- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 3, 2017

President Trump is renewing his feud with former FBI Director James B. Comey as House Republicans consider holding his successor, Christopher Wray, in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over records related to the Russia probe that secured its first high-profile conviction Friday.

Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the FBI and Department of Justice have for months “stonewalled” requests from his panel for documents pertaining to the salacious Trump dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.

Mr. Nunes issued an angry demand over the weekend and promised to take action. If the agencies do not meet all the House committee’s requests by close of business Monday, he said, he will promptly file a contempt resolution against Mr. Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

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The disputes came two days after former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. In agreeing to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, the probe of possible Trump campaign involvement with Kremlin meddling in the U.S. presidential election enters the president’s inner circle.

But the president had a few choice words for the FBI, saying in a series of tweets Sunday morning that the storied investigative agency’s reputation is in shambles and denying any personal jeopardy from Flynn’s plea and his cooperation with the Mueller probe.

“After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters — worst in History!” he said in one tweet. “But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.”

The president cited reports that FBI investigator Peter Strzok, who led the agency’s email probe that ultimately cleared Hillary Clinton, was removed from Mr. Mueller’s Russia investigation for exchanging text messages with Lisa Page, a top FBI lawyer with whom he was having an extramarital affair.

The messages showed a possible bias for Mrs. Clinton and against Mr. Trump.

Mr. Nunes said he knew about Mr. Strzok’s demotion three months ago ― but not the reasons for it, which were covered under the subpoena.

“By hiding from Congress, and from the American people, documented political bias by a key FBI head investigator for both the Russia collusion probe and the Clinton email investigation, the FBI and DOJ engaged in a willful attempt to thwart Congress‘ constitutional oversight responsibility,” Mr. Nunes said.

Mr. Nunes said the agencies suddenly became more forthcoming with some information his panel had sought when Mr. Strzok’s dismissal was reported over the weekend.

“The DOJ has now expressed — on a Saturday, just hours after the press reports on Strzok’s dismissal appeared — a sudden willingness to comply with some of the committee’s long-standing demands,” Mr. Nunes said. “This attempted eleventh-hour accommodation is neither credible nor believable, and in fact is yet another example of the DOJ’s disingenuousness and obstruction.”

In another tweet, Mr. Trump denied asking Mr. Comey to halt the investigation into Flynn, who faces up to five years in prison for falsely telling investigators he didn’t ask Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to limit Moscow’s reaction to U.S. sanctions during the presidential transition.

In his June testimony, Mr. Comey quoted the president as saying, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

“I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Sunday morning. “Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!”

Mr. Trump also said over the weekend that the Flynn guilty plea showed no collusion between his aides and Russia and even took credit for dismissing Flynn in the first place for the same lies to which the former national security adviser pleaded guilty.

“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies,” Mr. Trump wrote Saturday on Twitter. “It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”

Mr. Trump previously said Mr. Flynn lost his White House job over misleading Vice President Mike Pence. In the tweet, the president expanded the explanation to cover the lie to the FBI.

Mr. Trump told reporters as he departed the White House on Saturday for New York City that the plea shows “no collusion [with Russia]. There’s been absolutely no collusion, so we’re very happy.”

But Mr. Mueller’s investigators say Flynn was acting on the direction of at least one other senior Trump transition adviser, believed to be presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said Mr. Trump should learn his lesson and choose his words carefully during an open investigation.

“I would just say this to the president, there’s an ongoing criminal investigation, Comey may be a part of it,” Mr. Graham said Sunday on the CBS talk show “Face the Nation.” “You [are] tweeting comments regarding ongoing investigations at your own peril. I’d be careful if I were you, Mr. President. I’d watch this.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the panel is starting to see “the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice” against Mr. Trump, coming partly from “the continual tweets” from the White House on the FBI, Mr. Comey and Russia-related matters.

Ms. Feinstein said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that she thinks Mr. Comey’s dismissal came “directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation.”

“That’s obstruction of justice,” she said.

Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, flatly said he didn’t believe Mr. Trump’s denials about trying to influence Mr. Comey.

“I believe FBI Director Comey,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think he was very credible in his testimony, in his private meetings with us.

“This president has been obsessed with this investigation, always saying there’s nothing there,” Mr. Warner said. “But each week another shoe drops where we see more evidence of continuing outreach to Russians and some response by the Trump campaign and Trump individuals.”

Flynn’s guilty plea has further emboldened Capitol Hill Democrats, who say they now have ammunition to press the Republican leaders of congressional probes on Russia to intensify the investigations.

Mr. Warner categorized the Flynn guilty plea as part of “an alarming pattern” of White House efforts to interfere with the multiple Russia inquiries.

“You’ve had, clearly, you’ve had an attorney general who’s had to recuse himself because of untold contacts with the Russians. You had the president of the United States trying to intervene, as has been reported, with other national intelligence leaders, who he appointed, saying, ‘Can you back off?’” Mr. Warner said.

The Virginia Democrat pledged his panel would “continue a thorough, bipartisan probe that follows the facts wherever they may lead.”

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has spent months pressing the panel’s Republican chairman — Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina — to subpoena the White House for all documents related to Flynn.

But Mr. Gowdy has rejected requests for such a subpoena, saying that what the Democrats seek could lead to criminal penalties and arguing that “Congress does not, and cannot, prosecute crimes.”

The House intelligence committee’s lead Democrat, Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, warned the White House about interfering in the probes.

Congress must make it clear that this would not be acceptable, that we will continue doing a diligent and thoughtful investigation, and do everything in our power to ensure the independence of the Special Counsel,” he said in statement.

Mr. Schiff joined the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, in suggesting the possibility that Flynn illegally obstructed U.S. foreign policy during the presidential transition. If so, the retired general might have violated the obscure 1799 Logan Act, which prohibits U.S. citizens from attempting to shape foreign policy.

Dan Boylan contributed to this report.

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