Ex FBI boss ‘can’t recall’ Trump Russia plan to protect Hillary
Former FBI Director James Comey said it didn't "ring a bell" when asked whether he received a referral on Hillary Clinton approving "a plan" attempting to tie President Donald Trump to Russia and distract from her email scandal before the 2016 election
During his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chairman Lindsey Graham asked Comey about the newly declassified information released by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe.
According to the declassified information, in September 2016, US intelligence officials forwarded an investigative referral on Clinton purportedly approving "a plan concerning U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections" in order to distract the public from her email scandal. That referral was sent to Comey and Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok.
"You don't remember getting an investigatory lead from the intelligence community? Sept. 7, 2016, U.S. intelligence officials forwarded an investigative referral to James Comey and Strzok regarding Clinton's approval of a plan [about] Trump … as a means of distraction?" Graham asked Comey Wednesday.
"That doesn't ring any bells with me," Comey replied.
"That's a pretty stunning thing that it doesn't ring a bell," Graham fired back. "You get this inquiry from the intelligence community to look at the Clinton campaign trying to create a distraction, accusing Trump of being a Russian agent or a Russian stooge."
Graham questioned "how far-fetched is that," citing the fact that Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, through law firm Perkins Coie, hired Fusion GPS and ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to author and compile information for the controversial and unverified anti-Trump dossier.
The dossier contains claims about alleged ties between Donald Trump and Russia that served as the basis for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants obtained against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
"A bunch of crap to be used against an American citizen," Graham said. "You don't recall this?"
Comey replied: "It doesn't sound familiar."
Asked later, by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on the matter, Comey said: "I don't know what the director is doing."
Graham's line of questioning came after Ratcliffe informed the committee Tuesday that the Obama administration obtained Russian intelligence in July 2016 with allegations against Clinton, but cautioned that the intelligence community "does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the text to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication."
Ratcliffe, in the letter sent to the committee, did not offer specifics on the intelligence, but did reveal that former CIA Director John Brennan's handwritten notes show that he briefed former President Obama on the information.
MILLIONAIRES BIDEN AND HARRIS RELEASE TAX RETURNS
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden released his tax return just hours ahead of his first debate with President Donald Trump.
His 2019 return shows he and his wife, Jill, earned nearly $1 million ($A1.4m) and paid around $346,000 ($A485,000) in taxes.
It comes as Marie Claire reports Mr Biden's net worth is nearly $A13 million.
This comes days after the New York Times claimed the president paid just $750 ($A1050) in federal taxes in 2016 and 2017.
Mr Trump rejected the claims as "fake news" and said he had paid "many millions" in taxes.
Mr Biden's deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said they released the candidate's financial information to be as transparent as possible with the American people.
"This is a historic level of transparency and it will give the American people faith once again that their leaders will look out for them and not their own bottom line," she said.
Mr Biden's running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, has also released her and husband Doug Emhoff's 2019 tax returns.
The couple earned a whopping $3 million ($A4.2 million) and paid around $1.1 million ($A1.5 million) in taxes.
When asked about the Times report at the White House on Sunday, Mr Trump said: "I paid tax."
"I've paid a lot, and I've paid a lot of state income taxes, too," he said when asked about specifics.
REPUBLICANS DENY ADVISER UNDER $50M FRAUD INVESTIGATION
The Republican National Committee has denied reports that former Trump re-election boss Brad Parscale is under investigation for stealing $50 million ($A70 million) from the 2020 campaign and the RNC.
Tuesday's report comes just days after Parscale was involuntarily committed to a hospital after being tackled and arrested by a SWAT team after a worrying incident at his Florida home.
Parscale had reportedly been making "suicidal comments throughout the week" before his hospitalisation, and on Sunday he was reportedly "ranting and raving" while holding a gun.
Parscale is under investigation for stealing between $25 and $40 million from President Donald Trump's 2020 campaign, and for allegedly pocketing another $10 million from the RNC, the Daily Mail claims.
However, Steve Guest, the RNC's rapid response director, denied the allegations and told The Sun: "This report is categorically false. There is no audit or investigation of Brad at the RNC."
On Sunday, Parscale's wife, Candice, was seen fleeing their home in her bikini and told police that she thought she heard a gunshot.
Their waterfront home was surrounded by cops and Parscale was observed in the home drinking and talking to himself, according to police bodycam footage.
He was eventually brought out by officers, and 10 guns - including six handguns, two shotguns, and two rifles - were confiscated, according to reports.
Fort Lauderdale police are moving to take away Parscale's guns after his arrest Sunday, according to a report.
Parscale, 44, had 10 guns in his $A3.4 million waterfront home when he barricaded himself in the house with a loaded gun, prompting his wife to run to safety and have a neighbour dial 911 to report a possible suicide.
Cops recovered two shotguns, two rifles, a .22-caliber revolver and five other handguns, according to reports.
Now, police said they'll file to take Parscale's weapons under Florida's Red Flag Law, which was enacted following the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the Miami Herald reported.
"Our threat response unit detectives are in the process of submitting this petition," Fort Lauderdale police Sgt. DeAnna Greenlaw said.
The law permits cops or relatives to confiscate weapons if the owner could present a danger to themselves or others.
Police have to file a petition with the court to confiscate the weapons, which the department said it will do.
Parscale was involuntarily hospitalised under the state's Baker and Marchman acts.
The Baker Act allows police to hold an individual for psychiatric investigation if they pose a danger to themselves. The Marchman Act allows intoxicated individuals to be held for up to five days.
Parscale was drunk and armed when his wife, Candice, called police to the Seven Isles home. She told cops the two had been arguing when he loaded one of his guns, sending her scrambling outside.
Candice Parscale also told cops that her husband has hit her in the past.
The caught-on-video arrest shows an apparently drunk Brad Parscale eventually walk out of the house shirtless and holding a beer, to be tackled by a SWAT team member and taken into custody.
Fort Lauderdale police did not immediately reply to an inquiry on whether the Red Flag Law petition had been filed.
Parscale remains an adviser on the Trump campaign.
NOBEL PRIZE NOMINATIONS GALORE
Joe Biden has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by a British politician after President Donald Trump received his third nod.
Chris Bryant, a member of the Labour Party, nominated Biden, saying the former VP has pushed for "force of argument" instead of violence.
"When others have resorted to violent solutions, [Biden] has argued that the best force is the force of argument," Mr Bryant said.
"Because guns can stop a heart but well-placed words can change many hearts, and many hearts can change a world."
The nomination comes after Mr Trump received his third nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize related to the deal that normalised relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates this year.
If he wins, Mr Trump will follow in the footsteps of his predecessor and political foe, Barack Obama, who won it in 2009.
The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the former United States president for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between people".
The award was given just nine months into Mr Obama's first term as president, and was criticised as being undeserved and politically motivated.
Mr Biden also joins Russian President Vladimir Putin in the list of nominees for the 2021 Peace Prize.
"You all know that completely different people are nominated for this award," a Kremlin spokesman said.
BIDEN 'REFUSES DRUG TEST' AS TRUMP AIDE FIRES GUN, ATTACKS WIFE
US President Donald Trump has slammed Democrat rival Joe Biden for refusing to have a drug test ahead of the first presidential debate.
"Joe Biden just announced that he will not agree to a Drug Test. Gee, I wonder why?" Mr Trump tweeted a day before facing off with Mr Biden in Cleveland on Tuesday night local time.
Mr Trump also defended his financial dealings after a New York Times investigation revealed a perilous level of personal debt and that he had paid minimal income tax, including just US$750 a year in 2016 and his first year in office.
The President, who has previously boasted that paying less personal income tax made him "smart", on Monday claimed he had paid "many millions of dollars in taxes" and was carrying "very little debt".
It came as new detail emerged about an apparent breakdown experienced by former top Trump aide Brad Parscale, who was recently demoted.
The former 2020 campaign manager was hospitalised yesterday after his wife called police for help, saying Mr Parscale had assaulted her, fired a gun in their house and was threatening self harm.
He was detained under Florida's Baker Act, after a Fort Lauderdale SWAT team tackled him at his $4 million home.
Seargent Matthew Moceri said he "initiated a double leg take down" of the 203cm tall Parscale, who was shirtless and holding a beer when police arrived and refusing to obey their commands.
Candice Parscale reportedly later told police that Parscale, who continued working for the Trump campaign but lost the top job in July, was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
Police said they found 10 firearms in the couple's home.
It came after Mr Trump over the weekend challenged Mr Biden to a drug test, saying his debate performance was "suspicious".
Mr Biden responded in a press conference Sunday: "He's almost … no, I have no comment".
But his spokesman Kate Bedingfield later said the Democratic candidate: "intends to deliver his debate answers in words".
"If the President thinks his best case is made in urine he can have at it," she said on Monday, local time.
Meanwhile, reports emerged that Mr Trump wanted to name his daughter Ivanka as his running mate in the 2016 election, adding "she's bright, she's smart, she's beautiful, and the people would love her!"
According to a book by his former Deputy Campaign Manager Rick Gates, Trump flirted with the idea of nominating Ivanka as veep in June 2016 during a discussion with his top campaign aides.
Gates claims that Mr Trump asked the assembled group, "I think it should be Ivanka. What about Ivanka as my VP?"
In the book, Wicked Game: An Insider's Story on how Trump Won, Mueller Failed and America Lost, Gates writes: "All heads turned toward her, and she just looked surprised. We all knew Trump well enough to keep our mouths shut and not laugh."
Ivanka, then-34-years-old, was a fashion and real estate executive who had never held an elected official position or had any political experience before.
According to Gates, it was an idea Trump brought up repeatedly, including during a conversation that included son-in-law Jared Kushner and the other adult Trump children.
TRUMP DENIES 'FAKE NEWS' TAX ALLEGATIONS
US President Donald Trump has denied reports he paid less than $US750 ($1060) in income tax the year he won the election and during his first year in office.
The New York Times claims Mr Trump paid no tax for 11 of 18 years for which it had obtained financial records, in a wide-ranging report that claims he "takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes".
The juicy investigation also listed intimate personal expenses for Mr Trump, including secretly paying more than $1m to his daughter Ivanka and spending about $100,000 on hair stylists.
Mr Trump has defied historical norms and refused to release his tax returns since entering the White House, despite saying on the 2016 campaign trail he would do so.
He is the first President to do so in more than 40 years, and his refusal to release his returns has been increasingly targeted by his Democratic opponent Joe Biden.
Mr Trump has repeatedly said he could not release his returns because they were being audited.
"It's under audit. They've been under audit for a long time," he said.
"The IRS does not treat me well.
"When they're not (being audited) I would be proud to show (them)."
Several lawsuits are currently trying to reveal Mr Trump's financial dealings, and the Times unearthed several tax returns ahead of Sunday's trove which depicted a perilous financial situation for the President.
It said "his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed".
Mr Trump slammed the reports and said he had "paid a lot" of taxes.
"It's fake news. It's totally fake news," Mr Trump said during a press conference.
He also claimed the newspaper had not contacted him for comment on its report, which said he had been able to avoid paying personal income tax for 11 years because of substantial losses.
His spokesman said "most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate" of the report, which came less than five weeks ahead of the November presidential election.
Mr Trump said at a White House press conference that he "paid a lot" in income tax.
"I paid a lot of state income taxes too. New York State charges a lot," said Mr Trump, who last year moved his home to Florida, which has much lower state taxes.
The Times said Mr Trump had reported losing $US315 million ($A447 million) at his golf courses alone, the majority of that draining from his Trump National at Doral, Florida.
The Trump International Hotel in Washington DC, which has become a de facto White House and hosted multiple foreign leadership delegations, had lost $US55 million ($A78 million) in the past four years, it said.
The paper also said that Mr Trump had shifted some of his reported income to his oldest daughter Ivanka, who is often referred to as the First Daughter.
It said it had "discovered a striking match: Mr Trump's private records show that his company once paid $US747,622 ($A1.06 million) in fees to an unnamed consultant for hotel projects" in several countries.
"Ivanka Trump's public disclosure forms - which she filed when joining the White House staff in 2017 - show that she had received an identical amount through a consulting company she co-owned," the report said.
It also said Mr Trump had spent $US70,000 ($A99m) on hairdressers when he was making the long running reality show, The Apprentice.
The report came three days ahead of the hotly-anticipated first presidential debate, during which Mr Trump and Mr Biden will face off in Cleveland.
Mr Trump is trailing his Democrat opponent in national polls and closing the gap in some key state races.
He started Sunday celebrating the announcement he was nominating a new conservative Supreme Court judge, his third presidential pick, to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Mr Trump also repeated his assertion that Mr Biden, who has eschewed public appearances in recent days, was taking "performance enhancing drugs".
"I will be strongly demanding a Drug Test of Sleepy Joe Biden prior to, or after, the Debate on Tuesday night," he tweeted.
"Naturally, I will agree to take one also. His Debate performances have been record setting UNEVEN, to put it mildly. Only drugs could have caused this discrepancy?".
Originally published as Ex FBI boss 'can't recall' Trump Russia plan to protect Hillary