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Published: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 3:15 PM
Updated: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 3:29 PM
WASHINGTON — Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, filed suit Wednesday against special counsel Robert Mueller, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the Department of Justice after he was indicted in October as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Attorneys for Manafort argued that Rosenstein overstepped his authority in May 2017 when he appointed Mueller as special counsel to investigate "links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump" and "any matters that arose or may arise directly from" that investigation.
The scope of the investigation is overly broad, Manafort’s attorneys argued, asking a judge to set aside both the October indictment and Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller.
Ex-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, charged in Mueller probe, is suing U.S. Justice Department alleging his indictment exceeds the special counsel's office jurisidiction. @mattzap pic.twitter.com/aNjxNx2ioh— Spencer Hsu (@hsu_spencer) January 3, 2018
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 6:17 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 6:17 PM
WASHINGTON — Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, said President Donald Trump’s decision to launch a retaliatory strike against Syria for using chemical weapons against its own people was “unconstitutional.”
“There is no authority to do that,” Davidson said during a meeting with the Dayton Development Coalition. He said while it’s appropriate for Trump to launch a pre-emptive strike if, for example, an attack on the U.S. was imminent “our founders addressed this.” He said the founders made it clear that the key difference between a king and a president was that while both command the Army, the king can make war, “but in the United States, the legislature makes war.”
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 2:45 PM
After operating for almost fourteen months with acting leadership, NASA finally has a new Administrator, as the U.S. Senate voted Thursday to confirm Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) as the new head of the space agency, overcoming reluctance among some Republicans, and strong opposition from Democrats who said Bridenstine who too political for the job.
“”It is an honor to be confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as NASA Administrator,” Bridenstine said in a statement. “I am humbled by this opportunity.”
“Jim Bridenstine has been very passionate for trying to get NASA back on focus with a big vision and a big mission,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).
“I’ve known Congressman Bridenstine for a long time, and I know he is just the man for this important undertaking,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).
But among Republicans, there were clearly reservations, even as the vote took place.
“I was not enthused by the nomination,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said on the Senate floor, as he acknowledged that continuing with temporary leadership at the space agency was not a good answer.
“There’s no way NASA can go two years and x-number of months without a permanent Administration,” Rubio added, his tone and body language sending the message that he would still have someone other than Bridenstine leading the space agency.
For Democrats, Bridenstine’s more conservative political views – especially on climate change – overrode his military experience as a pilot in the Air Force.
“Just because you know how to fly a plane does not mean you have the skills and experience to lead the federal government’s space agency,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI).
“In short, NASA needs an Administrator who will be driven by science and not by politics,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI).
But as with most issues in the Congress right now, Democrats are don’t have enough votes to derail a nominee of President Trump – unless some Republicans break ranks to join them.
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 12:25 PM
Embroiled in a new legal dispute after an FBI raid earlier this month, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has dropped a $100 million defamation lawsuit filed against BuzzFeed news, and the head of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which spearheaded the development of the Steele Dossier.
“Michael Cohen hereby voluntarily dismissed the above-entitled action as to all named Defendants without costs to any party as against the other,” Cohen’s lawyers stated in a one page filing with a federal court in New York.
Democrats in Congress quickly pounced.
“Bullies wilt when their bluff is called,” said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA). “Buzzfeed should demand legal fees for Cohen’s frivolous suit.”
Let’s review what Cohen charged, what issues he is no longer pursuing in this lawsuit, and why some of it may still be a focus of discussion in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
1. The general questions about the Steele Dossier. The main charge made by Cohen – and many supporters of President Donald Trump – is that the dossier is filled with false stories and accusations against Mr. Trump and his associates. “This action arises from the immensely damaging and defamatory statements,” Cohen’s lawyers wrote in their original complaint against BuzzFeed news and Glenn Simpson, the head of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which assembled the dossier through the work of ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele. The Cohen defamation lawsuit was simple – the statements about Cohen in the dossier were false, and he wanted millions of dollars in damages. Now, that lawsuit has been dropped.
2. The very first charge – the Prague trip. In Cohen’s lawsuit, the first specific item that is challenged is the report in the Steele Dossier that Cohen went to the Czech Republic in August of 2016, possibly to meet with people linked to Russia. “I have never in my life been to Prague or anywhere in the Czech Republic,” Cohen has said. Hours after the dossier was released, Cohen tweeted a denial, with a picture of his passport. “No matter how many times or ways they write it, I have never been to Prague,” Cohen tweeted just last week. If this lawsuit had proceeded, there would have been legal discovery about Cohen’s allegations. Now, that won’t take place in the context of this proceeding.
3. Does the Special Counsel have different evidence? A story last week from McClatchy Newspapers said exactly that – that Cohen was in Prague. But it is notable that the details of that have not been matched by any other news organizations. And as with most questions about the Trump-Russia investigation, we can only go off the verified documents in the public square – and at this point, there is nothing to contradict Cohen’s denial. But if there is more to this story, it certainly could be a central part of the investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office. No one knows the answer to that right now, other than Mueller’s team.
4. Cohen’s testimony to Congress remains secret. In late October of 2017, Cohen went before the House and Senate Intelligence committees to testify about the Russia investigation, and was evidently asked about the allegation in the dossier – the basis for his lawsuit – that he met in the Czech Republic with a Russian intelligence operative. That testimony has not been released, but lawmakers sparred about it in another transcript which was made public by the House committee. This exchange is between Rep. Peter King (R-NY), and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).
5. Cohen’s legal focus now on FBI raid. What’s next for Cohen is waiting to see what the feds do with the materials seized in the April 9 raids executed against him under a federal magistrate’s approval. Federal Judge Kimba Wood could either allow a special FBI “taint team” to continue to go through that material to look for any attorney-client privilege items related to President Donald Trump. Or, a special master could be appointed to oversee the process. No matter the choice, Cohen faces a tangled legal situation involving what was seized by the feds.
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 10:34 PM
The head of the Capitol Hill office which deals with workplace harassment cases said Wednesday that she still does not have the power to reveal the names of lawmakers who used taxpayer dollars to pay legal harassment settlements, drawing sharp rebukes from members of both parties on a House spending panel, as lawmakers in both the House and Senate expressed growing frustration about the matter.
“The transparency issue is revolting,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). “It is absolutely unacceptable that we continue to let members who abuse their employees hide.”
At a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee, Susan Grundmann, the head of the Congressional Office of Compliance, said that workplace settlements which involve lawmakers, often include non-disclosure agreements, precluding any publicity.
“Most settlement agreements – in fact all that I have seen – contain non-disclosure clauses in them,” said Grundmann. “Those are not by our doing.”
Pressed sharply by both parties at a hearing where she asked for a nine percent budget increase to help deal with harassment training and case reviews, Grundmann made clear there was no plan to reveal the names of members who had engaged in such settlements in the past.
“No, I think we are prohibited from under the law – in terms of the strict confidentiality that adheres to each one of our processes, and the non-disclosure agreements, we cannot disclose who they are,” Grundmann added.
Grundmann said new reporting standards approved by the House would reveal every six months which offices had some type of legal settlements – and she also said that if a lawmaker agreed to a workplace settlement, taxpayers would pay the bill up front – and then have that member of Congress reimburse Uncle Sam within 90 days.
So far, the House and Senate have not finalized an agreement on legislation to set new standards for transparency on workplace settlements involving lawmaker offices, as one leading Democrat today again demanded action by that chamber.
“The Senate has no more excuses,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Back in Wednesday’s House hearing, lawmakers did not like to hear that while reforms in the House would publicly name the lawmaker and/or a top staffer if they were involved in harassment of other staffers, a Senate reform plan would not be as sweeping.
“So, if a Chief of Staff engages in that conduct, or anyone else that isn’t the member, then their conduct is not disclosed?” Wasserman Schultz asked.
“That’s correct,” replied Grundmann.
“That’s absolutely unacceptable,” the Florida Democrat said.
The hearing came days after the resignation of Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), who had taxpayers foot the bill for an $84,000 settlement with a former office employee – Farenthold had promised to pay that money, but now that he is gone, it seems unlikely to happen.
Meanwhile, Grundmann denied press reports in recent weeks that any personal information about sexual harassment or workplace abuses in Congressional offices was left on unsecured computer servers.
“We have not been hacked. We have never stored our data on an unsecured server,” as Grundmann said their computer precautions had been described by officials as “Fort Knox.”