Posts tagged with "Politics"

Elizabeth Warren has a plan: She wants to pass a law clarifying that presidents can be indicted

June 3, 2019

Would Special Counsel Robert Mueller have charged President Donald Trump with a crime if Justice Department policy had not prevented him from doing so? On Friday, May 31, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) said the answer was “yes,” according to a report by The New York Times.

But Senator Warren—who is among the more than 20 party hopefuls seeking the nomination for president—predictably enough, has a plan for that.

She has proposed legislation aimed at ensuring that “no President is above the law.” Indeed, in a story posted on Medium, she has made her vision clear: “If Donald Trump were anyone other than the president of the United States right now, he would be in handcuffs and indicted …. Mueller’s statement made clear what those of us who have read his report already knew. He’s referring President Trump for impeachment, and it’s up to Congress to act.”

Now, Warren has called on Congress to pass a law clarifying that the DOJ can, in fact, indict the president of the United States, while also renewing her call to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump, the Times reports.

“But impeachment isn’t supposed to be the only way that a President can be held accountable for committing a crime,” she said. “Congress should make it clear that Presidents can be indicted for criminal activity, including obstruction of justice. And when I’m president, I’ll appoint Justice Department officials who will reverse flawed policies so no President is shielded from criminal accountability.”

This is not a new stand for Senator Warren, who declared herself in favor of impeachment about a day after the Mueller report was released on April 18. She also was among several candidates who leveled sharp criticism at Attorney General William Barr for his handling of the report’s release, the news outlet noted.

She renewed her criticism of Barr on May 31, saying he had “disgraced himself by acting like Trump’s personal defense attorney” while also pledging to “appoint an Attorney General who will protect the rule of law.”

She reminded Americans, “No matter what he may think, Donald Trump is not a King. No President is. And our democracy only works if everyone can be held accountable.”

Research contact: @SenWarren

Trump rails against recounts in Florida

November 13, 2018

Even as word came in early on November 12 that Democrat Kyrsten Sinema had taken 49.6% of the Arizona vote in the race for U.S. Senate against the GOP’s Martha McSally (48.1%), President Donald Trump railed against the continuing recounts in Florida—the results of which could change the balance of power in Washington, D.C.

The president alleged, without any solid evidence, that many ballots in the Senate and gubernatorial races were “missing and forged” and that a valid tally  would not be possible, according to a same-day report by the Washington Post.

“An honest vote count is no longer possible—ballots massively infected,” the president tweeted at 7:44 a.m. (ET).

Instead of a recount, Trump suggested that the results from the night of the November 6 midterm election should stand, handing victories to fellow Republicans Rick Scott, the governor, in the Senate race and Ron DeSantis, a former congressman, in the gubernatorial contest.

Must go with Election Night!” the POTUS said.

However, the recounts continue. Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties began retabulating the vote on November 10, while Broward started on November 11. The recounts are happening in accordance with Florida law because of the tight margins in the votes, the Post said.

Notwithstanding those recounts, Trump is not alone . On November 11, Scott went on national television to accuse Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, whom  still is hoping to unseat, of trying to “commit fraud to try to win this election,”  the Post reported, noting, “His campaign said it had filed lawsuits against Brenda Snipes and Susan Bucher, the election supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties, two Democratic strongholds. Democrats called it desperation by a candidate sitting on a precarious vote lead.”

Scott made his comments in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” after his lead shrank to fewer than 13,000 votes in a race with national stakes. In a separate Fox News television appearance Monday, Scott called Nelson a “sore loser” and alleged that “he’s just here to steal this election.”

Nelson fired back on Twitter on Monday, the Post reported, writing that there is “zero evidence backing up claims by Republican extremists that Democrats are trying to steal the election.”

In the Senate contest, Scott’s lead over Nelson has narrowed to 12,562 votes out of more than 8 million ballots cast, the news outlet said—or a margin of 0.15%, according to an unofficial tally Saturday from the state. State law mandates a machine recount if the margin is half a percentage point or less.

The governor’s race also has tightened, with DeSantis ahead by a mere 0.41%. If that margin holds, it would fall short of the 0.25% threshold for a more involved manual recount.

The election results are slated to be certified on November 20. Newly elected senators are expected to report to Washington, D.C., this week for orientation. Scott said he has not decided his schedule yet. The Senate will swear in new members in January.

Research contact: sean.sullivan@washpost.com

‘All-out’ effort: Trump blocks immigration; sets cap at 30,000 for 2019

September 20, 2018

Abandon hope, all ye who would enter here: President Donald Trump plans to cap the number of refugees allowed into the United States over the next year at 30,000, the administration announced on September 17. That represents an historic low for the program, which resettles foreigners fleeing from war, violence, and persecution.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the changes, according to a report by BuzzFeed —saying the cut reflected the “daunting operational reality” of processing the growing backlog of U.S. asylum claims.

“In consideration of both U.S. national security interest and the urgent need to restore integrity to our overwhelmed asylum system, the United States will focus on addressing the humanitarian protection cases of those already in the country,” Pompeo said.

The cap, which will go into effect in October, is the lowest it has been since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980, which standardized resettlement services nationwide. Once the ceiling is reached in fiscal year 2019, America will no longer allow refugees to enter the country — even if they meet the requirements of the program.

The refugee resettlement cuts represent the latest in a long series of efforts by Trump to deter both legal and illegal immigration, BuzzFeed said. Just weeks after taking office in 2017 the POTUS fulfilled his campaign promise of “extreme vetting”suspending the refugee program entirely for 120 days, part of a broader executive order banning travel and immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries.

Since then, the president has scaled back refugee admissions dramatically, lowering the refugee cap to 45,000 in 2018, down from 110,000 the previous year. And with two weeks to go in the fiscal year, the administration has admitted just 20,918 refugees — less than half the number allowed under the current cap.

In a statement on September 18,  Republican Senator Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the of the Senate Judiciary Committee, chastised the Trump administration for not consulting with Congress before setting the cap, saying, “While I appreciate the administration’s commitment to protecting national security and public safety by proposing a refugee cap…it is imperative the agencies abide by their statutory mandate to consult with Congress before any number is proposed. Yet, for the second year in a row, the administration has willfully ignored its statutory mandate to inform and consult with Congress, including designated members of both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, about the number of refugees to be admitted during the next fiscal year.”

Federal law requires an in-person consultation with Congress by a cabinet official before any presidential determination can be issued. Last year, Grassley and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-California) also rebuked the administration for a lack of consultation ahead of the annual refugee cap announcement.

Research contact: michelle@buzzfeed.com

Is the POTUS ‘obstructing justice’ by demanding declassification of Mueller probe documents?

September 19, 2018

The POTUS is treading a thin line, between obstruction of justice and presidential privilege.

On September 17, President Donald Trump directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice to immediately declassify portions of the June 2017 FISA court application regarding former Trump campaign adviser Carter W.Page, according to a report by the Huffington Post.

The president also demanded the public release of text messages exchanged by former FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Trump’s defenders on Capitol Hill and in the conservative media have routinely used the Strzok-Page text messages to undermine the Mueller probe and suggest that the FBI is biased against Trump, the news outlet said.

In immediate response to the order, Representative Adam Schiff (D-California-28th District), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, sent out a tweet at 8:08 p.m. on September 17, remarking: “President Trump has intervened again in a pending investigation by ordering the selective disclosure of classified materials he believes to be helpful to his defense. The DOJ and FBI have previously informed me that release of some of this information would cross a ‘red line.’”

In a statement picked up by MSN, Schiff characterized the president’s order as “a clear abuse of power,” suggesting that Trump  “has decided to intervene in a pending law enforcement investigation by ordering the selective release of materials he believes are helpful to his defense team and thinks will advance a false narrative.”

Representative Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia-11th District) also came out against the release of documents, tweeting shortly after 8 p.m. on September 17, “More obstruction from the President.”

And Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) tweeted on September 18,”The President is trying to undermine an active investigation through reckless declassification. We need an independent DOJ to do everything possible to protect sources and methods.”

The FBI previously had released a heavily redacted version of the Page FISA application in July. Trump also ordered the public release of texts messages sent by former FBI Director James Comey, former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, as well as Justice Department official Bruce Ohr. The president also ordered the release of notes on meetings with Ohr, who relayed information to the FBI collected by former British spy Christopher Steele about Trump’s relationship with Russia.

According to the Huffington Post, a Justice Department spokesperson said late on September 17 that the DOJ and FBI were “already working with the Director of National Intelligence to comply with the President’s order.”

The president’s order, the spokesperson said, triggered “a declassification review process that is conducted by various agencies within the intelligence community, in conjunction with the White House Counsel, to seek to ensure the safety of America’s national security interests.”

Research contact: ryan.reilly@huffingtonpost.com

Daily Beast: NBC admonished Ronan Farrow to stop reporting on Harvey Weinstein

September 4, 2018

Even the hottest and most widely sourced stories can be blocked by news outlets that capitulate to the pressures of politics and profitability. That’s exactly what happened at NBC News, an exclusive report by The Daily Beast alleges, when Ronan Farrow tried to air a story on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment of, and assaults on, female film industry associates in August 2017.

Indeed, even after Farrow left the network, NBC News General Counsel Susan Weiner made a series of calls to the writer and “threatened to smear him,” if he continued to delve into whispers about the Hollywood mogul, The Daily Beast claims in its August 30 scoop.

Farrow went on to publish his story in The New Yorker, causing nationwide reverberations that resulted in the #MeToo movement.

Since then, Farrow has been awarded a 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for a series of articles that revealed allegations of sexual harassment and assault—and questions have lingered about why the network gave up on the story.

Now, the supervising producer who worked beside him at NBC has quit the network, too, and is telling his own full story. Rich McHugh tendered his resignation on Friday, August 17—a year to the day after the Weinstein story left with Farrow.

A spokesperson for NBC News, speaking on the condition of anonymity, vigorously denied all allegations that Farrow was muzzled and intimidated by the network. “Absolutely false,” the spokesperson told The Daily Beast. “There’s no truth to that all. There is no chance … that Susan Weiner would tell Ronan Farrow what he could or could not report on.

“The sole point of the Susan Weiner’s conversation with Farrow, roughly a month after he had left NBC,” the spokesperson added, “ was to make sure he wasn’t still telling sources that he was working on the story for NBC, since he had moved on to The New Yorker.

How it all started

In February 2015, Farrow lost his daytime show on MSNBC and began working with NBC News’s investigative unit. In November 2016, Farrow and Rich McHugh decided they wanted to do a story about Hollywood’s “casting couch”— the longtime practice of producers and other powerful men exchanging sex with women for film roles, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

They presented the idea to NBC News President Noah Oppenheim, who suggested that the team look into a October 2016 tweet by actress Rose McGowan, who said she had been raped by a Hollywood executive, according to two sources with knowledge of the investigation.

Over the next several months, Farrow began collecting evidence that suggested Weinstein had a pattern of inappropriate behavior toward women.  Weinstein pushed back, denying all allegations of non-consensual sex.

An order to stand down

In an interview with The New York Times published on August 30, McHugh accused “the very highest levels of NBC” of later stopping the reporting.

The same network spokesperson says that claim is inaccurate, telling The Daily Beast, “There was not one single victim or witness to misconduct by Harvey Weinstein who was willing to go on the record. Not one.”

By February, according to the sources, Farrow had secured an on-the-record interview with McGowan in which the actress said she had been sexually harassed by a powerful producer, though she did not name Weinstein. (McGowan subsequently named Weinstein during the NBC investigation, according to a source with knowledge of the story, but reportedly pulled her interview after being legally threatened by Weinstein, who had reached a $100,000 settlement with her in 1997 after she accused him of sexual assault.)

Farrow and McHugh also had obtained a bombshell audio recording from an NYPD sting in which Weinstein admitted to groping Filipina-Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez in 2015. (The Battilana audio was subsequently published by The New Yorker.)

However, during a meeting in summer 2017, Oppenheim mentioned to Farrow that Weinstein had raised objections to Farrow’s reporting—even though Farrow had not yet asked Weinstein to comment on the allegations, according to individuals briefed on the meeting.

“Externally, I had Weinstein associates calling me repeatedly,” McHugh told the Times. “I knew that Weinstein was calling NBC executives directly. One time it even happened when we were in the room.”

HuffPost reported last year that Oppenheim had gone so far as to relay concerns from Weinstein’s lawyers that Farrow could not report the story because the producer had worked with his estranged father, director Woody Allen.

“No, absolutely not, and Noah Oppenheim never had a conversation with Harvey Weinstein about the content of NBC News’ investigation,” the network spokesperson said.

By August 2017, Farrow was prepared to fly to California to interview a woman who was going to claim in silhouette on camera that Weinstein had raped her, according to the sources—however, network management said he “needed more” and would not allow Farrow to use an NBC News crew for the interview, a person familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast. Farrow went ahead with the interview anyway, paying for a camera crew out of his own pocket, according to sources.

“Three days before Ronan and I were going to head to L.A.,” McHugh told the Times, “I was ordered to stop, not to interview this woman. And to stand down on the story altogether.”

Dejected, Farrow approached longtime New Yorker media writer Ken Auletta, seeking advice about what to do. It was Auletta who suggested bringing the story to The New Yorker and called Editor in Chief David Remnick, who accepted the idea.

Immediately after Farrow published his bombshell at The New Yorker, top figures at NBC began pointing fingers at each other, two sources said.

While Oppenheim told staffers that he took responsibility for the decision to let the story go, he privately told at least one colleague that NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack and Senior Communications Vice President Mark Kornblau had made him a scapegoat.

The issue remains open. Questions about the story still are surfacing—and they are likely to cause more headaches in the coming months, The Daily Beast reports.

Earlier this year, publisher Little, Brown announced it was publishing a book by Farrow entitled Catch & Kill, in which he is expected to share his recollection of NBC’s decisions around the Weinstein story and report more broadly on the conspiracy of silence that protects powerful men.

More details on the story are available on The Daily Beast website.

Research contact: @maxwelltani

Trump continues to ostracize Canada in trade talks

August 28, 2018

Just months after President Donald Trump said he would withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—which had progressively eliminated tariffs between the United States, Mexico, and Canada since 1994—progress has been announced toward a new deal.

According to an August 26 report by Bloomberg, the POTUS still is threatening to leave NAFTA in the dust—saying on Monday that he would create a trade accord with Mexico that would eliminate Canada from the bloc.

Such a new pact would need to be approved by Congress before it could become effective—and that is unlikely. Although Canada has not been a party to recent talks, the potential for a two-country deal appears small, given opposition by Mexico, American lawmakers and North American industries whose supply chains rely on all three countries, the news outlet reported.

Trump announced the agreement with Mexico in a hastily arranged Oval Office event on August 27, Stars and Stripes said, piggybacking on the Bloomberg report, with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto joining by conference call.

According to the military news outlet, Pena Nieto said he is “quite hopeful” Canada would soon be incorporated in the revised agreement, while Trump said that remains to be seen.

The agreement with Mexico centers on rules governing the automobile industry, resolving a big source of friction, but leaves aside other contentious issues that affect all three countries.

Early on Monday morning, Trump tweeted, “A big deal looking good with Mexico!”

America’s trade relations with Canada have deteriorated in recent months, as President Trump has repeatedly carped on the country’s trade practices and Canadian leaders have insisted they will not rush to sign a deal that does not work in their favor.

On August 24, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said that Canada would be “happy” to rejoin the talks once the United States and Mexico had made progress on their specific issues. “Once the bilateral issues get resolved, Canada will be joining the talks to work on both bilateral issues and our trilateral issues,” Freeland said.

Trump has continued to inject uncertainty into the NAFTA talks, believing that the strategy gives his advisers an advantage at the negotiating table, the news outlets said. He has hit Canada and Mexico with hefty tariffs on their shipments of steel and aluminum and threatened further taxes on their cars.

Research contact: @EMPosts 

Trump tied to Cohen’s guilty plea; Manafort considers next steps

August 23, 2018

“If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” President Donald Trump tweeted early on August 22, following a day in which his former “fixer” surrendered to the FBI in New York City and pleaded guilty to eight violations of banking, tax, and campaign finance laws–implicating the POTUS in the process.

The feeling is mutual: For years, one of Trump’s most trusted confidantes, as well as his personal attorney, Cohen made it abundantly clear in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that he has flipped and is willing to talk to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team about the Russia case—less than a year after he said he “would take a bullet for” the president.

His only loyalty now, he has said, remains with his wife, his children, and the American people.

Specifically, in court, he said that, during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump [referred to as a candidate for federal office] directed him to make payments to two women who claimed they had affairs with the president in exchange for their silence.

According to his lawyer Lanny Davis—who also represented President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal—Cohen has information that would be of “significant interest” to Mueller’s team. Davis told MSNBC that the information pertains both to “knowledge of a conspiracy to corrupt American democracy by the Russians and the failure to report that knowledge to the FBI.”

Although Cohen’s recommended sentence for his crimes currently stands at five years, the implication is that—if he is of sufficient use to the Mueller team—that sentence may be reduced.

Also on August 21, Trump’s former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort was found guilty by a jury in Alexandria, Virginia, on eight out of 18 tax and bank fraud charges leveled against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in a case meant to bring pressure against the defendant to turn on his former boss.

Manafort is due back in court in Washington, D.C., next month for a second trial centered on allegations of lying to the FBI, money laundering and foreign lobbying, according to the Washington Post. Pundits said he “had plenty to think about” on Wednesday night.

Trump has continued to call Manafort’s prosecution “sad” and to insist that his former campaign aide has been swept up in a “witch hunt” instigated by the Democratic Party.

“Paul Manafort’s a good man,” Trump told reporters in West Virginia. The verdict, he said, “doesn’t involve me, but I still feel, you know, it’s a very sad thing that happened.”

On August 22, according to Gallup, Trump’s favorability rating remained stable, at 42%.

Research contact: datainquiry@gallup.com

Schumer: ‘Mainfestly unfair’ not to share Kavanaugh documents with entire Senate

August 22, 2018

Senate Minority Leader Charles (Chuck) Schumer (D-New York) said on August 20 that he is demanding that documents from SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh‘s White House tenure under President George W. Bush as Staff Secretary that currently are marked “committee confidential” should be shared with the entire Senate.

“I will … be submitting a request to the chairman and the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee for access for all senators to all of the Kavanaugh documents in the possession of the committee,” Schumer said, according to a report by The Hill on Monday.

He added that “withholding documents from the Senate and the American people under the bogus label of committee confidential is a dark development for the Senate.”

As the legal team for former President George W. Bush hands over documents on Kavanaugh’s work at the White House to the Judiciary Committee, the paperwork is initially marked “committee confidential.” The documents are then reviewed to determine which can be released publicly, The Hill said.

Democrats estimate that roughly 33% of the documents handed over by the Bush legal team to Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are still marked “committee confidential”—preventing them being released publicly.

“It’s outrageous. Now, Chairman Grassley is usually a fair-minded man. …But when it comes to this area, Chairman Grassley’s actions are manifestly unfair, not typical of his character. I understand the pressure he is under, but that doesn’t forgive the result,” Schumer added.

In a strictly partisan move, Republicans have dismissed the attacks, arguing that Democrats have focused on Kavanaugh’s paperwork because they’ve struggled to find a policy issue that could sink his nomination.

Grassley called out Schumer in a tweet saying any senator was able to stop by the Judiciary Committee to review the documents.

A spokesperson for Grassley also called accepting documents as “committee confidential” an “old hat.”

“Now, as in the past, the committee has agreed to accept material at least initially on a committee confidential basis in order to facilitate timely access and review. Doing so ensures that members of the committee have access to records that presidents may otherwise privilege. This procedure is old hat and the Democrats know it,” the spokesperson added.

According to a CNN poll released on August 16, only 37% of Americans say they’d like to see the Senate vote in favor of his confirmation. Kavanaugh’s support is the lowest in polling dating back to Robert Bork’s nomination by President Ronald Reagan in 1987.

Research contact: @jennagiesta