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.

Portman: Pelosi & Schumer’s DACA meeting with President Trump ‘helpful’

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 11:26 AM
Updated: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 11:28 AM


            Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol September 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol September 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said a recent meeting between President Trump and top Democrats over the immigration provision known as DACA was “helpful.”

MORE: Portman, internet companies differ over sex trafficking approach

Trump met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., earlier this month. After the meeting, the two Democrats announced a deal with the president that would include border security, but no wall.

“Frankly, I think the meeting the other night with President Trump and the Democratic leaders was helpful,” Portman said in an interview at the Dayton Daily News offices. “Some Republicans thought it wasn’t good he was meeting with them, I think it’s fine, because I think that’s how you get an agreement at the end of the day.”

MORE: Trump administration ends DACA: 5 things to know

“I think the agreement is going to be making DACA permanent so these kids that came here through no fault of their own before the age of 16 will be able to stay,” Portman said.

DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — was created under President Obama in 2012. DACA allowed children brought to the U.S. illegally to apply for the right to live, work and go to school. If approved, deportation was deferred for at least two years, with a chance to renew the legal status.

MORE: Area ‘dreamer’ rallies support DACA after Trump announcement

Portman said Obama’s policy change was “not within his rights as an executive.” Portman also said he believes legislation on DACA will be coupled with border protection and other enforcement.

“It will be coupled with additional enforcement, and let’s face it there’s a lot of opportunities there,” Portman said. “I’d like to do better enforcement in the workplace, where it’s like a sieve. People have fake documents and they can get jobs.”

Staff Writer Max Filby and News Center 7’s Jim Otte contributed reporting.

In United Nations speech, President Trump threatens to “totally destroy” North Korea over nukes

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 10:48 AM

In his first address to the United Nations, President Donald Trump vowed that the United States would ‘totally destroy’ North Korea if that regime seeks to use its nuclear weapons against America or its allies, as Mr. Trump singled out North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela in a wide ranging address to the U.N. General Assembly.

In blunt terms, the President zeroed in on North Korea, labeling it a “depraved” regime, referring to its leader as “Rocket Man,” as Mr. Trump said the United Nations must join together to stop the nuclear ambitions of Kim Jong Un.

“Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime,” Mr. Trump declared, making clear the U.S. would not ignore provocations by the Pyongyang regime.

“If it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” the President said.

On Iran, Mr. Trump said the Iran nuclear deal brokered by the Obama Administration and other American allies was an “embarrassment,”

Sen. Portman takes on sex trafficking: What’s really going on?

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 9:11 AM
Updated: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 9:11 AM


            Sen. Rob Portman met with Dayton Daily News and WHIO reporters and editors on Monday. Photo by Eric Dietrich
Sen. Rob Portman met with Dayton Daily News and WHIO reporters and editors on Monday. Photo by Eric Dietrich

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, says sex trafficking is a national stain and hopes his new bill will stop internet sites from enabling traffickers.

MORE: Portman, internet companies differ over sex trafficking approach

But the bill has come across opposition from the group representing Facebook, Google and dozens more of the largest internet companies.

A hearing on the bill is scheduled for Tuesday. Here are three big things to know about Portman’s bill.

1. Backpage, one of the world’s largest classified advertising websites, has successfully defended itself in a spate of lawsuits from parents of children trafficked on the site. Backpage successfully argued that they are protected by a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that protects internet publishers from content created by users.

This year, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which Portman chairs, released a report which charged that Backpage published the ads after deleting certain words and content that suggests it involves a child. The effort sanitized the ads while allowing them to be posted on the website, according to the report.

MORE: Report says child sex ads pushed through Backpage

2. Portman says his Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act is the solution for holding internet wrongdoers accountable.

“We have to say that there will be, under what’s called the Communications Decency Act, a change that says if you knowingly facilitate, support or assist sex trafficking, you are liable,” Portman said Monday in an interview at the Dayton Daily News’ offices.

It does so by allowing victims of sex trafficking to take websites that enable sex trafficking to court; by eliminating federal liability protections for websites that assist, support or facilitate a violation of federal sex trafficking laws and by allowing state police — not just the Department of Justice — to crack down on people or businesses that violate federal sex trafficking laws.

MORE: Portman going after website accused of aiding sex trafficking

3. The group representing Facebook, Google and dozens more of the largest internet companies will testify in opposition to Portman’s bill, according to an advance copy of the testimony given to the Dayton Daily News before the Senate Commerce Committee hearing.

Internet Association says Portman’s well-intentioned Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act would hold internet sites potentially liable for sex trafficking on their sites, even if the website has no knowledge it is doing so or any practical way of stopping it.

Portman disagrees, calling the opposition “ridiculous.”

Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the information technology solutions arm of the former Hewlett-Packard Conpany, endorsed Portman’s legislation Monday.

“As an industry-leading, global technology company that has long taken a stand against forced labor and human trafficking, and has made it a priority to protect and elevate vulnerable worker groups, we believe the technology sector has a responsibility to help policymakers and law enforcement combat illicit and criminal activity on the internet, especially sex trafficking,” wrote John F. Schultz, the company’s general counsel.

Staff Writer Jessica Wehrman contributed reporting from Washington.

Bill would allow kids to keep health coverage at least through 2019

Published: Monday, September 18, 2017 @ 6:01 PM
Updated: Monday, September 18, 2017 @ 6:01 PM


            Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is co-sponsor of a bill that would keep funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) intact for at least two years. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
            Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is co-sponsor of a bill that would keep funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) intact for at least two years. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)(Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Ohio would not face any federal financial cutbacks for federal children’s health insurance during the next two years if Congress approves a bipartisan compromise bill unveiled Monday.

The $9 billion measure, which would re-authorize for five years the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), would allow at least 210,000 low-income children in Ohio to keep their coverage through the end of 2019.

If the Senate and House approve the bill, the federal government would continue to pay 97 percent of Ohio’s costs to maintain the program before declining to 85 percent in 2020 and 74 percent in 2021 and 2022.

RELATED: Ohio senator predicts child insurance approval

That means state lawmakers in Columbus will have to find the extra money by 2020 to keep the program at its current rate.

Before passage of the 2010 health law known as Obamacare, the federal government provided 74 percent of the costs of Ohio’s children’s insurance program. The 2010 law boosted that percentage to 97 percent, but the higher federal payments are scheduled to end by next week unless Congress acts.

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In a statement, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio — one of the bill’s co-sponsors — said the bipartisan measure would give “Ohio families the assurance that their children’s healthcare will be protected for years to come.”

The Senate Finance Committee, whose members include Brown and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio, is expected to pass the bill and send it to the Senate floor. Portman has indicated he will support the measure.

CHIP was created in 1997 as a way to reduce the number of low-income children without health coverage.