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Published: Monday, September 25, 2017 @ 3:20 PM
— Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, used a personal email account to discuss official government business, despite his father-in-law’s criticism of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for doing the same, according to multiple reports.
The email account was set up in December, Politico reported, noting that Kushner also uses an official White House email account. The news site was the first to report on Kushner’s use of private email.
“Fewer than 100 emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Mr. Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account,” Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said Sunday in a statement to Politico. “These usually forwarded news articles or political commentary and most often occurred when someone initiated the exchange by sending an email to his personal rather than his White House address.”
Trump, who faced Clinton last year in the race for the White House, criticized the former secretary of state numerous times for her use of private email, leading supporters on chants of “Lock her up” and insisting that her actions were illegal. The FBI determined last year that Clinton did not break the law, although then-FBI Director James Comey said that Clinton and her colleagues were "extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
Politico reported that there were no indications that Kushner used his private email account to discuss sensitive or classified information.
An unidentified government official told The New York Times that “unlike in the Clinton case, Mr. Kushner had not set up a private server to house the personal email account. While Mrs. Clinton used her personal account exclusively, the official said that Mr. Kushner does use his government account.”
At a news briefing on Monday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that, to her knowledge, Kushner’s use of private email was “very limited.”
“White House counsel has instructed all White House staff to use their government email for government matters,” she said, adding that staff was “instructed on this one pretty regularly.”
Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 5:40 PM
Updated: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 5:40 PM
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate Wednesday passed a bill that would give victims and prosecutors the right to sue websites that allow posts selling women and young girls – the culmination of a three-year effort by Portman to stop online sex trafficking
The bill, which passed the House at the end of February, now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature. Trump has signaled he will sign it.
“It’s a really big week,” said Portman one day before the Senate passed the bill 97 to 2, with only Sens. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, opposing. Portman said after Trump signs the bill, prosecutions of online sex traffickers could begin “within weeks.”
“People could be saved from this,” he said.
Portman, chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, launched an investigation into sex trafficking in 2015. Before long he and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, had discovered a few things: One, that the overwhelming trafficker of women and children was an online marketplace called Backpage.com, and two, that a provision within the 1996 Communications Decency Act effectively gave websites like Backpage legal protection because it protected websites from liability based on third-party posts. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Backpage.com is involved in 75 percent of the online trafficking reports it receives from the public.
The investigation – which included a Supreme Court fight to subpoena information from a very resistant Backpage.com – ultimately found that Backpage.com was well aware that they were at times selling young girls for sex on their site, but tried to protect themselves by simply editing the language on the ads, rather than take the ads down altogether. “They didn’t remove the post because they didn’t want to lose the revenue,” Portman said on the Senate floor.
Portman and other lawmakers became convinced that amending the 1996 law could prevent Backpage and other sites from having essential legal immunity to sell people online.
“It became clear that there was a federal solution that could make a big difference,” Portman said.
His bill – which has been cosponsored by 68 members of the Senate – tweaks the Communications Decency Act to ensure that websites that are essentially sex trafficking marketplaces can be sued, including by victims or law enforcement.
Among the bill’s cosponsors was Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. He said after the vote that he was glad to join his fellow Ohio senator to pass the bill. “We need to remain vigilant in rooting out human trafficking wherever it occurs,” Brown said.
Portman’s work on the issue – he ran ads highlighting the issue during his 2016 campaign – was featured in a Netflix documentary called “I am Jane Doe.”
That documentary also featured the story of Kubiiki Pride, an Atlanta mother whose daughter ran away from home. Pride looked on Backpage only to find her 14-year-old daughter being sold for sex, with pictures of her daughter in “explicit photographs.
Pride called Backpage.com and asked them to take down the ad. They refused, telling her that she didn’t post the ad nor pay for it, therefore could not take it down. Later, when she finally got her daughter back, she couldn’t sue because of the Communications Decency Act. So frustrated was the legal system by the provision in the law that at one point, a Sacramento judge threw out pimping charges against Backpage and directly called on Congress to act.
Portman said when he began pushing to change the provision, he was met by resistance from websites who told him, point-blank, that they would win.
“This law was considered sacrosanct,” he said.
But now, it’s on the verge of being changed.
Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 8:01 AM
Reviewing the reaction of the Obama Administration to signs that Russia was trying to interfere in the 2016 election campaign, Senators on Wednesday expressed frustration at the refusal of the Obama and Trump Administrations to publicly reveal the names of at least 21 states targeted by Russian cyber attackers in 2016, arguing there is no reason to keep that information from the American people.
“America has to know what’s wrong,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). “And if there are states that have been attacked, America should know that.”
In a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said states which were victimized prefer to remain anonymous, giving no hint that the identities of those states would be revealed any time soon.
“The 21 states themselves have been notified,” said Nielsen.
“But people have to know,” Feinstein countered.
Feinstein also pressed former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who defended efforts by the Obama Administration to both warn states – and warn the public about the Russian election threat.
“Senator, the American people were told,” Johnson said.
“Not sufficiently in any way, shape, or form,” Feinstein replied.
Johnson acknowledged that an early October 2016 warning about Russian actions – issued both by DHS and the broader U.S. Intelligence Community – did not get the press traction that he thought it deserved, mainly due to other breaking news about the campaign for President on that day.
“It was below the fold news, the next day, because of the release of the Access Hollywood video the same day,” Johnson said, referring to the tape of President Donald Trump in which he bragged about how he treated women, a revelation that roiled the 2016 campaign for the next several days.
At the hearing, Johnson did not mention what else was released on the same day – as just minutes after the Access Hollywood tape was made public, Wikileaks made the first release of hacked emails from John Podesta, a top aide to Hillary Clinton – all of that combining to overwhelm the U.S. government warning about Russian actions.
In hindsight, members of both parties said it was very obvious that – at the time – Russia was actively trying to cause trouble in the 2016 elections.
“Russian government actors scanned an estimated 21 states, and attempted to gain access to a handful of those,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“In at least one case, they were successful in penetrating a voter registration database,” Burr added.
Burr said his panel’s investigation showed that DHS and the FBI in 2016 did alert states of the Russian threat, but in a “limited way,” which resulted in most states not treating the information as an imminent threat.
Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 4:04 AM
While the calendar may say it is spring, another winter storm threatened the East Coast on Wednesday, prompting the federal government to close down offices in the Washington, D.C. area, and canceling public events for President Donald Trump at the White House.
While there was little snow on the ground as the sun came up on Wednesday, forecasters were warning of big snow totals from the nation’s capital, up the I-95 corridor through Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
But as the morning commute continued, there was little evidence in some spots of that storm.
“Total accumulation so far 1” of Salt,” tweeted Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), as he documented empty streets on his commute to the U.S. Capitol, as lawmakers from the heartland subtly mocked the snow scare.
The biggest snowfall totals seemed to be to north of the Washington area, up near the Mason-Dixon line along the Maryland and Pennsylvania border, where as much as two feet of snow could fall.
But federal officials did not take any chances, as they closed government offices on Wednesday.
Despite the weather threat, Congress was in session today, though some committees had scrapped hearings set for Wednesday morning, worried about the snow.
Both the House and Senate were still going to be in session, as lawmakers were trying to finish a giant funding bill, facing a Friday night shutdown deadline.
At the White House, it was a snow day as well – even without any snow on the ground in the morning – as the President erred on the side of caution, and canceled two events, including a Cabinet meeting.
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 7:33 PM
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said today that it “would be a big mistake” for President Donald Trump to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian officials trying to influence the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign had any ties to those officials.
“I’ve said all along it would be a mistake to do so,” Portman told reporters on a conference call. “I think you have to let Mueller do his work. The American people deserve an answer.”
Portman’s comments follow those of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who was quoted Tuesday as saying firing Mueller would “probably” be an impeachable offense. Graham had earlier said a Mueller firing would be “the beginning of the end” of the Trump presidency.
Portman said the intelligence community “has determined there was meddling in our election and we need to know more about it.”