UPDATE 2 – Trump exerts privilege over unredacted Mueller report

                                               ADDS CONTEMPT VOTE IN GRAFS 6-7; MOVES UP LAST GRAF AND REFRAMES</p>  <p>By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump exerted executive privilege Wednesday on the unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.</p>  <p>The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the Justice Department for an unredacted copy of the report as well as all underlying evidence. Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler had set a Monday deadline for the department to comply, but it came and passed as the committee and the department continued talks to breach the impasse.</p>  <p>Those discussions broke down late Tuesday. </p>  <p>Nadler said the president decided to invoke privilege on the document as the committee prepared to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to adhere to the subpoena.</p>  <p>&quot;The department seemed open to sharing these documents with us just yesterday. This decision represents a clear escalation in the Trump administration's blanket defiance of Congress' constitutionally-mandated duties,&quot; Nadler said ahead of the contempt vote.</p>  <p>The committee voted 24-16 later Wednesday to hold Barr in contempt, sending the matter to the full House where the Democratic majority will likely follow suit and trigger a criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.</p>  <p>Jessie Liu, the U.S. attorney, would then decide whether a prosecution would be pursued. </p>  <p>Barr released a redacted version of the Mueller report to Congress and the public last month, but Democrats have insisted on receiving an uncensored copy.</p>  <p>The White House sharply criticized Nadler, saying in a statement that &quot;neither the White House nor Attorney General Barr will comply with Chairman Nadler’s unlawful and reckless demands.</p>  <p>&quot;Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the Attorney General’s request, the President has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege,&quot; spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement. 

UPDATE – Trump exerts privilege over unredacted Mueller report

                              ADDS WHITE HOUSE STATEMENT, DETAILS THROUGHOUT</p>  <p>By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump exerted executive privilege Wednesday on the unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. </p>  <p>The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the Justice Department for an unredacted copy of the report as well as all underlying evidence. Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler had set a Monday deadline for the department to comply, but it came and passed as the committee and the department continued talks to breach the impasse.</p>  <p>Those discussions broke down late Tuesday. </p>  <p>Nadler said the president decided to invoke privilege on the document as the committee prepared to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to adhere to the subpoena.</p>  <p>&quot;The department seemed open to sharing these documents with us just yesterday. This decision represents a clear escalation in the Trump administration's blanket defiance of Congress' constitutionally-mandated duties,&quot; Nadler said ahead of the contempt vote.</p>  <p>Barr released a redacted version of the Mueller report to Congress and the public last month, but Democrats have insisted on receiving an uncensored copy.</p>  <p>The White House sharply criticized Nadler, saying in a statement that &quot;neither the White House nor Attorney General Barr will comply with Chairman Nadler’s unlawful and reckless demands.</p>  <p>&quot;Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the Attorney General’s request, the President has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege,&quot; spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement. </p>  <p>The Judiciary Committee is likely to vote in favor of holding Barr in contempt of Congress when it votes later Wednesday, sending the matter to the full House where the Democratic majority will likely follow suit and send the matter to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. 

Trump exerts privilege over unredacted Mueller report

             By Michael Hernandez </p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump exerted executive privilege Wednesday on the unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. </p>  <p>The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the Justice Department for an unredacted copy of the report as well as all underlying evidence. Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler had set a Monday deadline for the department to comply.</p>  <p>But Nadler said the president decided to invoke privilege over the document as the committee prepared to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to adhere to the subpoena.</p>  <p>&quot;The department seemed open to sharing these documents with us just yesterday. This decision represents a clear escalation in the Trump administration's blanket defiance of Congress' constitutionally-mandated duties,&quot; Nadler said.

Top US lawyer grilled by Congress on Mueller report

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. Attorney General William Barr was on the receiving end of blistering criticism from Senate Democrats on Wednesday over his handling of the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's long-awaited report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. </p>  <p>Democrats lambasted the top lawyer over their concerns that he worked to spin the conclusions of Mueller's two-year probe in President Donald Trump's favor and in doing so violated the Justice Department's and his integrity through his decision to clear the president of obstruction of justice. </p>  <p>In defending his decision, Barr insisted that he believes the Justice Department does not have a prosecutable case against the president.</p>  <p>In a particularly tense moment, Senator Mazie Hirono said Barr is among the ranks of &quot;people who sacrificed their once decent reputation for the grifter and liar who sits in the Oval Office&quot;.</p>  <p>&quot;Your used every advantage of your office to create the impression that the president was cleared of misconduct. You selectively quoted fragments from the special counsel's report, taking some of the most important statements out of context and ignoring the rest. You put the power and authority of the office of the attorney general and the Department of Justice behind a public relations effort to help Donald Trump protect himself. Finally, you lied to Congress,&quot; she said. </p>  <p>&quot;Being attorney general of the United States is a sacred trust. You have betrayed that trust. America deserves better. You should resign,” Hirono added. </p>  <p>Barr, however, remained defiant in the face of criticism that was re-energized heading into the hearing when The Washington Post reported Tuesday evening that Mueller sent a letter to the attorney general complaining over the summary he issued to the public about the special counsel's findings. </p>  <p>The summary, Mueller wrote, &quot;did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office's work and conclusions”.</p>  <p>Barr said Mueller's letter was &quot;a bit snitty&quot; and claimed it &quot;was probably written by one of his staff people&quot;.</p>  <p>The attorney general recalled a telephone call between himself and Mueller where he asked the special counsel &quot;what's with the letter? Why didn't you just pick up the phone?&quot;</p>  <p>Asked specifically if anyone had taken notes on that conversation, Barr said some notes were taken, but then said he would not hand them over to Congress. </p>  <p>&quot;Why not?&quot; asked Senator Richard Blumenthal.</p>  <p>&quot;Why should you have them?&quot; Barr replied. 

US: Top 10 takeaways from Mueller report

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's sprawling 448-page report, released Thursday, encompasses his findings from a two-year-long investigation into Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 presidential race. </p>  <p>The extensive probe has led to sweeping indictments as well as guilty pleas from and criminal convictions of members of President Donald Trump's inner circle on charges unrelated to the Russian effort.</p>  <p>Here are the top 10 things you need to know from Mueller's finished product. </p>  <ul><li>Trump feared for his job</li></ul>  <p>&quot;Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I'm f***ed,&quot; Trump said, according to notes of a May 2017 meeting with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that were obtained by Mueller's team and published in the redacted version of his report. The comments were made just as Robert Mueller was named to lead the independent probe. </p>  <ul><li>The special counsel did not find sufficient evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia's effort to subvert the 2016 election in Trump's favor.</li></ul>  <p>The report notes that while the Russian government sought to sway the election &quot;in sweeping and systematic fashion&quot;, Mueller's team determined &quot;the evidence was not sufficient to charge any campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government or other Russian principal&quot;. </p>  <ul><li>But it did not clear Trump of obstructing justice for seeking to stymy the probe</li></ul>  <p>&quot;The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment,&quot; Mueller wrote, noting he is not doing so based on department practice. Still, he added that if his team was confident that Trump was clear of any possible obstruction, it would explicitly make the judgment. &quot;Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment,&quot; Mueller wrote.</p>  <ul><li>Trump ordered former White House counsel to have Mueller fired</li></ul>  <p>Trump directed White House counsel Don McGahn in June 2017 to speak with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire Mueller because Trump believed he had alleged conflicts of interests.</p>  <ul><li>Mueller's findings emphasize that while his team will not determine one way or another on matters of obstruction, it is Congress' duty to ensure criminal law applies to all persons -- including the president</li></ul>  <p>&quot;Congress clearly has authority to protect its own legislative functions against corrupt efforts to impede legitimate fact-gathering and lawmaking efforts,&quot; Mueller wrote. &quot;Congress enacted the obstruction-of-justice statutes to protect, among other things, the integrity of its own proceedings, grand jury investigations, and other criminal trials. Those objectives are within Congress' authority and serve strong government interests.&quot;</p>  <ul><li>Trump attempted to have former Attorney General Jeff Sessions &quot;unrecuse&quot; himself from the special counsel probe</li></ul>  <p>Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the investigation was a major sticking point with the president, who fumed publicly and behind closed doors about it, at times lambasting the top lawyer in the public eye. Sessions recalled that shortly after news of the special counsel's appointment reached him, Trump told him &quot;you were supposed to protect me,&quot; or similar words. </p>  <ul><li>Mueller says &quot;substantial&quot; evidence supports Comey's version of Flynn's firing over Trump's account</li></ul>  <p>Former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump abruptly fired, said Trump pressured him into letting former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn off easy for lying to federal investigators, telling him &quot;I hope you can let this go&quot; -- a narrative Trump denies. But the fact that Comey's version of the story, in which he said Trump asked others who were present to leave the room, was corroborated by others who were present, including Sessions, led Mueller to determine that &quot;substantial evidence corroborates Comey's account&quot;.</p>  <ul><li>Trump &quot;repeatedly&quot; asked intelligence leaders to state he had no ties to Russia</li></ul>  <p>The president asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and former CIA director and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo if they could state publicly that there was no nexus between him and Russia following a March 22, 2017 meeting. While he did not recall being asked to stay behind after the meeting -- unlike Coats, who did -- Pompeo &quot;recalled that the president regularly urged officials to get the word out that he had done nothing wrong related to Russia&quot;.</p>  <ul><li>White House spokeswoman lied to the public about reasoning for Comey's firing</li></ul>  <p>At the time of his abrupt dismissal, the White House sought to suggest that Comey was fired because the FBI's rank-and-file was unhappy with his leadership, saying the White House heard from &quot;countless members of the FBI&quot; who lost confidence in Comey. That statement, Sanders admitted to Mueller's team, was completely detached from fact. She sought to explain by saying the statement was a &quot;slip of the tongue&quot; made &quot;in the heat of the moment&quot;.</p>  <ul><li>Stephen Miller wrote the letter terminating Comey</li></ul>  <p>Stephen Miller, Trump's far-right senior advisor, wrote the letter dismissing Comey from his post that sought emphasize, among other things, that Trump was not under investigation. Miller began authoring the letter after Trump asked him to do so during a May 3, 2017 dinner at his New Jersey golf resort.

Trump feared Mueller probe was end his presidency

                 By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - President Donald Trump feared Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe would be the end of his presidency, setting off a course of actions Mueller struggled to classify as obstruction of justice.</p>  <p>In the lengthy 448-page report detailing his conclusions, Mueller pointed to 10 &quot;episodes&quot; that raised questions of obstruction, including the president's attempt to remove the special counsel from his post and attempts to curtail his investigation. </p>  <p>Those actions included Trump's June 2017 directive to former White House counsel Don McGahn to speak with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to say Mueller must be expelled because Trump believed he had alleged conflicts of interests. </p>  <p>Just one month prior to the directive Trump, in a meeting with Sessions, said he feared Mueller's appointment would lead to the end of his then-nascent presidency. </p>  <p>&quot;Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I'm f***ed,&quot; Trump said, according to notes of that meeting obtained by Mueller's team and published in the redacted version of his report. </p>  <p>Also at issue was Trump's May 2017 firing of former FBI Director James Comey, Trump's efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with the probe and his efforts to prevent emails about a meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer from leaking to the public.  </p>  <p>Mueller declined to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment whether Trump should be tried for attempts to obstruct his investigation, citing in part Justice Department practice not to indict a sitting president, as well as the extensive constitutional latitude a president has to direct officials. </p>  <p>&quot;The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment,&quot; Mueller wrote. </p>  <p>Still he added that if his team was confident that Trump was clear of any possible obstruction it would explicitly make the judgment.</p>  <p>&quot;Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment,&quot; Mueller wrote. </p>  <p>The reports findings were not enough to deter the president from insisting on Twitter after its publication: &quot;As I have been saying all along, NO COLLUSION - NO OBSTRUCTION!&quot;

Top US lawyer disagrees with Mueller reasoning

             By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - Attorney General William Barr said Thursday he disagrees with some of Robert Mueller's legal reasoning related to possible obstruction of justice charges against U.S. President Donald Trump. </p>  <p>The Mueller report on Russian interference in the 2016 election caps his two-year probe into the matter, which has led to several guilty pleas from members of Trump's inner circle on matters unrelated to collusion, the conviction of Trump's former campaign chairman on unrelated charges and dozens of indictments. </p>  <p>In a vigorous defense of the president, Barr said Mueller found no evidence any individual in the Trump campaign, nor any American, colluded with the Russian influence campaign, but said Mueller &quot;did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment regarding&quot; possible obstruction of justice by the president. </p>  <p>Instead, Barr told reporters at the Justice Department that Mueller pointed to 10 &quot;episodes&quot; the president is involved in that pose questions of obstruction, and the report &quot;discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense.&quot;</p>  <p>&quot;After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report, and in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers, the Deputy Attorney General and I concluded that the evidence developed by the Special Counsel is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,&quot; Barr said. </p>  <p>While the public is set to receive a redacted copy of Mueller's report later Thursday, Barr said he will make a relatively unredacted copy available to a select group of bipartisan lawmakers.</p>  <p>The public release will be redacted based on four criteria, Barr said, including whether the information was grand jury material, disclosed sensitive intelligence methods, pertained to an ongoing case, or involved &quot;peripheral third parties.&quot;  </p>  <p>Trump loudly proclaimed victory in a Game of Thrones-inspired image he posted to Twitter, declaring &quot;No obstruction. No collusion. For the haters and the radical left Democrats - Game Over.&quot;

Russia denies allegations of interference in US polls

                By Elena Teslova</p>    <p>MOSCOW (AA) - Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov called &quot;ungrounded&quot; allegations about Kremlin's efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.</p>    <p>Commenting on the findings of the U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation on the matter on Monday, Peskov said &quot;the accusations that continue to be made against Russia are ungrounded&quot;.</p>    <p>&quot;It is difficult to find a black cat in a dark room especially if it is not there. The published part of the Mueller's report does not contain anything new in support of accusations of Russian interference in the U.S. elections, only the recognition of the absence of any collusion,&quot; Peskov told reporters in Moscow.</p>    <p>On Sunday, Attorney General William Barr delivered to the U.S. Congress his principal conclusions of Mueller's nearly two-year investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin to influence the election.</p>    <p>“The Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to influence the election,&quot; according to the document. </p>  <p>At the same time, the report stated there were two major efforts to interfere from the Russian side.</p>    <p>Trump has repeatedly denied accusations of any collusion with a Russian effort to undercut 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's chances of winning the White House.

In his first remarks to reporters on the attorney general's summary, Trump called the investigation "a shame" but "complete exoneration".

Trump associate Roger Stone pleads not guilty

             By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - Roger Stone, the associate and close confidant of U.S. President Donald Trump, pled not guilty Tuesday to seven criminal charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. </p>  <p>Stone was arrested in a pre-dawn raid last Friday, and is being charged with lying to Congress and obstructing Mueller's probe. </p>  <p>He had been under investigation for his alleged contacts with Wikileaks and its release of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. </p>  <p>The indictment, which was unsealed as he was arrested Friday, alleges Stone worked with the Trump campaign through August 2015 and then maintained regular contacts with it during the election cycle. </p>  <p>Part of those contacts included discussions with &quot;senior Trump Campaign officials&quot; about the information Wikileaks, which is referred to as “Organization 1,” had and how it could be damaging to the campaign of Trump's Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, according to the indictment. </p>  <p>It alleges senior Trump campaign officials contacted Stone about when Wikileaks would release its troves of stolen emails. </p>  <p>Stone did not make public remarks on his way into the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., but insisted last week he would not cooperate with Mueller's probe, which is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible Trump campaign collusion. </p>  <p>The longtime Republican political operative said Mueller's investigation is &quot;politically motivated,&quot; and dismissed suggestions he would testify against Trump because, he said, in doing so he &quot;would have to bear false witness against him.&quot;

UPDATE – Trump's attorney general resigns at president's request

ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday he resigned his post at the request of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The announcement follows Trump's oftentimes public haranguing of the country’s top law enforcement official over the special counsel's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible Trump’s campaign collusion with the effort.

Trump blamed Special Counsel Robert Mueller's appointment on Sessions' decision to recuse himself from matters pertaining to the Russia probe, which had poisoned the relationship between Trump and one of his earliest and most ardent supporters.

Sessions said in a letter to Trump he has been "honored to serve as Attorney General and have worked to implement the law enforcement agenda based on the rule of law that formed a central part of your campaign for the Presidency."

"Since the day I was honored to be sworn in as Attorney General of the United States, I came to work at the Department of Justice every day determined to do my duty and serve my country," he said. "I have done so to the best of my ability, working to support the fundamental legal processes that are the foundation of justice."

Trump was widely expected to fire Sessions following Tuesday's midterm polls, and Sessions' forced resignation caps a more than year-long toxic relationship between the men.

Trump thanked Sessions for his service and wished him well in a Twitter post, saying Sessions' Chief of Staff Matthew Whitaker will serve as acting attorney general until a permanent replacement is confirmed by the Senate.

It is not immediately clear how Sessions' resignation will affect the investigation, which Trump and his closest aides have repeatedly claimed is a "witch hunt."

But while serving as a CNN commentator prior to taking his post at the Justice Department, Whitaker wrote an August 2017 opinion piece in which he claimed Mueller "has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing."

He was referring to reports that Mueller's team was, at the time, broadening the scope of its work to include possible financial crimes possibly committed by the Trump organization, only some of which he said were "unconnected to the 2016 election."

"This information is deeply concerning to me. It does not take a lawyer or even a former federal prosecutor like myself to conclude that investigating Donald Trump's finances or his family's finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else," he wrote.