Posts tagged with "The Hill"

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

Pundits shift nine House races toward Democrats

November 6, 2018

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report shifted nine House races toward Democrats in a new forecast published on November 5—the day before the midterm elections—The Hill reported.

The changes predicted by Cook are as follows:

Three races — in Texas’s 6th and 10th Congressional Districts and in West Virginia’s 2nd — moved from solid Republican to likely Republican. Two other races—Florida’s 25th and 6th districts, went from likely Republican to leaning Republican.

The movement is the latest indication that Democrats still have the upper-hand in the House prior to Tuesday’s midterms, when Democrats need to pick up 23 seats to regain control of the lower chamber. 

Research contact: @thehill

Texas voters say the machines are changing their choices

October 30, 2018

In Texas, voters who want to support a party line—casting their ballots for  every Democrat, or every Republican, for example—need only push one button when they get in the booth. However, according to an October 26 report by The Hill, some early voters already are reporting a major problem with that mechanism: Their voting machines “erroneously” changed their straight-party selections to a blank ballot—or worse yet, to a vote for the candidate from the opposition party—in the state’s U.S. Senate race.

Local news affiliate ABC 13 reports that voters in several districts have said that when they select a button that allows them to vote for all members of one party at once, it has, in some cases, chosen the opposite candidate or no candidate at all specifically in the Senate race.

The problem allegedly exists for both Democratic and Republican voters—but the results give an advantage to Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who currently is locked in a tight battle with well-funded and popular Democrat Beto O’Rourke.,

Specifically, some Democrats report that the machines they used erroneously selected Cruz as their candidate of choice—while Republicans attempting to vote for Cruz have reported the machines dropping their votes and selecting no candidate at all.

“When I got to the end, I just so happened that I glanced at the screen, I saw Ted Cruz was selected as my senator,” a voter in Fort Bend County who attempted to vote straight Democrat told ABC 13.

An election administrator in Fort Bend County told the news station that he had informed the state’s secretary of state about the issue in years past, but that Texas authorities had failed to act.

Sam Taylor, a spokesperson for Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos told ABC 13 that the problem is caused by “user error,” and indicated that the election machine vendor could upgrade systems to fix the problem while stating that Texas has not directed the vendor to do so.

According to the fact-checking website Snopes, rather than being the result of a plot by one side or the other to subvert the U.S. Senate election, these voting anomalies are a known problem that surfaced during the 2016 election with the Hart eSlate voting machines used in about 33% of Texas’ counties.

Snopes reported this week, “[A]ccording to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, the voting machines are not at fault. Rather, the problems reported are the result of “voters hitting a button or using the selection wheel before the screen is finished rendering,” which de-selects the pre-filled candidate selection.

“The issue is occurring primarily with the U.S. Senate race selections, because it is at the top of the ballot,” said Taylor.

Secretary of State Pablos put out an advisory telling voters and county election officials to adhere to the following steps, in order to cast their ballots correctly:

  • When voting a straight-party ballot, wait at least 3-5 seconds for all choices to be rendered on the eSlate voting machines. Counties in which voters have longer ballots may require additional time to allow the screens to load fully.
  • Once all the candidate choices for that particular party have been fully loaded, take your time to slowly review each choice in each race before advancing to the next screen.
  • When advancing to the next screen, be sure the screen is fully loaded before scrolling through to the subsequent pages.
  • Once you have reached the summary page, carefully review each choice listed to ensure the candidate selected is, in fact, the candidate for whom you wish to cast your vote.
  • If you find that one or more of your choices are displayed incorrectly on the summary page, hit the ‘PREV’ button and choose the candidate for whom you wish to cast your vote.
  • If any issues persist, ask for assistance from a poll worker at your polling location, and the poll worker will ensure that the machine is working properly and advise you on the proper steps to take to cast a ballot with only the candidates of your choosing.

In addition, Pablos offered an extra resource:”,In order to ensure that voters are able to operate the machines effectively,” he said, “voters casting their ballots on eSlate voting machines can take a test run of a simulated eSlate voting machine with an interactive online application available by visiting VoteTexas.gov.”

“We’ve heard from voters over a number of elections about this,” Ft. Bend County Election Administrator John Oldham told the ABC-TV affiliate. He said that the “user error” is most likely caused “ by voters simultaneously twisting the selection dial and pushing the enter button. It may not even be purposeful, but done by voters in a rush who don’t realize they are still interacting with both.”

Research contact: staylor@sos.texas.gov

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley hands in her resignation

October 10, 2018

In a surprising turn of events, on October 9, Nikki Haley officially resigned from her position as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. In an Oval Office appearance with President Donald Trump, she commented that she needed a break from public service.

In turn, Trump remarked, “She’s done a fantastic job, and we’ve done a fantastic job together,”

While the two were friendly for the cameras, according to a report by The Hill, “there has been friction between the two dating back to the 2016 presidential campaign.”

Indeed, the news outlet pointed out, “Haley had recently lost a few internal debates over policy … including on the decision to allow a record low number of refugees into the United States next year.”

Haley told reporters that she had informed the POTUS of her decision as long as six months ago and would stay on until the end of the year.

While she said she is proud of her record, Haley explained, that after 14 years in public office, it is time to go.  “As a strong supporter of term limits, I have long believed that rotation in office benefits the public,” Haley said in her resignation letter, dated October 3. Between the UN Ambassadorship and [previously] serving in the South Carolina Governorship and General Assembly, I have been in public office for 14 straight years.

“As a businessman,” she told President Trump, “I expect you will appreciate my sense that returning from government to the private sector is not a step down but a step up.”

Both Haley and the president refused to rule out an eventual return to the Trump administration “in any capacity.”

Indeed, the president offered, “You can have your pick.”

Trump said he would move quickly to fill the position and that he already has a long list of people interested in Haley’s post. “I think it’s become maybe a more glamorous position than it was two years ago,” the president said. “Maybe, I wonder why, but it is. She’s made it a very glamorous position.”

Research contact: @Jordanfabian

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

With Trump ready to topple Rosenstein, Sen. Kamala Harris calls for bill to protect Russia probe

September 25, 2018

On September 24, Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) urgently called for the Senate to pass legislation that would protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia investigation—a move that came amidst scuttlebutt that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein expects to be fired this week by the White House, The Hill revealed.

Even as Senator Harris was appealing to her colleagues to save the probe—which Rosenstein oversees at the Department of Justice—the Deputy AG was meeting with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly with full expectations that Kelly would give him the axe. However, that did not happen—and Rosenstein did not resign—as the news outlet Axios had predicted that he would.

Instead, the Deputy AG now has been scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump on Thursday, when the POTUS returns from the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City. (However, Trump had previously said that he would not sack either Attorney General Jeff Sessions or Rosenstein before the midterm elections. Also, it is not the president’s style to dismiss an employee personally; Trump would be expected to delegate that task, as usual.)

The reports of “a Saturday night-type massacre at the DOJ”—shades of the Nixon administration—came just days after The New York Times published an article claiming that in 2017 Rosenstein proposed surreptitiously taping President Trump, and that he discussed with DOJ colleagues the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

Senator Harris appealed to her colleagues to protect the ongoing Russia inquiry, which, based on findings of a September 12 CNN poll, is supported by American voters by a 20-percentage-point margin. Respondents nationwide said they approve of Mueller (50%) over Trump (30%) when it comes to the handling of the Russia investigation.

“Republican leaders must allow [the investigation] to be voted on. We can no longer afford to wait. This is a matter of preserving the rule of law,” she said.

Harris’s call for legislative action was echoed by other Democratic senators, including  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (New York) and Senator Patrick Leahy (Vermont).

“It is more urgent than ever that the Senate pass S.2644, the bipartisan bill to protect the independence of the Special Counsel,” Leahy said on Twitter. “If we do not defend the rule of law in these moments, we risk losing it.”

Leahy also noted in a later tweet, “Saturday Night Massacres don’t need to happen on a Saturday. If President Trump fires DAG Rod Rosenstein or forces his resignation, he will come one giant leap closer to directly meddling with the Special Counsel’s Russia investigation.

Senator Gillibrand said, “The Senate must step up to protect the Special Counsel immediately. We must pass the bipartisan bill to protect the Mueller investigation. The American people deserve answers about Russian interference in our democracy.”

Research contact: @JustinFWise

Trump rips Republicans over ‘ridiculous’ spending bill: ‘Where is the money for the wall?’

September 21, 2018

President Donald Trump berated Congressional Republicans on September 20 over the lack of funding for his border wall in the spending bill passed on September 19—stoking a fight that GOP lawmakers had hoped to avoid until later after the elections in November, according to a report by The Hill.

The $854 billion appropriations bill was approved by the Senate on September 18 by a vote of 93-7, providing funding for the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education.

Six out of the seven opposing votes came for Republicans; Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) also gave a thumbs-down to the legislation.

The Senate version of the measure includes a continuing resolution that extends funding for all other agencies through December 7, after the midterm elections—offering a reprieve from the contentious border issue until after Americans have cast their votes.

The House is expected to take up the funding bill next week, ahead of the September 30 deadline to keep the government funded.

“I want to know, where is the money for Border Security and the WALL in this ridiculous Spending Bill, and where will it come from after the Midterms?” Trump asked in a 7:43 a.m. tweet, adding, “Dems are obstructing Law Enforcement and Border Security. REPUBLICANS MUST FINALLY GET TOUGH!”

According to The Hill, the president has repeatedly chastised lawmakers for failing to pass stricter immigration laws and has requested full funding for his proposed wall .

Indeed, earlier this year, the POTUS said he would be willing to shut down the government if he did not receive enough funding for the wall—and, in an exclusive interview with Hill.TV this week, Trump hinted that he intends to take an executive action on immigration in the coming weeks, although he declined to specify what it might be.

In late June, when the most recent polls on the wall were conducted, a CBS poll indicated that 51% of Americans believe that a wall along the United States southern border is a good thing, even if that structure does not span coast-to-coast.

Research contact: @Brett_Samuels27

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

In Florida, Republican candidate invokes racist jab against Democrat

August 30, 2018

President Donald Trump’s pick—and the winner of the Florida Republican gubernatorial primary—already is dividing voters with his racist comments. Ron DeSantis’s  general-election campaign got off to a controversial start on August 29, when he went on Fox News and warned voters not to “monkey this up” by electing his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, who would be the first African American to lead the state.

DeSantis, who has created a political persona out of the same mold as the POTUS, called Gillum “much too liberal for Florida” and an “articulate spokesman for those far-left views.”

“The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state,” he continued. “That’s not going to work, that’s not going to be good for Florida.”

The huge upset victory by Andrew Gillum—who has served as mayor of Tallahassee, Florida—in the Tuesday Democratic primary for governor has made him eligible to become the first black governor of the Sunshine State.

According to a report by The Hill, Gillum—armed with an endorsement from Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and campaigning on an unabashedly progressive agenda—unexpectedly defeated former one-term U.S. Representative Gwen Graham (D-Florida), the daughter of a popular former governor and senator.

The victory gives the progressive wing of the Democratic Party another jolt of momentum, coming two months after Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the cycle by knocking off the longtime incumbent, Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley in New York’s primary.

Gillum will now face off against DeSantis in a campaign that already has turned dirty and divisive. Gillum had not commented on De Santis’s statements at press time.

Research contact: @LA_Hagen