Posts tagged with "The Hill"

Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld takes on Trump in 2020 White House bid

February 18, 2019

Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld (R), who led the Bay State from 1991-1997, announced on February 15 that he was launching an exploratory committee for a potential 2020 White House bid—becoming the first Republican to take a significant step to challenge President Donald Trump, The Hill reported.

Weld sees his base as “never-Trump” Republicans, as well as Independent voters who are eager to push Trump out of the White House.

During a campaign announcement last Friday in New Hampshire, Weld outlined a number of policy differences between himself and the Trump administration, The Hill noted—while taking aim at Democrats whom, he argued, had abandoned the principles of fiscal responsibility. He also took aim at Trump personally, arguing that he was unfit for the presidency.

“[O]ur President is simply too unstable to carry out the duties of the highest executive office—which include the specific duty to take care that the laws be faithfully execute —in a competent and professional matter,” Weld said at the annual Politics & Eggs breakfast hosted by The New England Council. “He is simply in the wrong place.”

“It upsets me that our energies as a society are being sapped by the president’s culture of divisiveness,” Weld said, according to The Hill, adding, “Because of the many concerns I’ve talked about today, I’ve established an exploratory committee to explore the possibility of running as a Republican in the 2020 presidential election.”

The former Massachusetts governor fueled speculation of a presidential bid after he told The Boston Globe earlier this month that his planned speech in New Hampshire “will deal comprehensively with my thoughts about the 2020 election.”

Also raising eyebrows was Weld’s decision earlier this month to rejoin the Republican Party after switching to the Libertarian Party in 2016. That year, he was tapped to run as former libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s running mate.

The former governor addressed those concerns Friday, admitting to being a “small-L libertarian” while no longer a member of the party, according to The Hill’s report.

“I’ve considered myself a ‘small-L libertarian'” for years, Weld added. “[But] I want to not dribble around the court, I want to go right for the hoop. If you want to go one-on-one, you have to go as an ‘R’,” he said of running as a Republican.

Weld’s path to the Republican nomination would be a narrow one, the news outlet said, noting that the GOP has largely consolidated behind Trump in recent years. At the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in New Mexico last month, committee members voted unanimously to approve a resolution declaring the party’s “undivided support for President Donald J. Trump and his effective Presidency.”

Research contact: @KMaxGreenwood

Warner counters Burr: Committee cannot rule on collusion until investigation wraps up

February 14, 2019

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia—who serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee—broke ranks on February 12 with committee Chair Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina. Warner contested his Republican colleague’s assessment that the panel had found no evidence of collusion to date during its inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Respectfully, I disagree,” Warner said, according to CNN. “I’m not going to get into any conclusions I’ve reached because my basis of this has been that I’m not going to reach any conclusion until we finish the investigation. And we still have a number of the key witnesses to come back.”

His statement came just hours before President Donald Trump’s former “fixer” and personal lawyer Michael Cohen told the committee that he would defer his testimony “due to post-surgery medical needs.”

Cohen had been subpoenaed by the committee on January 24 as a key source of information on the campaign’s contacts with Russia—one of the few individuals with a behind-the-doors perspective on Trump’s campaign machinations—but he has backed out three times. At least one of those times, Cohen claimed he was reluctant to talk  because of “ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. [Rudolph] Giuliani.”

On Tuesday night, CNN reported, Burr told reported on Capitol Hill, “I can assure you that any goodwill that might have existed in the committee with Michael Cohen is now gone.”

Burr reiterated that his committee had “no factual evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia,” but that he wanted to interview Cohen before the former lawyer for President Donald Trump reports to federal prison next month.

“I would prefer to get him before he goes to prison, but you know, the way he’s positioning himself, not coming (to) the committee, we may help him go to prison,” Burr said.

However, Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis said the surgery excuse was accurate. “Mr. Cohen was expected to and continues to suffer from severe post shoulder surgery pain, as confirmed by a letter from his surgeon, which was sent to Senator Burr and Senator [Mark] Warner,” Davis said. “The medication Mr. Cohen is currently taking made it impossible for him to testify this week.”

The split in public comments between Burr and Warner marked a rare instance of a partisan divide between the two committee leaders.

Another panel member, Senator Angus King (I-Maine), backed Warner up, telling The Hill that the Intelligence Committee “has not concluded anything.”

“Several of the individual members have made statements, but I certainly am not prepared to make a statement as to what was found or not found,” he said.

Warner told CNN that lawmakers are still hoping to speak with a few witnesses, including Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen. The longtime Trump associate was scheduled to testify Tuesday, but postponed his appearance, citing medical reasons after a recent shoulder surgery.

Trump has repeatedly maintained that his campaign did not collude with Russia and he has welcomed Burr’s  comments as proof of that fact.

Research contact: @jeremyherb

AOC: No ‘snub’ in absence from Speaker Pelosi’s Climate Change Committee

February 8, 2019

On February 7, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (California) named eight Democrats to the new special Climate Change Committee, but Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  of New York was not among them.

Speaking to Newsweek after the story on the committee broke, Ocasio-Cortez—known in the media as “AOC”—stressed that she had turned down the position after it was offered by Pelosi and that her absence from the committee was not a “snub.”

AOC, who unveiled her progressive Green New Deal program on the same day, told Newsweek that her rationale for continuing to push her own legislation instead of joining the committee was, “[It’s an] …investigatory body. They’re tackling the investigative piece. And right now, we’re tackling the legislative piece.” She also pointed to her involvement in other House panels that would address climate change initiatives.

The new panel announced by Pelosi—which is charged with examining climate change and steps to mitigate it—will include lawmakers with a wide range of tenures, including three freshmen, The Hill reported.

This new Select Committee will spearhead Democrats’ work to develop innovative, effective solutions to prevent and reverse the climate crisis,” Pelosi said in a statement. “It will generate the energy and action required to permanently reduce pollution so that we can honor our responsibility to be good stewards of the planet for future generations.”

The Democratic members are Representatives Ben Ray Luján (New Mexico), Suzanne Bonamici (Oregon), Julia Brownley (California), Sean Casten (Illinois), Jared Huffman  California.), Mike Levin (California), A. Donald McEachin (Virginia) and Joe Neguse (Colorado).

Neguse, one of the freshmen on the panel, tweeted on Thursday, “Excited to represent Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West on the Select Committee on Climate. I hope to be avoice for my generation by advocating for bold, progressive solutions on climate change. #ActOnClimate.”

Pelosi previously named Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Florida) to be chairwoman of the committee.

The Republican members of the panel have not yet been named. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) is responsible for picking the GOP lawmakers.

Research contact: @Timothy_Cama

FBI carries out predawn raid, arresting Roger Stone and searching his home

January 28, 2019

In a predawn video by CNN, armed FBI agents and local police were shown arriving at the home of longtime Trump adviser and associate Roger Stone to arrest him—in a marked departure from how Special Counsel Robert Mueller is known to have handled other players tied to the Russia probe.

According to CNN reporters stationed outside of Stone’s residence in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the authorities announced their presence while knocking on the door. The FBI agents also reportedly said they had a warrant to search the home.

President Donald Trump commented on Twitter, “Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country! NO COLLUSION! Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better. Who alerted CNN to be there?”

And White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CNN, “This has nothing to do with the president and certainly has nothing to do with the White House. This is something that has to do solely with that individual.”

Meanwhile, CNN clapped back, tweeting, “CNN’s ability to capture the arrest of Roger Stone was the result of determined reporting and interpreting clues revealed in the course of events. That’s called journalism.”

Based on the same report, former New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram commented,”There’s a reason” why the FBI arrested former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone “at the crack of dawn with agents fully armed,” even if the reason for that is unknown as of now. 

“This is a standard procedure to arrest someone when you don’t have a belief that they’ve come in voluntarily,” Milgram told CNN’s “New Day” on Friday morning. “… they clearly wanted the element of surprise.” 

A copy of the indictment by the Grand Jury for the District of Columbia was posted on The Hill. Stone is facing seven charges, including five counts of making false statements, one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, and one count of witness tampering.

“It’s clear that the Trump campaign was acting in a coordinated fashion to try to undermine this election and to try to get this information into public circulation,” Representative Dan Kildee (D-Michigan) told CNN’s Jim Sciutto.

“It’s pretty stunning to read these indictments … and compare them to the constant pronouncements the president has made. Clearly he has a distant relationship with the truth, but in this case he’s getting his wall: Unfortunately, it’s the wall that’s being built around him,” Kildee added.

Stone is the sixth associate of President Trump to be charged in connection with Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

A federal magistrate ruled that Stone could be released on a $250,000 signature bond. CNN reported that Stone told the judge that he does not have a current passport.

In a statement following the indictment, Stone said that would not plead guilty to the charges and believes that they are politically motivated. He also reinforced that he would not testify against the president.

Research contact: @davidgshortell

Cohen’s lawyer: House has ‘an obligation’ to scrutinize Giuliani over ‘witness tampering’

January 25, 2019

The expected repercussions have begun, following a decision this week by President Donald Trump’s former “fixer” and personal attorney Michael Cohen to postpone his second round of Congressional testimony since 2017 because of “ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. [Rudolph] Giuliani.”

First, Cohen was subpoenaed on January 24 to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, his spokesperson and attorney Lanny Davis confirmed to CNN.

Second, Davis called on Thursday for a criminal investigation into President Donald Trump‘s person lawyer in the Russia probe, Rudy Giuliani, for alleged witness tampering, The Hill reported. 

Let me be very clear, the House of Representatives now has an obligation,” Davis said on ABC-TV’s Good Morning America in an interview with anchor George Stephanopoulos.

A resolution of censure when the president of the United States indisputably intimidates and obstructs justice to prevent a witness from testifying is an order. So is a federal criminal investigation of Rudy Giuliani for witness tampering.”

Davis said in a statement earlier this week that Cohen would postpone testimony before Congress because of “ongoing threats” his family has received from Trump and Giuliani. 

“Due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. [Rudy] Giuliani, as recently as this weekend, as well as Mr. Cohen’s continued cooperation with ongoing investigations, by advice of counsel, Mr. Cohen’s appearance will be postponed to a later date,” Davis said, referring to testimony Cohen was prepared to give to the House Oversight and Reform Committee on February 7. The testimony had been scheduled after Cohen admitted to Special Counsel Robert Mueller that he had lied in his previous appearance before Congress.

Cohen was sentenced late last year to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges related to bank and tax fraud and campaign finance violations. He also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the timing of negotiations surrounding a Trump Tower development in Moscow.

Cohen said Trump directed him to commit the campaign finance violations. 

The president, however, has repeatedly castigated Cohen, going so far as to call him a “rat on Twitter.” He said earlier this month that Cohen was cooperating with investigators in order to get a reduced sentence, advising Fox News that Cohen was “Lying to reduce his jail time! Watch father-in-law!”

Giuliani on January 20 told CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump was “defending” himself by calling out Cohen’s father-in-law, adding that “he may have ties to something called organized crime.”

Davis condemned the two on Thursday, saying that “calling out a man’s father-in-law and wife in order to intimidate the witness is not fair game.”

Research contact: @JustinWise

Senator Kamala Harris slams Supremes on transgender ruling

January 23, 2019

Following her announcement on ABC-TV’s Good Morning America on January 21 that she will make a run for the U.S. presidency; early on Tuesday, Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) castigated the Supreme Court for allowing the Trump administration to temporarily enforce its restrictions on transgender military personnel.

Transgender military members have the courage to serve our country and deserve to do so. We have to fight back to reverse this,” Harris tweeted at 10:45 a.m.

Her tweet came shortly after the high court said it would allow the White House to briefly enforce a ban on transgender service members—until the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California hears a case to determine its legality, The Hill reported.

The case was considered by the Supreme Court after Solicitor General Noel Francisco leapfrogged the usual legal process in November—bypassing the regional court in the belief that the higher court would rule in favor of the White House.

Francisco implored the justices to immediately take the case and issue a ruling this term, according to the political news outlet—arguing that the lower court’s decision blocked a policy that’s “necessary to place the Department of Defense in the strongest position to protect the American people.”

He said that the Department of Defense review found that continuing to allow transgender people who have transitioned or seek to transition to serve in the military poses a threat to military effectiveness and readiness.

However, in a blow to Francisco and the administration, the Supreme Court declined to hear arguments on the case’s legality. The justices prefer the appeals courts to have considered a case before they weigh in, and even then are selective, The Hill said. It takes four justices to agree to hear a case, and often they only agree to step in if the appeals courts are deeply divided on an issue.

It takes five justices to agree to stay a lower court ruling. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, of the court’s liberal wing, said they would have denied the application, according to the news outlet.

Trump announced the ban on transgender service members on March 23, stating that transgender applicants are “disqualified from military service except under limited circumstances.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the time that the decision was based upon “extensive study by senior uniformed and civilian leaders, including combat veterans

In her announcement on January 21, Senator Harris stated, “My entire career has been focused on keeping people safe. When I look at this moment in time, I know the American people deserve to have someone who is going to fight for them … and put them in front of self-interest.”

Research contact: @jabowden4

Trump: ‘I didn’t know’ Manafort shared polling data with Russians during 2016 campaign

January 11, 2019

President Donald Trump this week insisted that he had been totally unaware during his 2016 presidential run that his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had shared polling data with a Russian associate linked to Kremlin intelligence.

“I didn’t know anything about that,” Trump told reporters about the news—which was unexpectedly revealed after a poorly redacted legal brief prepared by Manafort’s legal team was released on January 8.

The bungled court filing inadvertently exposed hidden details of the deeply shrouded Russia probe—pointing toward a connection between the Trump campaign staff and a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Indeed, The Hill and other media reported on January 10 that the document showed that Manafort had shared the polling data with not only Konstantin Kilimnik—a Russian national and former business associate of his who is suspected to have ties to the GRU, Moscow’s military intelligence agency—but had asked him to pass the information on to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

In the filing, Manafort’s defense attorneys challenged Mueller’s accusations that he lied to investigators on various topics, including his contacts and meetings with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign. They argued that Manafort did not intentionally tell lies and later corrected the record when he was reminded of information he had not offered up, noting his memory and physical health have been impacted by his months in federal prison.

His lawyers have since filed a new response to Mueller’s allegations of lying that is properly redacted.

Trump has derided the Manafort’s case as having nothing to do with him or his campaign, but the revelations have raised fresh questions about whether the campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 presidential race. Trump has also denied that the campaign colluded with Russia and consistently attacked Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt.”

Manafort began working for the Trump campaign in March 2016 before he was forced to resign that August following revelations about his lobbying work on behalf of pro-Russian forces in Ukraine.

Research contact: @mchalfant16

Trump: Federal workers who are ‘not getting paid’ are Democrats

December 28, 2018

On December 27, President Donald Trump resumed his feud with Democrats on Capitol Hill over $5 billion in funding for a border wall—claiming, according to a report by The Hill, that most of the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who have been furloughed or forced to work without pay due to a partial government shutdown are Democrats.

“Have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need Border Security and a Wall on the Southern Border. Need to stop Drugs, Human Trafficking, Gang Members & Criminals from coming into our Country,” Trump tweeted at 7:06 a.m. “Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?” he added.

Why the president made that claim is anybody’s guess, but—since he has not hired replacements for the staff who worked in federal agencies during President Barack Obama’s term—perhaps he believes that those who remain on the payroll are Democrats.

The border wall has been the focal point of government funding negotiations between Capitol Hill and the White House. However, Democrats in both houses remain staunch in their opposition to funding the wall, with Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi (D-California) calling it a “nonstarter.”

In early December, the Democrats pitched Trump $1.3 billion for border “security,” but the president—immediately facing pressure from conservative pundits—declared he would not accept that offer. Then, during a trip to visit U.S. troops in Iraq on December 26, he doubled down, demanding that Democrats pay a $5 billion bottom line that had never been promised.

“Whatever it takes. We need a wall. We need safety for our country. Even from this standpoint. We have terrorists coming in through the southern border,” he told reporters.

In a sign that the two sides are not yet close to reaching a compromise, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s (R-Louisiana) office told The Hill on December 26 that no votes in the House were expected the next day and that members would receive 24 hours’ notice of when they needed to return to Washington, D.C.

Democrats will have significantly more leverage in negotiations come January 3, when the party officially takes control of the House.

Research contact: @talstales

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

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