LGBTQ activists hold 'Queer Dance Party' outside Mike Pence's house

Published: Thursday, January 19, 2017 @ 12:44 PM
Updated: Thursday, January 19, 2017 @ 12:44 PM

            WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 17: Vice President-elect Mike Pence delivers remarks at the Chairman's Global Dinner, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on January 17, 2017 in Washington, DC.The invitation-only black-tie event is a chance for Trump to introduce himself and members of his cabinet to foreign diplomats. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 17: Vice President-elect Mike Pence delivers remarks at the Chairman's Global Dinner, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on January 17, 2017 in Washington, DC.The invitation-only black-tie event is a chance for Trump to introduce himself and members of his cabinet to foreign diplomats. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)(Pool)

With biodegradable glitter, rainbow flags and glow sticks in hand, about 200 protesters boogied their way to Vice President-elect Mike Pence's rented home in the Washington, D.C., area on Wednesday night to protest his stance on LGBTQ rights.

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The protest, dubbed the "Queer Dance Party at Mike Pence's House," was organized by the groups WERK for Peace and DisruptJ20.

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"Dance is so integral to the queer community as a form of self-expression and a form of asserting our power and our beauty and our love for one another," organizer Firas Nasr, 23, told The Washington Post. "We want to send a strong message to Pence that we're a united queer community. We've always stood united. There's always space to dance."

The group converged on the Friendship Heights Metro Station around 6 p.m. As the pulsing beats of gay icons including Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Madonna and Lady Gaga filled the air, protesters shimmied toward Pence's house in the Chevy Chase neighborhood, covering about 1.2 miles, with frequent dance breaks, CNN reported.

The protest was centered on Pence's record on gay and transgender rights. He has consistently opposed same-sex marriage, linking the unions to "societal collapse" in a 2006 speech. He opposed the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." He voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007, which would have banned sexual orientation-based discrimination.

"By extending the reach of federal law to cover sexual orientation, employment discrimination protections, in effect, can wage war on the free exercise of religion in the workplace," he said at the time. "We must stand for the right of every American to practice their faith according to the dictates of their conscience, whether it be in the public square or in the workplace."

Pence's Chevy Chase neighbors have flown hundreds of rainbow flags in silent support of gay rights since he arrived in town. Many watched Wednesday night's protest. Some carried snacks, according to CNN.

"I love this," 76-year-old Chevy Chase resident Mary Ann Carmody told The Washington Post. "I love the world. It's wonderful to see people on the street like this. We're lucky we can do this."

A few Donald Trump supporters were also seen near Pence's home, according to CNN, but the dancers did not interact with them.

It was not immediately clear whether Pence knew about the protest. At the time of the dance party, which started to disband around 8:30 p.m., Pence was hosting the vice president-elect's inaugural dinner across town.

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Russian woman kept in custody as feds allege covert political work for Moscow

Published: Wednesday, July 18, 2018 @ 3:49 PM

A federal judge on Wednesday refused to release to a 29 year-old Russian woman who pleaded not guilty to illegal political activity in the United States, as federal prosecutors alleged that Maria Butina was working “as part of a covert Russian influence campaign” in 2016 and 2017, which was aided by at least one American.

“Because Butina has been exposed as an illegal agent of Russia, there is the grave risk that she will appeal to those within that government with whom she conspired to aid her escape from the United States,” prosecutors said in new court documents filed on Wednesday morning.

Those documents detailed what was described as a ‘years-long conspiracy to work covertly in the United States as an undeclared agent of the Russian Federation,” in which the feds charge, she was “in contact with officials believed to be Russian intelligence operatives.”

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The court submission also said that Butina was helped by an unnamed American, referred to as “U.S. Person 1,” a 56 year-old man with whom she was involved in a personal relationship, describing him as “instrumental in aiding her covert influence operation.”

But the feds say he was being used by Butina.

Butina was in the United States on a student visa, attending classes at American University, located in Washington, D.C. about four miles northwest of the White House.

“Butina would routinely ask U.S. Person 1 to help complete her academic assignments, by editing papers and answering exam questions,” the Justice Department said in court documents, as the feds said, “attending American University was Butina’s cover while she continued to work on behalf of the Russian Official.”

“The evidence establishes that Butina’s purpose for coming to the United States was to work on behalf of the Russian Federation,” the DOJ wrote.

The documents filed on Wednesday also show connections between Butina and what were described as “wealthy businessmen in the Russian oligarchy,” some of whom had funded her activities in the United States.

The documents filed today also indicated that Butina had been under surveillance by FBI agents for some time, as she was seen with a Russian diplomat who is “suspected by the United States Government of being a Russian intelligence officer.”

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee had pressed that panel to get testimony from Butina, to explore her ties to the National Rifle Association.

“The Republicans refused to allow her to come testify,” Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) told CNN on Tuesday night.

In Moscow, the response from the Russian government was that the FBI was engaged in political tricks, casting Butina as an innocent student in Washington, D.C.

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Trump again contradicts U.S. Intelligence on Russia

Published: Wednesday, July 18, 2018 @ 1:14 PM

For the second time this week, President Donald Trump publicly went against the findings of the U.S. Intelligence Community with respect to Russian efforts to undermine election activities in the United States, as the President shot down a question about whether Russia was still engaged in activities like their 2016 interference in the U.S. elections.

“Is Russia still targeting the U.S.?” a reporter asked, as the President wrapped up a Cabinet meeting at the White House.

“Thank you very much. No,” President Trump said firmly as he shook his head, giving an answer that again runs counter to what American intelligence agencies have been warning for months, that Russia is looking for a repeat of their 2016 interference efforts.

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In brief remarks to reporters, the President said several times that he has been tough on Russia.

“There’s never been a President as tough on Russia as I have been,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “And I think President Putin knows that better than anybody, especially the media.”

On Monday, after Mr. Trump had seemingly sided with the denial of Vladimir Putin at a joint news conference in Finland, the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, quickly issued a statement reiterating that the U.S. firmly believes Russia meddled in the 2016 election, noting “their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”

Mr. Trump then clarified his comments on Tuesday, in a statement read to reporters – but Wednesday’s remarks seemed to take him back to square one – where the President argues that the Russians are not coming after the U.S.

The President’s answer puts him squarely at odds as well with many in both parties in the Congress, who fully believe that Russia is still actively engaged in efforts to meddle with the 2018 and 2020 elections in the United States.

“OMG. OMG. OMG,” wrote Michael Hayden on Twitter, a former Director of the CIA and National Security Agency.

“Mr. President. Walk this back too,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.

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Rep. Jim Jordan wants vote to impeach Deputy AG Rosenstein

Published: Wednesday, July 18, 2018 @ 11:22 AM
Updated: Wednesday, July 18, 2018 @ 11:22 AM

            Rep. Jim Jordan (right) and House conservatives appear poised to force a floor vote on impeaching U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (left) even though Rosenstein is supervising the job of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Getty Images
Rep. Jim Jordan (right) and House conservatives appear poised to force a floor vote on impeaching U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (left) even though Rosenstein is supervising the job of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Getty Images

Rep. Jim Jordan and House conservatives appear poised to force a floor vote on impeaching U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein even though Rosenstein is supervising the job of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

At a gathering of conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill this week, Jordan, R-Urbana, said “all options are on the table,” contending Rosenstein has declined to provide a House panel with thousands of pages of documents related to the FBI investigation into the private e-mails of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

RELATED: Congressman Jim Jordan has heated exchange with deputy AG

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“We’re considering everything because we’re not getting the response and information from the department that we should be getting,” Jordan said. “We’ve been very clear about that.”

The determination to press ahead is prompting criticism from some Republicans because just last Friday Rosenstein announced a federal grand jury had indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials for hacking the e-mails in 2016 of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign.

In addition, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers assailed President Donald Trump Monday for failing at the Helsinki summit to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin on accusations Russian intelligence hacked Democratic e-mails in the 2016 the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Attempting to impeach one of the people involved in indicting a dozen Russians for interfering with our election system, something that’s been proven by every US intelligence agency and Republicans on both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, would make it look like you’re as deep in Putin’s pocket as Trump is,” said Jeff Sadosky, a Republican strategist in Washington.

Jordan’s comments come on the heels of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s assertion Tuesday that he believes the Justice Department is now turning over the material.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the head of the Freedom Caucus, begged to differ Tuesday, saying the department was “moving at glacial speed” and unless Justice delivers the requested documents quickly, “the Speaker has been misinformed.”

Ryan isn’t the only top Republican to express ambivalence about taking on Rosenstein. Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told “Face the Nation” Sunday that he does not support impeaching Rosenstein.

“For what? Impeach him for what?” Gowdy said on the CBS program.

Gowdy said he’s “had my differences with Rod Rosenstein, but Rosenstein was a Trump appointee. “If President Trump is dissatisfied with Rod Rosenstein, he can fire him with a tweet,” he said.

Jordan showed none of that reluctance at a press availability Tuesday with fellow members of the House Freedom Caucus, the ultra-conservative organization he helped to found.

“They haven’t complied with document requests,” he said of the FBI. “There are two subpoenas they that they are not in compliance with. We have caught them hiding information from us, redacting information that should have not been redacted. It has been reported in the press that Rod Rosenstein threatened staff members on the House Intelligence Committee.”

He said he disagreed with Ryan’s assessment that the FBI was moving into compliance. “All options are still on the table because we need to get the information so we can get the answers,” he said.

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Trump says he misspoke at Putin summit on Russian interference

Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 3:52 PM

A day after publicly siding with Vladimir Putin over U.S. Intelligence on the question of whether Moscow had interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections, President Donald Trump defended his efforts to improve relations with Russia, even as he back tracked slightly to say that “I accept” the conclusions of intelligence officials on Russian meddling.

In remarks to reporters at the White House, the President said he had simply misspoke, dropping the word “not” in a sentence about his view on Russian responsibility for election interference in 2016.

“I need to make a clarification,” Mr. Trump said, reading from a prepared script before television cameras, as he met with a group GOP lawmakers.

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“I accept our Intelligence Community’s conclusion,” the President said – but he swiftly raised the possibility that actors other than Russia might have been involved, something not supported by the CIA and Congress.

“Could be other people also – there’s a lot of people out there,” the President said.

President Trump’s explanation was that he meant to say, “I don’t know any reason why it would not be Russia,” but that he only said, “I don’t know any reason why it would be Russia.”

The comments came as the President faced a bipartisan firestorm of criticism from Capitol Hill, as lawmakers said the President was wrong to have stood on the same stage with Putin, and downplayed the Russian threat.

Mr. Trump defended his effort to deal with Putin, arguing “that diplomacy and engagement is better than hostility and conflict,” as he accused the press of biased reporting on his European trip.

“The press covered it quite inaccurately,” Mr. Trump added, “They said I insulted everybody,” as the President made clear he was thrilled with efforts to deal with Putin, casting that as more important than his previous meetings with European leaders at the NATO summit.

The President remarks came as Democrats in Congress all but accused President Trump of being a Russian Intelligence asset.

“Is the President an agent of a foreign power?” wrote Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) on Twitter.

“He wrapped his arms around Vladimir Putin,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) on the House floor.

“When are the Republicans in Congress going to provide a check on President Trump?” asked Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA).

“It’s embarrassing and alarming that the U.S. President would believe the Russian President instead of the U.S. Intelligence Community,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).

Meanwhile, many GOP lawmakers made it clear that while they supported the President’s summit meeting with Vladimir Putin, there was an acknowledgement that Mr. Trump’s statements which sided with Putin’s denial of Russian interference in the 2016 elections were not helpful.

“I think anybody that watched that press conference – including the President himself – would say that it was not his finest hour,” said Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), as some conservative voices expressed frustration with Mr. Trump.

“I don’t agree with President Trump’s comments,” said Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL). “The evidence from our national security agencies is clear; Russia deliberately tried to undermine our republic. This is unacceptable.”

“We have seen time and again that Russia will stop at nothing to interfere with and undermine our system of government,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

“Let’s be very clear, so that everybody knows, Russia did interfere with our elections,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, who bluntly denounced the Putin regime, clearly labeling him as an enemy of the West.

“Russia is trying to undermine democracy itself,” the Speaker added, seemingly inviting action by Congress on new sanctions against Moscow.

“Vladimir Putin does not share our interests. Vladimir Putin does not share our values,” the Speaker said.

Senate Republican leaders meanwhile went out of their way to proclaim their public support for European allies in NATO, trying to send a much different message than what was transmitted in person by President Trump during his visit last week.

“We believe the European Union countries are our friends, and the Russians are not,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as he heaped praise on NATO, and the need to preserve the North Atlantic alliance.

On the issue of election interference, the message was also different from what the President had said in Helsinki.

“Clearly, the Russians tried to interfere in our elections,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO).

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