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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider
Updated: 14 hours 3 min ago

Former FBI Director Mueller appointed as special counsel in Russia probe

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 22:33

The Department of Justice on Wednesday moved to ensure an independent review of allegations that Russia meddled in the U.S. elections, and whether there were any ties to associates of President Trump, as former FBI Director Robert Mueller was tapped to lead the politically charged investigation.

“In my capacity as acting Attorney General, I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a Special Counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in a written statement.

Rosenstein said he had not determined that there was any wrongdoing, but wanted to insure that the investigation was led by an independent person.

“Special Counsel Mueller will have all appropriate resources to conduct a thorough and complete investigation, and I am confident that he will follow the facts, apply the law and reach a just result,” Rosenstein added.

BREAKING:Justice Dept. appoints former FBI head Robert Mueller to oversee probe into Trump-Russian connection in 2016 election.

— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) May 17, 2017

Mueller, who was FBI Director from 2001 to 2013, is highly respected in Washington, D.C.

“I now have significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts, wherever they lead,” said Senate Majority Leader Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).

“The appointment of Bob Mueller as special counsel for the Russia investigation is a good first step to get to the bottom of the many questions we have about Russian interference in our election and possible ties to the president,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

“Mueller has a strong reputation for independence, and comes with the right credentials for this job,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA).

“This was a necessary and long overdue step by the Department of Justice,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH).

Democrats had sternly criticized Rosenstein for not making that appointment last week, especially in the aftermath of the firing of Comey by President Donald Trump.

The issue of Russian meddling in our election must be investigated fully & former FBI dir. Mueller is well qualified to oversee this probe.

— Rob Portman (@senrobportman) May 17, 2017

Mr. Mueller is widely respected for independence & professionalism. I have full confidence he will conduct a fair & thorough investigation

— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 17, 2017

“Mueller has a distinguished career as both a prosecutor & director of the FBI,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) on Twitter. “I was always impressed with his integrity & even handedness.”

Mueller took over as FBI Director just a week before the September 11, 2001 attacks; he was appointed by President George W. Bush, and served until 2013, when he was replaced by Comey.

“Mr. Mueller has unquestioned integrity and is a wise choice to lead the FBI investigation as Special Counsel,” said Rep. John Faso (R-NY).

As for Republican leaders in Congress, both Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that investigations by House and Senate committees would still proceed, even with the Mueller choice.

The White House reaction was subdued.

BREAKING: Trump: Thorough investigation will confirm there was "no collusion" between campaign and any foreign entity.

— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) May 17, 2017

“As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” the President said in a written statement issued almost 90 minutes after the announcement.

“I look forward to this matter concluding quickly,” the President said, adding that “I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.”

The announcement came as Mr. Trump was interviewing more candidates at the White House to replace Comey; published reports indicated that officials were informed after the decision was made.

Normally, the decision on a special counsel would have been for the Attorney General, but Jeff Sessions recused himself in early March, leaving that to the Deputy Attorney General.

Ryan urges no rush to judgment as GOP grapples with Trump-Comey fallout

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 15:02

House Speaker Paul Ryan told GOP lawmakers on Wednesday that Congress should gather all the evidence about why President Donald Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey last week, as Republicans vowed to focus on the work of the American people, even as Mr. Trump’s struggles cast a shadow over their legislative work on Capitol Hill.

“Our job is to be responsible, sober, and focused only on gathering the facts,” Ryan said about reports that the President had urged Comey to drop a probe of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

At a news conference following a closed door meeting of House Republicans, Ryan also raised questions about Comey’s version of events at the White House, asking “if this happens as he allegedly describes, why didn’t he take action at the time?”

Speaker Paul Ryan says not to rush to judgment on the Comey memo: “We’re going to want to hear from Mr. Comey” https://t.co/wM1efOrapj

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 17, 2017

“So, there are a lot of unanswered questions,” the Speaker told reporters.

Once again today, there was no evidence from interviews of Republicans fleeing the President, as some said all was fine with Mr. Trump.

“We want to see what develops, but at this point, I have not seen anything that is that alarming,” Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), who said a lot of the reports simply involve “speculation.”

Rep Robert Aderholt R-AL says talk about Trump and Comey is all 'speculation' pic.twitter.com/oBQL2MMlHv

— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) May 17, 2017

“It is very clear that a lot of people want to see the President distracted,” Aderholt added to reporters gathered outside the offices of the Republican National Committee.

“At the end of the day, the President has his job to do – we have our job to do – but it’s important to get all the facts straight,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK).

But there were some voices in the GOP who saw the need to do more.

“It’s very important however that Director Comey come before the Congress as soon as possible,” said Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ).

Amash tells reporters that if Comey memo allegations are true, it's grounds for impeachment. Says he trusts Comey more than Trump.

— Katie Bo Williams (@KatieBoWill) May 17, 2017

Some Republicans said the focus on the President was all wrong, echoing White House calls for an investigation of leaks about the Russia matter and Flynn.

“That’s really what the story ought to be, not something the President said to somebody in a private meeting,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), who said he wants Comey questioned about that.

“I think he needs to come up here and we need to find out where a lot of these leaks are coming from,” Loudermilk added.

Others questioned the veracity of any notes taken by the former FBI Director, and whether the Congress should even pay attention to such evidence.

“He could have done the notes two days ago,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK).

As for the President, he was out of town, giving the commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut – in that speech, he knocked the press for giving him historically bad treatment.

“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media; no politician in history – and I say this with great surety – has been treated worse or more unfairly,” Mr. Trump said.

President Trump: “No politician in history … has been treated worse or more unfairly” https://t.co/YDRfnmh5XT

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 17, 2017

As for the investigation on Capitol Hill, the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday sent a letter to Comey, as well as the current Acting FBI Director, Andrew McCabe, asking Comey to return for testimony, and to get any relevant notes and memos about contacts with the President.

Also asking for the Comey memos was the Senate Judiciary Committee, which asked for Comey memos to be handed over within one week.

BREAKING: House oversight committee sets May 24 hearing to investigate if Trump interfered in FBI probe, asks Comey to testify.

— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) May 17, 2017

“This is all about finding out as many facts as we can,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), as he was trailed by a pack of reporters while walking to the Senate floor for a vote.

“I think we need to be privy to facts,” Rubio said.

Congress asks for Comey memos on conversations with Trump about Russia probe

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 03:52

A week after the President fired FBI Director James Comey, a top Republican in Congress asked the bureau to turn over memos that Comey reportedly wrote after conversations earlier this year with President Donald Trump, as the White House denied press reports that Mister Trump had pressed Comey to back off on an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

“If true, these memoranda raise questions as to whether the President attempted to influence or impede the FBI’s investigation as it relates to Lt. Gen Flynn,” wrote Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the head of the House Oversight Committee.

Chaffetz asked the FBI to turn over the Comey memos “no later than May 24” – which is next Wednesday – as the request garnered the support of House Speaker Paul Ryan.

.@SpeakerRyan spox: "We need to have all the facts, and it is appropriate for the House Oversight Committee to request this memo."

— Cristina Marcos (@cimarcos) May 17, 2017

“I need to see it sooner rather than later,” Chaffetz said of the Comey memo. “I have my subpoena pen ready.”

As Republicans asked for Comey’s evidence, there were bipartisan voices also calling for the former FBI Director to come before Congress and tell his story publicly.

“He should come back to the Congress and share what he knows of the President’s conversations with him, on any of the Russian investigation,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, as Republicans also joined in those calls.

“Of course Director Comey should testify,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), a member of the House GOP leadership team.

“It’s time for Comey to testify before Congress,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL).

These serious allegations effect our nat'l security & they carry very real consequences. It's time for Comey to testify before Congress.

— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) May 16, 2017

The impetus for lawmakers to hear from Comey came in the wake of a blockbuster New York Times story – which said that Comey had made notes after meetings with the President earlier this year, and that in one of those conversations, Mr. Trump had asked the FBI chief to end a probe of top aide, Michael Flynn.

On Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers again drew large groups of reporters seeking comment, just a day after dealing with a high profile story about whether the President had revealed highly classified information to Russian diplomats in the Oval Office.

“It would be helpful to have less drama emanating from the White House,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell observed dryly.

“I think I’ve said enough for a few days, I really have,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who a day earlier had said the Trump White House was in a ‘downward spiral.’

BREAKING: AP source: Comey wrote in memo that President Donald Trump asked him to end FBI investigation into former aide Flynn.

— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) May 16, 2017

But while some Republicans were clearly frustrated by recent events that have overwhelmed the White House, other GOP lawmakers kept focused on the Trump Agenda.

Asked if he still had confidence in Mr. Trump, Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), one of the President’s strongest allies in Congress, did not stammer.

“Oh, I certainly do,” Perdue said, just off the Senate floor. “Because he’s getting things done, like he said he would do.”

Perdue was one of the few GOP lawmakers active on social media Tuesday night, defending the President.

5 days ago, Acting FBI Director McCabe said "there has been no effort to impede our investigation." https://t.co/onsPBLq23s #FBI #Comey

— David Perdue (@sendavidperdue) May 17, 2017

For other GOP lawmakers though, the constant barrage of stories involving the Trump White House were taking a toll, as cracks showed among Republicans.

“We need the memos, Comey should testify and I still believe that a special prosecutor should be named,” said Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO).

“Congress needs to see the Comey memo,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

White House denies report that Trump asked Comey to end Flynn probe

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 22:48

The White House on Tuesday evening denied a report from the New York Times, telling reporters that President Donald Trump never asked former FBI Director James Comey to end an investigation into National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, as Trump officials again found themselves under siege from breaking news.

“While the President has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the President has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the White House said in a statement.

“The President has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the President and Mr. Comey,” the statement read.

BREAKING: AP source: Comey wrote in memo that President Donald Trump asked him to end FBI investigation into former aide Flynn.

— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) May 16, 2017

Other news organizations swiftly followed the story of the New York Times, which said Comey had memorialized his meetings with the President, and left memos for other high ranking FBI officials.

Democrats immediately called for Comey to testify before Congressional committees on the matter.

“He (Comey) needs to come back before the Congress and share with the public what conversations he had with the President,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

There were also Republicans asking for the same.

These serious allegations effect our nat'l security & they carry very real consequences. It's time for Comey to testify before Congress.

— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) May 16, 2017

“It’s time for Comey to testify before Congress,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL).

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee indicated he was ready to subpoena any memos written by Comey.

“I have my subpoena pen ready,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) on Twitter.

.@GOPoversight is going to get the Comey memo, if it exists. I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready.

— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) May 16, 2017

Chaffetz did not wait long, as he sent the FBI a letter asking for the Comey memos, that involved his meetings with President Trump.

White House: “wholly appropriate” for Trump to share intelligence with Russian officials

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 16:37

The White House National Security Adviser on Tuesday defended President Donald Trump’s move to share intelligence with Russian diplomats in a meeting last week, saying the move was “wholly appropriate,” though adviser H.R. McMaster acknowledged that Mr. Trump did not know the source of the information he passed on.

“It is wholly appropriate for the President to share whatever information he thinks is necessary to advance the security of the American people,” McMaster told reporters.

Sticking by his assessment of a Washington Post story from last night – “the premise of that article is false” – McMaster repeatedly said the President’s discussion with the Russian Foreign Minister about terrorist threats posed by the Islamic State was appropriate.

McMaster: "What the President discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation" https://t.co/CwMoqQtj1l

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 16, 2017

McMaster also emphasized a point made earlier in the day by the President, once more criticizing leaks from within the Trump Administration and the Intelligence Community.

“Our national security has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality,” McMaster told reporters.

McMaster: President Trump made the decision to share the information "in the context of the conversation" https://t.co/6QNDCeiInf

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 16, 2017

From the description by McMaster, it seemed as if the President’s decision to share information with the Russians on a specific piece of intelligence was not pre-planned – that the President simply offered it up as part of the discussion in the Oval Office.

On Capitol Hill, the latest big story involving the President was not wearing well with some Republicans.

“Once again we are faced with inexplicable stories coming from the White House that are highly troubling,” said Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), who represents a swing district outside Washington, D.C.
“The reports that the President shared sensitive intelligence with Russian officials are deeply disturbing,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Democrats did their best to pile on as well.

“This President is creating chaos,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Earlier in the day, the President had acknowledged sharing information with the Russians, but he did not specifically say that press stories were false – or use one of his preferred terms – ‘fake news.’

As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017

…to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017

As concern mounted on Capitol Hill, it was announced that the CIA Director would brief lawmakers tonight on the matter.

The briefing ended on an interesting note, as McMaster told reporters that the President had not been told the source of the information which Mr. Trump passed on to Russian officials.

McMaster: "The president wasn't even aware of where the information came from. He wasn't even briefed on the sources and methods."

— Eli Stokols (@EliStokols) May 16, 2017

Trump says he had “absolute right” to share intelligence on Islamic State with Russians

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 11:36

President Donald Trump acknowledged on Tuesday morning that he did share intelligence information with top Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting last week, declaring that “I have the absolute right” to inform the Russians about information related to terrorism and the Islamic State.

“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do,” the President tweeted, making his first comments on the latest major story to engulf the Trump White House.

Mr. Trump’s tweets included no attack on the news media, or on the Washington Post which first reported that he had given highly sensitive information from an intelligence ally to the Russians.

As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017

…to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017

At the Washington Post, one of the reporters who wrote the original story yesterday, that Mr. Trump had given highly sensitive information to the Russians, said the President’s morning response had shown their report was true.

“Last night a stream of WH officials were sent out to blast WaPo story as false. This morning, Trump says it’s true,” wrote reporter Greg Miller on Twitter.

BREAKING: Trump tweets that he shared 'facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety' with Russian officials.

— The Associated Press (@AP) May 16, 2017

In fact, the President in his Tuesday morning tweets did not attack the Washington Post story – and other news organizations which confirmed the basics – which had been labeled as “false” by some White House officials on Monday night.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats blasted the President for his handling of classified information.

“President Trump has long been careless with the truth, but now he appears to have gone further,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

“President Trump shouldn’t worry about leaks. He is his own leak,” said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL).

But there were also Republicans who were not pleased.

“Sharing classified info to one of our enemies is a threat to our national security, troops on the ground and relationships with trusted allies,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL).

As for leaks, the President added another tweet on that issue – but again did not say the original story was false.

I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017

White House denies Trump revealed classified intelligence to Russians last week

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 02:27

The White House was swamped by another major story on Monday evening, as the Washington Post and several other news organizations reported that President Trump had revealed highly classified material about the Islamic State, during an Oval Office meeting last week with top Russian officials, a charge that was rejected by top aides to the President.

But while administration officials denied the story, other news organizations said they had confirmed the basics, as the Trump White House was plunged once more into crisis mode.

Let’s break down what we know – and don’t – about this story:

1. What exactly did the Post – and other news organizations report? The Post story said the President disclosed intelligence to top Russian officials at a meeting last week in the Oval Office which could jeopardize a critical intelligence source about the Islamic State. The New York Times matched the story soon after, as did Reuters, which said the intelligence was about a planned operation by the Islamic State.

2. The White House denies the story – but some see a non-denial denial. There were three official denials from the Trump Administration. A White House spokeswoman flat out said the Post story was “false.” Statements were also issued by Secretary of State Tillerson, and by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. The McMaster statement was notable, because some said it denied things that were not included in the Washington Post story. “I was in the room. It didn’t happen,” the General said outside the West Wing to reporters.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster says reports that President Trump told Russia classified info are “false" https://t.co/A4GwpJb5Zq

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 15, 2017

3. The Post says officials asked them to withhold details. One hint that this story is grounded in fact is that Washington Post reporters say they are withholding key details of what’s at issue – at the request of intelligence officials. Most people not in journalism probably have no idea that this happens frequently when it comes to a big story that a paper like the Post or the New York Times prints on something dealing with intelligence matters. It is done as officials acknowledge a story, but seek to keep certain details out public view. And the Post said that was true this time as well.

WP withheld most details at "urging of officials who warned that revealing them would jeopardize" important intel capabilities, paper says

— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) May 16, 2017

4. The story touches off a new round of White House leaks. You don’t have to be a news media insider to notice another batch of leaks emanating from the Trump White House after this story broke. There were daggers thrown at Press Secretary Sean Spicer by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. “Basically chaos at all times,” one White House official told Politico. It was obvious to reporters at the White House that there was internal discord over the story and how it was being handled – which may spur even more finger pointing.

WH comms staffers just put the TVs on super loud after we could hear yelling coming from room w/ Bannon, Spicer, Sanders

— Adrian Carrasquillo (@Carrasquillo) May 15, 2017

5. Trump supporters see nothing but fake news. I was in my car when the news broke on this story, so I posted a link to the Washington Post story on my Facebook page. My Facebook page nearly melted. “Yet another fake news story. Jamie Dupree I’m surprised at you,” said one. “Fake news! Why do you continue to make a fool out of yourself repeating this BS,” added another. “Washington Post not long ago broke that the Russians hacked the Burlington power grid,” as others piled on the news media in general.

Hillary Clinton put a server full of classified data in her bathroom…nothing.
fakenews story on Trump and Russia… MSM estactic.

— Donnie Owens (@Ezdee_) May 16, 2017

6. Rumblings from Republicans in Congress. It has been a stressful last week for GOP lawmakers, watching the White House struggle with the aftermath of the firing of the FBI Director – which caught Republicans off guard – and then the President on Friday seemingly suggesting that he might have recorded a dinner conversation with James Comey. That was more than enough to deal with – but then, Senators arrived for their first vote of the week just as the story about this intelligence story was breaking. “The White House has got to do something soon to bring itself under control and in order,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who said the White House was in a “downward spiral.”

Sen. Bob Corker earlier today saying White House in a “downward spiral.” Foreign Relations chaiman and has a good relationship with Trump/WH pic.twitter.com/HzNwpOd6gk

— James Arkin (@JamesArkin) May 15, 2017

10 years ago today – fascinating testimony from James Comey

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 14:37

While former FBI Director James Comey is much in the news after being fired last week by President Donald Trump, ten years ago today, Comey testified on Capitol Hill about a dramatic behind the scenes encounter when he was the Acting Attorney General during the George W. Bush Administration.

At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2007, Comey told of a 2004 dispute over surveillance by the National Security Agency, which the Bush White House wanted renewed – but part of which the Justice Department had decided violated the law, and would not garner their support.

At the time, Comey’s boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft, was seriously ill, and being treated at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Top officials from the Bush White House went to Ashcroft’s hospital room to try to get Ashcroft to sign off on the NSA surveillance program – as Comey, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and others dashed to the hospital to try to stop them.

Here is some of Comey’s testimony.

The White House later backed off and agreed to certain changes in the surveillance program, as Comey, Mueller, Ashcroft and others had threatened to resign.

Health care bill remains linchpin for Trump agenda in Congress

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 01:11

While the White House grapples with questions over Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, the Trump legislative agenda is still developing on Capitol Hill, with health care at the center of those efforts in Congress, as the President wraps up his fourth month in office at the end of this week.

Here’s where things stand in the halls of the U.S. Capitol:

1. Senate Republicans trying to solve the health care puzzle. It’s only been ten days since the House approved a GOP health care measure, but there is no real indication yet as to how Republicans in the Senate will change the health care bill, and when it might be voted on. As for the timing, don’t expect any real action in the Senate this month, as lawmakers still wait for the Congressional Budget Office to score the House-passed GOP measure.

Attention Capitol Hill health care reporters – CBO estimate on AHCA expected out the week of May 22 pic.twitter.com/I5LGFAPA6Y

— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) May 10, 2017

2. Health care is key to the rest of the GOP agenda. The longer that health care takes to finish, the longer that Republicans must wait to get moving on tax reform and other items. This is sort of in the weeds when it comes to the rules of “budget reconciliation” in the Congress, but until the GOP finishes with health care, you can’t start work on a tax bill that also follows the same rules which don’t allow for a Senate filibuster. Bottom line – work on tax cuts, infrastructure, and next year’s budget has to wait until health care is done.

3. Waiting to see the details of the Trump budget. We will get more details later this month from the President on what he wants to do on the budget, as he starts to fill in all sorts of fine print on spending, cuts and even taxes. As I wrote this weekend, don’t expect to see a balanced budget anytime soon, as it’s expected that the Trump plan would not balance the budget for 10 years. That’s been a standard GOP plan. Making things even more difficult on a balanced budget would be large tax cuts as well.

Trump budget will now be released May 23 (not May 22)

— Emily Holubowich (@healthfunding) May 11, 2017

4. Will the Trump budget include plans for infrastructure spending? The President has talked for a long time about his $1 trillion infrastructure plan to build new roads, bridges and more around the nation, but has yet to come forward with actual details of a plan. The biggest stumbling block is how you fund the government’s share of what backers say would be a public-private partnership, with maybe $200 billion in federal funding. Big headlines are easy to support – but the details of where the money comes from can make for something different. Adding to the gas tax seems unlikely.

Coming Soon: Trump's Infrastructure Plan

— Roberto G. Berlanga (@urbanplan_RGB) May 11, 2017

5. Clock runs out on Obama rule reversals. Employing a seldom used federal law, Republicans were able to repeal fourteen different late regulations from the Obama Administration, as the clock ran out last week on further repeal efforts by the GOP. Fourteen rules were repealed, though Democrats did get one victory when three GOP Senators broke ranks to defeat a plan last week regarding rules on methane released from oil and gas wells. But overall, these rule repeals represent a big step forward for the GOP on one of their election year promises, to get rid of regulations from the last administration. 14-1 isn’t a bad score.

#GOP wins in reversing Obama-era rules. Final score: Republicans 14, Barack Obama's last-minute regulations, 1 https://t.co/NbsXDqgTgV

— Petros Sarantopoulos (@psaranto) May 14, 2017

As you can see with the rule repeals, some items have been acted on by the GOP Congress – but in terms of the big stuff, you can’t get to tax reform, infrastructure and more, until Republicans finish with health care.

That remains the key to the GOP legislative agenda right now in the Congress.

Even with new management in DC, balanced budget not on the horizon

Sun, 05/14/2017 - 12:27

As top officials in the Trump Administration put the finishing touches on a 2018 budget plan that’s due to be sent to Congress later this month, early reports indicate that while there will be calls for cuts in both domestic spending and entitlement programs, the plan is only expected to promise a balanced budget within 10 years.

Just how difficult would it be to balance the budget?

1. It’s been 16 years since Uncle Sam was in the black. The last time the U.S. ran a yearly budget surplus was from 1998-2001, mainly because of unexpected economic growth during the last years of the Clinton Administration – and unless there is a gigantic change in approach, the U.S. Government is not going to get out of the red any time soon. The budget deficit in 2016 was $587 billion. Estimates are that the 2017 deficit will be less than that, as it stands at $344 billion so far in Fiscal Year 2017. Coming up with a half trillion dollars in savings is not like pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

i think it's dope that trump wants to cut taxes, but uhhh shouldn't you try and make a balanced budget first? #back2thebasics

— Joe Hoyle (@according2h0yle) April 26, 2017

2. 10 years to a balanced budget. If the Trump Administration offers up a plan that takes ten years to balance the budget, that would follow along with other Republican plans in recent years. Compared to Democrats – who have not offered a plan in many years that envisioned a budget in balance at all – the GOP is certainly more for budget discipline; but some might point out that 10 years means many more billions will be added to the national debt along the way. Ten years is still the stated goal for Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.

Mick Mulvaney: "the goal is to have a balanced budget within 10 YEARS!". IMO, not going to happen. #MTP

— Thoughts Of Truth (@True_Thoughts) March 19, 2017

3. Both parties like to spend money – just on different things. I learned this a long time ago, and it’s a line that aggravates the living daylights out of many of my listeners. But it’s true. Lots of Republicans like to talk about the best way to cut the deficit, is to emulate the tax cuts of the Reagan Administration. It’s true – tax rates went down, and more money rolled in, especially after the end of the recession in 1982. But the deficits kept going up in the Reagan years because spending kept going up as well. Jimmy Carter’s final deficit was $74 billion in 1980. Reagan’s lowest yearly deficit was $128 billion in his first year in office.

Reagan "assailed Jimmy Carter's $73.8 billion deficit in the 1980 campaign, but the deficit reached $220.7 billion in 1986" NYTimes 1988

— Picassokat (@Picassokat) April 22, 2011

4. When it comes to a balanced budget, there are 3 options. When you boil down a budget – whether it is for the government, or your own household, there are only three things you can do: 1) cut spending, 2) bring in more money, or 3) a combination of 1) and 2). Theoretically, you could cut over $500 billion in spending at the federal level to balance the budget – but the votes wouldn’t be there to do that, because of the outcry. Republicans in Congress will be tested this summer. Will they really vote for deep budget cuts? Or will the budget look pretty much the same later this year?

@realDonaldTrump Your skinny budget proposed $18 billion in cuts. None of it appeared in the Republican budget.

— Madhatter (@siriuskathleen1) May 1, 2017

5. Tightening the purse strings at FEMA. One way the Trump Administration will be tested in terms of the budget is what they do in areas where money can be held back. Two examples of that cropped up in the last week on disaster relief money, as North Carolina asked the feds for $929 million in aid to deal with damage from Hurricane Matthew in 2016 – but received just $6.1 million. And in Pennsylvania, the Governor grumbled there after FEMA rejected a plan for money to help deal with a big winter snowstorm. Yes, when you are saving money, you always need to start somewhere. But getting to $500 billion in cuts – to fix the deficit for one year – won’t be easy.

President #Trump denies Pa.'s disaster relief request for March snowstorm | https://t.co/wzFRD9nxyR https://t.co/Eypxv98gZL

— Belial (@Praedor) May 12, 2017

Republicans have long talked about turning the budget around, and getting it in balance.

We’ll see how much progress they make in the months ahead in Congress.

Trump repeatedly stirs interest in Russia probe – through his own words and tweets

Sat, 05/13/2017 - 11:55

Four days after getting rave reviews for his first address to a Joint Session of Congress in late February, President Donald Trump was stewing at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida. Instead of talking about that speech and his legislative agenda, Mr. Trump found himself aggravated by developments that had led to the recusal of the Attorney General from any federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

The Russia story had been bubbling a bit more that week, but was about to get a giant jolt – not from the Congress or any news story – but directly from the President of the United States via Twitter.

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory,” Mr. Trump wrote. “This is McCarthyism!”

Is it legal for a sitting President to be "wire tapping" a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017

It was a major inflection point in the political fight over Russian election meddling, as the White House – and the President – then spent weeks refusing to back down from the charge, even after top intelligence officials repeatedly made clear the Trump claim was not true.

“We do not have any information that supports those tweets,” FBI Director James Comey said at a Congressional hearing later in March, a public assertion that evidently aggravated the President.

Many believe the desire to prove that Mr. Trump was correct about surveillance of his team then led to the involvement of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who dramatically announced he had been provided with new intelligence that showed surveillance of Trump associates during the transition.

That led to even more attention and scrutiny in the news media – and ultimately more controversy for the White House and Republicans in Congress.

Upon further review, Nunes was forced to step aside as the leader of the House probe into the Russia matter, and now finds himself under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for possibly revealing classified information.

In a sense, those four tweets in March by the President about Obama surveillance, spurred hundreds of news stories, dozens of questions at Congressional hearings and White House press briefings, and provided more than enough oxygen to drive the Russia story into April.

Think of the Spicer briefing this way – most of Q&A stemmed from the Trump "wiretap" tweets of March 4

— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) March 30, 2017

This past week, there was a similar turning point, as one tweet and one interview ignited two different firestorms over the Russia probe – once again – all started by the President.

Two days after firing FBI Director James Comey, the President sat for an interview with NBC News – and upended his own team’s argument that Comey had been fired for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email affair.

Instead, the President made it sound like his frustration with Comey over the Russia probe had played a major factor in his decision.

Trump to NBC: "When I decided to [fire Comey], I said to myself, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story."

— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) May 11, 2017

“In one short interview, the President made liars of every single person who mounted a credible defense of the decision,” said talk show host Erick Erickson, who urged Mr. Trump to “Shut the Hell Up” in a Friday post.

“His undisciplined tweets give the public contradictory information, and a sense that he wants to run the country via social media instead of democratic debate,” wrote John Moody at Foxnews.com.

BREAKING: Trump says he was going to fire Comey as FBI director regardless of the recommendation from No. 2 Justice Department official

— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) May 11, 2017

In the NBC interview, Mr. Trump called Comey a “showboat” and said the FBI Director had been grandstanding during his Congressional testimony.

Those remarks quickly rumbled around the halls of Capitol Hill like an earthquake.

“I’m offended at the President’s comments,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Democrats were incensed; they felt like the President has made it clear that he fired Comey for pressing the investigation into ties between Mr. Trump and Moscow – some even charged it amounted to obstruction of justice.

But the President wasn’t done. Washington had been stunned by the firing of Comey on Tuesday, but now, there was one more million pound hammer coming down on Friday morning, as Mr. Trump raised the possibility that he had secretly tape recorded a dinner conversation from January with Comey.

James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017

“This is very disturbing,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). “The President is now openly threatening the former FBI Director.”

“First obstruction of an investigation. Now witness intimidation from the highest office,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). “A sad moment for even this White House.”

Democrats wasted no time in demanding the tapes.

“Mr. President, if there are “tapes” relevant to the Comey firing, it’s because you made them and they should be provided to Congress,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

At the afternoon briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was directly asked if the President had taped Comey.

There was no answer.

“Did President Trump record his conversations with former FBI Director Comey?” one reporter asked.

“I’ve talked to the President,” Spicer said, “and the President has nothing further to add on that.”

Instead of a week focused on building momentum for a health care overhaul bill approved by the House, the President had used the power of his office to make this a week that was All About Russia.

The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2017

Judging by Mr. Trump’s tweets and his interviews – and how they drive the news – that Russia probe might keep going for a while.


White House won’t say if President Trump secretly recorded conversation with ex-FBI Director Comey

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 18:31

Hours after President Donald Trump raised the possibility that he had recordings of a late January dinner conversation with then-FBI Director James Comey, the White House refused to tell reporters if such tapes existed, or if the President was in fact using recording devices in the Oval Office.

“Did President Trump record his conversations with former FBI Director Comey?”

“I’ve talked to the President, and the President has nothing further to add on that,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

At issue was a morning tweet by the President – warning the former FBI chief against any leaks.

James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017

“Why did he say that? Why did he tweet that? What should we interpret from that?” Spicer was asked – there was no answer.

“As I mentioned, the President has nothing further to add on that,” as Spicer did not deny any taping has taken place in the Trump White House.

Spicer: Trump’s tweet about Comey and “tapes” is “not a threat” and Trump “has nothing further to add on that” https://t.co/Tp3EW9UQR2

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 12, 2017

On Capitol Hill, Democrats immediately seized on the matter, demanding that the President turn over any tapes to Congress.

“Mr. President, if there are “tapes” relevant to the Comey firing, it’s because you made them and they should be provided to Congress,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

The @WhiteHouse Press Briefing just ended.@PressSec repeatedly refused to deny that @POTUS secretly records Oval Office conversations.

— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) May 12, 2017

“Are there tapes, Donald Trump?” asked Rep. Diana Degette (D-CO). “If so, the American people deserve to hear them.”

The tweet about “tapes” immediately invoked memories of the Oval Office tapes that became a central part of the battle over President Richard Nixon, a taping system that was not known about until being uncovered by hearings on Watergate.

If there are indeed tapes of such conversations, Congress could try to subpoena those for any investigation.

Democrats officially asked for the tapes in a letter to the White House Counsel this afternoon.

The letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), requested “copies of all recordings in possession of the White House regarding this matter.”

In series of tweets, Trump jabs at former FBI Director, calls Russia probe a “witch hunt”

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 12:57

In an extraordinary series of tweets on Friday morning, President Donald Trump said fired FBI Director James Comey ‘better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations,’ as the President again assailed the news media over press coverage of his administration, and basically warned Comey not to leak details of the investigation, or their interactions.

The President’s tweets came a day after he upended the explanations of his press team on why he fired Comey from his post on Tuesday, telling NBC in an interview that investigations of possible links between his associates and the Russians were much on his mind.

“This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,” the President said.

Overnight, there were stories in the New York Times about a dinner in late January at the White House, which involved only the President and the FBI Director; the Times reported that Mr. Trump pressed Comey for a ‘loyalty’ pledge.

James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017

Reaction from Democrats was immediate.

“This is very disturbing,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). “The President is now openly threatening the former FBI Director.”

“Seems like President Trump is taking cues from Nixon’s playbook,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

First obstruction of an investigation. Now witness intimidation from the Highest Office. A sad moment for even this White House. Unhinged?

— Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) May 12, 2017

“Are there tapes, Donald Trump?” asked Rep. Diana Degette (D-CO). “If so, the American people deserve to hear them.”

“Mr. President, if there are “tapes” relevant to the Comey firing, it’s because you made them and they should be provided to Congress,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

The tweet about “tapes” immediately invoked memories of the Oval Office tapes that became a central part of the battle over President Richard Nixon, a taping system that was not known about until being uncovered by hearings on Watergate.

If there are indeed tapes of such conversations, Congress could try to subpoena those for any investigation.

As he did in his interview on Thursday with NBC, the President made clear on Friday morning that the questions about any ties between his campaign and Russia were much on his mind, as he continued to lash out at Democrats and the news media.

Again, the story that there was collusion between the Russians & Trump campaign was fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017

Mr. Trump also used Twitter to address discrepancies between his explanation for the firing of Comey, and that given to reporters earlier in the week by his press team at the White House, as he labeled the Russia probe a “witch hunt.”

“As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy,” the President said, raising the possibility of simply not having briefings for reporters in the future.

“Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future “press briefings” and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy?”

The Fake Media is working overtime today!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017

As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017

When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017

Trump signs executive order to create voter fraud panel

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 02:50

President Donald Trump followed through on a pledge to set up a federal panel to “promote fair and honest Federal elections,” as backers praised his efforts to rein in voter fraud, while Democratic Party critics said it was nothing more than an effort at voter suppression.

Here’s what the plan would do:

1. Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. With Vice President Mike Pence in charge, the order by President Trump sets up a panel of no more than 16 people, to “study the registration and voting processes used in Federal elections.” The executive order instructs the group to look at processes that enhance or undermine the confidence in American elections, and also look for any vulnerabilities that could lead to voter fraud. President Trump has been adamant that 3-5 million people voted illegally last November – but his supporters have offered up nothing near that level of fraud.

New bipartisan presidential advisory commission on election integrity will deal with registration and voting issues in federal elections. pic.twitter.com/vjIsgIWN0D

— ABC News (@ABC) May 11, 2017

2. Democrats blast voter fraud investigation. It didn’t take long for Democrats to blast the President’s decision to set up this election fraud review, as they charge Republicans are simply looking for ways to suppress the votes of their political opponents. “There is no evidence – zero – of widespread voter fraud,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). “I am not certain what more the White House could do to signal its utter disregard for the democratic process in this country,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-GA).

President Trump’s new executive order calling for an investigation into voter fraud is his latest diversionary tactic.

— Jan Schakowsky (@janschakowsky) May 11, 2017

3. A familiar battle over whether there is voter fraud. With or without this federal panel, the issue of voter fraud is one that can showcase how two people may live in the United States of America, but they seem to inhabit completely different universes when it comes to evaluating the threat of voter fraud. The President has said several times that there were between 3-5 million illegal votes in 2016, but he has not offered up – the White House has not offered up – his backers haven’t offered up any evidence to support that claim.

New bipartisan presidential advisory commission on election integrity will deal with registration and voting issues in federal elections. pic.twitter.com/vjIsgIWN0D

— ABC News (@ABC) May 11, 2017

4. Pro tip: voter fraud sounds big at first. I have learned the hard way by covering elections that often there are claims that make it sound like we have finally stumbled on a giant voter fraud story, but then it doesn’t pan out that way. Detroit, Michigan in 2016 would be a perfect example, when hundreds of precincts couldn’t be fully recounted, because of polling irregularities. But after a review by state elections officials, there wasn’t much to see. “The total number of ballots in question in the remaining precincts was less than 600 out of 250,000 total cast citywide, and Elections staff was able to reduce that number to less than 200,” read the Michigan election review. Officials also found 31 people may have voted twice – out of over 4.5 million. That’s a fraud rate of 0.00000681318%.

@TuckerCarlson #Tucker
"31 Michigan residents voted twice, first with an absentee ballot and then in person."https://t.co/tHa2P3f5om

— chuckie chopper (@chuckie_chopper) February 10, 2017

5. In North Carolina it was 0.00010583333%. North Carolina’s audit of its 2016 election results found 508 illegal votes out of 4.8 million. While Michigan had 31 cases of double voting, North Carolina had 24. So, yes, there is evidence of voter fraud – but no, there is not evidence of 3-5 million illegal votes being cast in an election.

A lot of "improper voter registration" happens when people move. Prediction: lots found, Trump says he's vindicated https://t.co/coKzMMfEgN pic.twitter.com/2qNWH00J3D

— Michael McDonald (@ElectProject) May 11, 2017

Acting FBI Director contradicts White House on support for Comey

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 15:42

Two days after the surprise firing of the FBI Director, the Acting FBI chief told a Senate panel that the move has not disrupted any FBI investigations, including a probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, as Andrew McCabe disputed a prime White House assertion that FBI employees has lost confidence in former Director James Comey.

“Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI, and still does to this day,” McCabe told the Senate Intelligence Committee, as he said the “vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.”

McCabe also labeled the Russian probe, “highly significant,” further putting him at odds with a recent public characterization by the White House that the investigation should be a low priority; the President has labeled the review of any links to his campaign a “total hoax.”

BREAKING: Acting FBI director calls Trump-Russia investigation `highly significant,' contradicting White House claim

— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) May 11, 2017

Earlier in the hearing, the Acting FBI Director refused to comment on President Trump’s claim that he had been told he was not under investigation related to the probe of Russian actions in the 2016 U.S. elections.

“Has the dismissal of Mr. Comey in any way impeded, interrupted, stopped or negatively impacted any of the work, any investigation, or any ongoing projects at the Federal Bureau of Investigation?” asked Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

“You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing, protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution,” said Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing," McCabe says on if Comey's firing disrupted ongoing investigations pic.twitter.com/PMivNMlmkd

— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 11, 2017

McCabe had barely been in his seat for a few minutes when the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), made clear he still doesn’t buy the explanation that the firing of Comey had nothing to do with the probe of possible Russian ties to associates of Mr. Trump.

“It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the President’s decision to remove Director Comey was related to this investigation,” said Warner.

While the chairman of the panel, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), said the hearing on “worldwide threats” was not meant to focus on the Russia investigation, Burr used his very first question to try to shed light on the Comey firing.

“Director McCabe, did you ever hear Director Comey tell the President that he was not the subject of an investigation?” Burr asked at the outset.

“Sir, I can’t comment on any conversations the Director may have had with the President,” McCabe answered.

Acting FBI Director McCabe: “I can’t comment on any conversation (James Comey) may have had with the President” https://t.co/wEnTcAKibr

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 11, 2017

Pressed later in the hearing by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) on the matter, McCabe again refused to shed any light on President Trump’s claim that Comey had told Mr. Trump three times that he was not the subject of any investigation.

“I will not comment on whether or not the Director and the President of the United States had that conversation,” McCabe said.

At the hearing, the new Director of National Intelligence, former Sen. Dan Coats, provided Senators with a regular review of threats against the U.S. – that document included a section that said Russian cyber actions “will remain a major threat” to the United States.

“This aggressiveness was evident in Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 US election, and we assess that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized the 2016 US election-focused data thefts and disclosures, based on the scope and sensitivity of the targets,” the review stated.

In the hearing, Warner asked the assembled intelligence chiefs if they believed that Russian Intelligence agencies “were responsible for the hacking and leaking of information and using misinformation in order to influence our elections.”

Every intelligence chief answered ‘yes’ to that question.

Firing of FBI Director doesn’t stem developments in Russia probe

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 04:05

As lawmakers in Congress tried to digest President Donald Trump’s surprise firing of the FBI Director, the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections kept expanding on Wednesday, as Congressional subpoenas were issued for documents from a former top Trump aide, and a blizzard of leaks to news organizations raised questions about the stated reason behind the President’s decision to fire James Comey.

Here are some of the highlights:

1. Trump was ready to fire Comey from the start. The FBI Director’s days might have been numbered no matter what he did, as the White House made clear to reporters on Wednesday that President Trump had been thinking about getting rid of Comey for months. “He had been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he took office,” spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said to reporters. “He was not doing a good job,” the President said, in his only public comment on the matter.

2. Russia gets center stage, not Clinton emails. While the White House repeatedly insisted that Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email saga was the reason the FBI chief was sacked, an absolute torrent of leaks to news organizations on Wednesday shined the spotlight on the investigation into links between Trump associates and Russia, and the President’s frustration with that probe, as late reports raised questions about whether the Deputy Attorney General had objected to the White House using his memo about Comey’s shortcomings as the basis for his firing.

Why Trump raged at Comey: The ongoing Russia probe, Trump's baseless wiretapping claims and his anger over leaks https://t.co/1Rt4s70krB pic.twitter.com/wmfMMDbHE2

— Mark Berman (@markberman) May 11, 2017

3. Russia probe continues to accelerate. Not pleased with how Comey was fired, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee vowed to keep pushing forward on their probe of Russian election meddling, sending out their first subpoenas to former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired over his contacts with Russian officials. Flynn had refused to turn over documents sought by the panel. That same committee also wants to hear directly from Comey about the investigation. This is not an investigation that is slowing down. “I do not have an obligation to do cover up for anybody,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).

Former FBI Director Comey has been invited by the Committee to meet in closed session on Tuesday.

— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) May 10, 2017

4. Chaffetz asks for IG review of Comey firing. The Comey firing also drew red flags from Republicans in the House of Representatives, as Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) asked the Inspector General of the Justice Department to review the President’s decision to oust Comey. The IG is already doing an investigation into how Comey handled the Clinton email matter, but has not finalized that report. You can read the Chaffetz letter here.

Rep Jason Chaffetz R-UT asks DOJ Inspector General to also review firing of FBI Director Comey pic.twitter.com/u28LXhv5Jh

— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) May 10, 2017

5. Trump actions again only spur more interest in Russia. We have now seen two giant examples of where President Trump does something related to the Russia story, and it only increases the scrutiny of the matter. In March, it was Mr. Trump’s tweets about being ‘wiretapped’ by President Obama. That generated a ton of news, elevated hearings in Congress, and resulted in Comey and others publicly differing with the President. Now, the firing of Comey has insured that confirmation hearings for the new FBI Director will be dominated by one major issue – the investigation into Russian election interference, and whether Trump associates had ties to Russia.

The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2017

6. Comey not going off the radar screen. While the former FBI Director stayed out of public view on the day after his firing, many lawmakers wanted him to come back to Capitol Hill to give his views on the Russia-elections probe. Comey won’t be at a Thursday hearing – instead the Acting FBI Director will present testimony at a hearing on “worldwide threats.” Comey has been invited to testify next week before the Senate Intelligence Committee; it’s unclear if he will agree to that. In a letter to FBI employees, Comey urged agents not to worry about why he was fired.

.@CNN exclusive: @ShimonPro got a copy of Comey's farewell letter to friends and agents pic.twitter.com/WnAKnBEkc5

— Elizabeth Landers (@ElizLanders) May 11, 2017

Stay tuned on this one.

Congress stunned by firing of FBI Director as Democrats demand special counsel probe of Trump-Russia ties

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 03:55

In a surprise move, President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired FBI Director James Comey, with Justice Department officials citing Comey’s bungled handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe as a main reason for his departure, as Democrats charged it was more of an effort to short circuit a probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, which they say might have ties to the Trump Campaign.

It was only the second time an FBI Director had been fired – the first was when President Bill Clinton ousted William Sessions (no relation to Jeff Sessions, the current Attorney General).

Let’s look more closely at the Comey firing:

1. No apologies from President Trump for firing Comey. Whether or not the White House expected such a big reaction to the firing of the FBI Director, President Trump was his usual self on this story, as he went on Twitter to jab at Democrats over Comey. The White House even put out quotes from top Democrats – which were critical of Comey – to make the case that Democrats shouldn’t mind his removal.

Cryin' Chuck Schumer stated recently, "I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer." Then acts so indignant. #draintheswamp

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2017

2. For many Republicans, this was overdue. While Washington, D.C. was stunned by the Trump move, some of his most ardent supporters were very pleased, and even more so enjoyed the President’s words to the outgoing FBI Director. “I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors,” Mr. Trump wrote to Comey. One interesting part of this letter is in the second paragraph, where the President notes that Comey told him – three times – that he was not the target of any investigation. “Best. Termination. Letter. Ever,” tweeted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY).

Best. Termination. Letter. Ever. pic.twitter.com/aPVm7h4MUW

— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) May 9, 2017

3. Once upon a time, Trump liked and didn’t like Comey. During the 2016 campaign, both parties went back and forth on the FBI Director like a pair of kids going up and down on a playground seesaw. When Comey said there would be no charges against Clinton over her email server, Trump was not pleased. When Comey re-opened the probe before Election Day to check out new emails, Trump praised him. “It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made,” Trump said at a rally in Michigan.

So Trump fired Comey, citing his handling of the Clinton case.

This was Trump on Comey in October, after the Clinton letter. Watch. pic.twitter.com/CjPLsxshlH

— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) May 10, 2017

4. Once upon a time, Democrats liked and didn’t like Comey. During the 2016 campaign, there were plenty of Democrats – and Hillary Clinton campaign officials – who wanted to see James Comey leave town in manacles, convinced he had put his thumb on the scale for Donald Trump. Even last week at a Senate hearing, several Democrats made clear their aggravation with Comey. But when the President fired Comey, suddenly some of those same critics turned instantly into Comey defenders. But some Clinton aides say that’s not really what’s at work.

This is the headline Trump wants. It's inaccurate. We're not defending Comey. We're calling out Trump for trying to block Russia probe. https://t.co/grjcv6hrci

— Robby Mook (@RobbyMook) May 10, 2017

5. Democrats ramp up calls for a special prosecutor. When it comes to questions about Russia, and 2016 election ties to the Trump Campaign, Democrats quickly called for a special prosecutor in the wake of the firing of the FBI Director, something they’ve been pushing for since the November elections. “The President’s sudden and brazen firing of the FBI Director raises the ghosts of some of the worst Executive Branch abuses,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

On Comey, this is a flash back to the days of Richard Nixon. We need an independent investigation and Congress must stand up to @POTUS!

— Marcy Kaptur (@RepMarcyKaptur) May 10, 2017

6. Some Republicans express concern about Comey firing. There were GOP voices who were not on board with the firing of the FBI Director by President Trump. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said he found the timing “very troubling.” Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) labeled part of Mr. Trump’s letter to Comey, “bizarre.” The Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) was even more blunt: “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination,” Burr said. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said the public deserves “an explanation for his immediate firing.”

I've spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey's firing. I just can't do it.

— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) May 10, 2017

7. What happens to the Russia investigation? Technically, nothing changes with the FBI’s Russia probe, as career officials who have been involved with it in the National Security Division, along with the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, will push ahead with their probe. But the White House was making clear what it thought should happen – that investigations into the Russia matter should be wrapped up. Remember – Comey was fired less than 24 hours after Mr. Trump had tweeted that investigations into any Trump-Russia links were a “total hoax.”

On Fox, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy WH press secretary says time to let Russia investigation go.

— Tom Wright (@thomaswright08) May 10, 2017

8. Comey has stood by his handling of the Clinton email case. Just last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey defended how he handled the matter during the 2016 campaign, basically saying he felt like he needed to speak out, because to stay quiet – as normally would happen – might send a signal that something (or someone) was being protected by the FBI. “Even in hindsight, and this has been one of the world’s most painful experiences, I would make the same decision,” Comey said.

FBI Dir. James Comey: 'It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election." https://t.co/C1OKDyvELp pic.twitter.com/1LduBzhqDi

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) May 3, 2017

9. What were the reasons given for his firing? The White House issued a three page rundown by Rod Rosenstein, the new Deputy Attorney General, that spelled out the case against Comey, accusing him of violating norms of the Justice Department, and ignoring guidelines for how to handle investigations which don’t lead to criminal charges. “Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes,” Rosenstein wrote.

The Rosenstein letter is remarkable. Comey is being fired for his press statement in July 2016 about Clinton https://t.co/RlUBQf4x00

— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) May 9, 2017

10. Nixon Library trolls Twitter on Comey. A few weeks ago, it was the Carter Library that poked at President Trump, by noting Jimmy Carter’s 100 day record in terms of laws passed, executive orders issued and approval rating in the polls. Then, as news of the Comey firing spread on Tuesday, the Nixon Library in California did its best to spread some smiles on Twitter, saying President Trump had just done something that even Mr. Nixon had not.

FUN FACT: President Nixon never fired the Director of the FBI #FBIDirector #notNixonian pic.twitter.com/PatArKOZlk

— RichardNixonLibrary (@NixonLibrary) May 9, 2017

Look for this story to keep bubbling for several days – especially since President Trump will meet on Wednesday with the Russian Foreign Minister.

President Trump fires FBI Director James Comey

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 21:51

The White House announced Tuesday afternoon that President Donald Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey, stemming from what the Justice Department labeled as his mishandling of the investigation into the emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comey’s termination came as he was leading a probe into possible collusion between associates of Mr. Trump and Russia, centering on Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Just yesterday in a tweet, the President had called the probe a “total hoax.”

“The FBI is one of our Nation’s most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement,” said President Trump.

BREAKING: White House announces President Donald Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey.

— The Associated Press (@AP) May 9, 2017

In a letter sent to notify Comey of his termination, the President referred directly to the Russia investigation, and whether it was taking aim at him.

“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” the President wrote.

In a separate letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the Justice Department set out a brutally frank case that Comey had repeatedly bungled the handling of the Hillary Clinton email matter.

“I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken,” wrote Rosenstein.

“Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives,” Rosenstein added.

The announcement was made minutes after the FBI released a letter clarifying testimony that Comey had given to Congress last week, centering on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails; his testimony had overstated the number of emails possibly found on a computer belonging to ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), the husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

The news stunned official Washington, as Democrats immediately questioned whether it was an attempt to rein in investigations that could impact the White House.

“Comey should be immediately called to testify in an open hearing about the status of Russia/Trump investigation at the time he was fired,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“Donald Trump’s own Saturday Night Massacre,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), referring to Watergate.

Trump’s firing of FBI Dir. #Comey raises serious questions & highlights need for special prosecutor to look into Trump-Russia ties.

— Senator Jack Reed (@SenJackReed) May 9, 2017

“We need an independent investigation,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM).

“Now it is more clear than ever that we need an independent commission to get to the truth of Russia’s interference with our election,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).

Trump loved Comey when he was investigating Clinton emails. When Comey investigated #TrumpRussia, Trump fired him.

— Rep. Jamie Raskin (@RepRaskin) May 9, 2017

On the other side of the aisle, most Republicans backed the President’s move.

“Best. Termination. Letter. Ever,” tweeted Rep. Lynn Cheney (R-WY).

“The handling of the Clinton email investigation is a clear example of how Comey’s decisions have called into question the trust and political independence of the FBI,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA).

“Many, including myself have questioned his actions more than once over the last year,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) of Comey.

President Trump made the right decision to relieve FBI Director James Comey of his duties.

— Ron DeSantis (@RepDeSantis) May 9, 2017

But there were some Republicans who disagreed with the move, like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who labeled it, “disappointing.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) echoed those worries – even as he acknowledged the missteps by Comey – saying Comey’s “removal at this particular time will raise questions.”

“His dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the Bureau and the nation,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination.

— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) May 9, 2017

One Republican raised questions about the President’s own letter to Comey, which noted how the former FBI chief had assured Mr. Trump that he was not the target of any investigation.

My staff and I are reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia. The second paragraph of this letter is bizarre. https://t.co/wXeDtVIQiP

— Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 9, 2017

“The second paragraph of this letter is bizarre,” said Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI).

Comey was confirmed as FBI Director in September of 2013; he was to have served a ten year term until 2023.

Earlier this year, during a speech in Boston, Comey gave no sign that he was going to leave early.

“You’re stuck with me for about another six and a half years,” he said.

Two months later, Comey was out of a job.

“I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors,” the President wrote.

U.S. gave ‘heads up’ to France about pre-election hacking by Russia

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 15:51

The head of the National Security Agency told Congress on Tuesday that U.S. intelligence analysts saw signs of Russian involvement in a pre-election hacking attack in France, and moved to let their French counterparts know of the effort by Moscow in the days running up to the recent runoff elections for French President.

“We had become aware of Russian activity, we had talked to our French counterparts prior to the public announcements,” of the hacks, as Admiral Mike Rogers told a Senate hearing that the U.S. had given France a “heads up” on what Russia was doing.

“Look, we’re watching the Russians, we’re seeing them penetrate some of your infrastructure; here’s what we’ve seen, what can we do to assist,” was how the NSA chief described what went on, as emails from the front runner in the French race for President, Emmanuel Macron, were released online.

NSA Dir. Mike Rogers says US gave France "heads up" of alleged Russian cyber infiltration ahead of election: https://t.co/CagM4bg8xU pic.twitter.com/jmJhvsls5X

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) May 9, 2017

Rogers said U.S. Intelligence resources were also watching the Russians for any cyber moves that might impact upcoming elections in both Germany and England.

“We’re doing similar things with our German counterparts, with our British counterparts,” Rogers said.

“We’re all trying to figure out how can we learn from each other.”

At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee about cyber threats, Rogers found himself answering a number of questions about the Russia probe, with regards to the U.S. elections of 2016.

Rogers: Russia is trying to help ensure that leaders who are more Russia-friendly are elected. Saw this in France with Macron. #SASC #cyber

— Gary Ashcroft (@ashcroftgm) May 9, 2017

“We had high confidence in the judgment that the Russians were clearly trying to undermine our democracy and discredit us broadly,” Rogers said, restating part of the election judgment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.

“It’s become crystal clear that Russia has really mastered this domain of digital disinformation,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

“They clearly had a preference that candidate Clinton not win,” Adm. Rogers said of the Russians their 2016 interference.

“And they also wanted to insure that if she did win, that she was weakened,” Rogers said.

Highlights of the latest hearing on Russian election meddling

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 01:37

Senators pressed for more answers about interference by Russia in the 2016 U.S. elections, as a former top Justice Department official described how she warned the Trump White House of fears that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail, while the former U.S. intelligence chief continued to say Moscow was trying to undermine both Democrats and Republicans.

Here’s some of what we learned:

1. New details about the Yates warning on Flynn. For the first time in public, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates described how she had warned the White House about ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Giving some details about two meetings in January, Yates said the message to White House Counsel Doug McGahn was – based on public stories in the press, and investigative intelligence – that Flynn had seemingly been lying to Vice President Pence and others about contacts during the transition with the Russian Ambassador to the United States. Yates said the Justice Department was worried that Flynn might be blackmailed by the Russians.

2. No Russia bombshells delivered by Yates. While Democrats had been talking up the possibility of some major new revelations by Yates, that didn’t happen before Senators – but the hearing brought forth a number of interesting items, like the reaction of the White House to the warning by Yates about Flynn. Yates said – and clearly this is just her opinion – that the White House Counsel wondered why the Justice Department was concerned over what White House officials were saying to each other, and whether one might be lying to the Vice President. It’s possible that “Why does it matter” will become the Democratic version of what “What difference does it make?” meant to Republicans over Hillary Clinton.

Yates says White House counsel asked her, “Why does it matter to DOJ if one White House official lies to another?” https://t.co/KpGO7QeD2W

— Narrendra Malhotra (@NarrendraM) May 8, 2017

3. Ex-DNI continues to point the finger at Russia. While he is no longer the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper once more made no bones about what went on in the 2016 elections, as he again bluntly accused Moscow of hacking emails from both parties, making cyber forays into state voter rolls, and doing what they could to stir confusion and dissent in the American political arena. “The Russian used cyber operations against both political parties,” as Clapper tied Moscow directly to Wikileaks, saying the Russians withheld materials that were taken from Republican computers. “I hope the American people recognize the severity of this threat and that we collectively counter it before it erodes the fabric of our democracy.”

"[The Russians] must be congratulating themselves for exceeding their wildest expectations," former DNI James Clapper testifies. pic.twitter.com/4pDwkRa2aF

— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 8, 2017

4. Clapper says he did not know of FBI investigation. One of the more interesting moments of the hearing was when the former DNI acknowledged that he had been kept in the dark by the FBI on their counter-intelligence investigation into election meddling by the Russians, and whether or not it involved associates of the Trump Campaign. Clapper said he only learned of the probe in mid-March, when FBI Director James Comey revealed the investigation in a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee. “I was not aware of the counterintelligence investigation,” Clapper said, “and that comports with my public statements.” And that means, when Clapper said in January that he knew of no collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia – that he didn’t even know there was an FBI investigation going on into exactly that.

Yates declines to answer a question about evidence of collusion due to classification. Notes Clapper was not read into FBI investigation.

— Andrew Dolan (@A_M_Dolan) May 8, 2017

5. U.S. allies sent intelligence about Trump associates and Russia. While Clapper admitted that he knew nothing about the FBI probe, the former DNI did confirm something that has been bubbling for weeks, that intelligence agencies of allies in Europe had sent the United States information they had obtained about possible contacts between Trump associates and Russia. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) asked Clapper if it was accurate that “multiple European” countries had sent such information to the U.S. Intelligence Community. “Yes it is,” Clapper acknowledged. “And it’s also quite sensitive,” Clapper said, without providing anymore context or background.

Clapper says report that foreign intelligence services passed on info on communications between Trump advisers, Russian agents is accurate. pic.twitter.com/hnlyqy4qqO

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) May 8, 2017

6. Were Trump business interests in Russia being watched? Another comment by ex-DNI Clapper sparked interest as well in what U.S. Intelligence had found during surveillance, about the business side of Mr. Trump. “Did you ever find a situation where a Trump business interest in Russia gave you a concern?” asked Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). At first, Clapper said no. “At all? Anytime,” Graham pressed. Clapper then modified his answer in a way that made it sound like there were intelligence resources dedicated to that topic. “I can’t comment on that because that impacts an investigation.”

Graham: Any concerns about the Trump business interests in Russia raised?
Clapper: Can't answer, would impact an investigation #sallyyates

— Tom LoBianco (@tomlobianco) May 8, 2017

7. Yates quizzed repeatedly on opposition to Trump travel order. While the hearing was about Russian interference in the 2016 elections, several GOP Senators spent most of their time asking Sally Yates why she had stood in the way of President Trump’s first travel and refugee order – a move which lead to her firing in late January. Yates said she determined the order was unconstitutional – Republicans did not accept that explanation, though the plan never made it through the federal courts, as Mr. Trump ended up having the plan revised (that is also now before the courts). “I personally wrestled over this decision,” Yates said, here in this exchange with Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA).

.@JohnKennedyLA to Sally Yates: "I don't mean any disrespect. Who appointed you to the Supreme Court?" pic.twitter.com/ijVOO3Q1Ox"

— Kevin W. (@kwilli1046) May 8, 2017

8. The two parties again had totally different game plans. Once again, a high profile hearing on Russian interference in the U.S. elections was played out in entirely different ways by the two parties. Outside of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), most Republicans again stayed away from direct questions on what Russia did during 2016, focusing instead on the question of leaks and the “unmasking” of names possibly linked to the Trump Campaign. As mentioned above, GOP Senators also quizzed Yates on the original Trump travel and refugee order, and at one point, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tried to move the hearing topic over to Hillary Clinton’s email server and emails sent by her top State Department aide Huma Abedin. Democrats meanwhile stayed on message, and zeroed in on the Russian meddling, repeatedly calling for a special counsel investigation.

Democrats – RUSSIA? RUSSIA!
Both – Can you tell us about top secret stuff?
Yates & Clapper – No.

— Random Tourist (@random_tourist) May 8, 2017

9. As for President Trump, he sees no reason for any probe. Just over an hour after the Senate hearing ended, President Trump vented his frustration with the investigation, labeling the probe into any ties between his campaign and Russia, a “total hoax,” as he demanded to know, “when will this taxpayer funded charade end?” For now, the answer to that question is most likely – not any time soon, as not only is Congress reviewing the matter, but the FBI continues its own investigation as well. Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump had used Twitter to make the implication that Sally Yates had leaked material about Michael Flynn, something she denied at the Senate hearing. “Sally Yates made the fake media extremely unhappy today,” Trump tweeted, “she said nothing but old news!”

It’s safe to say that some on Capitol Hill would not agree with the President’s assessment.