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Giuliani slams leaks from Mueller team about Barr’s handling of obstruction of justice

President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said on Sunday that he’s upset with the media for reporting on leaks from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team that Attorney General William Barr failed to properly summarize the contents of the highly anticipated inquiry. Giuliani, who told Fox News’ Howard Kurtz on “MediaBuzz” that he would like to see the Mueller report released in its entirety, slammed The New York Times’ sources for saying there were concerns raised by some members of Mueller’s team that the report was more damning of Trump than Barr has publicly indicated. “That leak really indicates all you need to know about Mueller’s prosecutors,” Giuliani said on the Times’ unnamed sources. “Leaking like that…that’s been the biggest canard in this investigation.” Giuliani’s comments come just days after The New York Times reported on the upset among some Mueller staffers over Barr’s handling of the report – particularly the attorney general’s four-page summary that noted there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and Barr’s decision not to proceed with obstruction of justice charges against Trump. Mueller’s decision to skip prosecutorial judgment “leaves it to the attorney general to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime,” Barr wrote. “This tells me they don’t have anything, because if they were malicious enough to do that and they had a smoking gun, they wouldn’t say in general it’s very damaging.” Barr has faced criticism since penning his letter that he unduly sanitized the full report in Trump's favor, including on the key question of whether the president obstructed justice. He has previously said he did not believe it would be in the public's interest to release the full document in piecemeal or gradual fashion, and that he did not intend for his letter summarizing Mueller's "principal conclusions" to be an "exhaustive recounting" of the special counsel's investigation. Barr is now expected to release the entire report, with redactions, by mid-April. "Given the extraordinary public interest in the matter, the Attorney General decided to release the report's bottom-line findings and his conclusions immediately — without attempting to summarize the report — with the understanding that the report itself would be released after the redaction process," the Justice Department statement said. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Another top prosecutor exits Robert Mueller’s team, raising speculations investigation is nearing its end

Another top prosecutor has left special counsel Robert Mueller's team, marking the second high-profile departure announcement this month and raising speculations that the Russia probe will soon be wrapped up. Zainab Ahmad, a U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York who worked on extensively on counterterrorism cases, was one of the prosecutors who signed former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s guilty plea for lying to the FBI concerning his contacts with a Russian official. But the special counsel’s office said on Monday that Ahmad is done with her work on the investigation concerning alleged cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia. News. Her name came up last year during Justice Department official Bruce Ohr’s closed-doors interview as part of the Republican-led House Oversight and Judiciary Committee probes. Ohr told lawmakers that he shared details about his meetings with former British spy Christopher Steele, the author of the salacious anti-Trump dossier, with a number of his expansive circle of contacts in the department and other officials, including Ahmad. The departures are likely to fuel the speculations that the Russia investigation is nearing its end following years of legal battles that netted sentences against President Trump’s associates. Yet both the Justice Department and Mueller team are tight-lipped when the report on the alleged collusion could see the light. The report produced by the special counsel will have to undergo the DOJ scrutiny and it will be up to Trump-appointed Attorney General William Barr to determine how much information Congress will see. Fox News' Catherine Herridge, Cyd Upson, Brooke Singman and Louis Casiano contributed to this report.
All 12 boys, coach rescued from Thai cave

All 12 boys, coach rescued from Thai cave

The last remaining member of the Wild Boars soccer team and his coach have been pulled out of a flooded cave in Thailand, bringing an end to a near three-week ordeal that prompted a huge international recuse effort.

CNN: Mueller Team Questioned Russian Oligarch Over Payments For Cohen, Politics

Mikhail Metzel/TASS Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has questioned one of the wealthiest men in Russia about post-election payments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars made to President Donald Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, CNN reported Tuesday, citing one unnamed source familiar with the matter. The Russian oligarch in question, Viktor Vekselberg, was reportedly questioned at a New York area airport this year, and he was in attendance at Trump’s inauguration. The payments, according to CNN, were made by Vekselberg’s company’s U.S. affiliate. Michael Avenatti, the attorney for the adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who is suing Cohen separately from the criminal probe, posted a document Tuesday that appeared similar to CNN’s reporting. In it, Avenatti alleged that an account controlled by Cohen had received $500,000 in payments from Vekselberg (via Vekselberg himself, Vekselberg’s American cousin, Andrew Intrater, and the firm Columbus Nova LLC) in eight payments between January and “at least August” 2017. The Daily Beast subsequently reported that it had confirmed Avenatti’s allegation — at least, the portion of Avenatti’s document dealing with the Vekselberg-related payments — with an unnamed source familiar with the matter. Later in the report, CNN cited unnamed sources who said Mueller’s investigators questioned Vekselberg about $300,000 in political donations made by Intrater. And Intrater himself was questioned, according to two unnamed sources cited by CNN. Richard Owens, Columbus Nova’s attorney, said in a statement shared sent to TPM that the company is “solely owned and controlled by Americans.” “After the inauguration, the firm hired Michael Cohen as a business consultant regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other ventures,” the statement continued. “Reports today that Viktor Vekselberg used Columbus Nova as a conduit for payments to Michael Cohen are false.

Trump’s team snooped on Obama officials. That’s gutter politics

The history of presidents who obsess and dig up dirt on the administrations that preceded them isn’t pretty. Think Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Trump has actually exceeded them in paranoia and low political tactics. The Trump team hired a notorious Israeli spy outfit, Black Cube, to snoop into the personal lives of two former Obama officials, Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, hoping to dig up evidence that they had revealed classified information to reporters, among other things. Indeed, it recalls the worst of Nixonian tactics, including treating principled political adversaries as dangerous enemies to be destroyed. Black Cube is the worthy inheritor of these kinds of heinous reputational hit jobs. Coming off the Observer story, the New Yorker revealed that Black Cube may have sent emails to the wives of Rhodes and Kahl via the same shell companies it used on behalf of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein in an effort to discredit his accusers. Trump has labeled the Iran deal the “worst deal ever”. The whole point of the nuclear deal negotiated by Barack Obama’s team was to prevent this from ever happening. Scrapping the deal in the face of a 12 May deadline will only return the world to its very dangerous nuclear status quo.

Robert Mueller’s Team Questions President Trump’s Close Friend Tom Barrack

Barrack was interviewed as part of the federal investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. The specific topics covered in questions from Mueller’s team were not immediately clear. Barrack’s spokeswoman, Lisa Baker, declined comment. Barrack played an integral role in the 2016 campaign as a top fundraiser at a time when many other Republicans were shunning the upstart candidate. Barrack later directed Trump’s inauguration. Barrack, a wealthy real estate investor with close ties to several Mideast leaders, met Trump in 1988 when he negotiated the sale of The Plaza Hotel in New York to Trump. Barrack’s publicist in 2016 described the men as having since “solidified a lifelong friendship between themselves and their families.” Barrack employed Gates last year, wrapping up operations on the Presidential Inaugural Committee, before Gates was charged by Mueller. “He’s one of the kindest, and actually most humble, friends that I’ve had,” Barrack said. “I have so much respect for him because at this point in his career, wandering into the milieu was not easy, and he’s changed the dialogue of the debate.” Barrack also was among the featured speakers at the Republican convention where Trump formally received the nomination. Days after Trump’s victory in November 2016, Barrack told CBS’ “This Morning” that Trump was like an ultimate fighter during the campaign who used “whatever tools necessary to convey a really disruptive message.” Barrack said America would see “a softer, kinder” Trump now that Trump had won the presidency Mueller’s investigators have interviewed dozens of witnesses in the probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

Exclusive: Mueller’s team questioning Russian oligarchs

Washington (CNN)Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has taken the unusual step of questioning Russian oligarchs who traveled into the US, stopping at least one and searching his electronic devices when his private jet landed at a New York area airport, according to multiple sources familiar with the inquiry. A second Russian oligarch was stopped during a recent trip to the US, although it is not clear if he was searched, according to a person briefed on the matter. Mueller's team has also made an informal voluntary document and interview request to a third Russian oligarch who has not traveled to the US recently. Mueller's team is using search warrants to access electronic devices and, Goldman added, "surprise is crucial for those searches because you don't want anyone to wipe their phone." Nader, who attended secret meetings during the transition between the United Arab Emirates and Trump associates, is cooperating with the investigation. Late last year Mueller's team asked some witnesses if they knew of Russians who made donations directly or indirectly to the Trump campaign, sources said. ABC News reported in September that Mueller's team has asked questions about the timing of contributions from US citizens with ties to Russia, citing a Republican campaign aide interviewed by Mueller's team. Trump raised $333 million for his presidential campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Watchdog groups have criticized the committee for not fully disclosing how it spent the inauguration funds. Gates worked closely with Paul Manafort, who was Trump's campaign chairman for part of 2016, and stayed on as deputy chair of Trump's inaugural committee.

NYT: Mueller’s team investigating possible UAE efforts to buy political influence

(CNN)Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators are pressing witnesses for information about any possible attempts by United Arab Emirates to gain political influence by funneling money to support Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, The New York Times reports. The potential broadening of the special counsel's probe beyond Russian election interference to include UAE efforts to influence the Trump administration includes the questioning of a Lebanese-American businessman with ties to the Persian Gulf nation who has discussed Middle East policy with top aides to Trump, the Times reported Saturday. Mueller's team has questioned the businessman, George Nader, who has been an adviser to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, in recent weeks, as well as other witnesses on any possible UAE efforts to buy political influence with the Trump administration, the newspaper reported Saturday. Nader was a frequent visitor to the White House last year, meeting with senior adviser Jared Kushner and former chief strategist Steve Bannon, sources familiar with the meetings told the Times. The meetings focused on US policy toward Persian Gulf nations ahead of Trump's first foreign trip to Saudi Arabia in May 2017, according to the Times. After the TImes reached him by phone, Nader said he would call back, but neither he nor his lawyer returned the Times' request for comment, the newspaper said. The White House also did not return the Times' request for comment. Last summer, Trump weighed in on a dispute that UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt were having with Qatar, calling on Qatar to stop funding terrorism and claiming credit for and endorsing the decision of Gulf nations to ostracize their neighbor even as US Cabinet officials said their blockade is hurting the campaign against ISIS. The report of a focus on UAE by Mueller's team comes after Mueller's team indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities on charges of alleged election meddling and after Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the wide-ranging probe last month.

Dem senator criticizes Pence for not standing for Korean team at Olympics

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.) on Saturday criticized Vice President Pence after news outlets reported that Pence refused to stand for the entrance of the combined Korea team at the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. In a tweet, Murphy likened Pence's refusal to stand for the team representing athletes from both North and South Korea to both Pence and President Trump's opposition to NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem before football games. "Why does Pence hate the opening ceremonies? Oh wait...he's a using ceremony at a sporting event to protest something else. Pence left an Indianapolis Colts game that he was attending last year after players from the opposing San Francisco 49ers knelt in protest during the national anthem. His departure sparked criticism from NFL players and Democrats. "I left today's Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem," Pence said in a statement at the time. Trump sparked a feud with the football league in September when he called on NFL team owners to fire players who protested during the anthem, a move that triggered dozens more protests from players across the country. The 2018 Winter Olympics, held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, have sparked a new wave of cooperation between North and South Korea, prompting the two countries to sponsor a joint Olympics team for the first time. Cooperation brought on by the Olympic Games has also reportedly triggered the first invitation from North Korea for diplomatic talks between the two nations in more than a decade.