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Published: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 12:12 PM
With the start of the Second Session of the 115th Congress, Republican control of the U.S. Senate shrunk to a narrow 51-49 margin on Wednesday with the swearing-in of Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama, as Democrats again celebrated their upset victory in the Yellowhammer State, which prevented controversial Republican Roy Moore from going to Capitol Hill.
Signaling the importance of the victory to Democrats, former Vice President Joe Biden – who served in the Senate – escorted Jones to his swearing-in.
Jones replaced Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), who lost to Moore in a hotly contested GOP primary runoff, giving Democrats an unexpected chance at a special election victory in December.
Along with Jones, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D-MN) officially became a Senator today; she was appointed by the Governor of Minnesota to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who left under a cloud over sexual misconduct allegations.
Smith’s arrival means there are now 22 women in the U.S. Senate, the largest number ever in the history of that legislative body.
Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath to both new Senators, as the ceremonies brought out two former Vice Presidents as well.
Published: Sunday, March 18, 2018 @ 4:44 AM
Continuing to attack the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and any links to his campaign, President Donald Trump on Sunday went on Twitter to attack the veracity of former top officials of the FBI, accusing them of lying, and making up information to use against him in the Special Counsel’s investigation.
As he attacked former FBI Director James Comey, and recently fired top FBI official Andrew McCabe, Mr. Trump appeared to be watching television on Sunday morning, citing one of his favorite Fox News programs, Fox and Friends.
“Wow, watch Comey lie under oath,” the President tweeted at one point, moving on to take more jabs at McCabe, who was fired on Friday.
“I don’t believe he made memos except to help his own agenda, probably at later date,” the President wrote. “Can we call them the fake memos?”
On Twitter in recent days, Mr. Trump has again focused his ire on the investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, once more making the argument that the FBI went easy on Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, and showed bias on the Trump-Russia probe.
“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime,” the President tweeted, ending with a familiar line: “WITCH HUNT!”
Mueller’s probe has already netted a series of guilty pleas from people who worked for the President’s campaign, with two specifically pleading guilty to lying about contacts involving Russia.
As the President used Twitter as his bully pulpit, one of the President’s lawyers also stirred the pot by saying it was time to end the Mueller investigation, which many in Washington believe is far from being complete.
Democrats in Congress again warned the President not to try to end that probe.
“What, Mr. President, are you hiding from the American people?” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA).
“Thou doth protest too much, methinks,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI).
“This shows how scared the Trump Administration is about what Mueller will find,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). “This investigation must continue.”
Published: Saturday, March 17, 2018 @ 1:00 AM
After operating for more than a year with a temporary chief, NASA faces an unprecedented leadership bind as its acting Administrator announced this week that he would retire at the end of April, with no hint that the Senate will vote by then on President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the space agency.
“It has been a long process but we are optimistic that the vote will come soon,” said Sheryl Kaufman, the Communications Director for Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).
“We hope that happens soon,” said Rep. Bruce Babin (R-TX), as House Republicans and Vice President Mike Pence pressed the Senate for action on Bridenstine.
The problem for Bridenstine is that just one Republican has refused to support him for the job as NASA Administrator – that being Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) – and with only a bare majority, and the absence of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Bridenstine does not have the votes to win.
Since President Trump took office in January of 2017, NASA has been led by Robert Lightfoot, a well-respected NASA veteran who has drawn bipartisan praise.
But with Lightfoot announcing this week that he is retiring – effective April 30 – it’s possible that NASA could be forced to dig deeper down the depth chart for another temporary leader at the space agency.
“Robert Lightfoot has served NASA exceptionally well for nearly 30 years,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the head of the House Science Committee.
Apart from a couple of major issues, Bridenstine in 2017 did not cast votes on regular legislation in the House – while waiting for his Senate confirmation.
This year has been different – Bridenstine is voting on most legislation in the House, except for measures that deal with NASA.
“He will represent his constituents as fully as possible while awaiting the confirmation vote by the full Senate,” said his spokeswoman.
But without enough support, there’s no hint of a vote on Bridenstine in the Senate.
“The facts of this nomination have not changed,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) back in January – and two months later, that statement is still true.
Published: Friday, March 16, 2018 @ 3:57 PM
Updated: Friday, March 16, 2018 @ 3:48 PM
Special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents as part of his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump and his associates, according to multiple reports.
The subpoena is the first directly connected to one of Trump’s businesses, The New York Times reported Thursday. The newspaper was the first to report on the subpoena, citing two unidentified sources briefed on the situation.
The breadth of the subpoena was not immediately clear, although some documents sought were related to Russia, the Times reported. According to the newspaper, the subpoena was served “in recent weeks.”
The Trump Organization has already provided investigators with a range of documents, most focused on the period between when Trump announced his candidacy for president, in June 2015, to his inauguration, in January 2017, CNN reported in January. Citing an unidentified source familiar with the situation, the news network reported that the recently issued subpoena was meant “to ‘clean up’ and to ensure that all related documents are handed over to the special counsel.”
In a statement released to several news outlets Thursday, Alan Futerfas, an attorney representing the Trump Organization, said reports of the subpoena were “old news.”
“Since July 2017, we have advised the public that the Trump Organization is fully cooperative with all investigations, including the special counsel, and is responding to their requests,” Futerfas said. “This is old news and our assistance and cooperation with the various investigations remains the same today.”
The decision to subpoena the Trump Organization, which is owned by the president and managed by his children, appeared to mirror the strategy employed by Mueller with the Trump campaign, The Wall Street Journal reported. The newspaper noted that the campaign “voluntarily gave documents to the special counsel for months before receiving a subpoena in October.”
Mueller, who headed the FBI from 2001 to 2013, was appointed by the Justice Department in May 2017 to oversee the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. His investigation has thus far led to several indictments and a handful of guilty pleas from people connected to Trump.
Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities last month on accusations that they interfered with American elections and political processes, starting in 2014. On Twitter, Trump claimed that information in the indictments proved his innocence on allegations of colluding with Russia to win the election.
Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong - no collusion!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2018
Published: Thursday, March 15, 2018 @ 10:07 AM
In the aftermath of a whirlwind two-day trip to Puerto Rico, Rep. Brad Wenstrup will push for but the active duty and reservists to help assist in the rebuilding of Puerto Rico.
Wenstrup, a Cincinnati Republican who serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and who is an Army Reservist, flew into Puerto Rico last Sunday for a field hearing on the VA’s role in the recovery effort. Puerto Rico is still reeling from two back-to-back hurricanes that struck the island six months ago and 11 percent of the island is out of power.
Wenstrup said the VA plays an outsize role in the island – 72 percent of military veterans there who are eligible for VA care use it – nearly double the usage on the mainland United States.
Along with Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., who chairs the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, and Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez Colon, R-Puerto Rico, Wenstrup toured several VA clinics on the island and also met with representatives from Veterans Service Organizations. Their field hearing was aimed at determining how best to maximize VA resources in Puerto Rico.
He said conditions on the island are still grim, with debris stockpiled along the roads and roofs still covered with tarps, but the people are working to recover. However, he said, a shortage of doctors is imperiling the recovery effort because the island’s lackluster economy has spurred many doctors to move away in order to seek better pay and opportunities.