As Democratic leaders tentatively took impeachment proceedings off the docket this week, the White House put payback on the front burner — calling for closer looks into everyone from the FBI officials who investigated the Russia case to allies of Hillary Clinton’s campaign who solicited foreign help during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“All those things have to be explored and more,” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday.
On social media and in televised interviews, President Trump, his attorneys, his campaign and senior members of his administration have in the wake of the Robert Mueller report seemingly adopted a strategy of highlighting lesser-known episodes of alleged misconduct by Democrats and investigators, as Democrats pursue obstruction of justice inquiries.
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway led the charge on Monday, openly wondering on Twitter why former FBI Director James Comey focused so heavily on the lurid and salacious claims in a largely discredited anti-Trump dossier.
“Comey, then-FBI Director, waited 2 months after @realDonaldTrump was elected to pay a visit & brief the President-elect,” Conway wrote. “While there, he wasted his time on this golden-shower-nonsense-concocted-dossier. Could have been honest about Obama ignoring Russian interference instead.”
“Tables are finally turning on the Witch Hunt!” Trump also tweeted.
The FBI is currently being sued by conservative group Judicial Watch, after the bureau failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request concerning contacts in late 2016 between the then-FBI general counsel and a top Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer, as well as contacts between the FBI and the author of the dossier.
Comey briefed Trump on the salacious contents of the dossier in January 2017, ostensibly to make him aware of potential blackmail threats, Comey later testified. That confidential meeting later leaked, and CNN cited the fact that intelligence officials had briefed Trump on the dossier as a justification for airing the story, even though the dossier’s claims were unverified.
Comey told lawmakers that then-National Intelligence Director James Clapper, an Obama appointee, came up with the idea to brief Trump on the dossier’s contents.
Separately this week, Giuliani revived Republican-led calls to look into whether, and to what extent, a Democratic Party consultant worked with Ukrainian officials to dig up dirt on the Trump campaign.
“Keep your eye on Ukraine,” he said Wednesday.
A 2017 investigation by Politico found that Ukrainian officials not only publicly sought to undermine Trump by questioning his fitness for office, but also worked behind the scenes to secure a Clinton victory.
Among other initiatives, Politico found, the Ukrainian government worked with a DNC consultant to conduct opposition research against Trump, including going after former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for Russian ties, helping lead to his resignation.
Last month, Ukraine Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko opened a probe into the so-called black ledger files that led to Manafort’s departure, after a leaked tape recording apparently showed a senior Ukrainian anticorruption official admitting to disclosing Manafort’s information to help the Clinton campaign. A Ukrainian court later ruled that the move amounted to illegal interference in the U.S. election.
“Now Ukraine is investigating Hillary campaign and DNC conspiracy with foreign operatives including Ukrainian and others to affect 2016 election,” Giuliani tweeted Tuesday. “And there’s no Comey to fix the result.”
On Sunday, Giuliani hammered the same theme. “Is it a crime for an American campaign to consider information from a foreign source or to obtain it?” he asked, responding to claims that the Trump team acted improperly by meeting with Russian-affiliated individuals who promised damaging information on Clinton.
“If so the allegation that the DNC [Democratic National Committee] colluded with Ukrainian officials to generate information to hurt the Trump campaign and help the Clinton campaign must be investigated,” Giuliani added.
Buoyed by Special Counsel Mueller’s findings that no member of the Trump team illegally conspired with Russia, Republicans have additionally turned to a separate known episode of apparent collaboration between a 2016 presidential campaign and a foreign national — specifically, the decision by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC to hire Fusion GPS. The firm, in turn, funded the infamous dossier, drafted by British ex-spy Christopher Steele, which contained numerous assertions that fueled an anti-Trump media frenzy — but that Mueller’s investigators were unable to substantiate.
Nonetheless, the FBI relied heavily on the dossier to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to monitor former Trump aide Carter Page, and the bureau did not clearly disclose to the FISA court that Steele was working for a firm funded by Clinton and the DNC. Rather, the FBI told the court the materials were prepared in connection with a campaign for president. (Only partial versions of the FBI’s FISA application has been released; Trump has told Fox News he will eventually declassify and release all relevant information from the FISA application.)
Democrats, too, heavily pushed the Steele dossier. At a 2017 hearing, now-House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., confidently described Steele as “a former British intelligence officer who is reportedly held in high regard by U.S. intelligence” and repeatedly cited “Steele’s Russian sources” as he described a purported Trump-Russia conspiracy.
But in an article last week, The New York Times joined a chorus of publications that have long cast doubt on the dossier’s veracity, writing that the document “financed by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee” was “likely to face new, possibly harsh scrutiny from multiple inquiries.”
The article noted that Steele relied in part on Russian sources and that, ironically, the document could have been part of a “Russian disinformation” effort to smear Trump even as Moscow was going after Clinton.
The article suggested that dossier skepticism, once panned as denialism, has entered the mainstream, as Mueller’s report found “some of the most sensational claims in the dossier appeared to be false, and others were impossible to prove.”
Internal FBI text messages obtained by Fox News last month showed that a senior Justice Department official warned of “bias” in a source key to a FISA application. The DOJ Inspector General is investigating whether the FBI violated its procedures or Page’s constitutional rights by withholding exculpatory information from the FISA court.
“The Office of the Inspector General has a pending investigation of the FISA process in the Russian investigation, and I expect that that will be complete probably in May or June, I am told,” Attorney General William Barr testified earlier this month.
House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has already sent several criminal referrals to the Justice Department related to alleged crimes committed during the Russia probe, and Fox News is told as many as “two dozen” individuals could be implicated. It was unclear exactly whom had been referred.
“The American people have only seen the pieces that have been declassified so far,” Nunes told Fox News earlier this month. “There’s still more information.”
The Trump team’s pushback comes as top Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have clamped down on calls to impeach the president. In a private Democratic conference call on Monday, two sources told Fox News, Pelosi said impeachment would be premature, and even anti-Trump firebrand Maxine Waters declined to call on her colleagues to begin impeachment proceedings.
However, Fox News is told Democrats emphasized on the conference call that more investigations and fact-finding are necessary before any final decision can be made.
Schiff, for his part, has already referred to a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting as “direct evidence” of collusion in plain sight. Schiff has only doubled down since Mueller’s report was published, calling for closer looks into Trump’s finances and contacts with Russians.
Donald Trump Jr., his brother-in-law Jared Kushner, and Manafort were known to have attended the meeting with Kremlin-linked attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, and the Trump team gave shifting explanations for the role of the president in drafting media responses to inquiries about the episode.
But Mueller found that the meeting was not a criminal campaign finance violation, in part because there was insufficient evidence that the involved parties knew they were breaking the law — a high standard that applies only to certain crimes. Additionally, prosecutors said, it was unclear whether an exchange of information not available on the public marketplace could constitute a “campaign contribution” by a foreign national in the first place.
Still, Schiff told Fox News that episodes like that meeting raised grave concerns, and indicated impeachment would be a “difficult” issue that would be addressed in a matter of weeks.
In the dueling messaging wars, though, the Trump team has been nothing if not confident in recent days.
Giuliani told “Fox News Sunday,” for example, that “so far we don’t think we need to” release a planned counter-report to Mueller’s findings, because “we think the public debate is playing out about as well as it can — why confuse it?”
Fox News’ Adam Shaw and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics
Elizabeth Warren openly sparred with Amazon in a series of pointed tweets on Tuesday, just hours after she admitted during a nationally televised town hall that she still shops at the e-commerce giant — even though she wants it broken up, along with a slew of other major tech companies.
Warren kicked off the spat on Monday by reiterating her argument that Amazon abuses its control over the Amazon Marketplace, which hosts third-party sellers, to improve its own retail operations and unfairly disadvantage the third-party sellers.
“Giant tech companies have too much power,” Warren wrote Monday night, embedding a clip of her remarks at the town hall. “My plan to #BreakUpBigTech prevents corporations like Amazon from knocking out the rest of the competition. You can be an umpire, or you can be a player — but you can’t be both.”
In response, the official Amazon News Twitter account wrote Tuesday afternoon that third-party sellers have been doing better than ever.
“[S]ellers aren’t being ‘knocked out’ — they’re seeing record sales every year,” Amazon wrote, after denying that it uses third-party sellers’ data to boost its own products. “Also, Walmart is much larger; Amazon is less than 4% of U.S. retail.”
“Oh boy,” Warren shot back. “Here are the facts.”
The Massachusetts senator then cited “reports” that Amazon used third-party seller data to make its own products successful, and linked to Bloomberg News and Wall Street Journal articles on the topic.
Warren also alleged that Amazon sought to “deliberately misconstrue” its near-50 percent market share in online retail, by instead using brick-and-mortar numbers.
Asked at a CNN town hall on Monday to identify her last Amazon purchase, Warren said she bought a mailbox.
But even though she shops at Jeff Bezos’ mega-retailer, Warren told host Anderson Cooper that breaking up Amazon would lead to “a lot more competition where little businesses have a chance to get going.”
In addition to Amazon, Warren previously said she wanted to break up Google, Facebook, and Apple.
Speaking to The Verge at the South by Southwest (SXSW) technology conference last month in Austin, Texas, Warren specifically demanded that Apple must be forced either to surrender control over the App Store or to stop selling its own apps within it.
“Apple, you’ve got to break it apart from their App Store. It’s got to be one or the other,” Warren said. “Either they run the platform or they play in the store. They don’t get to do both at the same time.”
She elaborated: “If you run a platform where others come to sell, then you don’t get to sell your own items on the platform because you have two comparative advantages. One, you’ve sucked up information about every buyer and every seller before you’ve made a decision about what you’re going to to sell. And second, you have the capacity — because you run the platform — to prefer your product over anyone else’s product. It gives an enormous comparative advantage to the platform.”
Warren asserted that similar antitrust principles were “applied to railroad companies more than a hundred years ago,” and that “we need to now look at those tech platforms the same way.”
Source: Fox News Politics
The White House will fight House Democrats’ subpoena of testimony and documents from ex-White House counsel Don McGahn, Fox News is told — and almost immediately, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y, characterized the move as “one more act of obstruction” by the Trump administration.
The brewing fight over the McGahn subpoena was poised to set up a series of other contentious legal showdowns as Democrats seek to publicly question more current and former Trump aides who featured prominently in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation.
Fox News is also told the White House intends to vigorously oppose subpoenas that might run up against executive privilege, a power sanctioned by the Supreme Court that allows the president and members of the executive branch to shield certain internal communications from disclosure, absent a compelling overriding justification.
Neither the “presidential communications privilege,” which protects discussions by the president and senior aides, and the “deliberative process privilege,” which protects even lower-level talks concerning policy discussions, were invoked by the White House to redact any sections of Mueller’s report.
But as Democrats ramp up their investigations following the report’s release, Trump and his team have begun pushing back on a campaign of probes they say are nakedly partisan.
The White House scored an early victory in that effort on Tuesday, after House Democrats agreed to postpone a subpoena deadline for Trump’s financial records, following Trump’s lawsuit challenging the subpoena.
Nadler on Monday subpoenaed McGahn to testify publicly next month. The top Democrat described McGahn, who stepped down as White House counsel in October 2018, as “a critical witness to many of the alleged instances of obstruction of justice and other misconduct described in the Special Counsel’s report.”
In a statement Tuesday evening responding to reports that the White House would fight the subpoena, Nader called the subpoena “valid” and said he wouldn’t back down.
“We have asked him to supply documents to the Committee by May 7 and to testify here on May 21,” Nadler said. “Our request covers the subjects described by Mr. McGahn to the Special Counsel, and described by Special Counsel Mueller to the American public in his report. As such, the moment for the White House to assert some privilege to prevent this testimony from being heard has long since passed.”
Nadler added: “I suspect that President Trump and his attorneys know this to be true as a matter of law—and that this evening’s reports, if accurate, represent one more act of obstruction by an Administration desperate to prevent the public from talking about the President’s behavior. The Committee’s subpoena stands. I look forward to Mr. McGahn’s testimony.”
On “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace pressed Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani on a section of the Mueller report outlining how Trump allegedly told McGahn to inform the acting attorney general that Mueller should be removed in June 2017 — a demand that McGahn ignored. Trump has strongly suggested that claim was ‘bulls—.'”
“If he had fired him, there wouldn’t have been an obstruction,” Giuliani began. “So, as long as he was replaced by somebody, which he would have been, and there were good reasons- arguable reasons.”
Giuliani insisted that accounts of McGahn’s story have changed multiple times and that Trump was merely calling for Mueller’s supposed conflicts of interests to be “considered.”
Mueller’s report contained purported conversations between Trump and McGahn that have raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill.
“Why do you take notes? Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes,” Trump said, according to Mueller’s report. The special counsel said McGahn responded that he keeps notes “because he is a ‘real lawyer’ and explained that notes create a record and are not a bad thing.”
These notes appear to have angered Trump, but also allowed Mueller to conclude that McGahn was a credible witness “with no motive to lie or exaggerate given the position he held in the White House.”
Last week, Trump unleashed a series of broadsides concerning claims that his associates had given Mueller damaging information.
“Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue,” Trump tweeted. “Watch out for people that take so-called ‘notes,’ when the notes never existed until needed.”
John Dowd, who served as a member of President Trump’s legal team from June 2017 until March 2018, backed up Trump on “Fox & Friends” Monday.
Asked when Trump said to fire Mueller, Dowd said: “He never did. I was there at the same time that the report says McGahn mentioned this, and I was assigned to deal with Mueller and briefed the president every day. … At no time did the president ever say, ‘you know, John, I’m going to get rid of him.’ It was the opposite.”
Dowd continued: “Here’s the message the president had for Bob Mueller, he told me to carry — number one, you tell him I respect what he is doing; number two, you tell him he has my full cooperation; number three, get it done as quickly as possible; and number four, whatever else you need, let me know. That was always the message and that is exactly what we did.”
Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain and Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics
House Democrats have agreed to postpone their imminent deadline for President Trump to turn over years of financial documents pending a court ruling on his lawsuit to block such a release, handing a major victory to the White House and, for now, vindicating Trump’s decision to take the matter to court.
Trump’s lawyers on Monday sued to block a subpoena issued by members of Congress to the accounting firm Mazars USA LLC for an array of Trump’s financial information, including annual statements, periodic financial reports and independent auditors reports.
Mazars produced, among other documents, “statements of financial condition” for Trump before he became president, outlining his net worth in ways Democrats have charged may have been intentionally misleading.
Trump’s suit named Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Democratic chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Peter Kenny, the chief investigative counsel of the House committee, as its plaintiffs. The complaint, filed in a Washington federal court, argued that the subpoena “has no legitimate legislative purpose”and is simply intended to harass the president.
A hearing in the case has been set for May 14, and Democrats have agreed to delay the response date on their subpoena until seven days after the court issues a ruling.
Separately, the administration defied a demand from Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., to turn over six years of Trump’s tax returns by the close of business on Tuesday.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a letter to Neal on Tuesday that he was waiting for a Justice Department opinion on whether it is permissible to turn over the president’s returns to Congress without his consent, and that a final decision is expected by May 6.
Mnuchin made clear in no uncertain terms, though, that the Democrats’ request was “unprecedented,” and that ordinary requests from Congress for taxpayer information were efforts to inform tax law drafting — not to expose the private information of a particular taxpayer.
Mnuchin also argued that while Democrats claim they are acting in their oversight capacity, there has been an ongoing effort for several years, by various actors, to expose Trump’s returns “for the sake of exposure” and politicial gain.
Mnuchin wrote that the Treasury Department does not share Democrats’ “confidence that there is no limit to the willingness of the courts to accept obviously pretextual legislative justifications for information demands — particularly when private tax information is at risk.”
While Mnuchin noted that IRS provisions grant Congress the authority in some cases to obtain tax information, he pointed out that “the law does not allow Congress to set a deadline for the response for this request of a person’s tax returns.”
The Trump administration generally has signaled that Democrats’ efforts to obtain the tax returns will be fruitless. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney had told “Fox News Sunday” earlier this month that Democrats would “never” see the returns.
Mnuchin got into a fiery viral exchange with U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, the Financial Services Committee chair, just weeks ago at a televised hearing that touched on the issue.
Neal hasn’t announced next steps after sending two letters to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig demanding Trump’s taxes. But he could opt next to issue a subpoena to enforce his demand, sent under a 1924 law that requires the Treasury secretary to furnish any tax return requested by a handful of lawmakers with responsibility over the IRS.
In another parallel congressional probe, Cummings, D-Md., has said the White House is in “open defiance” of his panel after lawyers advised a former official to ignore a separate subpoena related to the committee’s investigation of White House security clearances.
Cummings said Tuesday in a statement that “it appears that the president believes that the Constitution does not apply to his White House, that he may order officials at will to violate their legal obligations, and that he may obstruct attempts by Congress to conduct oversight.”
He added the White House “has refused to produce a single piece of paper or a single witness” in any of the panel’s investigations this year. Democrats took control of the House in January.
Cummings said he is consulting with other lawmakers and staff about scheduling a vote to hold former White House personnel security director Carl Kline in contempt of Congress after Kline did not show up on Tuesday for a scheduled deposition.
The committee subpoenaed Kline after one of his former subordinates told the panel that dozens of people in Trump’s administration were granted security clearances despite “disqualifying issues” in their backgrounds.
Fox News’ Bill Mears, Alex Pappas, Lawrence Edward, Mike Emanuel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics
A top Democrat on Tuesday called for the Federal Trade Commission to hold Facebook chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg “individually liable for the company’s repeated violations of Americans’ privacy,” and charged that Zuckerberg’s status as majority shareholder improperly “insulates him from accountability to Facebook’s board and shareholders.”
The comments from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., came as federal regulators are reportedly considering seeking some kind of oversight of Zuckerberg’s leadership of Facebook over the social network giant’s mishandling of users’ personal information, which may have violated an ongoing consent decree that legally requires the company to better protect user data.
“Given Mr. Zuckerberg’s deceptive statements, his personal control over Facebook, and his role in approving key decisions related to the sharing of user data, the FTC can and must hold Mr. Zuckerberg personally responsible for these continued violations,” Wyden wrote.
“The FTC must also make clear the significant and material penalties that will apply to both Facebook the corporate and Mr. Zuckerberg the individual should any future violations occur,” Wyden added.
Discussions between Facebook and FTC officials about its data-handling lapses have touched on holding the CEO personally accountable, The Washington Post reported Friday. Zuckerberg controls a majority of Facebook’s voting stock and has run the company since starting it at Harvard in 2004.
The Post quoted two anonymous sources familiar with the discussions. It said putting restraints on Zuckerberg could send a message to other tech giants that the FTC could hold their executives accountable for privacy misdeeds.
“The days of pretending this is an innocent platform are over, and citing Mark in a large-scale enforcement action would drive that home in spades,” Roger McNamee, an early Facebook investor, told the paper.
The FTC had no comment and Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The commission opened an investigation into Facebook last year after revelations that data mining firm Cambridge Analytica had gathered details on as many as 87 million Facebook users without their permission.
The FTC has been examining whether that massive breakdown violated a settlement that Facebook reached in 2011 after government regulators concluded the Menlo Park, California, company had repeatedly broken its privacy promises to users, who now number 2.3 billion globally.
The FTC decree, which runs through 2031, requires that Facebook get its users’ consent to share their personal information in ways that aren’t allowed by their privacy settings.
The Post previously reported the FTC is considering hitting Facebook with a multibillion-dollar fine. That would top its previous record fine of $22.5 million, which it dealt to Google in 2012 for bypassing the privacy controls in Apple’s Safari browser.
Facebook has in the past year been buffeted by media coverage highlighting what critics call a cavalier attitude toward protecting user privacy and data — and in failing to prevent the dissemination of hate speech and misinformation on the biggest communications medium in history.
On Thursday, its Instagram subsidiary said in a blog post that millions more users were affected by a password security lapse than Facebook acknowledged when announcing the problem nearly four weeks ago.
In the initial announcement, it had said tens of thousands of passwords were stored on the site in plain text, meaning company employees could search them.
Earlier this month, a former mentor to Zuckerberg characterized the Facebook CEO’s call for more government regulation of Big Tech as self-serving, cynical and a “monument to insincerity.”
In a Post op-ed, Zuckerberg called for a more standardized approach to policing content, a common standard around verifying political actors prior to and during elections, the adoption of Europe’s data privacy legislation as a common framework and a guarantee of so-called data portability.
However, Roger McNamee, who mentored Zuckerberg in the social network’s early years, said his proposals are disingenuous.
“Each proposal is transparently self-serving,” McNamee said in a Tuesday opinion piece for The Guardian. “While I applaud Zuckerberg for trying to engage policymakers, I do not think anyone should take these proposals seriously.”
Fox News’ Christopher Carbone and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, known for years by the hardboiled moniker “Cocaine Mitch,” told community leaders in his hometown Kentucky on Monday that he wants a new nickname to reflect what he plans to do to a slew of far-left progressive policy proposals: “grim reaper.”
McConnell has long framed the upcoming 2020 elections as a referendum on what he has called the “full socialism on display” from prominent Democrat Party members, including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and presidential contenders Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Kamala Harris.
On Monday, the longtime incumbent was positioning the Senate as a bulwark to defend capitalism, even in the event President Trump doesn’t win re-election in 2020.
“You pass the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, you have fundamentally changed this country, fundamentally changed it into an unproductive place with significant unemployment and huge problems,” McConnell told supporters in Owensboro, Kentucky. “I don’t want you to think this is just a couple of nutcases running around on the fringe. This is pervasive policy view on the other side.”
McConnell added, according to multiple reports: “If I’m still the majority leader of the Senate after next year, none of those things are going to pass the Senate. They won’t even be voted on. So think of me as the grim reaper. None of that stuff is going to pass. None of it.”
McConnell brought Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal resolution to a vote in the Senate in March, and it did not secure a single affirmative vote from Democrats, who charged that the the move was a stunt. McConnell later admitted in an interview with Fox News’ “Special Report with Bret Baier” that the vote was indeed “for show.”
But it would be a grave mistake, McConnell warned Monday, to underestimate the threat posted by the “pervasive” rise of socialism.
“We are having a legitimate debate about the virtues of socialism, and I don’t want you to think it’s just a 28-year-old congresswoman from New York,” McConnell said. “This is much broader than that. I’ve got five colleagues in the Senate, five colleagues running for president, who have signed on to the Green New Deal and Medicare For All.”
“Think of me as the grim reaper.”
McConnell has also cautioned that Amy Klobuchar, a relative moderate 2020 Democratic contender who has called for a public option instead of universal Medicare, would similarly destroy the private insurance industry and cause major problems for the health care system.
McConnell, who first became a senator in 1985, is up for reelection in 2020, and he formally launched his campaign last week by emphasizing his work on tax cuts and federal judicial confirmations.
But Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have reportedly sought to recruit a challenger, despite apparent long odds.
Earlier this year, Matt Jones, a Kentucky sports radio personality who has weighed a bid against McConnell, told reporters that he wanted to see a new face in office.
“Somebody in Kentucky has got to step up and do this,” Jones said. “And it will be a huge challenge, this guy is almost impossible to beat, but it’s possible.”
Last month, a campaign to enlist former figher pilot Amy McGrath to run against McConnell began fundraising.
“There is incredible grassroots energy for Amy McGrath to run against Mitch McConnell,” Ryan Aquilina, who runs the Ditch Mitch project, said at the time. “We had one of our best days ever in terms of fundraising, and that proves in no uncertain terms just how much appetite there is for Amy to run and to defeat Mitch McConnell.”
Source: Fox News Politics
House Democrat leaders backed off the idea of immediately launching impeachment proceedings against President Trump in an urgent conference call Monday evening, amid a growing rift among the party’s rank-and-file members, presidential contenders and committee chairs on the contentious issue.
Fox News is told by two senior sources on the conference call that even House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters, an anti-Trump firebrand, told fellow Democrats that while she personally favored going forward with impeachment proceedings, she was not pushing for other members to join her.
Waters’ hesitation signaled clearly that, for the time being, any impeachment effort would struggle to gain steam. Just last week, Waters, D-Calif., took a far more aggressive tone, charging that “Congress’ failure to impeach is complacency in the face of the erosion of our democracy and constitutional norms.”
Waters also has called Attorney General Bill Barr a “lackey,” saying he was not being “respectful” to Congress. Barr held a news conference presenting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusions and has referred bluntly to the FBI surveillance of the Trump campaign as “spying,” rankling Democrats even as he said the important issue was whether the spying was properly predicated.
On the call Monday night, Waters took a more muted tone and said she was simply saying what she personally thought — not demanding impeachment proceedings.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reportedly told colleagues on the call that while the findings from Mueller’s investigation merited further review, taking the president to trial would be premature. Congress is currently on a two-week recess, and representatives are scattered across the country.
The brewing fractures in the Democrat Party were evident on the Sunday talk show circuit, as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif, told “Fox News Sunday” that the impeachment question presented a “very difficult decision” that would take “the next couple of weeks” to determine.
“I’m not there yet, but I can foresee that possibly coming,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Democrats would be wise to instead focus on the upcoming presidential election.
“Obstruction of justice, if proven, would be impeachable,” New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” adding his committee would “see where the facts lead us.” Nadler issued a subpoena on Monday for documents and testimony from former White House Counsel Donald McGahn, who resisted Trump’s calls to fire Mueller, according to the special counsel’s findings.
Meanwhile, prominent progressive firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat running for president in 2020, wholeheartedly embraced the impeachment push.
Pelosi recognized the intra-party split in a letter to Democrats on Monday, ahead of the conference call.
“While our views range from proceeding to investigate the findings of the Mueller report or proceeding directly to impeachment, we all firmly agree that we should proceed down a path of finding the truth,” Pelosi wrote. “It is also important to know that the facts regarding holding the president accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings.”
Pelosi added: “Whether currently indictable or not, it is clear that the president has, at a minimum, engaged in highly unethical and unscrupulous behavior which does not bring honor to the office he holds.”
Mueller’s 18-month-long probe found no evidence the Trump team conspired illegally with Russians, and debunked numerous conspiracy theories that mainstream media outlets had advanced on the topic. Democrats quickly pivoted to focus on whether the president had illegally obstructed the Russia investigation — a question Mueller chose to allow Barr, the Justice Department, and Congress to address.
Fox News’ Alex Pappas, Chad Pergram, Mike Emanuel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics
The top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee warned ominously on Sunday that “the Russians aren’t getting tired” and are “attacking our electoral system every single day, if not every hour.”
The stark comments from Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., signaled that Democrats are not yet concerned about the possibility of “Russia fatigue” — the notion that after years of nonstop and largely discredited coverage concerning alleged collusion by President Trump associates with foreign nationals, Americans want to focus on other issues.
“You know, I hear a lot of people say that they’re tired of hearing about the Mueller Report,” Cummings acknowledged in an interview with “Face the Nation” on CBS News. “Well, we don’t have time to get tired because the Russians aren’t getting tired. They are attacking our electoral system every single day, if not every hour.”
It was unclear exactly what Cummings was referencing. But in the wake of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference, which cleared the Trump team of any criminal collusion with Russian hacking and social media disinformation campaigns but did not “exonerate” the president on obstruction, Cummings was more circumspect on the possibility of impeaching the president.
“I’m not there yet, but I can foresee that possibly coming,” Cummings said when asked whether he would join other prominent Democrats, including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and presidential contender Elizabeth Warren, in calling for impeachment. “I think that we need to make sure the Congress has all the information.”
He added: “And, you know, history, I think even if we did not win possibly [in the Senate and secure Trump’s removal], if there were not impeachment, I think history would smile upon us for standing up for the Constitution.”
Other Democrats, including Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, Maryland House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have also said impeachment proceedings would be premature.
In the meantime, Cummings previewed new lines of investigation against Trump and said it might be necessary to hear testimony from former White House Counsel Don McGahn and Mueller himself.
A section of the Mueller report outlined how Trump allegedly told McGahn to inform the acting attorney general that Mueller should be removed in June 2017 — a demand that McGahn ignored. Trump has strongly suggested that claim was ‘bulls—.,’ and on “Fox News Sunday,” Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani suggested there had been a misunderstanding.
“Oh my God, I think we need to look at the finances of this president,” Cummings said. “And we also need to know something else. We need to know from Mr. Mueller, exactly what his intentions were. Did he intend for us, as a Congress, to look at this and take some type of action or did he feel as if there was truly no collusion or conspiracy?”
Speaking separately to “Face the Nation,” Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee had a less-than-flattering take on the Mueller report’s assessment of the obstruction issue.
“It’s kind of strange to spend two years on [obstruction] and then speak with the sort of tone that is reminiscent of Pinocchio in the movie ‘Shrek 3,'” Lee said, in an apparent reference to the 2007 film ‘Shrek the Third.’ “It’s full of double negatives. It’s kind of confusing.”
Lee added: “There was no collusion. It isn’t there. Not a scintilla of evidence supports that. So it’s time to move on.”
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President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani asserted in a fiery interview with “Fox News Sunday” that President Trump had “very good reasons to fire” Special Counsel Robert Mueller just one week into his recently-completed probe into Russian election interference, and openly wondered to an Easter morning audience, “When did Mueller become God?”
Giuliani noted, however, that “so far we don’t think we need to” release a planned counter-report to Mueller’s findings because “we think the public debate is playing out about as well as it can — why confuse it?”
Speaking minutes later on “Fox News Sunday,” House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., gave another reason for the White House to celebrate by cautioning that whether to begin impeachment proceedings would be a “very difficult decision” that would take “the next couple of weeks” to determine. Ohio Democrat Rep. Tim Ryan also pumped the brakes on impeachment, telling CNN, “the process needs to play itself out.”
The Democrats’ remarks came as Trump again took something of a victory lap on Twitter on Sunday, writing that “Despite No Collusion, No Obstruction, The Radical Left Democrats do not want to go on to Legislate for the good of the people, but only to Investigate and waste time. This is costing our Country greatly, and will cost the Dems big time in 2020!”
And Trump was shown on video Saturday giving two enthusiastic thumbs-up to supporters as he vacationed at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
White House social media director Dan Scavino wrote on Twitter: “I am with the President at the Southern White House, I have never seen him happier!”
Although the central finding of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was that there was no evidence the Trump team had “conspired or coordinated” with Russia to sway the 2016 election, Democrats and left-wing media outlets have focused extensively on the portions of Mueller’s report that failed to entirely “exonerate” Trump of obstruction-of-justice offenses.
In particular, host Chris Wallace pressed Giuliani on a section of the Mueller report outlining how Trump allegedly told then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to inform the acting attorney general that Mueller should be removed in June 2017 — a demand that McGahn ignored.
“If he had fired him, there wouldn’t have been an obstruction,” Giuliani said. “So, as long as he was replaced by somebody, which he would have been, and there were good reasons- arguable reasons.”
Giuliani insisted that accounts of McGahn’s story have changed multiple times and that Trump was merely calling for Mueller’s supposed conflicts of interests to be “considered.” Trump has openly suggested Mueller cannot be an impartial investigator because of the circumstances of why he and his family stopped their membership with Trump’s Virginia golf course.
In his final report, Mueller mentioned that he had canceled his membership because he could not make full use of the club and requested a refund, only to be placed on a waitlist to receive the funds.
“You’re treating these people as if they’re fair,” Giuliani told Wallace at one point when asked why Trump didn’t agree to a sit-down interview with special counsel prosecutors. “They’re not.”
Responding to Mueller’s failure to “exonerate” Trump, Giuliani pointed out that prosecutors are tasked with determining whether there is evidence of a chargeable offense, and aren’t typically in the business of publicly exonerating anyone — especially when complex constitutional considerations are involved, and would make such an exoneration difficult in any event.
“When did Mueller become God? Mueller says the injury to the justice system is still as great, there was no injury by the way,” Giuliani told Wallace.” We’re talking about an inchoate crime. We’re talking about something that didn’t happen. There was no obstruction. Nothing was denied to him, nobody crushed cellphones like Hilary did; nobody deleted 33,000 emails like Hilary’s people did, and nobody bleached a server like Hilary did. There was no obstruction, they don’t point to a single obstruction in their investigation. They went from day one to day end — they got everything they wanted.”
Separately on CNN, Giuliani asserted that “there’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians” from a criminal law perspective, and that campaign finance law only bars receiving certain “campaign contributions” and “things of value” from foreign nationals.
Members of the Trump team briefly met with Russian-linked individuals who promised information on the Clinton campaign, but the Mueller report found that such contacts could not meet the high bar of a criminal campaign finance violation because there was no evidence the Trump team had knowingly and willfully violated the text of the law.
“You’re assuming that the giving of information is a campaign contribution,” Giuliani told “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper.
Schiff, for his part, indicated that talks of impeachment are premature.
“I think it’s a very difficult decision, and we’re going to have a caucus about this over the next couple weeks to try to figure out what the best course is, not for the party, but what’s the best course for the country,” Schiff said. “I think it’s certainly the case that an impeachment would be unsuccessful if the Republican Party continues to place party above country, continues essentially to back the president no matter how unethical or dishonest his conduct may be. And, sadly, that’s where we are right now.”
Democrats generally appeared to still be split on the issue. Even without seeing the full Mueller report, some Democrats, including New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said they would sign onto an impeachment resolution, and pressed for more investigations. Ocasio-Cortez has previously called for Trump’s impeachment, including in a recent viral video in which she struggled at length to find a basis for impeachment, before claiming that Trump’s tax cuts could suffice.
However, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., cautioned against that approach.
“Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point,” he said. “Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgment.” He later walked back that statement and said that all options would be considered.
Schiff also vowed to look into the “genesis” of the counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign, which relied largely on a discredited dossier funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
“What we are going to be looking at is we’re going to be looking at all the counter-intelligence findings that were the genesis of this investigation,” Schiff said. “We have requested that on a bipartisan basis, one of the things that Devin Nunes and I agreed upon,” he said, referring to the GOP House Intelligence Committee ranking member.
Schiff went on to say he believed the origins of the probe were justified.
The FBI extensively cited the dossier to justify a secret surveillance warrant of former Trump aide Carter Page, who has never been charged with wrongdoing even though the FBI had told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court that he was working with the Russian government. Trump has vowed to declassify and release the entirety of those FISA materials.
The apparent genesis of the Russia probe was an April 2016 meeting by Trump aide George Papadopoulos with Maltese Professor Joseph Mifsud, who promised “dirt” on the Clinton campaign. The Mueller report revealed that Papadopoulos was targeted by U.S. intelligence because of his ties to Israel, and Papadopoulos has suggested Mifsud may have been working with U.S. intelligence to set him up.
Fox News’ Chris Wallace contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics
Special Counsel Robert Mueller and President Trump communicated directly at one point during the long-running investigation into Russian election interference, when the president’s legal team submitted written testimony in response to Mueller’s questions on a variety of topics in November 2018.
And in some cases, Trump and his attorneys brought the sass.
One of Mueller’s questions referred to a July 2016 campaign rally, when Trump said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
That was a reference to the slew of documents deleted from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server — one that prompted numerous accusations that Trump was improperly sending a signal to Russian hackers. Mueller’s report noted that hours after Trump’s remarks, a Russian-led attempt to access some Clinton-linked email accounts was launched, although there was no evidence Trump or his team directed or coordinated with that effort.
“Why did you make that request of Russia, as opposed to any other country, entity or individual?” Mueller’s prosecutors asked.
Mueller’s report noted that after Trump’s statement, future National Security Adviser Flynn contacted operatives in hopes of uncovering the documents, and another GOP consultant started a company to look for the emails.
“I made the statement quoted in Question II (d) in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer,” Trump’s attorneys shot back. “The context of the statement is evident in the full reading or viewing of the July 27, 2016, press conference, and I refer you to the publicly available transcript and video of that press conference.”
Separately, Mueller asked Trump why he previewed a speech in June 2016 by promising to discuss “all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons,” and what specifically he’d planned to talk about.
Trump didn’t hold back.
“In general, l expected to give a speech referencing the publicly available, negative information about the Clintons, including, for example, Mrs. Clinton’s failed policies, the Clintons’ use of the State Department to further their interests and the interests of the Clinton Foundation, Mrs. Clinton’s improper use of a private server for State Department business, the destruction of 33,000 emails on that server, and Mrs. Clinton’s temperamental unsuitability for the office of the president,” Trump responded.
After discussing other events, Trump concluded his reply: “I continued to speak about Mrs. Clinton’s failings throughout the campaign, using the information prepared for inclusion in the speech to which I referred on June 7, 2016.”
In all, Mueller’s 448-page report included 23 unredacted pages of Mueller’s written questions and Trump’s written responses. The special counsel’s team wrote that it tried to interview the president for more than a year before relenting and permitting the written responses alone.
An introductory note included in the report said the special counsel’s office found the responses indicative of “the inadequacy of the written format,” especially given the office’s inability to ask follow-up questions.
Citing dozens of answers that Mueller’s team considered incomplete, imprecise or not provided because of the president’s lack of recollection — for instance, the president gave no response at all to the final set of questions — the special counsel’s office again sought an in-person interview with Trump, and he once again declined.
Mueller’s team said it considered seeking a subpoena to compel Trump’s in-person testimony, but decided the legally aggressive move would only serve to delay the investigation.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics