Posts tagged with "Speaker Nancy Pelosi"

Trump Administration: No more in-person election security briefings for Congress

September 1, 2020

What they don’t know can’t hurt us:  That’s the assumed motive behind the Trump Administration’s move over the weekend to squelch in-person intelligence briefings provided to the U.S. Congress about the upcoming presidential election.

Until now, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has been responsible for delivering regular updates to lawmakers on what measures are being taken to protect balloting from foreign or internal tinkering, The New York Times reports.

The nation’s top intelligence officials moved on Saturday to tighten control over the flow of sensitive intelligence about foreign threats to November’s election, telling Congress that they would no longer provide in-person briefings about election security and would rely solely on written updates instead.

Representatives from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence informed the House and Senate Intelligence Committees of the policy change by telephone on Friday and followed up with a batch of letters to congressional leaders on Saturday.

In the letters, the Chief of the Intelligence Office, John L. Ratcliffe, framed the move as an attempt to “ensure clarity and consistency” in intelligence agencies’ interactions with Congress and to crack down on leaks that have infuriated some intelligence officials.

“I believe this approach helps ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that the information O.D.N.I. provides the Congress in support of your oversight responsibilities on elections security, foreign malign influence and election interference is not misunderstood nor politicized,” he wrote, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times. “It will also better protect our sources and methods and most sensitive intelligence from additional unauthorized disclosures or misuse.”

But coming just ten weeks before Election Day, the change drew complaints from lawmakers in both parties, who worried the move would block their ability to question and test intelligence assessments from the executive branch at a time when they are crucial to ensuring that foreign powers do not undermine the results

Intelligence agencies have revealed that Russia is again trying to bolster the campaign of President Donald Trump, who has insisted he is actually “the last person Russia wants to see in office” and consistently attacked the intelligence agencies during his tenure.

Democrats, who fear Trump’s appointees have moved to color intelligence assessments for his political benefit, were particularly furious. The Times said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Adam Schiff of California, who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called the new policy “shameful” and said intelligence officials had also canceled briefings with committees and the full House on election security threats already scheduled for September at the request of Ratcliffe’s office. They vowed to try to force their reinstatement

“This is a shocking abdication of its lawful responsibility to keep the Congress currently informed, and a betrayal of the public’s right to know how foreign powers are trying to subvert our democracy,” the two senior Democrats wrote.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment. CNN first reported the change

Research contact: @nytimes

Mutiny on the bounties: Trump balks at briefing House members on Russian perfidy

June 30, 2020

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling for the Trump Administration to brief all House members immediately about allegations that surfaced on June 27–detailing that Russians have been paying Afghan militants to assassinate U.S. soldiers, Politico reports.

Most recently, President Donald Trump has claimed that he knows nothing about the disclosures—and that he and Vice President Mike Pence never have been briefed on the matter by U.S. intelligence agencies. He has not said that he intends to follow up on the accusations against Russia and, by extension, against President Vladimir Putin—which he does not believe to be credible.

However, The New York Times has countered that story, saying that senior White House and intelligence officials knew about the bounty allegations since at least March but took no action.

Indeed, the Times has reported that Trump was briefed on the matter and that it was included in his Presidential Daily Brief, but Trump denied ever learning of the intelligence and late Sunday said his leaders in the intelligence community told him it wasn’t credible.

“The questions that arise are: Was the President briefed, and if not, why not, and why was Congress not briefed? Congress and the country need answers now,” Pelosi wrote in her letter to Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and CIA Director Gina Haspel. “I therefore request an interagency brief for all House Members immediately. Congress needs to know what the intelligence community knows about this significant threat to American troops and our allies and what options are available to hold Russia accountable.”

Since the news reports emerged, Politico reports, Democrats and some Republicans have been demanding details from the Administration. Early Monday, congressional aides indicated no briefing had been set up for the House intelligence, armed services or foreign affairs committee. It’s unclear if the Gang of Eight—the leaders of the House and Senate, as well as the intelligence committee—will be briefed, but as of Monday morning there was no meeting scheduled, per a congressional source.

The new allegations —which The New York Times and The Washington Post reported may have led to the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan—have once again brought Trump’s relationship with Russia under scrutiny.

Senior House Democrats were furious with the reports, which first surfaced Saturday. Pelosi told ABC ‘s ‘This Week” on Sunday: “This is as bad as it gets.”

“If reports are true that Russia offered a bounty on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Trump wasn’t briefed, that’s a problem,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) tweeted Sunday. “What will it take to get Trump to abandon the fiction that Putin is our friend?”

“Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP,” Trump said. “Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!”

Democrats, however, hammered the president over the bounties.

“It’s sickening that American soldiers have been killed as a result of Russian bounties on their heads, and the Commander in Chief didn’t do a thing to stop it,” Representatuve Max Rose (D-N.Y.), a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, told Politico.

Research contact: @politico

As COVID-19 rages, Trump asks Supreme Court to strike down Obamacare

June 29,2020

The number of confirmed new coronavirus cases per day in the United States hit an all-time high of 40,000 on Friday, June 26—eclipsing the mark set during one of the deadliest stretches in late April, CBS News reports; noting that there is “ample evidence” that the pandemic is making a comeback.

Yet, even so, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court late on June 25 to terminate the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare—the only health insurance to which many Americans have access. If the justices agree, they will wipe out coverage for as many as 23 million Americans, The New York Times reports.

In an 82-page brief submitted an hour before a midnight deadline, the Administration joined Republican officials in 18 states in arguing that, in 2017, the largely Republican Congress had rendered the law unconstitutional when it zeroed out the tax penalty for not buying insurance—the so-called individual mandate.

In his brief, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco maintained that the health law’s two remaining central provisions are now invalid because Congress intended that all three work together, the Times said.

The court has not said when it will hear oral arguments, but they are most likely to take place in the fall, just as Americans are preparing to go to the polls in November.

Republicans have long said their goal is to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act but have yet to agree on an alternative. They are bracing for the possibility that the effort to overturn the health law will cost them, according to the Times report.

Joel White, a Republican strategist, said in a recent interview with the news outlet that he considered it “pretty dumb to be talking about how we need to repeal Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic.”

Democrats, who view health care a winning issue—and who reclaimed the House majority in 2018 on their promise to expand access and bring down costs—are trying to use the Supreme Court case to press their advantage. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled a vote for Monday, June 29, on a measure to expand the healthcare law, in an effort to draw a sharp contrast between Democrats and Republicans.

“President Trump and the Republicans’ campaign to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty,” Pelosi said in a statement late Thursday night, after the administration’s brief was filed.

“If President Trump gets his way,” she added, “130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will lose the A.C.A.’s lifesaving protections and 23 million Americans will lose their health coverage entirely.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Access denied: President blocks Alex Azar and Seema Verma from testifying before ‘Trump haters’ in House

May 6, 2020

The White House told House Democrats on May 4, that their requests for testimony from two key members of the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 task force would be denied—a move that adds to the list of officials who have been blocked from speaking under oath about the federal response (or lack therof) to the pandemic, The Daily Beast reported.

And that only expands the number of White House aides and federal-level officials whom the White House has prevented from bearing witness during the past three years—stonewalling all attempts by Congress to investigate or obtain firsthand evidence on the Administration’s obscure or covert activities.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee had asked the administration for testimony from Alex Azar, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services; and from Seema Verma, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Two sources, including a Democratic spokesperson for the committee, confirmed to The Daily Beast that their requests were rejected on Monday.

Indeed, according to the Daily Beast, last week, the White House blocked Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) the administration’s foremost infectious disease expert, from testifying before House Democrats, although Fauci still is set to appear before a Senate panel run by Republicans.

The White House defended the decision by saying it would be “counterproductive” to have officials involved in the COVID-19 response to appear at congressional hearings because they are too lengthy.

A senior administration official told The Daily Beast that the task force has been working “non-stop” since the beginning of the outbreak and has conducted numerous public briefings. “I don’t think anyone can reasonably say we aren’t being transparent,” the official said.

President Trump himself had a different explanation. “The House is a set up,” he told reporters on Tuesday morning from the White House lawn en route to Arizona. “The House is a bunch of Trump haters.”

That outlook was formalized in a new White House policy that began circulating among officials on May 4. It instructed members of the coronavirus task force that they would not be permitted to testify in Congress without the approval of White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. 

On Monday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said that the White House’s move was “business as usual” from the Trump administration and said that lawmakers needed the latest information from task force officials to inform their legislative response to the virus.

 “The fact is that we need to allocate resources for this,” said Pelosi. “In order to do that, any appropriations bill must begin in the House. And we have to have the information to act upon.”

Azar, the embattled chief of HHS, has faced criticism over missteps in the agency’s COVID response, particularly the lack of testing availability early on in the outbreak. He has not testified publicly since March 12. Verma, who oversees the government’s two biggest and most expensive healthcare programs, has not testified publicly since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Parnas: Trump gave the orders on Ukraine; Giuliani, Pence, and Barr were ‘on the team’

January 17, 2020

The White House reeled as more damning evidence on the Ukraine plot emerged this week, even as the House voted to release its two articles of impeachment to the Senate.

Lev Parnas—the indicted associate of the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has been implicated in an alleged attempt to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—told Rachel Maddow of MSNBC in an exclusive and explosive interview aired on January 15, “… Trump knew exactly what was going on.”

“He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president. I have no intent, I have no reason to speak to any of these officials,” Parnas revealed.

“I mean, they have no reason to speak to me. Why would President Zelenskiy’s inner circle or Minister Avakov or all these people or President Poroshenko meet with me? Who am I? They were told to meet with me. And that’s the secret that they’re trying to keep. I was on the ground doing their work,” Parnas said.

Zelenskiy was elected president in April, defeating incumbent Petro Poroshenko. Arsen Avakov is Ukraine’s interior minister, NBC News reported.

On Tuesday, the network said, House Democrats released records as part of the evidence that attorneys for Parnas turned over to House impeachment investigators, which show that Giuliani requested a private meeting with Zelenskiy, then the president-elect, with Trump’s “knowledge and consent.”

The evidence appears to bolster Democrats’ argument that Giuliani was doing Trump’s bidding by trying to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.

In response to Parnas’ interview, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Thursday morning, “These allegations are being made by a man who is currently out on bail for federal crimes and is desperate to reduce his exposure to prison.”

“The facts haven’t changed — the president did nothing wrong and this impeachment, which was manufactured and carried out by the Democrats has been a sham from the start,” Grisham said.

In a statement to “The Rachel Maddow Show” while the program was airing, Giuliani denied that he told Ukrainian officials that Parnas spoke on behalf of Trump.

“Never,” Giuliani responded when asked whether Parnas was speaking for Trump.

Asked whether he believed Parnas was lying, Giuliani said, “All I can say is the truth.” Giuliani said of Parnas, “He’s a very sad situation.”

The president, himself, continued to stick to the same script, tweeting, “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer just said, “The American people want a fair trial in the Senate.” True, but why didn’t Nervous Nancy and Corrupt politician Adam “Shifty” Schiff give us a fair trial in the House. It was the most lopsided & unfair basement hearing in the history of Congress!”

The impeachment articles against Trump center on an alleged campaign by Trump to pressure Zelenskiy to announce investigations into Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma in 2014 until he left last year.

“Yeah, it was all about Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and also Rudy had a personal thing with the Manafort stuff. The black ledger,” Parnas told Maddow.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, is serving a 7½-year prison sentence for tax evasion and violating federal lobbying laws after having been charged

Parnas also told the MSNBC anchor that Vice President Mike Pence’s planned trip to attend Zelenskiy’s inauguration in May was canceled because the Ukrainians did not agree to the demand for an investigation of the Bidens. “Oh, I know 100% . It was 100%,” he said.

Asked whether Pence was aware of a “quid pro quo” around the visit, Parnas replied by quoting Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, who said during the House impeachment inquiry: “Everybody was in the loop.”

Maddow said her show asked for comment from Pence and had not received a response.

Parnas said Attorney General William Barr was also likely aware of what was going on. Parnas said that he never spoke with Barr but that “I was involved with lots of conversations” that Giuliani and another person had with Barr in front of him.

“Mr. Barr had to have known everything. I mean, it’s impossible,” Parnas told Maddow. “Attorney General Barr was basically on the team.”

Asked about Trump’s denial that he knows him, Parnas said, “He lied.”

Parnas said he wants to testify in the Senate impeachment trial. “I want to get the truth out,” he said, “because I feel it’s important for our country.”

The impeachment trial has been scheduled to start on January 21.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Republicans abandon outright dismissal of impeachment charges

January 15, 2020

Despite President Donald Trump’s best efforts to attain an immediate dismissal of both articles of impeachment, the stage has been set in the U.S. Capitol for a tribunal—and the leading players for the House and the Senate will be chosen this week.

Indeed, according to a report by The New York Times , rank-and-file senators and party leaders made clear on Monday, January 13, that even if they wanted to pursue dismissal of the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the votes simply were not there to succeed—at least not at the outset of the trial.

Senate Republicans indicated that they would not seek to summarily dismiss the impeachment charges against President Trump, proceeding instead to a trial with arguments and the possibility of calling witnesses that could begin as soon as Wednesday, the Times said.

Dismissal was always a long shot given Republicans’ narrow control of the Senate, but it was the subject of renewed discussion after Trump said on Sunday that he liked the idea put forward by some conservatives as a way to deny the House’s case the legitimacy of a trial.

 “Our members generally are not interested in a motion to dismiss,” Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a top Republican leader, told the Times. “They think both sides need to be heard. They believe the president needs to be heard for the first time in a fair setting.”

In the House on Monday, Democrats leaving meetings with Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated that the chamber was most likely to vote on Wednesday to name lawmakers to prosecute the case and to send its two impeachment charges to the Senate.

Behind the scenes, aides in the House and Senate were carefully choreographing the next steps, and some Democrats in the House cautioned that a vote could still slip to Thursday, as the Senate seeks to deal with a pending War Powers Resolution and President Trump’s new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.

In any case, a trial would not be expected to start in earnest, with opening oral arguments, until next week.

As the trial has approached, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has seemed increasingly keen to keep it as tightly controlled and speedy as possible. According to the Times, “He is wary of what could happen if Democrats succeed in picking off moderate Republican senators to form a majority able to call witnesses and prolong the proceeding.”

But he also wants to ensure that those same moderate senators—several of whom are up this fall for re-election in swing states—can credibly claim to voters that they took their constitutional duties seriously.

However, on Twitter, the president warned that holding a full trial “gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have.”

Research contact: @nytimes

House Judiciary panel agrees on procedural steps to impeachment, as Dems covertly list credible charges

September 13, 2019

Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee clandestinely have begun to compile a list of possible charges against President Donald Trump— delineating potential articles of impeachment—even as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders publicly resist taking such action, The Washington Post reported on September 12. 

Indeed, the Post says, the procedural tools approved on Wednesday—on a 24-17 party line vote—by that committee are similar to those used against former presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton.

Commenting on the markup of the resolution for investigative procedures, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) said in his opening remarks: “The resolution before us represents the necessary next step in our investigation of corruption, obstruction, and abuse of power.

“This Committee has already covered the central findings of the Special Counsel’s investigation,” he said, adding, “The President’s 2016 campaign asked for and received the assistance of the Russian government.  Key figures from the campaign then lied to federal investigators about it.  The Special Counsel found that, at least ten times, the President took steps to interfere with the investigation.  In at least five of those incidents, the Special Counsel concluded that all of the elements necessary to charge obstruction of justice had been met.”

Nadler continued, “Our investigation is not only about obstruction. Our work must also extend beyond the four corners of the Mueller Report.  We have a responsibility to consider allegations of federal election crimes, self-dealing, violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, and a failure to defend our nation from future attacks by foreign adversaries.

“And, of course, this Committee and others have gone to court to secure evidence that has been withheld from Congress on indefensible legal grounds.  Former White House Counsel Donald McGahn is not ‘absolutely immune’ from appearing before this Committee.  We require his testimony for our obstruction investigation.  But the President has vowed to ‘fight all of the subpoenas,’ and this, too, is conduct that requires a congressional response.

“As Members of Congress—and, in particular, as members of the House Judiciary Committee—we have a responsibility to investigate each of these allegations and to determine the appropriate remedy.  That responsibility includes making a judgment about whether to recommend articles of impeachment.”

He ended with a call to action. “…We have a constitutional, historical, and moral obligation to fully investigate these matters.  Let us take the next step in that work without delay. I urge my colleagues to adopt this resolution.”

According to the Post’s report, additional potential impeachment articles being explored by the committee could focus on hush-money payments to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.

Sources told the news outlet that the current behind-the-scenes planning reflects a growing desire among House Democrats to build a public case against Trump—and soon—even if there is no chance the Senate would convict him.

The additional tools approved on Wednesday would, the Post says, allow the committee to designate certain hearings as impeachment sessions, allow counsels to question witnesses publicly, permit some evidence to remain private and allow the president’s counsel to respond in writing to evidence and testimony.

Trump “has trampled the Constitution,” said Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee), a committee member who has drafted his own articles, threatened to introduce them and then backed off after learning of the panel’s plans to eventually craft its own. “There is just so much you could go after. It’s going to be refining it down to the most salient.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) commented that the vote was a “continuation of what we have been doing.” Asked Thursday to clarify whether Democrats have taken a new step toward impeachment, Pelosi demurred, according to a report by The Huffington Post, saying,  “There’s nothing different from one day to the next,” she said. “We’re still on our same path.”

She added that the investigations, which have been greatly stymied by the administration’s refusal to comply with subpoenas, were moving at a good pace.

“We are, from a timing standpoint, where we need to be,” Pelosi said

Research contact: @washingtonpost