Posts tagged with "Politico"

16 states file suit in California to block Trump’s national emergency declaration

February 20, 2019

A coalition of 16 states—led by California—filed suit on February 18 to block President Donald Trump’s ploy to fund a southern border wall by declaring a national emergency.

In addition to California, the other states that joined the lawsuit are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia.

The plaintiffs called Trump’s declaration—which side-stepped a firm “no” to his request for $5 billion in funding for the wall from Congress— a “flagrant disregard of fundamental separation of powers principles,” Politico reported.

The complaint (State of California et. al. v. Trump et. al.)—which requested injunctive relief from the U.S. District Court for Northern California under proceeding #3:19-cv-00872—is the third in a string of legal challenges already launched against Trump’s use of emergency powers since he announced the move during a meandering White House news conference on January 15, the political news outlet said.

Public Citizen, a liberal advocacy group, along with Frontera Audobon Society of South Texas, also filed a suit (Case No. 19-ev-404) late Friday—this one, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia— on behalf of three Texas landowners who would be impacted by the construction of a wall along the border.

“Rather than responding to an emergency requiring immediate action, the Declaration seeks to address a long-running disagreement between the President and Congress about whether to build a wall along the southwestern border and Congress’s refusal to appropriate funds for that purpose,” the complaint said.

“However,:” it continued, “under our Constitution, built on the principle of separation of powers, a disagreement between the President and Congress about how to spend money does not constitute an emergency authorizing unilateral executive action. The Declaration and the planned expenditure of Department of Defense funds for construction of the wall exceed President Trump’s authority under the National Emergencies Act, other statutes invoked by the President as authority to fund the wall, and the Constitution. The invocation of emergency powers and exercise of those powers, and the diversion of funds to build a wall, are thus contrary to law.”

And Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics—a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC— has filed a motion against the Department of Justice demanding that the agency provide documents pertaining to the legal justification of the president’s emergency declaration.

Americans deserve to know the true basis for President Trump’s unprecedented decision to enact emergency powers to pay for a border wall,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder, in a release from the group, adding, “We’re suing because the government has so far failed to produce the requested documents or provide an explanation for their delay.”

The states that filed against the president on February 18 argued that Trump engaged in an “unlawful scheme” when he “used the pretext of a manufactured ‘crisis’ of unlawful immigration to declare a national emergency and redirect federal dollars appropriated for drug interdiction, military construction, and law enforcement initiatives toward building a wall on the United States-Mexico border,” according to a copy of the complaint obtained by Politico.

“It’s kind of awkward to say that on Presidents’ Day we’re going to be suing the president of the United States, but sometimes that’s what you have to do,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said during a Monday appearance on CNN, after telegraphing for weeks that he was prepared to take swift legal action if Trump followed through on his repeated vows to invoke an immigration emergency to justify diverting wall funding.

Becerra, who is leading the states coalition, alleges that Trump “has veered the country toward a constitutional crisis of his own making” despite a refusal by Congress refusing to allocate the funds needed to start construction. It cites his remarks in the Friday news conference that he “didn’t need to do this” as evidence his emergency declaration was without merit.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment.

Research contact: @priscialva 

House puts spotlight on secret Trump-Putin summits

February 19, 2019

What happened—in Hamburg in July 2017 and in Helsinki in July 2018—will remain there, if it’s up to the two global leaders who participated in those meetings: Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Apparently there are secrets that the American president has gone to great lengths to suppress—confiscating his translator’s notes of the Hamburg meeting; and allowing no detailed records of his private Helsinki sit-down , according to a recent report by Politico.

But with that silence comes an opportunity for coercion by Putin, who holds Trump’s secrets close at a cost: Intelligence officials fear that Putin may have compromised the American president, who could be following the Russian’s dangerous agenda out of fear of exposure and reprisals.

Now, all that is about to change, as House Democrats prepare to take their first meaningful steps to force Trump to divulge information about those private conversations.

The chairmen of two powerful congressional oversight panel—Representative Adam Schiff (D-California) of the Intelligence Committee and Representative Eliot Engel (D-New York) of the Foreign Affairs Committeetold Politico late last week that “they are exploring options to legally compel the president to disclose his private conversations with the Russian president.

The two lawmakers told the political news outlet that they are “actively consulting” with House General Counsel Douglas Letter about the best way to legally compel the Trump administration to come clean.

“I had a meeting with the general counsel to discuss this and determine the best way to find out what took place in those private meetings — whether it’s by seeking the interpreter’s testimony, the interpreter’s notes, or other means,” Schiff, told Politico in an interview.

According to the February 16 story, the move underscores the seriousness with which Democrats view Trump’s conciliatory statements and actions toward Moscow; and its place as a top House priority as the party pursues wide-ranging investigations into the president and his administration.

Specifically, Politico reported, Democrats want a window into the Helskini meeting last summer, during which Trump put himself at odds with the U.S. intelligence community and declared—while standing next to the Russian president—that the Kremlin did not interfere in the 2016 elections.

“I don’t see any reason why [Russia would interfere with the 2016 election],” he said at the extraordinary news conference following the private confabulation.

Trump’s remark prompted Democrats to call for Marina Gross, the State Department translator who was the only other American present for the Trump-Putin meeting, to share her notes with Congress and testify in public.

Getting Gross’s notes and testimony may be a challenging task, Schiff admitted—noting possible legal roadblocks, including executive privilege.

“That’s a privilege that, based on first impression, is designed to facilitate consultations between the president and members of his staff and Cabinet — not to shield communications with a foreign leader,” Schiff said. “But that’s just a preliminary take. And once we get the studied opinion of the general counsel, then we’ll decide how to go forward.”

For his part, Engel told Politico, “I’m not saying that I’m in favor of interpreters turning over all their notes, but I do think that it shouldn’t be up to the president to hide the notes.”

The White House is expected to fight divulging the details of the discussions every step of the way.

Research contact: @desiderioDC

House Dems to probe Trump White House security clearance process

January 24, 2019

House Democratic investigators formally launched a probe on January 23 into how the White House “finessed” security clearances for staffers, including those for short-term National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Senior Adviser (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner—accusing the Trump administration of playing fast-and-loose with the nation’s most guarded secrets, according to a report by Politico.

Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) laid out several lines of inquiry on the matter in a letter to the White House, specifically naming Flynn and other top officials whom he says should have raised red flags.

“The Committee on Oversight and Reform is launching an in-depth investigation of the security clearance process at the White House and Transition Team in response to grave breaches of national security at the highest levels of the Trump administration,” Cummings aid in the letter to the White House, obtained by NBC News.

The panel will press the White House to provide Congress with information about how and why it issued some security clearances, which Democrats note is required under federal law, Politico said. Democrats say the White House has so far refused to provided that information. Several inquiries on the same issue went unanswered by the administration last year.

The goals of this investigation are to determine why the White House and Transition Team appear to have disregarded established procedures for safeguarding classified information, evaluate the extent to which the nation’s most highly guarded secrets were provided to officials who should not have had access to them, and develop reforms to remedy the flaws in current White House systems and practices,” Cummings wrote.

Cummings specifically cited former Chief of Staff John Kelly’s acknowledgment of “shortcomings” in the security clearance process — and Kelly’s statement that the Trump administration “take a hard look” at how the White House handles clearances, Politico reported.

In addition to Flynn and Kushner, Cummings is requesting information on any problems or issues that arose in the security clearance processes for multiple individuals, including: former Deputy National Security adviser K.T. McFarland; National Security Adviser John Bolton; Rob Porter, the ex-White House staff secretary who left amid allegations of spousal abuse; former National Security Council Senior Director Robin Townley; and ex-deputy Assistant to the President Sebastian Gorka.

Research contact: @rachaelmbade

Trump: ‘I don’t care’ if Putin conversation becomes public

January 16. 2019

Following media reports that he squelched access to transcripts of his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin—and welshed on any promises to share them with his top aides—President Donald Trump on January 12 said he would be willing to release the details of the leaders’ private conversation in Helsinki last summer, Politico has reported.

“I would. I don’t care,” Trump told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro in a phone interview. “I’m not keeping anything under wraps. I couldn’t care less.”

The president’s remarks came hours after a report by The Washington Post stating that Trump “has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details” of his talks with Putin. The Post also reported that there is no detailed record of Trump’s interactions with Putin at five locations over the past two years, according to U.S. officials.

The president referred to his roughly two-hour meeting with Putin in Helsinki — at which only the leaders and their translators were present — as “a great conversation” that included discussions about “securing Israel and lots of other things,” Politico said.

“I had a conversation like every president does,” Trump told Pirro. “You sit with the president of various countries. I do it with all countries.”

House Republicans in July blocked an attempt by Democratic lawmakers to subpoena Trump’s interpreter in Helsinki. Politico previously had reported that Putin raised the subjects of nuclear arms controls and weapons prohibitions in space during the one-on-one conference, according to a Russian document.

Asked by Pirro if he’d ever worked on behalf of Russia, Trump did not directly answer the question, calling a New York Times report of an FBI counterintelligence investigation on him “insulting.”

Trump also evaded a question on whether the administration was seeking to keep special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report on the Russia probe from the public, saying only that the investigation was a “hoax.”

Research contact: @QuintForgey

Former Bernie Sanders campaigners say #MeToo

January 2, 2018

More than two dozen women and men who worked on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign are seeking an in-person meeting with the senator and his top political advisers to “discuss the issue of sexual violence and harassment on the 2016 campaign, for the purpose of planning to mitigate the issue in the upcoming presidential cycle,” according to a copy of letter obtained by Politico.

“In recent weeks there has been an ongoing conversation on social media, in texts, and in person, about the untenable and dangerous dynamic that developed during our campaign,” they wrote.

Organizers of the effort said they did not intend for the letter to become public, but they confirmed that they sent it to senior Sanders officials on December 30. The signatories (whose names were deleted from the copy of the letter that went public) range from field organizers to some of the top officials on the 2016 campaign, according to multiple people involved in the effort, Politico reported. Some of the former aides do not expect to join any 2020 campaign while others are open to joining a potential Sanders 2020 bid.

In the letter, the Bernie “alumni” were particular intent on talking to both Sanders and Jeff Weaver—the campaign manager for the Senator’s 2016 presidential push , on a short-term basis, the president of Our Revolution, a nonprofit established by Sanders.

People involved in the effort said they signed the letter before Sanders (I-Vermont) officially launched a 2020 presidential bid in the hopes that it would lead to real action if and when the senator begins assembling his team. Organizers wrote they wanted the meeting to produce a plan for “implementing concrete sexual harassment policies and procedures; and a commitment to hiring diverse leadership to preempt the possibility of replicating the predatory culture from the first presidential campaign.”

“This letter is just a start,” said one of the organizers who declined to be named. “We are addressing what happened on the Bernie campaign but as people [who] work in this space we see that all campaigns are extremely dangerous to women and marginalized people and we are attempting to fix that.”

Friends of Bernie Sanders, the senator’s principal campaign committee, responded to the letter in a statement to Politico: “We thank the signers of the letter for their willingness to engage in this incredibly important discussion,” the statement reads. “We always welcome hearing the experiences and views of our former staff. We also value their right to come to us in a private way so their confidences and privacy are respected. And we will honor this principle with respect to this private letter.”

The committee said that it had established “a third-party hotline’ in order to handle reports of sexual harassment and administer mandated training.

The letter continued, “Harassment of any kind is intolerable. Having the experiences and thoughts of individuals who worked on Bernie’s 2016 campaign is a vital part of our commitment to work within our progressive community to improve the lives of all people. And that’s why we will continue to examine these policies and processes, with feedback welcome.”

Research contact: @AlxThomp

Flynn sentencing delayed following combative hearing

December 19, 2018

The former (and fleetingly ensconced) national security adviser for the Trump administration, Michael Flynn, is not off the hook yet.

Flynn—who admitted lying to the FBI in January 2017 about a conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in which he promised to relax U.S. sanctions; and who served as a foreign agent for Turkey concurrently with his day job at the White House—was scheduled to be sentenced on December 18 by Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

However, the sentencing for crimes investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team was postponed, Politico reported, after Judge Sullivan suggested that all sides wait until Flynn had finished cooperating with the Russia probe.

The surprise outcome came after an uncommonly combative hearing, during which Sullivan repeatedly admonished Flynn, telling him, “Arguably, you sold your country out.”

The court had been expected to go easy on Flynn, after sentencing guidelines by the Mueller team noted that his “history and characteristics,” along with his contributions to the investigation, presented “mitigating” circumstances. “The defendant deserves credit for accepting responsibility in a timely fashion and substantially assisting the government,” the document said.

“All along you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser to the president of the United States,” Sullivan said at Tuesday’s hearing. “Arguably, that undermines everything that flag over here stands for.”

According to Politico, after about an hour of back and forth with Flynn and his lawyers, as well as Mueller’s team, Sullivan called an abrupt recess to give Flynn and his lawyers more time to reconsider whether they wanted to proceed with the sentencing, indicating he was not always comfortable sentencing those who are still cooperating with authorities.

Sullivan also noted that he was not obliged to follow Mueller’s recommendation that Flynn get little or no prison time for pleading guilty.

“This is a very serious offense,” said Sullivan, who noted Flynn’s crime involved a high-ranking official of the government making false statements to the FBI “while on the physical premise of the White House.”

After the recess, the news outlet said, Flynn attorney Robert Kelner said they would accept Sullivan’s offer to postpone sentencing so they can “eek” out every drop of cooperation benefit. “We do not take it as a wink-wink, nod-nod,” Kelner said.

“I’m not promising anything,” Sullivan replied.

For his part, Politico said, Flynn initially had said he didn’t want to take Sullivan up on his offer to postpone his sentencing hearing. “I appreciate that, but no your honor,” the former Trump official said.

After running through some housekeeping issues related to the Flynn case, including setting the March 13 date for the next status conference, Sullivan adjourned the hearing with a “happy holidays.”

Research contact: @dsamuelsohn

Can new White House counsel hold the line as Dems, Mueller gain ground?

December 6, 2018

New White House Counsel Pat Cipollone began work on December 3, following a nearly two-month delay since his appointment—and with dwindling time to help colleagues fend off both the Russia investigation and a coming onslaught of House Democratic oversight demands, Politico reports.

Cipollone, a partner at the D.C. law firm, Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner, also has Justice Department credentials—having served there during the George H. W. Bush administration. He already has advised the White House on the Mueller probe—however, those in the know anticipate that Emmet Flood will continue to take “first chair” in that legal challenge.

President Donald Trump tapped Cipollone to replace Chief White House Counsel Don McGahn, who stepped down just before the midterm elections, on October 17, following a turbulent tenure during which he clashed with the president (and also testified to Mueller’s team). Cipollone’s start date was confirmed to Politico by “two sources familiar with the timing.”

Even before assuming his official duties, the political news outlet confirmed, Cipollone had reached out to White House legal aides responsible for everything from judicial nominations to federal litigation to presidential pardons. His first major test will involve handling (or holding off) several investigations launched by House Democrats, who will assume committee chairmanships in January.

Mike Purpura, a Justice Department alumnus who worked in George W. Bush’s counsel’s office, is likely to serve as deputy White House counsel leading the response to congressional investigations, according to a source familiar with the plans, Politico said. In that role, he is expected to emerge as a central behind-the-scenes player in the West Wing over the next two years, helping to shield the president from newly emboldened Democrats with subpoena power.

Research contact: @elianayjohnson

Judge gives go-ahead to subpoenas in Trump Hotel emoluments lawsuit

December 5, 2018

Peter J. Messitte, a federal judge for the U.S. District Court of Maryland ruled on December 3 that lawyers for Maryland and Washington, D.C., plaintiffs in an emoluments-related lawsuit can start issuing subpoenas. The suit alleges that President Donald Trump has used his luxury hotel near the White House to unconstitutionally profit from his political office, Politico reported on December 3.

The case would set the stage either for potentially shutting down the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., or for requiring Trump to divest entirely from the property—where many foreign diplomats currently are staying when they visit the Beltway and where many U.S. politicians are holding dinners and events to gain favor with the president.

In fact, the GSA lease for the property—which governs the use of the Old Post Office Building in the District of Columbia, where the hotel is situated—clearly states: “No … elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.

According to Politico, the attorneys general in Maryland and Washington said they planned to serve as many as 20 companies and government agencies with subpoenas by midday on December 4.

It’s the first time a lawsuit alleging a president violated the Constitution’s emoluments, or anti-corruption, clauses has advanced to the discovery stage, the political news outlet noted.

In response, Politico reported, the Justice Department on November 30 said it would try to halt the attorneys’ general case with an appeal to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, but by the end of the day on Monday, December 3, the DOJ had yet to file anything in that court.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said that, if Justice Department lawyers do seek to stop the case, he said he was confident the delay would be temporary.

“They have a very high burden to win on a Writ of Mandamus, I don’t think they can meet that standard here,” Frosh told Politico. “They’ve done everything they possibly can to stop us from getting discovery.”

Research contact: @Woellert

Grim climate report galvanizes incoming Democrats

November 27, 2018

Federal scientists warned in a new report released on November 23 that “more frequent and intense extreme weather- and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities nationwide” in the coming years—with costs threatening to reach hundreds of billions of dollars annually by the middle of this century.

The message, echoing decades of sobering conclusions from the world’s leading climate scientists, is at odds with President Donald Trump’s repeated denial of global warming, Politico reported; noting that the administration chose to release it on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day and one of the slowest news days of the year.

But despite the timing, the report—Fourth National Climate Assessment—is bound to energize the new class of progressive Democrats set to take control of the House in January, the political news outlet predicted—saying that “Many of them, led by incoming Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14th District, New York) already are pushing for an expansive “Green New Deal” as one of the rallying cries the party would take into the 2020 campaign.

The 1,600-plus-page document is the just the most recent to warn that the planet will see devastating changes. Indeed, the researchers warned, “Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems—including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security.”

The effects of global warming are expected to alter the coastlines, worsen droughts and storms, and foster the outbreaks of dangerous diseases as temperatures climb.

And while the report said that quick action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution could dramatically affect the state of the planet by the end of the century, many of the impacts the U.S. will see in the next two decades appear irreversible—both on the environment and on the economy. “With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.”

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-30th District, Texas) who is set to take the gavel at the House Science Committee, said it’s time to start addressing the causes of the wildfires, devastating storms, coastal flooding and toxic algae blooms that plagued much of the U.S. this year, Politico reported. “That is why I have made climate change one of my top priorities for the Committee going in to the next Congress,” she said in a statement.

The government officials who oversaw the report said there had been no political influence over its findings, but they sidestepped questions about whether the White House sought to bury the report by releasing it in the middle of a long holiday weekend, Politico said.

“We hope you will focus on the content of the report,” David Reidmiller, the director of the National Climate Assessment, told reporters. “We think the report speaks for itself.”

Ocasio-Cortez pressed the case in a tweet, taking her Democratic colleagues to task: “People are going to die if we don’t start addressing climate change ASAP. It’s not enough to think it’s ‘important.’ We must make it urgent,” she wrote. “That’s why we need a Select Committee on a Green New Deal, & why fossil fuel-funded officials shouldn’t be writing climate change policy.

The White House tried to downplay the new report’s conclusions Friday, claiming that they are “largely based on most extreme scenarios.” The White House also noted that U.S. greenhouse gas pollution has declined 14% since 2005—although the causes of that drop include trends that Trump opposes, such as a shift away from coal-fired power plants.

The new report, which Congress requires to be issued every four years, was released by U.S. Global Change Research Program. It is the product of 300 scientific experts under the guidance of a 60-member federal advisory committee, and it was open to review by the public, 13 federal agencies, and a panel at the National Academy of Sciences.

Research contact: @dailym1

Trump parries with press on CIA report that MBS ordered Khashoggi murder

November 26, 2018

On Thanksgiving, President Donald Trump took time out from thanking himself for doing a wonderful job to say that the CIA did not reach a conclusion about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi—adding during a teleconference with U.S. military troops that Salman “regretted the death more than I do,” Politico reported.

The president previously had declined to listen to Turkey’s tape of the actual murder—or to confirm or deny reports that the CIA had concluded that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s assassination.

When asked who should be blamed instead, Trump said on the conference call from his residence and private club Mar-a-Lago, “maybe the world” because it’s a “vicious, vicious place,” and referenced oil prices as a reason not to punish Saudi Arabia further, according to pool reports.

Asked by a reporter if the CIA had a recording implicating Salman, Politico noted that the president responded: “I don’t want to talk about it. You’ll have to ask them.”

Later, he answered a question on the crown prince’s possible involvement by saying: “Whether he did or whether he didn’t, he denies it vehemently. His father denies, the king, vehemently. The CIA doesn’t say they did it. They do point out certain things, and in pointing out those things, you can conclude that maybe he did or maybe he didn’t.”

Comments from both the press and the public were, on the whole, critical of Trump’s refusal to denounce the Saudis during the holiday and the preceding week.

“He’s actually publicly lying about whether or not the US government and its intelligence agencies have concluded … that Khashoggi was murdered and by whom, MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow tweeted on 1 p.m. on November 23.

According to a November 23 report by The Hill, Turkey’s top ranking diplomat scorched President Trump on Friday, accusing him of turning a ‘blind eye’ to the killing of Washington Post journalist and Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi.

“Trump’s statements amount to him saying ‘I’ll turn a blind eye no matter what,'” Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said in an interview.

“Money isn’t everything. We must not move away from human values,” Çavuşoğlu added.

David Axelrod, director of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, tweeted, “For all his bravado @real Donald Trump has proven himself pathetically weak in the eyes of the world, heeling like a Chihuahua on the end of a gilded Saudi leash,” at 8:42 a.m. on November 22.

Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, commented, “The president’s failure to hold Saudi Arabia responsible in any meaningful way for the death of Jamal Khashoggi is just one more example of this White Houe’s retreat from American leadership on issues like human rights and protecting the free press.”

Finally, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) tweeted, “ … [It] is not in our national security interests to look the other way when it comes to the brutal murder of Mr. Jamal #Khashoggi.”

A poll conducted at the end of October by Axios/SurveyMonkey found that most Americans think President Trump hasn’t been tough enough on Saudi Arabia in response to the  Khashoggi by Saudi agents—with just one-third saying his response had been “about right” and only 5% thinking he had been too tough.

Research contact: @LilyStephens13