Barr contradicted and struggled with key findings of Muller report

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)

 

Barr contradicted and struggled with key findings of Mueller report

PHOTO: Attorney General William Barr responds as he is asked a question from Sen. Richard Blumenthal during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 1, 2019.Susan Walsh/AP
WATCHAttorney General William Barr defends himself in Senate Judiciary Committee hearing

During his four-hour back and forth with senators on Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr questioned, and at times seemed to contradict, key findings in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

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Time and again, faced with questions from probing Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats about the report’s contents, Barr also seemed unfamiliar with some of the report’s significant details.

When Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., brought up how then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort shared polling data in August 2016 with his former business associate, Konstantin Kilimnik — identified by prosecutors as having ties to Russian intelligence — Barr struggled.

“What information was shared?” Barr asked, prompting Booker to reply, “Polling data was shared, sir. It’s in the report.”

“With who?” Barr followed up.

PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee May 1, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Barr testified on the Justice Departments investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.Win Mcnamee/Getty Images
U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee May 1, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Barr testified on the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.more +

The special counsel’s team had concluded there weren’t sufficient grounds to prosecute Manafort’s actions as a crime of conspiracy, but a top prosecutor in Mueller’s office previously described Manafort’s interactions with Kilimnik as being at the “heart” of the probe about whether Trump’s campaign had coordinated with the Russian government.

In another instance, when Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., quoted the Mueller report about “multiple links between Trump campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government” and that in some instances “the campaign was receptive to the offer whereas others they were not,” Barr indicated that he did not understand “what communications that referred to.”

Leahy said, “You have the report. I just gave you the page from the report.”

At another point Leahy questioned if Trump had “fully cooperated” with Mueller, as Barr wrote, “by instructing a former aide to tell the attorney general to un-recuse himself, shut down the investigation and declare the president did nothing wrong.”

“Where is that in the report?” Barr asked. When Leahy pointed to the page number, Barr muttered, “Right.”

At other times, the attorney general appeared to directly contradict key findings in the Mueller report, including when giving his view of the interactions between Trump and then-White House Counsel Don McGahn about the president’s attempts to get rid of Mueller.

During questioning by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Barr stated that Trump had attempted to remove Mueller because of “conflict of interest” and not to terminate the investigation. He said the president had directed McGahn to correct a New York Times article that reported on what Trump had told McGahn only because he deemed it inaccurate.

According to the Mueller report, however, evidence showed that “the President was not just seeking an examination of whether conflicts existed but instead was looking to use asserted conflicts as a way to terminate the special counsel.” The Mueller report also stated, “There is also evidence that the President knew that he should not have made those calls to McGahn.”

“The report is over 400 pages,” a Justice Department official told ABC News. “It would be impossible for anyone to remember every detail of the report off-hand.”

Asked whether Barr’s testimony contradicted Mueller’s findings, the Justice Department official answered, “No.”

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Cory Booker, left, and Sen. Kamala Harris, right, listen as Attorney General William Barr testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 1, 2019.Andrew Harnik/AP
Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Cory Booker, left, and Sen. Kamala Harris, right, listen as Attorney General William Barr testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 1, 2019.more +

Maybe one of the most contentious moments came when Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris asked Barr if he, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or anyone in his executive office had questioned or reviewed the underlying evidence supporting the report’s findings, and Barr replied, “No.”

“In the Department of Justice, we have cross memos every day coming up,” Barr said. “We don’t go and look at the underlying evidence. We take the characterization of the evidence as true.”

Harris shot back, questioning Barr’s decision to accept charging recommendations without reviewing underlying evidence when making a “critical decision” about “the person who holds the highest office in the land and whether or not that person committed a crime.”

“I think you’ve made it clear, sir, that you have not looked at the evidence and we can move on,” Harris said.

ABC News’ Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.

Are You An American Citizen?—If So, Then You Don’t Matter!

Are You An American Citizen?–If So, Then You Don’t Matter!

 

Good evening everyone, I have been thinking of this article and of how I would write it ever since the Robert Mueller Report came out. This letter to you tonight is my thoughts on that Report and all of the Politicians, especially in Washington D.C.. If you are a citizen of this country, are you upset, are you mad? I am not speaking of whether you think our President is even more of a crook than Richard Nixon or that he is a traitor or not. What I am speaking of is how we the people and even the Congress itself are being kept ignorant to all the things that are written in that report.  Mr. Barr (the Attorney General, the Nation’s Top Cop) played politics to get the job then has done nothing but lie and shield the President since he got his current job. Folks, it is not the job of the Attorney General to protect the President, it is his job to protect the rule of law.

 

This report by Mr. Mueller and his staff that cost the U.S. taxpayers several million dollars and almost two years in its making is the property of the people of this country. This is the single most important document to have been paid for by our money since well before Nixon lied to us all on T.V. back in 1974. The reason for the title that I chose about how we the people of this country do not matter in Washington D.C. or in the 50 State Capitals is simple, it is the truth. I live in the state of Kentucky and the Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is from this state and personally, he sickens me.

 

What has been (once again) proven is that the only thing that actually matters in U.S. politics is whether you ‘as President’ are a Republican or a Democrat. Do not get me wrong, I am not a Democrat or a Republican, I am a registered voting Independent, I can’t stand either ‘Party’, in my belief they are as evil as can be. With all of this Report the only thing that matters to the Republicans is that this Republican President stays in the White House. If Hillary Clinton had won (and I think she probably did) do you not think the Democratic Scum would through treason against the American People would be protecting Her in the same manners that the Republican Scum are protecting Trump? This report is Our Report, we paid for it, it is ours! The people of this Country deserve the unedited truth so that we can make up our own minds if we have crooks and traitors in the White House and for that matter, traitors and crooks in the House and the Senate.!

Trump seethes, two weeks after midterms

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HILL NEWSPAPER)

 

Trump seethes, two weeks after midterms

 

Donald Trump is seething, publicly and privately, almost two weeks after midterm elections in which he at first believed he had scored a moral victory.

Democrats have run up the score in the House of Representatives and the political world has turned its focus to ominous signs for the president’s reelection hopes. In response, Trump has hit out on Twitter, in impromptu comments to reporters, and in a Sunday TV interview.

Behind the scenes, it’s no better.

“The issue was not election night. But 10 days later, we are still seeing the fallout and losing races,” said one source familiar with the president’s thinking.

Other sources who spoke with The Hill described a similar atmosphere.

“Right after the election, we felt a sense of relief that the impact of the blue wave had not been so great,” said one GOP operative with ties to the White House. “But there has been a rising tide of Democrats flipping Republican seats over the past week-and-a-half, and that has really concerned Republicans and raised eyebrows.”

People close to the administration recall, somewhat wistfully, the buoyant mood in the White House on election night, as early returns seemed to point toward a respectable showing for the GOP.

Trump’s spirits had already been lifted by the adoring crowds that had greeted him during an intense bout of campaigning in the run-up to Election Day.

On election night, the initial sense was that he had been vindicated — and not just in Senate contests.

The projection that Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) had won his competitive reelection race was met with particular pleasure at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The president had campaigned for Barr in mid-October.

But the sweetness of moments like that have curdled as Democratic gains keep ticking up. And the president seems to be taking it personally.

“All in all, it’s not bad. We are now at 37, going on 40,” the source familiar with Trump’s thinking said, referring to total seat losses for the House GOP.  But “the expectation was, for a guy who spent as much time and effort, that it would have been better.”

The president’s souring mood has been evident on Twitter, where initial proclamations of victory have given way to familiar complaints about unfair treatment by the media.

“People are not being told that the Republican Party is on track to pick up two seats in the U.S. Senate, and epic victory: 53 to 47,” he tweeted on Friday. “The Fake News Media only wants to speak of the House, where the Midterm results were better than other sitting Presidents.”

In a “Fox News Sunday” interview with Chris Wallace, Trump insisted that his mood was not dark, as Wallace posited, but “very light.”

But his later answers belied that claim. He sought credit for some victories while arguing that GOP defeats showed only that Republican candidates could not match his appeal to voters.

“I have people that won’t vote unless I’m on the ballot, okay? And I wasn’t on the ballot,” Trump told Wallace.

In and around the White House, there is speculation about how the president’s political team might change.

Political director Bill Stepien, who is held in broadly high regard even in the faction-riven White House, has been seen as likely to join the president’s reelection campaign — though some question where he would fit into a chain of command that already has a campaign manager, Brad Parscale.

Renewed speculation over chief of staff John Kelly’s future also impacts the picture.

Kelly is seen, by allies and detractors alike, as more concerned with policy and managerial order than with the finer points of electoral politics.

Were he to be replaced by a more political figure — such as Nick Ayers, currently chief of staff to Vice President Pence — that would likely have ripple effects through the in-house team.

Trump fueled the Kelly gossip during his “Fox News Sunday” interview when he pointedly declined to repeat his prior pledge that his chief of staff would remain in place until 2020.

Trump noted of Kelly, “There are a couple of things where it’s just not his strength. It’s not his fault, it’s not his strength.” Those comments could be seen as a reference to Kelly’s perceived lack of interest in campaign-style politics.

A brief but intense return to the trail could provide one salve for Trump’s spirits, however.

On Nov. 26, he will hold two rallies in Mississippi, where Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith is seeking to hold off Democrat Mike Espy in a Senate runoff set for the next day.

Meanwhile, some Trump loyalists rationalize his mood as an understandable swing after the rigors of the campaign trail.

“The last couple of days, he looked tired. I think he is probably exhausted from the [pre-election] sprint,” said Barry Bennett on Friday. Bennett served as a senior advisor to Trump’s 2016 campaign.

But, Bennett insisted, there was no underlying reason to fear for Trump’s reelection hopes.

“Structurally, I just don’t see much there,” he said. “Of course I wish we’d kept the House, but that was historically improbable.”

There are warning signs for Trump, however, including the strong performance of Democratic senators in the Rust Belt states that made the difference between winning and losing in 2016.

Democratic senators in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio all won reelection comfortably. All four states were carried by Trump two years before.

Brad Blakeman, a member of the senior staff in President George W. Bush’s administration and a supporter of the current president, demurred when asked if those results were troubling.

“I don’t think it’s troubling. I think it’s concerning,” Blakeman said. “Any president up for reelection should be concerned with his support in battleground states. But there is some comfort that can be taken from the shellacking President Obama and President Clinton took, and yet they both won reelection handily.”

In the broader Republican world, however, there is concern not just at the bottom-line results but at exit polls that showed the party faring poorly with college educated voters, female voters and in the suburbs.

Some more establishment-friendly voices place the blame on Trump, contending that his fiery rhetoric on topics such as immigration and the caravan of migrants that originated in Central America, put off as many voters as it attracted.

“I think the immigration rhetoric lost us several seats in Hispanic districts, and it’s not going to get better in 2020,” lamented one GOP operative who worked on the midterms. “There is no district we lost here that we are going to win in 2020 — and it’s going to hurt recruiting, quite honestly.”

Independent experts agree that there are portents of trouble for Trump in the midterm results, even though they stress plenty of caveats.

“Midterms are not presidential elections, and they are not predictive,”cautioned Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

“But the president’s standing is undeniably shaky and his deliberately divisive style is not allowing him to capitalize on a time of relative peace and prosperity.”

That’s the kind of verdict likely to stoke Trump’s ire to new heights.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.

The Bill And The B.S.

The Bill And The B.S.

 

So the Politicians in Washington were actually able to work together enough to get a Budget Bill passed, congrats to them on this achievement. Yet We The People have the right to say to those folks that it is about damn time you did something that wasn’t bi-polar! Example being, we see and realize that as soon as a Bill is passed, any Bill, right away you get party spin about any good things that your party liked or didn’t. Trouble is most anything ever passed, and very little is passed, is all one Party sided. Personally my political views are independent of either Party and personally I believe that most people are. We often end up voting for, if we vote at all or even register for that matter, the one we consider to be the least of the two evils. I agree with neither Party Platform, some of the things that the Democrats are for, I am for. But also I am against some of their views, just as I am with the Republicans and some of their views. Until the liberal left of the Democratic Party and the far right of the Republican Party begin to hold only a little sway within their own leaderships will the individual Representative be unhindered to vote their own and their voters own conscience.

They are (mostly all) full of it and we the public are so sick of all of them (almost all). I am sick of both party leaderships. It is they that always put so much interior pressure on the people that we voted into office. I voted for my Kentucky Congressman and Senator, I did not vote for their party leaders to dictate to them how they vote. I did not vote for an New York or the California Representative, and no one should have the power to dictate to them how they will vote on any issue, except the voter who voted them in. Then, we would have a democracy where the people rule, not some tiny Round Table with only five or six Players.

‘Trump betrays everyone’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

‘Trump betrays everyone’: The president has a long record as an unpredictable ally

 Play Video 2:39
Trump confounds conservatives by siding with Democrats
 September 9 at 8:00 AM
President Trump prepared for the pivotal meeting with congressional leaders by huddling with his senior team — his chief of staff, his legislative director and the heads of Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget — to game out various scenarios on how to fund the government, raise the debt ceiling and provide Hurricane Harvey relief.But one option they never considered was the that one the president ultimately chose: cutting a deal with Democratic lawmakers, to the shock and ire of his own party.

In agreeing to tie Harvey aid to a three-month extension of the debt ceiling and government funding, Trump burned the people who are ostensibly his allies. The president was an unpredictable — and, some would say, untrustworthy — negotiating partner with not only congressional Republicans but also with his Cabinet members and top aides. Trump saw a deal that he thought was good for him — and he seized it.

The move should come as no surprise to students of Trump’s long history of broken alliances and agreements. In business, his personal life, his campaign and now his presidency, Trump has sprung surprises on his allies with gusto. His dealings are frequently defined by freewheeling spontaneity, impulsive decisions and a desire to keep everyone guessing — especially those who assume they can control him.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), flanked by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), left, and Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) speaks Wednesday at the Capitol after President Trump overruled Republicans and his treasury secretary to cut a deal with Democrats. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

He also repeatedly demonstrates that, while he demands absolute loyalty from others, he is ultimately loyal to no one but himself.

“It makes all of their normalizing and ‘Trumpsplaining’ look silly and hollow,” said Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist sharply critical of Trump, referring to his party’s congressional leaders. “Trump betrays everyone: wives, business associates, contractors, bankers and now, the leaders of the House and Senate in his own party. They can’t explain this away as [a] 15-dimensional Trump chess game. It’s a dishonest person behaving according to his long-established pattern.”

But what many Republicans saw as betrayal was, in the view of some Trump advisers, an exciting return to his campaign promise of being a populist dealmaker able to cut through the mores of Washington to get things done.

In that Wednesday morning Oval Office meeting, Trump was impressed with the energy and vigor of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) relative to the more subdued Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). Far from fretting over the prospect of alienating McConnell and Ryan or members of his administration, he relished the opportunity for a bipartisan agreement and the praise he anticipated it would bring, according to people close to the president.

On Thursday morning, he called Pelosi and Schumer to crow about coverage of the deal — “The press has been incredible,” he told Pelosi, according to someone familiar with the call — and point out that it had been especially positive for the Democratic leaders.

At the White House later that day, Trump asked Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) how he thought the deal was playing. “I told him I thought it was great, and a gateway project to show there could be bipartisan progress,” King said. “He doesn’t want to be in an ideological straitjacket.”

In some ways, White House officials said, Trump is as comfortable working with Democrats to achieve policy goals — complete with the sheen of bipartisan luster — as he is with Republicans. Though he did not partner with Democrats to spite McConnell and Ryan, aides said, he has long felt frustrated with them for what he perceives as their inability to help shepherd his agenda through Congress, most notably their stalled efforts to undo former president Barack Obama’s signature health-care law.

On Thursday, Trump took to Twitter to express dissatisfaction with his adopted political party, complaining about Obamacare: “Republicans, sorry, but I’ve been hearing about Repeal & Replace for 7 years, didn’t happen!” He also bemoaned the legislative filibuster, which requires Republicans to work with Democrats to meet a 60-senator threshold for most votes, writing, “It is a Repub Death wish.”

Ari Fleischer, press secretary under President George W. Bush, said that Trump deserves credit for staving off, at least in the short term, a possible default and government shutdown.

“It’s going to internally hurt him that he didn’t work with Republicans on this one, but by avoiding a mess, he likely saved Republicans from themselves,” Fleischer said. “I consider it a small victory that congressional Republicans didn’t once again trip themselves up over this issue. At least for now.”

King, a moderate who represents a Long Island district that Trump carried, said: “I think this could be a new day for the Republican Party.”

Trump’s agreement with the Democrats is hardly the first time the president has flouted his allies, including those around the world, sending them skittering nervously in response to a threat or a sudden turnabout.

In April, Trump thrust Canada and Mexico — as well as many of his advisers and Cabinet officials — into a state of panic during a frenetic, if brief, period when he threatened to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement. In May, speaking in front of NATO’s sparkling new headquarters, Trump alarmed European allies when he chastised them for “not paying what they should be paying” and refused to embrace the treaty’s cornerstone — that an attack on one represents an attack on all. And in September, as the crisis with North Korea escalated, Trump abruptly threatened to withdraw from a free-trade agreement with South Korea.

Foreign diplomats euphemistically describe the president as “unpredictable,” and even those with good relationships with the United States say they are “cautiously optimistic” that Trump’s behavior will continue to benefit their nations.

On the issue of the debt-ceiling extension and short-term government funding, a GOP aide familiar with Wednesday’s meeting said many Republicans viewed Trump’s decision as “a spur-of-the-moment thing” that happened because the president “just wanted a deal.”

“He saw a deal and wanted the deal, and it just happened to be completely against what we were pushing for,” said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment. “Our conclusion is there isn’t much to read into other than he made that decision on the spot, and that’s what he does because he’s Trump, and he made an impulsive decision because he saw a deal he wanted.”

From the outset, the meeting did not go as Republican leaders and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had hoped. They began by pushing for an 18-month extension of the debt ceiling, with Mnuchin lecturing the group of longtime legislators about the importance of raising the debt ceiling, according to three people familiar with the gathering who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“It was just odd and weird,” one said. “He was very much a duck out of water.”

The treasury secretary presented himself as a Wall Street insider, arguing that the stability of the markets required an 18-month extension.

At one point, Schumer intervened with a skeptical question: “So the markets dictate one month past the 2018 election?” he asked, rhetorically, according to someone with knowledge of his comment. “I doubt that.”

At another, Pelosi explained that understanding Wall Street is not the same as operating in Congress. “Here the currency of the realm is the vote,” she told reporters in a news conference Thursday, echoing the comments she had made privately the day before. “You have the votes, no discussion necessary. You don’t have the votes, three months.”

The Republican leaders and Mnuchin slowly began moderating their demands, moving from their initial pitch down to 12 months and then six months. At one point, when Mnuchin was in the middle of yet another explanation, the president cut him off, making it clear that he disagreed.

The deal would be for three months tied to Harvey funding, Trump said — just as the Democrats had wanted.

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On Friday morning, at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, numerous lawmakers vented their frustrations to Mnuchin and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney. One of them, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), stood up to say he thought Trump’s snub of Ryan — who had publicly rejected Democrats’ offer hours before Trump accepted it — was also a snub of Republicans at large.

“I support the president, I want him to be successful, I want our country to be successful,” Zeldin said in an interview afterward. “But I personally believe the president had more leverage than he may have realized. He had more Democratic votes than he realized, and could have and would have certainly gotten a better deal.”

Democrats remain skeptical about just how long their newfound working relationship with Trump will last. But for Republicans, the turnabout was yet another reminder of what many of them have long known but refused to openly admit: Trump is a fickle ally and partner, liable to turn on them much in the same way he has turned on his business associates and foreign allies.

“Looking to the long term, trust and reliability have been essential ingredients in productive relationships between the president and Congress,” said Phil Schiliro, who served as director of legislative affairs under Obama. “Without them, trying to move a legislative agenda is like juggling on quicksand. It usually doesn’t end well.”

Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.

CONGRESS AND SENATE PASS BILL PUTTING NEW SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA–TRUMP HATES IT

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

CONGRESS AND SENATE PASS BILL PUTTING NEW SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA

 

(CNN) The House and Senate reached a deal Saturday to slap Russia with fresh sanctions and give Congress new veto power to block any easing of those sanctions — an agreement that could send a new bill to President Donald Trump’s desk before the end of the month.

House and Senate negotiators announced an agreement was reached Saturday morning for a bill that would include new sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea.
Despite the White House lobbying for changes to the measure, the legislation will give Congress a new ability to block the administration from easing sanctions on Moscow. Democrats and some Republicans have expressed concerns that Trump is considering giving Russia back two compounds in Maryland and New York that were seized by the Obama administration in December.
“Given the many transgressions of Russia, and President Trump’s seeming inability to deal with them, a strong sanctions bill such as the one Democrats and Republicans have just agreed to is essential,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “I expect the House and Senate will act on this legislation promptly, on a broad bipartisan basis and send the bill to the President’s desk.”
The House will vote on the bill on Tuesday, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s schedule, and the Senate is likely to take it up after that, although Senate leaders haven’t said when they will bring it to the floor. Congressional aides say they expect Trump will sign the bill because it will likely pass both chambers with strong, veto-proof majorities.
In a text message to CNN, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he sees the agreement “quite negatively.”
The agreement on the sanctions was the result of an often contentious, month-long back-and-forth between the House and Senate after the Senate passed a bill for new sanctions against Russia and Iran 98 to 2 in June.
The bill faced a so-called blue slip constitutional problem that revenue generating legislation must originate in the House. That was fixed after a negotiation between the two chambers, but then House Democrats objected to another tweak that removed their ability to force a vote to stop the easing of sanctions.
McCarthy then said he wanted to add North Korean sanctions legislation that the House passed in May to the measure, prompting Democrats to accuse Republicans of stalling the bill on behalf of the White House, which was lobbying against the congressional review provision.
Numerous US companies also wanted changes over concerns the bill could inadvertently impact their businesses.
“My preference over the last month had been for the House to take up and adopt the legislation that passed the Senate 98-2; however I welcome the House bill, which was the product of intense negotiations,” said Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee. “I believe the proposed changes to the bill have helped to clarify the intent of members of Congress as well as express solidarity with our closest allies in countering Russian aggression and holding the Kremlin accountable for their destabilizing activities.”
CNN reported Friday that the deal addressed some of the concerns of US companies while keeping in the congressional review portion, besides making technical changes. To address House Democrats’ complaints, the bill gives any House member the ability to force a vote to disapprove of sanctions if the Senate passes it first.
“The legislation ensures that both the majority and minority are able to exercise our oversight role over the administration’s implementation of sanctions,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said in a statement Saturday. “I look forward to seeing this legislation on the Floor next week, where I’m confident it will receive strong, bipartisan support.”
The bill was also changed to ensure that it didn’t affect a major pipeline used to transport oil from Kazakhstan through Russia to Ukraine as well as a natural gas pipeline that goes between Russia and Germany.
The revised bill also clarifies that American companies cannot do business with already-sanctioned defense interests in Russia, as there were concerns US companies that want to finalize transportation deals could be barred from doing so under the initial bill’s restrictions.

The Senate Parliamentarian Warns Republicans That Their Healthcare Bill Can’t Pass

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HILL NEWSPAPER)

The Senate parliamentarian has warned Republicans that a key provision in their healthcare reform bill related to abortion is unlikely to be allowed, raising a serious threat to the legislation.

The parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, has flagged language that would bar people from using new refundable tax credits for private insurance plans that cover abortion, according to Senate sources.

If Republicans are forced to strip the so-called Hyde language from the legislation, which essentially bars federal funds from being used to pay for abortions unless to save the life of a mother or in cases of rape and incest, it may doom the bill.

MacDonough declined to comment for this article.

Unless a workaround can be found, conservative senators and groups that advocate against abortion rights are likely to oppose the legislation.

Republicans control 52 seats in the Senate; they can afford only two defections and still pass the bill, assuming Democrats are united against it. Vice President would break a 50-50 tie.

Normally controversial legislation requires 60 votes to pass the Senate, but Republicans hope to pass the ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill with a simple majority vote under a special budgetary process known as reconciliation.

The catch is that the legislation must pass a six-part test known as the Byrd Rule, and it’s up to the parliamentarian to advise whether legislative provisions meet its requirements.

The toughest requirement states that a provision cannot produce changes in government outlays or revenues that are merely incidental to the non-budgetary components of the provision.

In other words, a provision passed under reconciliation cannot be primarily oriented toward making policy change instead of impacting the budget. Arguably, attaching Hyde language to the refundable tax credits is designed more to shape abortion policy than affect how much money is spent to subsidize healthcare coverage.

 

The abortion language that conservatives want in the healthcare bill may run afoul of a precedent set in 1995, when then-Senate Parliamentarian Robert Dove ruled that an abortion provision affecting a state block grant program failed to meet reconciliation requirements, according to a source briefed on internal Senate discussions.

One GOP source identified the parliamentarian’s objection to the Hyde language along with Republican infighting over how to cap ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion as two of the biggest obstacles to passing a bill.

A Republican senator confirmed that negotiators have wrestled with the procedural obstacle facing the anti-abortion language.

“That has come up and there well could be a challenge,” the lawmaker said.

The lawmaker, however, said that the problem is surmountable, arguing “there are ways around it.”

One possibility would be to change the form of assistance to low-income people by changing it from a refundable tax credit to a subsidy filtered through an already existing government program that restricts abortion services, such as the Federal Employee Health Benefits program or Medicaid.

A second Republican senator said discussions on the topic are ongoing.

GOP negotiators picked up the pace of their discussions with the parliamentarian after the Congressional Budget Office released an updated score for the House-passed bill in late May.

President Trump is pushing the Senate to pass its version of the legislation by July 4.

If GOP leaders are forced to strip the Hyde language from the healthcare bill and cannot find an alternative way to seal off insurance tax credits or subsidies from abortion services, they would lose the support of anti-abortion rights groups, a devastating blow.

“We’ve made it clear in a lot of conversations and some letters that any GOP replacement plan has to be consistent with the principles of the Hyde Amendment,” said David Christensen, vice president of government affairs at Family Research Council, a conservative group that promotes Christian values.

“Abortion is not healthcare and the government should not be subsidizing elective abortion,” he added.

Christensen predicted that activists would be up in arms if abortion services aren’t barred under the bill.

“If the Byrd Rule were to be an obstacle to ensuring the GOP replacement plan in the Senate does not subsidize abortion, that’s something that would be a serious problem for us and the pro-life community,” he said.

Republican senators who are thought to be safe votes to support the GOP leadership’s ObamaCare repeal and replace plan may suddenly shift to undecided or opposed.

“Would that be a deal killer? I’d have to think about it. I’m inclined to think it would [be],” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who has jurisdiction over the tax credits in the healthcare bill, acknowledged it could be tough to pass the bill without the anti-abortion language.

“I think a lot of people do think that’s essential,” he said.

Trump Lawyer Cohen Says He Won’t Comply With House, Senate Requests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

MAY 30 2017, 1:00 PM ET

Trump Lawyer Cohen Says He Won’t Comply With House, Senate Requests

President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, confirmed to NBC News that he has received requests for information from the Senate and House intelligence committees as part of their probes into Russian interference in the U.S. election, but says he won’t comply.

“I declined the invitation to participate,” said Cohen, “as the request was poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered.”

A congressional aide said the request letters, first reported by ABC News, were the same ones sent to former Trump aides Carter Page, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Mike Flynn and others. Those letters sought information about Russian contacts, and asked the recipients to turn over any communications with the Trump campaign about Russia.

Cohen is a long-time lawyer for both Trump and his business organization. He has served as executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Trump.

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Trump’s Personal Lawyer Asked for Info in Russia Probe 3:17

In the dossier on Trump prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele, Cohen was alleged to have attended a secret meeting in Prague to discuss Russia’s hacking of Democratic targets, something Cohen has adamantly denied to NBC News and others in the past.

Related: FBI Made Deal With Ex-Spy For Trump Dossier

In February, Cohen told NBC News he was in Los Angeles when the Prague meeting was supposed to have occurred, taking his son to a meeting with the baseball coach at the University of Southern California.

Trump’s critics, he said, “are looking to malign President Trump, diminish his historic win and to undermine his presidency by claiming he didn’t win — that it was given to him by the Russians.”

Navy Promotes SEAL Commander In Defiance Of Congress

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Navy promotes SEAL commander in defiance of Congress

March 31 at 3:29 PM
In defiance of Congress, the Navy has granted a retroactive promotion, back pay and a bigger pension to an admiral whom lawmakers forced to retire last year after multiple investigations found he had retaliated against whistleblowers, records show.Brian L. Losey, a former commander of the Navy SEALs, rose in rank to become a two-star Rear admiral in January after the Navy conducted a secretive and unusually rapid review of his case during the final days of the Obama administration, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act.

Losey’s promotion came two months after he retired from the military under duress, the casualty of a clash between Navy leaders who wanted to reward the combat-hardened SEAL commander and a bipartisan group of senators who demanded his ouster after the investigations determined he had violated whistleblower-protection laws.

The dispute represented a rare public challenge by senior military leaders to congressional oversight of the armed forces, and left lingering resentments on both sides. Lawmakers thought they had prevailed by blocking Losey’s promotion last year, but the newly obtained documents reveal the Navy had the last word.

The promotion capped a long-running controversy over Losey’s record as a commander of the SEALs and other elite Special Operations forces during a highly decorated 33-year military career.

Three separate investigations by the Defense Department’s inspector general found that Losey had wrongly fired, demoted or punished subordinates during a vengeful but fruitless hunt for an anonymous whistleblower under his command.

Losey denied wrongdoing. Navy leaders dismissed the findings after conducting their own review and decided in October 2015 to promote him anyway. But members of Congress objected strenuously when they learned about the case from a report in The Post, and pressured Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to block Losey’s advancement.

Mabus resisted at first as many other admirals pushed him to stand behind Losey. After the Senate upped the ante by freezing the nomination of the Navy’s second-ranking civilian leader, the service announced in March 2016 that Mabus would reluctantly deny Losey’s promotion, effectively ending his military career.

The documents obtained by The Post, however, show that Mabus later reopened the case. On Jan. 12, during his last week in office as an Obama political appointee, Mabus signed a memo boosting Losey’s rank from a one-star to a two-star admiral.

Losey, 56, will stay retired, but the documents show that his promotion will benefit him financially for the rest of his life.

His higher rank entitles him to a bigger annual military pension. It will swell to about $142,000 this year, an increase of $16,700, according to Defense Department figures.

He will also receive a one-time check for about $70,000 in back pay because the Navy dated his promotion retroactively to the date when he first became eligible for a second star.

Sen. Grassley: Navy commander denied promotion ‘can only blame himself’

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Speaking on the Senate floor April 6, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey was “an honored naval officer” but was “a serial retaliator” who deserved to be denied a promotion. (United States Senate)

Mabus declined to comment. His decision to promote the admiral was based on a recommendation from the Board for Correction of Naval Records, a quasi-judicial panel that fields requests from veterans to review potential errors in their personnel files.

The board has the authority to fix mistakes or “remove injustices” from a veteran’s permanent military record, according to its mission statement.

Losey retired Nov. 1. Three weeks later, he submitted a petition to the board, arguing that he had been unfairly denied promotion because the inspector general and his critics in Congress were biased against him.

“The damning assertions against my leadership are not supported by the facts, and these errors in fact contributed to an unjust outcome,” he wrote.

The Board for Correction of Naval Records receives 12,000 applications annually and typically takes between 10 and 18 months to issue a final decision, according to Navy officials.

Losey’s application was approved by the board and Mabus in seven weeks.

Experts in military law said they had never heard of a case being reviewed so quickly.

“I’m not passing any judgment on his promotion and whether he deserves it or not, but the process certainly does look suspicious,” said Raymond J. Toney, a Utah attorney who specializes in such cases and who reviewed Losey’s file at The Post’s request. “It suggests to me that the Rear Admiral has some friends who did not want to see him go down in flames at the end of his career.”

Eugene R. Fidell, a lecturer on military justice at Yale Law School, said the speed in which Losey’s appeal was heard made it appear that the outcome was predetermined. “The circumstantial evidence suggests to me that this was wired,” he said.

Navy officials denied that Losey was given special treatment.

In a statement, Capt. Amy Derrick, a Navy spokeswoman, said the Board for Correction of Naval Records “provides a full and fair hearing on all requests that are complete and submitted in accordance with established procedures.”

Thomas Oppel, who served as Mabus’s chief of staff until both left office in January, said in an interview that any suggestion the Navy rushed the process during the waning days of the Obama administration was “a whole lot of speculation without foundation.”

“This is a case that had been freshly investigated, and the facts were fairly well-known,” Oppel added.

Losey deferred questions about how his petition was handled to the Navy. “I followed processes available to me,” he wrote in a brief message to The Post. “I do business by the book and have always aimed to be fair.”

Members of Congress who had urged the Navy to hold Losey accountable for punishing whistleblowers said they were dismayed to learn about the admiral’s promotion.

“Cases like these send the wrong message about whistleblower retaliation,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an emailed statement. “When accountability is lacking, retaliation continues. Good government suffers.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who held up the confirmation of the Navy’s second-ranking civilian leader last year in a tactic to block Losey’s rank advancement, said he was disappointed but not surprised.

“The Navy leadership has long sought to sweep away the inspector general’s findings and make excuses for one of its own, and Secretary Mabus’s decision to grant Admiral Losey a backdoor promotion is yet another disappointing example,” Wyden said.

A spokesman for the Senate Armed Services Committee said the panel was not informed of Losey’s post-retirement request for promotion until after it was finalized. Other lawmakers said they were unaware of his new rank until they were told by The Post.

A prominent figure in the military’s secretive Special Operations forces, Losey served as the head of the Naval Special Warfare Command from 2013 to 2016. He formerly commanded SEAL Team Six, the clandestine unit known for hunting terrorist targets. He deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bosnia, Panama and other conflict zones.

The Navy first tried to promote Losey to become a two-star admiral in 2011. The Senate confirmed his nomination that year. But the move was put on hold when the Defense Department’s inspector general began investigating Losey’s actions while serving as commander of Special Operations forces in Africa.

Five of Losey’s subordinates filed complaints that he had unfairly fired or punished them during a ham-handed hunt for a suspected whistleblower. After spending four years interviewing more than 100 witnesses and reviewing 300,000 papers of emails, the inspector general determined that Losey had violated whistleblower-protection laws in three of the cases.

The outcome marked a rare instance of a commander being found guilty of misconduct in a whistleblower case. The Defense Department’s inspector general receives more than 1,000 whistleblower cases each year, but upholds only about three percent of them.

Losey asserted that he had acted within his rights as a commander and that he had merely held his staff accountable for mediocre work.

Despite the findings of the inspector general, the Board for Correction of Naval Records sided with Losey, concluding that there was “insufficient evidence” that Losey had violated whistleblower-protection laws.

Moreover, the board found that Mabus had never signed paperwork formally denying the admiral’s promotion before he retired.

In a unanimous vote on Jan. 11, the panel recommended that Mabus grant Losey’s request for the higher rank and back pay, documents show.

Mabus signed a memo approving the decision the next day.

I Am One Single ‘Independent’ Voting Unit: So Tired Of Extreme Politics

 

I remember about a year ago during the Republican Presidential Debates Texas Senator Ted Cruz chided one of the other Candidates because ‘he’ would compromise with the Democrats. Mr. Cruz swore to the Voting Public that when He is President that he will not negotiate/compromise with the Democrats. I guess the reason this statement didn’t attract more attention was that by this point in time the Media was more focused on the ‘Trump Show’ (the Republican Debates). Think about that statement for a moment folks. Politics, the whole Chess Game of it, always wanting Check and then Check Mate. The reason they are in Politics tend to be Super Ego’s, wealth and the fame. Trouble for most people is that they don’t have or do not wish to spend their own money to finance these hugely expensive Political Campaigns. Here is where a very small handful of people in the top of the DNC and the RNC run/ruin Our Country and everyone’s lives. Those who dictate where the ‘contributions’ will go to, these way too few people, point to polar ends, thus destroying Our Country from the inside.

 

Well, President Trump and the Republicans themselves defeated themselves on the Health Care Issues earlier today. I think what happened earlier today was a good thing, I do mean that. We witnessed individual Congressmen/Women break from the ‘Rank and File’ ‘Party Line’. We witnessed quite a few politicians who were of a President’s own Party stand up to the Party Leadership and say No. You know something? Didn’t ‘We The People’ put these people in ‘Office’ to do what ‘we’ put them in there for? Wouldn’t this be great if it could be the pebble that breaks and now the mountain face falls off? Yep I know it’s just a pipe dream that Elected Officials could actually care something for us ‘little people’, us little ole Voters.

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