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Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 12:16 PM
Updated: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 9:02 PM
WASHINGTON — A Senate standoff that partially shuttered the federal government for nearly three days ended Monday when Senate Democrats agreed to support a bill to re-open the federal government through Feb. 8.
Sen. Sherrod Brown joined 31 Democrats and independent Angus King of Maine in backing the spending bill, which they did under the condition that the GOP permit debate on a bill to provide protection for the children of undocumented immigrants, a program known as the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, or DACA.
The final vote to move forward was 81-18. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also backed the measure. The House passed the bill later Monday on a 266-150 vote.
President Donald Trump signed the bill just before 9 p.m. Monday.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D–N.Y., announced the breakthrough on the Senate floor shortly before a scheduled vote on a bill to keep the government open 17 days. The bill would also extend for six years a popular program that provides billions of federal dollars to the states to pay for the health care costs of low-income children.
"We expect that a bipartisan bill on DACA will receive fair consideration and an up–or–down vote on the floor," Schumer said.
Earlier Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R–Ky., pledged to have the Senate will take up immigration after the government re-opens. In a floor speech Monday morning, McConnell promised “an amendment process that is fair to all sides.”
“This immigration debate will have a level playing field at the outset,” McConnell said.
Said President Trump in a statement: "I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders, and insurance for vulnerable children."
In a separate e-mail to supporters, he exulted: "Democrats CAVED — because of you ... We can’t let them get away with it. We will never forget the names of EVERY single liberal obstructionist responsible for this disgusting shut down, and we will work to FIRE them come November."
However, even if the Senate does ultimately vote on a bill on DACA, it's unclear whether the House will follow suit.
Not a big impact in D.C.
Still, the spending agreement cut off what had been an inconvenient but not overly disruptive morning on Capitol Hill — the first regular work day since the government closed at midnight Friday. While some Capitol staff had been furloughed because of the partial shutdown, Brown and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, kept their staffs at full capacity.
Some of the Capitol’s restaurants and entrances were closed. A popular coffee place in a Senate office building couldn’t serve sandwiches after 1:30; it had run out of bread because of the flood of customers. Some federal workers who had driven into D.C. Monday morning to get furlough notices returned home only to find that the government was to reopen. In all, it was anticlimactic.
But Republicans and Democrats seemed to disagree on the takeaway. Brown and others said they were hopeful that the agreement would be the beginning of a new era of bipartisan compromise. Republicans, meanwhile, argued that Democrats learned the hard way what congressional Republicans learned in 1995 and 2013: that it is difficult to prevail in a partial shutdown against a White House that will not budge.
Great to see how hard Republicans are fighting for our Military and Safety at the Border. The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked. If stalemate continues, Republicans should go to 51% (Nuclear Option) and vote on real, long term budget, no C.R.’s!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 21, 2018
In 2013, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, demanded that the price for keeping the federal government open was for President Barack Obama to scrap his signature 2010 health-care law known as Obamacare. Obama held firm and the congressional Republicans collapsed in acrimony. Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan later acknowledged that the plan had not worked.
“I think if we’ve learned anything during this process it’s that a strategy to shut down the government over the issue of illegal immigration is something that the American people didn’t understand and wouldn’t have understood in the future,” McConnell said.
Portman echoed those comments. “It was wrong of Democrats to vote against continuing the operations of the government for something unrelated,” he said.
But Democrats including Brown seemed heartened that the agreement would mean not only fewer short-term spending bills, but possible compromises on pensions and other issues.
Their optimism appeared to carry to the Senate floor, where Republicans and Democrats chatted amiably with one another before the vote.
An unusual scenario
Sen. Dick Durbin, D–Ill., said the dialogue over the weekend was something he’d not seen in years: “constructive bipartisan conversation and dialogue on the floor.”
Brown, meanwhile, said senators had “better conversations than we’ve seen in a long time, more substantive and more sort of directed.”
He said he had voted against the spending bill that failed, shutting down the government, largely because of his frustration with the temporary, month-to-month spending measures.
“You can’t run a government like that,” he said, saying the agreement reached Monday “fundamentally changes it.” If Republicans keep their part of the agreement and allow a debate on DACA, he said, it will be the first time they have allowed a Democratic amendment on the Senate floor since Trump has been president.
Although most analysts do not believe a brief shutdown will have any meaningful impact on the November elections, Senate Democrats such as Brown and Bob Casey in Pennsylvania were among those under intense pressure to keep the government open, with the National Republican Senatorial Committee airing ads online against they and other Democrats in states that Trump won in 2016.
Privately, Republicans in a closed door meeting after the vote wondered if they would need to end a rule that requires 60 votes to pass a spending bill in order to prevent further shutdowns.
If there was any agreement, it was this: Republicans and Democrats would have to rely on one another in order to forge compromise; they’d have to leave Trump out of it.Tweets by Ohio_Politics
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.
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 ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ 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.
Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 4:26 PM
Updated: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 4:26 PM
WASHINGTON — 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.
“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.”
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.