Posts tagged with "Politico"

Mikie Sherrill says unidentified lawmakers led ‘reconnaissance’ tours ahead of Capitol attack

January 13, 2021

Was the insurrection an inside job? Did lawmakers join with President Donald Trump to aid and abet the rioters? Representative Mikie Sherrill (D-New Jersey) revealed on Tuesday, January 12, that she had witnessed Congressional colleagues escorting people through the Capitol on January 5 for what she described as “reconnaissance” ahead of the next day’s violent insurrection that left five dead, Politico reports.

In a 13-minute Facebook video billed as an address to her constituents about the House’s efforts to hold President Donald Trump accountable for inciting the riot, Sherrill included the allegation as part of a call to hold Trump’s allies in Congress accountable as well.

“I also intend to see that those members of Congress who abetted [the outgoing president]—those members of Congress who had groups coming through the capitol that I saw on Jan. 5 for reconnaissance for the next day—those members of Congress who incited the violent crowd, those members of Congress that attempted to help our president undermine our democracy, I’m going see that they’re held accountable,” Sherrill said.

Sherrill did not identify the lawmakers she was referring to, how she was able to describe their activities as “reconnaissance,” or how she knew they were connected to the riots that consumed the Capitol the following day. She told Politico on Wednesday that she’s referred her information to authorities.

“We’re requesting an investigation right now with certain agencies,” she said.

The startling allegation comes as lawmakers are still seeking answers about the extent of planning and coordination behind the January 6 Trump rally that became the violent assault on the Capitol. Federal investigators say they’re pouring enormous resources into unearthing details of a potential “seditious conspiracy” and that some of the undisclosed evidence about what happened inside the Capitol will be “shocking.”

Some Democrats, like Sherrill, are also calling for punishment for the Republicans who —like Trump —delivered incendiary remarks that preceded the violence at the Capitol, as well as others who joined Trump’s effort to delegitimize the 2020 presidential election.

Research contact: @politico

House has majority needed to impeach Trump for inciting Capitol riots

January12, 2021

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is on the cusp of majority support in the House to impeach President Donald Trump—part of a two-front effort to punish and remove him from office for inciting the violent and deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week, Politico reports.

Key members of the House Judiciary Committee introduced a single article of impeachmentincitement of insurrection—on Monday, January 11. The resolution already has at least 218 cosponsors and a House majority, according to a congressional aide involved in the process.

Pelosi signaled Sunday night that the House would vote on that article if Trump refuses to resign and Vice President Mike Pence won’t initiate other procedures to remove him.

“Because the timeframe is so short and the need is so immediate and an emergency, we will also proceed on a parallel path in terms of impeachment,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) told reporters Monday. “Whether impeachment can pass the United States Senate is not the issue.”

“There may well be a vote on impeachment on Wednesday,” he said, according to Politico.

At a brief House session on Monday morning, the House formally accepted the resignation of Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving, who was partly responsible for the failed security arrangements on January 6. And moments later, Representative Alex Mooney (R-West Virginia.) blocked unanimous consideration of a resolution from Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) that would have urged Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment process to remove Trump from power. The House intends to vote on the resolution Tuesday.

Politico notes that, although some Democrats have voiced worry that impeaching Trump with just days left in his term could hamstring President-elect Joe Biden’s early weeks in office, momentum has only grown as new and disturbing footage of the violence wrought by the rioters has emerged. That footage included the beating of a Capitol Police officer, yanked out of the building by a crowd of Trump supporters. The officer in the video has not been identified, but it surfaced after the news that at least one officer, Brain Sicknick, died of injuries sustained during the onslaught.

Every new indication that the rioters included a more sophisticated contingent of insurrectionists has inflamed the House anew, even as Republicans have continued to express wariness, if not outright opposition, to impeachment.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say, Is it the right thing politically to impeach this president? … Will it harm the Democratic Party?” Representative Dan Kildee (D-Michigan) said in a press conference Monday. “In terms of whether it could harm the Democratic party, I could not care less.”

Though some Democrats have also floated the notion of impeaching Trump but delaying transmitting the article to the Senate—a move that would forestall a Senate trial until after Biden’s early term plans and nominees are in place—a top Pelosi ally, Representative Adam Schiff (D-California), indicated Monday he favors an immediate trial.

“If we impeach him this week … it should immediately be transmitted to the Senate and we should try the case as soon as possible,” Schiff said on “CBS This Morning.” “Mitch McConnell has demonstrated when it comes to jamming Supreme Court justices through the Congress, he can move with great alacrity when he wants to.”

Research contact: @politico

Trump knuckles under, signs stimulus package

December 29, 2020

While many Americans spent the holiday weekend worrying or grieving about sick friends and relatives, trying to get work, and eating food bank provisions, a peevish President Donald Trump partied and played golf at his private Palm Beach club, Mar-a-Lago.

But even Air Force One couldn’t get him far enough away from the problems he had created in the nation’s capital. Both Democratic and Republican party leaders pressured Trump to sign two bills he had left on his desk and threatened to veto—a major coronavirus stimulus package and an annual spending bill.

Trump had not participated in the talks leading up to passage of the COVID-19 aid legislation, but had indicated to his surrogate, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, that he would approve a bill that offered direct stimulus checks of $600 to the American people.

Indeed, Mnuchin promised that, once the bill passed, the $600 stimulus checks could be expected to reach Americans by this week. Meanwhile, unemployment programs established earlier this year expired on Saturday night.

But it didn’t happen. According to a report by Politico, Trump spent the weekend railing against the current package, tweeting that he wanted to “increase payments to the people, get rid of the ‘pork’” and “$2000 + $2000 plus other family members. Not $600. Remember, [COVID] was China’s fault!”

Hoping go change his mind and convince him to sign off on the legislation, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and several Republican senators, including Senators David Perdue (R-Georgia) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina.), spoke to Trump multiple times through Sunday night.

Lawmakers were preparing for catastrophe amid Trump’s threats, and House members were prepared on Monday, December 28, to vote on a short-term funding bill to avert a midnight shutdown.

But on Sunday evening after days of being lobbied by allies and warned that he would decimate his own political legacy , Trump decided to sign the bill and not leave office amid a maelstrom of expired benefits and a government shutdown, Politico said.

He said he will insist on reductions in spending in parts of the bill, though Congress does not have to go along.

“I will sign the omnibus and COVID package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed. I will send back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill,” Trump said on Sunday night.

The president also said the Senate would soon begin work on ending legal protections for tech companies, examining voter fraud and boosting the check size for direct payments. The current Congress ends in six days.

The House will move ahead with a vote Monday on boosting direct payments to $2,000, forcing Republicans to go on the record against the president.

“I applaud President Trump’s decision to get hundreds of billions of dollars of crucial COVID-19 relief out the door and into the hands of American families as quickly as possible,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a statement that did not mention the commitments Trump said the Senate has made.

Research contact: @politico

Pence prepares to confirm Trump’s loss—and then leave town

December 18, 2020

On January 6, Vice President Mike Pence will oversee final confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Then he’ll likely skip town, Politico predicts.

As vice president, Pence has the awkward, but unavoidable, duty of presiding over the session of Congress that will formalize Biden’s win—a development that is likely to expose him (and other Republicans) to the wrath of GOP voters who still believe President Donald Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen from him.

Worse yet, that single act by Pence will be one of the only times he has crossed President Donald Trump during his four-year term—and it is sure to be greeted with anger in the Oval Office.

But, Politico notes, Pence could dodge their ire by leaving Washington immediately for the Middle East and Europe. According to three U.S. officials familiar with the planning, the vice president is eyeing a foreign trip that would take him overseas for nearly a week prior to the Inauguration, starting on January 6.

Although Pence aides have declined to confirm details of the trip, which remains tentative, a U.S. government document seen by Politico shows the vice president is due to travel to Bahrain, Israel, and Poland, with the possibility of more stops being added. A pre-advance team of Pence aides and other U.S. officials left earlier this week to visit the planned stops in preparation for the multi-country tour, which would be Pence’s first trip abroad since last January; when he traveled to Rome and Jerusalem on a whirlwind two-day sojourn.

On the surface, the trip is part of a push to underscore the Trump Administration’s role in brokering a series of diplomatic agreements to normalize relations between Israel and a handful of Arab countries, including Bahrain. But for Pence, visiting these countries is also a way to bolster already-strong credentials with the Christian right, which strongly supports Israel. And it allows Pence — once again — to put distance between himself and Trump’s complaints about the election outcome; which are likely to intensify after Congress affirms Biden’s win.

It’s a tactic Pence has used to navigate the final days of Trump’s presidency: Stay out of the spotlight and insulate himself from his boss’s baseless election-fraud crusade, all while still finding ways to burnish his own credentials and technically toe the party line, Politico notes.

Pence has promoted Trump in his work as head of the government’s coronavirus task force and while boosting two GOP Senate candidates facing runoff races in Georgia. But he’s declined to publicize his minimal involvement in the president’s election-fraud strategy..

“I suspect the timing is anything but coincidental,” one Pence ally said of his tentative travel plans.

A senior administration official said the trip has not been confirmed and was proposed for early January because it was the first available date following the holidays and other obligations that Pence has committed to.

Research contact: @politico

Supreme Court spurns bid to overturn Biden’s win in Pennsylvania

December 10, 2020

The Supreme Court has declined a bid by a Republican member of Congress and other GOP activists to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, Politico reports.

In a one-sentence order on Tuesday afternoon, December 8, the justices rebuffed the emergency request from Representative Mike Kelly (R-Pennyslvania) and two other House candidates to decertify the results of last month’s election in the Keystone State.

According to the New York Post, the suit argued that a 2019 Pennsylvania state law authorizing mail-in ballots was unconstitutional—meaning that Pennsylvania’s 2.5 million postal votes should be tossed.

In a one-sentence order, the High Court responded: “The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied.”

Critics said the request for the Supreme Court to take up the case was ill-founded because the justices do not typically step in to enforce state law provisions. They also faulted Kelly for waiting more than a year—and until after the hard-fought election was complete—to raise the legal challenge.

“Granting an injunction would sow chaos and confusion across the Nation while inflaming baseless concerns about electoral impropriety and ensnaring the Judiciary in partisan strife,” lawyers representing Pennsylvania wrote in a brief early Tuesday opposing Kelly’s request. “This case reaches the Court against the backdrop of unfounded claims—which have been repeatedly rejected by state and federal courts—that wrongly impugn the integrity of the democratic process and aim to cast doubt on the legitimacy of its outcome.”

Kelly’s last-ditch maneuver at the high court drew little attention until Sunday, when Justice Samuel Alito unexpectedly accelerated the state’s deadline to respond to the emergency application from Wednesday to 9 a.m. (ET) on Tuesday. That prompted speculation among some conservatives that Alito or other Republican-appointed justices were planning to grant Kelly relief before Tuesday’s milestone Safe Harbor day to name presidential electors.

Not so. However, media attention to the Safe-Harbor milestone prompted the Trump campaign to issue a public statement earlier Tuesday arguing that the date is of little consequence.

“The ‘Safe Harbor Deadline’ is a statutory timeline that generally denotes the last day for states to certify election results,” Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis said. “However, it is not unprecedented for election contests to last well beyond December 8.”

Research contact: @politico

Bipartisan Senate group introduces $900 billion coronavirus relief plan

December 2, 2020

A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a broad coronavirus aid framework—a significant breakthrough after months of failed negotiations, Politico reports, noting that it’s just the first step toward Congress finally approving a new round of aid.

Among those who are advancing the bill are three four Democrats, one Independent, and four Republicans: Sens. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mark Warner (D-Virginia), Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Angus King (I-Maine), Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire); as well as House members. Separately, some other senators have held bipartisan discussions about a solution

The legislation would provide $908 billion in aid and also shield businesses from coronavirus lawsuits for a few months to allow states to develop their own liability reforms.

According to Politico, the proposal includes $160 billion in state and local aid, $180 billion in additional unemployment insurance, and $288 billion for small businesses. It also comprises $82 billion for schools, as well as $45 billion for transportation, according to a draft reviewed by Politico. And it builds in an unspecified amount for healthcare.

Still, Politico notes, “the newest measure is no lay-up, and several congressional aides said the likeliest route to a new round of aid is through Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.” Congress has not enacted a new significant round of aid since April.

McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have both called for more coronavirus relief, but GOP senators said, if there is an aid package, it’s unlikely to be attached to the spending bill due by December 11. That means it’s still uncertain whether Congress can actually clinch a new law before the end of the lame duck period before Inauguration Day.

Research contact: @politico

Georgia elections official says Lindsey Graham pressured him to toss out legal ballots

November 18, 2020

Georgia’s top elections official said on November 16 that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)—who has served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee since 2019—pressured him during a November 13 phone call to toss out legally mailed ballots, as the recount of the presidential election continues in that state.

Indeed, Politico reports, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said that he has heard from a number of Republicans, who are seeking to sway election results in President Donald Trump’s favor.

Speaking with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday evening, Raffensperger said that Graham asked whether he could check signatures on mail-in ballots during Georgia’s recount and use a high frequency of mismatches to justify throwing away mail-in ballots in certain counties.

Raffensperger said he took Graham’s comments as “an implication of look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out.”

When contacted by Politico, Graham denied pressuring Raffensperger to throw away legal ballots,saying that he had a “very pleasant” conversation about the state’s signature verification process.

The Washington Post first reported the conversation, which reportedly took place last Friday—on the same day a Georgia lawyer sympathetic to Trump filed a lawsuit to prevent the state from certifying the election until all signatures could be verified. When presented with Graham’s denial on CNN, Raffensperger pointed out that the lawsuit sought to use a tactic similar to the one Graham proposed to stop the inclusion of absentee ballots in the state.

Georgia wound up being one of the key battlegrounds of the 2020 presidential election, with a razor-thin margin that eventually tipped in Democrat Joe Biden’s favor. But Trump has refused to concede and has gone after election officials in critical states — including Georgia — with conspiracy theories that the race was stolen from him.

During his CNN interview, Raffensperger balked at the idea of tossing legally cast ballots, and rejected the notion that election workers were not thoroughly verifying votes.

“We feel confident the election officials did their job,” Raffensperger said.

Raffensperger also said he was surprised by the vitriol from his fellow Republicans toward his performance verifying the election. His wife has received menacing messages on her cellphone relating to the election, he told Blitzer. Raffensperger and his wife have been isolating after she was diagnosed with coronavirus.

“You always think, I’m on this side of the aisle, obviously, and you always think your side wears the white hats,” Raffensperger said. “But people are really upset about this.”

He added: “I’m going to probably be disappointed because I was rooting for the Republicans to win,

Research contact: @politico

‘Biden’ his time: While president-elect remains chill, some Senate Republicans say he must get intel briefings

November16, 202o

Senate Republicans still aren’t acknowledging that Donald Trump lost the election. But they’re getting a little closer, Politico reports.

As Trump refuses to concede and continues to wage legal battles based on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, Senate Republicans are increasingly deferring to the presidential transition process— arguing it should at least begin so that President-elect Joe Biden can receive high-level intelligence briefings.

“Both of them have got to be ready to serve, if selected. We don’t know who the winner is. So keep the briefings going,” Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) said. “Ultimately, the president has to make this decision.”

According to Politico, Lankford, who chairs a Homeland Security subcommittee, noted that in 2000, then-President Bill Clinton allowed George W. Bush to begin receiving presidential-level intelligence briefings during the recount in Florida. Lankford added that he plans to question the government agency responsible for jump-starting the transition process if a certification is not made by Friday.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, already has said that Biden should start receiving the Presidential Daily Brief, an intelligence report curated for the president and senior White House officials. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missour), a member of the Intelligence Committee and the No. 4 Senate Republican, agreed on Thursday, November 12.

“Whether [Biden] actually gets the product itself, I think the information needs to be communicated in some way,” Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Intelligence Committee, told Politico, adding. “I don’t see it as a high-risk proposition, and if in fact he does win in the end, I think they need to be able to hit the ground running.”

Other Republicans were less committal, only saying that they would have no issue if Biden began receiving the briefings, Politico said.

“All trends look like he’s going to be the president of the United States,” Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said.

“I see no problem with that,” added Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has said that the results of the election will be known in December when members of the Electoral College will meet. “I think there’s a process.”

Trump has continued to rail against the election results since Biden secured enough Electoral College votes on Saturday, November 7,  to take the White House, and Republicans this week have mostly stood by the president.

By law, the General Services Administration has the sole authority to kick-start a presidential transition by unlocking federal funds and allowing transition officials to have access to agencies and departments. But a Trump appointee who leads the GSA, Emily Murphy, has yet to certify that Biden is the president-elect, preventing his team from speaking with the government agencies it will soon run.

Without sign-off from the president, Biden also cannot receive the intelligence briefings that usually are afforded to the president-elect. The briefings hold increased importance now as the incoming president will need to be up-to-speed on multiple crises facing the nation, including skyrocketing coronavirus infections and other national-security matters.

Biden has been moving forward with the transition—talking to world leaders and lawmakers, and starting to fill staff positions. To date, he has not made the lack of high-level intel an issue.

Research contact: @politico

Shot to be ‘heard’ around the world: Pfizer says its coronavirus vaccine is more than 90% effective

November 9, 2020

A coronavirus vaccine developed by New York City-based pharmaceutical firm Pfizer is more than 90% effective, according to the first look at data from a late-stage U.S. trial involving nearly 44,000 participants, Politico rerports.

An analysis of 94 trial participants who contracted COVID-19 showed that the vaccine was 94% effective, the company and its partner BioNTech of Germany said in a press release on November 9.

The pair added that they expect to apply to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for an emergency-use authorization before the end of the month, after they have collected sufficient data on the vaccine’s safety.

The better-than-expected result is the first Phase III data from any of the four candidates now in the final stage of testing in the United States.

“I can’t imagine better news on the vaccine front,” Walid Gellad, director for the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh, told Politico.  Not only is it highly effective based on the press release, but there were 90 cases so we don’t have to deal with the skeptics about interim analyses, and there appeared to be no safety signals.”

Others noted that the information Pfizer had released was promising but still incomplete. “We should remain a little cautious, said Michael Head, a senior research fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton in the U.K. “The provisional findings are made available in a press release, and the study is ongoing.”

President Donald Trump, who pushed unsuccessfully for a vaccine by Election Day, cheered the Pfizer result. “STOCK MARKET UP BIG, VACCINE COMING SOON. REPORT 90% EFFECTIVE. SUCH GREAT NEWS!” he wrote on Twitter.

Although Ivanka Trump tried to link the new vaccine to the Administration’s Operation Warp Speed, a top scientist for Pfizer told the New York Times that her company had not partnered with the Trump administration’s program meant to speed vaccine development.

President-elect Joe Biden issued a statement congratulating “the brilliant women and men who helped produce this breakthrough,” but he cautioned that “the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away.”

Even if a shot is authorized by late November, it will take many months before vaccination is widespread, Biden noted. “Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contact tracing, hand washing, and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year,” he said.

Research contact: @politico

At debates, Trump could topple into the trap he set for Biden

September 24, 2020

Eight years as vice president, three decades in the Senate, two debates as vice president; and he just came through about a dozen debates in the Democratic primaries, where he vanquished two dozen opponents—that’s the Joe Biden we’re expecting,” Biden Campaign Communications Director Tim Murtaugh recently told Politico, as he anticipated the September 29 debate between his candidate and President Donald Trump.

But those are not the expectations that the current president has been setting for the adversary he calls “Sleepy Joe.” For months, Trump has been attacking Biden’s age and mental acumen; even spuriously claiming that the former vice president “probably” is on performance-enhancing drugs. Indeed, the Trump campaign spent the bulk of this summer questioning whether “Sleepy Joe” is fit for office and accusing the Biden campaign of trying to circumvent the traditional debates to avoid a potentially embarrassing situation for their candidate.

However, Politico reports, Donald Trump will face Joe Biden within days for the first of three presidential debates—and some of the president’s supporters are already bracing for a humiliating loss.

They worry Trump has set a trap for himself by incessantly attacking Biden’s cognitive and physical abilities “This idea of Biden not knowing how to debate is ridiculous. The more that expectations are lowered for him the worse,” said former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

“A lot of folks are looking for a reason to declare him the victor and now they’ll be able to use Trump’s words as a way to justify their verdict that Biden won,” added Spicer, who believes Biden “will land a punch or two” against Trump—but doubts either candidate’s performance will affect the race all that much.

Ed Rollins, a veteran GOP strategist who currently runs a pro-Trump super PAC, said the Trump campaign has “so diminished” Biden that he is virtually guaranteed to be perceived as the winner once he and Trump emerge from their first debate.

“Biden has clearly shown he can function, the bar is low and the expectations are so low, all he has to do is exceed those expectations,” Rollins told Politico.

Several Trump allies pointed to Biden’s sharp debate earlier this year against Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders—his last remaining opponent in the Democratic primary and a skilled sparring partner—as the clearest indication that he is capable of going toe-to-toe against the president. Biden scored slightly higher than Sanders in a poll following their March debate, where the former vice president delivered a strong case against Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and a practical rebuke of Sanders’ so-called political revolution.

“We have problems we have to solve now. What’s a revolution going to do? Disrupt everything in the meantime?” asked Biden in one memorable line.

Trump has been studying his opponent’s past debate performances and working with a small team of advisers for several weeks to prepare for the trio of fall debates, Politico reports.

The president’s advisers expect Biden will use the current political landscape—as voters face a battered economy, global pandemic, social upheaval and a Supreme Court battle that is likely to sow further division on Capitol Hill—to build a case during each of the debates that Trump has created problems he is incapable of solving.

While they don’t expect Biden, who is prone to verbal blunders and often stumbles over his words, to maintain a strong posture for the entire 90-minute televised debate, they acknowledge that it will take only a couple of stinging sound bites and memorable zingers to surpass the bar Trump has set for him.

“The danger with [Trump’s] sustained attack against Biden’s cognitive abilities is that he’s now created a situation for himself where he has no excuse to fall back on if Biden lands a few punches and he struggles to return blows,” said a Republican close to the Trump campaign.

“I get why the president has gone after Biden for his age and gaffes—no reasonable person can ignore those things—but at some point he should have flipped the script to increase expectations heading into the debates,” this person added.

Research contact: @politico