WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump launched a fresh attack Sunday on the credibility of his own FBI, responding to revelations that an FBI agent was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian election meddling because of anti-Trump text messages.
Trump, two days after his former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, again denied he directed FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating Flynn.
The Republican president offered a running Twitter commentary Sunday amid renewed focus on Mueller’s probe and Flynn’s decision to cooperate with the investigation as part of his plea agreement. Democrats said the developments suggested growing evidence of coordination between Trump’s circle and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the panel is beginning to see “the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice” against Trump.
“I think we see this in indictments ... and some of the comments that are being made. I see this in the hyperfrenetic attitude of the White House, the comments every day, the continual tweets,” Feinstein said. “And I see it most importantly in what happened with the firing of Director Comey, and it is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. That’s obstruction of justice.”
In a series of tweets, Trump questioned the direction of the federal law enforcement agency and wrote that after Comey, whom Trump fired in May, the FBI’s reputation is “in Tatters — worst in History!” He vowed to “bring it back to greatness.” The president also retweeted a post saying new FBI Director Chris Wray “needs to clean house.”
The president seized on reports a veteran FBI counterintelligence agent was removed from Mueller’s team last summer after the discovery of an exchange of text messages that were viewed as potentially anti-Trump. The agent, Peter Strzok, also had worked on the investigation of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, said Mueller removed Strzok from the team “immediately upon learning of the allegations.” He would not elaborate on the nature of the accusations. The person who discussed the matter with The Associated Press was not authorized to speak about it by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Trump tweeted Sunday: “Tainted (no, very dishonest?) FBI ‘agent’s role in Clinton probe under review.’ Led Clinton Email probe.” In a separate tweet, he wrote: “Report: ‘ANTI-TRUMP FBI AGENT LED CLINTON EMAIL PROBE’ Now it all starts to make sense!”
Strzok’s removal almost certainly reflected a desire to insulate the investigators from any claims of political bias or favoritism. Trump and many of his supporters have at times sought to discredit the integrity of the investigation, in part by claiming a close relationship between Mueller and Comey and by pointing to political contributions to Democrats made by some lawyers on the team.
Following the tweets, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warned the president to tread cautiously. “You tweet and comment regarding ongoing criminal investigations at your own peril. I’d be careful if I were you, Mr. President. I’d watch this,” Graham said.
Mueller has been investigating whether Trump campaign associates coordinated with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, and Strzok’s background in counterintelligence would have been seen as particularly valuable for a secretive FBI probe examining foreign contacts.
Mueller’s investigation so far has netted charges against four people, with the most recent criminal case brought Friday when Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted he “had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
The tweet suggested Trump was aware when the White House dismissed Flynn on Feb. 13 he had lied to the FBI, which had interviewed him weeks earlier. Comey has said Trump the following day brought up the Flynn investigation in private at the White House and told him he hoped he could “let this go.”
Amid questions raised by the tweet, Trump associates tried to put distance Saturday evening between the president himself and the tweet. One person familiar with the situation said the tweet was crafted by John Dowd, one of the president’s personal attorneys. Dowd declined to comment when reached by the AP on Saturday night.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said given that Mueller could have charged Flynn with more crimes but instead limited it to just one offense, “Bob Mueller must have concluded that he was getting a lot of value in terms of Gen. Flynn’s cooperation.”
“I do believe he will incriminate others in the administration. Otherwise, there was no reason for Bob Mueller to give Mike Flynn this kind of deal,” Schiff said, adding, “Whether that will ultimately lead to the president, I simply don’t know.”
DENVER — “Wind in the Willows” is a classic English children’s fantasy novel that sprung out of bedtime stories author Kenneth Grahame told his son.
Dave Larson, a former Denver City Council member, came up with a similarly named project, Willow Wind. But it’s no fantasy. It came out of a different dream — that seniors in Denver should have a place to stay in the same town they lived their entire lives — and not be isolated at home alone.
The dream is about to come true.
Willow Wind is a 24-unit assisted living community on the south end of Denver, adjacent to Brothers Market. The $4 million facility will be open and ready for occupancy in January.
It fills a community need, Larson said, and he has a proven track record. He runs the Walnut Court and Colonial Manor senior housing complexes in Waterloo. And he has a partner to make it work — Western Home Communities. Larson owns Willow Wind; Western Home will manage it.
Larson and Western Home worked together before on Walnut Court.
“They do a great job,” Larson said. “Great brand, good people that work there. Outstanding. No need to re-invent the wheel. They pretty much have it figured out.” In fact, the building is similar in appearance to many of the Western Home buildings on the South Main campus in Cedar Falls.
Amy Terrill, who grew up in Denver, will manage the facility. She previously worked 20 years at UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital on the north side of Waterloo, which serves many Denver residents.
Willow Wind has 17 one-bedroom units and seven two-bedroom units. It will have a marketing and activities coordinator, a beauty shop, community living room, transportation and other features. It also has a private dining area for family gatherings.
“The big thing I like about it is the social” aspects, Larson said. “It gives people an opportunity to be social with people in their own age group. They’re not homebound.”
The facility also provides three meals a day and laundry services. Residents also may have priority for higher level of care at other Western Home facilities if and when the need arises. The rooms feature wide doorways, walk-in closets and handicap accessible bathrooms.
The facility is almost done except for finishings and furnishings. “We started a year ago last September with dirt moving,” Larson said. But the project had been contemplated for a long time.
“My grandparents lived in Harmony, Minn., and they went to assisted living,” he said, and decided, “I had the senior housing with Colonial Manor and Walnut Court, and said, ‘This is something Denver should have.’
He said he talked to Western Home and moved ahead with the project. “And I would only go ahead and do it if the Western Home would manage it. There’s no way I would do it otherwise. Having that brand in our community, the Western Home brand, is priceless. Very fortunate they’re willing to manage this, and it works on their mission,” Larson said.
Western Home manages several other similar facilities around the area, Terrill said, including Cresco, Grundy Center and Jesup. “This will be modeled pretty closely to the one in Jesup,” she said, which is about 4 years old, with updates based on suggestions from that facility’s staff.
More information about Willow Wind may be obtained at (319) 984-5867.
ANKENY — The Des Moines company selected to grow marijuana and manufacture medical cannabis products would like to produce tinctures, creams, soft gels, suppositories and even inhalers that allow patients with a variety of ailments to get customized therapies.
“We want to create efficacious doses within the parameters established by the law,” Lucas Nelson, an attorney for Kemin Industries and a consultant with MedPharm Iowa, told the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Advisory Board on Friday morning.
The Iowa Department of Public Health on Tuesday released a notice of intent to give MedPharm Iowa a cannabidiol manufacturing license. The company, affiliated with Kemin, a Des Moines ingredient firm, would be charged with supplying medical cannabis products by Dec. 1, 2018.
The state will issue up to five licenses for medical cannabis dispensaries by April.
Tom Swegle, chief executive officer of MedCara Pharmaceuticals, of Conrad, demonstrated a transdermal cream applicator that would dispense 2.25 milliliters of prescription cannabis cream per click to be applied topically for joint pain, for example. A penlike oil dispenser also could be adapted to release one drop per click.
All products would be in child-resistant containers, like traditional medications.
MedPharm Iowa was the only company to apply for a manufacturer’s license, possibly because of the tight turnaround to develop products and an annual fee of $150,000 to $200,000, said Sarah Reisetter, deputy director of the public health department.
The relatively low cap for tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, allowed in the products may restrict the market so manufacturers would have a hard time making it profitable.
“People are concerned about the sustainability of the program,” Reisetter said.
Iowa’s new medical marijuana law expands beyond chronic epilepsy the illnesses patients with a doctor’s prescription could treat with medical cannabis to include cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS or HIV and others. But Nelson and others who spoke at the meeting Friday would like more conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder or ulcerative colitis.
“We see this bill as a great start,” Nelson said. “The state and this board, we really do want to make this a collaborative effort to bring this treatment to the people of Iowa.”
Dr. Bob Shreck, a Des Moines oncologist and board member, expressed concern about the lack of research findings on the effectiveness of medical cannabis. The federal government has tightly controlled studies of medical marijuana, which advocates argue has hamstrung efforts to use these therapies legally.
“We, as doctors, are stuck,” Shreck said. “We live in an evidence-based world. I would be reluctant to open this wide open to every single use everyone wants this to be open to.”
At this time, the board does not plan to ask the Iowa Legislature to raise the THC limit or add more medical conditions, but will lobby for removing a prohibition on some felons getting medical cannabis. The state health department will request permission to retain fees to pay for the cost of the program.
CEDAR FALLS — The two candidates in Tuesday’s Cedar Falls City Council runoff election each raised nearly an equal amount of money for their campaigns — though each took different paths.
Candidate Rob Green raised $2,560 through the state reporting period ending Nov. 25 and spent $947. He says he raised more than $915 since then, for a total of $3,485 raised, from more than 40 individual contributors.
Candidate LeaAnn Saul raised $3,550 through Nov. 25, $3,000 of which was a personal loan from herself.
For the Nov. 7 municipal election, Saul raised more than $5,400 and loaned her campaign $2,000 for a total of more than $7,400, with $6,800 in expenditures. At-large candidate Rob Green raised $2,100 and spent almost $1,900. She spent $2,620 for the same period.
Saul said she received possibly an additional $50 since reporting period ending Nov. 25. She said she received additional offers of donations but declined most of them.
“This one’s on me,” she said.
Green, meanwhile raised more prior to the runoff election than the Nov. 7 vote. He also listed a $1,000 in-kind contribution from himself for advertising, web development and graphic design.
“I’m concerned about just how much info these (disclosure statements) are leaving out, since the reporting period ends 10 days before the elections,” Green said. “I’m trying to see if this is worth discussing as a legislative change” with the state. “The e-filing system would certainly make that possible, and would result in a more accurate filing for all candidates.”
Contributors of $100 or more to each campaign for the reporting period ending Nov. 25 are as follows. The indivlduals listed contributed $100 except where noted in parentheses.
Rob Green for Cedar Falls: Michael Dargan, Alexsandra Lehman, Gary Froyen, Christopher Martin ($200), Jeffrey Danielson, Ronald Green, Jeff Brich, Brent Johnson, Amy Mohr, Eashann Vajpeyi, Gary and Tiffany Norte ($200).
Saul for Council: Carolyn Hamrock ($150); Sid Morris, Mark Rolinger, Fred Rose ($200).