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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, July 12, 2018 1:00 am


Contempt charge hinted if FBI lawyer won't talk

News services

House Republicans strongly suggested they would seek to hold former FBI lawyer Lisa Page in contempt of Congress unless she agrees to testify by Friday about her role in the FBI's probes into Hillary Clinton's emails and President Donald Trump's suspected Russia ties.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said the House Judiciary Committee is expected to give Page the opportunity to testify publicly today alongside Peter Strzok, the former top FBI counterintelligence official with whom she exchanged anti-Trump texts while the two were having an affair. Alternatively, Meadows said, the committee will give Page the option of testifying behind closed doors Friday in a transcribed interview.

“Outside of that, contempt would be our only option,” Meadows said.

Strzok, who has already spoken to the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees behind closed doors, is expected to testify publicly before the panels Thursday.

The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for Page's testimony earlier this week. But her lawyer, Amy Jeffress, pushed back, arguing in a statement that Page needed “clarification of the scope of the Committee's interest in interviewing her and access to relevant documents” before she sat for an interview with the panels.

Jeffress added that Page received word from the Justice Department only “after 11 p.m.” Tuesday that she would have access to the documents she needed for Wednesday's interview.

Manafort ordered moved to new jail

A federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, has ordered Paul Manafort to be moved to the city jail, although Manafort has asked to stay in a rural facility where prosecutors say he is receiving special treatment.

Judge T.S. Ellis wrote in a filing published Wednesday that Manafort's “access to counsel and his ability to prepare for trial trumps his personal comfort.”

Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager, had asked for his July 25 trial on bank and tax fraud charges to be delayed in large part because it was difficult to prepare while incarcerated 100 miles away at the Northern Neck Regional Jail. But on Tuesday, Manafort resisted being moved to Alexandria, arguing that while the city jail would be more convenient, he did not want to adjust to new circumstances so close to trial.

“It is surprising and confusing when counsel identifies a problem and then opposes the most logical solution to that problem,” Ellis wrote.

Prosecutors said in a court filing Wednesday that Manafort has told people he is being treated like a “VIP” in the Northern Neck jail, where he has his own phone and computer, writes emails and does not have to wear a uniform.

Trump DOJ nominee narrowly confirmed

The Senate on Wednesday approved President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Justice Department's criminal division following a yearlong confirmation process.

Brian Benczkowski was narrowly confirmed as an assistant attorney general with a 51-48 vote.

Democrats strongly opposed the nomination, partly because of his work while in private practice for a leading Russian bank. Democrats said his Russian ties could complicate special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

Democrats also contended that Benczkowski did not have enough experience in federal courtrooms to run the criminal division.