Alex Pappas

The Trump administration on Friday informed Congress the president will invoke his emergency authority to bypass lawmakers’ approval of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing the threat to the United States from Iran.

The move comes as Trump announced plans Friday to send about 1,600 troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran.

TRUMP APPROVES PENTAGON PLAN TO SEND MORE U.S. TROOPS TO MIDDLE EAST

“Iran’s malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to Americans at home and abroad. We took this step of prudent diplomatic deterrence to augment our partners’ long-term capacity for self-defense and threat mitigation,” a senior State Department official told Fox News.

The official added, “Congress won’t act, but we will. “

The administration is using an emergency loophole in the Arms Export Control Act to move ahead with sales of $7 billion in precision-guided munitions, other bombs, ammo and aircraft maintenance support to Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, without lawmakers’ approval.

The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, said he was “reviewing and analyzing the legal justification for this action and the associated implications.”

The administration pointed out that this authority has been invoked by past presidents on multiple occasions, including in 1979, 1984, 1990 and 2006.

The plan was swiftly condemned by Democratic senators.

“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Trump administration has failed once again to prioritize our long-term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia,” said New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“President Trump circumventing Congress to sell more weapons to Saudi Arabia is unacceptable,” said California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

“President Trump is only using this loophole because he knows Congress would disapprove of this sale,” said Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In his notification, Pompeo said he had made the determination “that an emergency exists which requires the immediate sale” of the weapons “in order to deter further the malign influence of the government of Iran throughout the Middle East region.” He said the transfers “must occur as quickly as possible in order to deter further Iranian adventurism in the Gulf and throughout the Middle East.”

It comes as the administration has actively courted close ties with Saudi Arabia over congressional objections, notably following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based columnist for The Washington Post, by Saudi agents in October.

There is a precedent for using the emergency exemption for arms sales to Saudi Arabia. President Ronald Reagan invoked it in the 1980s, and both Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush used it for sales before the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq war, respectively.

Fox News’ Rich Edson, Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

President Trump has approved the Pentagon’s plan to send roughly 2,000 more troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran, U.S. officials told Fox News on Friday.

The plan is intended to bolster security for existing American and allied forces in the region and deter attacks from Iran, officials say.  Any additional destroyers or submarines sent to the region would be equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles, they said.

TRUMP TEAM BRIEFS CONGRESS ABOUT IRANIAN THREAT: ‘THIS IS ABOUT DETERRENCE, NOT ABOUT WAR’

“We’re going to be sending a relatively small number of troops,” the president told reporters outside the White House on Friday. “Mostly protective. Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now. And we’ll see what happens.”

No large military units, such as U.S. Army brigade combat teams, are expected to deploy. Instead, senior military leaders want to deploy an additional Patriot anti-aircraft missile battery, a defensive weapon system. They also want to deploy another warship or submarine to the region, more surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and potentially more Air Force fighter jets.

On Thursday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had rejected news reports saying 5,000 or 10,000 troops could be sent to the region, saying the number was “not accurate.” But he did acknowledge more forces could soon be heading to the region for force protection.

The U.S. began reinforcing its presence in the Persian Gulf region this month in response to what it said was a threat from Iran.

In early May, the U.S. accelerated the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group to the Mideast and sent four B-52 bomber aircraft to the region. The Pentagon also decided to move a Patriot air-defense missile battery to an undisclosed country in the area.

GEN. JACK KEANE: SENDING THOUSANDS MORE TROOPS TO MIDDLE EAST AMID IRAN THREAT WOULD BE OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE

On Friday, an anti-war Republican ally of the president urged him to reverse his decision.

“I strongly urge @realdonaldtrump to reconsider more troops to the Middle East,” tweeted Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. “This escalation doesn’t get us out of our decades long, seemingly endless wars Mr. President. Trust your instincts and follow what you ran on, not the neocons around who want to repeat past mistakes.”

On Tuesday, top officials in the Trump administration were dispatched to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers about the escalating tensions with Iran, saying afterward they are focused on trying to deter attacks and avoid war.

“Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation,” Shanahan told reporters after the briefing. “We do not want the situation to escalate. This is about deterrence, not about war.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after the briefing: “Our efforts and our ultimate objective over the past days has been to deter Iran.”

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But some lawmakers, after the briefing, still expressed concern about war breaking out.

“We were lied to in terms of Iraq supposedly having weapons of mass destruction,” said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. “A war with Iran would be an absolute disaster, far worse than the war with Iraq. I hope the people tell this administration that we will not go to war in Iran.”

Other lawmakers said the threats from Iran were specific, necessitating actions from the administration to prevent attacks.

“The action taken by the administration is totally appropriate,” Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said after the Tuesday briefing, saying the actions are designed to deter attacks by Iran.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson wants to roll back an Obama-era rule mandating that single-sex homeless shelters funded by his department admit residents based on their stated gender identity instead of their sex at birth, arguing that people could intentionally misrepresent their gender for malicious reasons.

In a new rule posted online on Wednesday, HUD said it wants to give the shelters it funds flexibility in devising their own policies for admissions at single-sex or sex-segregated shelters.

CARSON CLASHES WITH DEMS OVER PROPOSAL TO BLOCK ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS FROM PUBLIC HOUSING

HUD said the change is needed because the Equal Access Rule under the Obama administration “leaves no room for shelter providers to make decisions about potentially dangerous individuals who may misrepresent their gender to access gender-specific shelters.”

“Further, HUD’s current rule does not consider the practical concerns of shelter providers who serve vulnerable clientele in difficult conditions, including those seeking refuge from abusive relationships or domestic violence,” reads a department fact sheet, obtained by Fox News.

The 2016 Equal Access Rule guarantees housing and shelter programs regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. According to a fact sheet, HUD’s newly proposed rule would “allow local providers to apply their own state and local laws in determining the best approach to serve individuals based upon their gender identity.”

The proposed rule would permit shelter providers to consider a range of factors when it comes to determining a person’s sex, including “privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs, any relevant considerations under civil rights and nondiscrimination authorities, the individual’s sex as reflected in official government documents, as well as the gender which a person identifies with.”

But transgender activists said they fear it’ll result in transgender people being denied equal access to shelters.

“This is a heartless attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” said Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “The programs impacted by this rule are life-saving for transgender people, particularly youth rejected by their families, and a lack of stable housing fuels the violence and abuse that takes the lives of many transgender people of color across the country.”

HUD said it would continue the department’s policy of “ensuring that its programs are open to all eligible individuals and families regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The department also argued that the rule change would provide flexibility for faith-based shelter providers, saying the current rule might discourage them from seeking HUD funding because of their religious beliefs.

The department cited a lawsuit against Naomi’s House, a California homeless shelter that receives HUD funding, where nine women claimed a biological male who identified as a female made lewd comments as he showered with the other residents. The department said the Obama-era rule did not give the shelter the ability to consider a different shelter for the resident.

The proposed rule change came as Carson weathered harsh criticism this week from Democrats during an appearance before the House Financial Services Committee, as he fielded questions about a proposed rule change that would strip public housing assistance for illegal immigrants.  Carson has also been hammered for confusing a question about REOs – real estate owned properties – for Oreos, the chocolate cookies.

Source: Fox News Politics

President Trump on Wednesday demanded Democrats end what he called their “phony investigations” before he’ll negotiate with them on issues like infrastructure, as he delivered a fiery statement from the Rose Garden after a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer was cut short.

The president had met for mere minutes with the two Democratic leaders in a session scheduled to discuss a possible bipartisan infrastructure package. But moments before that sit-down, Pelosi had accused Trump of having “engaged in a cover-up” regarding the Russia probe.

PELOSI SCRAMBLES TO TAMP DOWN TRUMP IMPEACHMENT FRENZY IN CAUCUS

Trump suggested the comments, and the numerous investigations into him, prevented them from negotiating.

“You can’t do it under these circumstances,” Trump said. “Get these phony investigations over with.”

The president said he wanted to pursue an infrastructure proposal, but “instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk in to look at people that have just said that I was doing a cover-up.”

Trump added: “I don’t do cover-ups.”

Asked what happened during the meeting, a Senior House Dem source told Fox News: “Nothing good.”

Schumer, during a press conference back at the Capitol, said Trump’s decision to bolt the meeting and address the press in the Rose Garden was hardly spontaneous. Speaking alongside Pelosi in a separate session, he called it a “pre-planned excuse” — citing the ready-made sign that Trump had at the podium.

“We are interested in doing infrastructure,” Schumer said. “It’s clear the president isn’t. He is looking for every excuse.”

Pelosi appeared exasperated over the meeting, telling reporters, “He just took a pass. And it makes me wonder why he did that. In any event, I pray for the president of the United States. I pray for the United States of America.”

In the Rose Garden, the president stood at a podium displaying a sign that said “no collusion, no obstruction.” He also lashed out at media for their coverage of the Russia probe.

“This whole thing was a takedown attempt at the president of the United States, and honestly you ought to be ashamed of yourselves for the way you reported so dishonestly,” he said.

Last month, Schumer and Pelosi said Trump had agreed to support a $2 trillion infrastructure spending package. But, at the time, they said no decisions on how to pay for the plan. The president – a real estate developer before he was elected president – has long sought to strike a big infrastructure deal, but has faced some resistance from conservatives in his party over concerns about the country’s rising debt.

But questions have remained over whether Pelosi and Schumer can strike deal with Trump on infrastructure, as congressional Democrats ramp up investigations of the president and subpoena members of his administration in the wake of the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report.

Fox News’ Judson Berger and Chad Pegram contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Top officials in the Trump administration were dispatched to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to brief lawmakers about escalating tensions with Iran, saying afterward they are focused on trying to deter attacks and avoid war.

The administration sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joe Dunford to brief lawmakers in the House and Senate in separate, closed-door sessions.

FORMER CIA DIRECTOR JOHN BRENNAN ON CAPITOL HILL AT DEMOCRATS’ INVITATION FOR IRAN BRIEFING

“Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation,” Shanahan told reporters after the briefing. “We do not want the situation to escalate. This is about deterrence, not about war.”

“Our efforts and our ultimate objective over the past days has been to deter Iran,” Pompeo said.

Shanahan said he talked to lawmakers about what the Department of Defense has been doing since May 3, when “we received credible intelligence about threats to our interests in the Middle East and to American forces.”

Shanahan said he’s confident they have deterred attacks against American forces “based on our reposturing of assets.” Over the past several weeks the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier and other resources to the Persian Gulf region, and evacuated nonessential personnel from Iraq, amid unspecified threats the administration says are linked to Iran.

“The action taken by the administration is totally appropriate,” said Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, saying it was designed to deter attacks by Iran.

Speaking of the threats, Romney said, “They were specific.”

Other lawmakers, after the briefing, still expressed concern about war breaking out.

“We were lied to in terms of Iraq supposedly having weapons of mass destruction,” said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. “A war with Iran would be an absolute disaster, far worse than the war with Iraq. I hope the people tell this administration that we will not go to war in Iran.”

Meanwhile, former CIA irector John Brennan also visited Capitol Hill Tuesday after congressional Democrats invited him to give them their own briefing on the situation in Iran during their private weekly caucus meeting. Democrats also invited former State Department official and top negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal, Wendy Sherman, to join Brennan in the briefing.

The competing closed-door sessions come after weeks of escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf that have raised alarms over a possible military confrontation with Iran.

Lawmakers are warning the Trump administration it cannot take the country into war without approval from Congress, and the back-to-back briefings show the wariness among Democrats, and some Republicans, over the White House’s sudden policy shifts in the Middle East.

Trump, veering between bombast and conciliation in his quest to contain Iran, threatened Monday to meet provocations by Iran with “great force,” but also said he’s willing to negotiate.

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters Monday as he left the White House for a campaign rally. He said Iran has been “very hostile.”

Trump said while there are no talks with Iran he still wants to hear from them, “if they’re ready.”

Fox News’ Chad Pergram, Jason Donner and Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

For Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee, Ben Carson’s unfamiliarity with certain abbreviations is nothing to LOL about.

The lawmakers, perhaps in coordination or perhaps by chance, used a committee hearing Tuesday to repeatedly grill the secretary of Housing and Urban Development on the meaning of obscure acronyms — and then mocked him for not knowing.

CARSON CLASHES WITH DEMS OVER PROPOSAL TO BLOCK ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS FROM PUBLIC HOUSING

“I’d also like for you to get back to me – if you don’t mind – to explain the disparity in REO rates. Do you know what an REO is?” California Democratic Rep. Katie Porter asked.

Carson responded, “OREO?”

“No, not an Oreo. An REO,” Porter shot back, explaining she was asking about real-estate owned properties.

Shortly afterward, her office captured the exchange for Twitter posterity.

“I asked @SecretaryCarson about REOs – a basic term related to foreclosure – at a hearing today,” she tweeted. “He thought I was referring to a chocolate sandwich cookie. No, really.”

The REO term refers to properties owned by lenders like a bank or government. Carson indicated during the awkward exchange that he knew the acronym was about “real estate.” But pressed by the lawmaker on what the “O” in the acronym stood for, Carson incorrectly said the word “organization” instead of “owned.”

Yet this wasn’t the only instance Tuesday where Carson was quizzed on his agency lexicon. At another point, Ohio Rep. Joyce Beatty asked Carson to discuss “OMWI.”

Their discourse degenerated from there.

“Are you familiar with OMWI and what it is?” Beatty asked.

Carson replied: “With who?”

“OMWI,” she said.

“Amway?” Carson asked, referring to the marketing company.

“OMWI,” Beatty said. “Come on Mr. Secretary. Now, I asked you this when you were here last year.”

Beatty eventually explained that she was referring to an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion.

Beatty asked for Carson to name who leads that office; Carson said he couldn’t give her a name.

“Will you do me a favor, will you find out and would you send me a note back so we don’t ever have to repeat this again?” she said.

But a Republican on the committee, New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, called Beatty’s question to Carson “unfair,” explaining HUD doesn’t have such an office.

“The reason why you wouldn’t recognize the term OMWI in HUD is that HUD doesn’t have OMWI,” Zeldin said, adding that it’s “pretty unfair question to ask you who the director is of an entity that obviously doesn’t exist within HUD.”

Source: Fox News Politics

The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee vowed Tuesday to go to court if necessary to seek former White House Counsel Don McGahn’s testimony, after he defied a subpoena and skipped a committee hearing at President Trump’s direction.

The move infuriated Democrats and touched off what could be another high-profile battle over holding a Trump official in contempt of Congress.

“Let me be clear, this committee will hear Mr. McGahn’s testimony, even if we have to go to court to secure it,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y, said, accusing Trump of witness intimidation.

MCGAHN CONFIRMS HE WILL SKIP HOUSE HEARING, AS DOJ ASSERTS ‘IMMUNITY’ 

He added, “When this committee issues a subpoena, even to a senior presidential adviser, the witness must show up. Our subpoenas are not optional.”

A day earlier, the president directed McGahn to not appear for the committee hearing, citing a Justice Department opinion that he cannot be compelled to testify about his official duties.

“In short, the president took it upon himself to intimidate a witness who has a legal obligation to be here today,” Nadler said. “This conduct is not remotely acceptable.”

But Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member on the committee, responded to Nadler’s remarks by accusing Democrats of political theatrics, saying they are “trying desperately to make something out of nothing.”

“I cannot emphasize this enough — the chairman’s track record demonstrates he does not actually want information,” Collins said. “He wants the fight, but not the truth.”

Earlier this month, House Democrats opted to question an empty chair — and a bucket of fried chicken — when Attorney General Bill Barr failed to appear, citing Democrats’ unusual demands.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders blasted Democrats for continuing to pursue Trump investigations, saying they want a “wasteful and unnecessary do-over” in the wake of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe — and describing the subpoena for McGahn as part of that.

The related DOJ memo said McGahn, like other senior advisers to a president, has “immunity” from being compelled to testify about his official duties.

“This immunity applies to the former White House Counsel. Accordingly, Mr. McGahn is not legally required to appear and testify about matters related to his official duties as Counsel to the President,” the memo said.

The committee announced the hearing last week, but it was unclear whether McGahn would appear due to the ongoing battle between congressional Democrats and the White House over his testimony.

The committee, led by Nadler, subpoenaed McGahn on April 22, days after the release of Mueller’s report, which featured McGahn prominently in its section related to the obstruction of justice inquiry. This included a claim that McGahn disobeyed Trump’s call to have him seek Mueller’s removal.

The report also revealed that when the media reported on the president’s request, the president directed White House officials “to tell McGahn to dispute the story and create a record stating he had not been ordered to have the special counsel removed.” He did not.

The House committee’s subpoena, coming amid a fight over access to the unredacted Mueller report, called for McGahn to appear before the panel to testify and provide documents related to the Mueller investigation.

The battle over McGahn’s testimony is just one front in the clash between the White House and congressional Democrats.

Earlier this month, the committee voted to hold Barr in contempt for defying a subpoena for Mueller’s full and unredacted report, as well as underlying evidence and documents used in the investigation.

Trump, prior to the vote, asserted executive privilege over the materials in a bid to protect them from being turned over to the committee. The full House has yet to take a final vote on whether to hold Barr in contempt of Congress.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

More Americans are embracing socialism.

A new Gallup poll released Monday found that 43 percent of Americans think socialism would be a good thing for the United States, while 51 percent say it would be a bad thing.

The poll is fresh evidence that attitudes toward socialism are changing, amid the popularity in the Democratic Party of democratic socialists like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running for president, and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who pushes policies like “Medicare-for-all” and the Green New Deal.

DEMOCRATS VIEW SOCIALISM MORE FAVORABLY THAN CAPITALISM, GALLUP SAYS

Gallup noted that in 1942, a Roper/Fortune survey that found 40 percent of Americans described socialism as a bad thing while only 25 percent called it a good thing.

Times have changed. An August Gallup poll indicated that more Democrats view socialism positively than they do capitalism, with 57 percent of Democrats saying they have a favorable view of socialism, while just 47 percent of Democrats in the poll said they have positive feelings about capitalism.

It wasn’t long ago – in 2012, according to the poll — that Democrats viewed capitalism more favorably than socialism. But the positive feelings toward capitalism have dropped 9 points since 2016, when 56 percent of Democrats said they liked capitalism.

Republicans still overwhelmingly prefer capitalism, with 71 percent saying in the August poll they have a positive view of it and just 16 percent saying they see socialism favorably.

AS DEM FIELD SETS, CAMPAIGN TAKES AIM AT ‘SOCIALIST ORGANISM WITH 22 HEADS’

The polls come as President Trump’s re-election campaign is seeking to portray the entire Democratic presidential primary field as sympathetic to socialism. The Trump re-election team sees a target-rich environment emerging, with Trump communications Director Tim Murtaugh describing the field as “one big socialist organism with 22 heads.” He later amended that statement to “one big socialist organism with 23 heads” after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio entered the race.

But Democrats have dismissed the efforts to portray the party’s candidates as a socialist cabal. Brandon Gassaway, a spokesman for the DNC, recently told Fox News that Republicans “know they can’t compete in a policy debate, so they rely on tropes and misinformation.”

Source: Fox News Politics

The White House is pushing back against the slew of Russia probe-related document requests from Democrats on Capitol Hill, accusing the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee of seeking to duplicate Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation for political gain.

“Congressional investigations are intended to obtain information to aid in evaluating potential legislation, not to harass political opponents or to pursue an unauthorized ‘do-over’ of exhaustive law enforcement investigations conducted by the Department of Justice,” Pat Cipollone, counsel to the president, wrote in a letter to House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. on Wednesday.

HOUSE PANEL VOTES TO HOLD BARR IN CONTEMPT, AS TRUMP ASSERTS EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE OVER MUELLER FILES

Cipollone’s 12-page letter is in response to a March 4 request from Nadler for a wide-range of documents related to the Russia investigation.

The letter comes a week after the committee voted to recommend holding Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena for Mueller’s unredacted Russia report and underlying documents, after President Trump asserted executive privilege in a bid to protect those files from release.

The White House does not assert executive privilege in the letter. But Cipollone argues that the request improperly seeks information that could be considered privileged.

Some of the requests include: information related to Trump’s contacts with then-FBI Director James Comey; the contents of meetings between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin; information related to possible pardons for former aides Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen; and other requests.

“Unfortunately, it appears that you have already decided to press ahead with a duplicative investigation, including by issuing subpoenas, to replow the same ground the Special Counsel has already covered,” Cipollone wrote. “I ask that you reconsider that approach.”

NADLER ANNOUNCES SWEEPING DOCUMENT REQUESTS, SAYS TRUMP OBSTRUCTED JUSTICE

Still, Cipollone said the White House is open to reaching an accommodation with the committee. The letter asks the committee to “narrow the sweeping scope of the requests in the letter and articulate the legislative purpose and legal support for each of the disparate requests it wishes to pursue, including by addressing each of the legal deficiencies that I raise in this letter.”

In the March 4 request to the White House, Nadler said his committee is “determined to ask critical questions, gather all of the relevant information, judiciously assess the evidence, and present our findings to the American people, whatever those findings may be.”

Source: Fox News Politics

For now, it’s secured safely under lock and key inside the Trump 2020 campaign offices.

But soon, the president’s re-election team plans to give away, as part of a fundraising contest, the millionth red “Make America Great Again” hat produced by the campaign since 2015. The campaign had Trump sign it.

INSIDE TRUMP 2020: AS DEM FIELD SETS, CAMPAIGN TAKES AIM AT ‘SOCIALIST ORGANISM WITH 22 HEADS’

“We’re on the verge of selling our millionth hat,” Kayleigh McEnany, the Trump campaign’s national press secretary, told Fox News during a recent visit to the campaign offices in Northern Virginia.

In a fundraising email to supporters Tuesday, the campaign said anyone who contributed to the campaign that day would be automatically entered in the contest to win the hat. The president, the campaign said, signed the hat at his desk in the White House and plans to present it to the winner at an upcoming rally.

The millionth “MAGA” hat produced by the campaign since 2015. The campaign had Trump sign it, and plans to give it away as part of a contest. (Zach Trinca/Fox News).

The millionth “MAGA” hat produced by the campaign since 2015. The campaign had Trump sign it, and plans to give it away as part of a contest. (Zach Trinca/Fox News).

“Your signed red MAGA hat will be personally hand-delivered to you by President Trump himself at a Trump Rally,” the email said. “You’ll also get to take a picture with him!”

Until then, the hat is being held in the campaign office of John Pence, a senior campaign staffer and nephew to Vice President Pence.

The campaign said the million figure only includes official hats sold by the campaign since Trump first announced he was running for president.

“There’s millions more if you count the fraudulent ones that are not official merchandise,” McEnany said.

Source: Fox News Politics

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Wednesday declared abortion is a “constitutional right,” an apparent response to the virtual abortion ban just approved in Alabama.

ALABAMA SENATE PASSES BILL BANNING NEARLY ALL ABORTIONS

In a tweet, the Vermont senator flatly stated, “Abortion is a constitutional right.” He did not elaborate.

The statement prompted swift rebukes on Twitter.

“Please show me where the Constitution makes abortion a constitutional right,” tweeted one user named Lee Eldridge.

Another named Garland Ellis tweeted, “How is the right to terminate pregnancy and another’s life necessarily the right to privacy?”

The U.S. Constitution does not specifically address abortion. But abortion-rights activists argue the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, as cited by the Supreme Court in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, includes a “right to privacy” that allows women to decide whether to have an abortion.

Sanders’ comments follow Alabama’s legislature passing a bill that would make performing an abortion a felony at any stage of pregnancy with almost no exceptions. Other Democratic presidential candidates have made similar arguments, as they blast Alabama’s bill.

“This is an outrage and it’s nothing short of an attack on women’s basic human rights and civil rights and it’s something that women of America are going to have to fight against with everything they’ve got,” New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Wednesday on MSNBC.

Former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted, “Republicans in AL, FL, GA, and OH are ushering in laws that clearly violate Roe v Wade and they should be declared unconstitutional. Roe v Wade is settled law and should not be overturned.”

In Alabama and other conservative states, anti-abortion politicians and activists emboldened by the addition of conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court hope to ignite legal fights and eventually overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, putting an end to the right to abortion.

Fox News’ Ben Florance and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

ROSSLYN, Va. – Inside the Trump re-election campaign offices overlooking the Potomac River, a rapidly growing operation is confronting a challenge of historic proportions – how to run against a field of nearly two-dozen candidates, all of whom are hurling rhetorical bombs at the incumbent on a daily basis.

Communications Director Tim Murtaugh, whose job is to help shape that strategy, boils it down. The field, he says, is “one big socialist organism with 22 heads.”

It’s a message voters can expect to hear often as the Democratic primary field settles into place, with just a few more stragglers left to join. The Trump re-election team sees a target-rich environment emerging, especially with the rise in popularity of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders and policies like “Medicare for All” and the “Green New Deal.” While stitching that counter-“socialist” theme into the fabric of their message, the campaign is now starting to hit back more at the ensemble cast of potential 2020 foes after waiting and watching for months.

“We see them as a homogenous group of socialists,” Kayleigh McEnany, the Trump campaign’s national press secretary, told Fox News during a recent visit to the Northern Virginia office.

The Trump campaign rents the entire floor of a building in Rosslyn with views of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Capitol and Arlington National Cemetery from staffers’ offices. (Zach Trinca/Fox News).

The Trump campaign rents the entire floor of a building in Rosslyn with views of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Capitol and Arlington National Cemetery from staffers’ offices. (Zach Trinca/Fox News).

For now, the Trump campaign says they are enjoying the advantage of incumbency: being able to spend the next 13 months raising money, staffing up and pushing their message that the other party has moved too far left while Democrats endure a bruising intra-party fight.

“We like the way the field – the whole landscape — is shaping up,” Murtaugh said. “We’ve got this huge advantage of time and their whole messy primary process is going to — at the end — produce a socialist candidate for president.”

‘One of the things that we’re very keen on doing is having every other Democrat answer for the inevitable extreme, completely out of left field statement that is made on a daily basis.’

— Kayleigh McEnany, Trump campaign national press secretary

TRUMP, AT FLORIDA RALLY, MOCKS 2020 FIELD

But the campaign, and President Trump himself, have started selectively taking shots at the more prominent members of the field. When Bernie Sanders called for giving the Boston Marathon bomber voting rights, the campaign responded. The president also just assigned the rising Pete Buttigieg a nickname, mocking him as “Alfred E. Neuman” in reference to the goofy Mad magazine mascot. (Buttigieg took a swipe at their age gap in response, telling Politico: “I guess it’s just a generational thing. I didn’t get the reference.”)

The Trump campaign hasn’t announced plans yet for how they will approach the upcoming Democratic debates – which kick off in Miami on June 26. But they suggested they may offer some kind of counter-programing, whether a rally or something else. “It’s safe to say we will be engaged,” McEnany said.

Democrats, for their part, have dismissed the efforts to portray the party’s candidates as a socialist cabal. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez recently said on “Fox News Sunday”: “This is one of the oldest tricks in the playbook. You go back 75 years, when Republicans don’t want to discuss the issues that matter to real people, they call it socialism.”

Brandon Gassaway, a spokesman for the DNC, said in a statement that Republicans “know they can’t compete in a policy debate, so they rely on tropes and misinformation.”

“Whether it is the minimum wage, Social Security, or Children’s Health Insurance, Republicans have always cried ‘socialism’ in response to any proposal designed to expand opportunity for working people,” he said. “Democrats will win in 2020 because our candidates are focused on the issues and identifying how to make sure everyone has a fair shot at success.”

Hypothetical head-to-head polls, meanwhile, have shown Trump slightly trailing the two Democratic primary front-runners, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sanders. A Fox News poll in March, before the former vice president entered the race, showed Biden ahead of Trump by 7 points and Sanders ahead by 3 points. Not all Democratic candidates are polling ahead of the president: the same poll showed Trump topping both California Sen. Kamala Harris and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren by 2 points.

But it’s still early.

On the recent visit to Trump’s suburban Washington campaign office, aides were seen busily typing on laptops and making phone calls. The campaign is still hiring, with plans to increase staff from about 40 to an unspecified but “sizeable” number, the campaign said. The bulk of staff will be out in the field, jointly with the Republican National Committee.

President Trump speaks at a rally in Panama City Beach, Fla., Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

President Trump speaks at a rally in Panama City Beach, Fla., Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Many of the seats in the soon-to-be activated war room are yet to be filled, as the RNC, at this point, carries the load of candidate monitoring, opposition research and rapid response. But the campaign, busy highlighting controversial comments made by the entire field, will eventually integrate the RNC’s war room into their own operation at the offices.

“We certainly keep tabs on all the Democratic contenders,” McEnany said. “One of the things that we’re very keen on doing is having every other Democrat answer for the inevitable extreme, completely out of left field statement that is made on a daily basis.”

“So when Bernie Sanders says, ‘let’s let the Boston bomber vote’ we want to hear from every other Democratic candidate how they feel about that,” she said.

The Trump campaign signaled they are determined to push back on the portrayal of Biden, currently leading the field, as more centrist than his primary rivals, pointing to his comments this year that he has the “most progressive record” of anyone in the race.

BERNIE SANDERS SAYS BOSTON MARATHON BOMBER SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO VOTE

“Purportedly that means more so than Bernie Sanders, his socialist peer,” McEnany said.

Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, center, talks to patrons he makes a visit to King Taco with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, center, talks to patrons he makes a visit to King Taco with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Though some Republicans — like former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan — have launched or considered an intra-party challenge to Trump, the campaign says they aren’t focused on primary rivals and are running a general election campaign.

“We are unmistakable in echoing the RNC that there is not a Republican primary going on right now,” McEnany said. “You look at this president, he has 93 approval among his own party.”

A major difference, the campaign notes, between this cycle and last cycle is its fundraising operation. They cite how establishment Republican types, like longtime bundler Jack Oliver, are now helping to raise money.

McEnany said the campaign will continue holding Trump rallies in swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida. The campaign just announced one in Pennsylvania next week. But campaign manager Brad Parscale is also eying states won by Democrats in 2016 like Minnesota, New Mexico and Colorado as targets in 2020, she said.

‘We’ve got this huge advantage of time and their whole messy primary process is going to — at the end — produce a socialist candidate for president.’

— Tim Murtaugh, Trump campaign communications director

McEnany said the campaign doubts Democrats will make the same mistake they did in 2016 by not spending enough time in Midwestern states like Wisconsin, but argued even someone who might connect better with voters than Hillary Clinton will have to answer for manufacturing job losses during the Obama-Biden era. “You can put your feet on the ground you can pay lip service to these policies – but you have a record of failure,” she said. “One that is not going to sell to union workers.”

The millionth “MAGA” hat produced by the campaign since 2015. The campaign had Trump sign it, and plans to give it away as part of a contest. (Zach Trinca/Fox News).

The millionth “MAGA” hat produced by the campaign since 2015. The campaign had Trump sign it, and plans to give it away as part of a contest. (Zach Trinca/Fox News).

The campaign has room to grow. The operation rents the entire floor of a building in Rosslyn with views of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Capitol and Arlington National Cemetery from staffers’ offices. The campaign says they still consider headquarters to be at Trump Tower in Manhattan, though the vast majority of the campaign operation will be in Rosslyn.

As for the re-election slogan, McEnany said the campaign will continue to use “Make America Great Again,” even if re-tooled to something like “MAGA ’20.”

They still fundraise off the slogan: Under lock and key in the office of John Pence, a senior campaign staffer and nephew to Vice President Pence, is what the campaign says is the millionth red “MAGA” hat produced by the campaign since 2015. The campaign had Trump sign it, and plans to give it away as part of a contest.

“Everyone knows MAGA,” McEnany said. “Everyone knows the red hat.”

Source: Fox News Politics

President Trump on Monday warned Iran that it will “suffer greatly” if the country does “anything” in the form of an attack amid new tensions with Tehran.

Asked by reporters in the Oval Office if the United States is going to war with Iran, Trump said, “We will see what happens with Iran. If they do anything, it’ll be a big mistake.”

He added, “If they do anything, they will suffer greatly.”

AIR FORCE SENDS MESSAGE TO IRAN BY RELEASING IMAGES OF BOMBER TASK FORCE MISSION

Trump made the comments before meeting at the White House with Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán.

Tensions escalated in the Middle East on Friday as Iran warned it could easily destroy a naval fleet sent by the United States in order to ward off a potential threat to American commercial interests.

“Their billion[-dollar] fleet can be destroyed with one missile,” Ayatollah Tabatabai-Nejad said, according to Reuters.

IRANIAN CLERIC THREATENS U.S. NAVY FLEET AMID WARNING REGIME COULD TARGET COMMERCIAL SHIPS

Last week, a Bomber Task Force was deployed to the Middle East along with a U.S. Navy fleet in an effort to counter reported threats from Iran.

“Any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force,” National Security Adviser John Bolton said last week. “The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces.”

On Monday, Trump was also asked about two Saudi oil tankers and a Norwegian-flagged vessel being damaged in what Gulf officials described as a “sabotage” attack off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

Emirati officials have declined to elaborate on the nature of the sabotage or say who might have been responsible. However, the reports come as the U.S. has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region.

“It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens, I can tell you that. They’re not going to be happy. They’re not going to be happy people,” Trump said.

Asked to clarify, Trump responded: “You can figure it out yourself. They know what I mean by it.”

Fox News’ Sam Dorman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Attorney General Bill Barr on Friday said he named Ed O’Callaghan to temporarily serve as acting deputy attorney general in the wake of Rod Rosenstein’s departure from the Justice Department.

O’Callaghan, who served as Rosenstein’s principal deputy, will be the second in command at the Justice Department until the Senate confirms a new deputy. Jeffrey Rosen has been nominated, but not yet confirmed, for deputy attorney general.

DEPUTY AG ROD ROSENSTEIN SUBMITS RESIGNATION

“Ed is a top-notch attorney whose intellect, competence, judgment, and experience are evident in every task he takes on,” Barr said in a statement. “That is why I have asked him to serve as the Acting Deputy Attorney General until the Senate confirms Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein’s successor, Jeffrey Rosen. I am confident that Ed will be an excellent Acting Deputy Attorney General during this interim period.”

Rosenstein, who frequently found himself in the political crosshairs due to his role in the special counsel’s Russia probe and whose departure has long been expected, submitted his resignation last month to President Trump, effective May 11.

Rosenstein, 54, previously served as deputy assistant attorney general and U.S. attorney. He stayed at the Justice Department until the completion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

Fox News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

The Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday issued subpoenas to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig for six years of President Trump’s personal and business tax returns.

“While I do not take this step lightly, I believe this action gives us the best opportunity to succeed and obtain the requested material,” Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Richard Neal said in a statement. “I sincerely hope that the Treasury Department will furnish the requested material in the next week so the committee can quickly begin its work.”

TRUMP LEGAL TEAM ASKS FEDERAL COURT TO BLOCK HOUSE OVERSIGHT SUBPOENAS FOR FINANCIAL DOCS, AUDITS

The White House did not immediately comment.

Last month, Neal requested the returns from the Treasury Department, but Mnuchin denied the request saying that it lacked a “legitimate legislative purpose.”

“As you have recognized, the Committee’s request is unprecedented, and it presents serious constitutional questions, the resolution of which may have lasting consequences for all taxpayers,” Mnuchin wrote in a letter this week.

The topic has been a contentious one for the president since his time on the campaign trail in 2015, and throughout his administration, as he has refused to release his financial information. Trump repeatedly has claimed that his tax returns are complicated, and he has maintained that he will not release them while they are under audit by the IRS.

TREASURY SECRETARY MNUCHIN DENIES HOUSE DEM’S REQUEST FOR TRUMP’S TAX RETURNS

But this week, “The New York Times” obtained Trump’s federal income tax returns between 1985 and 1994. The documents revealed that Trump claimed to have lost $1.17 billion from his real estate businesses during that decade. The Times added that it had compared Trump’s tax information with other high-income earners and found that Trump “appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer. The newspaper also reported that the losses were so substantial, that in the eight of the ten years in question, Trump was able to avoid paying income tax.

House Democrats have been targeting Trump’s tax returns and financial documents since they took the majority in Congress in January. As part of their lead-off ethics package, which Trump’s lawyers cited in their filing Wednesday, Democrats’ legislation required presidents to disclose at least 10 years of their tax returns to the public, in what was an apparent swipe at Trump.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram, John Roberts and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

The Justice Department’s inspector general, as part of a long-running internal review, is focusing on how the Democrat-funded anti-Trump dossier was used to secure surveillance warrants for a former Trump campaign adviser in 2016, despite questions about its credibility.

A source familiar with the matter confirmed to Fox News that Justice Department IG Michael Horowitz is probing how the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele was used to secure the original surveillance warrant for former Trump aide Carter Page in October 2016, as well as for three renewals.

The focus is part of Horowitz’s investigation into alleged surveillance abuses during the 2016 campaign.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Horowitz is close to concluding his inquiry into the genesis of the Russia probe. The report said Horowitz’s team has questioned why the FBI considered Steele a credible source, and why the bureau seemed to use news reports to bolster Steele’s credibility.

With Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report now out in the open, attention has returned to the salacious and unverified anti-Trump dossier authored by Steele — especially since its more sensational claims were not substantiated by Mueller’s team.

CONTROVERSIAL STEELE DOSSIER BACK IN SPOTLIGHT AFTER MUELLER REPORT’S RELEASE

Former FBI Director James Comey has also faced renewed scrutiny for his role, as the inspector general as well as Attorney General Bill Barr examine the origins of the probe.

Barr testified recently that “spying” did occur against the Trump campaign.

Comey dismissed Barr’s comments at the time, saying he “never thought of” electronic surveillance as “spying.”

But Comey was put on the defensive again following a recent New York Times report detailing FBI efforts to investigate the Trump campaign.

The FBI reportedly sent a woman to meet with then-adviser George Papadopoulos at a bar in London during the campaign. The woman, who identified herself as Azra Turk, asked Papadopoulos point-blank if Trump was collaborating with Russians to swing the 2016 election.

Trump himself singled out Comey in an interview last week with Fox News.

JAMES COMEY, A MEDIA STAR AFTER TRUMP FIRED HIM 2 YEARS AGO, NOW DOGGED BY ‘SPYING’ ACCUSATIONS AGAINST FBI

“Look, I think what they should be focusing on is how did this mess start?” Trump told Fox News‘ Catherine Herridge. “How did this whole investigation start, because I think it’s corrupt as hell.”

Of Comey, he said: “I think that he did a terrible job. I would say he probably … led some kind of an effort. The word spying has been used. He probably was one of the people leading the effort on spying.”

For his part, Comey has been promoting his anti-Trump book and is set to participate in a CNN town hall on Thursday night.

Fox News’ Lukas Mikelionis contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Students in Colorado stormed out of a vigil Wednesday night for the victims of this week’s school shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch after two Democratic politicians took the stage and called for gun control, according to local news reports.

The two Democrats who spoke at the vigil were Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, who is running for president, and Rep. Jason Crow, whose congressional district includes STEM.

COLORADO SCHOOL SHOOTING LEAVES AT LEAST 1 DEAD, 8 INJURED

“STEM School students walked out of a vigil tonight after @RepJasonCrow & @SenatorBennet spoke,” tweeted Kyle Clark, an anchor with 9NEWS in Denver. “Students said their grief was being politicized. They later returned, took the mic, and some said they didn’t want to be used to promote gun control.”

About 2,000 people packed a high school gym Wednesday night to remember 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo, who was shot and killed trying to tackle one of the shooters at STEM School Highlands Ranch on Tuesday.

Authorities have credited Castillo and two classmates with stopping the attack. Eight others were injured in the shooting.

According to the Denver Post, some of the students who walked out of the vigil on Wednesday night were chanting “mental health.”

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which helped to organize the vigil, later released a statement apologizing to the offended students.

“We are deeply sorry any part of this vigil did not provide the support, caring and sense of community we sought to foster and facilitate and which we know is so crucial to communities who suffer the trauma of gun violence,” the group said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday sided with his successor, Bill Barr, over FBI Director Christopher Wray in describing bureau surveillance of Trump associates during the 2016 presidential campaign as “spying.”

“I think that ‘spying’ is a perfectly good word,” Sessions said during an on-stage interview at a conference in Las Vegas.

Sessions was asked about the recent split between Barr and Wray over the word. Barr has said he believes “spying” on the Trump campaign did occur in 2016 as the bureau conducted the Russia probe; Wray said he wouldn’t use the word “spying” to describe the FBI’s surveillance activity.

FBI DIRECTOR WRAY SAYS SURVEILLANCE NOT THE SAME AS ‘SPYING’

Sessions referenced last week’s New York Times story about an informant working for U.S. intelligence who posed as a Cambridge University research assistant in September 2016 to try to probe George Papadopoulos, then a Trump foreign policy adviser, on the campaign’s possible ties to Russia.

“They had this lady, apparently, that was sent to Papadopoulos,” Sessions said. “Is that a spy? I mean, I don’t know.” Sessions said it will take “more facts to come out” to know.

On Tuesday, asked about “spying,” Wray, the FBI director, said: “That’s not the term I would use. Lots of people have different colloquial phrases. I believe that the FBI is engaged in investigative activity, and part of investigative activity includes surveillance activity of different shapes and sizes, and to me, the key question is making sure that it’s done by the book, consistent with our lawful authorities.”

US INFORMANT REPORTEDLY TRIED TO PROBE PAPADOPOULOS ON TRUMP-RUSSIA TIES, ‘SEDUCE HIM’ DURING CAMPAIGN

Both Barr and President Trump have alleged, following the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report with redactions, that the bureau engaged in spying against Trump associates during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I think spying did occur,” Barr said in a hearing last month. “The question is whether it was adequately predicated. … Spying on a political campaign is a big deal.”

Barr later clarified in the hearing, “I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred; I’m saying that I am concerned about it and looking into it, that’s all.”

BARR TESTIFIES ‘SPYING DID OCCUR’ ON TRUMP CAMPAIGN

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is looking into the origins of the Russia probe and whether surveillance abuses occurred, but Barr’s remarks were widely criticized by Democrats, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., accusing the AG of “peddling conspiracy theories.” Yet Trump allies note that there is documented evidence that the FBI obtained surveillance warrants to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page and that numerous reports have disclosed the use of an informant and others to gather information during the early days of the probe.

Barr testified last week that he’s working with Wray to try and “reconstruct” the origins of the probe.

Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

A newly unsealed court document reveals the FBI opened an obstruction of justice case against President Trump before Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Trump claimed earlier this year that he was assured by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein he was not a target or subject of Mueller’s probe.

TRUMP ASSERTS EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE TO BLOCK RELEASE OF FULL, UNREDACTED MUELLER REPORT

But the final Mueller report showed his investigators looked closely at the question of whether Trump obstructed justice, while not reaching a conclusion. And according to the court document released this week, that avenue of investigation was being pursued before Mueller even took over. Michael Dreeben, an attorney for the special counsel’s office, said in a January 2018 hearing in federal court that in 2017, “Before the appointment of the Special Counsel on May 17th, the FBI had opened up an investigation into obstruction of justice.”

The 2018 hearing concerned an unsuccessful lawsuit from CNN seeking copies of former FBI Director James Comey’s memos about his interactions with Trump. CNN published a transcript of that hearing Tuesday after the Justice Department, under a court order, was forced to provide the transcript to the cable network.

CNN previously cited unnamed sources in saying then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe opened the obstruction investigation after Comey was fired and before Mueller was appointed. McCabe later said in an interview he launched the probe at that point. The court filing provides additional confirmation of that timeline.

During the court hearing, meanwhile, the special counsel’s office argued against releasing the Comey memos, saying they would interfere with the investigation.

Mueller was appointed by Rosenstein in May 2017 to investigate any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign, as well any other matters that arose from the investigation.

Mueller also went on to investigate whether Trump obstructed justice with his comments and actions related to the probe, including through his firing of Comey, his comments about the investigation into then-National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and his ousting of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

MCCONNELL SAYS MUELLER INVESTIGATION SHOULD BE PUT TO REST AT LAST

In his report released last month, Mueller stated his investigators found no evidence that Trump’s campaign illegally coordinated with Russia. But Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, though it said Trump told White House counsel Don McGahn to seek Mueller’s removal – something he never did.

Democrats on Capitol Hill have zeroed in on the obstruction allegations listed in the report, vowing to investigate the details while not ruling out impeachment proceedings.

Republicans have pushed back, saying the president could not have obstructed justice since Mueller found no underlying crime by Trump associates of coordinating with the Russians in the 2016 election.

Source: Fox News Politics

President Trump’s re-election campaign on Tuesday accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of “fear mongering” by suggesting Trump could try to remain in office if he loses in 2020.

“That’s ridiculous and nothing more than warrantless fear mongering to rile up her fringe base and the media,” Tim Murtaugh, Trump’s 2020 communications director, said in a statement.

PELOSI: TRUMP NEEDS TO LOSE SO DECISIVELY IN 2020 THAT HE WON’T CHALLENGE THE RESULTS

Murtaugh said Pelosi “might want to check in with Hillary Clinton and other Democrats who actually did lose, but still won’t accept the will of the voters in the presidential election of 2016 and governors races in Florida and Georgia in 2018.”

“There’s where the real denial is,” he said.

In a story published over the weekend by The New York Times, Pelosi expressed concern that Trump might not step down if defeated in 2020 by a slim margin, saying, “We have to inoculate against that, we have to be prepared for that.”

Pelosi urged Democrats to win big, so Trump can’t challenge the results.

But Republicans have pointed to comments from Democrats, including from 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who suggested she had the 2016 election “stolen” from her.

HILLARY CLINTON SUGGESTS ELECTION ‘STOLEN’ FROM HER, OTHER DEMS COULD SUFFER SAME FATE

“I think it’s also critical to understand that, as I’ve been telling candidates who have come to see me, you can run the best campaign, you can even become the nominee, and you can have the election stolen from you,” the former secretary of state said during a speech in Los Angeles.

Clinton’s hardly the only prominent Democrat claiming to have been wrongly kept out of office. On Friday, Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams again claimed she won the state’s 2018 gubernatorial race, despite losing to now-Gov. Brian Kemp.

Fox News’  Liam Quinn and Frank Miles contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday she believes President Trump is “goading” House Democrats to impeach him because he thinks it could help him politically.

“Don’t tell anybody I told you this: Trump is goading us to impeach him,” Pelosi said during an event sponsored by Cornell University in New York City. “That’s what he’s doing. Every single day, he’s just like, taunting and taunting and taunting.”

Pelosi argued Trump is daring them to impeach him because he believes it would help him “solidify his base” ahead of his 2020 re-election. Pelosi said that puts Democrats in a dilemma.

HUNDREDS OF EX-PROSECUTORS CLAIM TRUMP WOULD HAVE BEEN INDICTED IF NOT PRESIDENT

“We can’t impeach him for political reasons, and we can’t not impeach him for political reasons,” Pelosi said. “We have to see where the facts take us.”

Before Special Counsel Robert Mueller released his report on the Russia investigation, Pelosi stated her opposition to launching impeachment proceedings against Trump, calling it “divisive” and “just not worth it.” But Pelosi is now facing mounting pressure from those inside her party who say the report’s details having to do with accusations of obstruction of justice lays the groundwork in Congress for impeachment proceedings.

She said she believes Mueller – who did not reach a conclusion on obstruction — “practically said” in his report that you can’t indict sitting president but “Congress has other options.”

The White House is resisting the subpoenas, with Trump arguing he adequately cooperated with Mueller’s probe, so it’s not necessary to hand over more information to Democrats. Referencing the spat over subpoenas from House Democrats, Pelosi said, “We need this information in case we want to exercise other options.”

Pelosi said, “Our impeachment power is justification for us getting that information.”

PELOSI FACES MOUNTING TRUMP IMPEACHMENT PRESSURE FROM DEM RANKS AFTER MUELLER REPORT

At one point during the discussion, Pelosi was asked about impeachment by an attendee who said he can’t bring himself to say Trump’s name, referring to the president as just “T.”

“I can’t say his name – it’s just not worth it,” the attendee said, also referring to impeachment as the “I word.”

Pelosi quipped back, “Thank you for that — for the ‘T’ and the ‘I.’”

Fox News’ Maria Paronich contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

More than 300 former federal prosecutors have attached their names to a statement saying they believe President Trump would have been indicted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe for obstruction of justice if he weren’t president.

The names were organized and posted online Monday by an anti-Trump nonprofit organization called “Protect Democracy.” The statement argues the Justice Department’s policy of not indicting sitting presidents is the reason Trump avoided prosecution.

“Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice,” the statement reads.

WHITE HOUSE RIPS MUELLER IN LETTER TO DOJ

Some Republicans have pushed back against the argument, saying the president could not have obstructed justice since Mueller found no underlying crime by Trump associates of coordinating with the Russians in the 2016 election.

And during a hearing on Capitol Hill last week, Attorney General Bill Barr testified that Mueller “reiterated several times in a group meeting that he was not saying that but for the [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion he would have found obstruction.” Mueller did not reach a conclusion on the obstruction question. Barr, for his part, determined there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue an obstruction case.

Still, the ex-prosecutors in Monday’s statement argue Trump tried to obstruct Mueller’s probe through his attempts to fire Mueller — something the report notes he pressured White House Counsel Don McGahn to pursue — though McGahn never carried out the alleged order.

“The Mueller report describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge: conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth-finding process, as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming,” the statement reads.

BARR REVEALS TENSIONS WITH MUELLER TEAM OVER RUSSIA PROBE CONCLUSION, OBSTRUCTION PUNT

Trump and his allies have pushed back against this argument as well, saying Trump cooperated with the probe by turning over documents and witnesses, and Mueller was never removed.

As of Monday afternoon, the statement had 379 signatories. It said it planned to add the names of others who wish to be added.

Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, instead saying, “The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

In a letter obtained by Fox News last week, White House lawyer Emmet Flood lashed out at Mueller’s decision not to reach a determination on the obstruction question — while still going into great detail about the probe’s findings. Flood noted prosecutors “simply are not in the business of establishing innocence” and described these as “political statements.”

Source: Fox News Politics

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden reportedly had to correct himself over the weekend after telling donors Margaret Thatcher is concerned about the United States under President Trump.

Thatcher, the former prime minister of Britain, died in 2013 – nearly two years before Trump launched his first campaign for president.

According to Bloomberg News, Biden eventually corrected himself, explaining to the donors he meant to say British Prime Minister Theresa May instead of Thatcher, blaming the mix-up on a “Freudian slip.”

BIDEN LABELS TRUMP A ‘CLOWN’ DURING CAMPAIGN STOP IN SOUTH CAROLINA

Biden’s confusing comments came Saturday during a closed-door fundraiser in Columbia, South Carolina. He listed Thatcher as one of 14 heads of state who he claimed have voiced concerns to him about Trump, the outlet reported.

May has been prime minister since 2016. Thatcher resigned as prime minister in 1990.

During his fundraiser swing in South Carolina, Biden also took a page out of Trump’s playbook on Saturday when asked if he had a nickname for the president. Biden reportedly said he didn’t want to get down in the mud with Trump, but if he had to choose a moniker for the current White House occupant it would be a “clown.”

“There’s so many nicknames I’m inclined to give this guy,” Biden said, according to Politico. “You can just start with clown.”

Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer who has since forcefully denounced his former boss, told reporters Monday “there still remains much to be told” as he left his New York City apartment to report to federal prison for a three-year sentence after pleading guilty to numerous crimes.

“There still remains much to be told and I look forward to the day that I can share the truth,” Cohen said in brief remarks to reporters.

COHEN LOBS BOMBS AT TRUMP DURING FIERY HEARING

In an apparent swipe at President Trump, Cohen also said, “I hope that when I rejoin my family and friends that the country will be in place without xenophobia, injustice and lies at helm of our country.”

Cohen faces a 2 p.m. deadline to report to the Federal Correctional Institution, Otisville, a federal prison in the countryside 70 miles northwest of New York City.

COHEN GETS 3 YEARS IN PRISON FOR TAX FRAUD, CAMPAIGN FINANCE VIOLATIONS, LYING

Cohen — who once famously claimed he was willing to “take a bullet” for Trump before later turning against his boss, including during nationally televised congressional testimony in February — pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance violations, tax evasion and lying to Congress about Trump’s past business dealings in Russia.

In February’s House committee hearing, Cohen said of Trump: “He is a racist. He is a conman. And he is a cheat.” Cohen repeatedly expressed regret and said, “yet I continued to work for him.”

The sentence, while not the maximum, signifies a remarkable fall for the hard-charging lawyer who for years was part of Trump’s inner circle.

Among other charges, Cohen pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws during the 2016 campaign by helping orchestrate payments to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who said they had sexual encounters with Trump while he was married. Trump has denied the affairs and has not been charged with any crimes related to the payments.

Cohen also pleaded guilty to misleading Congress about his work on a proposal to build a Trump skyscraper in Moscow, hiding the fact that he continued to speak with Russians about the proposal well into the presidential campaign. Prosecutors also accused Cohen of a years-long “tax evasion scheme” to avoid paying federal income taxes on more than $4 million made through a number of ventures, including through his ownership of taxi medallions, his selling of real estate in Florida and his consulting work for other clients.

After reporting to prison, Cohen will undergo medical and mental health screenings and be assigned a job, such as mowing the grounds or cleaning up the visiting room. He’ll also get sets of clothing, bedding and towels.

At the prison camp, about 115 inmates sleep in bunks lined up in barrack-style halls, instead of individual or two-man cells like in higher-security facilities. Recreational amenities include tennis courts, horseshoes and bocce ball.

Forbes once ranked Otisville as one of “America’s 10 Cushiest Prisons,” but former employees and inmates say it’s hardly “Club Fed.” Inmates are still doing time and they’re still separated from their families and friends.

Cohen’s fellow inmates include “Jersey Shore” star Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, who wraps up an eight-month tax fraud sentence in September, and Fyre Festival fraudster Billy McFarland, who’s serving a six-year sentence.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes is scrutinizing the findings in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report about Joseph Mifsud — the mysterious professor from Malta who helped ignite the Russia probe in 2016 – and wants to know exactly who he was working for when he spoke with former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos.

It has long been suggested that Mifsud was connected to Russian intelligence. But Nunes, in a Friday letter obtained by Fox News, questions that assumption, saying Mueller’s report “omits any mention of a wide range of contacts Mifsud had with Western political institutions and individuals.”

SPECULATION RAGES OVER PAPADOPOULOS TIPSTER’S ROLE

Mifsud is a crucial figure in the report: Mueller’s report states that Mifsud was the one who told Papadopoulos in April 2016 that the Russians had “dirt” in the form of emails that could damage Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

As the story goes, Papadopoulos then told Australian diplomat Alexander Downer about his conversations with Mifsud. Downer then informed U.S. officials, leading the FBI to open its investigation into whether Trump associates were coordinating with Russia during the 2016 election.

Nunes also is seeking information about the FBI’s contacts with Mifsud – asking how the bureau knew to question Papadopoulos specifically about Clinton’s emails if it hadn’t already spoken to Mifsud. The congressman said, “it’s still a mystery how the FBI knew to ask Papadopoulos specifically about Hillary Clinton’s emails…”

Nunes’ letter is addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel, National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone and FBI Director Chris Wray. It asks them to hand over all information they have on Mifsud by May 10.

In his letter, Nunes presents photographic evidence of Mifsud in close proximity to influential Western political and government officials.

“If Mifsud has extensive, suspicious contacts among Russian officials as portrayed in the special counsel’s report, then an incredibly wide range of Western institutions and individuals may have been compromised by him, including our own State Department,” Nunes wrote.

He added: “In fact, this could entail a major scandal for U.S. and allied governments.”

Alternatively, Nunes wrote that if Mifsud isn’t a counterintelligence threat, as implied in the Mueller report, he could have done extensive damage to Western national security. The California Republican wrote that if that’s the case, it “would cast doubt on the Special Counsel’s fundamental depiction of him and his activities, and raise questions about the veracity of the Special Counsel’s statements and affirmations.”

The State Department and the FBI declined to comment. Fox News has also requested comment from the CIA and the National Security Agency.

Mifsud has vanished from public eye after his name began surfacing in news stories.

Source: Fox News Politics

Liberal activists from the anti-war group Code Pink are refusing to leave the abandoned Venezuelan embassy in Washington, vowing to protect the building from a “hostile takeover” as the U.S. State Department labels them “trespassers” and calls on them to leave.

About 50 pro-regime activists have been living inside the building for several weeks in support of embattled socialist President Nicolas Maduro. In recent days, they’ve clashed outside the embassy with supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has called for a military uprising in Venezuela and has the support of the Trump administration.

VENEZUELANS CLASH WITH PRO-MADURO CODE PINK ACTIVISTS IN TENSE SCENE OUTSIDE DC EMBASSY

“We feel that the elected government and the government that holds power and the government that’s recognized by the United Nations is the Maduro government, and they deserve to have their embassy here,” Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin told Fox News in an interview outside the embassy in D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood, as rain drenched the activists outside. “That’s why we’ve been here.”

The United States and others countries believe Maduro’s most recent election was fraudulent and have said he’s not the legitimate president of Venezuela. But Benjamin has repeatedly said activists are there to prevent a “hostile takeover” of the embassy. Benjamin said the group has the permission of the Maduro government to stay in the embassy.

A State Department spokesperson in a Thursday statement called for the activists to leave, saying, “Any unauthorized individuals on the property are trespassers.”

“The Venezuelan government, led by interim President Juan Guaido, has legal authority over the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C.,” the spokesperson said, adding, “We encourage the remaining unauthorized individuals to vacate the building and to conduct any future protest peacefully and through legal means.”

On Tuesday, flag-waving and national-anthem singing demonstrators, many of whom were born in Venezuela, quickly outnumbered those from Code Pink. They gathered outside the embassy to protest Code Pink members’ presence, demanding they leave.

“This group – the Code Pink – has taken the embassy,” one pro-Guaido protester, Giuliano Gandullia, 40, told Fox News outside the embassy. “We want to enter. We want to take over. And demonstrate that it belongs to us.”

The gathering of protesters on Tuesday forced city police in Washington to close down 30th Street, as uniformed Secret Service officers stood between the Maduro and Guaido protesters.

ILHAN OMAR FACES BACKLASH AFTER COMPLAINING ABOUT US ‘BULLYING’ IN VENEZUELA

But while law enforcement has been on the scene during protests, the activists inside have not been arrested or forced out.

Alaina Gertz, a spokeswoman for the D.C. police, said any police “involvement would be on public space and not diplomatic property.”

A member of the anti-war group Code Pink, and others attempt to bring food and supplies into the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington on Thursday. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A member of the anti-war group Code Pink, and others attempt to bring food and supplies into the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington on Thursday. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A Secret Service spokesman official said the Secret Service Uniformed Division’s Foreign Missions Branch patrols diplomatic locations in Washington’s embassy district, and officers have been on scene to public safety during ongoing demonstrations.

Two Code Pink protesters standing at the door of the embassy this week held a sign that said: “Hands off Venezuela.” Another sign hanging from the building read, “Nicolas Maduro is the president.”

VENEZUELA SEES UNREST AS GUAIDÓ SEEKS POWER

On Thursday afternoon, amid a downpour, Benjamin said the group isn’t afraid of being evicted and wouldn’t contemplate what the activists would do if Maduro leaves the country.

“I think it’s a silly question,” Benjamin said. “Because Maduro is not going to leave.”

Clashing protesters outside the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington late last month. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Clashing protesters outside the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington late last month. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Code Pink refers to the group’s presence as the “Embassy Civilian Protection Collective” and says the pro-Guaido protesters are stopping new people, food and supplies from getting inside the building. Until recently, the group said, they were enjoying themselves.

“Inside it’s a very good collective – until this very aggressive mob showed up,” Benjamin said. “We were having events every single night. We were doing educational activities. We had over 100 hundred people coming into the events.”

Meanwhile, the pro-Guaido protesters are outside the embassy holding signs like “Venezuela wants Democracy, not another Cuba.” In interviews, these protesters emphasized that they are from Venezuela – unlike many of the Code Pink protesters.

“Those people right there, they’re not Venezuelan. They don’t have a passport. They don’t have our IDs,” said 32-year-old Clemente Pinate, who said he is from the country and came to the United States when he was 12.

The Guaido protesters are using bullhorns to call on Code Pink to the leave the embassy, which was officially closed by Maduro earlier this year.

“We’re here today to denounce the trespassing of Code Pink,” said Carla Bustillos, 39. “This is a property of the people of Venezuela. It’s an asset of the nation, and the nation is now facing a transition — a transition to democracy.”

Source: Fox News Politics

A top Pentagon official on Friday disagreed with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s claim on the campaign trail that China isn’t really a competitor of the United States.

Asked about the former vice president’ comments, Assistant Defense Secretary for Asia Randall Schriver told reporters, “I’ll stick with the language in our national security strategy and our national defense strategy, which identifies China as a strategic competitor.”

Campaigning in Iowa on Wednesday, Biden pushed back against the idea of China as a global competitor to the U.S.

TRUMP HITS BIDEN’S ‘VERY DUMB STATEMENT’ IN FOX NEWS INTERVIEW 

“China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man!” Biden said.

He added, “They can’t figure out how they’re going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system. They’re not bad folks. But guess what, they’re not competition for us.”

Reacting to those remarks, President Trump, in an interview with Fox News’ Catherine Herridge on Thursday, said Biden was “naive” about China.

“For somebody to be so naive, and say China’s not a problem — if Biden actually said that, that’s a very dumb statement,” he said.

Fox News’ Gregg Re contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s inflammatory comments about Israel have fueled a new push for the formal establishment of a bipartisan Jewish Caucus for lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

No such caucus in Congress currently exists. But Jack Rosen, the president of the American Jewish Congress, said a formalized group of Jewish lawmakers is needed to push back against a rise in anti-Semitism. He is leading efforts to convince lawmakers to form such a caucus.

AOC, RASHIDA TLAIB LEAP TO DEFENSE OF ILHAN OMAR AFTER HER ‘SOME PEOPLE DID SOMETHING’ 9/11 REMARKS

“I was alarmed that the House couldn’t pass a resolution that directly pinpointed where the problem was — which was Omar’s anti-Semitic tropes,” Rosen said in an interview with Fox News. “That’s what got me to think about this a little more.”

Democrats in March drafted a resolution to condemn anti-Semitism in the wake of Omar’s remarks, including her accusation that American supporters of Israel are pushing “allegiance to a foreign country.” Omar, who was elected to Congress last year, also suggested on Twitter in February that supporters of Israel have been bought.

But after protests from the progressive wing of the party, the resolution was watered down to broadly condemn all forms of bigotry.

ILHAN OMAR CLAIMS US FORCES KILLED ‘THOUSANDS’ OF SOMALIS DURING ‘BLACK HAWK DOWN’ MISSION

Another lawmaker, Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., has also come under criticism for suggesting that Senate Republicans are more loyal to Israel than the United States.

“In the recent past, such comments would have been met with swift bipartisan scorn, repudiation and possibly censure. But that’s not what happened,” Rosen wrote in a recent op-ed for The Hill.

In reference to the watered-down resolution, Rosen said, “Had there been a bipartisan Jewish caucus at the table to intervene, the outcome might well have been different.”

Speaking to Fox News, Rosen called for the caucus to be bipartisan, saying Republicans and Democrats should “come together” on combatting anti-Semitism.

There are 34 Jewish lawmakers in Congress. Only two – New York Rep. Lee Zeldin and Tennessee Rep. David Kustoff – are Republican, though Rosen’s group is calling for the caucus to be bipartisan. Neither Zeldin nor Kustoff responded to requests for comment from Fox News about whether they support its formation.

According to JewishInsider.com, several House Democrats already regularly meet as part of an informal working group led by two Democrats, Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey of New York – though there are conversations about formally organizing.

“There have been folks who have mentioned to me the idea of formalizing,” Florida Rep. Lois Frankel told JewishInsider.com, referencing Omar’s comments.

ILHAN OMAR: I’VE EXPERIENCED MORE ‘DIRECT THREATS ON MY LIFE’ SINCE TRUMP TWEET OF 9/11 VIDEO

Rosen told Fox News he has spoken to Jewish lawmakers and some are in favor while others are more hesitant to “change the process.”

“Nobody has said no yet,” Rosen said.

The Anti-Defamation League released a report Tuesday saying the Jewish community experienced near-historic levels of anti-Semitism in 2018, including a doubling of anti-Semitic assaults.

“It’s clear we must remain vigilant in working to counter the threat of violent anti-Semitism and denounce it in all forms, wherever the source and regardless of the political affiliation of its proponents,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

Over the weekend, a gunman opened fire at a synagogue near San Diego, killing one person and injuring several others – the latest attack in the United States against Jews at a place of worship. The New York Times Opinion over the weekend also apologized for publishing a cartoon of President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after being accused of perpetuating “anti-Semitic tropes.”

STEVE KING SLAMMED BY FELLOW GOP COLLEAGUES FOR ‘WHITE SUPREMACIST’ REMARK

Proponents of the new caucus aren’t just calling out Democrats. Rosen, in his op-ed, also called out comments by Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King for saying “white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

“We need party leadership to step up and challenge their own — and each other — to defend the interests of Jewish Americans, but we also need Jewish politicians to work together and speak with a clear, collective voice to protect Jewish interests at the national level,” Rosen said.

Source: Fox News Politics

The White House tore into Robert Mueller and his investigators in a recent letter to Attorney General Bill Barr that argued the special counsel’s team included “political statements” in their Russia report and “failed” to act as traditional prosecutors — while stating President Trump reserves his right to invoke executive privilege on matters related to the report.

In the April 19 letter to the Justice Department obtained Thursday by Fox News, White House Counsel Emmet Flood laid out a series of concerns with the Mueller report, specifically on the team’s handling of the investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice.

TRUMP: ‘NO REASON’ TO HONOR DEMS’ ‘VERY PARTISAN’ SUBPOENAS

“The Special Counsel and his staff failed in their duty to act as prosecutors and only as prosecutors,” Flood wrote, complaining that the report “suffers from an extraordinary legal defect” by failing to comply with the “requirements of governing law.”

Flood raised concerns that the team did not reach a determination on the obstruction question while still going into great detail about the probe’s findings and including a pointed passage that stated the probe did not exonerate the president. That passage read: “The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Flood noted prosecutors “simply are not in the business of establishing innocence” and described these as “political statements.”

The letter was sent a day after the redacted version of the Mueller report was made public. But the points in the letter aligned with testimony from Barr himself this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he said he did not understand why Mueller did not reach a conclusion on the obstruction question.

Flood, in his letter, said “the one thing the SCO (Special Counsel’s Office} was obligated to do is the very thing the SCO — intentionally and unapologetically — refused to do. The SCO made neither a prosecution decision nor a declination decision on the obstruction question.” Flood complained that the report was instead “laden with factual information that has never been subjected to adversarial testing or independent analysis.”

He also said Mueller “produced a prosecutorial curiosity,” describing the report as “part ‘truth commission’ report and part law school exam paper.”

Despite Trump himself claiming the report exonerated him, the document only said Mueller did not find evidence of collusion with Russia while leaving the obstruction question open. Barr determined the obstruction evidence did not constitute a crime, but the report’s section on that issue included extensive and damaging details about the president’s actions, including the allegation that he told his former White House counsel to have Mueller removed.

Flood took issue with the analysis that Mueller intentionally didn’t issue a conclusion on obstruction, but rather decided to provide information about his investigation so Congress could decide whether to take action, like impeachment.

WHITE HOUSE DENIES DEMS INFO ON SECURITY CLEARANCE PROCESS

“By way of justifying this departure, it has been suggested that the report was written with the intent of providing Congress some kind of ‘road map’ for congressional action,” Flood wrote, adding if that’s the case, “it too serves as additional evidence of the [Special Counsel Office’s] refusal to follow applicable law.”

Flood, meanwhile, asserted that Trump waiving executive privilege on the report does not constitute a blanket waiver, as senior aides face subpoenas on Capitol Hill related to the Russia investigation.

The letter comes as the White House has signaled it intends to vigorously oppose subpoenas that might run up against executive privilege, a power sanctioned by the Supreme Court that allows the president and members of the executive branch to shield certain internal communications from disclosure, absent a compelling overriding justification.

“We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Trump told reporters at the White House last week.

Trump has argued that he has been “transparent” as president and had already turned over documents to Mueller’s team – suggesting it’s not necessary to cooperate with the Democratic probes.

The White House has signaled plans to fight House Democrats’ subpoena of testimony and documents from ex-White House counsel Don McGahn. The brewing fight over the McGahn subpoena was poised to set up a series of other contentious legal showdowns as Democrats seek to publicly question more current and former Trump aides who featured prominently Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation.

Fox News’ Judson Berger and Gregg Re contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

An $11 billion economic development program in New Jersey is coming under new scrutiny amid questions over whether lucrative tax breaks meant to attract businesses barely benefited the state.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that there is uproar in New Jersey over the 2013 Economic Opportunity Act, which was designed to give tax breaks to businesses that either moved to New Jersey or stayed in the state.

DEMOCRATIC NJ MAYOR RESIGNS, CHARGED WITH ELECTION INTERFERENCE

As one example, The New York Times reported that the business Holtec received a $260 million tax credit. But the state’s own analysis determined that the state would receive just $155,520 in potential benefits for the state over 35 years from tax revenue, 235 new jobs and the retention of 160 jobs. The paper noted that’s about $650,000 in tax credits for each job.

The bill was signed into law by then-Republican Gov. Chris Christie, after the Democratic-controlled legislature passed the bill. Christie, the paper said, has defended the economic development programs during his tenure as successful.

But Christie’s successor, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, has appointed a task force that is looking into whether economic programs like the Economic Opportunity Act benefited the state or if it helped politically connected individuals and businesses.

Murphy’s task force is comprised of a team of lawyers who will look deeper into who got tax breaks and why, including a whistle-blower’s allegations that her former company lied to win incentives, northjersey.com reports.

The team reportedly will interview several witnesses and work to determine whether the Economic Development Authority, which is charged with handing out the tax breaks, “applied appropriate scrutiny” to program recipients.

The New York Times reported that changes to drafts of the 2013 bill were made by a lawyer named Kevin Sheehan, who has close ties to Democratic politicians. Those changes paved the way for tax breaks for his firm’s clients, the paper reported,

Sheehan’s law firm, Parker McCay, told the paper it “was asked by policymakers, including those in the legislature, to review this legislation and offer input and suggestions on ways it could be strengthened.”

The New York Times noted that the law firm’s chief executive is Philip Norcross, the brother of powerful Democrat George Norcross, and Donald Norcross, a Democratic congressman. The New York Times said George Norcross’ insurance firm benefited from the bill and was approved to receive a $86.2 million tax credit for relocating to Camden.

Source: Fox News Politics

Attorney General William Barr fired back at Democrats during a testy Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday, suggesting they were using questions about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to try to score political points ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

“We have to stop using the criminal justice process as a political weapon,” Barr said during a back-and-forth with Connecticut Democratic Sen. Dick Blumenthal.

BARR REVEALS TENSIONS WITH MUELLER TEAM OVER RUSSIA PROBE CONCLUSION, OBSTRUCTION PUNT

The exchange, one of several heated moments during the first hearing since the release of the Mueller report, came after Blumenthal told Barr “I think history will judge you harshly” and accused him of using his summary of Mueller’s probe to exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice. The senator called Barr the “fall guy for this report.”

“I didn’t exonerate,” Barr replied. “I said that we did not believe that there was sufficient evidence to establish obstruction.”

Barr continued: “The job of the Justice Department is now over… the report is now in the hands of the American people. Everyone can decide for themselves. There’s an election in 18 months – that’s a very democratic process. But we’re out of it.”

But the clashes with senators only escalated from there during the final couple hours of the hearing, as partisan tensions flared and Barr’s impatience with the lines of questioning began to show.

Minutes later, Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono accused Barr of lying to Congress and told him he should resign.

“Mr. Barr, now the American people know that you are no different from Rudy Giuliani or Kellyanne Conway or any of other people who sacrifice their once decent reputation for the grifter and liar who sits in the Oval Office,” Hirono said.

Eventually, the Republican chairman of the committee, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, stepped in to cut Hirono off.

“You slandered this man to top to bottom,” Graham told the Hawaii senator.

Another Republican senator, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, told Barr he was being subjected to “Kavanaugh-level” slander by Democrats — in reference to the highly contentious hearings last year of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

NAPOLITANO: BARR ‘SPLITTING HAIRS’ WITH RESPONSE TO QUESTION DURING TESTIMONY ABOUT MUELLER’S CONCERNS

In another dramatic moment, Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley lambasted the anti-Trump text messages between former FBI employees Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, telling Barr, “That’s why we’re sitting here today. An unelected official in this government has open disdain for Trump voters then try to overturn the results of a Democratic election. That’s the story here today.”

Hawley added, “I can’t believe a top official would try to exercise their own prejudices. That’s the real crisis here.”

Barr, meanwhile, told the panel he’s actively looking into the origins of the Russia probe, saying he’s working with FBI Director Chris Wray “to reconstruct what went down.”

Earlier, Barr testified that he was surprised Mueller didn’t come to a conclusion over whether Trump obstructed justice.

“We did not understand exactly why the special counsel was not reaching a decision,” Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Barr also defended his decision to release a summary of Mueller’s findings initially, before later releasing a redacted version of the report. He suggested the full report would have been released sooner, if Mueller’s team had cooperated with their request to identify sensitive grand jury material from the start.

Source: Fox News Politics

Attorney General William Barr, in highly anticipated Senate testimony Wednesday, revealed tensions between the Justice Department and Robert Mueller’s team over the special counsel’s final report on the Russia investigation, pointedly saying he was surprised Mueller didn’t come to a conclusion over whether President Trump obstructed justice.

“We did not understand exactly why the special counsel was not reaching a decision,” Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee. Barr later released his own letter saying he determined, from Mueller’s investigation, that obstruction charges against Trump were not warranted — a decision that exposed him to harsh criticism from Democrats.

MUELLER LETTER TO BARR ON RUSSIA REPORT

But Barr suggested Mueller should have taken a stance on the issue: “We don’t conduct criminal investigations just to collect information and put it out to the public. We do so to make a decision.”

Barr also defended his decision to release a summary of Mueller’s findings initially, before later releasing a redacted version of the report. He suggested the full report would have been released sooner, if Mueller’s team had cooperated with their request to identify sensitive grand jury material from the start.

“Unfortunately, it did not come in that form,” Barr said. “And it quickly became apparent that it would take about three or four weeks to identify that material and other material that had to be redacted. So there was necessarily going to be a gap between the receipt of the report and getting the full report out publicly.”

Barr on Wednesday also stressed that Mueller did not accuse him of misrepresenting his findings. He defended his actions in light of a newly released letter from the special counsel indicating Mueller had concerns Barr’s summary did not fully capture the “context, nature, and substance” of his office’s work.

Barr testified that during a subsequent phone call, Mueller said he was not calling his summary inaccurate but was concerned about the press reporting on it.

“He was very clear with me that he was not suggesting we had mispresented his report,” Barr said.

The revelation of the Mueller letter quickly fueled a partisan firestorm in the run-up to Wednesday’s hearing, with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff saying Barr should resign and other Democrats blasting Barr for his handling of the report.

In a tweet, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., demanded that Mueller testify, and suggested that Barr had misled lawmakers. Maryland Democrat Sen. Chris Van Hollen agreed, writing on Twitter that Barr “must resign” because he “misled me, the Congress, and the public.”

In his opening statement, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham pushed back against the argument embraced by Democrats that Trump obstructed justice in the Mueller probe, through his firing of then-FBI Director James Comey and other actions. Graham argued the president could not have obstructed justice – since Mueller found there was no underlying crime by Trump associates of coordinating with the Russians in the 2016 election.

SCHIFF CALLS ON BARR TO RESIGN AS REPORTED MUELLER CONCERNS FUEL DEM OUTRAGE

“You have to have specific intent to obstruct justice,” Graham said. “If there’s no underlying crime, pretty hard to figure out what intent might be if there was never a crime to begin with. The president never did anything to stop Mueller from doing his job.”

Graham, a South Carolina Republican, also zeroed in on concerns that the early days of the FBI’s Russia investigation were tainted by law enforcement bias against Trump. He read aloud text messages between two FBI employees, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, disparaging Trump.

“When the Mueller report is put to bed and it soon will be, this committee is going to look long and hard on how this all started,” Graham said.

In her opening statement, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, called for Mueller to testify himself.

Fox News has obtained a copy of the letter, in which Mueller pushed Barr to release the executive summaries written by the special counsel’s office. At the beginning of the hearing, Graham asked that the letter be added to the record.

Hours before the Post’s article outlined Mueller’s apparent concerns, a dozen Democratic senators on Tuesday called for the Justice Department’s inspector general and the Office of Professional Responsibility to launch an investigation into Barr’s handling of the Mueller report.

Barr’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee provided the attorney general his most extensive opportunity yet to explain the department’s actions, including a press conference held before the report’s release, and for him to confront head-on the allegations that he’s sacrificed his integrity to become the president’s protector.

Barr is also separately invited to appear on Thursday before the Democratic-led House Judiciary panel, but the Justice Department said he would not testify if the committee insisted on having its lawyers question the attorney general, instead of members of Congress.

Fox News’ Gregg Re and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

WASHINGTON — Dozens of supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaido converged Tuesday on the now-shuttered Venezuelan embassy in Washington, clashing with pro-regime activists who have been camped out at the building for weeks in support of embattled Nicolas Maduro.

The tense scene in D.C.’s tony Georgetown neighborhood played out as Maduro’s socialist government faced perhaps its biggest challenge yet, with Guaido calling for a  military uprising — and the Trump administration voicing support from afar. Amid clashes on the streets of Caracas and global uncertainty over how the escalating challenge to Maduro’s grip on power would resolve, dramatic footage from Venezuela’s capital showed a military armored vehicle plowing into a crowd of protesters.

In Washington, flag-waving and national-anthem singing demonstrators, many of whom were born in Venezuela, quickly outnumbered those from the anti-war group Code Pink gathered to support Maduro’s regime.

VENEZUELA UPRISING TURNS VIOLENT AFTER MILITARY ARMORED VEHICLE PLOWS INTO CROWD OF OPPOSITION SUPPORTERS

“Today is the day the Venezuelans are taking over the country,” one pro-Guaido protester, Giuliano Gandullia, 40, who was born in Venezuela, told Fox News outside the embassy.

The gathering of protesters forced city police in Washington to close down 30th Street. Barricades separated the two sides, with at least 10 uniformed Secret Service officers standing between the Maduro and Guaido protesters.

Pro-interim government opposition leader Juan Guaido, and pro-Nicolas Maduro supporters, separated by members of the uniformed Secret Service, rally outside of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Pro-interim government opposition leader Juan Guaido, and pro-Nicolas Maduro supporters, separated by members of the uniformed Secret Service, rally outside of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

“This group – the Code Pink – has taken the embassy,” Gandullia said. “We want to enter. We want to take over. And demonstrate that it belongs to us.”

Activists from Code Pink, which protests U.S. support for Guaido, have been living and protesting at the embassy for weeks. On Tuesday, the organization asked supporters to “join us to uphold international law and protect the Venezuelan embassy from a hostile takeover.”  Elliott Abrams, the U.S. envoy for Venezuela, has said the group is breaking the law.

VENEZUELA’S GUAIDO CALLS FOR MILITARY UPRISING WHILE FLANKED BY SOLDIERS AT CARACAS AIRBASE: ‘THE MOMENT IS NOW’

Two Code Pink protesters standing at the door of the embassy on Tuesday held a sign that said: “Hands off Venezuela.” Another sign hanging from the building read: “Nicolas Maduro is the president.”

“The Venezuela coup attempt is the Trump administration trying to overthrow the government of Nicolás Maduro in order to steal Venezuelan oil,” Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin tweeted Tuesday.

Meanwhile, pro-Guaido protesters came to confront the Codepink activists, holding signs like “Venezuela wants Democracy, not another Cuba.” In interviews, these protesters emphasized that they are from Venezuela – unlike many of the Code Pink protesters.

“Those people right there, they’re not Venezuelan. They don’t have a passport. They don’t have our IDs,” said 32-year-old Clemente Pinate, who said he is from the country and came to the United States when he was 12.

“They are communists, socialists with Maduro,” he added. “I’m anti-Maduro. And I’m here representing my people.”

Activists from Code Pink, which protests U.S. support for Guaido, have been living and protesting at the embassy for weeks. On Tuesday, the organization asked supporters to “join us to uphold international law and protect the Venezuelan embassy from a hostile takeover.”  (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Activists from Code Pink, which protests U.S. support for Guaido, have been living and protesting at the embassy for weeks. On Tuesday, the organization asked supporters to “join us to uphold international law and protect the Venezuelan embassy from a hostile takeover.”  (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The Guaido protesters called on Code Pink to the leave the embassy, which was officially closed by Maduro earlier this year.

“We’re here today to denounce the trespassing of Code Pink,” said Carla Bustillos, 39. “This is a property of the people of Venezuela. It’s an asset of the nation, and the nation is now facing a transition, a transition to democracy.”

Guaido, the 35-year-old leader of the opposition-led National Assembly, and a small contingent of heavily armed soldiers appeared in an early morning video promoting the “final phase” of his bid to oust Maduro. The United States, which has supported Guaido’s claim as interim president of Venezuela, offered its support for the opposition and its followers.

Fox News’ Lucia Suarez Sang contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that President Trump agreed to support a $2 trillion infrastructure spending package after meeting with him and other Democrats at the White House, though the details are not yet clear.

The president – a real estate developer before he was elected president – has long sought to strike a big infrastructure deal, but has faced some resistance from conservatives in his party over concerns about the country’s rising debt.

Democratic leaders, speaking to reporters outside the White House after meeting with Trump, called the meeting constructive.

PELOSI, SCHUMER EYE ‘MASSIVE’ INFRASTRUCTURE PACKAGE 

“We agreed on a number – which was very, very good. Two trillion dollars for infrastructure. Originally, we started a little lower. Even the president was eager to push it up to two trillion dollars,” Schumer said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there were no decisions on how to pay for the plan.

“We agreed that we would meet again to talk about how it would be paid for,” she said.

Both Schumer and Pelosi said they believe they can strike a deal with Trump on infrastructure, even as congressional Democrats ramp up investigations of the president and subpoena members of his administration in the wake of the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report.

“I believe we can do both at once,” Schumer said, adding they aren’t “mutually exclusive”

“Building infrastructure of America has never been a partisan issue,” Pelosi said, saying Democrats “hope to go forward in a very nonpartisan way for the future.”

TRUMP VOWS TO FIGHT ALL SUBPOENAS AGAINST ADMINISTRATION

Ahead of the session with Democrats, one of the president’s economic advisers said the White House would not be going into Tuesday’s meeting with a blueprint for an infrastructure bill.

“We’re going slowly on this,” said Larry Kudlow, director of the president’s National Economic Council. “We would like this to be bipartisan. We would like to work with them and come up with something both sides can agree to. It’s an important topic.”

Questions remain on how such a plan would be funded. The nation’s top business groups and labor unions support increasing the federal tax, currently 18.3 cents a gallon since it was last raised in 1993.

Asked whether Trump supports raising the gas tax, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said: “This president is the guy who lowers taxes.”

Conway acknowledged that “there’s no question” that infrastructure repairs need to be paid for.

Pelosi and Schumer wrote in a letter to Trump on Monday that an infrastructure package should go beyond addressing roads and bridges and should also include provisions to enhance broadband, water systems, energy, schools and housing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

A pair of notorious right-wing activists are facing accusations of orchestrating a plan for a man to falsely claim he was sexually assaulted by Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.

The two activists – lobbyist Jack Burkman and blogger Jacob Wohl – have been involved in pushing conspiracy theories and inflammatory accusations against others in the past.

PETE BUTTIGIEG TIED FOR 2ND IN NEW HAMPSHIRE POLL

Everything began Monday when a post surfaced on the website Medium from an author identifying himself as a 21-year-old named Hunter Kelly. The post accused Buttigieg of sexually assaulting him in February, and promised to reveal more details later.

But by the end of the day, the story began to unravel.

First, the Daily Beast reported that a Republican source said Burkman and Wohl recently tried to convince him to falsely accuse Buttigieg, who is gay, of inappropriate sexual behavior.

Then, a man named Hunter Kelly – the name of the supposed author of the Medium post accusing Buttigieg of assault – wrote on Facebook that he was “not sexually assaulted and would never falsely accuse anyone.”

He acknowledged being “approached by a political figure to come to DC to discuss political situations from the standpoint of a gay Republican.”

“When I arrived they discussed Peter Buttigieg and started talking about how they would be working a campaign against him,” Kelly wrote. “I went to bed and woke up to a fake Twitter @RealHunterKelly and an article that I in no way endorsed or wrote.”

Kelly told The Daily Beast of the allegations that were posted on Medium under his name: “I was unaware this was happening.”

At some point, the original Medium post was removed from the website.

Burkman released a statement on Tuesday “vehemently denying the claims” he was involved in fabricating the story, claiming he was approached by Kelly. Fox News has also requested comment from Wohl but has not gotten a response.

FOX NEWS TO HOST PETE BUTTIGIEG TOWN HALL

“This weekend my firm was approached by a young man who had a disturbing story about an assault he experienced at the hands of current presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg,” Burkman said. “We began working with him on sharing his painful story and received a signed statement from him attesting to his account.”

Burkman released a photo of what he claims is a signed statement from Kelly detailing his accusations. He also released a photo of a man he says is Kelly holding an identification card of himself.

But talking to the website the Advocate, Kelly claims he was coerced into signing the form and taking the photo.

“They basically forced me to sign that and take that photo,” Kelly said, according to the publication. “I had no say in either. In the photo you can clearly see I had been crying.”

For his part, Buttigieg, campaigning in New York on Monday, said the accusations are false.

“I’m sure it’s not the first time somebody is going to make something up about me,” Buttigieg told reporters. “It’s not going to throw us. Politics can be ugly sometimes but you have to face that when you’re in presidential politics.”

In October, Burkman and Wohl were earlier accused of being behind a plot to pay women to make false accusations of sexual harassment against Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The special counsel’s office said they referred the report about Burkman to the FBI.

“When we learned last week of allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about the Special Counsel, we immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation,” special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement to Fox News at the time.

Fox News’ Tara Prindiville contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on Monday sent a letter to President Trump calling for a “big and bold infrastructure package” ahead of a planned meeting at the White House Tuesday between Democratic lawmakers and the president.

“America’s unmet infrastructure needs are massive, and a bipartisan infrastructure package must meet those needs with substantial, new and real revenue,” Pelosi, the House speaker, and Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, wrote in their letter to Trump. “We look forward to hearing your ideas on how to pay for this package to ensure that it is big and bold enough to meet our country’s needs.”

TRUMP OFFICIALS CLASH WITH CONGRESS OVER HEARING DEMANDS

The president – a real estate developer before he was elected president – has long sought to do a big infrastructure deal, though he has faced some resistance from conservatives in his party.

Still, leaders of both parties have expressed a desire to pass legislation this year to boost the nation’s infrastructure. But big obstacles remain, including how to pay for it.

One of the president’s economic advisers said the White House would not be going into Tuesday’s meeting with a blueprint for an infrastructure bill.

KELLYANNE CONWAY TO DEMOCRATS: ‘ARE YOU GOING TO TALK FOR THE REST OF 2019 INTO 2020 ABOUT IMPEACHMENT OR INFRASTRUCTURE?’

“We’re going slowly on this,” said Larry Kudlow, director of the president’s National Economic Council. “We would like this to be bipartisan. We would like to work with them and come up with something both sides can agree to. It’s an important topic.”

Pelosi and Schumer said an infrastructure package should go beyond addressing roads and bridges and should also include provisions to enhance broadband, water systems, energy, schools and housing.

“To truly be a gamechanger for the American people, we should go beyond transportation and into broadband, water, energy, schools, housing and other initiatives.  We must also invest in resiliency and risk mitigation of our current infrastructure to deal with climate change,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote.

Fox News’ Blake Burman and Jason Donner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

A man in the crowd at President Trump’s speech to the National Rifle Association in Indiana was arrested Friday after allegedly throwing a cell phone at the stage as the president approached the lectern, sources told Fox News.

The individual was identified as William Rose, law enforcement sources said. The sources added that Rose was intoxicated at the event.

In a statement to Fox News, the Secret Service said: “At approximately 12:30 p.m. (ET) today, President Trump was at an event in Indianapolis, IN. As the President was walking onto the stage, but prior to his remarks, a cell phone from the crowd landed on the opposite side of the stage. An individual was removed from the event and the investigation is continuing.”

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

The Secret Service is still investigating whether Rose intended any threat toward the President, sources told Fox News.

A video posted to social media, taken by attendee Bradley Brewer, shows the phone being launched into the air and landing on the stage to Trump’s left.

TRUMP ANNOUNCES US WITHDRAWAL FROM UN ARMS TRADE TREATY

“A man threw a cell phone on stage when President Trump walked out for his @nra speech,” tweeted Katie Pavlich, a Fox News contributor. “He threw it stage left, while POTUS was closer to stage right.”

Then-President George W. Bush famously ducked a thrown shoe thrown at him by an Iraqi journalist in 2008 during a press conference in Iraq. The shoe missed Bush, and the journalist was forcibly removed from the room by security.

Fox News’ John Roberts and Elizabeth Zwirz contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

A man in the crowd at President Trump’s speech to the National Rifle Association faces charges in Indiana after allegedly throwing a cell phone at the stage as the president approached the lectern, sources told Fox News.

The individual, identified as William Rose, was charged by the Marion County Sheriff Friday with disorderly conduct, law enforcement sources said. The sources added that Rose was intoxicated at the event.

In a statement to Fox News, the Secret Service said: “At approximately 12:30 p.m. (ET) today, President Trump was at an event in Indianapolis, IN. As the President was walking onto the stage, but prior to his remarks, a cell phone from the crowd landed on the opposite side of the stage. An individual was removed from the event and the investigation is continuing.”

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

The Secret Service is still investigating whether Rose intended any threat toward the President, sources told Fox News.

A video posted to social media, taken by attendee Bradley Brewer, shows the phone being launched into the air and landing on the stage to Trump’s left.

TRUMP ANNOUNCES US WITHDRAWAL FROM UN ARMS TRADE TREATY

“A man threw a cell phone on stage when President Trump walked out for his @nra speech,” tweeted Katie Pavlich, a Fox News contributor. “He threw it stage left, while POTUS was closer to stage right.”

Then-President George W. Bush famously ducked a thrown shoe thrown at him by an Iraqi journalist in 2008 during a press conference in Iraq. The shoe missed Bush, and the journalist was forcibly removed from the room by security.

Fox News’ John Roberts and Elizabeth Zwirz contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

A person in the crowd during President Trump’s speech to the National Rifle Association on Friday threw what appeared to be a cell phone at the stage as the president approached the podium, according to video posted on social media.

The video, taken by attendee Bradley Brewer, shows the object being launched into the air and landing on the stage to Trump’s left as he walked on to the stage. The speech took place in Indianapolis.

The person believed to have thrown the object was removed from the event, according to attendees.

“A man threw a cell phone on stage when President Trump walked out for his @nra speech,” tweeted Katie Pavlich, a Fox News contributor. “He threw it stage left, while POTUS was closer to stage right.”

Fox News has reached out to the Secret Service for comment.

Then-President George W. Bush famously ducked a thrown shoe thrown at him by an Iraqi journalist in 2008 during a press conference in Iraq. The shoe missed Bush, and the journalist was forcibly removed from the room by security.

Source: Fox News Politics

Maria Butina, the Russian woman who was accused of being a secret agent for the Russian government, was sentenced to 18 months in prison Friday by a federal judge in Washington after pleading guilty last year to a conspiracy charge.

Butina, who has already served nine months behind bars, will get credit for time served and can possibly get credit for good behavior, the judge said. She will be removed from the U.S. promptly on completion of her time, the judge added, and returned to Russia.

MARIA BUTINA, ACCUSED RUSSIAN SPY, PLEADS GUILTY TO CONSPIRACY

An emotional and apologetic Butina said in court Friday she is “truly sorry” and regrets not registering as a foreign agent.

“I feel ashamed and embarrassed,” she said, adding that her “reputation is ruined.”

Butina has been jailed since her arrest in July 2018. She entered the court Friday wearing a dark green prison jumpsuit and spoke in clear English, with a slight Russian accent.

“Please accept my apologies,” Butina said.

Butina’s lawyer, Robert Driscoll, said after the sentencing they had hoped for a “better outcome,” but expressed a desire for Butina to be released to her family by the fall.

Prosecutors had claimed Butina used her contacts with the National Rifle Association and the National Prayer Breakfast to develop relationships with U.S. politicians and gather information for Russia.

Prosecutors also have said that Butina’s boyfriend, conservative political operative Paul Erickson, identified in court papers as “U.S. Person 1,” helped her establish ties with the NRA.

WHO IS MARIA BUTINA, THE RUSSIAN WOMAN ACCUSED OF SPYING ON US?

In their filings, prosecutors claim federal agents found Butina had contact information for people suspected of being employed by Russia’s Federal Security Services, or FSB, the successor intelligence agency to the KGB. Inside her home, they found notes referring to a potential job offer from the FSB, according to the documents.

Investigators recovered several emails and Twitter direct message conversations in which Butina referred to the need to keep her work secret and, in one instance, said it should be “incognito.” Prosecutors said Butina had contact with Russian intelligence officials and that the FBI photographed her dining with a diplomat suspected of being a Russian intelligence agent.

Fox News’ Jason Donner, Bill Mears, Greg Norman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

A progressive political group that boosted New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘s bid for Congress last year vowed to oppose former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, blasting him as part of the “old guard” and accusing him of standing in opposition to the “center of energy” in the Democratic Party.

JOE BIDEN OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES 2020 PRESIDENTIAL BID

“While we’re going to support the Democratic nominee, we can’t let a so-called ‘centrist’ like Joe Biden divide the Democratic Party and turn it into the party of ‘No, we can’t,’” the group Justice Democrats said Thursday.

Biden announced his candidacy for president Thursday. He enters a crowded field of Democratic contenders aiming to unseat President Trump — nearly 32 years after he announced his first campaign for president. The campaign is Biden’s third bid for the White House, having also unsuccessfully run in 1988 and 2008.

“The old guard of the Democratic Party failed to stop Trump, and they can’t be counted on to lead the fight against his divide-and-conquer politics today,” Justice Democrats said. “The party needs new leadership with a bold vision capable of energizing voters in the Democratic base who stayed home in 2016.”

The group added: “Joe Biden stands in near complete opposition to where the center of energy is in the Democratic Party today.”

BIDEN’S SENATE RECORDS HELD BY HIS ALMA MATER WON’T BE RELEASED UNTIL LATE 2019, POSSIBLY EVEN LATER

Others, though, took issue with the group’s claim about the energy in the party.

“It’s probably worth noting that while this group, Justice Democrats, calls Biden ‘out-of-touch’ with the ‘center of energy’ in the Democratic Party, only 26 of the 79 candidates it endorsed last year won their primaries, and only 7 of those went on to win the general election,” said Nate Silver, the editor of FiveThirtyEight.

According to its website, Justice Democrats says its mission is “to elect a new type of Democratic majority in Congress, one which will create a thriving economy and democracy that works for the people, not big money interests.”

“Democrats are increasingly uniting around progressive populist policies like ‘Medicare-for-All,’ a Green New Deal, free college, rejecting corporate money, ending mass incarceration and deportation. We don’t need someone who voted for the Iraq War, for mass incarceration, and for the Bankruptcy Reform Act while voting against gay marriage, reproductive rights, and school desegregation,” Justice Democrats said Thursday.

The attacks could foreshadow the looming clash between the progressive and establishment wings of the party: Biden, along with independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — who enjoys the support of Democratic Socialists in the party — have consistently topped the polls in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Fox News’ Lillian LeCroy and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

President Trump’s re-election campaign fired back Wednesday at Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for arguing that convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and other violent criminals should be allowed to vote from prison, calling the idea “deeply offensive.”

“The extremity and radicalism of the 2020 Democrats knows no bounds,” Trump campaign press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News. “Giving imprisoned terrorists, sex offenders, and murderers the right to vote is an outrageous proposal that is deeply offensive to innocent victims across this country, some of whom lost their lives and are forever disenfranchised by the very killers that 2020 Democrats seek to empower.”

BERNIE SANDERS SAYS BOSTON MARATHON BOMBER, SEXUAL ASSAULTERS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO VOTE

The statement offered a preview of sorts of the battle to come between Trump’s campaign and the still-evolving Democratic field. Sanders remains a front-runner in that crowded primary race, though former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to jump in the race on Thursday — and polling consistently shows him at or near the top of the field.

Sanders’ statement about voting rights for inmates drew in the Trump campaign after generating controversy all week.

During a CNN town hall on Monday night, a Harvard student asked Sanders if his position on expanding voting rights to felons in prison would support “enfranchising people” like Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as well as those “convicted of sexual assault,” whose votes could have a “direct impact on women’s rights.”

Sanders first responded by saying he wanted a “vibrant democracy” with “higher voter turnout” and blasted “cowardly Republican governors” who he said were “trying to suppress the vote.”

The Vermont senator then argued that the Constitution says “everybody can vote” and that “some people in jail can vote.”

KAMALA HARRIS BACKTRACKS, NOW SAYS CRIMINALS LIKE BOSTON BOMBER ‘SHOULD BE DEPRIVED’ OF RIGHT TO VOTE

“But, I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy,” Sanders said. “Yes, even for terrible people.”

Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

President Trump’s re-election campaign fired back Wednesday at Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for arguing that convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and other violent criminals should be allowed to vote from prison, calling the idea “deeply offensive.”

“The extremity and radicalism of the 2020 Democrats knows no bounds,” Trump campaign press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News. “Giving imprisoned terrorists, sex offenders, and murderers the right to vote is an outrageous proposal that is deeply offensive to innocent victims across this country, some of whom lost their lives and are forever disenfranchised by the very killers that 2020 Democrats seek to empower.”

BERNIE SANDERS SAYS BOSTON MARATHON BOMBER, SEXUAL ASSAULTERS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO VOTE

The statement offered a preview of sorts of the battle to come between Trump’s campaign and the still-evolving Democratic field. Sanders remains a front-runner in that crowded primary race, though former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to jump in the race on Thursday — and polling consistently shows him at or near the top of the field.

Sanders’ statement about voting rights for inmates drew in the Trump campaign after generating controversy all week.

During a CNN town hall on Monday night, a Harvard student asked Sanders if his position on expanding voting rights to felons in prison would support “enfranchising people” like Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as well as those “convicted of sexual assault,” whose votes could have a “direct impact on women’s rights.”

Sanders first responded by saying he wanted a “vibrant democracy” with “higher voter turnout” and blasted “cowardly Republican governors” who he said were “trying to suppress the vote.”

The Vermont senator then argued that the Constitution says “everybody can vote” and that “some people in jail can vote.”

KAMALA HARRIS BACKTRACKS, NOW SAYS CRIMINALS LIKE BOSTON BOMBER ‘SHOULD BE DEPRIVED’ OF RIGHT TO VOTE

“But, I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy,” Sanders said. “Yes, even for terrible people.”

Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

The Justice Department said Wednesday that it was defying a subpoena from House Democrats on the Oversight Committee for testimony this week from John Gore, the official who leads the department’s civil rights division, because the committee isn’t allowing a DOJ attorney to be present.

“In keeping with longstanding Department of Justice policy, neither Mr. Gore nor anyone else in the Department will be forced to testify in their capacity as a DOJ official on DOJ matters without DOJ counsel,” department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.

TRUMP: ‘NO REASON’ TO HONOR DEMS’ ‘VERY PARTISAN’ SUBPOENAS

A deposition with Gore had been scheduled for Thursday. Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote in a letter to Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., that the committee’s “exclusion of agency counsel from a compelled deposition would unconstitutionally infringe upon the prerogatives of the Executive Branch.”

A DOJ official told Fox News, “Mr. Gore has the Attorney General’s unqualified support in this matter.”

Boyd wrote in his letter to Cummings that the committee offered to allow a DOJ lawyer to be “present in a separate room during the deposition,” but DOJ rejected that offer.

“We are disappointed that the committee remains unwilling to permit department counsel to represent the interests of the executive branch in the deposition of a senior department official,” Boyd said.

House Democrats are seeking testimony from Gore about the Trump administration’s efforts to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census.

“The Committee is trying to determine the real reason [Commerce] Secretary Wilbur Ross added the citizenship question, and the documents and testimony covered by these subpoenas are critical to answering that question,” Cummings said earlier his month.

WHITE HOUSE TELLS EX-SECURITY OFFICIAL CARL KLINE TO DEFY HOUSE SUBPOENA

It comes as the Trump administration has signaled plans to fight subpoenas from Capitol Hill Democrats, including for ex-White House counsel Don McGahn.

“We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday.

Source: Fox News Politics

Hillary Clinton said Tuesday she believes Donald Trump would have been indicted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe if he weren’t president, though stopped short of calling for his impeachment.

Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, argued during a Q&A session in New York that Mueller’s report “could not be clearer” in making the case Trump tried to obstruct the Russia investigation — even though Mueller did not come to an explicit conclusion on that question.

REP SAYS MUELLER REPORT SHOWS STEELE DOSSIER ‘FALSE AND FAKE,’ CHALLENGING ORIGINS OF FBI PROBE

“I think there’s enough there that any other person who had engaged in those acts would certainly have been indicted,” Clinton said at the “Time 100 Summit.” “But because of the rule in the Justice Department that you can’t indict a sitting president, the whole matter of obstruction was very directly sent to the Congress.”

Clinton, who was defeated by Trump in the election, said it’s too early to call for Trump’s impeachment. She said she supports Congress investigating Mueller’s findings “based on evidence” and without a “preordained conclusion.”

After a thorough examination in Congress, Clinton said, “If at that point they believe high crimes and misdemeanors have been committed, then I think it is the obligation of the Congress to put forward articles of impeachment.”

“I’m really of the mind that the Mueller report is part of the beginning,” Clinton said. “It’s not the end.”

Earlier Tuesday, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner ripped into the Russia investigations, saying the probes have been “way more harmful” than Russia’s election meddling.

KUSHNER: RUSSIA INVESTIGATION HAD ‘HARSHER IMPACT’ ON US THAN ELECTION MEDDLING

Jared Kushner, Senior Adviser to President Donald Trump, speaks during the TIME 100 Summit, in New York, Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Jared Kushner, Senior Adviser to President Donald Trump, speaks during the TIME 100 Summit, in New York, Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The comments were made in the wake of Mueller’s report saying investigators found no evidence the Trump campaign illegally conspired with Russia in election meddling.

“When you look at what Russia did, buying some Facebook ads and trying to sow dissent, it’s a terrible thing,” Kushner said at the Time event. “But I think the investigations and all of the speculation that’s happened for the last two years has a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple Facebook ads.”

Fox News’ Tamara Gitt contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner argued Tuesday the investigations over whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign have been “way more harmful” than Russia’s election meddling through social media.

“When you look at what Russia did, buying some Facebook ads and trying to sow dissent, it’s a terrible thing,” Kushner said at the Time 100 Summit in New York. “But I think the investigations and all of the speculation that’s happened for the last two years has a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple Facebook ads.”

REP SAYS MUELLER REPORT SHOWS STEELE DOSSIER ‘FALSE AND FAKE,’ CHALLENGING ORIGINS OF FBI PROBE

Kushner, the president’s son-in-law who worked on the campaign, said he spent much more money in 2016 on Facebook ads than the Russians.

“I think they said they spent $160,000,” Kushner said. “I spent $160,000 on Facebook every three hours during the campaign. If you look at the magnitude of what they did, the ensuing investigations have been way more harmful.”

Kushner, who doesn’t speak in public very often, made the comments in the wake of the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report saying investigators found no evidence the Trump campaign conspired with Russia in election meddling.

“When the whole notion of the Russian collusion narrative came up, I was the first person to say I’m happy to participate with any investigations,” Kushner said. “I thought the whole thing was kind of nonsense to be honest with you.”

HOUSE JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN SUBPOENAS EX-WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL DON MCGAHN

Kushner said he sat for three interviews with the House of Representatives. He said he also interviewed for nine hours with Mueller’s team. Referencing his past statements, Kushner said, “I think everything I’ve said has now been proven to be true. And it’s been very, very thoroughly investigated.”

He referenced the infamous meeting at Trump Tower in 2016 between several Trump campaign associates and a Russian lawyer, recalling wanting to leave meeting because it seemed like a waste of time. Mueller’s team investigated the meeting, but did not conclude it was evidence of coordination.

“It’s a meeting had it never come up…I would have never thought about it again,” Kushner said. “But now the media spends so much time focusing on it.  And quite frankly, the whole thing is just a big distraction for the whole country.”

Fox News’ Tamara Gitt contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

A top congressional Republican told Fox News that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report shows the salacious Steele dossier used by the FBI to obtain surveillance warrants in the Russia probe was “false and fake,” questioning the origins of the investigation into the Trump campaign.

“The question is, ‘was there a proper predicate?” Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said Monday on “The Ingraham Angle.” “Was there probable cause to believe that there was a conspiracy or collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia? So that’s the question that has to be answered.”

CONTROVERSIAL STEELE DOSSIER BACK IN SPOTLIGHT AFTER MUELLER REPORT’S RELEASE

Ratcliffe said he is one of the few lawmakers to view the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications used by the FBI to get authorization to conduct surveillance in the Russia probe. He said those applications relied heavily on a dossier of since-debunked claims about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele.

“Trey Gowdy and I — I think — were the only two Republicans that had the opportunity to see that probable cause evidence, to see all of those FISA applications in unredacted form and they centered around something called the Steele dossier which was entirely false and fake, and now Bob Mueller says it was false and fake,” Ratcliffe said.

He added: “Now, to be fair, just because Bob Mueller found that there was no evidence of a conspiracy or no evidence of collusion, doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be probable cause to look for it.”

Still, Ratcliffe said officials at the Justice Department like former FBI director Jim Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates have “got some explaining to do.”

It comes amid renewed scrutiny on the genesis of FBI probe. Attorney General Bill Barr has said he is reviewing the origins of the Russia investigation at the FBI and the Justice Department, including whether the surveillance was “adequately predicated.”

EX-FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR ON MUELLER REPORT: ‘WE NEED TO TAKE A LOOK AT HOW THIS STARTED’

Ratcliffe pointed out how the dossier said that one-time Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was “at the center of a well-developed conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.” But Mueller’s probe did not find evidence to back up the claim, saying “the investigation did not establish that Page coordinated with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.”

“Carter Page was never charged, he was never going to be charged. The idea he was a Russian agent was a joke,” Ratcliffe said.

The FBI needed probable cause to open its counterintelligence investigation late July 2016. According to Mueller’s report, the FBI opened an investigation into whether individuals associated with the Trump campaign were coordinating with the Russian government on July 31, 2016. The report said it was prompted by a foreign government official who contacted the FBI about a conversation with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who had discussed Russia’s hacking of Democratic emails with the official.

Source: Fox News Politics

Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday submitted to Attorney General Bill Barr his long-awaited report on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race and possible collusion with Trump associates.

Several lawmakers, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., received a letter about the report’s drop

“Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation of the Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters," the letter said.

Barr also said that he “may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.”

It’s not clear how much, if any, of the report will be made public or provided to Congress. None of Mueller’s findings were immediately released.

The president has repeatedly decried Mueller’s probe as a “witch hunt,” emphatically denying he or his campaign colluded with Russia to undermine Democrat Hillary Clinton’s chances in the 2016 race. The president has alleged a slew of internal “conflicts of interest” from Mueller’s team and has previously said his legal team is drafting a “major counter report” in response to its findings.

Mueller’s investigation, which was initially ordered to look into the 2016 election in May of 2017, has gone on for almost two years. It has expanded to probe financial crimes of Trump associates before the election, conversations Trump’s national security adviser had with the Russians during the transition and whether Trump obstructed justice with his comments and actions related to the probe.

Mueller, the former director of the FBI under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, was appointed special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in May of 2017. In his order, Rosenstein directed Mueller to investigate any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign, as well any other matters that arose from the investigation.

“If the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters,” Rosenstein wrote to Mueller.

Since then, Mueller’s team has indicted, convicted, or won guilty pleas from 34 people and three companies as part of an investigation that has also probed issues unrelated to the 2016 campaign.

Twenty six Russian nationals and three Russian companies have been charged with interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

But none of the Trump associates connected to Trump have been charged with crimes related to collusion, though Mueller’s team charged former Trump associate Roger Stone in January with lying about his communications with WikiLeaks, which published hacked Democratic emails during the election.

Other convictions include: former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who both pleaded guilty to making false statements in 2017.

Former campaign adviser Rick Gates in 2018 pleaded guilty and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted and later pleaded guilty in a separate financial crimes case dating back before the 2016 election.

Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements in a case brought by Mueller in November.

Alex van der Zwaan, a London-based lawyer, pleaded guilty to making false statements this year, and Richard Pinedo, a California man, pleaded guilty to identity fraud in 2018.

Mueller has also looked at actions taken by Trump after sworn in as president, like his firing of FBI director James Comey and his ousting of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sessions, once one of President Trump’s most loyal and trusted advisers infuriated Trump over his recusal from the Russia investigation. In March 2017, Sessions announced his plans to recuse himself after reports surfaced detailing undisclosed conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign.

At the time of his recusal, Sessions said he met with the “relevant senior career department officials” to discuss the issue.

“Having concluded those meetings today, I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States,” Sessions said.

Rosenstein, Sessions’ number two at the Justice Department, then took control of the investigation and decided to appoint Mueller to take over the probe – an investigation Trump has repeatedly lambasted as a “phony witch hunt.”

Rosenstein said at the time, “What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”

Mueller said in a statement, upon his appointment: “I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability.’’

Rosenstein later ceded oversight to then-acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker when he took over for Sessions. But the report was submitted to Barr, who was confirmed in February by the Senate as attorney general.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Fox News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

The Democratic leaders of six congressional committees introduced a resolution in the House on Friday calling for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s forthcoming investigative report to be released to the public.

The nonbinding resolution comes as Mueller’s probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election is believed to be nearing an end.

MUELLER TEAM WANTS TO WITHHOLD 3.2 MILLION ‘SENSITIVE’ DOCS FROM INDICTED RUSSIAN COMPANY

“The public is clearly served by transparency with respect to any investigation that could implicate or exonerate the president and his campaign,” the committee chairs said in a statement. “We urge our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join us in supporting this common-sense resolution.”

Mueller is only required to provide a report on his findings to the Justice Department. It’s not clear how much – if any of it – will be provided to Congress or the public.

The sponsors of the resolution include House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Committee on Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal and Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel.

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“This transparency is a fundamental principle necessary to ensure that government remains accountable to the people,” the sponsors said.

In February, the committee chairs wrote to Attorney General William Barr to tell him they hope Mueller’s report public will be released “without delay and to the maximum extent permitted by law.”

Mueller’s investigation, which was initially ordered to look into the 2016 election in May of 2017, has gone on for almost two years. The president has repeatedly decried Mueller’s probe as a “witch hunt.”

Source: Fox News Politics

Nearly every House Democrat on Friday opposed a measure condemning voting in U.S. elections by illegal immigrants, as part of a sweeping election reform bill.

The GOP-backed measure would have added language to the “H.R. 1” election proposal stating that “allowing illegal immigrants the right to vote devalues the franchise and diminishes the voting power of United States citizens.”

HOUSE APPROVES SWEEPING DEM ELECTION REFORM BILL, AMID FIRST AMENDMENT CONCERNS

Federal law already prohibits non-citizens from voting in elections for federal office. But the GOP motion referenced how San Francisco is allowing non-citizens, including illegal immigrants, to register to vote in school board elections.

The motion was voted down 228-197. All but six Democrats in the House voted against it. Just one Republican opposed it.

Lauren Fine, a spokeswoman for House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, pointed out that an identical resolution was adopted by the House last September. But on Friday, 41 Democrats flipped to oppose the latest measure.

“These 41 Democrats must now answer to voters why they were against illegal immigrants voting in elections six months ago, but are suddenly in favor of it now,” Fine said.

The House on Friday later approved the Democrat-backed election bill. It would institute public financing of congressional campaigns, require presidential candidates to disclose tax returns and make Election Day a federal holiday. But the measure is dead on arrival in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has blasted the bill.

HOUSE DEMS TARGET TRUMP TAX RETURNS AS PART OF LEAD-OFF ETHICS PACKAGE

The "H.R. 1" measure has been criticized by civil libertarians and Republicans over First Amendment concerns.

The American Civil Liberties Union, in a recent letter to Congress, encouraged lawmakers to vote against the proposal because of “provisions that unconstitutionally impinge on the free speech rights of American citizens and public interest organizations.”

“They will have the effect of harming our public discourse by silencing necessary voices that would otherwise speak out about the public issues of the day,” the ACLU wrote.

One concern of civil libertarians is the bill’s inclusion of the DISCLOSE ACT, which would require all organizations that spend money on elections to disclose donors.

The ACLU said it supports making organizations report spending for public communications like TV ads that expressly call for the election or defeat of a candidate for office. But it worries the DISCLOSE ACT goes beyond that.

“These standards are unclear and entirely subjective, which will lead to confusion and, ultimately, less speech,” the ACLU said.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics


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