Schiff: ‘More Than Circumstantial Evidence’ Trump Associates Colluded With Russia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

MAR 22 2017, 10:20 PM ET

Schiff: ‘More Than Circumstantial Evidence’ Trump Associates Colluded With Russia

WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee claimed Wednesday evening that he has seen “more than circumstantial evidence” that associates of President Donald Trump colluded with Russia while the Kremlin attempted to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the Ranking Member on the committee, was asked by Chuck Todd on “Meet The Press Daily” whether or not he only has a circumstantial case.

“Actually no, Chuck,” he said. “I can tell you that the case is more than that and I can’t go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now.”

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House Intel Cmte. Creates Confusion As Chairman Releases Trump Details 1:59

Questioned whether or not he has seen direct evidence of collusion, Schiff responded, “I don’t want to get into specifics but I will say that there is evidence that is not circumstantial and is very much worthy of an investigation.”

That is a shift from Sunday’s “Meet the Press” interview, when Schiff only went as far as to say that there was circumstantial evidence of collusion and “direct evidence” of deception.

.@RepAdamSchiff on Trump/Russia connection: “There is more than circumstantial evidence now…and is very much worthy of investigation.”

The Trump campaign and the White House have repeatedly denied that Trump’s associates were at all connected to any activities related to Russia’s attempts to influence the last election.

Schiff’s comments came after Republican committee chair Devin Nunes said that he had seen reports from the U.S. intelligence community showing communication from members of the transition team — and possibly the president himself — were “incidentally collected” as part of a broader surveillance effort.

Nunes said it appeared most of the information was collected after the election and during the transition, it appears it was collected legally, and none of it was related to Russia or the investigation into Russia. He said he did not know who ordered the alleged surveillance.

The disclosure drew condemnation from some Democrats. Schiff bristled at the fact that Nunes did not share the information with him before updating reporters and the White House.

“The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct, which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he’s going to act as a surrogate of the White House. Because he cannot do both,” Schiff said.

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Full Interview: Schiff on His Confidence in House Intel Committee 8:40

Nunes said at a press conference that “the intelligence community incidentally collected information about American citizens involved in the Trump transition.”

“From what I know right now it looks like incidental collection, we don’t know exactly how that was picked up, but we’re are trying to get to the bottom of it,” Nunes said.

Trump said he felt somewhat vindicated by Nunes’ disclosure: “I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found,” the president said.

Nunes said he has not seen any evidence that former President Barack Obama had Trump’s “wires tapped” before the election — a claim Trump made on Twitter. The director of the FBI said Monday he has no evidence backing up the tweeted claim.

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said he was “absolutely mystified by Chairman Nunes’ actions,” and the decision to brief Trump on the information “seems pretty inappropriate to me.”

Republican Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, told MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren that the back-and-forth among the top members of the committee was “bizarre” and he said partisan fighting had cost Congress its credibility to investigate Russian interference the election.

“No longer does the Congress have credibility to handle this alone, and I don’t say that lightly,” McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said.

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McCain: Select Committee On Russia Now A ‘Requirement’10:36

On Monday, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia had been ongoing since July. Comey said the probe was included in the agency’s investigation into what the U.S. intelligence community concluded was an attempt by Russia to interfere with the 2016 election with the purpose of helping Trump win.

The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are conducting their own investigations.

Two weeks ago on “Meet The Press,” James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence under President Obama, said that to his knowledge, there was no evidence of collusion between Moscow and Trump associates. Clapper oversaw the work of U.S. intelligence agencies through January 20th.

On Wednesday, Schiff told Todd of Clapper’s statements, “All I can tell you is reviewing the evidence that I have, I don’t think you can conclude that at all — far from it.”

Significant Breakthroughs For Riyadh Diplomacy In China And In The U.S.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

Significant Breakthroughs for Riyadh

This has been a significant week for Saudi diplomacy: reinforcing relations with China, the biggest oil importer in the world and opening a new page with US President Donald Trump to mend what has been ruined by former President Barack Obama who strengthened ties with Iran against Gulf and Saudi interests.

Saudi Arabia that has found itself cornered due to wars, oil and geopolitical changes is carrying out a defense campaign in return — Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is convening with China leadership that asked to mediate with Iran that is now seeking reconciliation. Meanwhile, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz met with the US president.

A Saudi spokesperson described to Bloomberg the meeting in the White House as “a turning point”, saying: “Today’s meeting has put things on the right track and marked a significant shift in relations, across all political, military, security and economic fields.” There is a clear hinting on fixing what has been ruined by Obama and restoring special relations between the two countries – these relations were established based on the outcome of the meeting held between King Abdulaziz and US President Theodore Roosevelt on board of the Navy cruiser Quincy after the end of World War II.

Officially, little has been said on the meeting of Deputy Crown Prince and Trump, who has become a president two months ago, but the White House showed huge interest. Trump held the meeting two days ahead and included the vice-president in it.

What has been stated by unofficial sources reveals that Washington has changed its policy towards Iran and that it would not sit idle when it comes to Iran’s terrorist activities. Weeks ago, the US administration announced a different stance in which it permitted loading ammunition and providing intelligence information to support Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

Saudi-US relations were tense during the presidency of Obama. In fact, the whole region underwent an unprecedented turmoil because Obama’s openness towards Iran urged its military expansion in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Chaos is one of his tenure consequences, also.

Among the topics raised by Prince Mohammed during his visit was to persuade Trump with a new relation that seeks mending the situation, confronting Iran’s manipulation and fighting terrorism – the common enemy of everyone – via fighting it socially and economically. A spokesperson in the delegation pointed out that the US party is interested in reinforcing participation in the economic vision projects.

In China, Iran was not the only topic on the table especially that relations are good in: oil, economy, military cooperation and critical files, basically the military cooperation. There is also the promising project of China, the Silk Road – a giant economic project of complex political problematic issues because it passes in conflict regions. This road might benefit from Saudi Arabia as a passage or a parallel route.

Information released by Beijing reveals that it will quietly continue to consolidate its presence in west Asia and east Africa. China is the second strongest economic power after the US and, as major countries, needs raw materials, energy sources, trade passages and a protection for its investments and interests.

Unlike other major countries, China does not rely on military presence to impose its influence but rather uses its economic presence to impose its stances and secure its interests.

There are two models in the Middle East: one that seeks reinforcing relations via economic and development cooperation and another that uses wars and terrorism as a method to impose its relations.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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President Trump Lied About Wire Taps: He Needs To Quickly And Publicly Apologize To Mr. Obama

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that “no such wiretap existed,” citing intelligence reports to House leaders after President Donald Trump accused then-President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower last year.

“The intelligence committees, in their continuing, widening, ongoing investigations of all things Russia, got to the bottom — at least so far with respect to our intelligence community — that no such wiretap existed,” Ryan said in response to a question from CNN at a news conference.
Ryan’s comment comes as Trump and the White House have retreated from the President’s stunning accusation in a tweet two weeks ago.
“When I say wiretapping, those words were in quotes. That really covers — because wiretapping is pretty old-fashioned stuff — but that really covers surveillance and many other things. And nobody ever talks about the fact that it was in quotes, but that’s a very important thing,” Trump told Fox News Wednesday.
The four lawmakers leading the House and Senate intelligence committees looking into Russia’s interference in the US elections have all said they have not seen any evidence to back up Trump’s claims. The House Intelligence Committee has requested any evidence of a wiretap from the Justice Department by Monday.

Wire Tapping Your Phone Lines, No Proof: The Biggest Habitual Liar: Hillary Or Donald The Quack?


(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)

The top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said today that there is no evidence that any wiretap took place at President Donald Trump’s building in Manhattan during the presidential campaign or transition.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said that there is “no basis” for President Trump‘s accusations that President Obama illegally wiretapped Trump Tower “whatsoever.”

Schiff said it “deeply concerns me that the president would make such an accusation without basis.”

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said “I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.”

Trump had alleged in a series of Tweets that former President Barack Obama had his phones tapped.

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

 “The challenge here is that the President Obama wouldn’t physically go over and wiretap and then you have to decide if you’re going to take the tweets literally, and if you are, then clearly the president was wrong.” Nunes said referring to the multiple tweets that President Trump sent on the morning of March 4 making accusations.

“But if you’re not going to take the tweets literally and if there’s a concern that the president has about other people, other surveillance activities looking at him or his associates, either appropriately or inappropriately, We want to find that out. It’s all in the interpretation of what you believe,” he said.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer maintained that the president will be “vindicated” by evidence. On March 13, Spicer said that Trump was not talking literally or specifically when he accused President Obama of “wiretapping” his campaign.

“If you look at the president’s tweet, he said wiretapping in quotes. There’s been substantial discussion in several reports,” Spicer said.

“The president was very clear in his tweet, it was wiretapping. That spans a host of surveillance options,” he said. “The House and the Senate Intelligence Committees will now look into that and provide a report back. I think there’s been numerous reports from a variety of outlets over the last couple months that seem to indicate that there has been different types of surveillance that occurred during the 2016 election.”

Nunes said that there will be a public hearing about the issue in the coming weeks.

“Certainly at the open hearing that we have… we’ll be asking the director if he has seen any evidence that substantiates the president’s claim,” Schiff said.

President Trump Fires 46 Federal Prosecutors At The ‘Justice’ Department

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration moved on Friday to sweep away most of the remaining vestiges of Obama administration prosecutors at the Justice Department, ordering 46 holdover United States attorneys to tender their resignations immediately — including Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan.

The firings were a surprise — especially for Mr. Bharara, who has a reputation for prosecuting public corruption cases and for investigating insider trading. In November, Mr. Bharara met with then President-elect Donald J. Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan and told reporters afterward that both Mr. Trump and Jeff Sessions, who is now the attorney general, had asked him about staying on, which the prosecutor said he expected to do.

But on Friday, Mr. Bharara was among federal prosecutors who received a call from Dana Boente, the acting deputy attorney general, instructing him to resign, according to a person familiar with the matter. As of Friday evening, though some of the prosecutors had publicly announced their resignations, Mr. Bharara had not. A spokesman for Mr. Bharara declined to comment.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in an email that all remaining holdover United States attorneys had been asked to resign, leaving their deputy United States attorneys, who are career officials, in place in an acting capacity.

Continue reading the main story

The abrupt order came after two weeks of increasing calls from Mr. Trump’s allies outside the government to oust appointees from President Barack Obama’s administration. Mr. Trump has been angered by a series of reports based on leaked information from a sprawling bureaucracy, as well as from his own West Wing.

Several officials said the firings had been planned before Friday.

But the calls from the acting deputy attorney general arose a day after Sean Hannity, the Fox News commentator who is a strong supporter of President Trump, said on his evening show that Mr. Trump needed to “purge” Obama holdovers from the federal government. Mr. Hannity portrayed them as “saboteurs” from the “deep state” who were leaking secrets to hurt Mr. Trump. It also came the same week that government watchdogs wrote to Mr. Bharara and urged him to investigate whether Mr. Trump had violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bars federal officials from taking payments from foreign governments.

In Mr. Hannity’s monologue, he highlighted the fact that the Clinton administration had told all 93 United States attorneys to resign soon after he took office in 1993, and that “nobody blinked an eye,” but he said it became a scandal when the George W. Bush administration fired several top prosecutors midway through his second term.

Several Democratic members of Congress said they only heard that the United States attorneys from their states were being immediately let go shortly before the Friday afternoon statement from the Justice Department. One senator, speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect the identity of the United States attorney in that state, said that an Obama-appointed prosecutor had been instructed to vacate the office by the end of the day.

Although it was not clear whether all were given the same instructions, that United States attorney was not the only one told to clear out by the close of business. The abrupt nature of the dismissals distinguished Mr. Trump’s mass firing from Mr. Clinton’s, because the prosecutors in 1993 were not summarily told to clear out their offices.

Michael D. McKay, who was the United States attorney in Seattle under the George Bush administration, recalled that even though he had already made plans to leave, he nevertheless stayed on for about three weeks beyond a request by then-Attorney General Janet Reno for all of the holdover prosecutors to resign. He also recalled at least one colleague who was in the midst of a major investigation and was kept on to finish it.

“I’m confident it wasn’t on the same day,” he said, adding: “While there was a wholesale ‘Good to see you, thanks for your service, and now please leave,’ people were kept on on a case-by-case basis depending on the situation.”

Two United States attorneys survived the firings: Mr. Boente, the top prosecutor for the Eastern District of Virginia, who is serving as acting deputy attorney general, and Rod Rosenstein, the top prosecutor in Baltimore, whom Mr. Trump has nominated to be deputy attorney general.

“The president called Dana Boente and Rod Rosenstein tonight to inform them that he has declined to accept their resignation, and they will remain in their current positions,” said Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman.

It remains possible that Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions could put others on that list later.

It is not unusual for a new president to replace United States attorneys appointed by a predecessor, especially when there has been a change in which party controls the White House.

Still, other presidents have done it gradually in order to minimize disruption, giving those asked to resign more time to make the transition while keeping some inherited prosecutors in place, as it had appeared Mr. Trump would do with Mr. Bharara. Mr. Obama, for example, kept Mr. Rosenstein, who had been appointed by George W. Bush.

The abrupt mass firing appeared to be a change in plans for the administration, according to a statement by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“In January, I met with Vice President Pence and White House Counsel Donald McGahn and asked specifically whether all U.S. attorneys would be fired at once,” she said. “Mr. McGahn told me that the transition would be done in an orderly fashion to preserve continuity. Clearly this is not the case. I’m very concerned about the effect of this sudden and unexpected decision on federal law enforcement.”

Still, the cases the various federal prosecutors were overseeing will continue, with their career deputies becoming acting United States attorneys in their place for the time being.

Mr. Bharara has been among the highest-profile United States attorneys, with a purview that includes Wall Street and public corruption prosecutions, including of both Democratic and Republican officials and other influential figures.

His office, for example, has prosecuted top police officials in New York and the powerful leader of the city correction officers’ union; they have pleaded not guilty. It is preparing to try a major public corruption case involving former aides and associates of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and is looking into allegations of pay-for-play around Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York.

But Mr. Bharara is also closely associated with the Senate minority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York. Mr. Bharara was formerly a counsel to Mr. Schumer, who pushed Mr. Obama to nominate Mr. Bharara to be the top federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York.

At the time of the November meeting at Trump Tower, Mr. Schumer was saying publicly that Democrats should try to find common ground and work with the president-elect. But relations between Mr. Trump and Mr. Schumer have since soured.

Mr. Trump has called Mr. Schumer the Democrats’ “head clown” and accused him of shedding “fake tears” over the president’s efforts to bar refugees from entering the United States.

For his part, Mr. Schumer has called for an independent investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and demanded that Mr. Sessions resign for having testified that he had no contacts with Russians even though he had met with the Russian ambassador.

The White House officials ascribed the reversal over Mr. Bharara as emblematic of a chaotic transition process. One official said it was tied to Mr. Trump’s belief in November that he and Mr. Schumer would be able to work together.

Continue reading the main story

FBI Director James Comey Warned Wednesday That Americans Should Not Have Expectations Of “absolute privacy,

 

(CNN) FBI Director James Comey warned Wednesday that Americans should not have expectations of “absolute privacy,” adding that he planned to finish his term leading the FBI.

“There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America; there is no place outside of judicial reach,” Comey said at a Boston College conference on cybersecurity. He made the remark as he discussed the rise of encryption since 2013 disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed sensitive US spy practices.
“Even our communications with our spouses, with our clergy members, with our attorneys are not absolutely private in America,” Comey added. “In appropriate circumstances, a judge can compel any one of us to testify in court about those very private communications.”
But, he also said Americans “have a reasonable expectation of privacy in our homes, in our cars, in our devices.
“It is a vital part of being an American. The government cannot invade our privacy without good reason, reviewable in court,” Comey continued.
In the last four months of 2016, the FBI lawfully gained access to 2,800 devices recovered in criminal, terrorism and counterintelligence investigations and the FBI was unable to open 43% of those devices, Comey said.
Americans’ desire for privacy and security should never be viewed as incompatible, he said.
“We all value privacy. We all value security. We should never have to sacrifice one for the other,” Comey said. “Our founders struck a bargain that is at the center of this amazing country of ours and has been for over two centuries.”
FBI director at center of many controversies
Comey’s leadership of the FBI has been marked by controversy in the wake of the bureau’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email controversy and President Donald Trump’s baseless accusations that President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of phones at Trump Tower.
He did not address the wiretapping claim nor WikiLeaks’ recent claim that it obtained internal CIA documents.
Comey did, however, say he plans to finish out his 10-year term.
“You’re stuck with me for about another 6 1/2 years, and so I’d love to be invited back again,” he said.

Muslim Woman Pens Essay About Her 8 Days Working For President Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

NEWS

Muslim Woman Pens Essay About Her 8 Days Working for President Trump

Feb. 24, 2017

‘I was the only hijabi in the West Wing’

A Muslim woman who spent eight days working in President Donald Trump’s White House penned a powerful essay about the experience.

Rumana Ahmed was hired right after college to work in the White House, eventually landing on the National Security Council under President Barack Obama. “I am a hijab-wearing Muslim woman — I was the only hijabi in the West Wing — and the Obama administration always made me feel welcome and included,” Ahmed wrote in The Atlantic. “It felt surreal — a 22-year-old American Muslim woman from Maryland who had been mocked and called names for covering my hair, working for the president of the United States.”

Though she said that Trump’s rhetoric against Muslims during the 2016 presidential election dismayed her, she decided to remain on the National Security Council so she could have a seat at the table. “Cautiously optimistic, and feeling a responsibility to try to help them continue our work and be heard, I decided that Trump’s NSC could benefit from a colored, female, hijab-wearing, American Muslim patriot,” she said.

But she ultimately came to regret that decision, saying that the diverse White House she worked for under President Obama became a “monochromatic and male bastion.” She decided to leave after President Trump signed an executive order that temporarily suspended the State Department’s Refugee Assistance Program and temporarily banned travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“I knew I could no longer stay and work for an administration that saw me and people like me not as fellow citizens, but as a threat,” she wrote.”

A new, liberal tea party is forming. Can it last without turning against Democrats?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

A new, liberal tea party is forming. Can it last without turning against Democrats?

Angry Utahns pack Chaffetz’s home state town hall
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Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) got a frosty reception in his home state on Feb. 9, at a town hall. Angry constituents packed a high school auditorium, grilled the high-ranking congressman with questions and peppered him with boos and chants while protesters amassed outside.(Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
February 11 at 4:50 PM
Grass-roots movements can be the life and death of political leaders.It’s a well-worn story now about how John A. Boehner, then House minority leader, joined a rising star in his caucus, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, in April 2009 for one of the first major tea party protests in the California Republican’s home town of Bakersfield.

A little more than six years later, after they surfed that wave into power, the movement consumed both of them. Boehner was driven out of the House speaker’s office and McCarthy’s expected succession fell apart, leaving him stuck at the rank of majority leader.

Democrats are well aware of that history as they try to tap the energy of the roiling liberal activists who have staged rallies and marches in the first three weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency.

What if they can fuse these protesters, many of whom have never been politically active, into the liberal firmament? What if a new tea party is arising, with the energy and enthusiasm to bring out new voters and make a real difference at the polls, starting with the 2018 midterm elections?

Boycotts and outrage: A new normal on Capitol Hill?

Republicans were forced to reschedule votes for key cabinet picks after Democrats intensified their opposition to President Trump’s nominations. (Video: Alice Li, Whitney Leaming/Photo: Getty/The Washington Post)

The women’s marches that brought millions onto streets across the country the day after Trump’s inauguration — spurred organically through social media — opened Democratic leaders’ eyes to the possibilities.

With a 10-day recess beginning next weekend, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has instructed her members to hold a “day of action” in their districts, including town halls focused on saving the Affordable Care Act. The following weekend, Democratic senators and House members will hold protests across the country, hoping to link arms with local activists who have already marched against Trump.

“It was important to us to make sure that we reach out to everyone we could, to visit with them, to keep them engaged, to engage those that maybe aren’t engaged,” Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told reporters at a Democratic retreat in Baltimore that ended Friday. The trick is to keep them aiming their fire at Republicans and Trump, not turning it into a circular firing squad targeting fellow Democrats.

“Now we want people to run for office, to volunteer and to vote,” Luján added.

It’s too early to tell which direction this movement will take, but there are some similarities to the early days of the conservative tea party.

In early 2009, as unemployment approached 10 percent and the home mortgage industry collapsed, the tea party emerged in reaction to the Wall Street bailout. It grew throughout the summer of 2009 as the Obama administration and congressional Democrats pushed toward passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Many of the protesters were newly engaged, politically conservative but not active with their local GOP and often registered as independents. Their initial fury seemed directed exclusively at Democrats, given that they controlled all the levers of power in Washington at the time; the protesters famously provoked raucous showdowns at Democratic town halls over the August 2009 recess.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s first brush with the anti-Trump liberal movement came in a similar fashion to Boehner and McCarthy’s Bakersfield foray in 2009. Originally slated to deliver a brief speech at the women’s march in New York, Schumer instead spent 4 1/2 hours on the streets there, talking to people he had never met. By his estimate, 20 percent of them did not vote in November.

That, however, is where Schumer must surely hope the similarities end.

By the spring and summer of 2010, the tea party rage shifted its direction toward Republican primary politics. One incumbent GOP senator lost his primary, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) defeated the Kentucky establishment favorite, and three other insurgents knocked off other seasoned Republicans in Senate primaries (only to then lose in general elections).

One force that helped the tea party grow was a collection of Washington-based groups with some wealthy donors, notably the Koch-funded Americans For Prosperity, who positioned themselves as the self-declared leaders of the movement. For the next few years, they funded challenges to Republican incumbents, sparking a civil war that ran all the way through the 2016 GOP presidential primaries.

Boehner could never match the rhetorical ferocity of the movement. He was perpetually caught in a trap of overpromising and under-delivering. Republicans never repealed Obamacare, as they derisively called the ACA, and they could not stop then-President Obama’s executive orders on immigration. Boehner resigned in October 2015.

Democrats want and need parallel outside groups to inject money and organization into their grass roots. There are signs it is happening: The thousands of activists who protested at a series of raucous town halls hosted by Republican congressmen over the past week were urged to action in part by sophisticated publicity campaigns run by such professional liberal enterprises as the Indivisible Guide, a blueprint for lobbying Congress written by former congressional staffers, and Planned Parenthood Action.

What is less clear is whether such energy and resources will remain united with Democratic leaders — or will be turned on them, as happened with the tea party and the Republican establishment, if the activist base grows frustrated with the pace of progress.

There have been some signs of liberal disgruntlement toward Democratic leaders. Pelosi and Schumer (D-N.Y.) were jeered by some in a crowd of more than 1,000 that showed up at the Supreme Court two weeks ago to protest Trump’s executive order travel ban. Marchers showed up outside Schumer’s home in Brooklyn, demanding he “filibuster everything” and complaining that he supported Trump’s Cabinet members involved in national security.

But there are two key differences between the conservative and liberal movements: their funding, and their origins. Some anti-establishment liberal groups have feuded with leaders, but they are poorly funded compared with their conservative counterparts. And the tea party came of age in reaction not only to Obama but, before that, to what the movement considered a betrayal by George W. Bush’s White House and a majority of congressional Republicans when they supported the 2008 Wall Street bailout.

There is no similar original sin for Democrats, as the liberal protests have grown as a reaction to Trump, not some failing by Schumer and Pelosi.

Schumer remains unconcerned about the few protesters who are angry at Democratic leaders. “I think the energy’s terrific. Do some of them throw some brickbats and things? Sure, it doesn’t bother me,” Schumer said in a recent interview.

How the liberal activists respond to early defeats may be the next sign of which direction the movement takes. Their demand that Schumer block Trump’s Cabinet is impossible to satisfy, because a simple majority can confirm these picks. All Schumer can do is drag out the debate, which he has done to an unprecedented degree.

The stakes will be even higher for the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, whose lifetime appointment still requires a 60-vote supermajority to reach a final confirmation vote. A Trump victory on Gorsuch might deflate the liberal passion, and some think that was the main ingredient missing for Democrats in 2016.

“We just didn’t have the emotional connection,” Pelosi told reporters in Baltimore. “He had the emotional connection.”

For Many on Chicago’s South Side, Obama’s Farewell Will Be Personal

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

The chair President Obama used to sit in to get his haircut at the Hyde Park Hair Salon. An Obama cut, at $24, remains popular.Credit David Kasnic for The New York Times

CHICAGO — If the metal barricades, “Do Not Enter” signs and lurking Secret Service agents were a bother the past eight years in the Hyde Park-Kenwood area — the South Side neighborhood where President Obama still owns a house, but rarely has been home — residents are not complaining.

“All that’s been fine, really. You get used to it,” said Adela Cepeda, who like many people on Mr. Obama’s block of Greenwood Avenue met him before he was president, or a senator, or elected to anything at all. “To me, it’s just too bad his time will be over. This has been fabulous for Chicago in a certain way. I think that all things being equal, we came first. But I guess all good things must end.”

As Mr. Obama prepared to give his farewell address on Tuesday from McCormick Place, the cavernous convention center beside Lake Michigan, people in his hometown sounded by turns possessive, proud, anxious and wistful. With his election in 2008, this city — and its heavily African-American South Side in particular — had suddenly been thrust to the forefront of the national political conversation. And so early Saturday, in temperatures barely above zero, thousands waited outside for the chance to receive free tickets to witness the end of that story. By Sunday, tickets were being hawked online for as much as $5,000.

Lining Up for Obama’s Farewell Address

People waited in long lines in sub-zero wind chill temperatures outside McCormick Place to get tickets for President Obama’s farewell speech.

By REUTERS on Publish Date January 10, 2017. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images. Watch in Times Video »

Near the Obamas’ red brick Georgian, not far from the University of Chicago, some wondered gloomily whether his legacy might now be erased by his successor, Donald J. Trump, who received just 12 percent of the vote in Chicago and only single-digit slivers in the wards near Mr. Obama’s house.

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“I guess I feel sad,” said Antonio Coye, a barber at the Hyde Park Hair Salon, where the plain black chair Mr. Obama used to sit in for his trims is now preserved under glass. Not long ago, a crew of Lycra-clad bicyclists peered at the chair from the foyer of the small shop, where a line of men forms on Saturdays and “the Obama cut,” a professional-looking taper on the side and the back for $24, remains popular.

Photo

Icelia Crouse and her sister Stephanie inside of Valois, a restaurant in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood that President Obama used to frequent. Credit David Kasnic for The New York Times

“This was really something unique that happened,” Mr. Coye said as he worked on a customer with a razor over the weekend. “It was the first time somebody really different became president, and he did a really good job. To me, the person in office after him is going to make his time in office stand out even more than it did already.”

Full-size tour buses, once an oddity, cruise down Hyde Park Boulevard with some frequency now. People can occasionally be seen pulling over with cameras outside a nondescript shopping center along 53rd Street, where an easy-to-overlook plaque notes the Obamas’ first date, during which Barack Obama bought Michelle Robinson ice cream from a Baskin-Robbins shop that has since become a Subway.

For a place that has not forgotten being called the Second City by a New Yorker writer long ago, Chicago had watched its standing, in the eyes of the coasts, rise along with Mr. Obama’s. Chicagoans were entrusted with important posts in Washington, and many of them, along with the first family, had roots on the South Side, rather than on the richer and whiter North Side.

At points during the eight-year term, Chicago voices seemed to be everywhere. Both Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod, who is now back in Hyde Park at the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, were senior advisers. Chicago cabinet members included Arne Duncan (education) and Penny Pritzker (commerce). Austan Goolsbee, another Hyde Parker, was an economic adviser, and Desirée Rogers was an early White House social secretary. And Mr. Obama’s first-term chiefs of staff included William M. Daley, the brother of Chicago’s former mayor, and Rahm Emanuel, who was later elected mayor.

But it is not just the shutting of that pipeline that causes concern. In Mr. Obama’s old neighborhood, the notion that Mr. Trump was soon to step in left some speaking of the president’s farewell speech in terms more akin to a funeral than a celebration.

Many recalled watching an ebullient re-election evening here in 2012, when President Obama appeared at McCormick Place — a bookend, it now seems, to Tuesday night. Others recounted how they had felt as they watched his 2008 victory from Grant Park, the city’s downtown front yard along the lake, where he addressed thousands with the gleaming Chicago skyline as a backdrop.

Photo

A plaque noting the Obamas’ first date, at a former Baskin-Robbins on 53rd Street in Chicago.Credit David Kasnic for The New York Times

“It was a magical moment — such a positive buzz all around,” said Kevin Elliott, a manager at 57th Street Books, an underground maze where Mr. Obama had held book signings and often visited before his election.

Even here, though, a few have questioned whether Mr. Obama did as much as he could during his time in office to solve urban problems of gang violence, joblessness and segregation. In Chicago, violence cascaded last year: More people, 762, were murdered in the president’s hometown in 2016 than in New York and Los Angeles combined. Some complained that Mr. Obama had not interceded forcefully enough.

“He was a community organizer here himself, and he should be embarrassed that he came in as president and the problems have actually worsened,” said Ja’Mal Green, a local activist.

But others, like Mr. Coye, the barber, noted that Mr. Obama was president of the United States, not of the South Side: “Who knows what happens now, but you can’t have expected him to solve this city’s violence.”

The Obama’s intend to stay in Washington while their younger daughter finishes high school, but many residents here believe that they might never return to the house on Greenwood Avenue. He is building his presidential library in Chicago, many say, and that is just fine.

“No, he’s not coming back, and he shouldn’t, either — he couldn’t go anywhere without being recognized,” said Stephanie Crouse, 53, a school bus driver eating her lunch from a tray at Valois, a Hyde Park cafeteria Mr. Obama once frequented.

“This is like your kids,” she added. “He’s done his thing. He did what he could. And you’re sending him off now to graduate and move up and go off to better things.”

Trump, Republicans: Warning Shot Across The Bow: House GOP guts ethics panel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN NEWS)

House GOP guts ethics panel

  • The amendment was proposed by Republican Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte
  • This move would weaken ethics oversight in Congress

Washington (CNN)House Republicans voted Monday night to gut Congress’ independent watchdog on the eve of a new era.

Republican members voted 119-74 — breaking with party leaders — during a closed-door meeting in favor of Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s proposal, which would place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under the control of those very lawmakers, a move that outraged Democrats and outside ethics organizations.
The change in rules carries the appearance of House members taking power away from the office that can investigate them for misconduct, at a time when Republicans are about to have control of two branches of government with a mandate for shaking up Washington.
The proposal would bar the panel from reviewing any violation of criminal law by members of Congress, requiring that it turn over complaints instead to the House Ethics Committee or refer the matter to an appropriate federal law enforcement agency. The House Ethics Committee would also have the power to stop an investigation at any point and bars the ethics office from making any public statements about any matters or hiring any communications staff.
And the ethics office would no longer be able to accept or investigate any anonymous reports of alleged wrongdoing by members of Congress.
The full House of Representatives will now vote on it as part of a larger rules package up for consideration Tuesday.
Currently the ethics panel operates as an independent, non-partisan entity that has the power to investigate misconduct against lawmakers, officers and staff of the United States House of Representatives. Originally created by Congress under Nancy Pelosi’s speakership in the wake of multiple lobbying scandals, it continued to act as an independent body under then-House Speaker John Boehner.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and other top GOP leaders opposed the change to ethics rules, but rank-and-file members disregarded their views and voted to approve the new structure for ethics reviews going forward, according to a senior House GOP leadership source familiar with the closed-door discussion.
Members of both parties complain that panel often takes up matters based on partisan accusations from outside groups with political motivations, and once they launch a probe members have to mount expensive defense campaigns.
Pelosi slammed the move.
“Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions. Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress,” she said in a statement Monday following the vote.
Pelosi added: “The amendment Republicans approved tonight would functionally destroy this office.”
Goodlatte defended his proposal in the wake of the outrage Monday evening, telling CNN that the move “will make sure that work is properly done,” but “will also make sure that people who are wrongly charged have an opportunity to protect themselves.”
“There should be no entity in the entire federal government that doesn’t have review by some committee of the Congress so that’s all it sets up is oversight,” he said. “It still has its designated statutory responsibilities. It has some new rules that it has to follow but it still is empowered to take complaints from individuals as it was intended to do and investigate those complaints but every agency of the government whether it’s executive, legislative or judicial should have a committee that reviews it’s work.”
GOP Rep. Hal Rogers, the Appropriations Committee chairman, told reporters he backed the proposal because “it’s the right thing to do.”
Rogers said there were “numerous examples” of members “who were falsely accused by this group who had to spend a fortune to get their good name restored so I think there’s been an abuse.”
Texas Congressman Bill Flores also backed the change, saying the panel is “out of control‎, we don’t even get constitutional rights, constitutional protections. They don’t tell us who accuses us and they leak the data — they are out of control.”
Outside ethics group point to the ethics panel as the only real entity policing members and argue its independent status and bipartisan board are an appropriate way to oversee investigations.
“Gutting the independent ethics office is exactly the wrong way to start a new Congress,” said Chris Carson, spokesperson for League of Women Voters, in a statement. “This opens the door for special interest corruption just as the new Congress considers taxes and major infrastructure spending.”
Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit watchdog group, said the ethics office “has played a critical role in seeing that the congressional ethics process is no longer viewed as merely a means to sweep problems under the rug.”
“If the 115th Congress begins with rules amendments undermining (the ethics office), it is setting itself up to be dogged by scandals and ethics issues for years and is returning the House to dark days when ethics violations were rampant and far too often tolerated,” they said in a Monday night statement.
Eisen served as the top ethics lawyer for President Barack Obama and Painter held the same job under President George W. Bush.
CNN’s Tal Kopan contributed to this report.

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