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Rep. Maxine Waters on Wednesday called Attorney General William P. Barr a "lackey and a sycophant" for President Trump, prior to the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report.
"I never expected Barr to do anything that would be respectful to the members of Congress or to include us in ...
Herman Cain said Wednesday that he will not withdraw his name from consideration to join the board of the Federal Reserve even though senators have already signaled that they would likely reject his nomination.
Cain, the former pizza executive and 2012 GOP presidential candidate, told the Wall Street Journal in an interview Wednesday that he is “very committed” to sticking to his potential nomination, arguing that “I happen to believe that you need some new voices on the Federal Reserve.”
Last week, no less than four GOP senators signaled they would vote against Cain’s nomination to the board of the central bank, enough that he would not have the votes to be confirmed unless he was able to win over the support of some Democrats or independents. Cain's potential selection — Trump has yet to formally nominate him, although the president announced Cain as his pick earlier this month — has been hampered by the sexual harassment allegations that tanked his 2012 presidential campaign as well as his outspokenness on conservative issues.
But Cain stood firm, telling the Journal on Wednesday that “I don’t quit because of negative criticism. I don’t quit because of negative attacks. And I don’t quit because several senators have expressed reservations about my qualifications.”
The White House has continued to stand by Cain, though aides like National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow have appeared noncommittal. Last week during a live interview, Kudlow said the Trump was still standing by Cain “at the moment,” noting that they would let the vetting process play out.
On Tuesday, Kudlow told reporters that the White House was continuing to consider alternative options to Cain. But he cautioned that such backup planning was commonplace and not specific to Cain. Kudlow also said it was up to Cain whether he remained in the process.
Cain said he was willing to remain “in the fight,” telling the Journal the White House had been in touch with his aides on a near-daily basis.
“What Kudlow was doing was giving me an out, and I appreciate that, but I don’t want an out,” Cain said. “You know that the president is a fighter, and Kudlow is a fighter. They might be getting a lot of blow-back from some folks, I don’t know. But I don’t think they’re getting uncomfortable with it.”
Cain also penned an op-ed for the Journal on Wednesday, echoing his assertion that the Fed needs “new voices,” a nod to Trump’s dissatisfaction with the central bank.
Ripping what he called the Fed’s reliance on academics, he argued that the so-called professor standard was to blame for the bank hiking interest rates based on unemployment statistics and wage growth alone and not taking the markets into account, resulting in income stagnation. He argued that his approach would be to instead focus on stabilizing the dollar.
“The professor standard will not challenge itself—that much has been proved. That’s why my voice is needed at the Fed,” he wrote.
Cain asserted that though he aligned with Trump in the idea that the Fed had been mistaken to raise interest rates, he understood the bank was meant to be free of political influence but would still consider Trump’s input.
“I wouldn’t totally tune it out because they may be saying something that might cause you to ask some different questions, but not do what they are saying politically,” he told the Journal. “The Fed is not and should not become a political machine.”
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday called for special counsel Robert Mueller to testify publicly before Congress, ripping Attorney General William Barr for his “partisan handling” of the release of Mueller’s findings over the last month.
“Attorney General Barr’s regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report, including his slanted March 24th summary letter, his irresponsible testimony before Congress last week, and his indefensible plan to spin the report in a press conference later this morning — hours before he allows the public or Congress to see it — have resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality,” they said in a statement hours before the Justice Department planned to release the report.
Pelosi and Schumer argued that public testimony was “the only way to begin restoring public trust,” demanding Mueller appear before both the House and Senate “as soon as possible.”
“The American people deserve to hear the truth,” they said.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller's team, declined to comment on the Democratic leaders' demand.
Darren Samuelsohn contributed to this report.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
MADRID (AP) - A leading politician in Catalonia's independence movement has held a news conference in an unusual setting - the Madrid prison where he is being held while standing trial for the region's secession effort.
Jordi Sanchez, the main candidate for the Together for Catalonia coalition in Spain's April ...
The top two congressional Democrats demanded Thursday that special counsel Robert Mueller testify to Congress about his investigation into President Trump, saying they don't trust the attorney general to be fair.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Attorney General William P. Barr has made ...
ISLAMABAD (AP) - Pakistan's finance minister said Thursday he will step down amid a wave of criticism over the government's handling of a financial crisis that has sent prices soaring.
Asad Umar tweeted that Prime Minister Imran Khan offered him the energy portfolio in the Cabinet but he refused. He ...
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) - Sudan's new military rulers say two brothers of ousted President Omar al-Bashir have also been arrested, over corruption.
The official news agency SUNA is quoting the spokesman of the military council, Gen. Shams Eddin Kabashi, as saying on Thursday that Abdullah and Abbas al-Bashir were arrested ...
Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton has built a presidential campaign-in-waiting ahead of an anticipated launch next week, making preparations from designating a campaign manager and other senior staff to commissioning a new logo.
Moulton, an Iraq War veteran serving his third term in Congress, recently taped an announcement video in his hometown of Marblehead. The video, according to a Democrat with knowledge of Moulton’s staffing and announcement plans, was directed by writer and producer Lance Khazei.
He has also retained a respected Democratic polling firm: The Mellman Group, which has consulted for Moulton since his upset victory over a scandal-plagued Democratic incumbent in a 2014 primary in Massachusetts. The polling firm conducted surveys and focus groups in a handful of early primary states, including New Hampshire and South Carolina, that suggested presidential primary voters have not made up their minds and that Democrats could be energized by a young candidate, according to the person with knowledge of Moulton’s preparations.
Moulton has also built out a senior staff. Jim Matheson, the interim director of Moulton’s PAC and a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, is set to be the campaign manager at launch time. Michelle Kleppe, who’s served as the executive director of Moulton’s Serve America PAC, is also positioned to be involved in a campaign as a political adviser.
Matt Corridoni, Moulton’s spokesman, is positioned to serve as national press secretary, while Adam Farina is set to serve as speechwriter for the campaign. The campaign-in-waiting also includes a set of advisers on foreign and domestic policy and operatives for social media and data acquisition.
Moulton’s team has also retained the design group Jack Rabbit for the campaign’s logo and website relaunch.
“Seth has said he’ll make a decision by the end of the month. If he enters this race, it’ll be because he thinks it is the best way to serve the country at this time,” Corridoni said in a statement.
Moulton has made a number of trips to New Hampshire over the past year or so, though he remained tight-lipped about his 2020 ambitions until last month. Moulton visited Bow, just south of Concord, N.H., in July, and made a trip to Bedford in February.
Moulton represents one of the more moderate districts in deep blue Massachusetts and has long been tipped for higher office. But he came under intense criticism after the 2018 midterms, when he tried to oust House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from Democratic leadership.
At that time, Moulton argued the midterm election was a call for a new generation of House leaders, though he and several other opponents were ultimately unable to put up a Pelosi challenger. The episode culminated in a town hall in Moulton’s district, where more than 100 constituents shouted at the congressman and each other over the future of the House.
Liberal women in Moulton’s district accused him of ageism and sexism in his anti-Pelosi push. And now, Democratic activists have been looking for a woman to run against Moulton in his 2020 House primary, with one former state senator expressing interest in opposing him. Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll has also said she is considering running for Moulton’s seat if he pursues the presidency.
Moulton raised over $2.3 million through his Serve America PAC in 2018, traveling to 16 states during the 2018 midterm to stump for candidates in battleground districts, making inroads with local activists and donors along the way. Moulton and his PAC endorsed victorious candidates including Reps. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, Abby Finkenauer of Iowa and Susie Lee of Nevada.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
Congress is preparing to order the Pentagon to review the records of scores of decorated soldiers who served in World War I to determine if they were denied the nation’s highest battlefield honor because of their race or religion.
The bipartisan World War I Medals Review Act, expected to be unveiled Thursday, marks the latest effort to rectify the military’s history of discrimination against black soldiers and other minorities who fought and died alongside their white comrades but were shunned and often the victims of racial violence.
"We are in a historical conversation about race," said Timothy Wescott, director of the George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War at Park University in Missouri, which is already reviewing some of the cases for the nonprofit United States Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars. "If there are corrections to make it is time to make those corrections in the bigger picture of reconciliation as a nation."
The reviews would be the first of their kind for the century-old conflict that pitted Great Britain, France, Russia and eventually the United States against foes including Germany and the Ottoman Empire. The research will initially focus on about 70 African American troops and then turn to other minority groups, according to officials involved in the effort.
The new legislation, shared in advance with POLITICO, calls for the review of cases involving African, Asian, Hispanic, Native and Jewish Americans. The measure is expected to be included later this year in the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual defense policy bill.
Black troops served in segregated units during World War I, which means that "the information for forensic, historical and genealogical research is comparatively easy to locate" compared with the other four minority groups, said Wescott, a retired Marine. "We have been receiving information from other genealogists and family members, particularly in the Hispanic American and Jewish American grouping."
To warrant a review, the service members must have been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross or the Navy Cross, both considered the nation's second-highest awards for valor, or the French Croix de Guerre with Palm, France's highest honor, according to the proposed legislation.
Soldiers and sailors will also qualify for a review if they were recommended for the Medal of Honor but didn't receive it.
In all these categories, commanders at the time signed notarized statements on their forces' exploits, ensuring that the reviews rely solely on first-person accounts of the battles. The review process, which researchers estimate could take between five and seven years, will also compare the records with other cases in which troops were awarded the Medal of Honor.
The House version of the bill is being sponsored by Rep. French Hill, an Arkansas Republican who is enlisting co-sponsors in both parties. Identical Senate legislation is being sponsored by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, and Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri.
"Servicemembers of all races, religions and backgrounds fought in WWI, but the Medal of Honor was patently denied to minority veterans until the 1990s," said Van Hollen's office, which is planning a public roll-out Thursday in Cambridge, Md. The event will include representatives from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.
“We cannot erase the discrimination minority service members faced, but we can make sure their heroic deeds are acknowledged and honored,” added Blunt in a statement.
The legislation urges the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force to work with the Medals Review Task Force, which was established by the World Wars foundation and the George S. Robb Centre.
The Pentagon has conducted similar reviews for minority groups who served in other conflicts stretching from World War II to the war in Afghanistan.
The systematic reviews began in the 1990s for World War II, a conflict in which black units remained segregated. That effort resulted in more than 100 soldiers receiving the Medal of Honor, all but one of them posthumously.
World War I, in which more than 116,000 Americans died, "was never included in any of these systematic projects," said Zachary Austin, who has also been researching some of the minority medal cases.
He said the conflict stands out for another reason: All the Medals of Honor went to white soldiers. In contrast, Medal of Honor recipients were much more ethnically diverse in preceding conflicts, such as the 1898 Spanish-American War and the Philippine insurrection between 1899 and 1902.
Evidence is strongest that the military leadership during the First World War downplayed the African American soldiers' battlefield heroics, historians say.
More than 367,000 African American troops served in World War I in 1917 and 1918. Those included soldiers in the 369th “Harlem Hellfighters,“ which completed more combat days and suffered more casualties than any other American regiment, according to the World War One Centennial Commission, which Congress established in 2013 to help commemorate the 100th anniversary of the conflict.
But none received the Medal of Honor. And as a sign of the enduring discrimination against black Americans after the war, an official report by the commandant of the Army War College in 1925 referred to African Americans as a “sub-species of the human family.”
The legislation is needed, advocates say, in part because the rules governing the Medal of Honor say it has to be recommended within three years of a battle and awarded to the recipient within five years. And only Congress can waive that restriction.
The push to reopen the World War I files was originally sparked by the case of Army Sgt. William Butler of Salisbury, Md., a veteran of the 369th.
Butler received the Distinguished Service Cross, according to military records, "for extraordinary heroism in action near Maisons-en-Champagne, France, on Aug. 18, 1918. "Sergeant Butler broke up a German raiding party which had succeeded in entering our trenches and capturing some of our men. With an automatic rifle he killed four of the raiding party and captured or put to flight the remainder of the invaders."
Some historians believe he should have received the Medal of Honor but didn't because he was black. "It is the one we know the most about," Austin said of the Butler case, which is among those that will be reviewed. "It spawned the whole effort."
Others believe the effort is long overdue.
"It's honoring them — maybe a little late," said retired Army Col. Gerald York, who has been advising the World War One Centennial Commission.
York is the grandson of Sgt. Alvin York, one of the highest decorated veterans of World War I, who was eventually awarded the Medal of Honor for his exploits in the so-called Meuse-Argonne Offensive in October 1918. Gerald York said his grandfather faced discrimination due to his initial claim of being a conscientious objector on religious grounds. Alvin York had originally only been recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross.
York said securing the deserved honors for past victims of discrimination is not just about righting the wrongs of history.
"It's also telling folks serving today on active duty that they won't be forgotten," he said.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
President Donald Trump’s calculated move to pre-emptively declare “complete exoneration” in the Russia probe will be put to the test in a matter of hours.
After nearly two years of waiting, the public on Thursday will finally see the results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to sway the 2016 election and whether the president attempted to stymie that investigation.
First, Attorney General William Barr will hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. to discuss the report. Then, Justice Department officials will deliver the document to Congress on compact discs between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. and post it on the special counsel’s website for public consumption, according to a senior DOJ official.
It’s a event likely to reverberate for years to come, setting the tenor of Trump’s reelection bid and shaping the congressional investigations into Trump’s actions.
But Trump and his allies have already proclaimed there will be nothing to see and have tried to project a blasé attitude.
Trump’s personal legal team plans to issue an initial statement as soon as the Mueller report goes public and will “respond appropriately” as the day progresses, Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s lawyers, told POLITICO on Wednesday.
It’s still unclear whether that response will include a much-hyped counter report Trump’s lawyers have been working on whittling down from more than 100 pages to around 35. “It’s a work in progress,” Sekulow said. “We’ll see.”
In one way, Trump’s team is right that Thursday won’t bring surprises. Mueller’s primary conclusions are already known. Barr revealed in late March that Mueller had not established a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian officials to tilt the election. Barr also noted that while Mueller had not exonerated Trump on obstruction of justice allegations, the special counsel was not recommending bringing charges against the president.
And going further than Mueller, Barr added that he would not bring obstruction charges against the president.
In many other ways, though, the cries of total vindication overlook the reams of new information that might surface on Thursday.
The nearly 400-page report could contain fresh details about the Trump campaign’s contacts with Moscow’s intermediaries, as well as new information obtained through dozens of hours of interviews with former senior White House aides about the president’s attempts to impede the Russia investigators. Barr has indicated that Mueller’s report lays out evidence — including some not previously made public — that makes the case both for and against obstruction of justice.
At his news conference, Barr will give an overview of the report and address process questions related to it, the senior DOJ official said. A Mueller spokesman said neither the special counsel nor any of his attorneys will attend the media event. The decision prompted howls of outrage from Democrats, especially amid reports that DOJ officials have had numerous interactions with the White House about Mueller’s conclusions.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler on Twitter said he was “deeply troubled” by the reports and lashed out over the timing of Barr’s press conference.
“This is wrong,” the New York Democrat wrote.
Former Obama DOJ spokesman Matt Miller said he was dumbfounded by Barr’s decision. “For him to now hold a press conference before anyone has read the report just looks like him spinning for the president yet again,” he told POLITICO.
DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said the news conference was solely the department’s idea, conceived out of a desire to be as transparent as possible. Trump said in a radio interview Wednesday that he may hold his own press event later in the day, potentially before he leaves Washington, D.C., for the holiday weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida.
The spat over the logistics surrounding the public release of the Mueller report is just the latest flare-up between Democrats and Barr since the attorney general announced the end of the special counsel’s investigation on March 22. The two sides have sparred over Barr’s portrayal of Mueller’s findings, his swift decision to clear Trump on obstruction, his vague claims without publicly revealing evidence that there was “spying” on Trump’s campaign and his plans to redact the report.
Indeed, some details will remain hidden from the public on Thursday. Lawyers from the Justice Department and Mueller’s team have been redacting the report in recent weeks to black out several categories of sensitive information. The withheld information will cover four categories: secret grand jury details, classified national security and intelligence specifics, material related to ongoing investigations and passages that could defame “peripheral” third-party figures caught up in Mueller’s probe.
These redactions are likely to become the next battleground between Democrats and Barr.
Democrats have said that the attorney general — a recent Trump appointee who raised eyebrows with his decision to reveal two of Mueller’s most high-profile conclusions weeks before the report could be made public — can’t be trusted to oversee a fair redaction process. Democratic House leaders have already threatened to issue a subpoena to Barr, and they’re planning follow-up legal action to obtain the unredacted document.
The redacted Mueller report, Barr has promised, won’t be impossible to digest. “You will get more than the gist,” the attorney general told a Senate subcommittee during testimony last week.
Briefing reporters Wednesday ahead of the Mueller report’s release, the senior DOJ official also said that a less-redacted version of the Mueller report will eventually be shared with select members of Congress and their aides.
Whatever is handed out Thursday will inevitably guide congressional Democrats for the next two years as they investigate Trump and his inner circle for a potpourri of potential malfeasance, from financial fraud to security clearance abuses. A senior Democratic aide recently told POLITICO that the six House committees conducting Trump-related investigations will immediately determine which revelations in the report apply to which panel and where there might be overlap as lawmakers move forward.
As for the inchoate 2020 presidential campaign, the report has the potential to shape the candidates’ early talking points. Democratic presidential hopefuls have mostly skirted the subject to this point, deferring to Mueller’s findings. But with those findings finally coming out, candidates will be forced to confront politically prickly questions about whether Congress should launch impeachment proceedings against the president.
For Trump, the report — regardless of its contents — will offer yet another chance to trumpet his well-worn narrative that the true corruption was among the officials who launched and led the Russia probe. Indeed, since Barr cracked the window on Mueller’s conclusions, Trump has been testing a vengeance campaign that he’ll likely deploy for 2020 — “investigate the investigators,” decry the “attempted coup” and call for the resignation of his main Democratic foils in Congress.
“This group of major losers did not just ruthlessly attack me, my family and everyone who questioned their lies, they tried to divide our country, to poison the national debate and to tear up the fabric of our great democracy,” Trump proclaimed last month in Grand Rapids, Mich., during his first campaign-style rally after Barr gave the initial glimpse of Mueller’s findings.
Washington will also be watching to see whether Trump moves to pardon or commute the prison sentences of any allies entangled in the probe. While the president has dismissed questions about clemency, he’s pointedly not ruled it out, either.
Even before Thursday’s release, the broad strokes of Mueller’s historic probe already have been etched.
Over the course of nearly two years, Mueller has notched a string of high-profile prosecutions and plea deals, leaning on more than 2,800 subpoenas, nearly 500 search warrants and interviews with about 500 witnesses.
In total, the special counsel filed charges against 34 people and three companies. Numerous people pleaded guilty, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort; Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates; one-time Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn; and ex-Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen.
The special counsel has also spun off elements of his probe to other DOJ offices, including tips to New York prosecutors that led to the Cohen charges and possibly informed a broad swath of subpoenas federal prosecutors sent to Trump’s inaugural committee.
And even as Mueller’s team disbands, his probe will live on.
The evidence that the special counsel’s prosecutors introduced or shuttled to other U.S. attorney offices in New York, Virginia and Washington, D.C., appear already to have generated additional criminal cases. A former Flynn business partner is slated to go on trial July 15 on charges of failing to disclose lobbying on behalf of Turkey. And Greg Craig, a former Obama White House counsel, was also charged with making false statements and concealing material information about his lobbying work on behalf of the Ukrainian government.
Outside the federal court system, Mueller spinoff cases are starting to take shape. Manafort, for one, was hit in March with fresh mortgage fraud charges in New York state.
And career federal prosecutors will carry the special counsel’s unfinished work across the finish line.
There are lingering cases against a Russian troll farm, Kremlin hackers and an unknown foreign company that is fighting a Mueller subpoena. And longtime Trump associate Roger Stone is also set to go on trial Nov. 5 for allegedly lying to lawmakers and obstructing their Russia probe — nearly a year to the day before the 2020 presidential election.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico's top emergency management official is scheduled to tour shelters for the homeless in the south of the state that are overflowing with international asylum seekers.
State Homeland Security and Emergency Management Secretary Jackie White announced plans Thursday to visit the Gospel Rescue Mission ...
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - When it came to population growth last year, cities in central Florida grew by stadiums.
Metro Orlando grew by 60,000 residents last year, almost as large as the number of people who can fit into the city's Camping World Stadium, where college football bowl teams face ...
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - New Census Bureau data shows Puerto Rico lost nearly 4% of its population after Hurricane Maria - the greatest population drop in the recorded history of the island, according to one demographer.
Data released Thursday shows the U.S. territory's population dropped by 129,848 people ...
Smugglers are using a new tactic to try to sneak migrants across the border, agents said Wednesday, detailing the first detected use of what they called a "lookout" drone to try to figure out where agents were stationed.
An agent spotted the drone using an infrared camera, watching at is ...
House Democratic chairmen demanded Wednesday that Attorney General William Barr cancel his press conference slated for Thursday morning to detail the special counsel's report into the 2016 election, saying they don't want him to shape Americans' opinions.
The leaders of the Judiciary, Oversight and intelligence panels also complained about reports ...
Beto O’Rourke, traveling the country doing a head-snapping number of presidential campaign events, had just finished an extended version of his stump speech Wednesday when a self-described cable news devotee confronted the former congressman over his absence from her TV screen.
O’Rourke’s cable absenteeism diverges with the omnipresence of other 2020 candidates, particularly South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose media saturation strategy corresponds with his recent rise in polls and surprise early fundraising successes.
Bernie Sanders starred this week in a highly rated town hall on Fox News. Next week, Sanders and four Democratic rivals — Buttigieg and Sens. Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren — head to New Hampshire for back-to-back live town halls on CNN. For all five of the presidential contenders, this is their second such event in the last three months.
Even some of O’Rourke’s fans are starting to express concern.
“I haven't seen you on MSNBC recently,” the woman told O’Rourke as he took questions at a hotel ballroom in Alexandria, Va. “I haven't seen you on TV, and other candidates have been on the airwaves morning noon and night, and that’s of concern to me,” she added.
O’Rourke, his blue oxford patchy with perspiration, acknowledged that he may eventually have to succumb to cable news green rooms and remote hits — just not right away.
Pressure on the former congressman will only intensity. After Sanders’ well-received Fox appearance, where the progressive senator went toe-to-toe with President Donald Trump’s favorite network, Klobuchar agreed to headline an event of her own — even after the Democratic National Committee banned Fox from hosting primary debates.
Buttigieg is reportedly in advanced talks with Fox. Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Julián Castro may be close behind him for Fox town halls of their own.
O’Rourke told a reporter earlier in the day he might be open to a televised town hall. Later, at the hotel, he cited some of his “heroes” who founded Discord Records, a label built on a do-it-yourself philosophy that involved self-written songs and self-booked tours.
"We have held more town halls in the month and four days that we've been doing this than I think any other candidate, because meeting you eyeball to eyeball, to me, is so much more satisfying than being on cable TV and in a soundbite,” O'Rourke said.
“At some point, I may have to give in and be on your television set,” he added, “but right now I want to be with you in person.”
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Legislation that would require consent from a parent or guardian before a girl under 18 could obtain an abortion passed the Florida House on Wednesday night after a lengthy debate and amid questions about its constitutionality.
The Republican-led House voted 69-44 largely along party lines for the ...
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is trying to zig while the rest of the Democrats' 2020 presidential field zags, staking out some unique positions on issues ranging from Syria to WikiLeaks as she makes foreign policy the centerpiece of her underdog campaign.
The Hawaii Democrat was one of the first high-profile figures ...
Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia announced on Wednesday that he would not be running for president in 2020, quelling speculation that he would join an already sizable group of Democratic hopefuls vying to push President Donald Trump out of office.
Speaking with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, McAuliffe said he would rather concentrate his energy on helping Democrats maintain control of the Virginia legislature, though he thinks he could have beaten Trump and would have done a good job in the White House.
“So I've listened to the Virginians and I‘m going to help Virginians for the next six months,“ McAuliffe said. “I could spend eight months traveling around the country running for president or six months really making a difference.“
McAuliffe’s anticipated announcement had been closely linked to former Vice President Joe Biden, whose folksy manner overlaps with the mainstream-Democrat appeal of the former governor. A source close to McAuliffe told POLITICO in March that “Terry is watching Biden and feels that they appeal to a similar set of voters, but Biden’s decision will not be determinative of Terry’s.”
Biden has heavily hinted at a run, including accidentally leaked footage of a campaign ad. McAuliffe’s decision to stand down would allow Biden a clearer path for a bid that has already been marred with controversy over the former vice president’s tactile style.
McAuliffe served as governor from 2014 to 2018 and was chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005. He is also friendly with Bill and Hillary Clinton, serving as Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman in 2008.
The former governor also spoke out during the blackface scandal surrounding Virginia’s current governor, Ralph Northam — who was McAuliffe’s lieutenant governor — saying Northam should step down after admitting to wearing blackface in college. The scandal, along with allegations of sexual misconduct against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and another blackface scandal involving state Attorney General Mark Herring, severely damaged Democrats’ image in Richmond.
McAuliffe has been a fierce critic of Trump and campaigned heavily for fellow Democrats during the 2018 elections. His national tour on behalf of his party also included hints of a possible 2020 run as he met with activists, candidates and donors across the country.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
Many viewers of Monday night’s Fox News town hall with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders saw a left-wing candidate in the hot seat on a network known for its tight relationship with President Donald Trump.
But Trump himself saw something else: sinister forces at his favorite news network aligning against him. Trump complained twice about the event on Twitter over the next day, griping about an allegedly pro-Sanders audience and charging that the anchors had sucked up to one of his 2020 rivals.
The political class may marvel at Trump’s perceived control over Fox, which liberal critics have likened to a propaganda outlet. But the president’s complaints suggest he’s frustrated that he doesn’t have enough. In particular, Trump has repeatedly aimed Twitter barbs at the network’s news anchors, griping that they are insufficiently enthusiastic about his agenda.
“So weird to watch Crazy Bernie on @Fox News,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, the day after Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha McCallum hosted Sanders for an hour. “Not surprisingly, @BretBaier and the ‘audience’ was so smiley and nice. Very strange,” he wrote. Trump went on to question why the network had recently hired the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile as a political analyst. He complained that the audience had been packed with Sanders fans while his supporters were stranded outside, asking: “What’s with @FoxNews?"
With the network, Trump is picking at an open wound. Long-fraught relations between the news side of Fox and its opinion arm have grown more tense in the Trump era, according to people familiar with the network’s dynamics. Some of the network’s news anchors question what they see as the pro-Trump cheerleading of their opinion-driven primetime colleagues. The opinion hosts say they draw bigger ratings and make more money for the network—and criticize their news colleagues for not breaking news. One primetime employee also casually referred to the news side of the network as “the resistance."
“I don’t think he views Fox as a monolith. He’s upset with certain personalities on Fox News,” said a former senior White House official.
The official recalled hearing Trump criticize news anchors like Neil Cavuto and Shepard Smith when he worked in the White House. In March, Trump slammed Smith—perhaps the network’s most critical voice when it comes to the president—as Fox’s “lowest rated anchor” and said that he, along with two weekend news hosts, “should be working” at CNN.
As it happens, Smith has also come under fire from perhaps Trump’s top booster at the network, the host Sean Hannity. “I like Shep, but he’s so anti-Trump,” Hannity complained on his radio show in July 2017.
Trump has also come to the rescue of at least one friendly opinion host whom he felt was mistreated. Last month, he urged Fox to bring back host Jeanine Pirro from her brief suspension over comments appearing to question the patriotism of a Muslim member of Congress. He also tweeted that the network should “[s]top working soooo hard on being politically correct, which will only bring you down.”
Former White House officials say that—thanks in part to the mostly-fawning coverage Trump has enjoyed from the likes of Hannity and his fellow primetime hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham—the president, who sometimes spends hours a day watching Fox, has in effect become spoiled, and highly sensitive to any unkind words on a network he seeks out as an affirming refuge in a largely hostile media environment.
It’s the “same reason that he thinks everyone at the Washington Post is doing Jeff Bezos’ bidding,” said the same former official. Trump feels that “if you have a strong leader at the top, like Fox does with [co-chairman Rupert] Murdoch that they should just be falling in line and they shouldn't be any question about this.”
Asked for comment on Trump's relationship with Fox, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told POLITICO: "We expect all of the news to be fair and accurate and not trying to drive the liberal agenda. It’s astonishing that the country is doing so well yet the coverage of the president is 90% negative. ... We just wish the media cared more about the great things happening than they did about attacking the president and palace intrigue."
Another former White House official noted that Trump has criticized Fox for the network's coverage of him before, and that he complained about their coverage of his early 2016 presidential campaign, when he thought the network was friendlier to GOP candidates like Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
The former official added that the network will inevitably be covering the crowded Democratic primary field as the 2020 campaign occupies more space in the news environment. "Part of it is realizing he’s not the only game in town anymore,” this person said.
While the president is a frequent guest on Fox, he tends to stick to interviews with friendlier personalities like prime-time opinion hosts Hannity and Tucker Carlson, or the network’s “Fox & Friends” morning show, which he watches regularly and where he receives consistently positive coverage. Hannity alone has conducted eight television interviews with the president, more than all other television networks in their entirety.
By contrast, it has been more than 300 days since Bret Baier—considered one of the network’s most balanced figures—landed an interview with the president.
“We’d love to have you on a town hall soon — or even an interview on @SpecialReport —it’s been awhile. We cover all sides,” Baier tweeted in reply to Trump’s complaints about Fox on Tuesday.
A Fox News spokesperson pointed POLITICO to several instances where the network’s opinion hosts have pushed back on Trump. They include an early 2017 instance when Hannity chided Trump for tweeting too often and a December segment in which Ingraham challenged Trump’s claim that he is already building a border wall, saying, “There’s no wall!”
Rebutting Trump's charge that the Sanders town hall audience was improperly picked, FOX News also pointed to a report by the Pennsylvania newspaper The Morning Call which reported that Fox had “reached out to various political and local groups in the area and mined requests to attend after it publicly announced the event."
Some former Trump White House officials argued that Trump’s ire poses a threat to the network, which has long been the highest-rated among the cable news channels.
“President Trump’s criticism of Fox News is a clear and present danger for the network,” said Andy Hemming, former rapid response director for the Trump White House. “The president knows Fox News viewers are far more loyal to him than the network, meaning he can push those supporters to more overtly friendly outlets like One America News Network or Newsmax with just a couple of tweets and some extra access. It also goes without saying that the financial implications for these networks are massive.”
A Fox spokesperson noted in response that the network’s ratings remain strong and that ratings for the Sanders town hall were the highest yet of any town hall featuring a 2020 Democratic candidate televised by a cable news network, including ones by rivals CNN and MSNBC.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
The Trump administration is proposing a new rule to try to block some 32,000 illegal immigrant-led families from claiming public housing assistance, saying it's unfair to hundreds of thousands of Americans who are stuck on waiting lists.
Housing and Urban Development notified Congress Wednesday of the new rule, kicking off ...
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The Latest on the Alaska Legislature's confirmation of Gov. Mike Dunleavy's Cabinet and board selections (all times local):
Alaska lawmakers have confirmed Amanda Price as state Public Safety commissioner despite allegations of a poor work ethic.
Price and Gov. Mike Dunleavy's administration made a ...
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Alaska lawmakers confirm Public Safety commissioner despite allegations of poor work ethic .
LAREDO, Texas (AP) - Two Guatemalan men have been sentenced to federal prison for their parts in an immigrant-smuggling run that led to the deaths of two Ecuadoran men.
A Justice Department statement says 23-year-old Melvin L. Barahona-Godoy was sentenced in Laredo on Wednesday to 4 years and 9 months ...
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Winners of the 2018 Florida Associated Press Broadcasters Association Pro Contest have been announced in Orlando, Fla.
Thirty-seven radio and television stations submitted 581 entries in the contest, which featured news and sports stories from 2018.
A list of the winners announced Saturday can be found ...
An AK-47-toting man smuggling illegal immigrants opened fire on ICE agents in Phoenix last week, sparking a shootout that left another member of his smuggling gang dead, according to court documents detailing the latest episode in what authorities say is growing violence in the illegal immigrant economy.
The incident has ...
DES MOINES, Iowa — Pete Buttigieg is confronting another sign that his history-making candidacy is rising to the top tier of the Democratic presidential race: protesters.
A few anti-LGBT protesters, including religious activist Randall Terry, have interrupted the South Bend mayor, who is openly gay, at nearly all of his stops in Iowa this week — from a man shouting at him in a town hall in Dodge, Iowa to men dressed as a cross-carrying Jesus Christ and Satan outside of a meet-and-greet in Marshallville. At all three events, attendees ignored or shouted them down with chants of “Pete” and “USA.”
Buttigieg, who formally launched his presidential run last weekend, took the attacks in stride, telling the 1,600-person crowd in Des Moines Tuesday night that the “condition of my soul is in the hands of God, but the Iowa caucuses are up to you.” And those standing-room-only crowds — spilling out of union halls and into backyards — are not only a marker of Buttigieg’s viral appeal in the early caucus state, but emblematic of the historic nature of his campaign.
Outlandish attacks could also engender more support, not less, from Democratic primary voters, said Sean Bagniewski, the Polk County Democratic Party chairman who introduced Buttigieg at the Tuesday night rally.
“It felt like the crowd got defensive for him, when most of the people here probably aren’t yet decided on just supporting Pete,” Bagniewski said. “Those protesters probably helped him get more supporters.”
Dealing with anti-gay demonstrations is “part of the good, bad, ugly and odd that can come out,” Buttigieg told POLITICO in an interview, noting that he’s dealt with protesters before but “the costumes were new” to him. “There’s always going to be stuff like this when you become a top-tier contender, and we need to be prepared to manage that sort of thing.”
In recent weeks, Buttigieg has broken out of the 2020 pack with a series of viral moments, followed by a $7 million fundraising haul and a steady creep up the national polls, where he’s now competing with several other Democrats for third place behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Buttigieg pitches himself as a millennial, Midwestern mayor from Trump country focused on generational change.
But he’s also talked about his struggle with coming out as a gay man at 33, explaining to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow this week that “there’s this war that breaks out, I think, inside a lot of people when they realize they might be something they’re afraid of.”
Buttigieg’s candidacy measures the distance American voters have traveled on LGBT rights. Just over a decade ago, none of the top three 2008 Democratic primary presidential candidates supported same-sex marriage. In 2006, 43 percent of Americans said they would feel enthusiastic or comfortable about a candidate who was gay or lesbian. In April, 70 percent said they’d be enthusiastic or comfortable in a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.
But there’s little public data on how voters feel about voting for a gay or lesbian president in individual battleground states, where Democrats must make inroads to retake the White House in 2020.
“Are people much more comfortable with a LGBT candidate, even in the Rust Belt, then they were five to 10 years ago? No question,” said a Democratic pollster, who was granted anonymity to discuss the issue candidly. “But will they vote for a male candidate with a husband in those states? We don’t know that yet.”
That possibility worries Jeanette Melhuish, a 61-year-old Democrat who saw Buttigieg in Marshalltown on Wednesday morning, because “there are some older Democrats and older Independents that won’t vote for him” for “the fact that he’s gay,” she said. “I see that as his biggest obstacle, but I hope he overcomes it.”
When asked at the Des Moines rally about what supporters should tell friends who “don’t think America is ready for a gay president,” Buttigieg quipped, “Tell your friends I say ‘hi.’”
Buttigieg said he would look to replicate what he did in Indiana, when he asked “people to evaluate me for the job I was going to do and for the whole of who I am,” he said in an interview. Buttigieg came out during his 2015 reelection race for mayor, writing that it “took years of struggle and growth for me to recognize” that being gay is “just a fact of life, like having brown hair, and part of who I am.”
“That’s all I can ask anyone to do, and it worked well in a socially conservative community,” Buttigieg said. “If we can do it there, we can do it anywhere.”
Matt McCoy, a Polk County supervisor who was the first openly gay state senator to serve in Iowa, watched the heckling on Tuesday night with surprise because “we’re so beyond that,” he said. But McCoy said that if Buttigieg uses the same approach that he did in Indiana, “he will be absolutely fine” in Iowa.
“You just talk about it, and you just don’t duck it,” McCoy said. “You do exactly what he’s doing.”
Buttigieg often talks about his marriage through the lens of his faith, confronting evangelical conservatives on ground they’ve long claimed. That’s triggered clashes with Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence. Last month, Buttigieg burst on the 2020 scene by not only talking about his marriage, but by attacking Pence as a “cheerleader of the porn star presidency.”
“Part of his appeal is how he deals with it — talking about it in the context of faith with no squeamishness,” said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic donor who has supported Buttigieg. “He’s very comfortable with himself and that transcends him being LGBT.”
Strategists warned, however, that there’s a risk in wrapping his candidacy too heavily in his own identity.
“To the extent that he has to talk about himself and not voters, it can be a distraction,” said a second Democratic pollster. “But, right now, he’s become the poignant recipient of this hate, and that’s going to engender compassion and people may be more likely to check him out.”
For some voters, Buttigieg’s presence and rise in the 2020 primary has less to do with politics and more to do with role models. Lori Bell, a teacher at Fort Dodge Middle School, brought students from the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club to see Buttigieg, so they could “see that people like them, who have gone through the same experiences they’ve gone through, can run for office,” Bell said. “That it’s different than what it was like when [Buttigieg] was a kid.”
Bell hasn’t committed to Buttigieg yet, “but I’m leaning his way now,” she said.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
There was Bernie Sanders at a Fox News town hall, not giving an inch in a forum every Democratic presidential candidate has shunned.
His reward was a cataract of good reviews, even from some conservatives, and monster ratings. Sanders had a solid hour to reach people not favorably inclined to his worldview, at the very least demonstrating that he’s willing to show up outside his political silo.
Why hadn’t any of the other Democrats done it before? Because they lacked the verve and ideological self-confidence Sanders has, as well as the independent streak to buck the Democrat Party’s attempt to hold the line against Fox. As a message candidate, Sanders is willing to take his anywhere.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, miraculously transformed over the past few months into a relatively moderate Democratic elder stateswoman, has understandably been pushing back against the notion that she leads a socialist party defined by a few radicals in the House.
On 60 Minutes, she stalwartly declared: “I do reject socialism as a economic system. If people have that view, that’s their view. That is not the view of the Democratic Party.” She dismissed the left-wing members in her caucus as, “like, five people.”
In a speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer expressed the same sentiment, telling the crowd that there are 62 Democratic freshmen, “not three.”
In sheer numbers, this is true. But it’s the wrong way to count.
The problem Democrats have is that the most compelling stars of the party are self-described socialists with a knack for generating controversy and media attention, and with committed mass followings. Pelosi might wish it weren’t true, but poll numbers, fundraising and follower-counts don’t lie.
Sanders is reliably second—sometimes first—in national and state presidential polling of Democratic candidates. He’s out-raised everyone in the field, and with his massive small-donor base, probably can continue to do so for the duration. More than anyone else, he has defined the Democratic Party’s current agenda. He can clap back at establishment critics, as he did the other day at the Center for American Progress, and make their lives very uncomfortable.
It’ll be much harder to maintain that the Democratic Party isn’t a party of socialists if it nominates one as its presidential candidate, which everyone paying attention realizes is a real possibility.
If that happens, it won’t be the work of conservatives hoping to negatively brand the Democrats, but of the party faithful. The same goes for the prominence of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It is often said that conservatives are “obsessed” with her; maybe so, but the same is true—and probably more so—of everyone else.
AOC has been on the cover of Time magazine, Rolling Stone (with Pelosi, as it happens), the Hollywood Reporter, and Bloomberg Businessweek. Annie Leibovitz photographed her for Vogue. She’s been interviewed on "60 Minutes."
She has nearly 4 million Twitter followers and more than 3 million followers on Instagram, where she feeds the insatiable obsession of her fans—not her critics—with videos from her apartment.
There is a documentary about her congressional campaign, purchased by Netflix for a record-breaking $10 million. She’s the hero of a comic book (or as an admiring website put it, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is so badass there’s literally now a comic book about her”). A video narrated by her and set in the future about how she saves the planet with her "Green New Deal" quickly garnered more than 1.7 million views.
She was among the top 10 House Democrats in fundraising the first quarter of the year and had the highest percentage of small donors. Her ally, Rep. Ilhan Omar also excelled.
As Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote in a piece about AOC for her in Time’s most influential list, not exaggerating, “millions are taking cues from her.”
It’s obviously vexing to Pelosi to see a House majority built by the careful avoidance of ideological extravagance and won in marginal districts hijacked, at least in terms of public attention, by a few freshmen and a 77-year-old Vermont socialist.
They might not define the center of gravity of the party at the moment, and the radical freshmen have lost most of their tussles with Pelosi, but there is a reason that they are so famous, with such fundraising prowess. The crusading purity of Sanders has an inherent appeal (think of Rand Paul, except with a chance to win his party’s nomination). The outrageousness of the freshmen (or their boldness, depending on your point of view), and willingness to respond to any criticism, attracts attention. And, as President Donald Trump will tell you, attention begets attention.
Yes, there are vast numbers of Democrats out there who aren’t on Twitter or Instagram and are old Obama-Biden Democrats, as Joe Biden himself put it the other day. Maybe there are enough of them to nominate Biden or a Pete Buttigieg on a progressive platform clothed in a moderate demeanor.
But the party’s stars will have something to say about it. The great Zionist Theodor Herzl maintained, “It is the simple and fantastic which leads men.” As Sanders showed, it’s also willing to go on Fox News.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
RICHMOND, Va. — Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe won't run for president in 2020.
That's according to two people familiar with calls the Democratic former governor made Wednesday to his allies. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting McAuliffe's announcement.
A representative for McAuliffe ...
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court scheduled a hearing next week over whether to stop the Trump administration from forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for immigration court hearings.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday set a hearing for April 24 in San Francisco over ...
It is often hard to figure out how the voting public feels about President Trump. Blame that on the press, which has provided a steady stream of negative or manipulative coverage about Mr. Trump since his campaign days. Yet somehow, an overwhelming percentage of voters now advise the Republican Party ...
NEW YORK (AP) - Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents looking to make arrests inside courthouses in New York can't do so without judicial warrants or orders, according to a directive from the New York State Office of Court Administration that took effect Wednesday.
The move was hailed by immigration advocates, ...
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A federal appeals court on Wednesday scheduled a hearing over whether to stop the Trump administration from forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their immigration court hearings.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set a hearing for April 24 in San Francisco over ...
The frenzied anticipation around special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report has overshadowed another Justice Department report on the Russia probe that could land as soon as next month, and which will likely take direct aim at the former British spy behind an infamous “dossier” on President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
For the past year, the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, has been examining the FBI’s efforts to surveil a one-time Trump campaign adviser based in part on information from Christopher Steele, a former British MI6 agent who had worked with the bureau as a confidential source since 2010.
Several people interviewed by the Inspector General’s office over the past year tell POLITICO that Horowitz’s team has been intensely focused on gauging Steele’s credibility as a source for the bureau. One former U.S. official left the interview with the impression that the Inspector General’s final report “is going to try and deeply undermine” Steele, who spent over two decades working Russia for MI6 before leaving to launch his own corporate intelligence firm.
Thursday’s planned release of the full Mueller report by the Justice Department could shed new light on Steele’s role, and the veracity of the controversial dossier he assembled in 2016, featuring explosive—and in some cases sexually lurid—charges of Kremlin influence over Trump and his associates.
And once the Mueller report is out, conservatives will look forward to the results of the Horowitz probe, launched in March 2018 while Jeff Sessions was attorney general. President Donald Trump had been calling for a parallel investigation into alleged FBI “spying” that would somehow undermine Mueller’s investigation.
Steele was hired by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS in 2016 to research Trump’s Russia ties, with funding from a law firm that represented the Democratic National Committee. He has become a villain to Trump allies who claim that anti-Trump Justice Department officials conspired to undo the results of the 2016 election, and conservatives have seized on Mueller’s conclusion that no criminal conspiracy existed between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin as evidence that Steele’s sensational dossier was a fraud.
Speaking on Fox News last month, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), derided Steele as “the foreigner hired by the Clinton campaign to write the dossier that was the basis for this whole twisted deal.”
With his reputation on the line, Steele—who has not commented publicly on the Trump-Russia investigation—intends to rebut the Inspector General’s characterizations, if necessary, in the form of a rare public statement, according to people familiar with his plans. He declined to be interviewed by the inspector general, citing, among other things, the potential impropriety of his involvement in an internal Justice Department investigation as a foreign national and former British intelligence agent. Steele’s allies have also repeatedly noted that the dossier was not the original basis for the FBI’s probe into Trump and Russia.
A spokesman for the Inspector General’s office declined to comment.
The president and other critics of the Russia investigation have long maintained that the bureau inappropriately “spied” on the Trump campaign using unverified information provided by Steele. The FBI’s decision to seek a surveillance warrant against Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page—a warrant they applied for and obtained after Page had already left the campaign—is the chief focus of the probe by Horowitz, a Harvard-educated former federal prosecutor who has held his post since 2012.
Attorney General Bill Barr poured gasoline on those complaints last week, telling lawmakers that he believes “spying did occur” on the campaign in 2016. He also said that Horowitz’s report “will be complete in probably May or June, I am told,” and confirmed that he is conducting his own review, parallel to the inspector general, of the FBI’s conduct in 2016.
Trump has since seized upon Barr’s comments as evidence that the FBI acted improperly in 2016, even though Barr did not claim that the surveillance, approved and renewed by several federal judges, had violated any laws. “These were crimes committed by Crooked Hillary, the DNC, Dirty Cops and others!” Trump tweeted on Monday. “INVESTIGATE THE INVESTIGATORS”
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, dismissed the attacks on Steele, saying it would have concerned him more if the FBI did nothing with the information Steele gave them. “Knowing everything the FBI knew as the Russians were interfering in the election,” Swalwell said, “I would rather see them, out of abundance of caution, open an investigation and follow concerning leads than to just say ‘well this is probably nothing.’”
“I would want accountability if they didn’t do that,” he added.
The campaign adviser at the center of it all, Carter Page, had been on the FBI’s radar since 2013, when he interacted with undercover Russian intelligence agents in New York City. A trip to Moscow in the summer of 2016 further aroused the bureau’s suspicions about him, according to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant the FBI submitted in October 2016, allowing the bureau to intercept his electronic communications.
Steele began providing the FBI with information about Trump’s alleged ties to Russia in 2016, but his relationship with the bureau began with soccer — a subject that has become an unexpected focus of the inspector general’s probe.
In 2010, Steele delivered information to the bureau’s Eurasian Organized Crime squad about corruption within the international soccer league FIFA, with links to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, that led to the ouster of longtime FIFA president Sepp Blatter and the indictment of several FIFA officials.
The inspector general’s office has concluded that Steele inflated his worth to the bureau in that case, and did little more than introduce agents to a journalist who had obtained hacked documents, according to two people who were interviewed and briefed on the matter. For the FBI to have formalized its relationship with Steele—paying him an undisclosed amount over beginning in 2013—as a result of his FIFA role may therefore have been bad judgment, the inspector general’s team has intimated. Horowitz’s probe also appears set to cast doubt on the veracity of the information Steele provided about Page that the FBI included in its application for a FISA warrant.
Steele, 54, went into hiding briefly after the dossier was published in January 2017 but has since returned to his regular “day job” in London at his firm, Orbis Business Intelligence. His defenders call him an intelligence professional with a sterling reputation who is being unfairly demonized by pro-Trump Republicans.
By 2015, however, as the FIFA investigation was ongoing, Steele was producing intelligence that appeared to rely not just on a single journalist but on high-level Russian insiders. One Steele report from June of that year, reviewed by POLITICO, cited both a senior Russian lawyer and “a close Russian confidante” of then-Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. The sources relayed that Russia was involved in bribing FIFA to win the 2018 World Cup, according to the report.
Steele’s defenders also note that the information he provided which made it into the FISA warrant application to monitor Page was not far off. According to Steele’s sources, Page met with high-level Russian officials while in Moscow in July 2016, including the CEO of Russia’s state-owned oil giant Rosneft. Page denied the claim publicly until pressed under oath by lawmakers in 2017, when he acknowledged meeting “senior members of the presidential administration” during his trip, as well as the head of investor relations at Rosneft. Page had originally claimed only that he went to Moscow to give the commencement address at the New Economic School.
Page told POLITICO on Tuesday that he has not been contacted by the Inspector General.
Former U.S. officials interviewed by the inspector general were skeptical about the quality of his probe. They emphasized to Horowitz that information in a warrant application need not be wholly verified, as long as the reliability of the source of the information is disclosed to the court, which the FBI did in the Page FISA case with regard to Steele. But the inspector general seemed neither well-versed in the FISA process nor receptive to the explanations, the officials said.
The inspector general is also homing in on Steele’s relationship with Bruce Ohr, a career Justice Department official who spent years investigating Russian organized crime and corruption and who has known Steele since 2007, according to two people familiar with their relationship. In July 2016, Steele told Ohr about the research he’d been doing on Trump’s alleged Russia ties, claiming among other things that a former head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service had stated that the spy service “had Donald Trump over a barrel,” Ohr told lawmakers in a closed-door interview last year.
Soon thereafter, the FBI began receiving Steele’s Trump-Russia memos directly. But the bureau cooled on the relationship after learning that Steele had described his Trump campaign research to reporters. (Two sources familiar with Steele’s actions insist that his research technically belonged to his clients, Fusion GPS and the Democratic National Committee, not to the FBI—so he had no obligation to keep it secret.)
Still, the Inspector General is apparently irked by Ohr’s decision to maintain contact with Steele after the bureau temporarily cut ties with the British operative in October 2016. Ohr told Congress that he felt it would be irresponsible not to hear Steele out. He also helped connect Steele with the special counsel’s office once it was up and running in May 2017, according to a person familiar with the matter. “When I receive information from Chris Steele I'm not going to sit on it,” Ohr told lawmakers. “I've got to give it to the FBI.”
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
HAMBURG, Iowa — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recently toured this waterlogged town near the Missouri River, blasting President Donald Trump as complicit in the flooding that has plagued large swaths of western Iowa in recent weeks.
"We have a president who says that climate change is a hoax," said Inslee, ...
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea announced that it has test-fired a new type of tactical guided weapon.
The Korean Central News Agency says Chairman Kim Jong Un observed the firing of the weapon Wednesday by the Academy of Defense Science.
The agency reports that Kim said “the development of the weapon system serves as an event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People’s Army.”
The agency says Kim mounted an observation post to learn about the test-fire of the new-type tactical guided weapon and guide the test-fire.
The announcement came after reports of new activity at a North Korean missile research center and long-range rocket site where the North is believed to build long-range missiles targeting the U.S. mainland.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
House Democrats exploded in anger Wednesday over Attorney General William Barr’s plans to roll out special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, accusing the Justice Department of trying to spin the report’s contents and protect President Donald Trump.
Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning to review the report, which may be heavily redacted. Reports that DOJ officials have already discussed Mueller’s findings with the White House only further inflamed tensions.
“I’m deeply troubled by reports that the WH is being briefed on the Mueller report AHEAD of its release,” tweeted House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler. The New York Democrat added that DOJ informed him that lawmakers will not receive the report until around 11 a.m. or 12 p.m. Thursday.
“Why is William Barr holding a press conference if not to (once again) try and frame the Special Counsel’s findings,” tweeted Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “Just release the full report and let the American people judge for themselves!”
Democrats were also incensed that Trump, in a radio interview, revealed Barr’s press event minutes before the Justice Department officially announced it — another suggestion that the White House and Justice Department were coordinating ahead of the report’s public release. A DOJ spokeswoman later said the press conference was not Trump’s idea. Trump said in the same interview that he might hold his own press event afterward.
“Pretty convenient of the attorney general to take questions on the report before anyone has a chance to read the report,” Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), a Judiciary Committee member, wrote on Twitter.
The uproar came as The New York Times reported that DOJ officials have had “numerous conversations” with White House lawyers about Mueller’s conclusions.
Barr has already been under fire from Democrats for his handling of the Mueller investigation. In his four-page summary of the report, the attorney general said Mueller uncovered evidence that Trump obstructed justice, but Barr decided against charging Trump with a crime.
In two Capitol Hill hearings last week, Barr did not answer questions about the Justice Department’s coordination or contact with the White House.
“So-called Attorney General is presiding over a dog and pony show,” tweeted House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries. “Here is a thought. Release the Mueller report tomorrow morning and keep your mouth shut. You have ZERO credibility.”
Democrats’ complaints arrived just as the Justice Department confirmed plans to allow “a limited number of members of Congress and their staff” to view a version of the Mueller report “without certain redactions.” But rather than give these lawmakers a copy, DOJ officials said in a court filing they would “secure this version of the report in an appropriate setting” only available to these few lawmakers and aides.
Justice Department officials also indicated that if Congress seeks its own version of the less-redacted report, they’ll lean on federal District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson — who is presiding over the pending trial of longtime Trump associate Roger Stone — to determine what to do next.
In a court filing in Stone’s case, prosecutors said they would seek her guidance should Congress ask for the report, and they sense a “reasonable likelihood” that its contents will become public.
Nadler is expected to issue a subpoena as soon as Friday or Monday for the full report and all of its underlying evidence and grand jury information.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
House Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings invited top White House advisor Stephen Miller to come to Capitol Hill to testify about his role in key immigration decisions.
Mr. Cummings said the invitation was entirely voluntary, but said it would be a chance for Mr. Miller to make his case for ...
NEW YORK (AP) - A Guatemalan presidential candidate was arrested Wednesday in Miami on drug and weapons charges, accused of plotting to assassinate political rivals and to let drug dealers use Guatemala's ports and airports.
The candidate, Mario Amilcar Estrada Orellana, 58, and an alleged accomplice, Juan Pablo Gonzalez Mayorga, ...
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan urged Congress Wednesday to address what he called “both a humanitarian and security crisis” at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In his first public appearance since he replaced Kirstjen Nielsen last week at the Department of Homeland Security, McAleenan emphasized that lax asylum and immigration laws encourage Central American migrants to trek to the border.
"Without action from Congress, criminals will continue to profit from human misery along our border,” McAleenan said at a press conference near the border in Hidalgo, Texas. “It's clear that all of our resources are being stretched thin. The system is full and we are beyond capacity.”
McAleenan, who was previously Trump's Senate-confirmed Customs and Border Protection commissioner and a former Obama administration official, warned that a rising tide of migrants at the border will place more strain on law enforcement and local service providers.
"We don't have room to hold them, we don't have the authority to remove them, and they are not likely to be able to be allowed to remain in the country at the end of their immigration proceedings," he said.
McAleenan takes the job as arrests along the border are soaring. In March, Border Patrol picked up nearly 93,000 migrants, the highest monthly level since April 2007. Over the past year, border arrests remained well below historic peaks during the 1990s and early 2000s, but that could change if the pace of new arrivals fails to slacken.
Families made up more than half the March total, a new trend that McAleenan and other officials argue presents unique health and safety challenges.
The administration contends that migrants will be deterred from trekking north if Congress grants DHS broader enforcement authority. The White House has pressed lawmakers to permit children to be detained for longer than 20 days and to allow unaccompanied minors from Central America to be deported more swiftly.
Democrats, however, have countered that Trump’s hard-line immigration policies haven’t worked and have exacerbated an ongoing humanitarian crisis at the border.
The acting secretary was joined Wednesday by Matthew Albence, who became the top Immigration and Customs Enforcement official last week when former acting director Ronald Vitiello was pushed out.
Albence, the acting deputy director, said hundreds of ICE personnel had been reassigned recently to assist with the custody and processing of migrant families at the border.
"This reallocation of resources comes at a significant cost,” said Albence, who donned a pair of reflective aviator sunglasses during the press conference. "Criminal aliens, gang members and public safety threats remain at large because [ICE officers] needed to locate and apprehend them have been redirected to process family units and manage the ever-increasing immigration court dockets."
Also in attendance was Rodolfo Karisch, the Border Patrol sector chief for the Rio Grande Valley.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
Hundreds of the biggest Democratic fundraisers in the last two presidential elections are already picking candidates for 2020 — and Kamala Harris has a significant early edge, while Pete Buttigieg and his from-scratch campaign has scrambled into the second tier.
Harris has already received donations from 176 people or couples who raised at least $100,000, and sometimes many multiples of that, for Hillary Clinton in 2016 or at least $50,000 for Barack Obama in 2012, according to a POLITICO analysis of new campaign finance disclosures and “bundler” data from the Center for Responsive Politics. While the Democratic presidential campaigns have been focused on building small-donor armies this year, bundlers mine their networks for checks to pass along to campaigns six- or seven-figures at a time, giving them a potentially massive role in a crowded primary.
Donations from these key fundraisers signals the out-of-the-gate interest the candidates are generating among many of the most wealthy and connected campaign supporters in the country. And while candidates have taken a more muted approach to raising checks from wealthy supporters this cycle as they seek to prove they have grassroots support online, they still benefit greatly big-donor support — and most are pursuing it seriously. Clinton and Obama’s bundlers raised hundreds of millions of dollars for their presidential campaigns, helped rally supporters to their cause, and participated in campaigns as surrogates and volunteers.
“It’s about whether you’re willing to get your hands dirty,” said Rufus Gifford, former finance director for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. “Writing the check is not good enough — [campaigns] need people to work their networks” to build a national machine of donors and volunteers to give them life, Gifford said.
Harris has received donations from more than twice as many top Democratic fundraisers as her next closest competitor, Cory Booker, who got donations from 80 Obama and Clinton bundlers in the first quarter, according to POLITICO’s review of campaign finance reports. The network helped Harris post the second-best fundraising total of any Democratic presidential candidate in the first quarter, $12 million — most of which came from donors who gave at least $200 each. Larger donors also accounted for more than 80 percent of the $5 million Booker raised early this year.
Kirsten Gillibrand (67 bundlers) and Amy Klobuchar (61) also picked up pieces of the Obama and Clinton networks. But the longtime senators were closely followed by a rising candidate, Buttigieg, who got backing from 51 bundlers despite having few fundraising connections before his campaign caught fire in March — prompting a wave of small donors to flock to his campaign, too.
Mel Heifetz, a Philadelphia-based real estate developer and philanthropist who raised money for Clinton’s campaign and donated $1 million each to super PACs supporting Obama and Clinton, donated to several candidates with whom he had existing relationships this year. Then Buttegieg caught his attention.
Heifetz received a call from Buttegieg’s husband, Chasten, after donating to the campaign and has now met with Pete Buttegieg as well. And Heifetz told POLITICO that he would spend $5 million to aid Buttegieg if he becomes the Democratic presidential nominee.
“The fact that he’s gay and is being accepted is unbelievable,” said Heifetz, who is himself gay and supports LGBTQ causes. “If it had been a straight candidate with his credentials and his background I would have supported him anyway.”
The field of experienced bundlers is still wide open for every candidate: Almost four-in-five of the Obama and Clinton fundraisers have yet to give any significant donations in the 2020 presidential race, partially because of candidates’ hesitancy to go all-out courting big money and partially because many donors want to bide their time before picking a candidate out of a crowded field. Some donors — including powerful fundraisers for Obama — are waiting to see if former Vice President Joe Biden decides to run before deciding where their loyalties lie.
While Buttegieg had built relationships with Democrats during his run for national party chair in 2017, he was still largely unknown to most Democratic donors prior to his surge in popularity this spring. His campaign is taking an “inclusive” model of reaching out to new and old party donors, campaign spokesperson Lis Smith said, encouraging donors to do outreach and fundraising of their own even if they haven’t done it before.
The donor support “tells you that people not only believe this is worth supporting, but that it has the staying power and seriousness that deserves that kind of investment,” Buttegieg said in an interview.
Some early bundler money is going in multiple directions. Minnesota businessman Bob Pohlad, who with his wife Michelle bundled money for both Obama and Clinton, donated to both Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke’s campaigns before giving money to Buttigieg.
In an interview, Pohlad said he did not know who Buttegieg was prior to his 2019 campaign and was initially impressed by his CNN town hall. He now plans to hold a small fundraiser for him during an upcoming visit to St. Paul.
Pohlad said he’s clear-eyed that Buttegieg is a somewhat improbable nominee — but he said he’s been taken in by his “message of inclusivity and reasonableness.”
“I could be his dad. I have kids Pete’s age,” Pohlad said. “But if he continues to be the way he has shown himself to be in terms of character, in terms of ideas and in terms of tone of approach, I will support him for as long as he’s in the race.”
Unlike Pohlad, a majority of fundraisers have yet to give a donation to any candidate.
POLITICO analyzed 1,924 individuals and couples whose names were on bundler lists released by the Clinton campaign in 2016 and the Obama campaign in 2012. Only 425 had made a donation to one or more candidates thus far in this presidential election cycle. The analysis included itemized donations of $200 or more that are recorded by the Federal Election Commission.
Harris, who has won statewide elections three times in California, home to many of the country’s most prolific donors, was well-positioned to seize support from many top fundraisers. Her campaign worked overtime to court wealthy supporters this spring, especially in California, at a moment when many Democrats are hesitant to be seen with rich backers.
“I’ll do anything I can do to help her campaign. She’s my number one,” said Kelly Dermody, a San Francisco-based employment lawyer who, spurred by concerns about Trump’s rise, raised more than $100,000 for Clinton in 2016. “I like where she’s going and what she stands for. If I’m able to take weekends away to do retail politics and roll up my sleeves, I will do that too.”
And fewer than half of the bundlers who gave to Harris — 81 of 176 — were based in California, according to campaign finance records, a sign her support extended beyond her home state.
Of the leading candidates for president, Bernie Sanders drew the least support from Clinton and Obama’s elite fundraisers: He received donations from only two of them — one fewer than self-help guru Marianne Williamson. Elizabeth Warren, who has sworn off closed-door fundraisers in the presidential primary, received donations from 18 people who raised big money for Clinton or Obama.
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee each received support from 25 of the top Democratic fundraisers, while Beto O’Rourke — whose 2018 Texas Senate campaign was fueled by record online donations — had 38 bundlers on his first-quarter donor rolls.
In past years, some candidates publicized fundraisers and touted their bundlers alongside their grassroots supporters as signs they were running formidable campaigns. But fundraising among Democratic candidates for president has been muffled so far this year, as many Democrats try to prove their distance from special interests and wealthy donors, instead leaning on online small-dollar fundraising for support.
For many candidates, that approach may have its limits — which were reflected in the first-quarter fundraising reports, cautioned Gifford, Obama’s former finance director.
“The campaigns need to understand that email giving is not the be-all and end-all. And we’ve seen that in the campaign fundraising numbers. This is about working it, it’s about working relationships, it’s about talking to people,” Gifford said.
Obama raised $25 million from January through March of 2007, a bigger sum than any current candidate raised during the corresponding period this year. The money helped Obama gain status in the race as a serious contender. Sanders, who raised the most of any Democratic candidate in the field, still fell short of Obama’s total, raising $18 million during the first three months of 2019 — almost all of it from small donors giving online.
Michael Toner, former counsel to the Republican National Committee and multiple Republican presidential campaigns, predicted Democratic candidates will become more aggressive about big-dollar fundraising as they head into the summer primary debates and feel more pressure to prove they are top contenders — or to drop out.
“You have to raise enough money to compete in these caucuses, and you’ve got to have the resources to compete in a multi-front war,” Toner said. “It’s a necessary, but insufficient, condition in term of getting nominated.”
James Arkin, Scott Bland, Jesse Chase-Lubitz, Jordyn Hermani, Zach Montellaro, Steven Shepard, Michael Stratford and Daniel Strauss contributed to this report.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
WASHINGTON (AP) - When President Donald Trump insisted last year that the nation's southern border was in crisis, his warnings landed with a thud.
Making unverified claims about "unknown Middle Easterners" and prayer rugs found by ranchers, Trump drew eye rolls from Democrats and many in the media, who derided ...
Burning with the velocity of a prairie fire on a gusty Indiana day, Pete Buttigieg scorched the airwaves, seared the podcasts, and charred the press this week as he ignited his presidential campaign, temporarily torching his Democratic competition in the process.
The secret to Buttigieg’s publicity run was no secret, wrote Matthew Yglesias in Vox. Like Molly Bloom in his favorite novel, Ulysses, he can’t stop saying “yes”—to media invitations. In recent weeks he’s appeared on a CNN town hall, Ellen, A list podcasts, and Morning Joe, and been featured in New York, Politico Magazine, the Atlantic, and much more. But saying yes is never enough to hold the press spellbound. Buttigieg has satisfied the ravenous press corps’ appetite by offering them an entire menu of newish things—no, make that entire food court of newish things—to write about. He’s the youngest candidate in the field (at 37 he’s the only millennial except Tulsi Gabbard), he’s gay and now married, he’s an Afghan war veteran, he’s a Rhodes scholar (as is Cory Booker, but never mind), he plays a decent piano, he’s a church-goer, he’s the mayor of the fourth largest city in Indiana, he once gave of a TEDx talk, he worked as a McKinsey consultant, he’s a polymath, he’s as earnest as a preacher, he’s an old person’s idea of what a young person should be like, and he’s figured out how to package progressive ideas as moderate.
The Buttigieg boom has also benefited from the stumbles of our previous political shooting star, Beto O’Rourke. Was it was only weeks ago that the press began swooning for O’Rourke like a drunken conventioneer, writing about him with the same frequency they do for Buttigieg today? The things that once seemed so appealing about O’Rourke to the press—the generalities, the platitudes, the off-handed charisma, the rolled up sleeves—seem off-putting now. The clearest sign of the press corps’ O’Rourke infatuation was their routine reference to him by his first name in their stories—something they've moved on to doing with Buttigieg. Such shameful and transparent familiarity.
Having stripped the Kennedyesque Texan of his novelty, the press corps has dumped him for the Kennedyesque Hoosier like a speed-dater on the rebound from a Tinder-relationship gone bad. Their transition to Buttigieg has been seamless, finding in him another candidate who speaks complete sentences, who likes the camera almost as much as it likes him, who subscribes to the usual Democratic articles of faith, and scans like a lost episode of The West Wing.
The fear of boredom plagues political reporters. Assigned to a well-known candidate, their first question is, “Haven’t we read this all before?” They crave novelty and newness, for the underexposed over the overexposed, and that prejudice gives relatively unknown candidates a leg up on established ones, especially in the early months of the campaign. Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, whom the press once treated as fresh, almost delectable personages a couple of years ago, are now dismissed as known, lackluster quantities.
A budding candidate like Buttigieg, on the other hand, gives reporters and editors a sense of discovery as they unearth the details from old lawsuits and busted business deals, gaffes preserved by C-SPAN, and tales from schoolmates. If a candidate’s personal history is ordinary, reporters can burn through it in a couple of weeks. But an extraordinary personal history like Buttigieg’s makes for an endlessly writeable event. Think of Buttigieg as a newborn just delivered to his newsroom parents, his every grin and wink and grimace worthy of endless analysis and discussion, and you begin to fathom the press corps’ fascination with him.
Candidates benefit from having some triumph over adversity in their resume. It can be as simple as getting shot down in enemy skies, suffering the premature loss of a loved one, or rising up from poverty. On this score, Buttigieg seems to have let the press corps down. He did come out of the closet at 33 on the op-ed page of the South Bend Tribune, but today deliberately soft-pedaled the event. Smoothed of the standard rough edges, Buttigieg’s life has a soft radiance to it, making him a bit of a walking miracle for journalists who’ve never encountered such a person.
There are two problems with generating political buzz through news coverage, as O’Rourke can tell you. The first is that it’s hard to sustain the note. Having told a candidate’s story, reporters grow bored unless he presents evidence of his viability. In the pre-primary days of the campaign, they want to see big, noisy crowds at his rallies. They want to see the campaign treasury gushing with cash. They want to see a campaign organization take shape and rising poll numbers. They want to see a winner in the making because few reporters really want to write about losers.
The second and more cautionary problem is that after all these years we’ve failed to learn that media infatuations are rarely a good proxy for voter enthusiasm. National political reporters live in a bubble that extends from New York to Washington, which makes them better at taking a colleague’s pulse than a standard-issue voter’s. (Remember how the press went gaga for John McCain?) Reporters get stampeded into over-covering a new candidate because they don’t want to miss the boat. Voters, on the other hand, move more cautiously, often taking months or a year to sort out the candidates. Reporters are fickle. Voters are loyal.
Finally, whenever a national political reporter looks at the ambitious, conspicuously educated, ticket-punching, aggressively tame candidate Buttigieg, he can’t help but see himself. Think of their coverage as modest self-assessments.
Swoon for me via email to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com. My email alerts are offended by this column. My Twitter feed is waiting for Joe Biden. My RSS feed predicts that Buttigieg will become the Harold Stassen of modern politics.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A bill to ban sanctuary policies in Florida is being hailed by supporters as a plan to keep the state safe from dangerous undocumented immigrants and scorned by opponents as a bigoted, politically motivated attack on immigrants.
The two sides clashed Wednesday as a Senate bill ...
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