DACA deal on sidelines as GOP floats new short term funding plan to avoid shutdown

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 6:09 PM

Waving off a push by Democrats to force action this week on a compromise over the future of illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” Republicans in Congress said they wanted to wait for further negotiations on DACA, as House GOP leaders unveiled a short term funding plan that would keep the federal government running into mid-February, but that plan faced immediate resistance from some more conservative Republicans.

“There is no reason why Congress should hold government funding hostage over the issues of illegal immigration,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said a resolution on DACA could wait until February or March.

But even without DACA in the mix, a new temporary funding plan unveiled by House Republican leaders last night got a tepid embrace from GOP lawmakers, frustrated by the lack of an overall budget agreement for 2018.

The biggest red flag came from more conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus, who argue the GOP should forge ahead with a plan to fully fund the military for 2018, while leaving all other government operations on a stop gap budget.

After a meeting Tuesday night, Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) made it clear that the group was not ready to endorse the GOP funding plan, which would keep the government running through February 19.

The goal is to use that extra time to reach a broader budget deal with Democrats, allowing the Congress to then approve a larger “Omnibus” funding plan for the 2018 budget year – which began back on October 1, 2017.

It was a replay of a familiar scenario on Capitol Hill, where House Republican infighting might lead to a shutdown at the end of the week.

“It’s a possibility, yes,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), when asked about the chances of a shutdown.

“But I don’t think it’s really going to happen,” Inhofe told reporters. “Nobody really wants it on either side.”

The new GOP stopgap budget unveiled on Tuesday evening included a few sweeteners, as leaders added to the funding plan a provision that reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2023.

“Without immediate action to fund CHIP, millions of low-income children will receive notices in the coming weeks that they might lose their health coverage,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) and Rep. Mike Burgess (R-TX) in a statement.

While the CHIP extension had been expected, the GOP stopgap budget included something else that was a big surprise – as the bill would suspend three different taxes from the Obama health law.

While Republicans try to find the votes to support that plan, a bipartisan group of Senators will unveil the final details of their DACA compromise on Wednesday, in hopes of stirring more support.

“I don’t know how this movie ends,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who very publicly said he thought the President had signed on to the compromise DACA plan last Thursday, but then had his mind changed by immigration hard liners in the White House, and the Senate.

One of those opponents is Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who bluntly told the DACA group of six Senators not to even try to push ahead with their plan.

“Might as well roll it straight into the trash can,” Cotton said of the DACA deal, which he has labeled a mass amnesty.

Meanwhile, Democrats were hoping for a budget impasse, as they argue that a resolution on DACA could still be added into the mix this week.

Many Republicans say they also want action on DACA, but they understand in the current environment – after the blow up over what the President said – or did not say – last week, that no agreement can happen right now.

“Unfortunately, about every time we get close to putting our toes in the water, something happens,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).

The tentative plan is for the House to try to vote on a stop gap budget on Thursday. The Senate could then pass the same measure before a Friday night shutdown deadline.

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After latest indictments, President Trump vents on Twitter about Russia investigation

Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 4:01 AM

In the wake of a fresh round of indictments in the wide-ranging investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign, President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday and Sunday to repeatedly express his frustration with the probe, again proclaiming his innocence, attacking his critics, and demanding attention instead on actions of the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton.

“I never said Russia did not meddle in the election,” the President tweeted on Sunday morning – though Mr. Trump has been very slow to embrace the concept that Russia was at fault, as he derided the investigations into Russian interference in 2016.

“They are laughing their asses off in Moscow,” the President said on Twitter. “Get smart America!”

Those were just a sampling of a number of tweets from this weekend, as the President let off steam on a number of fronts.

The President even rebuked his own National Security Adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, over a point that Mr. Trump and his supporters have zeroed in on repeatedly – a lack of evidence that ties any Russian operation to the Trump Campaign.

“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians,” as the President again tried to switch the attention of the moment to questions that the GOP has raised about Hillary Clinton, the Steele Dossier, and the Democratic National Committee.

“The Fake News Media never fails,” the President wrote on Saturday, repeatedly making the argument that any Russian interference in 2016 did not tip the scales of the election in his favor.

“Funny how the Fake News Media doesn’t want to say that the Russian group was formed in 2014, long before my run for President,” the President added.

“The Russian “hoax” was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!” he tweeted.

Critics of the President noted what was missing in his Saturday and Sunday tweets about the Russia investigation was any pledge by Mr. Trump to implement tougher sanctions against Russia which were approved by the Congress, or to order tougher measures to stop any Russian meddling.

Last week, the nation’s top intelligence officials all agreed that Russia was going to try to repeat their 2016 effort in the 2018 election – asked by Democrats if there was any specific order from the President to focus on that threat, the intelligence chiefs only indicated that they were focused on the matter.

“Look, this is pretty simple,” said retired Gen. Michael Hayden, a former head of the National Security Agency. “The Russians objective was to mess with our heads.”

“Based on his late PM – this AM joint Twitter meltdown, it’s safe to say “Trump” is having a nervous breakdown as Mueller’s walls close in,” said John Schindler, a former U.S. intelligence official who has been highly critical of the President’s statements on the Russia probe.

Late on Saturday night, the President also drew in the Russia investigation to criticize the FBI over the mass shooting at a high school in Florida last week.

” They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign,” the President said.

Digging inside the details of the new indictments in the Russia probe

Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 12:13 PM

The investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for President on Friday presented some of the first official government evidence of actions taken in the campaign, as a federal grand jury returned an indictment against 13 Russians and 3 Russian entities, alleging that they used social media to support President Donald Trump, and oppose Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

The highly detailed 37 page indictment covered everything from social media ads taken out by the Russian ‘Internet Freedom Agency,’ to efforts to help with Trump rallies in Florida and other states – and even a post-election foray into anti-Trump events.

Here is some of what we learned on Friday:

1. Russian interference no longer a “hoax.” For months, President Trump has complained that the Russia investigation is a hoax. But now, the feds have laid out a highly detailed indictment, alleging that 13 Russians and 3 different Russian entities used social media to buy political ads against Hillary Clinton (“Ohio Wants Hillary 4 Prison”), and for Donald Trump (“Trump is our only hope for a better future!”), organized actual rallies to support Mr. Trump (“Florida Goes Trump”), and much more. “If you had any doubt that Russia meddled in our 2016 elections, this is your wake-up call,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE). Back in September, the President derided the idea that Russian groups had bought social media ads in the 2016 campaign. “The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook,” he tweeted. But Friday, the President seemed to finally accept that there had been Russian interference.

2. Rosenstein takes the lead on new indictments. While Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is officially the boss of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Rosenstein has not participated in any of the earlier indictment or guilty plea announcements. But today, the ‘DAG’ was front and center at the Justice Department. He laid out the basics of the indictments of 13 Russians and described the outlines of the effort to meddle in the 2016 election. Rosenstein took only a few questions.

3. Trump – and his supporters – proclaim “NO COLLUSION.” On Twitter, and then in a statement issued by the White House on Friday afternoon, the President made clear that the latest indictments showed nothing in the way of collusion between Russians and his campaign. (The all-caps “NO COLLUSION” was in the White House statement.) But what was really said by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein? “Now, there is no allegation – in this indictment – that any American was a knowing particpant in this illegal activity,” Rosenstein said, as he used “in this indictment” several times.

4. No names revealed of who Russians contacted. As the indictment detailed efforts by the Russians to set up events for Trump supporters in Florida, there were contacts made with people on the Trump Campaign. The indictment doesn’t list the names of those who were contacted by the ‘joshmilton024@gmail.com’ account – instead, they are referred to as “Campaign Official 1,” “Campaign Official 2” and so on. But let me play devil’s advocate for a minute. Why not reveal who those people were? Is it really that big of a deal?

5. Mueller reveals some of his evidence. At one point in the indictment, the feds quote an email from one of the Russians, Irina Viktorovna Kaverzina, in which she said: “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity (not a joke).” While that jumps off the page of the indictment, it is also seems to send a message – that the FBI has a lot more information, from the social media accounts that were used by the Russians, to emails and more. Could some of this also be from intelligence efforts? We’ll see.

6. Hillary Clinton in a cage – Russian supported? In the indictment, it talks about how the Russians moved “to build a cage large enough to hold an actress depicting (Hillary) Clinton in a prison uniform. That jangled the memory of several reporters, who found stories about such a scene in Florida, during the 2016 campaign. And others remembered the Hillary-in-a-cage routine from other states.

7. After the election, the Russians play both sides. The indictment also revealed that after the election was over – and President Trump had been declared the victor – the Russians even went into the business of anti-Trump rallies in New York and Charlotte, North Carolina. “Trump is NOT my President,” was the rally in New York – while at the same time, the group was organizing an event to “support President-Elect Donald Trump.”



8. Another guilty plea as well for the Mueller probe. Minutes after the indictments against the 13 Russians was released, the Special Counsel also revealed a recent guilty plea, from February 2, of Richard Pinedo, from California. Pinedo was charged with “Identity Fraud,” which may be related to efforts by the Russians indicted on Friday to use American identities while engaging in their work on the 2016 Presidential election. It wasn’t exactly clear how Pinedo fits in, though it seems that he is the first American to be charged with directly helping the Russian operation to influence the 2016 campaign – but there is no evidence presented that he knew that was happening. Documents show Pinedo could face up to 15 years in prison.

U.S. may put tarriffs on China, other steel-producing countries

Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 4:26 PM
Updated: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 4:26 PM


            Workers at the Hangzhou Iron and Steel Group plant, a vast labyrinth of blast furnaces, warehouses, chimneys and worker dormitories covering hundreds of acres, in Hangzhou, China, April 11, 2017. China’s vast steel industry is a major target of President Donald Trump’s move to rethink American trade, but taming China’s mills can be expensive and difficult. (Giulia Marchi/The New York Times)
            GIULIA MARCHI
Workers at the Hangzhou Iron and Steel Group plant, a vast labyrinth of blast furnaces, warehouses, chimneys and worker dormitories covering hundreds of acres, in Hangzhou, China, April 11, 2017. China’s vast steel industry is a major target of President Donald Trump’s move to rethink American trade, but taming China’s mills can be expensive and difficult. (Giulia Marchi/The New York Times)(GIULIA MARCHI)

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Friday urged President Donald Trump to impose steep tariffs on China and other steel-producing countries, contending they are illegally dumping steel into U.S. markets.

In a 262-page report that was praised by many Ohio lawmakers, Ross charged that imported steel products are priced “substantially lower” than steel produced in the United States and declared that the United States is now the largest importer of steel in the world.

Ross urged the White House either to impose tariffs as high as 53 percent on China, Russia, South Korea and nine other steel producing countries or levy a 24-percent tariff on imported steel from any country.

RELATED: China criticizes U.S. steel anti-dumping measures

“Excessive steel imports have adversely impacted the steel industry,” Ross wrote, adding that “numerous U.S. steel mill closures, a substantial decline in employment, lost domestic sales and market share, and marginal annual net income for U.S.-based steel companies illustrate the decline of the U.S. steel industry.”

The administration launched an investigation into steel dumping last year and Trump has 90 days to levy the tariffs. But new tariffs will harm consumers because they would pay higher prices for products which use steel, such as cars and trucks.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, praised Ross’s report, but said “Ohio steelworkers don’t need a report to tell them they are losing jobs to Chinese cheating.”

“More important than releasing the findings of this report is taking swift and tough action that provides real, long-lasting relief for our steel industry, which is facing an onslaught of imports as we wait for a decision,” Brown said.

Emily Benavides, a spokesman for Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Portman “looks forward to reviewing the Commerce Department’s recommendations.”

RELATED: Trump considering ‘all options’ on steel

“He believes we should work together to protect American jobs and hold our trading partners accountable when they cheat,” she said. “And he continues to believe the administration should move quickly to make a final decision on this investigation.”

Mueller investigation charges 13 Russians in investigation over 2016 election interference

Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 8:27 AM

The office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced Friday that thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian groups had been charged with violating U.S. criminal laws for interfering with the 2016 election, detailing a string of efforts to help President Donald Trump’s campaign, and sew doubt about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and creating false U.S. personas, operated social media pages and groups designed to attract U.S. audiences,” the indictment alleged, detailing efforts to buy political ads on social media.

The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. earlier today, charged that the group first went after multiple candidates for President, and then fine tuned their message.

“Defendants’ operation included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign”) and disparaging Hillary Clinton.”

In a highly detailed 37 page indictment, the Special Counsel’s office described a series of efforts to organize rallies to help Mr. Trump in Florida, Pennsylvania and New York.




At one point, the indictment alleges that Russians posing as Americans, communicated directly with Trump Campaign staff officials about organizing efforts in Florida.

There was no evidence presented in the indictment that campaign officials knew they were getting help from a Russian group.