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Published: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 3:50 AM
Updated: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 3:48 AM
WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller's team of investigators has recently spoken with a former British spy who compiled a dossier of allegations about President Donald Trump's ties to Russia, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
The meeting with Christopher Steele took place in Europe in recent weeks, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
The dossier, which contends that Russia amassed compromising personal and financial allegations about Trump, was turned over to the FBI last year. It was developed by Steele, a former British spy who was assigned to look into Trump's Russia ties by a private American firm.
The document of allegations, which circulated in Washington last fall before the presidential election, received public attention in January when it was revealed that then-FBI Director James Comey had privately briefed Trump on a summary on the document's findings.
Trump has called the allegations in the dossier "phony stuff" even as the FBI has been investigating and working to corroborate the document's claims. The conversation with Mueller's team, which is investigating potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, suggests that investigators continue to take the document seriously.
CNN first reported the interview with Steele.
At a news conference Wednesday, Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate's intelligence committee, said that his panel had been unsuccessful in its efforts to question Steele.
"The committee cannot really decide the credibility of the dossier without understanding things like who paid for it, who are your sources and subsources?" Burr said.
Published: Sunday, June 24, 2018 @ 8:52 PM
As Republicans struggled again to gather a majority in the House this week for an immigration reform bill, President Donald Trump on Sunday seemed to hint that the effort might be a waste of time, blaming Democrats for their opposition to GOP plans, and demanding major changes in how the U.S. legal system deals with those illegally entering the United States.
“When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came,” the President tweeted on Sunday, making the argument that illegal immigrants deserve no legal standing in court, no due process after being detained.
But the U.S. Supreme Court has held the opposite, ruling in a 1982 case that “illegal aliens…may claim the benefit of the Equal Protection Clause, which provides that no State shall ‘deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.'”
“Summarily removing individuals with no opportunity for a hearing, even if they might have viable legal objections to their removal, would likely violate due process,” said Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas Law School.
That idea was one of a number of tweets this weekend on immigration from the President:
Mr. Trump’s comments came as House Republicans were still preparing a vote this week on a backup immigration reform bill – but no date for the vote had been set, as GOP leaders have struggled to corral a majority on the issue.
In Congress, Mr. Trump’s idea to deny due process rights to illegal aliens landed with a big thud in both parties.
“Removing due process from immigration cases is yet another example of Trump’s extreme immigration policy and disregard for the rule of law,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
“No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” tweeted Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), quoting the text of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
“Due process is a bedrock American legal principle,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY).
Democrats spent much of the weekend trying to focus more attention on the effort to reunite children of illegal immigrant families, who were separated from their parents under a Trump Administration effort to deter illegal immigrants from trying to cross the U.S. southern border.
But others on Capitol Hill saw the current immigration debate in much a different light.
“America is heading in the direction of another Harpers Ferry,” said Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a strong backer of the President’s calls for tough action on illegal immigration, referring to John Brown’s raid in 1859, in a bid to start a slave revolt.
“After that comes Ft. Sumter,” King said in a tweet, referring to the first shots of the Civil War.
Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018 @ 5:15 AM
As President Donald Trump this week threatened $200 billion in new tariffs on Chinese imports, and then warned Europe that he would slap a 20 percent tariff on imported automobiles, members of both parties Congress accused the administration of starting a trade war which could cause collateral economic damage across the United States.
The differences were on display at a hearing Wednesday with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who took a bipartisan tongue lashing on a recent round of tariffs levied on imported steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and Europe.
“We’re picking winners and losers,” argued Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who said those tariffs were already hurting businesses in his home state.
“Probably resulting – in my view – in far more jobs being lost than being gained,” Toomey told Ross, citing a very well-known Pennsylvania company that could find it less expensive to move jobs from the U.S. to Canada.
Almost every Senator on the panel had a story of a small business that was feeling the pinch due to Trump Administration tariffs, impacting all sorts of agricultural products, as well as manufacturing, big and small.
“Do you think we’re in a trade war right now?” asked Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA). “Because I do,” as Cantwell rattled off farm products that were losing markets because of retaliatory tariff measures.
Ross downplayed the cost of higher imported steel and aluminum, basically making the case that economic hardships were being overplayed.
“It’s a fraction of a penny on a can of Campbell’s soup, it’s a fraction on a can of Budweiser, it’s a fraction on a can of Coke,” Ross said.
That did not please the Senator from the state of Coca-Cola.
“Although a couple of pennies on a can is not much, a couple pennies times a billion is lots,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).
“We’re hit harder than any other state by the Canadian retaliatory tariffs,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), warning the Trump Administration against tariffs on imported automobiles, as GOP Senators labeled such actions a tax on consumers.
“Steel prices are going up – not just for foreign steel subject to tariffs, but also for U.S. steel,” complained Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
“Mexico’s buying their wheat from Argentina and their corn from Brazil,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), as he told Ross that Kansas wheat exports were encountering troubles because of new retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports, bringing bad economic news on the farm report.
Ross simply told Senators if other countries put new tariffs on U.S. exports, that was out of his control.
“We have no control over what another country does in retaliation,” Ross said.
The bipartisan complaints clearly had no impact, as by Friday, President Trump was on Twitter, issuing new threats against European auto imports.
As Democrats registered their opposition, they also couldn’t help but note the oddity of a Republican President going against what’s been a bedrock belief of the GOP.
“I feel like I’ve gone down a rabbit hole,” said Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO), who said she found it hard to believe the party of free trade now had a President in office who was doing the exact opposite.
“In a chaotic and frankly incompetent manner, you’re picking winners and losers,” McCaskill told Ross.
But for the President, this is about re-setting trade deals, which he says were tilted against the United States.
“As far as trade is concerned with other countries, we want fair and reciprocal trade, we don’t want stupid trade like we had for so long,” the President said at a rally in Minnesota.
“Remember the world reciprocal,” Mr. Trump said. “We have been ripped off by almost every country on Earth, our friends and our enemies.”
“But those days are over,” the President said to cheers from the crowd.
But while they’re cheering Mr. Trump on the stump, at the U.S. Capitol, they’re worried about a trade war.
“We’re getting into a war that’s going to cost lots of billions of dollars,” Isakson warned.
Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 1:25 PM
In a fresh reminder that political cooperation is not dead on Capitol Hill, the House on Friday overwhelmingly approved a sweeping package of over fifty bipartisan bills to address the misuse of prescription opioid pain medicine, as lawmakers voted to expand a variety of services under Medicare and Medicaid to deal with the drug scourge.
“We can do things when we put partisan politics aside and work together,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), one of a number of lawmakers who touted various provisions in the sweeping opioids measure.
“This particular bill, H.R. 6, is the crown jewel of all that legislation,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX).
“This legislation will strengthen our efforts to advance treatment and recovery issues, and bolster the fight against deadly and illicit drugs,” said Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA).
“This is a big deal in the fight against the largest public health crisis in our country,” said Speaker Paul Ryan.
“Mr. Speaker, so often we hear about the partisan wrangling in Congress and clearly there are dividing lines on some high-profile issues,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). “But this an issue where Republicans and Democrats have come together.”
The final vote was 396-14. The bill now goes to the Senate.
“Currently, Medicare doesn’t cover opioid treatment programs,” said Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA). “These bills are pieces of a large, complex puzzle. We need to find realistic solutions with long term outcomes.”
Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 7:29 AM
A day after Republicans in the House defeated one more conservative immigration reform plan, and delayed action until next week on a second bill because of a lack of GOP votes, President Donald Trump on Friday suggested a different avenue entirely – urging Republicans in Congress to drop the issue until after the November elections.
“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November,” the President tweeted early on Friday morning, saying the answer was simple – get more GOP lawmakers in the 2018 mid-term elections.
“Elect more Republicans in November and we will pass the finest, fairest and most comprehensive Immigration Bills anywhere in the world,” Mr. Trump pledged, as he blamed Democrats and the Senate rules, which would force him to get 60 votes to do what he wants on immigration.
Mr. Trump’s suggestion came as GOP leaders were still looking for a magic legislative formula on immigration reform, as the issue has divided Republicans in both the House and Senate.
The suggestion by the President that immigration efforts are a waste of time came as Republicans were trying to fine tune a second immigration bill in the House, with hopes of approving that next week, before lawmakers go home for a July Fourth break.
Many GOP lawmakers had been hoping that the President instead would come out very publicly in favor of those efforts, and help convince some reluctant House Republicans to get on board, and vote for the plan, despite misgivings about certain provisions.