Posts tagged with "Senate Judiciary Committee"

Speaker Pelosi says AG Barr perjured himself before Congress—and reprisals are required

May 3, 2019

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) is outraged over the Attorney General’s obfuscations—in his written summary of the Mueller report; in his characterization of his communications with the special counsel; and in his congressional testimony.

Pelosi said on Thursday, May 2 that AG William Barr  had committed a crime by lying to lawmakers during his testimony on Capitol Hill, The Hill reported.

“What is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That’s a crime,” Pelosi said during a press conference in the Capitol.

The remarks came as Democrats on Capitol Hill are increasingly lashing out at Barr for his handling of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s election interference.

Some lawmakers are pressing for Barr to resign; others have floated the idea of impeachment; and still others—chief among them, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler (D-New York)—are weighing whether to bring contempt of Congress charges against AG, who refused an invitation to testify before the House panel and its counsels on Thursday.

Pelosi, who has been cautious to date about escalating the standoff between her caucus and the GOP, declined to say how—or if—Democrats would challenge Barr’s actions, deferring those decisions to the committee heads. But she strongly suggested some response is forthcoming.

Pelosi cited a recent statement from Representative Nadler, which warned that “Barr’s moment of accountability will come soon enough.”

“I think that probably applies,” Pelosi said. Asked if jail time is appropriate for Barr, she again punted to the committees.

“There’s a process that’s involved here,” she said, according to The Hill. “The committees will act upon how we will proceed.”

Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, May 1, Barr was grilled by panel Democrats, who accused him of misrepresenting the Mueller team’s findings for the political purpose of protecting President Donald Trump, the news outlet said.

The Democratic rebukes were fueled by revelations that Mueller had written to Barr on March 24 and called him directly on March 25, expressing concerns over the nature of the attorney general’s four-page summary of Mueller’s report.

In that letter, which became public just hours before Wednesday’s Senate hearing, Mueller said ““The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions.”

Barr, after receiving the letter, testified to Congress that he was ‘”not aware”of any reservations from Mueller or his team regarding the summary letter.

According to the Hill, Pelosi said she “lost sleep” Wednesday night watching replays of Barr’s testimony.

“How sad it is for us to see the top law enforcement officer in our country misrepresenting—withholding—the truth from the Congress of the United States,” she said.

Asked directly whether Barr committed a crime, Pelosi didn’t hesitate.

“He lied to Congress; he lied to Congress. And if anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime,” Pelosi said.

“Nobody is above the law; not the president of the United States, and not the attorney general.”

Research contact: @thehill

Standoff on Special Counsel Act persists between Flake and McConnell

November  19, 2018

Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona)—who is leaving the U.S. Congress in December, but flirting with a primary run against President Trump in 2020—has everything to win and little to lose. Last week, he pushed that advantage by taking to the Senate floor with across-the-aisle colleague Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware.) in an attempt to secure immediate passage of S. 2644, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act.

The bill, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in April by a bipartisan vote of 14-7, once again was blocked by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who continues to say that the legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is not necessary because the probe is not under pressure.

However, following the president’s removal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions one day after the midterm elections—and subsequent appointment of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, a White House acolyte—Flake asserted, “The president now has this investigation in his sights and we all know it.”

And he backed that assertion with two threats: One further note on this unanimous consent request: because it has failed today, Senator Coons and I are prepared to raise it again and again, until there is a vote on this vital bipartisan legislation on the Senate floor. And I have informed the Majority Leader that I will not vote to advance any of the 21 judicial nominees pending in the Judiciary Committee, or vote to confirm the 32 judges awaiting a confirmation vote on the floor, until S. 2644 is brought to the full Senate for a vote.”

At a closed-door lunch on the following day, November 15, both Flake and McConnell were equally implacable. “It’s a standoff,” said a Republican senator who attended the lunch, in an interview with The Hill.

According to the political news outlet, McConnell argued at the lunch meeting that the legislation would chew up precious floor time during the lame-duck session and leave less time for must-pass bills such as the unfinished spending bills and the farm bill, according to sources familiar with the conversation.

Flake, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, didn’t buy that argument. Flake argued that the bill could be dealt with in a day as long as other members of the GOP conference didn’t object to it and force McConnell to waste time getting through a filibuster.

Some Republican senators floated the compromise of crafting some kind of non-binding resolution that would express support for protecting Mueller and future special counsels from unjustified dismissal. But Flake rejected that option, too, The Hill reported.

Asked Thursday if fellow GOP senators are unhappy with his hardball approach to getting a vote, Flake said, “That’s a safe assumption.”

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) held over 15 judicial nominees at a committee business meeting Thursday after Flake declared he would block them. Speaking to reporters afterward, Grassley said he didn’t think he could move any more nominees without Flake’s support, unless he can convince Democrats on the panel to vote with him.

As the impasse continued, a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey found that 40% of likely U.S. voters believe Mueller’s investigation should be closed. Fifty-one percent (51%) think the probe of Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election should continue.

Research contact: @alexanderbolton

Grassley: FBI report does not corroborate sexual assault allegations

October 5, 2018

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said on September 4 that there is no corroboration of sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in a supplementary FBI report submitted to the Senate, according to a report by The Hill.

The Senate is scheduled for a floor vote on the nominee on Friday, October 5. The report, requested on September 28 by the White House at the behest of committee member Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), was delivered to the committee at 2:30 a.m. on September 4; after the FBI had done a tightly constrained investigation of just nine or 10 individuals—depending on the news source—whose names were specified on a list provided by the Trump administration.

“I’ve now received a committee staff briefing on the FBI’s supplement to Judge Kavanaugh’s background investigation file. There’s nothing in it that we didn’t already know,” Grassley said in a statement.

“These uncorroborated accusations have been unequivocally and repeatedly rejected by Judge Kavanaugh, and neither the Judiciary Committee nor the FBI could locate any third parties who can attest to any of the allegations. There’s also no contemporaneous evidence,” he added.

“This investigation found no hint of misconduct…I’ll be voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”

Grassley made his statement after being briefed by Senate GOP staff who viewed the report.

Senators have been filing into and out of the securely compartmentalized information facility in the Capitol Visitor Center to view the report Thursday morning.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (California), the Ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, noted that the investigation had been anything but comprehensive. “The White House certainly blocked access to millions of documents from Judge Kavanaugh’s record, I know that,” she tweeted at 11:16 a.m. on September 4, noting also, ““We have seen even more press reports of witnesses who wanted to speak with the FBI but were not interviewed.

The FBI did not interview either nominee Brett Kavanaugh or sexual assault accuser Christine Blasey Ford. “It’s obviously a cover-up,” commented Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts). “The Trump White House, working with the Republican leadership in the Senate, have deliberately circumscribed this investigation”

Attorneys for Ford said that they and their client are “profoundly disappointed” that the FBI investigation into her claims doesn’t seem thorough, according to a report by the Huffington Post.

“An FBI supplemental background investigation that did not include an interview of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford―nor the witnesses who corroborate her testimony―cannot be called an investigation,” the lawyers said in a statement Wednesday night. “We are profoundly disappointed that after the tremendous sacrifice she made in coming forward, those directing the FBI investigation were not interested in seeking the truth.”

White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said in a statement early Thursday that the White House “is fully confident the Senate will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.”

“This is now the 7th. time the FBI has investigated Judge Kavanaugh,” President Trump later tweeted. “If we made it 100, it would still not be good enough for the Obstructionist Democrats.”

Research contact: @alexanderbolton

Trump denies reports that he is limiting the FBI’s Kavanaugh probe

October 2, 2018

Following a compromise deal made on September 28 by the Senate Judiciary Committee in response to a request by Republican Senator Jeff Flake (R), the Federal Bureau of Investigation has reopened its background investigation of SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Already limited to a one-week period, the probe has been further circumscribed by instructions from U.S. President Donald Trump, according to a report by the Huffington Post.

Although the FBI will be permitted to interview Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, who testified before the Judiciary Committee last week—as well as  a second accuser, Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate Denise Ramirez— the agency will reportedly leave the nominee’s third accuser alone upon request from the White House.

In addition, according to an NBC News report, the FBI will specifically not be able to question Kavanaugh’s Yale classmates about his drinking habits, even though alcohol plays a role in all three accusers’ claims about the nominee, who denies ever drinking to the point of not remembering certain events.

Ranking Member of the committee Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California.) lashed out on Twitter at the possibility that constraints had been placed on the investigation

Trump tweeted late Saturday night that he was not limiting the FBI in its investigation and that NBC News had got the story wrong. He said, “NBC News incorrectly reported (as usual) that I was limiting the FBI investigation of Judge Kavanaugh, and witnesses, only to certain people. Actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion. Please correct your reporting!

Trump told reporters on Saturday that the agency has “free rein” to do “whatever they have to do, whatever it is they do.”

“They’ll be doing things that we have never even thought of,” Trump said. “And hopefully at the conclusion everything will be fine.”

Research contactsara.boboltz@huffingtonpost.com

Michael Avenatti says credible, new Kavanaugh witness will come forward by Thursday

September 26, 2018

Judge Brett Kavanaugh said on Fox News on September 24 that he’s “not going anywhere,” despite the claims of at least two women that he sexually harassed one and sexually attacked the other during his college and high school days, respectively.

The declaration represents a very unusual public defense by a Supreme Court nominee of his fitness to serve, CBS News reported on September 25.

The network news organization also noted that Kavanaugh sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, proclaiming adamantly that he “would not be intimidated into withdrawing.”

However, on the same night, Michael Avenatti—the lawyer who took down “ fixer” Michael Cohen over a payoff to Stormy Daniels and, in doing so, implicated the president—appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show to say that he had more incriminating information from a very credible witness that would be released before the new round of hearings on Thursday.

Specifically, on Fox, Kavanaugh strongly denied allegations of sexual misconduct from Christine Blasey Ford—now a psychologist at Palo Alto University—who attended a “sister school” (the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland) to his own boys-only high school, Georgetown Prep.

He also refuted the accusations of one of his classmates at Yale University, Deborah Ramirez, who claimed that he had exposed himself to her after an evening of drinking games  (Today, Ramirez is a board member and volunteer at Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence.)

Kavanaugh insisted that he was not a rowdy teen and claimed he was a virgin during the years in question. “I was focused on academics and athletics and going to church every Sunday at Little Flower, working on my service projects and friendship,” Kavanaugh said.

But, CBS News said, his yearbook page repeatedly referenced drinking and in a statement, his former Yale roommate reportedly described Kavanaugh as “a notably heavy drinker” who “became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk.” The former Yale roommate James Roche admits he “did not observe” Ramirez’s account firsthand but that he believes her.

According to the CBS report, Avenatti says that he has a client who knew Kavanaugh in high school and accused him of setting up girls to be raped.

“When the American people hear from her, they will determine, as I have, that she is to be believed,” Avenatti said during a press conference Monday evening. Kavanaugh called that claim outrageous.

Avennati has not identified the accuser yet. but said that her name will be revealed within the next 48 hours. He offered some details on her background, including that she worked for the U.S. Mint, Justice Department,  and State Department.

Research contact: @nancycordes

Both Kavanaugh and #MeToo accuser are willing to testify to Senate Judiciary Committee

September 18, 2018

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said on September 17 that he is willing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee to address the accusations of a woman who alleges that, when they both were teenagers, he sexually assaulted her at Georgetown Preparatory School in suburban Washington.

According to a report by The Hill, Kavanaugh in a new statement called the woman’s accusation—framed in a letter given to the FBI by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California)—a “completely false allegation

“I have never done anything like what the accuser describes—to her or to anyone,” Kavanaugh said. “Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday.”

The federal judge said he would speak to the Judiciary panel “in any way the committee deems appropriate” in order to “defend my integrity.”

Kavanaugh was spotted by television cameras walking to the White House shortly before his statement was released, The Hill reported, noting further, “

It is the latest sign the White House is digging in as his nomination has been thrown into turmoil.”

Initially reluctant to reveal her identity, Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University in California, went public on September 16 with her accusation, because, she said, she believed it was her “civic responsibility.”.

She told The Washington Post that she thinks the alleged incident took place in 1982, when she was a 15-year-old sophomore at an all-girls school in suburban Maryland. Kavanaugh, who attended an all-boys school, would have been 17.

At an off-campus party, she encountered Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge—whom she said had been drinking earlier and were very drunk—when she went upstairs to use the bathroom after having one beer.

She said she was pushed into a bedroom and Kavanaugh pinned her to the bed and tried to remove her clothing, while both boys laughed “maniacally.”

When she tried to scream, she told the Post, Kavanaugh held a hand over her mouth. I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” she told the Post. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

Eventually, Ford said, Judge jumped on top of them, and she managed to get free and lock herself in a bathroom. After she heard the boys “going down the stairs, hitting the walls,” she told the news outlet, she made it downstairs and out the door, but doesn’t remember how she got home.

Ford’s attorney said on September 17 that her client is also willing to testify publicly about the charges.

“She is. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to get her story forth, yes,” Debra Katz, who is representing  Ford, said on NBC’s Today  show.

Despite denials from Kavanaugh and the White House, several senators have voiced concerns about moving ahead with the nomination before hearing from Ford, The Hill reported.

No polls on the Kavanaugh SCOTUS nomination have been released since news of the letter’s contents was reported over the weekend.

Research contact: @jordanfabian

Skid Roe? Leaked documents show Kavanaugh may backslide on Roe v. Wade

September 7, 2018

As White House Staff Secretary during the administration of President George W. Bush, Brett Kavanaugh reviewed “literally every [policy] document that went to the Oval Office,” according to then-Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who described the current SCOTUS nominee’s role at the time as “central” to Newsweek in July.

Bush also nominated Kavanaugh for the position of judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals—a role he has played since 2006.

Now, it has come out that, during Bush’s term in office, Kavanaugh questioned the accuracy of deeming the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision to be “settled law of the land,” according to a secret email obtained by The New York Times and posted on its site on September 6.

The email, written in March 2003, is one of thousands of documents that a lawyer for President George W. Bush turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Supreme Court nominee, but deemed “committee confidential”—meaning that it could not be made public or discussed by Democrats in questioning him in hearings this week.

However, it was among several communications leaked to the Times late on September 5.

According to that news outlet, Judge Kavanaugh was considering a draft opinion piece that supporters of one of Bush’s conservative appeals court nominees hoped they could persuade anti-abortion women to submit under their names. It stated that “it is widely accepted by legal scholars across the board that Roe v. Wade and its progeny are the settled law of the land.”

However, Judge Kavanaugh proposed deleting that line, writing: “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so.”

He was presumably referring to then-Justices William Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia, along with Justice Clarence Thomas, conservatives who had dissented in a 1992 case that reaffirmed Roe, Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The court now has four conservative justices who may be willing to overturn Roe—Justices Thomas and John C. Roberts Jr., Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch — and if he is confirmed, Judge Kavanaugh could provide the decisive fifth vote.

Still, the Times noted, his email stops short of saying whether he personally believed that the abortion rights precedent should be considered a settled legal issue.

Democrats have complained about relying on the advice of Bush’s lawyer rather than the National Archives to decide what to provide to the Senate, as one part of a larger faceoff over how many documents from Kavanaugh’s stint in the Bush administration the Senate and public should be able to vet before his confirmation vote.

Other leaked materials provided to The Times included a document showing that in September 2001, after the terrorist attacks, Judge Kavanaugh engaged with a Justice Department lawyer about questions of warrantless surveillance—even before the Bush administration began its warrantless surveillance program.

And in yet another, Kavanaugh disparage Department of Transportation affirmative action regulations, writing: “The fundamental problem in this case is that these DOT regulations use a lot of legalisms and disguises to mask what is a naked racial set-aside,” he wrote, adding that he thought the court’s four conservative justices at the time would probably “realize as much in short order and rule accordingly.”

What’s more, on  September 6, other potentially compromising emails were released by Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), who posted a series of emails about racial issues that included the affirmative action-related email obtained by The Times.

Meanwhile, In an ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Tuesday morning, Americans were split on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court— coming in at the the lowest support levels for a high court nominee in polling back to 1987. Thirty-eight percent of Americans say Kavanaugh should be confirmed, 39% not, with the rest undecided in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. Only two nominees have had weaker public support: Harriet Miers, who withdrew her nomination, in 2005; and Robert Bork, rejected by the Senate in 1987.

Research contact: @charlie_savage

Democrats and demonstrators fail in attempts to stall Kavanaugh hearing

September 5, 2018

As leading Democrats and public demonstrators repeatedly disrupted attempts to start the hearing, the first day of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation process began on Capitol Hill on September 4, with Republicans flatly denying all request for delay.

Democrats—including Senators Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Corey Booker (New Jersey), and Kamala Harris (California)— pleaded for more time to review the more than 42,000 pages of additional documents from Kavanaugh’s earlier career that were had been handed over to the Senate Judiciary Committee less than 24 hours earlier, and noted that the committee had ignored crucial parts of Kavanaugh’s White House record.

According to a report by The Hill, Senator Harris started the Democratic protests, saying that the senators could not “possibly move forward” given the late hand-over of documents. 

“We are rushing through this process in a way that’s unnecessary,” argued Senator Booker.

For his part, Senator Blumenthal called the committee’s handling of the documents a “charade” and a “mockery” to the chamber.

“If we cannot be recognized I move to adjourn,” Blumenthal said. “We have been denied real access to the documents we need.”

However, the news outlet said, amid jeers from protesters in the hearing room—22 of whom were removed by security within an hour—Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) rejected requests by Democrats for an adjournment, arguing the minority was simply trying to suspend the proceedings.

“I shouldn’t have to explain to you, we’re having a hearing. It’s out of order,” Grassley told the committee. The 84-year-old senator was at times drowned out by protestors or had to raise his voice to be heard in the packed committee room.

Grassley maintained that “senators have had more than enough time … to adequately access Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications.”

And Republicans expressed frustration with Democratic demands, arguing they were out of order for interrupting the proceedings.

Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the committee hearing was being run by “mob rule” and that if senators were in an actual courtroom, Democrats would be “held in contempt,” The Hill reported.

Grassley argued that his staff had already read the 42,000 pages handed over to the committee Monday on a “committee confidential” basis and there was “no reason to delay the hearing.”

Grassley also argued that the hearing was not an executive session and so would not hold a vote on adjourning the committee hearing.

But Blumenthal urged the committee to go into executive session and warned that the committee’s handling of Kavanaugh’s nomination “will be tainted and stained forever.”

Senators had received hundreds of thousands of pages from a legal team working for Bush. The National Archives is also reviewing documents from Kavanaugh’s work as a White House lawyer, but isn’t expected to be able to finish its work until the end of October. Republicans want to confirm Kavanaugh this month.

Republicans have refused to request documents from Kavanaugh’s three-year period as staff secretary in the White House, despite arguments from Democrats that they are crucial to understanding his thoughts on issues like torture and interrogation.

Democrats argue the three-year period is crucial to understanding Kavanaugh’s thoughts on issues like torture and interrogation.

“The fact that we can’t take a few days or weeks to have a complete review of Judge Kavanaugh’s record is unfair to the American people,” Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) argued.  

Meanwhile, In an ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Tuesday morning, Americans were split on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court— coming in at the the lowest support levels for a high court nominee in polling back to 1987. Thirty-eight percent of Americans say Kavanaugh should be confirmed, 39% not, with the rest undecided in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. Only two nominees have had weaker public support: Harriet Miers, who withdrew her nomination, in 2005; and Robert Bork, rejected by the Senate in 1987.

Research contact: @jordainc

Senate Judiciary Committee moves to protect Mueller

April 27, 2018

Just one day after Fox News released findings of a poll that showed that 67% of Americans believe it is at least “somewhat important” that Robert Mueller’s investigation should continue—but that 71% fear that President Donald Trump soon will fire the Special Counsel—the Senate Judiciary Committee has taken steps to ensure that the investigation will be completed.

The New York Times reported on April 26 that the committee had “fired a political warning shot at the White House”—advancing on a bipartisan vote long-stalled legislation to allow special counsels such as Mueller to appeal their firing to a panel of judges and possibly be reinstated.

According to the Times, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote. However, with four Republicans, including the committee’s chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), joining Democrats in favor of the measure, the committee sent a firm directive to the POTUS that the investigation must continue.

Even senators who voted against the legislation warned Trump against ousting Mueller. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said that “firing Mueller would cause a firestorm and bring the administration’s agenda to a halt. It could even result in impeachment.”

Will Trump back off? In an interview with Fox & Friends on April 26, the President said, “I’ve taken the position—and I don’t have to take this position and maybe I’ll change—that I will not be involved with the Justice Department. I will wait until this is over…. I may change my mind at some point.”

Research contact: nicholas.fandos@nytimes.com