Posts tagged with "Press conference"

DOJ sues Texas over abortion law

September 13, 2021

On Thursday, September 9, the Biden Administration sued the State of Texas over its highly restrictive abortion law, which the Supreme Court allowed to take effect earlier this month, reports Politico.

“The act is clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a news conference. “This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans, whatever their politics or party, should fear.”

The Texas law, SB8, effectively bans most abortions by prohibiting the procedure after six weeks from conception—a period that is before when many people become aware they are pregnant. Additionally, it sets up a novel enforcement mechanism that authorizes private citizens to file lawsuits against those who are believed to perform or aid in an abortion outside of that window.

Garland took direct aim at that aspect of the law, saying it empowered “bounty hunters” to enforce it for the guarantee of a minimum of $10,000 payment if the suit succeeds. He also warned that the Texas law could become a model not only for other states but also for people looking to undermine other constitutional rights, which he did not specify.

“If it prevails, it may become a model for action in other areas in other states,” the attorney general told reporters at Justice Department headquarters.

Politico and other outlets reported on Wednesday, September 8, that the Department of Justice was preparing to sue Texas over the new law, which has outraged Democrats and abortion rights supporters in the aftermath of the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling refusing an emergency stay against the statute.. The new lawsuit was filed Thursday afternoon in federal court in the state capital, Austin, and was assigned to Judge Lee Yeakel, an appointee of former President George W. Bush. The Justice Department is seeking an injunction to halt enforcement of Texas’ law and is claiming that the law “irreparably injures” the federal government.

According to Politico, President Joe Biden has faced intense pressure to respond to Texas’ abortion restrictions—nd to early moves in other conservative-led states to craft similar laws. Biden has decried the law, calling it “un-American” and saying it “blatantly violates” the landmark Roe v. Wade precedent. The complaint makes a similar argument and claims Texas lawmakers enacted the statute “in open defiance of the Constitution.”

“It takes little imagination to discern Texas’s goal — to make it too risky for an abortion clinic to operate in the State, thereby preventing women throughout Texas from exercising their constitutional rights, while simultaneously thwarting judicial review,” it states.

Thursday’s announcement makes good on Biden’s promise to take on Texas and attempt to block enforcement of the abortion law—setting up a high-stakes fight with Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, who are both Republicans up for reelection next year and have vowed to defend the law.

Garland said that, in addition to violating the rights of women, Texas’ law interfered with the work of several federal agencies—including the Departments of Labor, Heath and Human Services, and Defense—in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Despite the White House’s evident desire to combat the Texas law, Garland insisted that the Justice Department had not responded to pressure to file the suit.

“The Department of Justice does not file lawsuits based on pressure,” the attorney general declared, without elaborating on what role the White House played in preparations for the suit. “We carefully evaluated the law and the facts.”

While federal government lawsuits seeking to invalidate state laws are unusual, they are far from unprecedented. Under former President George W. Bush, the Justice Department sued Arizona over a state law seeking to crack down on undocumented immigrants. And under former President Donald Trump, the Justice Department sued California over state laws impacting immigration enforcement, the use of private prisons and efforts to develop federal land.

The Justice Department designated its new suit as related to a previous one filed by abortion providers and abortion-rights advocates in July over the Texas law. The designation puts the case before Judge Robert Pitman, an appointee of President Barack Obama, but lawyers for Texas could try to challenge the designation.

Research contact: @politico

Cuomo violated federal, state laws as he sexually harassed multiple women, NY attorney general says

August 4, 2021

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women—and then retaliated against a former employee who complained publicly about his conduct, according to a bombshell report released on Tuesday, August 3, by State Attorney General Letitia James.

The monthslong probe concluded that Cuomo “sexually harassed multiple women, and in doing so violated federal and state law,” James said at a press conference.

The 165-page report—which comprises interviews with 179 witnesses and a review of tens of thousands of documents—also said that Cuomo’s office was riddled with fear and intimidation, and was a hostile work environment for many staffers.

According to a report by CNBC, the report confirms that Cuomo harassed members of his own staff, members of the public; and other state employees, one of whom was a state trooper, the report alleges.

The findings reveal “a deeply disturbing, yet clear, picture,” James said, describing Cuomo’s office as “a toxic workplace.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated calls for Cuomo to step down just after James’ report was released, and several other high-profile pol—including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Representatives Hakeem Jeffries, Gregory Meeks and Tom Suozzi didn’t take long to join the chorus.

“It is beyond clear that Andrew Cuomo is not fit to hold office and can no longer serve as governor,” de Blasio said. “He must resign, and if he continues to resist and attack the investigators who did their jobs, he should be impeached immediately.”

Cuomo defended himself just hours after the report was released. In an appearance carried by WPIX-TV/Channel 11, Cuomo said, “[I deny] ever sexually harassing people,” and went on to show a photo montage of himself touching people’s faces and kissing them on the cheek.

“I actually learned it from my mother and from my father,” he said. “It is meant to convey warmth, nothing more.”

Cuomo said it’s something he does with everyone and that it’s something he’s done his entire life: “Black and white, young and old, straight and LGBTQ, powerful people, friends, strangers, people who I meet on the street.”

Research contact: @CNBC

Biden-Putin summit: U.S. and Russian leaders meet for tense Geneva talks

June 17, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, met in Geneva, Switzerland on June 16 for four hours during their first, highly-anticipated summit, the BBC reports.

The talks came at a time when both sides describe relations as being “at rock bottom.” President Biden had said that he expected no major breakthroughs —but hoped to find small areas of agreement.

Among the topics that were slated to be covered, according to the BBC, were the following:

  • Diplomacy: The two sides are expected to discuss the withdrawal of their ambassadors, who returned home amid heightened tensions. America has expelled dozens of Russian diplomats and shut down two compounds in recent years; while U.S. missions in Russia are set to be barred from employing locals, meaning dramatic cuts in services including visas.
  • Arms control: Officials also believe there could be common ground on arms control. In February, the countries extended their New Start nuclear arms control treaty. Russia wants this to be further extended.
  • Cyberattacks: Biden is expected to raise concerns over recent cyberattacks that the United States has linked to Russia-based hackers. Putin has denied Russian involvement.
  • Elections: The issue of alleged Russian interference in U.S. elections is also likely to come up. Again, Putin denies any involvement.
  • Prisoners:The families of two former U.S.Marines who are being held in Russian prisons have pressed for their release ahead of the summit. Asked if he would be willing to negotiate on a prisoner swap, Putin told NBC News, “Of course”
  • Navalny:The Russian side has called the alleged poisoning and imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny an internal political matter. But a senior U.S. official told the Associated Press news agency that there is “no issue that is off the table for the president.”
  • Ukraine: Relations with America when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. There have been warnings this year of a build-up of Russian troops in Crimea and near Ukraine’s border,sparking concerns of preparations for war. Putin also has baulked recently at the idea of Ukrainian membership of NATO.
  • Syria:Biden is expected to appeal to Russia not to close the only remaining UN aid corridor from Turkey into opposition-held northwest Syria. A vote on r-authorizing the corridor will be held by the UN Security Council, in which Russia—which supports Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad—has veto power

According to The New York Times, emerging from his first meeting with Biden since his election as U.S. president, Putin began by saying the talks had gone well—but it soon became clear that tensions between the countries may be unlikely to ease significantly any time soon.

Putin denied that Russia has played a role in a spate of increasingly bold cyberattacks against U.S. institutions, and said the United States was the biggest offender.

The Times reported that the Russian leader’s remarks suggested that he was not interested in discussing what Biden had said was a key objective of the talks: to establish some “guardrails” about what kinds of attacks on critical infrastructure are off limits in peacetime.

Putin did suggest that there had been some kind of agreement to establish expert groups to examine these issues, but U.S. officials fear it is little more than a ploy to tie the matter up in committee.

“There has been no hostility,” Putin declared. “On the contrary, our meeting took place in a constructive spirit.”

Addressing reporters at the Geneva villa where the meeting took place, the Russian president said: “Both sides expressed their intention to understand each other and seek common ground. The talks were quite constructive.”

Research contact: @BBCNews

Trump spin: ‘It’s a great day’ for George Floyd

June 8, 2020

On Friday, June 5, at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump proclaimed it a “great day for equality” and a “great day” for George Floyd following a jobs report that showed unemployment falling, except for African Americans, and ten days of unrest sparked by Floyd’s death.

The president delivered lengthy and often rambling remarks in the Rose Garden that were ostensibly meant to highlight a new jobs report that showed unemployment falling after weeks of the country being shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic, The Hill reported.

But Trump veered frequently from topic to topic, at times addressing the nationwide protests spurred by Floyd’s death. Floyd died on May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest.

“Equal justice under the law must mean every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement regardless of race, color, gender or creed,” Trump said. “They have to receive fair treatment from law enforcement.”

“We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen,” he continued, referencing Floyd’s death.

“Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. This is a great day for him, it’s a great day for everybody. This is a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality.”

Protests, including large-scale protests near the White House, continue across the nation. Law enforcement has erected fencing around the White House complex in recent days, and the area is expected to remain closed to the public until June 10, The Hill notes.

Trump, who has called for governors to “dominate” the streets to quell protests related to police brutality and systemic racism, took no questions on Friday in the Rose Garden. When reporters shouted as he signed legislation to inquire what his plan is to address the issues protesters are raising, Trump held a finger to his lips to quiet them.

Trump touted a better-than-expected jobs report, which showed unemployment at 13.3% in May after hitting a post-World War II high of 14.7% the previous month. Economists had predicted the jobless rate in May would rise as high as 19% as many states remained at least partially locked down to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But for black workers, the unemployment rate was 16.8%, a slight uptick from the 16.7%  unemployment rate in April and the highest in more than a decade, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The jobless rate for white workers declined to 12.4% last month.

Friday’s Rose Garden event gave Trump an opportunity to focus on the broader jobs report and spin a positive narrative even as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, the protests, and ongoing economic woes, The Hill said.

Trump is not expected to attend one of the memorial services for Floyd in the coming days. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden may attend one of the events, an attorney for the Floyd family said this week.

Research contact: @thehill

Mueller: ‘No confidence’ that Trump didn’t commit obstruction of justice

May 30, 2019

If the House Judiciary Committee wants Robert Mueller to testify about his investigative report in front of live cameras and the American public, the panel will have to subpoena him, the special counsel made clear at a news conference on May 29.

He also made it abundantly clear that the investigative team could not exonerate President Donald Trump of criminal obstruction of justice —but also could not charge him with it under Department of Justice rules.

Appearing at an 11 a.m. media event staged at the DoJ, Mueller announced that he was wrapping up the investigation, closing the Special Counsel’s Office, and resigning from the agency to return to private life.

During his brief statement, Mueller said that he had nothing to add to what had been written in the 448-page report—and confirmed two conclusions of his team’s investigation: First, he said that there was interference by a foreign enemy in the 2016 election, “As alleged by the grand jury in an indictment, Russian intelligence officers who are part of the Russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system.

“The indictment alleges that they used sophisticated cyber-techniques to hack into computers and networks used by the Clinton campaign. They stole private information and then released that information through fake online identities and through the organization WikiLeaks,” Mueller noted, adding, “ The releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate. And at the same time as the grand jury alleged in a separate indictment, a private Russian entity engaged in a social media operation where Russian citizens posed as Americans in order to influence an election.”

Second, he addressed obstruction of justice by the Executive Office, commenting, “When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.”

The second volume of the report describes the results and analysis of the special counsel’s obstruction of justice investigation involving the president.

Mueller then went on to confirm what President Donald Trump, Attorney General Bill Barr, and the G.O.P. have denied to date: “As set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.

He said that, although the investigative team could not clear Trump of obstruction of justice, they also could not charge him with a federal crime while he is in office. “That is unconstitutional,” Mueller explained.” Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited.”

Indeed, the special counsel said, “Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider … Beyond department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially—it would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.”

Mueller concluded by saying, “I will … [reiterate] the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple systemic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.”

Research contact: @RepJerryNadler

Trump cuts Kim summit short, with no agreement on denuclearization

March 1, 2019

“We are gonna win, win, win. We’re going to win with military, we’re going to win at the borders, we’re going to win with trade, we’re going to win at everything”—has just lost ground in his negotiations with Leader Kim Jong Un of North Korea.

Trump arrived in Vietnam this week entertaining high hopes that he and Kim would strike a deal on denuclearization. Such a pact would have positioned the president firmly in the winners’ circle among global leaders following a long-term standoff with the Asian military state.

But it didn’t happen: The second U.S.-NoKo summit in a year (following a June 2018 meeting in Singapore) ended without any agreement on February 28, The Hill reported.

“Sometimes you have to walk,” Trump said at a press conference in Hanoi, Vietnam. “This was just one of those times.”

Accord to The Hill’s report, Trump said the sticking point was sanctions, which Kim wanted lifted before taking all of the steps towards transparency that the United States was asking of him.

“It was about the sanctions,” Trump said at the media event. “Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that. They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that.”

Nonetheless, Trump said the summit was “very productive.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that the two leaders “discussed various ways to advance denuclearization and economic driven concepts.”

“No agreement was reached at this time, but their respective teams look forward to meeting in the future,” she added.

The lack of any tangible results could give fodder to critics who have accused Trump of holding summits with Kim that are nothing more than photo ops that boost the legitimacy of the North Korean dictator, the political news outlet noted.

The summit included a one-on-one meeting and dinner Wednesday night, followed by a one-on-one meeting and meeting with aides Thursday.

Signs that no agreement was within reach became clearer, The Hill reported,  a half-hour after a working lunch was supposed to start when the White House told reporters the summit would end earlier than expected. The schedule originally called for the lunch and a ceremony to sign a joint agreement, both of which were abruptly scrapped.

At the start of Thursday meeting, Kim said he was not “pessimistic” about the ability to reach a deal and that he had a “feeling that good results would come out” of the summit.

The stand-down couldn’t have come on a worse day politically for Trump, whose former “fixer” and personal attorney Michael Cohen took the opportunity to “correct the record” before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform simultaneously with the summit—calling Trump “a racist, a conman, and a thief” during nearly a full day of testimony.

“He was just disbarred by the State Supreme Court for lying & fraud. He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time. Using Crooked’s lawyer!” Trump tweeted, referring to Cohen adviser Lanny Davis, who once worked for former President Clinton.

Research contact: @rebecca_h_k

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

FBI investigates what seems to be a smear against Robert Mueller

November 1, 2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller last week asked the FBI to investigate a possible scam in which a woman threatened to allege he was guilty of sexual misconduct and harassment, according to an October 30 NBC News report.

The request came after several political reporters were contacted about doing a story on Mueller’s purported bad behavior.

Multiple reporters were contacted over the past few weeks by a woman, who said she had been offered money to claim she had been harassed by Mueller, who is heading up a  probe into possible conspiracy between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia in 2016.

After investigating, the Hill Reporter said, the journalists each independently determined that the allegations of misconduct and harassment were likely a hoax and that it was unclear if the woman had been offered money to make the claim. The reporters then contacted the special counsel’s office to divulge that they had been approached about the scheme, the network news outlet reported.

“When we learned last week of allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about the special counsel, we immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation,” said Peter Carr, spokesperson for the special counsel. 

While investigating the possibility of a hoax, the Hill Reporter’s Ed Krassenstein, who was one of the journalists contacted, revealed on October 30 that he had received threats, including a text message reading, “You’re in over your head…. Drop this” which included his and another editor’s home addresses.

Around the same time reporters began to be contacted about the misconduct allegations, Jack Burkman, a Republican lobbyist and radio host, began promoting, via his Facebook page, that he is investigating sexual misconduct and alcohol-related allegations against Mueller. On October 30, he tweeted that he would hold a press conference two days later to “reveal the first of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sex assault victims.”

Over the past two years, NBC News reported, Burkman has peddled a separate, evolving conspiracy theory that has blamed several different wild plots forthe death of Democratic staffer Seth Rich, who was shot on a Washington street in 2016 during an apparent botched robbery.

Krassenstein told NBC News he reached out to the special counsel’s office on Tuesday telling them what he knew about the scheme.  He also gave NBC News the phone numbers used by the woman alleging she was offered money to make the allegations, which were both disconnected.

Since then, Burkman has posted several more tweets, including one at 9:14 a.m. on October 31:” The woman to whom we allegedly offered payment—Lorraine Parsons—does not exist. The allegations are an outright joke. This entire backstory is a hoax designed to distract the nation from my press conference on Thursday, which is where all eyes need to be.”

Research contact: @brandyzadrozny