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3 Democratic US Senators Sue to Block Whitaker Appointment

Three U.S. Democratic senators have sued to block President Donald Trump’s appointment of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, alleging the appointment was made to undermine the ongoing criminal investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign’s alleged links to Russia.

Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii filed the lawsuit Monday in a federal court in Washington.

The suit is the fourth legal challenge of Trump’s appointment of Whitaker, following the ouster earlier this month of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump had long disparaged for removing himself from oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Before joining the Justice Department as Sessions’s chief of staff more than a year ago, Whitaker attacked the Mueller investigation in commentary on television network CNN, saying a replacement attorney general, such as he is now, could cut funding to the probe so that it “grinds almost to a halt.”

Whitaker has taken no public action against the investigation since Trump named him, for up to 210 days, as the country’s top law enforcement official, but also has made no statements on how he views the probe.Democratic lawmakers, along with some Republicans, have called for Whitaker to avow he would not curtail Mueller’s investigation while it is still underway and contended his appointment, as head of a Cabinet-level agency, was subject to Senate confirmation.

“President Trump is denying senators our constitutional obligation and opportunity to do our job: scrutinizing the nomination of our nation’s top law enforcement official,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “The reason is simple: Whitaker would never pass the advice and consent test.In selecting a so-called ‘constitutional nobody’ and thwarting every senator’s constitutional duty, Trump leaves us no choice but to seek recourse through the courts.”

Senator Whitehouse added that the “stakes are too high to allow the president to install an unconfirmed lackey to lead the Department of Justice, a lackey whose stated purpose, apparently, is undermining a major investigation into the president.Unless the courts intercede.”

He added that this “troubling move creates a plain road map for persistent and deliberate evasion by the executive branch of the Senate’s constitutionally mandated advice and consent. Indeed, this appointment appears planned to accomplish that goal.”

Justice pushes back

The Justice Department, for the second time in recent days, defended Whitaker’s appointment as legal.

“There are over 160 instances in American history in which non-Senate confirmed persons performed, on a temporary basis, the duties of a Senate-confirmed position,” a Justice Department spokeswoman said. “To suggest otherwise is to ignore centuries of practice and precedent.”

In an interview with Fox News that aired Sunday, Trump said he was unaware of Whitaker’s CNN commentary opposing the Mueller investigation before naming him to head the Justice Department, bypassing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whom Sessions had delegated to oversee the Mueller investigation.

Trump dismissed concerns about how Whitaker will deal with the Mueller investigation, but said that he, as president, would not intervene.

“It’s going to be up to him,” Trump said. “I think he’s very well aware politically. I think he’s astute politically. He’s a very smart person. A very respected person. He’s going to do what’s right. I really believe he’s going to do what’s right.”

Asked by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace whether he would overrule Whitaker if he decides to curtail the Mueller investigation, Trump replied, “I would not get involved.”

Trump has answered written questions from Mueller about his campaign’s connections with Russia during the run-up to the November 2016 voting, but told Wallace he “probably” won’t sit for an in-person interview with Mueller’s investigators.

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3 Democratic US Senators Sue to Block Whitaker Appointment

Three U.S. Democratic senators have sued to block President Donald Trump’s appointment of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, alleging the appointment was made to undermine the ongoing criminal investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign’s alleged links to Russia.

Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii filed the lawsuit Monday in a federal court in Washington.

The suit is the fourth legal challenge of Trump’s appointment of Whitaker, following the ouster earlier this month of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump had long disparaged for removing himself from oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Before joining the Justice Department as Sessions’s chief of staff more than a year ago, Whitaker attacked the Mueller investigation in commentary on television network CNN, saying a replacement attorney general, such as he is now, could cut funding to the probe so that it “grinds almost to a halt.”

Whitaker has taken no public action against the investigation since Trump named him, for up to 210 days, as the country’s top law enforcement official, but also has made no statements on how he views the probe.Democratic lawmakers, along with some Republicans, have called for Whitaker to avow he would not curtail Mueller’s investigation while it is still underway and contended his appointment, as head of a Cabinet-level agency, was subject to Senate confirmation.

“President Trump is denying senators our constitutional obligation and opportunity to do our job: scrutinizing the nomination of our nation’s top law enforcement official,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “The reason is simple: Whitaker would never pass the advice and consent test.In selecting a so-called ‘constitutional nobody’ and thwarting every senator’s constitutional duty, Trump leaves us no choice but to seek recourse through the courts.”

Senator Whitehouse added that the “stakes are too high to allow the president to install an unconfirmed lackey to lead the Department of Justice, a lackey whose stated purpose, apparently, is undermining a major investigation into the president.Unless the courts intercede.”

He added that this “troubling move creates a plain road map for persistent and deliberate evasion by the executive branch of the Senate’s constitutionally mandated advice and consent. Indeed, this appointment appears planned to accomplish that goal.”

Justice pushes back

The Justice Department, for the second time in recent days, defended Whitaker’s appointment as legal.

“There are over 160 instances in American history in which non-Senate confirmed persons performed, on a temporary basis, the duties of a Senate-confirmed position,” a Justice Department spokeswoman said. “To suggest otherwise is to ignore centuries of practice and precedent.”

In an interview with Fox News that aired Sunday, Trump said he was unaware of Whitaker’s CNN commentary opposing the Mueller investigation before naming him to head the Justice Department, bypassing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whom Sessions had delegated to oversee the Mueller investigation.

Trump dismissed concerns about how Whitaker will deal with the Mueller investigation, but said that he, as president, would not intervene.

“It’s going to be up to him,” Trump said. “I think he’s very well aware politically. I think he’s astute politically. He’s a very smart person. A very respected person. He’s going to do what’s right. I really believe he’s going to do what’s right.”

Asked by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace whether he would overrule Whitaker if he decides to curtail the Mueller investigation, Trump replied, “I would not get involved.”

Trump has answered written questions from Mueller about his campaign’s connections with Russia during the run-up to the November 2016 voting, but told Wallace he “probably” won’t sit for an in-person interview with Mueller’s investigators.

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White House to Seek Further Ban of CNN Reporter

The White House is planning to again revoke press credentials for CNN correspondent Jim Acosta when a judge’s restraining order allowing him access to the building expires at the end of November, the news network says.

The Trump administration had blocked Acosta from entering the White House grounds after his testy exchange with President Donald Trump two weeks ago during a news conference the day after the national congressional and state elections.

But a Trump-appointed federal judge in Washington agreed with CNN that the ban likely violated Acosta’s constitutional rights of freedom of the press and imposed a two-week restraining order against the White House banning him from the White House grounds.

The network said, however, that soon after the order was handed down Friday, the White House told Acosta it would reinstate the ban as soon as it expires November 30.

In light of the White House stance, CNN said it has asked Judge Timothy Kelly for another emergency hearing in the dispute.

“The White House is continuing to violate the First and 5th Amendments of the Constitution,” the network said. “These actions threaten all journalists and news organizations. Jim Acosta and CNN will continue to report the news about the White House and the president.”

But CNN’s lawyers also said they “remain hopeful” that the network and the White House “can resolve this dispute without further court intervention.”

At the November 7 White House news conference, Acosta questioned Trump whether he had demonized migrants with his claim during the election campaign that the slow-moving caravan of Central American migrants walking through Mexico toward the southern U.S. border was an “invasion.” Trump responded that he believed it was an invasion, telling Acosta, “Honestly, I think you should let me run the country.”

But the exchange with Trump grew testier when Acosta attempted to ask the president another question, whether he was concerned about possible impending indictments of Trump 2016 campaign officials brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The president said he wasn’t concerned “about anything” because he considered the Mueller investigation a hoax, but then berated Acosta as a “rude, terrible person.”

Shortly after the judge’s ruling allowing Acosta renewed access to the White House, Trump told Fox News in an interview that was aired Sunday, “It’s fine, it’s not a big deal.”

But the president then seemed to threaten Acosta, saying, “If he misbehaves, we’ll throw him out. Or we’ll stop the news conference.”

Trump said, “Nobody believes in the First Amendment more than I do… And if I think somebody’s acting out of sorts I will leave. I will say, Thank you very much everybody, thank you very much for coming’ and I will leave. And those reporters will not be too friendly to whoever it is that’s acting up.”

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White House to Seek Further Ban of CNN Reporter

The White House is planning to again revoke press credentials for CNN correspondent Jim Acosta when a judge’s restraining order allowing him access to the building expires at the end of November, the news network says.

The Trump administration had blocked Acosta from entering the White House grounds after his testy exchange with President Donald Trump two weeks ago during a news conference the day after the national congressional and state elections.

But a Trump-appointed federal judge in Washington agreed with CNN that the ban likely violated Acosta’s constitutional rights of freedom of the press and imposed a two-week restraining order against the White House banning him from the White House grounds.

The network said, however, that soon after the order was handed down Friday, the White House told Acosta it would reinstate the ban as soon as it expires November 30.

In light of the White House stance, CNN said it has asked Judge Timothy Kelly for another emergency hearing in the dispute.

“The White House is continuing to violate the First and 5th Amendments of the Constitution,” the network said. “These actions threaten all journalists and news organizations. Jim Acosta and CNN will continue to report the news about the White House and the president.”

But CNN’s lawyers also said they “remain hopeful” that the network and the White House “can resolve this dispute without further court intervention.”

At the November 7 White House news conference, Acosta questioned Trump whether he had demonized migrants with his claim during the election campaign that the slow-moving caravan of Central American migrants walking through Mexico toward the southern U.S. border was an “invasion.” Trump responded that he believed it was an invasion, telling Acosta, “Honestly, I think you should let me run the country.”

But the exchange with Trump grew testier when Acosta attempted to ask the president another question, whether he was concerned about possible impending indictments of Trump 2016 campaign officials brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The president said he wasn’t concerned “about anything” because he considered the Mueller investigation a hoax, but then berated Acosta as a “rude, terrible person.”

Shortly after the judge’s ruling allowing Acosta renewed access to the White House, Trump told Fox News in an interview that was aired Sunday, “It’s fine, it’s not a big deal.”

But the president then seemed to threaten Acosta, saying, “If he misbehaves, we’ll throw him out. Or we’ll stop the news conference.”

Trump said, “Nobody believes in the First Amendment more than I do… And if I think somebody’s acting out of sorts I will leave. I will say, Thank you very much everybody, thank you very much for coming’ and I will leave. And those reporters will not be too friendly to whoever it is that’s acting up.”

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Florida Governor Scott Wins US Senate Seat Following Recount

Republican Rick Scott has won Florida’s U.S. Senate race, defeating incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson – ending two weeks of insults, lawsuits, charges, and counter-charges.

Scott says Nelson “graciously conceded” the election Sunday after a mandatory hand recount gave the Florida governor a 10,000 vote margin.

State election officials are expected to certify the results Tuesday.

President Donald Trump tweeted his congratulations to Scott, saying he waged a “courageous and successful campaign.”

Nelson, the incumbent, will likely retire from politics. He held the U.S. Senate seat from Florida since 2000 after serving 12 years in the House of Representatives.

Scott led Nelson on election night by about 15,000 votes, triggering an automatic machine recount that was also inconclusive. This led to a second automatic recount, this time by hand.

In the meantime, both Democrats and Republicans filed number of lawsuits relating to the recounts, including one that said many ballots were not counted because the signatures did not exactly match the ones on file.

There were also problems involving electronic counting machines and one recount coming up 800 votes short of the original tally.

Trump accused Nelson and the Democrats of fraud and trying to steal the election.

Federal judge Mark Walker berated all sides last week, saying Florida’s inability to decide elections has made the state a global “laughingstock.”

He was no doubt thinking about the 2000 presidential election which had to be decided by the Supreme Court when a state-wide vote recount in Florida was turning into a mess of confusion.

Two other Florida contests have also been decided after recounts.

Democrat Andrew Gillum conceded the race for governor to Republican Ron DeSantis Saturday. Gillum was trying to become Florida’s first African-American governor.

Democrat Nikki Fried narrowly beat Republican Matt Caldwell in the battle for Florida state agriculture commissioner.

 

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Florida Governor Scott Wins US Senate Seat Following Recount

Republican Rick Scott has won Florida’s U.S. Senate race, defeating incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson – ending two weeks of insults, lawsuits, charges, and counter-charges.

Scott says Nelson “graciously conceded” the election Sunday after a mandatory hand recount gave the Florida governor a 10,000 vote margin.

State election officials are expected to certify the results Tuesday.

President Donald Trump tweeted his congratulations to Scott, saying he waged a “courageous and successful campaign.”

Nelson, the incumbent, will likely retire from politics. He held the U.S. Senate seat from Florida since 2000 after serving 12 years in the House of Representatives.

Scott led Nelson on election night by about 15,000 votes, triggering an automatic machine recount that was also inconclusive. This led to a second automatic recount, this time by hand.

In the meantime, both Democrats and Republicans filed number of lawsuits relating to the recounts, including one that said many ballots were not counted because the signatures did not exactly match the ones on file.

There were also problems involving electronic counting machines and one recount coming up 800 votes short of the original tally.

Trump accused Nelson and the Democrats of fraud and trying to steal the election.

Federal judge Mark Walker berated all sides last week, saying Florida’s inability to decide elections has made the state a global “laughingstock.”

He was no doubt thinking about the 2000 presidential election which had to be decided by the Supreme Court when a state-wide vote recount in Florida was turning into a mess of confusion.

Two other Florida contests have also been decided after recounts.

Democrat Andrew Gillum conceded the race for governor to Republican Ron DeSantis Saturday. Gillum was trying to become Florida’s first African-American governor.

Democrat Nikki Fried narrowly beat Republican Matt Caldwell in the battle for Florida state agriculture commissioner.

 

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Trump Gives Himself an A+ as President

Nearly halfway through his four-year term in the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump says he thinks of himself in the top rung of American presidents.

“I would give myself an A+,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Sunday. “Can I go higher than that?”

But the U.S. leader, in a White House interview taped Friday and aired Sunday, made a rare acknowledgement of an error in judgment, saying he should have gone last Monday to Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate the country’s annual Veterans Day honoring those who have served in the U.S. armed forces or are currently serving in one of its military branches.

“In retrospect, I should have,” Trump told interviewer Chris Wallace. The U.S. leader, who has yet to visit U.S. troops in any war zones overseas, also said, “There are things that are being planned. I will be doing that.” He declined to say when such a visit might occur because of security concerns.

In the November 6 nationwide congressional and state elections, opposition Democrats took control of the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years and captured key governor’s races in industrial states that were vital to Trump’s 2016 election as president. National political surveys show Americans disapprove of his White House performance by a 52.9 to 43.3 percent margin, according to an average of polls by Real Clear Politics.

But Trump took no blame for the losses because his name was not on the ballot, even though he told several political rallies ahead of the elections that voters ought to look at the voting that way, as a referendum on his policies and performance during the first 22 months of his presidency.

“I won the Senate and that’s historic, too,” Trump said. “That’s a tremendous victory.” Trump’s Republican party could add two seats to its current 51-49 majority bloc in the Senate, when two close contests are decided.

Trump said Republicans also “had a tremendous set of victories” by winning governorships in the southern states of Georgia and Florida and the midwestern state of Ohio, even as Democrats won governorships in other electoral battlegrounds, including the key midwestern states of Michigan and Wisconsin that had been held by Republicans.

As for the electoral losses, Trump said, “I didn’t run. My name wasn’t on the ballot. I had people that wouldn’t vote because I wasn’t on the ballot.”

Trump is already deep in planning for his 2020 re-election bid, while a long list of Democrats are considering whether to seek their party’s presidential nomination to oppose him.  

 

 

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Trump Gives Himself an A+ as President

Nearly halfway through his four-year term in the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump says he thinks of himself in the top rung of American presidents.

“I would give myself an A+,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Sunday. “Can I go higher than that?”

But the U.S. leader, in a White House interview taped Friday and aired Sunday, made a rare acknowledgement of an error in judgment, saying he should have gone last Monday to Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate the country’s annual Veterans Day honoring those who have served in the U.S. armed forces or are currently serving in one of its military branches.

“In retrospect, I should have,” Trump told interviewer Chris Wallace. The U.S. leader, who has yet to visit U.S. troops in any war zones overseas, also said, “There are things that are being planned. I will be doing that.” He declined to say when such a visit might occur because of security concerns.

In the November 6 nationwide congressional and state elections, opposition Democrats took control of the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years and captured key governor’s races in industrial states that were vital to Trump’s 2016 election as president. National political surveys show Americans disapprove of his White House performance by a 52.9 to 43.3 percent margin, according to an average of polls by Real Clear Politics.

But Trump took no blame for the losses because his name was not on the ballot, even though he told several political rallies ahead of the elections that voters ought to look at the voting that way, as a referendum on his policies and performance during the first 22 months of his presidency.

“I won the Senate and that’s historic, too,” Trump said. “That’s a tremendous victory.” Trump’s Republican party could add two seats to its current 51-49 majority bloc in the Senate, when two close contests are decided.

Trump said Republicans also “had a tremendous set of victories” by winning governorships in the southern states of Georgia and Florida and the midwestern state of Ohio, even as Democrats won governorships in other electoral battlegrounds, including the key midwestern states of Michigan and Wisconsin that had been held by Republicans.

As for the electoral losses, Trump said, “I didn’t run. My name wasn’t on the ballot. I had people that wouldn’t vote because I wasn’t on the ballot.”

Trump is already deep in planning for his 2020 re-election bid, while a long list of Democrats are considering whether to seek their party’s presidential nomination to oppose him.  

 

 

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California Governor Lauds Trump for Not Cutting Funding Amid Fires

California’s governor expressed optimism Sunday that U.S. President Donald Trump would support the state as it battles one of the worst wildfires in its history.

Following Trump’s visit to California the day before, Democratic governor Jerry Brown said that the president has “got our back” and has pledged to continue to help in an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.

“The president not only has signed a presidential declaration giving California substantial funding, but he said and pledged very specifically to continue to help us, that he’s got our back,” Brown said. “And I thought that was a very positive thing.”

Brown also suggested in Sunday’s interview that California’s wildfires will make the most ardent of climate change skeptics believers in the coming years.

Trump visited California Saturday to get a close-up look at the widespread damage that raging wildfires have inflicted on the state. He flew from Washington to California and back to Washington in one day.

“Nobody would have ever thought this could have happened,” he said to reporters after walking through burned-out ruins in the Northern California town of Paradise. “It’s like total devastation.”

At least 9,700 homes were destroyed in the flames and 76 people have died. More than 1,000 people are missing. The blaze known as the Camp Fire is now the deadliest one in California history. More than 5,500 firefighters are still trying to bring it under control. “I think people have to see this really to understand it,” Trump said.

Trump was accompanied on his visit by Paradise Mayor Jody Jones, California Governor Brown, Governor-elect Gavin Newsom, and Federal Emergency Management Agency head Brock Long.

He pledged to the California officials the support of the federal government, saying, “We’re all going to work together.” He vowed also to work with environmental groups on better forest management and added, “Hopefully this is going to be the last of these because this was a really, really bad one.”

But when asked if the fire had changed his mind on climate change, Trump said, “No, no.” He said he believes a lot of factors are to blame.

The president also visited a local command center in Chico, California, and praised the firefighters and other first responders. “You folks have been incredible,” he said, adding that those battling the flames are “fighting like hell.”

More than a week after the blaze erupted and raced through Paradise, the fire has burned about 590 square kilometers and is about 50 percent contained, officials said.

Woolsey fire

Late afternoon, Trump landed in Southern California, where the Woolsey Fire has burned nearly 390 square kilometers. Fire officials say the blaze had been about 60 percent contained by Friday. Evacuated residents are returning to the area.

En route from Northern to Southern California, Trump told reporters he had not discussed climate change with Governor Brown and Governor-elect Newsom, both of whom accompanied him on the flight.

“We have different views,” Trump said. “But maybe not as different as people think.”

On the same issue, Brown told reporters, “We’ll let science determine this over a longer period of time. Right now we’re collaborating on the most immediate response and that’s very important.”

Steve Herman contributed to this report.

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California Governor Lauds Trump for Not Cutting Funding Amid Fires

California’s governor expressed optimism Sunday that U.S. President Donald Trump would support the state as it battles one of the worst wildfires in its history.

Following Trump’s visit to California the day before, Democratic governor Jerry Brown said that the president has “got our back” and has pledged to continue to help in an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.

“The president not only has signed a presidential declaration giving California substantial funding, but he said and pledged very specifically to continue to help us, that he’s got our back,” Brown said. “And I thought that was a very positive thing.”

Brown also suggested in Sunday’s interview that California’s wildfires will make the most ardent of climate change skeptics believers in the coming years.

Trump visited California Saturday to get a close-up look at the widespread damage that raging wildfires have inflicted on the state. He flew from Washington to California and back to Washington in one day.

“Nobody would have ever thought this could have happened,” he said to reporters after walking through burned-out ruins in the Northern California town of Paradise. “It’s like total devastation.”

At least 9,700 homes were destroyed in the flames and 76 people have died. More than 1,000 people are missing. The blaze known as the Camp Fire is now the deadliest one in California history. More than 5,500 firefighters are still trying to bring it under control. “I think people have to see this really to understand it,” Trump said.

Trump was accompanied on his visit by Paradise Mayor Jody Jones, California Governor Brown, Governor-elect Gavin Newsom, and Federal Emergency Management Agency head Brock Long.

He pledged to the California officials the support of the federal government, saying, “We’re all going to work together.” He vowed also to work with environmental groups on better forest management and added, “Hopefully this is going to be the last of these because this was a really, really bad one.”

But when asked if the fire had changed his mind on climate change, Trump said, “No, no.” He said he believes a lot of factors are to blame.

The president also visited a local command center in Chico, California, and praised the firefighters and other first responders. “You folks have been incredible,” he said, adding that those battling the flames are “fighting like hell.”

More than a week after the blaze erupted and raced through Paradise, the fire has burned about 590 square kilometers and is about 50 percent contained, officials said.

Woolsey fire

Late afternoon, Trump landed in Southern California, where the Woolsey Fire has burned nearly 390 square kilometers. Fire officials say the blaze had been about 60 percent contained by Friday. Evacuated residents are returning to the area.

En route from Northern to Southern California, Trump told reporters he had not discussed climate change with Governor Brown and Governor-elect Newsom, both of whom accompanied him on the flight.

“We have different views,” Trump said. “But maybe not as different as people think.”

On the same issue, Brown told reporters, “We’ll let science determine this over a longer period of time. Right now we’re collaborating on the most immediate response and that’s very important.”

Steve Herman contributed to this report.

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