Congressman Turner hints intelligence agencies may have spied on Trump

Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 11:21 AM
Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 11:23 AM

Turner Comey

Rep. Mike Turner hinted Monday that the intelligence community may have inadvertently spied on President Donald Trump last year, wiretapping the conversations of those overseas only to find that those people were talking with Trump and his associates.

Hours after FBI Director James Comey confirmed he had “no information” confirming President Donald Trump’s tweets alleging that then-President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential election, Turner questioned Adm. Mike Rogers, National Security Agency director and U.S. Cyber Command Commander and FBI director James Comey whether it was possible that the intelligence community picked up Trump’s conversations because of their surveillance with others.

FBI Director Comey

“The reason why this is important is because intuitively we would all know the incoming administration would have conversations with those that the intelligence community may be collecting against either by making phone calls to them or receiving phone calls from them,” Turner said.

RELATED: James Comey’s testimony, the latest

RELATED: 10 highlights from the hearing

Rogers said that the agencies would “not automatically” stop recording those conversations if they discovered that the conversations involved Trump or a member of his team.

Turner also questioned whether former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper ever briefed Obama “concerning the possible inadvertent or incidental collection or interception by the U.S. intelligence community of any communication of members of the incoming Trump administration.”

“That’s not something I can comment on,” Comey said.

The exchange occurred during a rare open hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in which Comey confirmed that the FBI is investigating ties between Russia and the Trump campaign and administration.

Earlier Comey said any wiretapping of Trump would have had to go through an application process and be approved by a judge. “No president could” order such surveillance unilaterally, he said.

“With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said during a rare open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee.

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Comey also said the investigation into connections between Russia and the Trump campaign will include an assessment of whether any crimes have been committed.

But he didn’t say who they were investigating, how they were conducting the investigation or provide other details, saying that such information is classified. Comey was authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm the investigation, saying that Justice had deemed the information in the public interest.

“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election,” he said.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, R-Calif., asked Comey and Rogers whether they had evidence that Russia had tampered with vote tallies in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and other states. Both witnesses said they had no evidence.

RELATED: FBI Director confirms probe

In their opening statements, both Nunes and ranking Democrat Adam Schiff of California dismissed Trump’s claims that Obama had wiretapped him, with Nunes saying there was “not physical wiretapping of Trump Tower,” and Schiff saying there was “no evidence whatsoever to support that slanderous claim.” Nunes, however, did not rule out “other methods of surveillance” being used on Trump or his associates.

Trump weighed in via Twitter throughout the day, encouraging Republicans to look into the leaking of classified information and saying “The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign” and arguing “there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia.” He also weighed in via his “POTUS” Twitter account, posting clips underscoring his arguments that Russia did not weigh in.

RELATED: Adam Schiff’s opening statement: There is ‘direct evidence of deception’ between Trump’s campaign and Russia

Disparities between the parties became apparent early on, with Nunes focusing his attention on whether or not classified information had been leaked and Schiff questioning links between Trump aides and Russia.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., questioned whether reporters should be prosecuted for publishing classified information. “Is there an exception in the law for reporters who want to break a story?” he asked Comey. Comey replied that he didn’t think a reporter had been prosecuted for publishing classified information “during my lifetime.” Still, he admitted, the only way that the media would get classified information is if someone told them who shouldn’t have, he said.

FBI Director Comey

Neither side dismissed the idea that Russia had tried to intervene in the electoral process, be it via hacking or sending out misinformation. Schiff said while it would be no crime for the Trump campaign to be in contact with the Russians, “if the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it aided or abetta Russia, not only would it be a serious crime, it would represent one of the most shocking betrayals of democracy in history. “

Schiff called for an independent commission, complementary of the committee’s and the intelligence agencies’ work that would be “completely removed from any political considerations.”

“We cannot do this work alone,” he said.

Albuquerque mayor overrules condiment ban placed on free senior meals

Published: Saturday, July 22, 2017 @ 11:41 AM



tiburonstudios/Getty Images
(tiburonstudios/Getty Images)

Seniors who had been forbidden to season meals provided by the city can thank Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry for intervening in the "condiment wars."

Because the city's congregate meal program is funded through a grant, it is required to follow strict nutritional requirements. However, some seniors felt the requirements were draconian, because they banned all condiments unless they were served with the meal. That meant seniors couldn't use salt, pepper, ketchup or other condiments to season their food, even if they brought their own. The grant also forbid coffee being served with lunches.

>> Read more trending news

Conway Wood, 94, told the  Albuquerque Journal he got reprimanded for using a salt packet he brought from home to season his asparagus.

After reading the complaints from senior diners, the mayor decided to take action on what he said may have been "well-intentioned" guidelines that don't pass the "common sense test." He had city staff review the guidelines, and now the city will provide a variety of condiments, including salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard and salsa that will be available with all senior meals served by the city. Berry also ordered the program to lift the coffee ban.

The new guidelines go into effect immediately.

Sean Spicer resigns: A look at his 6 months as White House press secretary

Published: Friday, July 21, 2017 @ 3:37 PM
Updated: Friday, July 21, 2017 @ 4:08 PM

Sean Spicer Best Moments

White House press secretary Sean Spicer resigned Friday morning, six months and one day after he first started addressing reporters on behalf of President Donald Trump.

>> Read more trending news

Spicer was well-known for his often combative exchanges with journalists gathered for the daily White House press briefing. The briefings were considered must-see television, but in recent weeks they’ve moved to an audio-only format as Spicer took on a more behind-the-scenes role.

>> Related: Sean Spicer resigns, Sarah Huckabee Sanders named next White House press secretary

Here’s a look back at some of Spicer’s most well-known moments:

That time he misspoke and made up a terror attack in Atlanta:

Shortly after becoming press secretary, Spicer drew raised brows for referencing a terror attack in Atlanta in an effort to highlight the Trump administration’s need to act on Islamic terrorism.

>> Related: Sean Spicer says he 'clearly meant Orlando' after citing nonexistent Atlanta terror attack

“I don’t think you have to look any further than the families of the Boston Marathon, in Atlanta, in San Bernardino to ask if we can go further,” Spicer said in January. “There’s obviously steps that we can and should be taking, and I think the president is going to continue do to what he can to make sure that this country is as safe as possible."

Of course, no such terror attack has ever occurred in Atlanta. The city has seen attacks at least twice before, in 1958 and 1996. However, the terrorists in those cases were not Muslim.

Spicer later explained in an email to ABC News that he “clearly meant Orlando,” referencing the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting.

That time he kind of explained Trump’s use of “covfefe”:

The president is well-known for speaking his mind on Twitter, even when his thoughts run contrary to statements made by his own administration. In an early morning tweet in May, Trump wrote that “despite the constant negative press covfefe.”

>> Related: Sean Spicer's simple response to Trump's 'covfefe' tweet

No, covfefe is not a word, and no, Trump never explained what he meant.

But Spicer didn’t see anything wrong with the message, which was described as “incoherent” and sparked mockery across social media.

“The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant,” Spicer claimed.

That time he tried to say Hitler never used chemical weapons:

Spicer, apparently forgetting the entire Holocaust, claimed at a news briefing in April that “someone as despicable as Hitler … didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

The comment came as he tried to highlight the horror of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of sarin gas on civilians. But Spicer’s comments drew quick rebukes on social media and from reporters in the room.

>> Related: Spicer comments on Hitler, chemical weapons become Twitter fodder 

He attempted to explain himself.

"(Hitler) was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing," he said. "He brought them into the Holocaust center, I understand that."

As you can probably guess, people did not like Spicer calling concentration camps “Holocaust centers” either.

WATCH - Spicer "Even Hitler Didn't Use Chemical Weapons"

That time he tried to explain the ridiculousness of the Trump-Russia controversy with salad dressing:

Apparently frustrated over continued scrutiny amid investigations into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election, Spicer got short in March with April Ryan, a reporter for American Urban Radio Networks.

>> Related: Sean Spicer gets spicy with reporter April Ryan: 'Stop shaking your head' 

"If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection," Spicer said. He later demanded that Ryan stop shaking her head.

That time he accidentally wore his U.S. flag lapel pin upside-down:

>> Related: Sean Spicer spotted with upside down lapel pin at press briefing

That time he said President Donald Trump had the biggest inauguration audience ever:

Who can forget Spicer’s first news conference as press secretary, when he admonished reporters for comparing images of President Donald Trump’s inauguration to photos of President Barack Obama’s?

>> Related: 'Alternative facts' like differing weather reports, Sean Spicer claims

"Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall," Spicer said on Jan. 21 at a terse news conference. "That was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe."

Multiple fact-checking groups subsequently rated Spicer's claim anywhere from unprovable to outright false. Politifact gave his claim a "Pants on Fire" rating, the category used by the group to single out what it determines to be the most flagrant lies.

Republican tax reform plan may be limited by GOP budget

Published: Saturday, July 22, 2017 @ 6:17 AM

Republican plans for tax reform could be less sweeping than originally envisioned by the White House and GOP leaders in Congress, as a provision in a House GOP budget blueprint would require any tax bill to be ‘budget neutral,’ which would force lawmakers to offset any tax cuts with revenue increases that could be difficult in some cases to gain approval.

Deep in the fine print of the budget resolution for next year, the Republican plan allows for a tax reform bill under budget reconciliation, “if such measure would not increase the deficit for the total of fiscal years 2018 through 2027.”

In other words, you can’t just cut taxes – which technically deprive the federal treasury of revenue, and therefore increase the budget deficit – you have to find revenue to pay for those tax cuts.

And Republicans on the House Budget Committee were actively trumpeting that message.

On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan was touting tax reform during a trip to a New Balance factory in Massachusetts.

“First and foremost, we’re going to cut your taxes,” the Speaker said.

But when a tax plan is deficit neutral – a cut for one person means that revenue must be found somewhere else to offset that reduction – in other words, some other tax increase, mainly one would assume by taking away deductions in the tax code.

And many veterans of Capitol Hill say that’s not going to be easy.

“I spent much of 2011-16 negotiating tax reform proposals in the Senate,” said Brian Reidl, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, who used to work for Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).

“Revenue-neutral tax reform will make health care look easy,” Riedl said in a post on Twitter.

Key Republicans have made clear that they want to put together a proposal that dramatically simplifies the current tax system.

“So 96% of the people can do their tax return on a single postcard size,” said House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Diane Black (R-TN).

To do that, you would lower tax rates, and then most likely eliminate or reduce tax deductions – and that’s where things get tricky.

Do you get rid of the deduction for mortgage insurance? Lots of people talk about that, but it always goes nowhere.

What about the deduction for state and local taxes? That has bipartisan opposition in and around big cities on the East Coast.

The tax break on employer provided health care benefits? That went nowhere fast in the negotiations over the GOP bill to overhaul the Obama health law.

End or restrict the business interest deduction? Hard to imagine.

Deficit neutral tax reform – it sounds wonky. But it’s a pretty important development that may rein in the scope of a GOP tax plan.

Spicer out, Sanders up, Scaramucci in, at White House

Published: Friday, July 21, 2017 @ 3:05 PM

The White House communications team underwent a major change on Friday, as Press Secretary Sean Spicer turned in his resignation, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was elevated to Spicer’s job, and Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci was brought in by President Donald Trump to be the new Communications Director, delivering a new tone in dealing with the press.

“The President is phenomenal with press,” said Scaramucci. “I love the President. The President is a very, very effective communicator.”

While Scaramucci – known by many insiders as “Mooch” – made clear that he thinks the news media does not treat the President fairly, Mr. Trump’s new Communications Director laid out that message in a totally different way in his first few minutes in the White House Briefing Room.

As for Spicer, he will be replaced at the podium by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who will move from Deputy to White House Press Secretary.

Spicer, who battle relentlessly with the press, and never seemed to have the full confidence of the President, will officially leave the White House in August.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve President Donald Trump and this amazing country,” Spicer wrote on Twitter. “I will continue my service through August.”

While there had been questions that Spicer wanted no part of working with Scaramucci, the next White House Communications Director went out of his way to praise Spicer.