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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider
Updated: 19 hours 1 min ago

As trio of spending bills advance, Congress still faces shutdown threat

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 23:13

With funding for the federal government running out at the end of September, the Senate on Wednesday evening approved a three bill package of spending measures for 2019, as key lawmakers acknowledged that the Congress would again fail to approve all twelve funding bills by an October 1 deadline, which will force action later this month on a temporary funding measure to avert a government shutdown.

“We have a long way to go but we’re getting there,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, as Senators in both parties voiced their support for extra work done in August, as the Senate approved nine of 12 funding bills for next year.

The three bills which were finalized and grouped together – in what’s known as a ‘minibus’ bill – cover funding for Congress and the Legislative Branch, Energy and Water programs, and money for both the Veterans Administration and military construction projects. The vote was 92-5 in favor of the plan.

Today, the @HouseAppropsGOP filed its first “minibus” funding bill. For the first time in 10 years, Congress will send more than one funding bill to the President’s desk before the end of the fiscal year- proving the return of “regular order”. https://t.co/9N57f4CQAX

— Rep. Robert Aderholt (@Robert_Aderholt) September 10, 2018

The House is expected to approve the ‘minibus’ plan as soon as Thursday, but that leaves action still unfinished on nine other bills which fund the various operations of the federal government.

In the last 44 years, Congress has finished its spending work on time – by October 1 – only in 1996, 1994, 1988, and 1976.

Here is a basic breakdown of the first ‘minibus’:

+ The Energy and Water project portion is $44.6 billion – $1.4 billion above what was approved for 2018, and $8.1 billion above the President’s budget request.

+ Funding for the VA and military construction projects totals $98.1 billion – that’s $5.3 billion above what was approved for 2018. Unlike most other agencies, the VA is funded early – as $76 billion in this bill is for fiscal year 2020 – that insures even if there is a lapse in funding, and a government shutdown, that over 95 percent of VA workers will still be on the job, and getting paid.

+ Spending on Congress and the operations of the Legislative Branch is $4.83 billion, up $136 million from last year.

The text of the bill is available here, with more specifics in in this other document.

It’s in that second document where you get into the details that lawmakers will be able to trumpet back home, from the Energy and Water section of the bill – which directs money for specific water projects in their home states and districts under the auspices of the Army Corps of Engineers.

This is just a partial list for example, for Florida and Georgia:

While the agreement says this bill “does not contain any congressional earmarks” – some Congressional watchdogs might beg to differ, as the bill directly names water projects in every state.

“This is the most popular item in the budget,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).

The Army Corps would receive $7 billion under this plan – up $172 million from 2018 – “which will provide a much needed influx of funds into the nation’s water resources infrastructure,” Congressional leaders said in a statement.

As one can see from the above graphic – there were a number of projects funded for the Army Corps which were not in the original budget request of President Trump – as money was included for harbors in Jacksonville, Miami, Palm Beach, Pensacola, Tampa and others in Florida, plus Brunswick and Savannah in Georgia.

There are a series of other items in this ‘minibus’ which deserve note as well.

+ The bill approves a $174,000 payment to the widow of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). This is normal procedure by the Congress to provide a year of salary to the spouse of a deceased lawmaker.

+ The bill again instructs Capitol Police to allow people to sled on the grounds of the Capitol during the winter, when it snows – that is currently prohibited under one section of federal law, in order to “protect public property, turf, and grass of the Capitol Grounds from injury.”

+ The bill directs the Government Accountability Office to study the possibility of raising the mandatory retirement age for Capitol Police officers from 57 to 60 years of age.

+ The bill also would finally bring the Senate into the internet age, by requiring candidates for U.S. Senate to file their campaign donation reports electronically.

+ The military construction part of the bill specifically prohibits the use of money to ‘close or realign Naval Station Guantanamo Bay,” the U.S. military facility at the southeastern tip of Cuba.

+ $33 million is included for an expansion of Arlington National Cemetery, which is running out of room for burials at the site, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The final cost could be more than ten times that figure, adding 37 acres of land.

Everyone knows that I don’t have a lot of good things to say about the Republican Congress, but they deserve credit for at least attempting to appropriate before 9/30. Should be the norm. https://t.co/DeiEFq6cjc

— Brian Rosenwald (@brianros1) September 11, 2018

Negotiations are also continuing on a separate two-bill package, which would include funding for the Pentagon, as well as the the Departments of Labor, and Health and Human Services.

While the September 30 shutdown deadline might seem a ways off – the House is not scheduled to be in session next week, leaving only a few days at the end of the month for action on those bills – and a temporary spending resolution.

President Donald Trump has made noise about forcing a shutdown, in order to get more money for his border wall, but GOP leaders are hoping to avoid that, worried it would boomerang against Republicans in the November elections.

Illegal crossings of southern border surge in August

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 19:49

The Trump Administration reported new figures Wednesday which showed a new surge in the number of illegal immigrants detained by U.S. border authorities, highlighted by a sharp increase in the number of families trying to illegally enter the United States.

Figures released by the Customs and Border Patrol agency showed 46,560 people were apprehended in August – up 17 percent from July, and up more than 50 percent from August of 2017.

The number of families stopped at the border was almost 16,000 – and according to federal officials – that was one of the highest figures ever recorded.

Initially, border crossings dropped dramatically during the first months of the Trump Administration last year – something the President proudly noted – as apprehension figures dropped to less than 16,000 in April of 2017. But by May of 2018, the numbers were back up, hitting a high of 51,780, before dropping back in recent months.

Before President Trump took office, the numbers had been as high as 66,708 in October of 2016.

“In August a total of 37,544 individuals were apprehended between ports of entry on our Southwest Border,” the Border Patrol reported – about one third of those were families, while over 4,000 were ‘unaccompanied children.’

Over 9,000 other people were stopped at official points of entry into the U.S. in August, up slightly from July and June. Over one-third of those were families as well.

As Florence looms, Trump gives himself ‘A-pluses’ on hurricane response

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 00:57

With Hurricane Florence poised to slam into the Carolinas in the next two days, President Donald Trump said said again on Wednesday that his administration had done an A-plus job in responding to hurricanes that ravaged Texas and Florida in 2017, as he again defended how the feds dealt with extensive damage to the U.S. island of Puerto Rico.

“We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida,” the President said in an early morning tweet, adding that his administration “did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico.”

“I think, in a certain way, the best job we did was Puerto Rico, but nobody would understand that,” the President said on Tuesday, blaming bad infrastructure on the island for the slow recovery in power and water.

The President also released a new video in which Mr. Trump assures coastal residents that his administration is prepared for Florence, warning those in the path of the storm to take necessary precautions.


— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 12, 2018

We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 12, 2018

As Hurricane Florence has taken aim at the East Coast, the President hasn’t budged on his review of U.S. relief work in Puerto Rico.

“I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success,” Mr. Trump told reporters after a briefing in the Oval Office by the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on the threat from Hurricane Florence.

The President’s remarks came in the wake of a study of deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, which estimated that nearly 3,000 people died because of the hurricane – dramatically higher than the original official death toll of 64 people.

In Congress, Democrats expressed outrage at the President’s remarks about the federal response on Puerto Rico.

“Thousands of Americans died in Puerto Rico, partly because of the Trump administration’s incompetence,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

“Nearly 3,000 Americans died in Puerto Rico,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH). “We need an investigation not delusional bluster.”

When you think you’ve heard all possible lies from the White House here comes possibly the biggest of them all. An A+ for his work in Puerto Rico? Are you kidding? You failed miserably in turning your back on our fellow Americans. Thousands died and you pat yourself on the back.

— José E. Serrano (@RepJoseSerrano) September 12, 2018

“Americans expect their presidents to own up to their failures,” added House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

But in President Trump’s opinion, his administration did everything it should have.

“Texas, we had been given A-pluses for. Florida, we’ve been given A-pluses for,” the President added, referring to hurricanes which ravaged those states a year ago.

At the briefing, both the President and the head of FEMA urged people living in coastal regions, or in areas prone to flooding, to heed the warnings of local officials and move inland.

“What’s your message, Mr. President, to people who might not have evacuated yet?” a reporter asked.

“Well, that’s very risky. I mean, again, we’ve never seen anything quite like this on the East Coast, at least,” Mr. Trump added.

FEMA Director Brock Long told reporters that he sees Florence as a combination of Hurricane Hugo – which devastated the Charleston, South Carolina region and inland areas in 1989 – and Hurricane Floyd in 1989, which came ashore in the southern part of North Carolina, and caused major flooding problems.

“I’d like to point out that what we learned last year is we have got to build a true culture of preparedness within our citizens here in America,” Long told reporters, trying to send a message to those who might be impacted to get themselves ready for Florence – just in case.

“Unfortunately, Hurricane Florence is setting out to be a devastating event to the Carolinas, and potentially Virginia as well,” Long told the President.

Hurricane Florence forces President Trump off the campaign trail

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 16:38

President Donald Trump’s plans to hold campaign rallies in two states this week have been put on hold, as the White House and the federal government move to marshal resources to deal with the threat from Hurricane Florence.

The President was scheduled to headline a rally on Friday night in Jackson, Mississippi, but that was scratched on Monday – now a second rally in Missouri which was set for Thursday night has also been postponed.

In a statement, the campaign of Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) said she understood the President’s decision to cancel.

“Mississippi residents understand what it’s like to prepare for, endure and recover from a major hurricane,” the campaign said. “However, as our neighbors on the East Coast prepare for Hurricane Florence’s landfall, we agree with the decision to cancel this Friday’s rally.”

Trump cancels Missouri rally as Hurricane Florence nears https://t.co/O7YTBCiX9S pic.twitter.com/v04EQaWVHH

— KMBC (@kmbc) September 11, 2018

The Missouri rally originally set for this Thursday would have been one where the President would likely have targeted incumbent Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO), who is a tough re-election race with Missouri state Attorney General Josh Hawley.

In Mississippi, the President has been looking to give a boost to Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS).

Hyde-Smith is in a non-partisan special election with three other candidates in November; if no candidate receives a majority, then the top two finishers would proceed to a runoff on November 27.

But those campaign stops will have to wait for the President, as state, local, and federal officials say the threat to the Eastern Seaboard from Hurricane Florence is substantial, as mandatory evacuations are already underway in some coastal areas in the Carolinas.

“The earliest reasonable time that tropical-storm-force winds could arrive in the United States from Florence is late Wednesday,” the National Hurricane Center stated. “Wednesday should be the last full day to prepare, so plan accordingly.”

Was just briefed via phone by @DHSgov @SecNielsen and @FEMA @FEMA_Brock, along with @VP Mike Pence and Chief of Staff, John Kelly on incoming storm which is very dangerous. Heed the directions of your State and Local Officials – and know that WE are here for you. Be SAFE! pic.twitter.com/sN8D5NvrBa

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 10, 2018

Along with being natural disasters that can cause major damage, hurricanes also are a time-tested political event as well – just look back a year ago at the aftermath of a series of hurricanes which struck the Gulf Coast, Florida, and Puerto Rico.

President Trump has promised to be very active on the campaign trail – last week he held events in Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota to boost a variety of GOP candidates running for U.S. Senate, and Governor.

But at least for this week – preparations for a hurricane will put those campaign efforts on hold – as the clock ticks towards Election Day.

House Republicans unveil plans to make GOP tax cuts permanent

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 00:54

Eight weeks before the November mid-term elections, Republicans in the House have rolled out plans to permanently write a series of individual tax cuts into law, trying to change a sweeping tax cut approved in 2017 which allowed those tax cuts for individuals to expire in eight years, as GOP leaders labeled the effort, ‘Tax Reform 2.0.’

“We are providing certainty,” argued Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), who helped shepherd the GOP tax cut plan through the House in 2017, as he unveiled three different Republican measures dealing with making the 2017 tax cuts permanent, helping people save more for retirement, and spurring new economic innovation.

“This legislation is our commitment to the American worker to ensure our tax code remains the most competitive in the world,” Brady added in a statement.

The Ways & Means committee has released #TaxReform 2.0.

Don't stress over the details yet, as we saw last year, there will be a lot of changes before (or if) this ever becomes law. https://t.co/gOlKKVqBN6

— Brian Streig, CPA (@cbriancpa) September 11, 2018

No cost estimates were released with the package of three bills, which were immediately denounced by Democrats.

“With version 2.0 of the GOP tax scam for the rich, Republicans want to add even more to the deficit, and even more to the bank accounts of the wealthiest 1 percent,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Some outside groups were also critical of the details.

“Once again, lawmakers are attempting to force tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthy on an unwilling public,” said Alan Essig, executive director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

With only 15 scheduled legislative work days in the House before the elections, there is no chance any of these GOP plans could become law in 2018 – but it could offer Republican leaders the chance to highlight the issue before the mid-terms, by holding a vote on it in the House, and trying to put the squeeze on some Democrats in the elections.

“We’re not resting on our laurels,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). “We’re going to build on this economic success.”

NEW: #TaxReform 2.0 legislation analysis by @NKaeding: https://t.co/f1ji7VXQkz pic.twitter.com/q63kVMazpZ

— Tax Foundation (@taxfoundation) September 10, 2018

Here’s what he GOP bills would do:

+ The first bill makes the individual income tax rates permanent, rather than have them expire in 2025, which is current law.

+ Other provisions on increased standard deductions, rates for pass through income, child tax credit, limits on state and local tax deductions, and more are also made permanent.

+ The second bill deals with expanding retirement savings accounts.

+ The plan would also expand section 529 college savings plans, and allow penalty-free withdrawals from retirement accounts in order to help pay for the birth or adoption of a child.

+ The third bill is a short 15 page plan which deals with an effort simply and expand tax deductions for new start-up companies.

“It’s time to build on the undeniable success of the Tax Cuts And Jobs Act,” said Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA).

How Republicans do in the November elections will go a long way toward determining whether any of these plans have any chance of being approved in the Congress.

White House: Trump was “inflection” point for economic growth

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 20:48

Facing criticism from former President Barack Obama and Democrats, the White House Monday said the recent surge in economic growth is clearly a result of Trump Administration policies, even as new polling suggested that the President is not getting seeing benefit of that economic success from voters.

“It’s not a sugar high at all,” said White House chief economic adviser Kevin Hassett, who told reporters at a briefing that President Donald Trump’s plans to ease regulations, cut taxes, and push pro-growth policies had obviously shifted the trajectory of the economy.

“There was an inflection at the election of Donald Trump,” Hassett said in the White House Briefing Room, who said a “whole bunch of data items” started going in a positive direction soon after the 2016 election, fueling more growth overall.

“You don’t have to reach too far for a theory of what happened,” he added.

.@WhiteHouseCEA's Kevin Hassett on the economy: "It's not a sugar high at all." pic.twitter.com/z9vhe71L6C

— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) September 10, 2018

“The unemployment is really low, and we’ve created a capital spending boom,” Hassett said.

Pressed about a claim today by the President on Twitter that the nation’s GDP was higher than the unemployment rate for the first time in 100 years – Hassett acknowledged that Mr. Trump might have been guilty of a bit of hyperbole.

“I don’t run the council of Twitter advisers,” Hassett said in a good-natured admission that few at the White House can control what gets tweeted out by the President. “What is true is that it’s the highest in 10 years.”

The GDP Rate (4.2%) is higher than the Unemployment Rate (3.9%) for the first time in over 100 years!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 10, 2018

.@WhiteHouseCEA Kevin Hassett answers to @EamonJavers question on President Trump's GDP & unemployment rates tweet: "What is true is that it's the highest in 10 years and at some point, somebody probably conveyed it to him adding a zero to that and they shouldn't have done that." pic.twitter.com/0V2GbJs4Vc

— CSPAN (@cspan) September 10, 2018

The briefing came as a new poll from Quinnipiac University showed great polling numbers on how Americans regard the economy – but a big disconnect between that number, and the approval ratings for President Trump.

“A total of 70 percent of American voters say the nation’s economy is “excellent” or “good,” matching the all-time high rating for the economy,” the Quinnipiac poll stated.

But the numbers were nowhere near that for the President.

“American voters disapprove 54 – 38 percent of the job President Trump is doing, compared to a 54 – 41 percent disapproval August 14,” the poll found.

“The only listed groups approving of the president are Republicans, 84 – 7 percent and white voters with no college degree, 51 – 40 percent,” the poll stated.

Asked if Monday’s economic briefing was a direct response to the comments of former President Obama, economic adviser Hassett denied that, saying he has wanted to meet with reporters for some time.

“We were prepared to do this briefing a few weeks ago,” Hassett added.

After Hassett was finished, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took questions from reporters at a briefing for the first time since August 22, as the pace of briefings slowed dramatically this summer.

Sanders conducted just five briefings for reporters in August, and only three in July.

Republicans, Trump, press economic message for November

Sun, 09/09/2018 - 23:35

If there is one message that Republicans in Congress – and President Donald Trump – can agree on in the campaign for the 2018 mid-term elections, it is to remind voters at every opportunity about economic gains made under the Trump Administration, paired with talk about the big GOP tax cut approved at the end of 2017.

“The hope and the optimism has returned,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who faces a tougher than expected challenge in November, as she and other GOP leaders have spent much of the year touting economic gains for regular working Americans.

“They are seeing some of the biggest pay increases right now,” Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters last week. “We expect this trend to continue.”

For President Trump, taking credit for a better economy has been a constant theme since his early months in office, arguing that his support for lower taxes and less government regulation would put economic growth into a higher gear.

If the Democrats had won the Election in 2016, GDP, which was about 1% and going down, would have been minus 4% instead of up 4.2%. I opened up our beautiful economic engine with Regulation and Tax Cuts. Our system was choking and would have been made worse. Still plenty to do!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 10, 2018

There are some pure metrics which give the President and GOP candidates of all stripes a variety of different statistics to rattle off to voters:

+ Jobless rate – 4.8 percent when President Trump came into office, now at 3.9 percent.

+ The U6 rate, considered the broadest measure of unemployment, was 9.4 percent when President Trump was sworn in – that rate is now 7.4 percent, the lowest point in 17 years.

+ GDP growth in the second quarter was 4.2 percent on an annual basis up from 2.2 percent in the first quarter.

+ Monthly job gains are trending up, averaging 207,000 for the first 9 months of this year, up from 189,000 a year ago, and higher than 2016 as well.

Average Monthly Job Gains:
—January through August—
•2010: 81,000
•2011: 163,000
•2012: 179,000
•2013: 197,000
•2014: 239,000
•2015: 222,000
•2016: 199,000
•2017: 189,000
•2018: 207,000#JobsReport

— Fox News Research (@FoxNewsResearch) September 7, 2018

For a party being buffeted by daily stories about President Trump, the economic gains have offered political shelter in an election year storm, as GOP leaders also pound home the President’s tax cut.

“It’s exciting to see people’s attitudes, to see their personal benefits,” said House GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA).

“We’re on track,” Speaker Ryan told reporters last week. “Tax reform is working, families are better off, businesses are hiring, businesses are expanding.

Last week, the Labor Department reported that U.S. businesses created 201,000 jobs in the month of August, continuing a streak of 95 straight months of job growth, which has accelerated since the President took office.

But will those gains – real and/or perceived – allow the GOP to stay in charge in the House? Some polls in recent days show Republicans are under pressure in a number of races across the nation.

The latest generic ballot polls for voters when it comes to control of Congress have not held good news for the GOP, one reason that the President has promised to help GOP candidates as much as he can.

President Trump will be on the road for campaign rallies two days this week – he will be in Missouri on Thursday and Mississippi on Friday.

Election Day is just eight weeks from Tuesday.

Ex-Trump campaign aide Papadopoulos gets 2 weeks in jail

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 20:43

A federal judge on Friday sentenced one-time foreign policy campaign adviser George Papadopoulos to 14 days in prison for lying to FBI agents about contacts he had with Russian intermediaries, as lawyers for Papadopoulos publicly criticized President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of up to six months in jail for Papadopoulos; another person who plead guilty to lying to investigators in the Russia probe had received a 30 day sentence.

In the court hearing, Papadopoulos apologized for misleading the FBI, as his lawyer cast the blame on President Trump.

In a tweet issued soon after the sentence was announced, the President mocked the outcome.

14 days for $28 MILLION – $2 MILLION a day, No Collusion. A great day for America!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2018

“The President of the United States has hindered this investigation far more than Papadopoulos ever could,” said Thomas Breen, a lawyer for Papadopoulos.

Prosecutors had accused Papadopoulos of lying about “his contacts with Russians and Russian intermediaries during the campaign” – but in the court hearing, lawyers for him said President Donald Trump’s actions were much worse with regards to the Russia investigation.

George Papadopoulos’ lawyer tells judge that he was motivated to lie in part by Trump characterizing investigation as “Fake news,”

— Rosalind Helderman (@PostRoz) September 7, 2018

Earlier in the day, President Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that he knew little about Papadopoulos, other than what he’s seen in the news.

“I don’t know Papadopoulos, I don’t know. I saw him sitting in one picture at a table with me that’s the only thing I know about him,” the President said.

“They got him, on I guess, on a couple of lies,” Mr. Trump added.

Aides to the President have often dismissed Papadopoulos as a low-level volunteer, with one labeling him a ‘coffee boy.’

Papadopoulos ran into trouble with the feds months before Robert Mueller was appointed to take over the Russia investigation, after the firing of FBI Director James Comey by President Trump.

“The defendant’s crime was serious and caused damage to the government’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” the Special Counsel’s office said in court documents.

“The defendant lied in order to conceal his contacts with Russians and Russian intermediaries during the campaign,” the Mueller team added in a pre-sentencing memo.

Prosecutors say Papadopoulos “made material false statements and material omissions during an interview” with FBI agents on January 27, 2017.

“At the time of the interview, the FBI had an open investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,
including the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the Campaign and Russia’s efforts,” court documents state.

U.S. economy grows in August, as businesses add 201,000 jobs

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 13:00

The U.S. economy in August continued to show signs of strength, as the Labor Department reported Friday that 201,000 jobs were added by businesses last month, as the nation’s unemployment rate stayed at the historically low level of 3.9 percent.

Even with revisions reducing the number of jobs created in both June and July, the economy is producing new jobs at a higher pace than the same eight month period a year ago, averaging almost 207,000 jobs a month in 2018 compared to 189,000 a month in 2017.

The June report was revised down from 248,000 jobs created to 208,000 – July was also reduced from 157,000 to 147,000.

The U6 rate – considered the broadest measure of unemployment – ticked down to 7.4 percent, the lowest since April 2001.

The number of people working part-time because they couldn’t find a full-time job dropped by 188,000 in August, which was the sixth straight monthly decline in those figures.

Job gains were noted in health care, transportation, wholesale trade and construction.

But the better jobs numbers still could not put a dent in the Labor Force Participation rate, which slid back to 62.7 percent, still reflecting a big chunk of people who are not in the work force.

GOP lawmakers hailed the report, as Republicans make the election year argument that the economic policies of President Donald Trump are helping Americans at all levels.

“More good news – average hourly earnings increased more than was expected,” said Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL). “August had highest wage growth since April 2009.”

“More Americans have jobs and wages are rising. Really good news,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL).

Two indicted GOP lawmakers now face House ethics investigations

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 23:57

Their seats already in danger in the 2018 mid-term elections, two GOP lawmakers face additional election year pressure after the House Ethics Committee on Thursday voted to establish official investigative panels to review the federal charges leveled against both Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY).

While the Ethics Committee set up special investigations for the two members, all actions on the two cases were put on hold, after a request by the Department of Justice, so as not to interfere with the work of federal prosecutors, and their upcoming trials.

Democrats still pounced on the news.

“No one is above the law, and Speaker Ryan must call on both Congressmen Collins and Hunter to resign,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Collins was indicted for insider trading and lying to federal agents; prosecutors allege that he received non-public information on an Australian biotech firm, and passed that on to his son and others, allowing them to sell stock and avoid financial losses.

The indictment filed in early August says the New York Republican received that information while at the White House in 2017, where he was attending a Congressional picnic hosted by President Trump.

Hunter and his wife have been charged with using as much as $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use, spending it on everything from dental bills to school tuition, vacations, and more.

The indictment also details spending by Hunter involving others; some published reports have indicated they might have been women other than his wife, referred to in the charges as Individuals 14-18.

GOP leaders have not embraced the call for Hunter and Collins to resign, saying their cases should be allowed to go through the legal system first.

“We’ve taken the appropriate action, we’ve removed these members from their committees,” Speaker Paul Ryan said earlier this week. “These are isolated incidents.”

The announcement of the additional ethics investigations came several days after President Donald Trump had criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for allowing the indictments to go forward during this election year.

“Two easy wins now in doubt,” the President tweeted. “Good job Jeff.”

Asked about that comment by reporters, the Speaker rejected the President’s comments.

“Justice is blind, it should have no impact on political party” Ryan said. “That’s the emblem of the Justice Department.”


LIVE UPDATES: Day 3 of the Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 13:12

With confidence growing among Republicans in the U.S. Senate, federal appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh is back on Capitol Hill for a third day of hearings on his nomination by President Donald Trump to the U.S. Supreme Court, as GOP Senators argue that Kavanaugh is a properly tempered jurist to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, while Democrats contend Kavanaugh will tip the balance of the court too far to the conservative side.

The first day of questions for Kavanaugh stretched for over twelve hours, finally ending after 10 pm on Wednesday night. This second day of Q&A will be shorter, as Senators will get rounds of 20 minutes, rather than a full half hour.

President Trump on Wednesday praised the performance of his nominee for the High Court, predicting swift approval by the full Senate.

“I think Brett Kavanaugh has really conducted himself in an incredibly positive manner,” the President told reporters.

10:33 pm – Just as President Trump wrapped up a campaign rally in Billings, Montana, the White House has put out a statement praising the testimony of Kavanaugh.

10:12 pm – Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) wraps up the public portion of this hearing, telling Kavanaugh that he’s made a ‘powerful and convincing case’ that he deserves confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Judge Kavanaugh has demonstrated his good character + command of the law in 32.5 hrs before the Senate Judiciary Cmte over the last 3 days

— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) September 7, 2018

10:10 pm – Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) gives one more question to Kavanaugh to clean up the question of did he talk with someone at the law firm which once did work for President Trump.

10:00 pm – Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) jokes with Kavanaugh that the long days of hearings is like running a marathon, and notes the judge has run the Boston Marathon twice. Flake returns to the issue of cameras in the courtroom, and interestingly enough is one lawmaker who is not interested in putting cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court. “We’re better off having oral arguments the way they have been,” Flake said.

9:30 pm – Three days of Kavanaugh hearings, and there has been a steady stream of people who interrupted the hearing and were hauled out by the Capitol Police. Dozens of them were charged for their actions.

Capitol Police say they charged 69 people for “unlawfully demonstrating” at day 3 of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing.

Day 2: 73
Day 1: 70 pic.twitter.com/nIXrpJ5Wqi

— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) September 7, 2018

8:30 pm – As the hour grows late, Kavanaugh finds himself sparring with Democrats yet again over the issue of investigating a President, once again going over how he has talked about the U.S. v Nixon case on the Watergate tapes.

7:45 pm – Earlier in the day, Sen. Richard Blumenthal had asked Kavanaugh about a specific person that the judge knew at the law firm asked about by Sen. Harris. Kavanaugh admitted knowing Ed McNally, but officials deny that the two men had any talks about the Mueller investigation.

Blumenthal: Are you acquainted with anyone at the Benson and Torres law firm?

Kavanaugh: I know Ed McNally used to work at the White House counsel's office. I understand that he works at that law firm. #KavanaughHearings pic.twitter.com/CdRbRPGs9f

— Legal Defense Fund (@NAACP_LDF) September 6, 2018

7:35 pm – This story breaks as the Senate Judiciary Committee has repeatedly touched on the Mueller investigation.


New York (AP) — Trump will not answer federal investigators' questions, in writing or in person, about whether he tried to block the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Giuliani tells @AP

— David S. Joachim (@davidjoachim) September 6, 2018

7:05 pm – Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) had caused a stir last night when she asked Kavanaugh if he had talked with members of a law firm that once represented President Trump with respect to the Mueller investigation. She picked up immediately on that again this evening, repeatedly pressing Kavanaugh for an answer. The Judge asked Harris who it was that he supposedly spoke with. Harris asked for an answer. Kavanaugh said ‘no.’

6:50 pm – Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) criticizes the way opponents of Kavanaugh have dealt with this confirmation hearing process, saying it’s obvious why people might not want to go through with it. So he finishes by asking Kavanaugh, “Why in the world would you want to do this?”

Noting that his potential would be "endless" in private sector, Sen. Tillis asks why Judge Kavanaugh is doing this. Kavanaugh: From a young age, I've been committed to public service following example of my mom.

— RNLA (@TheRepLawyer) September 6, 2018

6:30 pm – Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) going head first after Kavanaugh, pressing him repeatedly to criticize some statements of President Trump, saying there is a ‘credible suspicion’ that the President has chosen someone to protect Mr. Trump from a criminal investigation. “You should conclude respectfully that I have the independence required to be a good judge,” Kavanaugh responded.

Kavanaugh tells Booker his "only loyalty is to the Constitution.," while refusing to say anything about Trump. Sticking to the game plan.

— Mark Sherman (@shermancourt) September 6, 2018

6:05 pm – During a short dinner break, Judge Kavanaugh sticks around for a few minutes to take pictures with his daughter’s basketball team – which he coaches.

Senator Hatch meeting Judge Kavanaugh’s basketball team. #ConfirmKavanaugh pic.twitter.com/RyRXnt9B2s

— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) September 6, 2018

5:45 pm – Under questioning from Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), Kavanaugh talked about how he stopped voting in elections soon after becoming a judge, explaining that it just didn’t feel right for him to take a political stand in the voting booth, while being an impartial ‘umpire’ in his work life. His explanation sounded much like the one this reporter offers to people explain why I don’t vote.

Kavanaugh says judges should not:
*attend campaign rallies,
*donate to candidates,
*put bumper stickers on their cars, or
*signs in their yards.

He also doesn’t vote.
Doesn't think this is obligatory, but he thinks it’s helpful to reinforce the independence of the judiciary.

— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) September 6, 2018

4:45 pm – After Blumenthal wraps up, Republicans again play some defense on where Kavanaugh stands on the special counsel system. GOP Senators have spent a lot of time on this, seemingly to try to insulate the nominee from charges by Democrats that he might favor the President in any fight with Special Counsel Mueller.

GRASSLEY: Have you made any pre-committments, winks, nods or secret handshakes to the president, vice president or anyone in the WH indicating promises about how you would rule in any case related in any way to the Mueller investigation?

KAV: I have not.

— Lisa Desjardins (@LisaDNews) September 6, 2018

4:30 pm – Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) again presses Kavanaugh about the Mueller investigation, asking repeatedly if the judge has discussed the Russia probe with people in the White House and/or the Trump Administration. Kavanaugh is very careful with his words and responses, leading Blumenthal to say he regards the Kavanaugh responses as ‘ambiguous.’

4:15 pm – Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) questions Kavanaugh about his answer that his experience after Nine Eleven showed that maybe the Congress should not allow investigations of a President while in office, which is certainly at odds from Kavanaugh’s experience in the Starr investigation. Kavanaugh again says his Minnesota Law Review article was a suggestion for the Congress.

4:00 pm – Judge Kavanaugh has talked frequently about coaching basketball. The girls from his team are now in the hearing room. “Welcome to your team,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

Judge Kavanaugh backed up by his forever and current girl’s basketball teams pic.twitter.com/si4fdh68ed

— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) September 6, 2018

3:40 pm – Even as the testimony closes out today for Judge Kavanaugh, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are still releasing emails from his time in the Bush White House.

3:05 pm – Not all Senators are on Capitol Hill this afternoon, as Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) is flying on Air Force One with President Trump, who is holding a campaign rally in Billings, Montana this evening. On Twitter, Daines showed that the Kavanaugh hearing was being broadcast aboard the President’s plane.

Watching the Kavanaugh Hearing from Air Force One. Thanks @FoxNews! #ConfirmKavanaugh pic.twitter.com/ddkSf9uWIg

— Steve Daines (@SteveDaines) September 6, 2018

2:50 pm – Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) pulls Kavanaugh back to his 2009 Minnesota Law Review article which urged Congress to not allow future investigations of a President, until that person is out of office. “It was something for Congress to consider,” as the judge again cited the Nine Eleven attacks for why he changed his mind from the Whitewater probe to today.

2:20 pm – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) now asking questions. “Why should it matter if a judge is a textualist?”

.@Sentedcruz asks Judge #Kavanaugh about the basketball court atop the U.S. Supreme Court. pic.twitter.com/0H5pKmxGBM

— CSPAN (@cspan) September 6, 2018

2:15 pm – Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) takes Kavanaugh back to the time when he worked as an investigator for Ken Starr on the Whitewater probe. Back then, Kavanaugh was very aggressive in going after Clinton – but he has said since the Nine Eleven attacks, Kavanaugh now believes that Presidents should not be subject to investigations while in office.

#Kavanaugh reminded by Whitehouse, D-RI, of his criticism of Clinton 'smear campaign' of Starr, won't comment on 'current events.'

— Kenneth Jost (@jostonjustice) September 6, 2018

2:05 pm – With the hearings underway again, Republicans are still pushing back on questions about Judge Kavanaugh and any possible conversations regarding the Special Counsel investigation. This statement from the law firm which originally did a lot of the President’s personal legal work:

New: statement from Kasowitz law firm “There have been no discussions regarding Robert Mueller’s investigation between Judge Kavanaugh and anyone at our firm.”

— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) September 6, 2018

1:50 pm – While Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) made a big splash this morning by saying he was violating the rules in releasing ‘committee confidential’ emails about Judge Kavanaugh, the lawyer in charge of going through those emails for President George W. Bush says the Senate knew last night that it was okay for those emails to be released.

NEW statement from Bill Burck, GWB’s records representative who led the review of Kavanaugh’s records pic.twitter.com/6MQSbgB1ub

— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) September 6, 2018

1:25 pm – Democrats are starting to release more information from some of the emails approved for release from when Kavanaugh worked in the Bush White House. They argue the emails show that some of Kavanaugh’s earlier answers from his testimony back in 2004 shows that he didn’t tell the truth. This is from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

BREAKING: Brett Kavanaugh was asked in 2004 about whether he was involved in the nomination of Bill Pryor. He said “I was not involved in handling his nomination"

Newly released emails show that's not true. Asked about how Pryor's interview went, he replied "CALL ME." pic.twitter.com/63Wb5uY95G

— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) September 6, 2018

1:05 pm – Republicans are again bringing Kavanaugh back to the issue of the Mueller investigation, and whether the Judge had spoken about this with anyone in an inappropriate matter. Sen. Hatch did some work on this earlier, so it’s sort of a surprise to see another GOP Senator returning to that issue. “Have you had any improper conversation with anyone about the Mueller investigation?” asked Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). “No,” Kavanaugh said flatly.

#Kavanaugh .. Lee: any Improper conversation about the Mueller investigation? .. No.

— Kenneth Jost (@jostonjustice) September 6, 2018

12:35 pm – Back from a lunch break, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) goes straight into the issue of investigations of a President, specifically President Trump. “That’s why your nomination is different than many,” Durbin said.

Sen. Dick Durbin to #Kavanaugh: “We are in a moment where the president has shown contempt for the federal judiciary, unlike any president we can recall … And that's why your nomination is different than any.” https://t.co/ZjUUz6o7cx pic.twitter.com/46Vqf7YM6H

— Vox (@voxdotcom) September 6, 2018

12:20 pm – While the Senate Judiciary Committee is in a quick recess for lunch, Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer takes to the Senate floor to denounce Kavanaugh, arguing that the Judge is evading direct answers on a series of issues. “He’s ducking. He’s hiding,” Schumer said.

Senate Minority Leader Schumer: "There is no legal, ethical or judicial reason for judge Kavanaugh to avoid directly answering these questions."

"Can't talk about specific cases, can't talk about general situations. He's ducking, he's hiding," he adds https://t.co/TJhQuKf3sg pic.twitter.com/BHN2PznSG6

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 6, 2018

11:50 am – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is pulling Judge Kavanaugh into questions about the Mueller investigation, which Kavanaugh has tried his best to skirt so far. Graham is talking about what happened in the President Clinton-Whitewater investigation, and bringing up the U.S. v. Nixon ruling by the Supreme Court in 1974.

Lindsey Graham is taking Kavanaugh down a road he does NOT want to go! Graham is challenging the reasoning that underlies the right to privacy cases including Roe…in fact, Kavanaugh (in his 2017 lecture) AGREES with Graham–but saying so will rattle Susan Collins and Murkowski.

— Jeff Greenfield (@greenfield64) September 6, 2018

11:30 am – Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is now asking Kavanaugh about emails which Democrats say were stolen from the Senate Judiciary Committee back in 2003 by a GOP staffer, and sent to Kavanaugh about judicial nominations made by President George W. Bush, detailing Democratic strategy on GOP nominees.

11:10 am – As noted further down in these updates, last night Kavanaugh was asked by a Democratic Senator about any discussions he had on the Mueller investigation. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) brought up the issue during his question time, giving Kavanaugh the chance to address the issue. Kavanaugh said he has never had ‘any inappropriate’ conversations about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Kavanaugh says he hasn’t had “any inappropriate conversations” about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation “with anyone.”

— Phil Mattingly (@Phil_Mattingly) September 6, 2018

10:45 am – Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) immediately brings up the issue of one of the Kavanaugh emails, a 2003 exchange where he seems to make the case that he does not see Roe as being ‘settled law.’ That’s a big deal for abortion-rights supporters, who worry that Kavanaugh would be a fifth vote to overturn Roe v Wade. Feinstein presses for an answer, but Kavanaugh gives the expected answer, that it would be wrong for him to say anything definitive on such a controversial matter.

"I'm not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land…since [SCOTUS] can always overrule its precedent and three current justices on the court would do so," nominee Brett Kavanaugh wrote in 2003, according to Sen. Feinstein https://t.co/lYKdIXFvVD pic.twitter.com/IlIMEF74q4

— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) September 6, 2018

10:35 am – After just over an hour, the Q&A begins. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) gets in his plug for TV camera coverage of the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh talks about how the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has been releasing audio from arguments, as the Judge indicates he would like to see more openness, but also pretty much telegraphs that he knows the Supreme Court probably isn’t going to change that.

Judge #Kavanaugh on Cameras in the Supreme Court: "I would certainly keep an open mind on it." pic.twitter.com/k8vdi149L8

— CSPAN (@cspan) September 6, 2018

10:25 am – The spat continues as Democrats are openly daring Republicans to try to expel them from the Senate by releasing emails. “I hope that they will bring charges against us,” said Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).

.@CoryBooker: “I am going to release the email about racial profiling and I understand that the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate.” pic.twitter.com/BzFtmNNkUA

— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 6, 2018

10:15 am – “Count me in, too!” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), as she says she will join Sen. Booker in publicly releasing documents, which are being withheld under the Presidential Records Act. Senators can look at the emails of Kavanaugh from his time at the White House, but most cannot be released publicly. Kavanaugh is sitting at the witness table, just watching the debate unfold.

Hirono now ALSO releasing a committee confidential document, joining Booker.

— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) September 6, 2018

10:10 am – This is one of the emails that is attracting attention, a 2003 exchange involving Kavanaugh – who was then working in the Bush White House on judicial nominations, where he suggests that Roe v. Wade was not ‘settled law,’ which raises red flags for Democrats, worried that Kavanaugh would vote to overturn that landmark decision on abortion.

10:00 am – Some of the “committee confidential” emails involving Kavanaugh have started leaking out, as the New York Times published some this morning on the internet.

9:50 am – The hearing begins not with testimony from Judge Kavanaugh, but with an extended spat between Senators about emails of Judge Kavanaugh, from when he worked at the White House. Many of them have been designated “committee confidential” – which means they can be seen by Senators, but cannot be publicly released. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) threatened to release documents, saying he knows the penalty could be expulsion from the Senate. The documents are not ‘top secret’ – but are related to Kavanaugh’s time as Staff Secretary to President George W. Bush.

9:35 am – The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), taps the gavel to start the hearing, welcoming those in the audience for the third day – even those who might only be there for a few minutes – as Grassley drew some chuckles with his reference to those who might interrupt today’s proceedings.

9:20 am – As Senators begin arriving for this third day of hearings, one exchange last night is still prompting questions in the halls of Congress. It came from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who all but accused Judge Kavanaugh of discussing the Special Counsel probe with people who worked at the law firm of Mark Kasowitz, who once led President Trump’s defense as his personal lawyer. It was one of the few times in the hearing that Kavanaugh seemed to be knocked off stride, but while Harris kept asking about who Kavanaugh discussed the case with, she never came out and said who was involved.

Complete exchange between @senkamalaharris and Judge Kavanaugh on Mueller Investigation. pic.twitter.com/FXhW3XmV19

— CSPAN (@cspan) September 6, 2018

9:00 am – Once again today there is an early line outside of the Senate office buildings for the public – and after the repeated interruptions the first two days by demonstrators – it’s not out of the question that someone in this photo will be repeating some of those verbal interruptions inside the hearing.

People already in line for day 3 of the Kavanaugh hearings. Someone standing there right now might be hauled out later this morning pic.twitter.com/BSjtoqpbwv

— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) September 6, 2018


President Trump defends record, rebukes author of anonymous op-ed

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 21:52

President Donald Trump sternly defended the work of his administration on Wednesday, rebuking the anonymous author of a piece in the New York Times which bluntly said that top officials were doing all they could to keep the President from making major errors in judgment.

“Can you believe it? Anonymous. Meaning gutless – a gutless editorial,” the President said to reporters gathered for an event involving Mr. Trump and a group of sheriffs at the White House.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders labeled the author a ‘coward,’ saying the person who wrote the piece, “should do the right thing and resign.”

“The individual behind this piece has chosen to deceive, rather than support the duly elected President of the United States,” Sanders wrote in a statement sent to reporters, which echoed the President’s attacks on the “failing” New York Times.

Response to anonymous @nytimes op-ed. pic.twitter.com/RIOaXhyg1N

— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) September 5, 2018

Does the so-called “Senior Administration Official” really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source? If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018


— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018

President Trump responds to a New York Times op-ed written by an anonymous source from within his administration: “If I weren’t here, I believe The New York Times probably wouldn’t even exist” https://t.co/1UYPTi6QOk pic.twitter.com/rZSB7GfPuH

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 5, 2018

The story, which the New York Times said came from a senior administration official, tracked some of what had been reported in a new book by Bob Woodward, relating stories of staffers doing their best to keep President Trump in line.

“I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” the sub-headline roared.

“The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” the anonymous person wrote about the President.

In an editor’s note, the New York Times said it knew the person’s identity.

“We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers.”

Dropping as it did in the midst of a confirmation hearing for President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, it spurred a lengthy round of speculation on who might have written it, and why.

“SABOTEUR INSIDE WHITE HOUSE,” blared the headline on the Drudge Report.

Reaction of people in the White House: shell shocked.

— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) September 5, 2018

Both the President and the White House said the article was part of a broader political effort to obscure successes under the Trump Administration.

“We’re doing a great job,” the President told reporters. “The poll numbers are through the roof, our poll numbers are great, and guess what? Nobody’s going to come even close to beating me in 2020, because of what we’ve done.”

“We’ve done more than anybody ever thought possible, and it’s not even two years.”

Earlier, the President had blasted the Woodward book, which painted an unflattering picture of the inner workings of the White House.

“It’s just more fiction,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “The book is total fiction.”

LIVE BLOG: Day two of the Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 13:18

It’s another hot and humid day outside on Capitol Hill, and it is expected to be a long and at times heated atmosphere inside, as the Senate Judiciary Committee questions federal appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who is President Donald Trump’s choice to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The first day was punctuated by frequent outbursts from people in the audience, as the Capitol Police hauled out over six dozen different demonstrators, who interrupted Senators in both parties, but mainly aimed their barbs at GOP Senators.

10:09 pm – The gavel sounds, and the second day of the Kavanaugh hearing is over. Senators – and the nominee – will be back at 9:30 am for more on Thursday. My read as of now is that Kavanaugh is on track for confirmation. But there are some odd threads out there – documents still to be revealed, this question about the Mueller probe brought up by Sen. Harris, which could keep things going on Thursday.

9:50 pm – Here’s the exchange between Harris and Kavanaugh.

Complete exchange between @senkamalaharris and Judge Kavanaugh on Mueller Investigation. pic.twitter.com/FXhW3XmV19

— CSPAN (@cspan) September 6, 2018

9:30 pm – An odd moment just now in the hearing, as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) asks Kavanaugh if he spoke about the Mueller investigation with people who work at the law firm which represents President Trump – Harris made it sound like she knew the answer; Kavanaugh said he didn’t know everyone who worked at that firm. After getting no answer, Harris moved on.

Harris pressing Kavanaugh on whether he had any convos about Mueller at the Kasowitz's law firm (Kasowitz is Trump's personal lawyer).

Harris: "I think you’re thinking of someone and you don’t want to tell us."

— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) September 6, 2018

Re: Kamala and her Qs re whether Kavanaugh discussed Mueller probe with anyone at Kasowitz —

Dem aide tells me they have reason to believe that a conversation happened and are continuing to pursue it.

— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) September 6, 2018

9:20 pm – Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) comes out of the hearing room to give his Twitter followers an update.

Here’s a quick takeaway of my thoughts as we wrap up day 2 of the #Kavanaugh hearings. pic.twitter.com/nRe6cvMyzx

— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) September 6, 2018

9:05 pm – Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) brings up the issue of TV cameras in the Supreme Court. As a reporter, I doubt that I will ever see that, but Kavanaugh seems slightly open to the idea, maybe he says for the announcement of decisions.

Kavanaugh on cameras at #Scotus: He doesn’t like reports on how justices are leaning based on questions at arguments. But he seems to be open to televised opinion announcements.

— Adam Liptak (@adamliptak) September 6, 2018

8:45 pm – The hearing is still chugging along. And more documents are being released about Kavanaugh, as emails from his time at the Bush White House are now being made available. A quick look through them showed emails about lunch and various meetings – but maybe you will find more.

7:40 pm – Protesters are still outside, gathered on the lawn of the Capitol, rallying to “Stop Kavanaugh”

As the sun sets, the Kavanaugh hearing continues, with demonstrators gathered outside as well pic.twitter.com/4HmWTbLjwn

— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) September 5, 2018

7:10 pm – Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) pestered Kavanaugh for almost the entirety of her thirty minutes of questioning, raising a wide variety of subjects, pressing him on sexual harassment in the Judicial Branch, accusing him of ruling regularly against workers, and even raising questions about native people in Alaska and Hawaii. For the first time on this long day, Kavanaugh sounds like he’s gritting his teeth a little. “Senator, I stand by my record,” Kavanaugh said. “My opinions speak for themselves, and I’m very proud of them.”

6:25 pm – Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) asks Kavanaugh about President Trump’s tweet from Monday, where he criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for allowing the indictment of two GOP lawmakers to proceed in an election year. Kavanaugh refuses to comment, saying he should not get involved in current events.

Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2018

6:15 pm – For those wondering, there have still been a number of people removed today from the hearing room, but the outbursts have had little impact on the proceedings – and it seems that some Democrats probably wish that the tactic would end as well.

Sen Whitehouse tells @nprAudie protestors interrupting Kavanaugh hearing have "not been helpful to any cause that I can see"

— Deirdre Walsh (@deirdrekwalsh) September 5, 2018

5:45 pm – Kavanaugh goes through an extended legal sparring session with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a sharp critic of President Trump. Blumenthal started his question session of raising the possibility that a case involving the President could come before the Supreme Court – with Kavanaugh on the bench. “We’re in uncharted territory here,” Blumenthal said, asking Kavanaugh to recuse himself. Kavanaugh refused.

Kavanaugh won't commit to recusing from cases involving Trump and Mueller investigation

— Mark Sherman (@shermancourt) September 5, 2018

Sen. Richard Blumenthal asks Brett Kavanaugh to commit to "recuse" himself from any "criminal or civil" case involving Pres. Trump.

"I am troubled and disturbed by your refusal to say that you will take yourself out of that kind of case," Blumenthal says https://t.co/ycYlByuGFQ pic.twitter.com/Mb3reXTEGK

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 5, 2018

5:00 pm – Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) follows up on some of the questions that Sen. Coons had pressed on with Kavanaugh, starting with a hypothetical about a future President who decides to drive drunk and kills someone. Kavanaugh – who doesn’t like hypotheticals – says that President would not be immune from the law.

Kavanaugh: No one is above the law. That includes the president.

— Ed Whelan (@EdWhelanEPPC) September 5, 2018

4:30 pm – As Washington tries to figure out who wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, Judge Kavanaugh is fencing with Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), who is repeatedly pressing for insight on how Kavanaugh might deal with limits on Executive power, and questions of investigations of a President. Kavanaugh says his Minnesota Law Review article was a suggestion to Congress, not his opinion, as he tells Coons, “I have not taken a position on constitutionality.” Coons isn’t satisfied.

3:50 pm – Some questions are tougher than others. Opening question of Sen Ted Cruz R-TX to Kavanaugh: “What makes a good judge?”

3:40 pm – For my ham radio friends, Judge Kavanaugh just referenced an opinion he wrote in a case involving the American Radio Relay League, the largest organization representing amateur radio operators in the United States. Kavanaugh was being asked about his rulings on government regulations.

3:25 pm – Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) presses Kavanaugh on an article written for the Minnesota Law Review during the Obama Administration, in which the Judge suggested that Congress should pass a law that does not allow investigations of a sitting President. Kavanaugh said he did “not take a position” in that article, but a lot of Democrats see it much differently. You can read it at this link.

3:00 pm – Some questions are tougher than others.

Softball. (soft-bal') noun – Sen. Mike Lee asking Kavanaugh, "Do you have a favorite of the Federalist Papers?"

— Lisa Desjardins (@LisaDNews) September 5, 2018

2:55 pm – Judge Kavanaugh has repeatedly side stepped questions from Senators – especially Democrats – when it comes to hypotheticals about possible cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, on investigations of Presidents and more. But just now in an exchange with Sen. Mike Lee (R-IN), Kavanaugh answered a hypothetical.

Kavanaugh will not comment on hypotheticals – except a hypothetical that just got poised that Congress passes a law that gives a non-existent commission the power to write all the laws. That one he'll answer.

— Ginger Gibson (@GingerGibson) September 5, 2018

2:20 pm – President Trump now weighing on the Kavanaugh hearings, saying he watched part of it this morning. “I’m happy with the Kavanaugh hearings… He’s an outstanding intellect, he’s an outstanding judge.”

President Trump says he is “happy" with Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing: "I'm honored that I gave him the chance" pic.twitter.com/PO9Y7lWtbc

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 5, 2018

2:15 pm – While the Kavanaugh hearing grinds on, outside groups and Senators are making it very clear where they stand on Judge Kavanaugh – but there is no evidence that the dynamic of this nomination has been changed in any way so far.

Brett Kavanaugh's nomination is a dire threat to:

-Abortion rights
-Campaign finance reform
-Voting rights
-Workers' rights
-Health care
-Climate change
-Environmental protection
-Gun safety

He cannot be given a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court.

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) September 5, 2018

Hope you'll take a moment to read the op-ed I wrote with @JohnCornyn in @dallasnews denouncing Senate Judiciary Democrats’ attempts to derail the confirmation of #SCOTUS nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh & voicing our support for his swift confirmation. –> https://t.co/ymGhctS7al

— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) September 5, 2018

1:57 pm – Kavanaugh is asked directly about the issue of how he would rule on questions dealing with insurance company coverage of pre-existing medical conditions. Kavanaugh refuses to answer, saying he went back as far as the hearings for Justice Thurgood Marshall, to say that nominees can not be forced to talk about hypothetical court cases.

1:37 pm – After Kavanaugh testified earlier today that his view changed on investigations of Presidents after Nine Eleven, he’s now been asked by several GOP Senators about where he was on Nine Eleven, when Kavanaugh worked at the White House. “The threat still exists, of course.”

1:25 pm – It’s clear from Twitter that other Senators are watching this hearing. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) is obviously not impressed with the answers of the nominee when it comes to how he would deal with investigations of a President.

  \\ Λ_Λ
   \( ˇωˇ)
   / ⌒
  / へ\
  /  / \\
( ノ   ヽ_つ
  / / No one is above the law and that is not obvious to Kavanaugh.
 ( (ヽ
 | |、
 | 丿 \
 | |  ) /
ノ )  Lノ

— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) September 5, 2018

1:20 pm – For one of the few times so far in this hearing, Kavanaugh crossed swords with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), as Durbin criticized Kavanaugh over one of his decisions. “I have no agenda in any direction,” Kavanaugh said. “I’m a judge.” But Durbin scoffed at that. “I’m just a judge, I’m just follow precedent,” Durbin said. “Gosh, we’ve heard that so often,” his voice dripping with skepticism.

1:10 pm – Angered by how some documents are being held back as ‘committee confidential,’ Democrats have stepped up their criticism of Republicans, hinting that the GOP is hiding things about Kavanaugh’s time working for the Bush White House. On the floor, Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer denounced the GOP, and objected to a normal request for the Judiciary Committee to meet while the Senate is in session. Because of that objection, Senate Republicans moved to adjourn the Senate for the day, so that the Judiciary Committee’s hearing wouldn’t have to be cut short.

.@SenSchumer: "We will not consent to business as usual on the Senate floor today. This means the Senate will adjourn for the day after my two colleagues finish speaking. So, I object." pic.twitter.com/eJQeGR0cbZ

— CSPAN (@cspan) September 5, 2018

12:25 pm – Along with being asked about whether a President can be subpoenaed in a criminal proceeding, Judge Kavanaugh was asked if a President could pardon himself. Kavanaugh also sidestepped that question.

.@SenatorLeahy: "President Trump claims he has an absolute right to pardon himself. Does he?"

Judge #Kavanaugh: "The question of self-pardons is something I have never analyzed. It's a question that I've not written about…therefore that's a hypothetical question…" #SCOTUS pic.twitter.com/OPXYCLrFp6

— CSPAN (@cspan) September 5, 2018

12:15 pm – The Senate Judiciary Committee breaks for lunch. There were no electric moments in the first morning of questions for Judge Kavanaugh, but look for more of the same the rest of today.

On presidential pardons and subpoenas in the Trump era, Kavanaugh won't say where he'll come down. Expect Democrats to keep pressing on these issues and Kavanaugh to continue calling their questions hypothetical.

— Mark Sherman (@shermancourt) September 5, 2018

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: "Can a sitting president be required to respond to a subpoena?"

Brett Kavanaugh: "… I can't give you an answer on that hypothetical question" https://t.co/WQ5biYuAIX pic.twitter.com/dHl7IqmvBI

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 5, 2018

11:45 am – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) now doing some defense work for Kavanaugh after the Leahy questions. “You will probably get about 55 votes,” Graham says. “In other times, someone like you would probably get 90 votes.” Graham also mentioned the father of a girl killed in the Parkland, Florida school shooting. Yesterday, the father tried to shake Kavanaugh’s hand, but the judge turned away.

11:35 am – What Leahy is alleging is that a Republican staffer on Capitol Hill had somehow been able to get information from Leahy during past judicial confirmation fights in the Bush Administration, and sent that on to officials at the White House, including Kavanaugh. Leahy says the information was ‘stolen.’

11:20 am – Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is taking Kavanaugh through an email chain that seemingly contains a draft letter authored by Leahy and other Democratic Senators, as Leahy makes the case that Kavanaugh – working at the time in the Bush White House – was receiving information supposedly stolen by GOP staffers on Capitol Hill. While the Q&A is interesting, it’s not what some Democratic strategists want Senators spending time on in the hearing.


— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) September 5, 2018

11:05 am – One thing that is notable about Judge Kavanaugh – despite all of the political controversy surrounding his nomination, the Judge has the respect of a number of people on the Democratic side of the ball. This from Neal Katyal, a stern critic of President Trump, and a former Acting Solicitor General in the Obama Administration.

Sen. Hatch asks about working w/ women. Judge Kavanaugh has truly been a leader in hiring women law clerks. There's no better Judge in the country on this. Women still only argue a tiny fraction of Supreme Court cases. J.Kav has already created a legacy to get that changed. 1/2

— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) September 5, 2018

11:00 am – The hearing is going about as one might expect at this point. Democrats have been bringing up more hot-button political issues like gun control, abortion, and investigations of a President, while Republicans have been lobbing hanging curve balls, giving Kavanaugh the chance to talk about his record and experience as a judge. That’s not a criticism of the GOP – the Democrats would do exactly the same if this was their nominee before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Hatch with another softball, asking Kav about his hiring of many female clerks. Kav says it was prompted by @nytimes article on lack of female #SCOTUS clerks. "There's a pipeline problem, and I've said I'm breaking through that problem." #KavanaughHearings

— Henry Gass (@henrygass) September 5, 2018

10:45 am – Feinstein kept pressing Kavanaugh further on the issue of investigating a President, reminding him that he had been in an aggressive prosecutorial role in the Starr investigation, but wrote a law review article during the Obama Administration which said Congress should move to preclude criminal investigations of a President. With obvious overtones of the ongoing Trump-Russia probe, Feinstein asked if a President could be subjected to a criminal subpoena. Kavanaugh did not give a direct answer.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: "Can a sitting president be required to respond to a subpoena?"

Brett Kavanaugh: "… I can't give you an answer on that hypothetical question" https://t.co/WQ5biYuAIX pic.twitter.com/dHl7IqmvBI

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 5, 2018

10:30 am – Asked about his seeming shift in opinion on investigations of a President, Kavanaugh says he suggested to the Congress that investigations of a President be limited because of what Kavanaugh said he saw in the aftermath of the Nine Eleven attacks. Pressed further, Kavanaugh says he believes U.S. v. Nixon was decided correctly. “I have said that holding is one of the four greatest moments in Supreme Court history.”

Brett Kavanaugh: “I have repeatedly called US v. Nixon one of the four greatest moments in Supreme Court history.” https://t.co/71cm9CFBIw pic.twitter.com/8oI0aldMpb

— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 5, 2018

10:25 am – Feinstein then shifts into abortion, and Roe v. Wade. “What do you mean by settled law?”

Kavanaugh responds to Feinstein question on abortion: “I understand the importance of the precedent set forth in Roe v Wade.”

— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) September 5, 2018

Kavanaugh on abortion: Roe important precedent, reaffirmed many times. "I don't live in a bubble. I live in the real world."

— Mark Sherman (@shermancourt) September 5, 2018

10:20 am – Feinstein and Kavanaugh are circling each other on gun control, as Feinstein presses the judge on how far the courts can go in terms of gun restrictions. “I had to follow the precedent of the Supreme Court in that case,” Kavanaugh said, defending his decision on an assault weapons ban case. Kavanaugh notes that he grew up in an urban area, referring directly to gun violence in DC. “This was known as the murder capital of the world”

10:15 am – For now, things are quiet in the hearing room, as police seem to have put a hold on allowing the public into the Kavanaugh hearing.

NOW: Police and staff are keeping all seats for the public empty. No more public inside. There is a line outside, unclear if this is temporary.

This is why you hear no more protests. pic.twitter.com/ZMOzwvUYU7

— Lisa Desjardins (@LisaDNews) September 5, 2018

10:08 am – Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is the first Democrat to ask questions of Kavanaugh. She tells him right away that she will ask about gun control and abortion.

10:00 am – As a veteran reporter, you get a gut feeling about things happening in the Congress. Right now, I don’t sense that Kavanaugh is in any danger of being rejected by the U.S. Senate. But these confirmation hearings are done for a reason – it’s why they play the games on Saturdays and Sundays. Sometimes the favorite in a big football game doesn’t win. But Kavanaugh seems more than ready for this hearing. Time will tell.

Kavanaugh: my personal beliefs arent relevant to how I would rule on cases… Goes on to talk about precedent and how it establishes predictability of the law.

— Alexandra Limon (@AlexLimonNews) September 5, 2018

9:55 am – Kavanaugh has not been flustered by the yelling behind him in the committee room. Each time a demonstrator starts yelling, the Supreme Court nominee has paused, but then continued his testimony.

More than a dozen people have been removed in the first 25 minutes of day 2 of Kavanaugh's hearing. Some had also protested on Tuesday.

— Mark Sherman (@shermancourt) September 5, 2018

9:50 am – Kavanaugh: “No one is above the law in our constitutional system.”

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh: “I think the first quality of a good judge in our constitutional system is independence … not being swayed by political or public pressure, that takes some backbone, that takes some judicial fortitude” pic.twitter.com/503jtb37Hx

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 5, 2018

9:45 am – Sen. Grassley offers up a hanging curve ball to Judge Kavanaugh to kick off the Q&A, asking what makes a good judge. “I think the first quality of a good judge in our constitutional system is independence,” as protesters began shouting before Kavanaugh could finish his first sentence. Kavanaugh several times noted the importance of decisions like U.S. vs. Nixon, where the court ordered President Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes.

9:37 am – It only took about 90 seconds for the disruptions to start in the hearing room, as several people began shouting at Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), and were then hauled out of the hearing room. Pretty soon, there might not be any seats for the public if things keep going like this.

NOTE – CHANGE at KAVANAUGH hearings today: half of the seats for the public have been reassigned to "Senate staff". So there are just 22 for the public now.

So far 4-5 protesters removed from them. pic.twitter.com/YMUp8IagnW

— Lisa Desjardins (@LisaDNews) September 5, 2018

9:25 am – As Senators arrive for this hearing, it’s not the only big news of the day on Capitol Hill. The Senate Intelligence Committee is also likely to make some news, as the heads of Facebook and Twitter testify about how those social media platforms have toughened their ability to block foreign adversaries who are trying to influence the 2018 elections.

9:15 am – The line is not as long as on Tuesday, but people are lining up in one of the parks next to the Senate office buildings, waiting for the chance to go through security, and then into the Hart Senate Office Building for the hearing. (One note – the building is *not* named for former Sen. Gary Hart (D-CO), but rather for Sen. Philip Hart (D-MI), who died of cancer in 1976.

The outside line isn't as long this morning, but still a lot of people waiting to get a public seat in the Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearing pic.twitter.com/er9WXWWsLu

— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) September 5, 2018

Veteran House Democrat loses re-election bid in Massachusetts

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 02:03

The demand for change within both political parties claimed the career of a veteran House Democrat in New England on Tuesday, as Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA) was defeated by Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who will now likely become the first black woman elected to Congress by voters in Massachusetts.

Capuano is the fourth incumbent House member to lose a race for re-election in 2018, joining Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC), and Rep. Mark Sanford (R-NC).

As of now, 58 House sitting House members will not return for the new Congress in January of 2019 – that’s already more than the 57 changes which occurred in the 2016 election cycle, and the number for 2018 is likely to go up more in November.

Mike Capuano was no Joe Crowley – he took his primary threat seriously, and still lost. Insurgent left flexes its muscles again #MA07

— Colin Reed (@ColinTReed) September 5, 2018

Progressive groups celebrated the win by Pressley.

“A fearless fighter for Boston’s Black, brown, and white working families, Ayanna Pressley will be a champion for progressive priorities like Medicare for All and criminal justice reform in Congress,” said Jim Dean, head of the group Democracy for America.

The result was another example of female candidates flexing their muscles in Democratic races in 2018.

“Fact: so far in 2018 Dems have nominated women in 50% of House races, excluding incumbents (125/252). On GOP side, 18% (33/188),” said political expert Dave Wasserman on Twitter.

Pressley was another one of those victorious women on the Democratic side, who could be bringing major change to the makeup of the party on Capitol Hill in November.

Celebration at #AyannaPressley HQ. Crowd chants, “Change can’t wait!” pic.twitter.com/sQQ7nQFU6E

— Christine McCarthy (@ChristineMNews) September 5, 2018

Primaries for Congress are almost over – as Delaware, New Hampshire and Rhode Island will vote over the next week, setting the final names on the ballot for the U.S. House and Senate in November.

With Capuano’s defeat, here is the latest rundown on change in the Congress:

No matter Trump’s protests, Russia investigation grinds on

Mon, 09/03/2018 - 03:19

While President Donald Trump spent part of the Labor Day weekend once again using Twitter to vent his frustration about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and possible ties to his campaign for the White House, the evidence in recent days is that the investigation is not ending anytime soon, as it’s still not clear if the President will answer questions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

“There’s no fairness here,” the President tweeted on Saturday night, arguing “if you’re a Democrat or a friend of Hillary you get immunity or off scott free.”

“If you’re connected to Donald Trump, you get people like Robert Mueller & Andrew Weissman, and his team of partisans, coming after you with a vengeance,” the President wrote.

At this point, all signs seem to point to an active September:

1. A second trial for Paul Manafort. After being found guilty on eight of eighteen counts of tax and bank fraud – the other ten were a hung jury, courtesy of a single holdout juror – the President’s former campaign manager faces a second trial in Washington, D.C. later this month. Last week a federal judge delayed the start of the trial for a week until September 24. This case deals with money laundering, charges that Manafort failed to register as a foreign agent when working for a political party in Ukraine that was backed by Russia. Manafort’s lawyers have asked for this trial to be moved to southwestern Virginia.

Paul Manafort asks again: will a federal judge move his criminal trial to Roanoke, Virginia?
(Answer: it’s unlikely, following a previous judge’s denial of the same request in July and this judge’s comments in court yesterday)
His reasons: pic.twitter.com/3vJbJhBv0y

— Katelyn Polantz (@kpolantz) August 29, 2018

2. President labels probe an “illegal investigation.” In an interview with reporters from Bloomberg News last week, President Trump ratcheted up his criticism of the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to new heights. “I view it as an illegal investigation,” the President told reporters, as he again argued that the Justice Department should never have appointed Mueller in the first place. This matter has already been litigated in the courts, as various federal judges have brushed aside such legal challenges, ruling that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller is on rock solid legal ground. Except with the President. And some of his most ardent supporters.

“I view it as an illegal investigation.

“I’m not saying anything—I’m just telling you this: You read the great scholars, the great legal—there should have never been a special counsel,” Trump told @margarettalev and me, referring to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) August 30, 2018

3. Papadopoulos not moving to drop his plea bargain. For months, I have faced a steady stream of messages from listeners and readers, that the Mueller investigation had wrongly charged George Papadopoulos, a one-time foreign policy adviser to the Trump Campaign, who had plead guilty to lying to FBI agents about possible contacts with Russians during the campaign. But the argument that Papadopoulos was about to go rogue officially went out the window late on Friday, when his lawyers submitted their latest documents in the case, asking that Papadopoulos not be sentenced to any prison time for his offenses. “Mr. Papadopoulos misled investigators to save his professional aspirations and preserve
a perhaps misguided loyalty to his master,” his lawyers wrote, seemingly referring to a desire to work in the Trump Administration.

For those of you telling me that Papadopoulos is walking away from his plea bargain, his lawyers don't sound like it pic.twitter.com/7giDZmoVo7

— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) September 1, 2018

4. Associate of Manafort pleads guilty. If you missed this on Friday, it’s not one to ignore, as lawyer Sam Patten, who has ties to people in Paul Manafort’s orbit, plead guilty to failing to register as an agent of a foreign government, acknowledging that he had misled Senate investigators, and deleted documents sought in the Russia investigation. The guilty plea also said that Patten helped funnel foreign money through a ‘straw’ purchaser in the U.S. to the Trump Inaugural committee. In his guilty plea, Patten agreed to cooperate with the Mueller probe, as well as other federal prosecutors.

Lobbyist linked to Paul Manafort aide cooperating with special counsel Mueller after guilty plea W. Samuel Patten has ties to Konstantin Kilimnik, the suspected Russian intelligence agent charged with Manafort of trying to tamper with potential witnesses against Manafort in …

— Blogger Book Reviews (@reviews_blogger) September 1, 2018

5. Overall – this is about more than Robert Mueller. In the past two weeks, the guilty plea of Sam Patten, the guilty plea of Michael Cohen, and the reports of immunity for executives at the National Enquirer, all show that the legal troubles for the President aren’t just centered in the work of Mueller’s office. The sprawling nature of the probe makes it even more difficult for the President to focus his ire on just one person, one office, one set of prosecutors.

With Patten’s plea, there are now 4 offices — the Special Counsel, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for Southern New York and D.C, & the National Security Division at Main Justice — with cases somehow relating to Russian election interference and/or Trump campaign or inauguration. 1/3

— David Kris (@DavidKris) August 31, 2018

6. Impeachment of Rosenstein gains little support. Just before the U.S. House went home for an extended summer break in late July, a group of Republicans filed impeachment articles against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, making the case that Rosenstein had not turned over documents and other information when requested by Congressional investigators. But the plan did not gain the support of GOP leaders, and not one House member endorsed the plan during the past five weeks, leaving just 14 GOP lawmakers officially on board with the idea. With the House scheduled to be in D.C. for legislative work for just 19 days between now and Election Day, a vote on this plan seems unlikely.

7. No public hearings slated with Ohr or Page. While Republicans hauled now fired FBI official Peter Strzok before a House hearing in July, so far there is no hearing set for DOJ official Bruce Ohr, or former FBI lawyer Lisa Page. Both were brought in for closed-door questioning, but the GOP has not released any transcripts of those sessions, or set a public hearing. There were few leaks from the testimony of Bruce Ohr last week, and some of them seemed to come not from Republicans in the Congress, but from the Justice Department, pushing back against GOP lawmakers, and the President.

SCOOP from me and @ChadSDay: At a July 2016 breakfast between Chris Steele and Bruce Ohr, Steele told him that Russian intelligence believed it had Trump
"over a barrel." Details of that breakfast were shared this morning in a private interview with lawmakers

— Eric Tucker (@etuckerAP) August 31, 2018

8. Is there a 60-day window or not? There has been lots of talk in recent days about whether the Mueller probe will try to get something big out this week, or hold off until after the November mid-term elections. There is no written rule which says that, but it’s sort of one of those internal understandings, that you shouldn’t take actions within the 60 day window before an election, because it could impact the outcome of that election. The Trump legal team has been making a point about the 60 day time frame – which would be this coming Friday, September 7. One could argue that if the 60 day rule was hard and fast, then Manafort’s trial would not be starting in late September.

Just a few days before 60 day run-up to 2018 elections. If Mueller wants to show he’s not partisan, then issue a report on collusion and obstruction. They will show President Trump did nothing wrong. Then we will have to admit you were fair. And we will.

— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) August 25, 2018

Under siege in Russia probe, Trump ramps up attacks on Hillary Clinton

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 08:00

Hillary Clinton seemed to be on the mind of President Donald Trump in the last month more so than at any time since the November 2016 election, as a review of the President’s Twitter feed shows he mentioned the former Democratic Party nominee almost once a day in the month of August, mainly demanding further investigation of her emails, and complaining that she wasn’t the focus of the Russia probe.

“Look at what she’s getting away with,” the President told a campaign rally in Evansville, Indiana on Thursday night. “But let’s see if she gets away with it, let’s see.”

“Hillary Clinton clearly got a pass by the FBI,” the President wrote on August 15, quoting former U.S. Attorney Joe DiGenova.

“The only Collusion and Obstruction was by Crooked Hillary, the Democrats and the DNC!” Mr. Trump said a day earlier.

In recent days, the President has gone a step further, publicly pressuring the FBI and Justice Department to do something about Clinton, threatening that he might intervene if nothing is done.

Trump on Hillary Clinton: "Look at what she is getting away with, but let's see if she gets away with it." pic.twitter.com/mKDognyY2I

— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) August 31, 2018

The President mentioned Hillary Clinton by name on Twitter 28 times in the month of August – the most since October 2016, when he gave her name 123 mentions on his favorite social media site.

“Why Hillary? I think there are two reasons,” said Norm Ornstein, a political analyst with the American Enterprise Institute. “The first is that hatred towards her really does animate a large portion of his base.”

“The second is it fits his narrative: that the establishment tilted the election in favor of Hillary, and that going after him and not her demonstrates their bias,” added Ornstein, who has been a sharp critic of the President.

“I have never ever seen anything like his obsession with Clinton,” said Jim Manley, a long time aide to both former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA).

“I guess it must play well with his base but to me it reeks of weakness,” Manley added. “I can’t imagine this kind of rhetoric will help him to expand to pick up additional support.”

Hillary Clinton’s Emails, many of which are Classified Information, got hacked by China. Next move better be by the FBI & DOJ or, after all of their other missteps (Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr, FISA, Dirty Dossier etc.), their credibility will be forever gone!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2018

“The FBI only looked at 3000 of 675,000 Crooked Hillary Clinton Emails.” They purposely didn’t look at the disasters. This news is just out. @FoxNews

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 25, 2018

At Thursday night’s campaign rally in Indiana, the mere mention of Clinton’s name by Republican candidate Mike Braun, who is running for U.S. Senate, set off the familiar, “Lock her up!” chant from the crowd.

“Our Justice Department and our FBI have to start doing their job,” the President said to cheers as he referred to an investigation of Clinton over her use of a private email server while Secretary of State.

In recent days, the President has pressed stories in conservative circles that the FBI never reviewed all of Clinton’s emails, and that the Chinese had hacked her email server.

That accusation drew a firm response from the bureau, as an FBI official told reporters there was never evidence that the Chinese had gained access to the Clinton server.

The President has also used the attacks on Clinton to vent his frustration about the Special Counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

“The only Collusion and Obstruction was by Crooked Hillary, the Democrats and the DNC!” the President wrote in early August.

This is an illegally brought Rigged Witch Hunt run by people who are totally corrupt and/or conflicted. It was started and paid for by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats. Phony Dossier, FISA disgrace and so many lying and dishonest people already fired. 17 Angry Dems? Stay tuned!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2018

No Collusion and No Obstruction, except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats. All of the resignations and corruption, yet heavily conflicted Bob Mueller refuses to even look in that direction. What about the Brennan, Comey, McCabe, Strzok lies to Congress, or Crooked’s Emails!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2018

While some Republicans have egged on the President, GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate have held few hearings on the Clinton email issue, as their calls for a special counsel to investigate the Democratic nominee for President were spurned by Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this year.

For those interested in the frequency of how often President Trump has used the word, “Hillary” on Twitter, here is the breakdown of the last two years:

August 2018 – 28 times
July 2018 – 11
June 2018 – 9
May 2018 – 10
April 2018 – 6
March 2018 – 5
February 2018 – 4
January 2018 – 1
December 2017 – 6
November 2017 – 9
October 2017 – 6
September 2017 – 7
August 2017 – 1
July 2017 – 8
June 2017 – 5
May 2017 – 2
April 2017 – 3
March 2017 – 2
February 2017 – 1
January 2017 – 4
December 2016 – 6
November 2016 – 21
October 2016 – 123
September 2016 – 53
August 2016 – 79
July 2016 – 105

Capitol Hill ready to honor Sen. John McCain one final time

Fri, 08/31/2018 - 08:00

The U.S. Congress on Friday will give the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) a rare tribute, as his remains will lie in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, with leaders of the House and Senate, along with Vice President Mike Pence, oaying tribute to the Arizona Republican who found ways to vex both political parties during his almost 35 years of service in the Congress.

“When he said something, you had to listen, you had to take notice,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). “You had to listen to John McCain.”

Like many Senators – new and old – Johnson told reporters of going overseas with McCain, and witnessing first hand the respect that McCain had, especially when it came to issues involving Russia.

“He was a national hero, not only to America, but to so many of these Eastern European countries that were trying to shed the legacy of the Soviet Union,” Johnson said. “You don’t replace that.”

With President Lincoln's statue in the background, the Lincoln Catafalque is now ready in the US Capitol Rotunda for the casket of the late Sen John McCain R-AZ pic.twitter.com/OdChKI44rc

— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) August 30, 2018

The last time this honor was bestowed on a member of the Senate, it was for the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), who died in December of 2012.

McCain was first elected to the House in 1982, and then in 1986 won election to the Senate, succeeding Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ).

While foreign policy and defense matters were mainly identified with McCain’s time in office, he was also a lonely voice for many years fighting against pork barrel spending in the Congress – often to the frustration of his fellow lawmakers in both parties.

“John McCain’s legacy is fighting for something greater than one’s self,” the group Citizens Against Government Waste said this week, noting how McCain helped raise red flags about hte ‘pork-barrel spending habits of Washington.’

“For me, this chamber is never going to be the same without him,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) on the floor of the Senate. “This place, the Senate, and our country for that matter, is better off because of him.”

In recent days, Senators have started shadow boxing over the best way to honor McCain – some want to rename a Senate office building for him, stripping the name of Sen. Richard Russell of Georgia, a Democrat maybe best known for his opposition to civil rights legislation.

Senators from Georgia have frowned on that idea, as former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) said the best honor for McCain would be to make the Senate work in a bipartisan manner.

“John believed in the Senate,” Nunn said in a statement.

McCain was not only a force in politics, but also with reporters on Capitol Hill; he would almost always stop to answer questions, even from cub reporters who were just getting their ears wet in the halls of Congress.

Yes, there were times when the Arizona Republican might verbally rebuke you – but that was part of the daily give-and-take in the hallways.

While some Senators rarely stop in the hallways for interviews – Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is one that immediately comes to mind – others like McCain were almost always available.

On Friday, his casket will arrive at the Rotunda just before 11 am. After ceremonies with lawmakers, the public will be allowed to file past his casket in the Rotunda.

Officials have said they will keep the doors open into the night, as long as there are people in line.

Trump cancels scheduled 2019 pay raise for federal civilian workers

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 17:34

In a surprise move, President Donald Trump told Congressional leaders on Thursday that he was canceling a scheduled 2.1 percent pay increase for civilian federal workers in 2019, saying the move is needed to deal with rising federal deficits.

“We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course,” the President wrote in a letter to the House and Senate. “I view the increases that would otherwise take effect as inappropriate.”

Mr. Trump is not only canceling a scheduled increase in pay, but also what’s known as ‘locality pay increases,’ which go to federal workers who live in higher-cost areas of the country.

“In light of our Nation’s fiscal situation, Federal employee pay must be performance-based, and aligned strategically toward recruiting, retaining, and rewarding high-performing Federal employees and those with critical skill sets,” the President wrote.

President Trump, citing a national emergency because of the federal deficit, says he is changing Congress's decision to increase locality pay adjustments and to grant a 2.1% raise across the board for federal employees. @JoeDavidsonWP @conorsen

— Mara Lee (@MaraRhymesSarah) August 30, 2018

“These alternative pay plan decisions will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well‑qualified Federal workforce,” Mr. Trump wrote in his letter to Congressional leaders.

A pay freeze has happened before, as during contentious budget fights in the Obama Administration, President Obama froze pay for two years in 2011 and 2012.

But the decision was quickly condemned by Democrats in Congress and the unions representing federal workers.

“Let’s be clear: the President’s decision to cancel any pay increase for federal employees is not motivated by a sudden onset of fiscal responsibility,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), who labeled it part of a ‘war on federal employees.’

“For President Trump, the federal workforce is just a punching bag,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), who represents a significant amount of federal employees in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

“Trump sent the deficit skyrocketing to give massive tax breaks to big corporations and the wealthiest Americans, while working families got nothing,” the Democratic National Committee declared in a statement.

Step 1: Blow a $2 trillion hole in the deficit to give tax cuts to the very wealthy.
Step 2: Start a trade war requiring billion dollar bailouts.
Step 3: Pretend federal workers are the problem. https://t.co/nQiGonmUu9

— Rep. Norma Torres (@NormaJTorres) August 30, 2018

“This is a deeply disappointing action and one more indication that this administration, in this economic environment, simply does not respect its own workforce,” said Tony Reardon, President of the National Treasury Employees Union.

In a statement, Reardon noted correctly that the Congress could still override the President’s decision – but that would have to come as what might be a messy battle over funding the federal government by the end of September, which is the end of the current fiscal year.

“Federal employees have had their pay and benefits cut by over $200 billion since 2011, and they are earning nearly 5 percent less today than they did at the start of the decade,” said David Cox Sr., head of the American Federation of Government Employees, who also denounced the Obama pay freeze years earlier.

“It is simply obscene that the same person who gave away massive amounts of money to corporations and billionaires in a tax scam now is crying that we don’t have enough money for pay raises for the Federal workforce,” said Will Fischer of the veterans group VoteVets.

According to figures from the Office of Personnel Management, there are a total of 1.87 million federal civilian workers employed full-time by the federal government, of which about one-third work for the Department of Defense.

The top states:

1. California – 152,466
2. Virginia – 144,295
3. Texas – 132,952
4. Maryland – 120,705
5. Florida – 89,504
6. Georgia – 71,739
7. Pennsylvania – 62,366
8. New York – 60,727
9. Washington State – 53,211
10. Ohio – 49,450

“Republicans gave corporations a trillion dollar tax cut and are now cutting pay raises for social workers, janitors, painters, clerical workers, and more,” said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). “It’s outrageous.”

The Senate has already approved a 1.9 percent pay increase for federal workers in 2019; that could still be sent to the President for his signature as part of broader funding measures for the federal government.

Trump complains about fake news, then makes baseless charge against NBC

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 12:14

In a series of tweets on Thursday morning expressing his frustration with press coverage of his administration, President Donald Trump again accused the media of using anonymous sources to develop stories which he charged are “pure fiction” – as the President then appeared to make up a story about an NBC News interview he gave just after firing FBI Director James Comey.

In a tweet attacking NBC, the President said, “When Lester Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia, they were hurt badly!”

No evidence has ever been put forward by the White House or any media watchdog that NBC edited the tape of the interview that Holt did with President Trump in May of 2017, where the President all but confirmed that he had fired Comey out of frustration over the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and any possible ties to the Trump Campaign.

It appeared to be the first time that the President had made such a charge against Holt, the anchor of the NBC Nightly News.

“I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,'” the President said in the interview, which was posted in its entirety by NBC, and remains online.

In the fifteen months since that interview, the President has never before questioned the contents of the tape, as today’s tweet was the first time he had ever mentioned Lester Holt by name on Twitter.

It was clear that the Holt interview – and how the details led some to charge that Mr. Trump was trying to obstruct justice in the Russia probe – was on the President’s mind this morning.

The only thing James Comey ever got right was when he said that President Trump was not under investigation!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2018

Mr. Trump provided no evidence of how NBC supposedly edited the May 2017 interview, in which the President discussed his reasons for firing Comey, a move which led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

In earlier tweets today, the President laid into the press, accusing them of using anonymous sources to produce ‘fiction’ about his administration.

“I just cannot state strongly enough how totally dishonest much of the Media is,” the President wrote on Twitter.

“Truth does not matter to them, they only have their hatred & agenda,” Mr. Trump added in a series of tweets which started Wednesday night.

“Enemy of the People!” the President said.

I just cannot state strongly enough how totally dishonest much of the Media is. Truth doesn’t matter to them, they only have their hatred & agenda. This includes fake books, which come out about me all the time, always anonymous sources, and are pure fiction. Enemy of the People!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2018

What’s going on at @CNN is happening, to different degrees, at other networks – with @NBCNews being the worst. The good news is that Andy Lack(y) is about to be fired(?) for incompetence, and much worse. When Lester Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia, they were hurt badly!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2018

The hatred and extreme bias of me by @CNN has clouded their thinking and made them unable to function. But actually, as I have always said, this has been going on for a long time. Little Jeff Z has done a terrible job, his ratings suck, & AT&T should fire him to save credibility!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2018

CNN is being torn apart from within based on their being caught in a major lie and refusing to admit the mistake. Sloppy @carlbernstein, a man who lives in the past and thinks like a degenerate fool, making up story after story, is being laughed at all over the country! Fake News

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2018

One might expect Mr. Trump will bring up the press at a campaign rally this evening in Evansville, Indiana, as reporters gathered for his events are often a convenient foil for the President when he is on the road, drawing boos and catcalls, and a frequent chant as well of, “CNN Sucks!”

Trump defends North Korea diplomacy, blames China for lack of progress

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 00:47

With little evidence that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is making concessions to abandon his country’s nuclear weapons program, President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his administration’s diplomatic work with the Pyongyang regime, in part saying that trade troubles with China slowed progress since his summit with Kim in June.

“I think we’re doing well with North Korea,” the President said, just a few days after he scrapped a planned trip to Pyongyang by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as the North Korean government publicly criticized, the U.S. over efforts at denuclearization.

“I have a fantastic relationship with Chairman Kim as all of you know,” the President told reporters, referring to his June summit in Singapore with the North Korean leader. “We’re just going to have see how it all turns out.”

“I think we’re doing well with North Korea,” President Trump says the US’ trade disputes with China are hurting progress with North Korea https://t.co/EO56xDUlC7 pic.twitter.com/O63PknQUQ0

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 29, 2018

A day after Defense Secretary James Mattis said there were no plans to abandon upcoming military exercises with South Korea – which President Trump had unilaterally postponed earlier as a goodwill gesture earlier this year – Mr. Trump again seemed to take a different path than Pentagon leaders.

On Twitter, the President said, “there is no reason at this time to be spending large amounts…of money on joint U.S.-South Korea war games,” though Mr. Trump – reserved the right to re-start such military activities,
vowing “they will be far bigger than ever before,” if needed..

Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That's politics!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2017

…of money on joint U.S.-South Korea war games. Besides, the President can instantly start the joint exercises again with South Korea, and Japan, if he so chooses. If he does, they will be far bigger than ever before. As for the U.S.–China trade disputes, and other…

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2018

“I think part of the North Korea problem is caused by our trade disputes with China,” the President said, pointing a finger of blame at Beijing.

“China makes it much more difficult in terms of our relationship with North Korea,” as the President accused China of not enforcing economic sanctions against Pyongyang.

In Congress, Democrats said the President’s Singapore summit – and his move to cancel the military exercises – had clearly done nothing to sway the North Korean regime.

“Sadly, when Trump cancelled joint exercises with South Korea, he violated Rule #1 of negotiations: Make no major concession without getting something for it,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).