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Report: Federal Prosecutors Probing Trump Inauguration Spending

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether U.S. President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee misspent some of the funds it raised, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing people it said were familiar with the matter.

The investigation opened by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office is examining whether some of the committee’s donors gave money in exchange for policy concessions, influencing administration positions or access to the incoming administration, the Journal said.

The probe could present another legal threat for Trump and his White House, which already faces a web of lawsuits and probes into subjects such as the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, hush-money payments to women made by the president’s former lawyer, and spending by Trump’s foundation.

The investigation into the inaugural committee partly stemmed from materials seized in a probe into the dealings of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, the Journal reported. Cohen was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for crimes including orchestrating the hush payments in violation of campaign laws.

A spokesman for the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment. Spokespeople for the White House and Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Report: Federal Prosecutors Probing Trump Inauguration Spending

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether U.S. President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee misspent some of the funds it raised, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing people it said were familiar with the matter.

The investigation opened by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office is examining whether some of the committee’s donors gave money in exchange for policy concessions, influencing administration positions or access to the incoming administration, the Journal said.

The probe could present another legal threat for Trump and his White House, which already faces a web of lawsuits and probes into subjects such as the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, hush-money payments to women made by the president’s former lawyer, and spending by Trump’s foundation.

The investigation into the inaugural committee partly stemmed from materials seized in a probe into the dealings of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, the Journal reported. Cohen was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for crimes including orchestrating the hush payments in violation of campaign laws.

A spokesman for the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment. Spokespeople for the White House and Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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House GOP Leader: Government Shutdown Would Be ‘stupid’

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy says a looming government shutdown would be “stupid” but might be unavoidable if Democrats refuse to support President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico.

The California Republican said Thursday that even if House Republicans cobble together enough votes to approve the wall, the plan is likely to fail in the Senate. Democrats in that chamber have vowed to block it from receiving the necessary 60 votes.

McCarthy said he thinks “going into a shutdown is stupid,” but he offered no immediate plan ahead of a December 21 deadline. The House adjourned for six days after his remarks.

McCarthy’s comments put him at odds with Trump, who said this week he’d be “proud to shut down the government” in the name of border security.

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House GOP Leader: Government Shutdown Would Be ‘stupid’

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy says a looming government shutdown would be “stupid” but might be unavoidable if Democrats refuse to support President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico.

The California Republican said Thursday that even if House Republicans cobble together enough votes to approve the wall, the plan is likely to fail in the Senate. Democrats in that chamber have vowed to block it from receiving the necessary 60 votes.

McCarthy said he thinks “going into a shutdown is stupid,” but he offered no immediate plan ahead of a December 21 deadline. The House adjourned for six days after his remarks.

McCarthy’s comments put him at odds with Trump, who said this week he’d be “proud to shut down the government” in the name of border security.

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Pelosi: 4-Year Maximum in Speaker Post Is ‘a Long Time’

Rep. Nancy Pelosi shrugged off suggestions Thursday that she weakened herself by agreeing to limit her tenure as next House speaker to a four-year maximum, a deal that clears the way for her to be elected to the post for the new Congress.

“That’s a long time,” she said at a news conference a day after she and seven insurgents who’d been pushing for younger leadership announced their pact.

For weeks, the 78-year-old California Democrat had resisted opponents’ demands that she step aside or restrict how long she’d serve, saying limits would make her a lame duck and sap her bargaining clout. But on Wednesday she relented and struck a deal that all but guarantees she’ll be elected when the House votes on its new speaker on January 3.

“What, four years? No, I don’t think that’s a lame duck,” she told a group of reporters afterward.

Democrats widely agreed that the pledge meant Pelosi had clinched a comeback to the post she held from 2007 until January 2011, the last time her party ran the House and the first time the speaker was a woman.

Wednesday’s accord gives Pelosi a clear path to becoming the most powerful Democrat in government and a leading role in confronting President Donald Trump during the upcoming 2020 presidential and congressional campaigns.

It moves a 78-year-old white woman to the cusp of steering next year’s diverse crop of House Democrats, with its large number of female, minority and younger members.

The agreement also ends what’s been a distracting, harsh leadership fight among Democrats that has been waged since Election Day, when they gained at least 39 seats and grabbed House control for the next Congress. It was their biggest gain of House seats since the 1974 post-Watergate election.

Democrats have been hoping to train public attention on their 2019 agenda focusing on health care, jobs and wages, and building infrastructure projects. They also envision investigations of Trump, his 2016 presidential campaign and his administration.

To line up support, Pelosi initially resorted to full-court lobbying by congressional allies, outside Democratic luminaries, and liberal and labor organizations. She cut deals with individual lawmakers for committee assignments and roles leading legislative efforts.

But in the end, she had to make concessions about her tenure to make sure she’ll win a majority — likely 218 votes — when the new House votes. Democrats are likely to have 235 seats, meaning she could spare only 17 defections and still prevail if, as expected, Republicans all oppose her.

Pelosi had described herself as a transitional leader over the last several weeks. But she’d resisted defining how long she would serve as speaker, saying it would lessen her negotiating leverage to declare herself a lame duck.

On Wednesday, she gave in to her opponents’ demands that she limit her service. Under the deal, House Democrats will vote by February 15 to change party rules to limit their top three leaders to no more than four two-year terms, including time they’ve already spent in those jobs.

“I am comfortable with the proposal and it is my intention to abide by it whether it passes or not,” Pelosi said in her statement.

Pelosi’s opponents have argued it was time for younger leaders to command the party. They also said her demonization as an out-of-touch radical in tens of millions of dollars’ worth of Republican television ads was costing Democrats seats.

While some Democrats are still certain to vote against Pelosi — especially incoming freshmen who promised to do so during their campaigns — most Democrats have remained solidly behind her. She’s been a strong fundraiser and unrelenting liberal who doesn’t shy from political combat, and her backers complained that her opponents were mostly white men who were largely more moderate than most House Democrats.

Pressure to back Pelosi seemed to grow after she calmly went toe-to-toe with Trump at a nationally televised verbal brawl in the Oval Office on Tuesday over his demands for congressional approval of $5 billion for his proposed border wall with Mexico.

“We are proud that our agreement will make lasting institutional change that will strengthen our caucus and will help develop the next generation of Democratic leaders,” the rebellious lawmakers said in a written statement.

To be nominated to a fourth term under the agreement, Pelosi would need to garner a two-thirds majority of House Democrats. Several aides said they believed restlessness by younger members to move up in leadership would make that difficult for her to achieve.

The limits would also apply to Pelosi’s top lieutenants, No. 2 leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and No. 3 leader James Clyburn of South Carolina. Both are also in their late 70s.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., was among 16 Democrats who had signed a letter demanding new leadership but who ultimately helped negotiate the deal with Pelosi.

Joining Perlmutter in saying they would now back her were Democratic Reps. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts; Tim Ryan of Ohio; Bill Foster of Illinois; Linda Sanchez and Rep.-elect Gil Cisernos, both of California; and Filemon Vela of Texas.

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Pelosi: 4-Year Maximum in Speaker Post Is ‘a Long Time’

Rep. Nancy Pelosi shrugged off suggestions Thursday that she weakened herself by agreeing to limit her tenure as next House speaker to a four-year maximum, a deal that clears the way for her to be elected to the post for the new Congress.

“That’s a long time,” she said at a news conference a day after she and seven insurgents who’d been pushing for younger leadership announced their pact.

For weeks, the 78-year-old California Democrat had resisted opponents’ demands that she step aside or restrict how long she’d serve, saying limits would make her a lame duck and sap her bargaining clout. But on Wednesday she relented and struck a deal that all but guarantees she’ll be elected when the House votes on its new speaker on January 3.

“What, four years? No, I don’t think that’s a lame duck,” she told a group of reporters afterward.

Democrats widely agreed that the pledge meant Pelosi had clinched a comeback to the post she held from 2007 until January 2011, the last time her party ran the House and the first time the speaker was a woman.

Wednesday’s accord gives Pelosi a clear path to becoming the most powerful Democrat in government and a leading role in confronting President Donald Trump during the upcoming 2020 presidential and congressional campaigns.

It moves a 78-year-old white woman to the cusp of steering next year’s diverse crop of House Democrats, with its large number of female, minority and younger members.

The agreement also ends what’s been a distracting, harsh leadership fight among Democrats that has been waged since Election Day, when they gained at least 39 seats and grabbed House control for the next Congress. It was their biggest gain of House seats since the 1974 post-Watergate election.

Democrats have been hoping to train public attention on their 2019 agenda focusing on health care, jobs and wages, and building infrastructure projects. They also envision investigations of Trump, his 2016 presidential campaign and his administration.

To line up support, Pelosi initially resorted to full-court lobbying by congressional allies, outside Democratic luminaries, and liberal and labor organizations. She cut deals with individual lawmakers for committee assignments and roles leading legislative efforts.

But in the end, she had to make concessions about her tenure to make sure she’ll win a majority — likely 218 votes — when the new House votes. Democrats are likely to have 235 seats, meaning she could spare only 17 defections and still prevail if, as expected, Republicans all oppose her.

Pelosi had described herself as a transitional leader over the last several weeks. But she’d resisted defining how long she would serve as speaker, saying it would lessen her negotiating leverage to declare herself a lame duck.

On Wednesday, she gave in to her opponents’ demands that she limit her service. Under the deal, House Democrats will vote by February 15 to change party rules to limit their top three leaders to no more than four two-year terms, including time they’ve already spent in those jobs.

“I am comfortable with the proposal and it is my intention to abide by it whether it passes or not,” Pelosi said in her statement.

Pelosi’s opponents have argued it was time for younger leaders to command the party. They also said her demonization as an out-of-touch radical in tens of millions of dollars’ worth of Republican television ads was costing Democrats seats.

While some Democrats are still certain to vote against Pelosi — especially incoming freshmen who promised to do so during their campaigns — most Democrats have remained solidly behind her. She’s been a strong fundraiser and unrelenting liberal who doesn’t shy from political combat, and her backers complained that her opponents were mostly white men who were largely more moderate than most House Democrats.

Pressure to back Pelosi seemed to grow after she calmly went toe-to-toe with Trump at a nationally televised verbal brawl in the Oval Office on Tuesday over his demands for congressional approval of $5 billion for his proposed border wall with Mexico.

“We are proud that our agreement will make lasting institutional change that will strengthen our caucus and will help develop the next generation of Democratic leaders,” the rebellious lawmakers said in a written statement.

To be nominated to a fourth term under the agreement, Pelosi would need to garner a two-thirds majority of House Democrats. Several aides said they believed restlessness by younger members to move up in leadership would make that difficult for her to achieve.

The limits would also apply to Pelosi’s top lieutenants, No. 2 leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and No. 3 leader James Clyburn of South Carolina. Both are also in their late 70s.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., was among 16 Democrats who had signed a letter demanding new leadership but who ultimately helped negotiate the deal with Pelosi.

Joining Perlmutter in saying they would now back her were Democratic Reps. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts; Tim Ryan of Ohio; Bill Foster of Illinois; Linda Sanchez and Rep.-elect Gil Cisernos, both of California; and Filemon Vela of Texas.

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Trump Welcoming Governors-elect to White House

President Donald Trump is welcoming governors-elect from both parties to the White House.

Among those attending Thursday are Florida Republican Ron DeSantis, Georgia Republican Brian Kemp, Illinois Democrat J.B. Pritzker, Wisconsin Democrat Tony Evers and newly-inaugurated Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican.

White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Doug Hoelscher says they’ll be discussing “shared priorities,” including workforce investment, prison reform and combatting the opioid epidemic.

The visitors will also be meeting with Cabinet members as part of a broader White House outreach effort to local officials.

The White House says that, after the midterm elections, it has reached out to a long list of newly-elected state and local officials of both parties “to open lines of communication and begin a dialogue.”

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McCaskill Says She Won’t Run Again but Will Stay Active

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill says she won’t run for another office after her term expires next month, but that she will remain active in Democratic politics.

The veteran senator sought re-election to a third term last month but lost to Republican state Attorney General Josh Hawley. On Thursday, she will give her final Senate floor speech before she leaves office in January.

In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from her Senate office, McCaskill squashed any speculation that she’d run for Missouri governor by saying she’s done running for office. Instead, she said she’s planning a yet-to-be-announced initiative and that she sees potential in the non-elected public role that former Missouri Sen. John Danforth, a Republican, has taken since he left office 24 years ago.

“I am not going to disappear,” McCaskill said. “I am going to help and I think I can help in terms of the party recruiting good candidates, being prepared. I envision trying to help teach candidates some of the basics.”

One thing she won’t miss?

“I will never make another phone call asking for money,” said McCaskill, who raised nearly $40 million for her re-election bid, almost four times more than Hawley. “It’s terrible, terrible. It is a horrible part of the job and I have done it for a long time.”

McCaskill, 65, told the newspaper that she considered not running this year but did so partly out of duty. She also said she had made up her mind before she announced she was running that it would be her last campaign.

After Donald Trump’s strong showing in Missouri in 2016 en route to winning the presidency, McCaskill said she felt obliged “to stand and fight and not just walk off the field. And so we gave it our best. But I am really at peace about being done.”

Danforth, who has served as United Nations ambassador and in a variety of governmental roles since retiring from the Senate, was among those who called her the day after the election, McCaskill said.

“She has got a lot of life ahead of her,” Danforth said of McCaskill. “There are a lot of opportunities for people who want to continue to be engaged.”

McCaskill leaves a Congress torn over Trump’s agenda. Lawmakers also face a potential constitutional showdown over special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election and the Trump campaign.

McCaskill said she has no idea what Mueller will ultimately conclude, but warned: “If it continues down the path it appears to be going, my colleagues here — if more of them don’t speak up — I think they will have a crisis.”

She said Trump’s Republican allies in Congress “are all conflicted right now. They don’t know what to do. All you have to do is look at the state of Missouri, where Trump’s blessing was all a Republican needed. So you want to risk that if he is not going down? It will be interesting to see.”

Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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McCaskill Says She Won’t Run Again but Will Stay Active

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill says she won’t run for another office after her term expires next month, but that she will remain active in Democratic politics.

The veteran senator sought re-election to a third term last month but lost to Republican state Attorney General Josh Hawley. On Thursday, she will give her final Senate floor speech before she leaves office in January.

In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from her Senate office, McCaskill squashed any speculation that she’d run for Missouri governor by saying she’s done running for office. Instead, she said she’s planning a yet-to-be-announced initiative and that she sees potential in the non-elected public role that former Missouri Sen. John Danforth, a Republican, has taken since he left office 24 years ago.

“I am not going to disappear,” McCaskill said. “I am going to help and I think I can help in terms of the party recruiting good candidates, being prepared. I envision trying to help teach candidates some of the basics.”

One thing she won’t miss?

“I will never make another phone call asking for money,” said McCaskill, who raised nearly $40 million for her re-election bid, almost four times more than Hawley. “It’s terrible, terrible. It is a horrible part of the job and I have done it for a long time.”

McCaskill, 65, told the newspaper that she considered not running this year but did so partly out of duty. She also said she had made up her mind before she announced she was running that it would be her last campaign.

After Donald Trump’s strong showing in Missouri in 2016 en route to winning the presidency, McCaskill said she felt obliged “to stand and fight and not just walk off the field. And so we gave it our best. But I am really at peace about being done.”

Danforth, who has served as United Nations ambassador and in a variety of governmental roles since retiring from the Senate, was among those who called her the day after the election, McCaskill said.

“She has got a lot of life ahead of her,” Danforth said of McCaskill. “There are a lot of opportunities for people who want to continue to be engaged.”

McCaskill leaves a Congress torn over Trump’s agenda. Lawmakers also face a potential constitutional showdown over special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election and the Trump campaign.

McCaskill said she has no idea what Mueller will ultimately conclude, but warned: “If it continues down the path it appears to be going, my colleagues here — if more of them don’t speak up — I think they will have a crisis.”

She said Trump’s Republican allies in Congress “are all conflicted right now. They don’t know what to do. All you have to do is look at the state of Missouri, where Trump’s blessing was all a Republican needed. So you want to risk that if he is not going down? It will be interesting to see.”

Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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Trump Campaign Russia Contacts Alarm Intelligence Experts

Intelligence experts say Russian outreach to the Trump campaign fits the pattern of an intelligence operation.

Former officials have reviewed the attempts by Russians to establish contact as laid out in recent court filings by special counsel Robert Mueller. They conclude they were apparently targeted and more frequent than would be expected during a typical presidential campaign.

Mueller has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election for more than a year and has not revealed clear evidence of coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Much of the investigation is still under wraps.

Court filings from Mueller show Russian contacts with the Trump campaign began within months of Trump announcing his candidacy in June 2015.

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