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Trump blasts ‘scam’ Michael Flynn investigation after new FBI documents released By https://www.politico.com/staff/quint-forgey 04/30/2020 07:50 AM EDT, Updated: 04/30/2020 08:59 AM EDT
“President Donald Trump vented outrage Thursday over the FBI’s treatment of Michael Flynn following the release of government records and recent media reports regarding the bureau’s 2017 investigation into his former national security adviser. In a remarkable series of nearly 30 tweets and retweets issued within a 12-hour time frame – which came as the number of Americans killed by the coronavirus surged beyond 60,000 – Trump excoriated former FBI Director James Comey, questioned the bureau’s current leadership, and fiercely defended Flynn and other associates ensnared by the far-reaching Russia probe that consumed the early years of his administration. ”
Documents show FBI debated how to handle investigation of Michael Flynn. By JOSH GERSTEIN, KYLE CHENEY and NATASHA BERTRAND 04/29/2020 09:34 PM EDT https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/29/fbi-michael-flynn-224311
‘Newly released documents about the origins of the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn show that FBI officials feared that the new Trump White House might view the bureau as “playing games” if it sought to interview him without disclosing exactly what it was up to.’ “The four pages of records provided to Flynn’s defense attorneys last week and unsealed on Wednesday by a federal judge reflect internal brainstorming at the FBI in January 2017 about how to approach the politically explosive investigation into Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador weeks earlier, during the presidential transition.”
co-published on govdoc-l and freegovinfo.info.
This is definitely bad. Government data collection has always been political and driven by legislative requirements. The FBI has published uniform crime reports since 1930. but FiveThrirtyEight’s report about missing data in the 2016 FBI Crime Report is a new and troubling turn of events. The Trump administration is just ignoring long standing data collection and publication for blatantly political reasons. According to the report, approximately 70% of the tables from the FBI’s most important crime report have been taken offline. For example, there were 51 tables of arrest data in the 2015 report, and there are only seven in the 2016 report.
The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) curates and archives this data for the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). In fact, I’m told it’s usually the most downloaded data from their site. But they can’t collect and archive what’s not there. Hopefully someone will FOIA the FBI for the missing data, but get ready to have to explain to our users about data gaps across the US government from 2016 – 2020. 😐
These removals mean that there is less data available concerning a perennial focus of Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions: violent crime. Trump and Sessions have frequently talked about MS-13, a gang with Salvadoran roots, as a looming problem in the country. MS-13 has been cited in 37 Department of Justice press releases and speeches in 2017, compared to only nine mentions in 2016 and five in 2015. Sessions gave a speech on the organization last month, while Trump gave a speech on Long Island in July, saying the gang had “transformed peaceful parks and beautiful quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields. They’re animals.” Trump also frequently refers to gun violence in Chicago, and at the beginning of his presidency, he established a Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, which aims to study and promote awareness of crimes committed by immigrants who entered the country illegally.
Although the removal of the tables makes it more difficult to get information on one of the White House’s most prominent causes, it also seems like part of a trend in the Trump administration: the suppression of government data and an unwillingness to share information with the press and public. About two weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the FEMA website stopped displaying key metrics relating to island residents’ access to drinkable water and electricity. The data was later restored. The early days of the Trump administration were marked by reports that federal agency employees had been instructed not to talk to the press and to restrict social media postings.
Since Trump took office, government watchdog groups have been concerned about access to government data and maintaining the integrity of that data.
The trump administration seems to be systematically making it more difficult for the public to communicate with the government.
Last week the White House closed its telephone comment line (202-456-1111) and suggested that people make comments on the White House’s website at or on Facebook Messenger although there is currently no way to leave a message on the White House’s Facebook page: Rep. Speier demands reopening of White House phone comment line, by Bay City News Service, Palo Alto Almanac (Feb 6, 2017).
Also last week, the FBI stopped accepting FOIA requests by email.
Yesterday, Mashable reported that the Department of Energy has taken down its public-facing employee directory, making it far more difficult for journalists and members of the public to locate email addresses and phone numbers for agency personnel. It just got a whole lot harder for you to contact Energy Department employees, By Andrew Freedman (2017-02-16).
TechCrunch and The Daily Dot report that the FBI will no longer accept Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by email starting next month.
- FBI axes FOIA requests by email, so dust off your fax machine, by Taylor Hatmaker TechCrunch (Feb 6, 2017).
- FBI will revert to using fax machines, snail mail for FOIA requests, by Dell Cameron The Daily Dot (Feb 6, 2017)
The FBI FOIA page still says that “you may submit a FOIA request by e-mail, fax, standard mail, or through eFOIPA, the FBI’s electronic FOIPA portal” but the request page has no instructions for emailing requests.
The Bureau’s “eFOIPA portal” does provide a way of submitting requests electronically, but the Terms of Service state that “Not all requests can be fulfilled using the eFOIPA system” and that “Requests for fee waivers will require additional documentation.” The Terms also place other limitations on the types of submissions that can be placed electronically. The Daily Dot report notes that:
Much of the information the FBI now requests from users also appears unnecessary under the law. For instance, it asks users to identify whether the request is being filed inside the U.S. or from another country. Nowhere in the federal statute does it say requesters should provide the FBI with their physical address.
In addition, users of the portal are limited to “one request per day and one request per submission” by the Terms of Service. The Daily Dot notes that there is no legal basis to those restrictions.