI Director Comey

President Donald Trump said Saturday he would act quickly to appoint a new FBI director following his controversial dismissal earlier this week of James Comey — a move that was still reverberating around Washington.

Trump’s administration — embroiled in a deepening crisis over the sacking and its shifting explanation of events — will interview the first four candidates for the post on Saturday, US media reported.

“We can make a fast decision,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One before flying to southern Virginia, where he is set to deliver a commencement address at Liberty University, an evangelical Christian school.

The White House has provided no set timeline for the process of replacing Comey.

Asked if the decision or an announcement could take place before he leaves for Saudi Arabia on Friday, Trump said: “Even that is possible.”

He described the candidates being considered for the post as “outstanding people,” “very well-known,” and of the “highest level.”

On Saturday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy Rod Rosenstein will interview acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, Texas Senator John Cornyn, former federal prosecutor Michael Garcia and former assistant attorney general Alice Fisher, The New York Times reported, citing a source familiar with the meetings.

They are among a dozen candidates being considered for the job.

The choice of a new FBI director seen as independent from the White House will be closely scrutinized as Trump faces an avalanche of criticism for firing Comey, the man in charge of a criminal probe into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia.

The 49-year-old McCabe, a career FBI agent, has taken part in a number of high-profile investigations, including probes into the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and the attacks against US installations in Benghazi, Libya in 2012.

McCabe contradicted Trump this week, telling lawmakers that Comey enjoyed widespread support among the FBI’s rank and file, and that the probe into alleged Russian meddling in the election was a “highly significant investigation.”

Cornyn, the number two Republican in the Senate, served as Texas attorney general before his election to the Senate in 2002.

Garcia served as assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and US attorney under former president George W. Bush.

Fisher headed the Justice Department’s criminal division, also under Bush.

Other candidates include former New York police commissioner Raymond Kelly, former Republican senator Kelly Ayotte, and South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor who headed the Benghazi investigation in the House.

Trump’s nominee must be confirmed in the Senate, where Democrats and some Republicans have fiercely criticized Comey’s firing.

The president is reported to have asked Comey whether he could be loyal to him during a dinner meeting in February shortly after his inauguration.

Comey promised only that he could be honest, The New York Times reported.

Trump denied that account in a Fox News interview on Friday.