All posts by MPolitics

US Supreme Court Rejects Republican Challenge to Pennsylvania Congressional Map 

The Democrats’ chances of winning back the U.S. House got a boost Monday when the Supreme Court and a separate panel of federal judges rejected Republican efforts to block newly re-drawn congressional districts in Pennsylvania.

This means the November Congressional election in Pennsylvania will likely favor Democrats over Republicans.

The Supreme Court rejected the Republican challenge without comment. 

The federal judges in Pennsylvania said they had no authority to make a ruling because it was a matter for the state legislature. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in December that the old congressional map was unconstitutional because lawmakers deliberately drew it up to hurt Democrats. 

The court ordered the legislature to redraw the map. When it missed  the deadline for submitting a new plan, the court came up with its own map that analysts say would likely help Democrats.

Democrats need to win just 23 seats in this November’s election to take back control of the 435-member House of Representatives from the Republicans.

Last week, Democratic candidate Conor Lamb won a stunning upset over his Republican challenger in a special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional district — a district that has been in Republican hands since 2003 — which President Donald Trump won by 20 points in 2016.

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US Supreme Court Rejects Republican Challenge to Pennsylvania Congressional Map 

The Democrats’ chances of winning back the U.S. House got a boost Monday when the Supreme Court and a separate panel of federal judges rejected Republican efforts to block newly re-drawn congressional districts in Pennsylvania.

This means the November Congressional election in Pennsylvania will likely favor Democrats over Republicans.

The Supreme Court rejected the Republican challenge without comment. 

The federal judges in Pennsylvania said they had no authority to make a ruling because it was a matter for the state legislature. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in December that the old congressional map was unconstitutional because lawmakers deliberately drew it up to hurt Democrats. 

The court ordered the legislature to redraw the map. When it missed  the deadline for submitting a new plan, the court came up with its own map that analysts say would likely help Democrats.

Democrats need to win just 23 seats in this November’s election to take back control of the 435-member House of Representatives from the Republicans.

Last week, Democratic candidate Conor Lamb won a stunning upset over his Republican challenger in a special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional district — a district that has been in Republican hands since 2003 — which President Donald Trump won by 20 points in 2016.

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White House Denies Trump Planning to Fire Special Counsel

Despite intensifying criticism from the president, the White House is denying Donald Trump intends to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting a criminal investigation of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign’s links to Russia.

“There are no conversations or discussions about removing Mr. Mueller,” deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters Monday on Air Force One.

The spokesman acknowledged the president’s “well-established frustration” with the criminal investigation into whether Trump’s  campaign had improper contacts with the Russians.

“The president believes this is the biggest witch hunt in history,” Gidley said, echoing a tweet Trump issued earlier in the day.

In the tweets, Trump for the first time publicly attacked Mueller’s investigation, and accused James Comey, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, of political bias.

The targeting of Mueller on social media by Trump has raised concern the president could remove him, which could prompt a constitutional crisis for the United States, according to some lawmakers, legal analysts and presidential historians.

In a tweet to members of Congress, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said, “If the President causes a constitutional crisis by firing Mueller, no one can credibly claim that they could not see it coming. The time to speak out, to defend our system of checks and balances, is now.”

Three Democratic Party U.S. senators, Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Michael Bennet (Colorado) and Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire) in recent days have also warned of such a crisis if the president attempts to shut down the special counsel’s investigation.

Some prominent Republican lawmakers were cautioning the president not to take such action.

“Leave it alone,” was Sen. Orrin Hatch’s advice to Trump.

“He has the right to do it, but it would be tremendously bad publicity,” the Republican from the state of Utah said in response Monday to a question from VOA News. “And it’s not worth it. I mean, Mueller is an honest man. If he were doing things that are dishonest or improper, that’s another matter. But he hasn’t been.”

The second-highest ranking Republican in the senate, John Cornyn of Texas, agreed it would be a “mistake” for Trump to fire Mueller as it “would produce all sorts of unintended consequences.”

Reporters on the White House South Lawn shouted questions about the special counsel at Trump on Monday as he departed and returned on the Marine One helicopter, but he did not answer.

Trump also made no reference to the investigation during a speech in the state of New Hampshire about combating the opioid crisis in America.

Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers have given the special counsel’s office written descriptions that chronicle key moments under investigation, in hopes of curtailing the scope of a presidential interview, according to The Washington Post, citing two people familiar with the situation.

Trump’s attorneys, according to the Post, are worried that Trump, who has a penchant for making erroneous claims, would be vulnerable in an hours-long interview.

In one tweet Sunday recalling his 2016 election victory against Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump said, “Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added … does anyone think this is fair?  And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”

Mueller has been a registered Republican and was named FBI director in 2001 by Republican President George W. Bush.

Mueller is generally viewed in Washington as an apolitical prosecutor, whose investigation of the Trump campaign is supported by Democrats and key Republicans, some of whom voiced their support on Sunday news shows for his handling of the probe.

 

On Saturday, Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, suggested that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel, “bring an end” to Mueller’s investigation, resulting in media speculation about Trump’s next move regarding the probe.

 

Trump also attacked Comey, who was fired by Trump last May, and former deputy director Andrew McCabe, dismissed at Trump’s urging late Friday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, 26 hours before McCabe was set to retire and collect his full pension.

 

Trump contends that Comey’s and McCabe’s personal written recollections of their conversations with him are fabricated.

VOA’s Michael Bowman on Capitol Hill contributed to this story.

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Trump Fumes Over Special Counsel Mueller’s Probe

Intrigue and uproar has spiked yet again in Washington regarding the Russia probe, with renewed questions arising about the future of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, days after the FBI’s deputy director was fired, U.S. lawmakers are warning President Donald Trump against any intention he may have to instigate Mueller’s dismissal.

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Trump Assails Special Counsel Mueller as Politically Biased in Russia Probe

U.S. President Donald Trump is assailing special counsel Robert Mueller, accusing him of political bias in his investigation of Trump’s 2016 election campaign links to Russia and whether the president obstructed justice in trying to thwart the probe.

“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans?  Another Dem recently added … does anyone think this is fair?  And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”  Trump said in one of a string of Twitter remarks over the weekend recalling his defeat of Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton and his negative view of the investigations in the year and a half since then.

Trump ignored noting that at least at one point Mueller was a registered Trump ignored noting that at least at one point Mueller was a registered Republican voter and is generally viewed in Washington as an apolitical prosecutor, whose investigation of the Trump campaign is supported by Democrats and key Republicans who voiced their support on Sunday news shows for Mueller’s handling of the probe.

The U.S. leader also attacked two former ousted FBI officials, former director James Comey, fired by Trump last May, and former deputy director Andrew McCabe, dismissed at Trump’s urging late Friday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, 26 hours before McCabe was set to retire and collect his full pension.  Trump contended that Comey’s and McCabe’s personal written recollections of their conversations he had with them are fabricated.

Trump said he “spent very little time with Andrew McCabe, but he never took notes when he was with me.  I don’t believe he made memos except to help his own agenda, probably at a later date. Same with lying James Comey.  Can we call them Fake Memos?”  In another tweet, Trump referred to the one-time FBI chief as “Sanctimonious James Comey” and said he made McCabe “look like a choirboy.” 

Sessions dismissed McCabe after concurring with an internal Justice Department investigation that McCabe “had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor, including under oath, on multiple occasions,” a news leak McCabe said Comey knew about while they served together at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

 

Trump tweeted about a segment he watched on his favorite morning news show, Fox and Friends, “Wow, watch Comey lie under oath” at a Senate hearing, “when asked “have you ever been an anonymous source … or known someone else to be an anonymous source …?”  He said strongly “never, no.”  He lied as shown clearly …”

Trump said, “the Fake News,” Trump’s epithet for the national news media, “is beside themselves that McCabe was caught, called out and fired … How many lies?  How many leaks?  Comey knew it all, and much more!”   

The president contended “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime.  It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary” and the Democratic National Committee, “and improperly used” by the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court “for surveillance of my campaign.  WITCH HUNT!”  

John Dowd, Trump’s personal lawyer, praised Sessions on Saturday for firing McCabe, and then suggested that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel, “bring an end” to Mueller’s investigation.

Shortly after McCabe was fired, the president praised the decision on Twitter, calling it a “great day for Democracy.”

On Sunday, Senator Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a key Trump supporter, told CNN that Mueller “needs to be able to do his job without interference.”  Graham said that if Trump were to attempt to fire Mueller it would be “the beginning of the end of his presidency.”

Congressman Trey Gowdy, another South Carolina Republican, told Fox News, “I think the president’s lawyer does a disservice when he says that and frames the investigation that way … Russia attacked our country, let special counsel Mueller figure that out.”

Gowdy was part of the Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee that concluded a week ago that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, but said in the television interview, “You should want Special Counsel Mueller to take all the time and have all the independence he needs to do his job.”

Trump said, “As the House Intelligence Committee has concluded, there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump Campaign.  As many are now finding out, however, there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice & State.  Drain The Swamp.”  

McCabe, in a statement after his firing, called his ouster “retribution,” saying, “I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of [former FBI Director] James Comey.”  U.S. news accounts said he had written contemporaneous accounts of his conversations with Trump.

His firing, barely a day ahead of his 50th birthday on Sunday, could cost McCabe thousands of dollars in retirement benefits.  

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Republican Senators Spar over Trump Nominees to Head State Department, CIA

Two U.S. Republican senators sparred Sunday over President Donald Trump’s nomination of Mike Pompeo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, as his new secretary of state, and deputy CIA chief Gina Haspel to take over at the intelligence agency.

If confirmed, Haspel would be the first female director in the CIA’s 70-year history.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina predicted on CNN that both Pompeo and Haspel would be confirmed by the Senate. He dismissed one opponent of the nominations, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, as “an outlier” among Republican lawmakers.

Paul, also on CNN, argued against Pompeo, saying Pompeo supports U.S.-sanctioned regime change in some foreign countries. Rand said Haspel was linked to CIA torture of terrorism suspects at clandestine sites overseas.

Paul said he would “do whatever it takes” to derail the two nominations in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow 51-49 majority. Paul said that if need be, he would filibuster the nominations, in an attempt to block them from winning approval.

Graham described Haspel as “highly qualified,” while acknowledging her past support of “enhanced interrogation” techniques — including waterboarding, which simulates drowning — against terrorism suspects in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The CIA no longer permits enhanced interrogation.

“I’m looking forward for her to acknowledge this policy is no longer allowed,” Graham said.

Paul said he does not think Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman before Trump named him CIA director, would be a “good fit” as the nation’s top diplomat to succeed Rex Tillerson, who was fired last week by Trump after a year on the job.

“I don’t think our policy ought to be for regime change,” Paul said.

As for Haspel, Paul said, “What America stands for is not torture. Torture is the hallmark of totalitarianism.”

Paul cited Haspel’s reported oversight of a CIA “black site” in Thailand and her subsequent role in an order to destroy video evidence of the interrogations.

“It’s just inconsistent with who we are as a people to have someone run our spy agency that has all this enormous power, who is intimately involved with torture, and from everything we’re reading, was supportive of the policy,” Paul said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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AP Fact Check: Trump Wrong on Russia Collusion Question, McCabe Timeline

In a series of blistering tweets, President Donald Trump falsely asserted that the House Intelligence Committee has concluded there was no collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia.

Trump in his Saturday tweets lashed out at his perceived foes tied to the Russia investigation and exulted in the firing of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, once a leader of the bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices. The FBI’s decision not to pursue criminal charges against Clinton infuriated Trump at the time, and still does.

TRUMP: “As the House Intelligence Committee has concluded, there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump Campaign. As many are now finding out, however, there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice & State.” — Trump tweet.

 

THE FACTS: He’s wrong. That conclusion came from Republicans on the committee; it was not a committee finding. Democrats on the committee sharply dispute the Republican conclusions and will issue their own.

 

Whatever the findings of the committee, special counsel Robert Mueller is leading the key investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Russian contacts with the Trump campaign. The probe has produced a number of charges and convictions, none to date alleging criminal collusion. But Mueller continues to explore whether collusion occurred and whether Trump or others may have obstructed justice. 

 

Trump did not specify what he meant in accusing the agencies of corruption. McCabe was fired in advance of an inspector general’s report that’s expected to conclude he was not forthcoming about matters related to the FBI investigation of Clinton’s emails.

TRUMP: “The Fake News is beside themselves that McCabe was caught, called out and fired. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars was given to wife’s campaign by Crooked H friend, Terry M, who was also under investigation? How many lies? How many leaks? Comey knew it all, and much more!” — Trump tweet.

 

THE FACTS: Some context is missing here. This is true: McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, ran as a Democrat for the Virginia state Senate in 2015, and the political action committee of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe gave her campaign $500,000 during her race. McAuliffe is a longtime associate of Hillary Clinton, branded “Crooked H” by Trump. Jill McCabe lost the race.

 

Trump’s complaint, as he spelled it out in the past, is that Clinton-linked money went to “the wife of the FBI agent who was in charge of her investigation.” But that timeline is wrong. Andrew McCabe was elevated to deputy FBI director and didn’t become involved in the Clinton email probe until after his wife’s bid for office was over. The FBI said McCabe’s promotion and supervisory position in the email investigation happened three months after the campaign.

The bureau also said in a statement at the time that McCabe sought guidance from agency ethics officers and recused himself from “all FBI investigative matters involving Virginia politics” throughout his wife’s campaign.

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AP Fact Check: Trump Wrong on Russia Collusion Question, McCabe Timeline

In a series of blistering tweets, President Donald Trump falsely asserted that the House Intelligence Committee has concluded there was no collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia.

Trump in his Saturday tweets lashed out at his perceived foes tied to the Russia investigation and exulted in the firing of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, once a leader of the bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices. The FBI’s decision not to pursue criminal charges against Clinton infuriated Trump at the time, and still does.

TRUMP: “As the House Intelligence Committee has concluded, there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump Campaign. As many are now finding out, however, there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice & State.” — Trump tweet.

 

THE FACTS: He’s wrong. That conclusion came from Republicans on the committee; it was not a committee finding. Democrats on the committee sharply dispute the Republican conclusions and will issue their own.

 

Whatever the findings of the committee, special counsel Robert Mueller is leading the key investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Russian contacts with the Trump campaign. The probe has produced a number of charges and convictions, none to date alleging criminal collusion. But Mueller continues to explore whether collusion occurred and whether Trump or others may have obstructed justice. 

 

Trump did not specify what he meant in accusing the agencies of corruption. McCabe was fired in advance of an inspector general’s report that’s expected to conclude he was not forthcoming about matters related to the FBI investigation of Clinton’s emails.

TRUMP: “The Fake News is beside themselves that McCabe was caught, called out and fired. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars was given to wife’s campaign by Crooked H friend, Terry M, who was also under investigation? How many lies? How many leaks? Comey knew it all, and much more!” — Trump tweet.

 

THE FACTS: Some context is missing here. This is true: McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, ran as a Democrat for the Virginia state Senate in 2015, and the political action committee of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe gave her campaign $500,000 during her race. McAuliffe is a longtime associate of Hillary Clinton, branded “Crooked H” by Trump. Jill McCabe lost the race.

 

Trump’s complaint, as he spelled it out in the past, is that Clinton-linked money went to “the wife of the FBI agent who was in charge of her investigation.” But that timeline is wrong. Andrew McCabe was elevated to deputy FBI director and didn’t become involved in the Clinton email probe until after his wife’s bid for office was over. The FBI said McCabe’s promotion and supervisory position in the email investigation happened three months after the campaign.

The bureau also said in a statement at the time that McCabe sought guidance from agency ethics officers and recused himself from “all FBI investigative matters involving Virginia politics” throughout his wife’s campaign.

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