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US President Donald Trump is daring opponents to initiate proceedings against him — but Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading the charge against impeachment

US President Donald Trump is daring opponents to initiate proceedings against him — but Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading the charge against impeachment (AFP Photo/SAUL LOEB, Jim WATSON)

Washington (AFP) – US President Donald Trump doubled down Friday on his claim of an “attempted coup” against him as his battle with Democratic foes entered a vicious new phase of personal insults and strong-arm tactics.

Hovering over it all: the looming question of whether or not the Republican leader will be impeached — “the big I-word,” as Trump put it recently.

The president said he has given his attorney general wide latitude to declassify intelligence information as he probes the origins of the government’s investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign ties to Russia.

“They will be able to see … how the hoax or witch hunt started and why it started,” he told reporters as he departed on a trip to Japan. “It was an attempted coup or an attempted takedown of the president of the United States.”

“There’s word and rumor that the FBI and others were involved, CIA were involved with the UK, having to do with the Russian hoax,” he said, adding that he might talk to the outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May about it.

“We’re exposing everything,” he added.

Trump’s bid to turn the tables on his political opponents comes amid an escalating constitutional clash of powers with the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

House Democratic leaders have launched numerous probes aimed at getting evidence gathered during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign — only to be stonewalled by the White House.

That has raised calls by Democrats to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump.

In an odd turn however, it has been House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Trump’s congressional nemesis, who has pumped the brakes on impeachment — even as she accuses the president of a potentially impeachable cover-up.

The president, for his part, is daring his opponents to initiate proceedings against him — confident that an impeachment by the House would most certainly be blocked in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“‘If they try to Impeach President Trump, who has done nothing wrong (No Collusion), they will end up getting him re-elected,'” the president wrote Friday, approvingly retweeting a warning to Democrats by a fellow Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham.

– Cutting words –

Trump, meanwhile, is pulling out the stops in the fight for political supremacy as the country heads toward the 2020 presidential election.

On Thursday, he gave Attorney General William Barr sweeping and unprecedented new authorities to investigate the investigators of his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia — directing all US intelligence agencies to “quickly and fully cooperate” with Barr’s review.

The intelligence agencies had previously rebuffed, on national security grounds, declassification demands by Republican lawmakers seeking to spotlight alleged misdeeds by investigators.

As pressure mounts, a cutting war of words has erupted between Trump and Pelosi, with each questioning the other’s mental stability.

On Friday, Trump posted a video of Pelosi remarks that had been edited to mash up instances in which she stumbled over her words.

Asked why he was attacking her personally, Trump bristled: “Did you hear what she said about me long before I went after her?”

“She said terrible things, so I just responded in kind. Look, you think Nancy is the same as she was? She’s not,” he said.

On Thursday, speaking to a room full of farmers and ranchers who had been invited to the White House for an unrelated event on China tariffs, Trump said Pelosi — the most senior female politician in American history — was “a mess.”

Pelosi had spent the previous few days needling Trump, claiming he threw a “temper tantrum” during a meeting with Democrats, saying she would “pray” for him, and suggesting those close to him should stage an “intervention.”

“She’s obviously gotten under the president’s skin,” House Democrat Ro Khanna told CNN.

Where this goes from here is unclear — although there is an opportunity to lower the political temperature, with Trump off to Japan and Pelosi out of Washington next week on a holiday recess.

Pelosi must contend with a restless Democratic caucus that is divided over whether or not to impeach the president.

Progressives including Maryland congressman Jamie Raskin have argued that, in the face of White House stonewalling, the time has come to begin impeachment proceedings.

Raskin argued recently that this would consolidate the varied House inquiries in a single centralized process that would have greater standing in the inevitable court battles to come.

But Pelosi also must consider the impact of what she said would be a “very divisive” impeachment battle on some 30 vulnerable Democrats in districts carried by Trump.

Their loss in the next election could threaten her party’s hold on the House, which puts Pelosi at a fateful crossroads.

Sen. Lindsey Graham warned Democrats if they don’t stop attacking President Trump they won’t stand a chance at beating him in the 2020 presidential election.

“The Democrats are going to get him reelected,” Graham, R-S.C., said Friday on Fox News. “I don’t think you can become the nominee of the Democratic Party without embracing impeachment. And if you’re a House member of the Democratic caucus, you’re going to get a primary if you vote against impeachment.”

Congressional Democrats have increased their scrutiny of Trump in recent weeks, launching investigations into his 2016 campaign, finances, and personal life.

Democratic leadership has tamped down talks of impeachment, suggesting the House investigations should be allowed to play out and if evidence supporting impeachment is uncovered, the party will pursue it.

Trump is “crying out” for impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said this week.

Trump and allies like Graham have pointed instead to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report as the final word on Trump’s personal conduct and fitness for office.

A recent cover of the New Yorker magazine depicted Graham, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Attorney General William Barr giving Trump a shoeshine.

The suggested message is that leading Republicans are doing the president’s bidding and helping cover up his abuses of power in the White House.

“If I’m helping the president, good for me, I want him to succeed,” Graham said Friday on Fox News. “If I’m helping the president it’s good for the country because I think I’ve got something to offer him. He’s doing a really good job.”

The South Carolina senator has not always spoken so favorably about the president.

As they ran against one another in the 2016 Republican primary, Graham called Trump a “jackass” after the Trump campaign released Graham’s private phone number.

Graham has shifted his focus to alleged corruption present in the FBI and Department of Justice leading up to the 2016 election.

He and other leading Republicans have railed against a “deep state” that sought to undermine Trump and help Hillary Clinton.

“They are driving the Democratic Party over an edge,” Graham said of progressive Democrats. “Between what Trump has accomplished for this country and how crazy they’ve become, he’s gonna get reelected.”

Writing in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., calls on President Trump to replicate former President Ronald Reagan’s example in Grenada, and use military force to remove Nicolás Maduro from power in Venezuela.

Reagan, Graham writes, “intervened militarily, ensuring Grenada didn’t become a satellite state of Cuba. The U.S. must be willing to intervene in Venezuela the way we did in Grenada. Mr. Trump should tell Cuba to withdraw all security forces from Venezuela immediately. If Cuba doesn’t comply, the U.S. should move military assets to the region.”

While I share Graham’s concern over Venezuela’s humanitarian disaster, which will get worse in the coming months, Venezuela is not Grenada.

Absent an attack by Maduro on U.S. interests, or against interim president Juan Guaidó, or against Colombia, it would not be in the U.S. national interest to use force. This is not to say that the United States should avoid a presence of force in and around Venezuelan territory. But invading Venezuela would be a lot more complicated than invading tiny Grenada. Venezuela is 2,629 times bigger than Grenada in land area. As an island, Grenada is also a lot easier to access and control. The U.S. Navy could simply surround Grenada and dominate the mobility of its forces. Venezuela? Forget it.

Venezuela’s military is also significantly more advanced than Grenada’s was when the U.S. invaded in 1983. While many Venezuelan units would likely surrender at first contact with U.S. forces, that cannot be guaranteed. In addition, Venezuelan regime loyalists in asymmetric formations such as the colectivos would pose a continuing challenge even after Maduro was removed. In short, the risks and complexities of a military operation against Venezuela must be weighed against any benefits.

This doesn’t mean that Trump should sit idle. His administration has invested too much credibility to surrender the rightful interim president of Venezuela Guaidó to Maduro. But Trump himself has presented the alternative to military means of driving Maduro out: obstructing Cuba’s oil theft. If the Cubans lose Venezuelan oil, they will be forced to abandon Maduro. That’s the way to move forward, not through an invasion.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that President Trump wants to be impeached is nonsense.

“When she says the president wants to be impeached. I don’t buy that. When she says her caucus is not divided. I don’t buy that. She’s either delusional or misrepresenting where her caucus really is,” the South Carolina Republican told reporters on Thursday.

[Opinion: It feels like Trump wants impeachment much more than Pelosi]

Pelosi said Trump abruptly walked out of a White House meeting Wednesday on infrastructure because he was frustrated Democrats were not planning to impeach him. “The White House is just crying out for impeachment,” the California Democrat said during a press conference. “That’s why he flipped yesterday.”

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., told MSNBC this week that 80% to 90% of the House Judiciary Committee Democrats are ready to begin an impeachment inquiry against Trump.

Graham said this shows Democrats are “hell-bent” on impeaching Trump regardless of what leadership says.

FILE PHOTO - Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) speaks after the senate voted on a resolution ending U.S. military support for the war in Yemen on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO – Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) speaks after the senate voted on a resolution ending U.S. military support for the war in Yemen on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

May 23, 2019

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration plans to use a loophole and rising tensions with Iran to sell bombs to Saudi Arabia, even though Congress blocked such sales for months over concerns about civilian deaths in the war in Yemen, Senator Chris Murphy said on Wednesday.

“I am hearing that Trump may use an obscure loophole in the Arms Control Act and notice a major new sale of bombs to Saudi Arabia (the ones they drop in Yemen) in a way that would prevent Congress from objecting. Could happen this week,” the Democratic senator warned on Twitter.

Congressional aides said there are provisions of the Arms Control Act, which sets rules for international arms transactions, that would allow a president to approve a sale without congressional review in case of a national emergency.

In this case, they said the Republican president would cite rising tensions with Iran as a reason to provide more military equipment to Saudi Arabia, which he sees as an important U.S. partner in the region. Trump has touted arms sales to the Saudis as a way to generate U.S. jobs.

Trump previously declared an influx of immigrants a national emergency to bypass Congress and get $6 billion to build his wall along the Mexican border. Both Democrats and his fellow Republicans voted to block the move, forcing Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency.

It was not immediately clear what equipment would be sold to Saudi Arabia or when any sale might go ahead.

However, any such plan would run into resistance in Congress, from Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats like Murphy, even in the Senate, where Republicans have a slim majority.

A handful of Republicans recently voted with Democrats in a failed effort to override Trump’s veto of a resolution that would have ended U.S. support for the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen’s devastating civil war.

Many lawmakers from both parties have also expressed anger over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s closest congressional allies, told CNN he would oppose the administration if it decided to go around Congress, citing Khashoggi’s killing.

“We are not going to have business as usual until that issue is dealt with,” Graham said.

The State Department declined comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

The top Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees, who review major international weapons deals, have been approving sales of defensive military equipment to Saudi Arabia.

But they have been putting “holds” – or blocking – the sale of offensive weapons like bombs, anti-tank missiles, small-diameter rockets and large mortars.

Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Foreign Relations Democrat, has been blocking the sale of Raytheon Co’s precision-guided munitions (PGMs) to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for about a year over concerns about the war in Yemen.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Mike Stone; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Source: OANN

More Democrats are calling — and more loudly — for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump after his latest defiance of Congress by blocking his former White House lawyer from testifying.

A growing number of rank-and-file House Democrats, incensed by former counsel Don McGahn’s empty chair in the Judiciary Committee hearing room on Tuesday, are confronting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and pushing her and other leaders to act. Their impatience is running up against the speaker’s preference for a more methodical approach , including already unfolding court battles.

Pelosi summoned some of them — still a small fraction of the House Democratic caucus — to a meeting of investigators on Wednesday to assess strategy.

Trump on Wednesday repeated his mantra about Democrats contributing to a “Witch Hunt” against him.

“Everything the Democrats are asking me for is based on an illegally started investigation that failed for them, especially when the Mueller Report came back with a NO COLLUSION finding,” he tweeted in the first of a series of posts. “Now they say Impeach President Trump, even though he did nothin wrong, while they ‘fish!'”

“After two years of an expensive and comprehensive Witch Hunt, the Democrats don’t like the result and they want a DO OVER. In other words, the Witch Hunt continues!” he said in another tweet.

“The Democrats are getting ZERO work done in Congress,” he added. “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” he concluded.

Some Democratic leaders, while backing Pelosi, signaled that a march to impeachment may become inevitable.

“We are confronting what might be the largest, broadest cover-up in American history,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters. If a House inquiry “leads to other avenues including impeachment,” the Maryland Democrat said, “so be it.”

Reps. Joaquin Castro of Texas and Diana DeGette of Colorado added their voices to the impeachment inquiry chorus.

“There is political risk in doing so, but there’s a greater risk to our country in doing nothing,” Castro said on Twitter. “This is a fight for our democracy.”

Tweeted DeGette: “The facts laid out in the Mueller report, coupled with this administration’s ongoing attempts to stonewall Congress, leave us no other choice.”

One Republican congressman, Justin Amash of Michigan, has called for impeachment proceedings. He said Tuesday he thinks other GOP lawmakers should join him — but only after reading special counsel Robert Mueller’s report carefully.

Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy dismissed Amash as out of step with House Republicans and “out of step with America.” And Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said wryly of Amash’s position, “I don’t think it’s going to be a trend-setting move.”

As Democrats weigh their options, Trump is almost taunting them by testing the bounds of executive power in ways few other administrations have. The White House contends that even former employees like McGahn do not have to abide by subpoenas from Congress.

A short time later House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler issued subpoenas for more Trump administration officials — former White House communications director Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson, a former aide in the White House counsel’s office — for documents and testimony.

Trump’s former White House counsel is the most-cited witness in Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation report, recounting the president’s attempts to interfere with the probe. And that makes his silence all the more infuriating for Democrats.

Nadler gaveled open Tuesday’s hearing with a stern warning that McGahn will be held in contempt for failing to appear.

“Our subpoenas are not optional,” Nadler said. “We will not allow the president to stop this investigation.”

However, Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking Republican on the committee, spoke scornfully of Nadler’s position, calling the session a “circus” and saying the chairman preferred a public “fight over fact-finding.”

Democrats are “trying desperately to make something out of nothing,” Collins said, in the aftermath of Mueller’s report.

A lawyer for McGahn had said he would follow the president’s directive and skip Tuesday’s hearing, leaving the Democrats without yet another witness — and a growing debate within the party about how to respond.

Nadler said the committee would vote to hold McGahn in contempt, though that’s not expected until June, after lawmakers return from the Memorial Day recess.

Democrats are encouraged by an early success in the legal battles , a Monday ruling by a federal judge against Trump on in a financial records dispute with Congress. Trump’s team filed notice of appeal on Tuesday.

But Pelosi’s strategy hasn’t been swift enough for some lawmakers. In particular, several members of the Judiciary panel feel they must take the lead in at least launching impeachment proceedings.

They say a formal impeachment inquiry could give Democrats more standing in court, even if they stop short of a vote to remove the president.

“I think that’s something a lot of members of the committee — and more and more members of the caucus — think is necessary,” said Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee. “I think an inquiry, as the Senate Watergate hearings were, would lead the public to see the misdeeds of this administration.”

Others, though, including some from more conservative districts, said they prefer the step-by-step approach.

“We want to make sure that we’re following all the legal processes, everything we’ve been given, to truly make the best decisions,” said Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia, a freshman on the Judiciary panel.

Pelosi scheduled Wednesday’s meeting with lawmakers from the Judiciary and Oversight committees after some members confronted her during a meeting among top Democrats Monday evening.

At that time, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland led others in arguing that an impeachment inquiry would consolidate the Trump investigations and allow Democrats to keep more focus on their other legislative work, according to people familiar with the private conversation who requested anonymity to discuss it.

Pelosi pushed back, saying that several committees are doing investigations already and noting that Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the chairman of the Oversight Committee, already had won the early court battle over Trump’s financial documents.

With a 235-197 Democratic majority, Pelosi would likely find support for starting impeachment proceedings, but it could be a tighter vote than that margin suggests. Some lawmakers say voters back home are more interested in health care and the economy. Many come from more conservative districts where they need to run for re-election in communities where Trump also has support.

For Pelosi, it’s a push-pull exercise as she tries to raise awareness about Trump’s behavior without moving toward impeachment unless she knows the public is with Congress.

“We’ve been in this thing for almost five months and now we’re getting some results,” Pelosi told lawmakers Monday night. “We’ve always said one thing will lead to another as we get information.”

But other Democrats in the meeting, several of whom have spoken publicly about a need to be more aggressive with Trump, are increasingly impatient. They include Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California and freshman Joe Neguse of Colorado.

“We’re in a very grave moment,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, and “probably right now are left, with nothing but that we must open an inquiry.”

Tweeted Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas: Congress has made “accommodation after accommodation. I don’t think we should wait any longer.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

President Donald Trump ally and GOP operative Roger Stone is mulling a lawsuit against the federal government to determine if he was under FBI surveillance, The Hill reported.

A letter from his Stone’s lawyer to U.S. Attorney John Durham, Senate Judiciary chair Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and ranking House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., wanted to know if he was part of the FBI’s surveillance effort on the Trump campaign, the outlet reported.

“We have strong reason to believe that Mr. Stone was among three advisers to candidate Trump who was under surveillance by the FBI during the 2016 presidential campaign,” Stone’s lawyer Paul Jensen wrote in the Monday letter, The Hill reported. 

The lawyer said he based the charges against the FBI on The New York Times report in 2017.

The report stated the FBI was reviewing intercepted communications between associates of Trump and the Russian government — mentioning Stone, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump adviser Carter Page as targets.

“Having exhausted our administrative remedies we are now contemplating a tort lawsuit as a means to force the government to disclose the facts in this serious matter and to determine if Mr. Stone’s 4th amendment rights were violated,” Jensen’s letter stated, The Hill reported.

Stone is currently awaiting trial on charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, including allegedly making false statements to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing a government investigation.

Source: NewsMax America

More Democrats are calling — and more loudly — for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump after his latest defiance of Congress by blocking his former White House lawyer from testifying on Tuesday.

A growing number of rank-and-file House Democrats, incensed by former Counsel Don McGahn’s empty chair in the Judiciary Committee hearing room, are confronting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and pushing her and other leaders to act. Their impatience is running up against the speaker’s preference for a more methodical approach , including already-unfolding court battles.

Pelosi summoned some of them — still a small fraction of the House Democratic caucus — to a meeting of investigators Wednesday to assess strategy.

Some other Democratic leaders, while backing Pelosi, signaled that a march to impeachment may at some point become inevitable.

“We are confronting what might be the largest, broadest cover-up in American history,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters. If a House inquiry “leads to other avenues including impeachment,” the Maryland Democrat said, “so be it.”

Reps. Joaquin Castro of Texas and Diana DeGette of Colorado added their voices to the impeachment inquiry chorus.

“There is political risk in doing so, but there’s a greater risk to our country in doing nothing,” Castro said in on Twitter. “This is a fight for our democracy.”

Tweeted DeGette: “The facts laid out in the Mueller report, coupled with this administration’s ongoing attempts to stonewall Congress, leave us no other choice.”

One Republican congressman, Justin Amash of Michigan, has called for impeachment proceedings. He said Tuesday he thinks other GOP lawmakers should join him — but only after reading special counsel Robert Mueller’s report carefully.

Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy dismissed Amash as out of step with House Republicans and “out of step with America.” And Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said wryly of Amash’s position, “I don’t think it’s going to be a trend-setting move.”

As Democrats weigh their options, Trump is almost taunting them by testing the bounds of executive power in ways few other administrations have. The White House contends that even former employees like McGahn do not have to abide by subpoenas from Congress.

A short time later the Nadler issued subpoenas for more Trump administration officials — former White House communications director Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson, a former aide in the White House counsel’s office — for documents and testimony.

Trump’s former White House counsel is the most-cited witness in Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation report, recounting the president’s attempts to interfere with the probe. And that makes his silence all the more infuriating for Democrats.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler gaveled open Tuesday’s hearing with a stern warning that McGahn will be held in contempt for failing to appear.

“Our subpoenas are not optional,” Nadler said. “We will not allow the president to stop this investigation.”

However, Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking Republican on the committee, spoke scornfully of Nadler’s position, calling the session a “circus” and saying the chairman preferred a public “fight over fact-finding.”

Democrats are “trying desperately to make something out of nothing,” Collins said, in the aftermath of Mueller’s report.

A lawyer for McGahn had said he would follow the president’s directive and skip Tuesday’s hearing, leaving the Democrats without yet another witness — and a growing debate within the party about how to respond.

Nadler said the committee would vote to hold McGahn in contempt, though that’s not expected until June, after lawmakers return from the Memorial Day recess.

Democrats are encouraged by an early success in the legal battles , a Monday ruling by a federal judge against Trump on in a financial records dispute with Congress. Trump’s team filed notice of appeal on Tuesday.

But Pelosi’s strategy hasn’t been swift enough for some lawmakers. In particular, several members of the Judiciary panel feel they must take the lead in at least launching impeachment proceedings.

They say a formal impeachment inquiry could give Democrats more standing in court, even if they stop short of a vote to remove the president.

“I think that’s something a lot of members of the committee — and more and more members of the caucus — think is necessary,” said Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee. “I think an inquiry, as the Senate Watergate hearings were, would lead the public to see the misdeeds of this administration.”

Others, though, including some from more conservative districts, said they prefer the step-by-step approach.

“We want to make sure that we’re following all the legal processes, everything we’ve been given, to truly make the best decisions,” said Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia, a freshman on the Judiciary panel.

Pelosi scheduled Wednesday’s meeting with lawmakers from the Judiciary and Oversight committees after some members confronted her during a meeting among top Democrats Monday evening.

At that time, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland led others in arguing that an impeachment inquiry would consolidate the Trump investigations and allow Democrats to keep more focus on their other legislative work, according to people familiar with the private conversation who requested anonymity to discuss it.

Pelosi pushed back, saying that several committees are doing investigations already and noting that Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the chairman of the Oversight Committee, already had won the early court battle over Trump’s financial documents.

With a 235-197 Democratic majority, Pelosi would likely find support for starting impeachment proceedings, but it could be a tighter vote than that margin suggests. Some lawmakers say voters back home are more interested in health care and the economy. Many come from more conservative districts where they need to run for re-election in communities where Trump also has support.

For Pelosi, it’s a push-pull exercise as she tries to raise awareness about Trump’s behavior without moving toward impeachment unless she knows the public is with Congress.

“We’ve been in this thing for almost five months and now we’re getting some results,” Pelosi told lawmakers Monday night. “We’ve always said one thing will lead to another as we get information.”

But other Democrats in the meeting, several of whom have spoken publicly about a need to be more aggressive with Trump, are increasingly impatient. They include Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California and freshman Joe Neguse of Colorado.

“We’re in a very grave moment,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, and “probably right now are left, with nothing but that we must open an inquiry.”

Tweeted Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas: Congress has made “accommodation after accommodation. I don’t think we should wait any longer.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

Events are moving quickly in the Persian Gulf. With multiple threat streams indicating the possibility of Iranian retaliation against the U.S., a reported rocket launch that landed less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and national security adviser John Bolton trying to mold the policy process in his image, it’s difficult to keep up with all of the developments.

From the looks of it, members of Congress seem to be flying in the dark. The Trump administration’s deliberations with Congress, an independent and co-equal branch of government, have been sorely inadequate. The White House just got around to briefing the Gang of 8 on Thursday, a meeting several lawmakers who participated found less than informative. Democrats and Republicans alike are clamoring for information on the fast-evolving Iran situation — information Congress is entitled to as the country’s lawmaking body. Even Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a Trump loyalist on Capitol Hill, was indignant about the lack of consultation: “I think they should tell us what the hell is going on.”

When senior Trump national security officials take the government-issued black suburbans up to the Capitol to brief the full Senate and House next week, lawmakers need to deliver the administration a message and ask pertinent questions to clear the confusion up.

  • Message 1: You took too long to get here. Congress is the branch of government closest to the public. It also happens to be the branch that makes the laws that guide public policy. It’s a serious undertaking that requires as much information and intelligence the executive branch can provide. Without that information, lawmakers simply can’t make good laws that promote the U.S. national security interest. Congress as a collective body, regardless of party, must deliver a warning before the briefing even starts that stonewalling is unacceptable and that if it continues, Congress may have to register its disapproval through the appropriations process.
  • Question 1: Is maximum pressure working? The Trump administration frequently provides off-the-record comments and public remarks patting itself on the back for the success of the sanctions regime. State Department envoy Brian Hook regularly touts Iran’s economic contraction as a result of the oil and banking sanctions and uses the major decrease in Tehran’s oil exports as a sign of how biting the measures are. But Iran’s behavior hasn’t changed regardless of the financial squeeze. Its foreign policy is as troubling to the region’s governments today as it was before Trump reimposed and fired a torrent of economic weapons against the regime. How far is the administration willing to go with its pressure campaign? Are they at least open to a different course of action?
  • Question 2: Are we talking to Tehran? President Trump is a deal-maker. He doesn’t court a military confrontation. What he wants above all is for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to call him up. That hypothetical will only happen if the administration is truly interested in a diplomatic outcome and willing to offer the Iranians an off-ramp. Does the White House currently have a reliable channel of communication with Tehran to begin exploratory diplomacy or at least initiate a conversation? If not, why not?
  • Question 3: Is the administration aligned on Iran policy? Reports of administration infighting are rampant. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doesn’t appreciate Bolton’s manhandling of the policymaking process, Trump is getting annoyed with Bolton’s hawkishness, and military planners at the Pentagon are concerned about a rush to a possible armed confrontation. None of this bodes well for administration unity. Indeed, all of the competing viewpoints only add to the whirlwind and further complicate Washington’s desire to send an unambiguous message to Iran about what U.S. policy actually is.

Lawmakers will have a number of other questions on their minds, some of which officials may not know the answer to. But this short list would serve as a useful foundation for a Congress that has watched this escalation like a baseball fan watches the game — from the bleachers.

Daniel DePetris (@DanDePetris) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. His opinions are his own.

The House, Senate, and White House are poised to begin talks next week on a budget deal and raising the debt ceiling, but an accord on 2020 spending could be hobbled once again by a fight over border wall funding.

“You ask me where this thing is going to fall apart again, it’s over the wall,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said.

Both parties are eager to avoid a repeat of the fiscal 2019 budget debacle that came after President Trump refused to sign spending bills without wall funding. Democrats refused to accommodate Trump and a monthlong partial government shutdown ensued.

But neither party appears ready to talk about wall funding.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have agreed to join with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to meet with top White House officials to talk about budget caps.

The group will sit down with White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. They must come up with a compromise on lifting spending caps that would otherwise be imposed under the 2011 Budget Control Act. They’ll also discuss raising the debt ceiling.

Democrats and Republicans are seeking a two-year deal to lift the caps, which will allow them to jump-start the process of passing legislation to fund the 2020 fiscal year.

The talks won’t center on wall funding but could include a plan to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, which must be lifted in the next few months.

McConnell, in a talk with President Trump last week, said he is willing to agree to Democratic demands to lift domestic spending caps, which would pave the way for an accord increasing military spending, too.

The Senate majority leader’s message to Trump signals a caps deal may be achievable.

But the next step, passing a 2020 spending bill, will likely hit a roadblock again over Trump’s desire for more wall funding.

President Trump proposed a $4.7 trillion budget for next year. It would make significant cuts to domestic spending, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Depart of Transportation, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. But it would increase spending for veterans, the military, and the Department of Homeland Security.

It also includes $8.6 billion to finish more sections of the border wall with Mexico.

While Trump may be willing to abandon spending cuts, he’s likely to insist on more wall funding, particularly in the wake of recent surges of illegal immigration along the southern border.

Senators are worried that nobody is addressing the imminent standoff over the wall, risking another last-minute government shutdown.

The fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

“The lingering issue is the wall,” Graham said. “What’s the plan for the wall?”

Democratic leaders aren’t commenting on what amount of wall funding, if any, they will be willing to accept in the 2020 spending bills. A Democratic aide told the Washington Examiner that the first step involves agreeing on lifting the spending caps, which is what leaders will discuss with Mulvaney and Mnuchin next week.

But Graham wants to start talking about it now.

“I want to get this out on the table,” Graham said, “so we don’t have another train wreck.”


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