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Trump Again Attacks McCain, Months After His Death, for Role in Russia Probe

U.S. President Donald Trump is firing new broadsides at the late-Sen. John McCain, nearly seven months after the one-time prisoner of war in Vietnam died from brain cancer.

In a trio of Twitter comments on Saturday and Sunday, Trump contended the Republican lawmaker helped instigate special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-running investigation of links between Trump’s 2016 election campaign and Russia, and complained again, as he has in the past, about McCain’s 2017 vote that doomed Trump’s attempted overhaul of national health care policies.

After the first attack on her late father, she said, “No one will ever love you the way they loved my father…. I wish I had been given more Saturday’s with him. Maybe spend yours with your family instead of on twitter obsessing over mine?”

When Trump launched another attack Sunday, McCain’s daughter said, “My father lives rent free in your head,” in a tweet that later appeared to have been deleted.

One of McCain’s closest friends in the U.S. Senate, Republican Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said, “As to @SenJohnMcCain and his devotion to his country: He stepped forward to risk his life for his country, served honorably under difficult circumstances, and was one of the most consequential senators in the history of the body. Nothing about his service will ever be changed or diminished.”

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons told ABC News, “I’ve long thought that his personal and direct attacks on Senator McCain was one of the most detestable things about President Trump’s conduct as a candidate,” calling on Trump to apologize for his most recent remarks.

Trump quoted former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who investigated former President Bill Clinton two decades ago, as saying on the Fox News network that the fact that a McCain ally shared a dossier with the media that linked Trump to Russia was “unfortunately a very dark stain against John McCain.”

On Sunday, Trump claimed McCain was “last in his class” at the U.S. Naval Academy and that he had sent the dossier to the media “hoping to have it printed BEFORE the Election” on Nov. 8, 2016. “He & the Dems, working together, failed (as usual). Even the Fake News refused this garbage!”

Trump’s claims were wrong on three counts: McCain was fifth from last in his class of 1958. The senator did not learn of the dossier until 10 days after Trump had won the election and there is no evidence that McCain passed the dossier on to the media although a McCain aide said he did. McCain turned the file over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mueller’s investigation has resulted in guilty pleas and convictions of five key Trump aides and the indictment of a sixth.

Trump has long labeled the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and rejected any suggestions that his campaign colluded with Russia to help him win or that, as president, he obstructed justice by trying to thwart the investigation.

The president has long shown his disdain for McCain, a fighter pilot before becoming a politician, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam in the 1960s after being shot down over Hanoi.

Trump, during the early months of his presidential campaign in 2015, disparaged McCain’s status as a POW, saying, “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

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White House Rejects Any Trump Link to Accused New Zealand Shooter

The White House on Sunday rejected any attempt to link President Donald Trump to the white supremacist accused of gunning down 50 people at two New Zealand mosques.

“The president is not a white supremacist,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told the “Fox News Sunday” show. “I’m not sure how many times we have to say that. Let’s take what happened in New Zealand [Friday] for what it is: a terrible evil tragic act.”

Alleged gunman Brenton Harris Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, said in a 74-page manifesto he released shortly before the massacre unfolded at mosques in Christchurch that he viewed Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” but did not support his policies.

The statement renewed criticism that Trump has not voiced strong enough condemnation of white nationalists.

Asked Friday after the mosque attacks whether he sees an increase in white nationalism, Trump said, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.” He said he had not seen the manifesto.

Mulvaney said, “I don’t think it’s fair to cast this person as a supporter of Donald Trump any more than it is to look at his eco-terrorist passages in that manifesto and align him with [Democratic House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi or Ms. Ocasio-Cortez,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic congresswoman.

“This was a disturbed individual, an evil person,” he said.

Scott Brown, the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, told CNN that he gave no credence to Tarrant’s comments about Trump in the manifesto, saying the accused gunman “is rotten to the core.” Brown said he hopes Tarrant is convicted “as quickly as he can be” and the key to his prison cell thrown away.

Trump was widely attacked in the aftermath of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 when he equated white supremacists with counter-protesters, saying “both sides” were to blame and that there were “fine people” on both sides of the protest.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of numerous Democrats seeking the party’s presidential nomination to oppose Trump in the 2020 election, said on Twitter after the New Zealand attack, “Time and time again, this president has embraced and emboldened white supremacists and instead of condemning racist terrorists, he covers for them. This isn’t normal or acceptable.”

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White House Rejects Any Trump Link to Accused New Zealand Shooter

The White House on Sunday rejected any attempt to link President Donald Trump to the white supremacist accused of gunning down 50 people at two New Zealand mosques.

“The president is not a white supremacist,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told the “Fox News Sunday” show. “I’m not sure how many times we have to say that. Let’s take what happened in New Zealand [Friday] for what it is: a terrible evil tragic act.”

Alleged gunman Brenton Harris Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, said in a 74-page manifesto he released shortly before the massacre unfolded at mosques in Christchurch that he viewed Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” but did not support his policies.

The statement renewed criticism that Trump has not voiced strong enough condemnation of white nationalists.

Asked Friday after the mosque attacks whether he sees an increase in white nationalism, Trump said, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.” He said he had not seen the manifesto.

Mulvaney said, “I don’t think it’s fair to cast this person as a supporter of Donald Trump any more than it is to look at his eco-terrorist passages in that manifesto and align him with [Democratic House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi or Ms. Ocasio-Cortez,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic congresswoman.

“This was a disturbed individual, an evil person,” he said.

Scott Brown, the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, told CNN that he gave no credence to Tarrant’s comments about Trump in the manifesto, saying the accused gunman “is rotten to the core.” Brown said he hopes Tarrant is convicted “as quickly as he can be” and the key to his prison cell thrown away.

Trump was widely attacked in the aftermath of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 when he equated white supremacists with counter-protesters, saying “both sides” were to blame and that there were “fine people” on both sides of the protest.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of numerous Democrats seeking the party’s presidential nomination to oppose Trump in the 2020 election, said on Twitter after the New Zealand attack, “Time and time again, this president has embraced and emboldened white supremacists and instead of condemning racist terrorists, he covers for them. This isn’t normal or acceptable.”

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Gillibrand Launches Bid For 2020 Presidential Race

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has launched her campaign to win the Democratic Party nomination to oppose President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

She formally launched her bid Sunday morning, not with a big speech, but instead with a video that poses the question, “WIll brave win?”

“We need a leader who makes big, bold, brave choices,” Gillibrand says in the video. “Someone who isn’t afraid of progress.”

The lawmaker is set to deliver her first major speech next week in front of Trump International Hotel in New York City.

She gave an indication in the video of the issues she will focus on during her campaign. “We launched ourselves into space and landed on the moon. If we can do that, we can definitely achieve universal health care,”she said. “We can provide paid family leave for all, end gun violence, pass a Green New Deal, get money out of politics and take back our democracy.”

She joins a large group of presidential hopefuls that includes, among many others, some of her fellow female lawmakers: Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California, along with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

Gillibrand was appointed to the Senate in 2009.  She filled the New York Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, but since then has won three elections to retain the seat.

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Gillibrand Launches Bid For 2020 Presidential Race

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has launched her campaign to win the Democratic Party nomination to oppose President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

She formally launched her bid Sunday morning, not with a big speech, but instead with a video that poses the question, “WIll brave win?”

“We need a leader who makes big, bold, brave choices,” Gillibrand says in the video. “Someone who isn’t afraid of progress.”

The lawmaker is set to deliver her first major speech next week in front of Trump International Hotel in New York City.

She gave an indication in the video of the issues she will focus on during her campaign. “We launched ourselves into space and landed on the moon. If we can do that, we can definitely achieve universal health care,”she said. “We can provide paid family leave for all, end gun violence, pass a Green New Deal, get money out of politics and take back our democracy.”

She joins a large group of presidential hopefuls that includes, among many others, some of her fellow female lawmakers: Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California, along with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

Gillibrand was appointed to the Senate in 2009.  She filled the New York Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, but since then has won three elections to retain the seat.

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Biden Stops Short of Saying He’s Running for President

Veteran Democrat Joe Biden campaigned for president in every way but name Saturday, declining to announce his 2020 plans but dropping hints, including a memorable gaffe that suggests he will soon be all in.

As the number of Democratic White House hopefuls keeps growing, Biden is expected to jump into the crowded race to see who will challenge Donald Trump next year, but the former vice president has maintained the suspense.

He received a hero’s welcome in his home state of Delaware, where he told nearly 1,000 party brokers and leaders at a Democratic dinner that it was time to restore America’s “backbone,” but also that political “consensus” was necessary to move beyond the toxic tone of the Trump era.

“Our politics has become so mean, so petty, so vicious, that we can’t govern ourselves; in many cases, even talk to one another,” he said.

A gaffe, or was it?

Then, a startling slip by the notoriously gaffe-prone Biden — perhaps an accident, perhaps a perfectly placed tease as he inches towards a presidential campaign.

“I’m told I get criticized by the new left. I have the most progressive record of anybody running for the United” — and then he catches himself. “Anybody who WOULD run.”

A murmur rippled through the crowd, and within moments his die-hard supporters rose to their feet, chanting “Run Joe run.”

“I didn’t mean it!” he chuckled, looking down before crossing himself as the applause lingered.

“Of anybody who would run. Because folks, we have to bring this country back together again.”

Pressure or run or bow out

Biden, 76, sounded at times as if he were rehearsing a campaign speech, repeating lines about the promise of the 21st century and American resolve, and choosing “truth over lies,” that he had used earlier in the week at a Washington speech to firefighters.

“There’s so much at stake,” he said about the next election, calling it the most important in a century. “Our core values are being shredded.”

The Democratic senior statesman has been mulling a challenge against Trump for months.

While he tops nearly all early polls for the Democratic nominations race, strategists and election observers have stressed that he is under pressure to enter the field soon, or bow out.

One of his potential rivals, the former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, launched his presidential bid Thursday, and spent three straight days campaigning in the early voting state of Iowa, sucking up much of the political oxygen.

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Trump Seeks More Workarounds to Avoid Congress

President Donald Trump’s first veto was more than a milestone. It signals a new era of ever perilous relations between the executive and legislative branches of government.

Trump’s agenda was stymied even before his party lost unified control of Washington at the start of the year, and he has grown increasingly frustrated by his dealings with Congress, believing little of substance will get done by the end of his first term and feeling just as pessimistic about the second, according to White House aides, campaign staffers and outside allies. 

 

Republicans in Congress are demonstrating new willingness to part ways with the president. On the Senate vote Thursday rejecting the president’s national emergency declaration to get border wall funding, 12 Republicans joined Democrats in voting against Trump. 

 

The 59-41 vote against Trump’s declaration was just the latest blow as tensions flare on multiple fronts. 

 

Trump tweeted one word after the vote: “VETO!” And he eagerly flexed that muscle on Friday for the first time, hoping to demonstrate resolve on fulfilling his 2016 campaign pledge. 

​Proposed deals fall flat

 

GOP senators had repeatedly agitated for compromise deals that would give them political cover to support Trump despite their concerns that he was improperly circumventing Congress. But the president was never persuaded by any of the proposals, said a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

 

A last-ditch trip to the White House by a group of senators Wednesday night only irritated Trump, who felt they were offering little in the way of new solutions. 

 

As the vote neared, Trump repeatedly made clear that it was about party fealty and border security and suggested that voting against him could be perilous. 

 

“It’s going to be a great election issue,” he predicted. 

 

Looking past the veto, Trump’s plans for future collaboration with Congress appear limited. With the exception of pushing for approval of his trade deal with Mexico and Canada, the president and his allies see little benefit in investing more political capital on Capitol Hill. Trump ran against Washington in 2016, and he is fully expected to do so again. 

 

Trump once declared that “I alone can fix it.” But that was before getting hamstrung in Washington, and he is now exploring opportunities to pursue executive action to work around lawmakers, as he did with his emergency declaration on the border wall. He is directing aides to find other areas where he can act — or at least be perceived as acting — without Congress, including infrastructure and drug prices. 

‘The campaign begins’

 

Trump made his intentions clear recently as he assessed that Democrats would rather investigate him than cooperate on policy: “Basically, they’ve started the campaign. So the campaign begins.” 

 

His dealings with Congress were inconsistent even when Republicans controlled both chambers, and he has made few overtures to Democrats since they won control of the House. 

 

Trump initially predicted he could work across the aisle, but that sentiment cooled after the bitter government shutdown fight and in the face of mounting investigations. His frustrations are evidence of the difficulty that the Washington neophyte and former business executive has had with the process of lawmaking, and the challenges yet to come. 

 

The White House argues there are still opportunities for collaboration, listing ratification of the Canada-Mexico trade pact as a priority. But passage is anything but assured. 

 

Trump’s ire has been directed at both parties for some time, aides said. He was upset with the Republicans’ performance during the recent congressional hearing featuring his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, telling allies that he was not impressed with their questioning.  

Trump’s budget proposal this past week was viewed as a shot at Democrats, with its proposals to increase money for the border wall and cut to social safety net programs. The plan, which had little in the way of new or bipartisan ideas, was declared dead on arrival by Democratic House leaders. 

Stoltenberg address

 

Further stoking tensions, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., invited NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to address an upcoming joint meeting of Congress, in what was widely seen as a rebuke of Trump’s criticism of the trans-Atlantic alliance. The invitation was backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and followed votes earlier this year in which Republicans voiced opposition to Trump’s plans to draw down U.S. troops in Syria and Afghanistan. 

 

Presidential complaints about Congress — and efforts to find a workaround — are nothing new. 

 

President Barack Obama in 2014 resorted to what became known as his “pen and phone” strategy. 

 

“I’ve got a pen to take executive actions where Congress won’t, and I’ve got a telephone to rally folks around the country on this mission,” he said. 

 

Obama’s strategy yielded years of executive orders and regulatory action, but many proved ephemeral when Trump took office and started unwinding them.

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Federal Court: Mississippi Must Redraw Senate District

A federal appeals court told Mississippi lawmakers to redraw a state Senate district where a judge found that black residents’ voting power had been diluted.

A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the order Friday, denying a request by state officials to delay the impact of a ruling that U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves issued last month.

Reeves said Senate District 22 should be redrawn because it fails to give African-American voters an “equal opportunity” to elect a candidate of their choice. The appeals court wrote that a majority of members on its three-judge panel found “there is not a strong likelihood” that state officials ultimately would persuade them to overturn Reeves’ ruling.

State sued in July

Three black residents sued the state in July, saying the composition of the district violates the Voting Rights Act. It stretches through parts of six counties, including poor and mostly black parts of the Delta into the affluent and mostly white Jackson suburbs of Madison County. It has a 51 percent black voting-age population and a white senator, Republican Buck Clarke of Hollandale, who was first elected in 2003 under a somewhat different configuration of the district. Clarke is not seeking re-election this year because he’s running for state treasurer.

“The Court of Appeals quite properly confirmed Judge Reeves’ ruling that lines of District 22 should be changed for this year’s election. That configuration added wealthy majority-white suburbs in Madison County to an otherwise largely African-American rural district in the Delta to dilute African-American voting strength in violation of the Voting Rights Act,” Rob McDuff, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said in a statement Friday.

McDuff, Mississippi Center for Justice and the Washington-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law were among those representing African-Americans who brought the lawsuit, including a former state lawmaker who lost to Clarke in 2015.

An attorney for the state could not immediately be reached after business hours Friday.

Deadline to draw districts April 3

Mississippi has 52 state Senate districts, and all of the state’s legislative seats are up for election this year. The current district lines were set in 2012 and have been used since the 2015 legislative elections.

Both Reeves and the appeals court judges acknowledged that redrawing District 22 will require at least one nearby Senate district to be redrawn, as well.

The appeals court set an April 3 deadline for lawmakers to draw the new districts. Candidates’ qualifying deadline for all legislative races was March 1, but the appeals court said the qualifying deadline in the newly drawn districts will be April 12.

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Trump Issues Veto to Protect Emergency Wall Funding

U.S. President Donald Trump has issued the first veto of his presidency, overriding a congressional measure and protecting his national security declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.  

“Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution and I have the duty to veto it,” Trump said Friday in the Oval Office.

Surrounded by law enforcement officials as well as parents of children killed by people who were illegally in the United States, Trump called the congressional action “dangerous” and “reckless.” 

On Thursday, Congress formally rejected Trump’s national emergency declaration to fund border wall construction, as the Senate voted 59 to 41 to disapprove the executive action.

A dozen Republicans joined with Senate Democrats to back the resolution. 

The House had passed the measure weeks earlier, largely along party lines.

Back to Congress

Trump’s veto sends the issue back to Congress, where it is unlikely that there will be enough support to override the veto. Two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate are needed to overcome a presidential veto.

Earlier this year, a politically divided Congress provided limited funds to erect new fencing along small sections of the U.S.-Mexico border, an outlay Trump deemed inadequate. 

The president then declared a national emergency, allowing him to redirect federal funds for the wall, which the White House said would come from mostly military accounts. 

The president has argued the situation at the border is a crisis that warrants such an emergency declaration, and has said the United States is facing an invasion of people trying to enter the country illegally.  

Bypass Congress

Democrats have largely opposed building a wall on the southern border. 

Republicans who voted against Trump’s national security declaration said that while they supported increasing security on the southern border, they did not support Trump’s attempt to bypass Congress. 

Congress has not funded Trump’s border wall requests during the more than two years he has been in office, including during the first two years when Republicans were in control of both houses of Congress.

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Trump, National Security Officials Discuss Afghanistan 

President Donald Trump and his national security team had an hourlong, classified meeting on Afghanistan on Friday, a day after a top Afghan official openly complained that the Trump administration was keeping his government in the dark about its negotiations with the Taliban. 

 

The meeting at the Pentagon included Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, among others. The session was a classified briefing about Afghanistan, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the subject of the private briefing. 

 

The Pentagon has been developing plans to withdraw up to half of the 14,000 troops still in Afghanistan. Patrick Shanahan, acting secretary of defense, said he has no orders to reduce the U.S. troop presence, although officials say that is at the top of the Taliban’s list of demands in exploratory peace negotiations. 

 

U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, the administration’s main negotiator with the Taliban, recently concluded a 13-day session with leaders of the insurgent group to try to find a way to end the 17-year war. 

 

Draft accords

Khalilzad said the two sides reached two “draft agreements” covering the withdrawal of U.S. troops and guarantees that Afghanistan would not revert to a haven for terrorists. But he was unable to persuade the Taliban to launch talks with the Afghan government. 

 

The two sides seem to be in agreement about the withdrawal of American forces, but divided over the timeline and whether a residual force would remain. 

 

Taliban officials have told The Associated Press that the insurgents want a full withdrawal within three to five months, but that U.S. officials say it will take 18 months to two years. The Americans are likely to insist on a residual U.S. force to guard the American Embassy and other diplomatic facilities, and may press for a counterterrorism force as well. 

 

Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib visited Washington on Thursday to publicly complain that the Trump administration has alienated the Afghan government, legitimized the militant network and is crafting a deal that will never lead to peace. His blunt remarks prompted a scolding from State Department officials. 

 

Mohib, the former Afghan ambassador to the United States, said talks about withdrawing troops should be conducted with the Afghan government, which has a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. He also suggested that the negotiations conducted by Khalilzad, a veteran American diplomat who was born in Afghanistan, are clouded by Khalilzad’s political ambitions to lead his native country.

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