Posts tagged with "House Intelligence Committee"

Despite chilling warnings from Mueller, GOP blocks election security bills

July 26, 2019

America is under attack. That was the biggest takeaway from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony on Capitol Hill on July 24—not that President Donald Trump may have obstructed justice, although that’s what most people continue to argue about, CNN reported this week.

“In your investigation,” Representative Will Hurd (R-Texas) of the House Intelligence Committee asked Mueller, “did you think that this was a single attempt by the Russians to get involved in our election? Or did you find evidence to suggest that they will try to do this again?”

Mueller responded, with a chilling effect:  “No, it wasn’t a single attempt.” And he was quick to note that the Russians still are working to influence U.S. elections—predicting that their influence will be felt when Americans go to the polls in 2020.

“They’re doing it as we sit here,” Mueller testified. “And they expect to do it during the next campaign.”

He then warned that America’s intelligence agencies must find a way to coordinate better in order to assure secure elections going forward.

In his report, the former special counsel disclosed that Russian hackers had compromised local election systems of two Florida counties in 2016—a development later confirmed by Florida’s Republican  Governor Ron DeSantis, although he said no votes were changed. And while Mueller did not bring conspiracy charges, it’s been well documented that Russians in 2016 were doing their best to help Trump, not Clinton, win.

“Did your investigation find that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from one of the candidates winning?” Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-California) of the Judiciary Committee entreated him.

“It did,” Mueller replied.

Lofgren then asked for specificity: “Which one?”

“Well,” Mueller said, “it would be Trump.”

Yet despite Mueller’s testimony, his report, and alarming statements from elsewhere in Washington, public urgency on addressing Russian interference for the 2020 election appears lacking.

Indeed, according to a report by The Hill, Senate Republicans blocked two election security bills and a cybersecurity measure on Wednesday, July 24,  in the wake of former special counsel Robert Mueller warning about meddling attempts during his public testimony before congressional lawmakers.  

Democrats tried to get consent to pass two bills that would require campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission about foreign offers of assistance, as well as a bill to let the Senate Sergeant at Arms offer voluntary cyber assistance for personal devices and accounts of senators and staff.

But Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) blocked each of the bills. She didn’t give reason for her objections, or say if she was objecting on behalf of herself or the Senate GOP caucus. A spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

Under Senate rules, any one senator can ask for consent to pass a bill, but any one senator is able to object.

What’s more,  election interference bills face an uphill climb in the Senate, where Republicans aren’t expected to move legislation through the Rules Committee, the panel with primary jurisdiction, and have warned about attempts to “federalize” elections. 

Democrats cited Mueller as they tried to get consent on Wednesday evening to pass their bills.

Mr. Mueller’s testimony should serve as a warning to every member of this body about what could happen in 2020, literally in our next elections,” said Senator Mark Warner (D-Virgina), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

He added that “unfortunately, in the nearly three years since we uncovered Russia’s attack on our democracy, this body has not held a single vote on stand-alone legislation to protect our elections.” 

Research contact: @thehill

Dems vow to ‘get to the bottom’ of allegations that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress

January 21, 2019

President Donald Trump directed his longtime former personal  attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter, BuzzFeed reported late on January 17.

The story, which invalidates Trump’s ongoing claim that he had no business deals with Russia—and apprehends him in a maneuver to mislead federal legislators—exposes the president to criminal culpability, like he has never been before.

Indeed, according to The Washington Post, Democrats in Congress vowed on January 18 to thoroughly investigate the new report—with Representative Jerry Nadler (D-New York), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee,  vowing that his panel would “get to the bottom” of the allegations.

Early on Friday, Nadler tweeted, “We know that the President has engaged in a long pattern of obstruction. Directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime. The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work.”

Representative Adam B. Schiff (D-California), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, released a formal statement, asserting, ““It is now alleged that the president … directed Michael Cohen to lie under oath to Congress about these matters in an effort to impede the investigation and to cover up his business dealings with Russia. These allegations may prove unfounded, but, if true, they would constitute both the subornation of perjury as well as obstruction of justice.

“Our committee,” said Schiff, “is already working to secure additional witness testimony and documents related to the Trump Tower Moscow deal and other investigative matters. As a counterintelligence concern of the greatest magnitude, and given that these alleged efforts were intended to interfere with our investigation, our Committee is determined to get to the bottom of this and follow the evidence wherever it may lead.”

In his first public comments on the report, Trump went on Twitter on Friday morning to quote a Fox News reporter, Kevin Corke, as saying, “Don’t forget, Michael Cohen has already been convicted of perjury and fraud, and as recently as this week, the Wall Street Journal has suggested that he may have stolen tens of thousands of dollars….”

“Lying to reduce his jail time!” Trump added in his own words.

According to the BuzzFeed report, the special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and what BuzzFeed described as “a cache of other documents.”

Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with the special counsel’s office, BuzzFeed reported.

In a statement, Lanny J. Davis, a legal communications adviser to Cohen, said that both he and Cohen are declining to respond to reporters’ questions “out of respect for Mr. Mueller’s and the Office of Special Counsel’s investigation.”

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Americans see Trump as ‘impulsive’

March 9, 2018

Americans don’t perceive a lot of careful thought in President Donald Trump’s decision-making process—at least when it comes to his public statements—and there has been little, if any, improvement in this viewpoint since last July, based on the findings of an Economist/YouGov poll  released on March 7.

A total of 81% of voters—and more specifically, 66% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats—believe the POTUS should think before he speaks.

Indeed, the researchers established that a majority of Americans— Republicans and Democrats alike—believe that Donald Trump speaks without prior consideration most of the time; and often doesn’t listen to his advisers (49% total, 35% Republicans, 75% Democrats) .

What’s more, American voters catch Trump out, at least some of the time, they claim—saying things that are incorrect. They believe that the POTUS either is wrong or is lying all of the time (25%), often (23%), or sometimes (28%). Only 12% say he rarely or never strays from the truth, while 8% are not so sure.

In the last week, the President has changed his public stance on gun control and the National Rifle Association (NRA), and has surprised GOP Congressional allies with his proposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

He also lost Communications Director Hope Hicks, one of his longest-serving staff members and confidants. Hicks, the fourth communications director in the Trump administration’s first year, admitted to the House Intelligence Committee that she sometimes had to tell “white lies” in her job. That is behavior the public finds inappropriate.

It is no surprise that Democrats are especially critical, but nearly half of Republicans agree Hicks’ statement that she told “white lies” was inappropriate. Where Republicans draw the line, however, is whether Hicks “lied about substantive issues on behalf of President Trump.” Twice as many Republicans say she did not as think she did, but more than a third say they aren’t sure what she did.

Public questioning of the President’s decision-making comes at a time when public opinions of his advisers— even some relatives—have declined since the start of his term.

The last week found two of the President’s most trusted advisers, his daughter and his son-in-law, slipping in public confidence. When Donald Trump’s term began, Ivanka Trump was viewed favorably by the public. Now, opinion is closely divided. As for her husband, Jared Kushner, he began 2017 with Americans divided in their opinion of him, but now evaluations of Kushner are decidedly negative.

Kushner’s lost his

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top-secret security clearance last week, and the public isn’t sure he can do his job without it. Just 22% think he can, while 40% think he can’t.

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Most Americans think Trump should talk to Mueller under oath

February 7, 2018

Despite the declassified memo gambit carried out last week by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-California) and the White House—in order to show a “clear link” between the Democrats and Russia during the 2016 election—there is bipartisan agreement among U.S. voters that President Donald Trump should agree to an interview, under oath, with Special Counsel Robert Mueller regarding the Russia probe, according to findings of a Monmouth University Poll.

According to the research findings, released on February 1, most Americans believe recent reports that Trump tried to fire Mueller last summer and they support requiring judicial review before the president could dismiss a special counsel.

An overwhelming majority of Americans (71%) say that Trump should agree to be interviewed by Mueller about the Russia probe. This includes 85% of Democrats, 74% of independents, and 51% of Republicans.  If Trump agrees to talk, more than 8-in-10 (82%) say he should do so under oath, including 93% of Democrats, 85% of independents, and 67% of Republicans.

“Democrats and Republicans, alike, say the president should sit down with Mueller, although they probably have very different reasons for wanting Trump to do this,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

A majority of the public (58%) believes that recent reports about Trump trying to fire Mueller last summer are likely true. Just 27% say these reports are not true.

There is partisan disagreement on this view, however. Most Democrats (84%) and independents (59%) put stock in these reports compared to just 30% of Republicans who believe they are true. Among those who have been following the news stories about Trump’s possible attempt to fire Mueller, 64% say the reports are true and 27% say they are not.

If Trump did in fact try to fire Mueller, 41% of the public feel this action rises to the level of an attempt to obstruct justice. while 44% say the president’s actions are less serious than that.

More than 6-in-10 Americans (62%) support requiring the approval of a panel of federal judges before any special counsel could be fired by the president or attorney general. Just 29% oppose this judicial check on the president’s ability to fire a special counsel.

This proposal is the basis of two bipartisan bills that have been introduced in Congress in response to the Russia probe. Most Democrats (76% support and 15% oppose) and independents (65% support and 27% oppose) favor this proposal. Republicans are divided at 44% support and 47% oppose.

“Bipartisan legislation to put a judicial check on the president’s ability to fire an independent investigator receives widespread support from Democrats and independents. However, Republicans are split down the middle, so it remains to be seen whether either of the special counsel protection bills will be brought to the floor for a vote,” said Murray.

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