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Trump: GOP should give up on immigration until after 2018 elections

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.

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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.

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Digging into the release of the Carter Page FISA application

Published: Sunday, July 22, 2018 @ 5:10 PM

President Donald Trump on Sunday accused the FBI and Justice Department of misleading a special intelligence court, as both parties wrestled over the details of surveillance requests made in 2016 and 2017 on a one-time Trump Campaign aide, Carter Page, in which the FBI made the case that “Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian Government.”

“Witch Hunt Rigged, a Scam!” the President tweeted from his New Jersey golf club, as he again denounced the investigation into Russian interference of the 2016 elections, and any possible ties to the Trump Campaign.

What exactly do the details show? Let’s take an extended look.

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1. First, this is a historic move by the FBI. This was the first time that the FBI had ever released details about a surveillance warrant requests under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which are made to a special, secret intelligence court. The release was spearheaded by a lawsuit filed in part by Brad Heath, an investigative reporter with USA Today. As one might expect, much of the document is redacted because of intelligence and investigative reasons, keeping many people guessing about what was actually in the 412 pages released to the public, which you can read for yourself.

2. FBI request came after Page left Trump Campaign. After stories had surfaced in September of 2016 raising questions about Carter Page’s ties to certain Russian interests, Page had left his role as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump Campaign. The FBI did not ask for a surveillance warrant until October of 2016, after Page was already out of his role. That undermines the President’s complaint on Sunday which he aired on Twitter: “Looking more & more like the Trump Campaign for President was illegally being spied upon (surveillance) for the political gain of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC,” the President wrote. But the facts when it comes to the timing of the case don’t bear that out.

3. What did the FBI base its request on? Here we start getting into the meat of the political debate on the Page FISA warrant. The FBI was pretty blunt about what it believed was happening when it came to Russian interference in the 2016 elections: “the FBI believes that the Russian Government’s efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with Candidate #1’s campaign,” the FBI wrote in the original surveillance warrant request. One redacted section sets out “Clandestine Intelligence Activities of the Russian Federation,” before even getting to details about Page. “The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian Government,” the FISA request states. One name that makes an appearance early on in the FBI request is that of George Papadopoulos, who has already plead guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russians.

4. Zeroing in on the Page FISA request. The FBI sets out that “Page has established relationships with Russian Government officials, including Russian intelligence officers” – and then a redacted session of evidence. The document recounts how two Russian intelligence agents tried to recruit Page in 2015 during meetings in New York. Finally after 15 pages, the FBI gets to a ‘confidential human source (Source #1) – that would be Michael Steele, who authored what’s become known as the Steele Dossier, assembled by the company Fusion GPS, and paid for by interests supporting Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

5. The FBI addresses the Steele Dossier. Here is where the two parties will go different ways on what was included in the FBI surveillance request on Carter Page, as it pertains to Steele. In the GOP memo released earlier this year by House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Republicans accused the FBI of not giving the FISC court any information about who was bankrolling the information from Steele – but the document clearly says that a “U.S.-based law firm had hired the identified U.S. person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s ties to Russia,” and the FBI makes clear what they thought it was for: “The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.” Even with that knowledge, “the FBI believes Source #1’s reporting herein to be credible.”

6. The FBI document undermines Nunes on one point. In the GOP memo released back in February about this FISA request, Republicans state clearly that the “Carter Page FISA application also cited extensively a September 23, 2016 Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff,” making it seem like the FBI was relying on information in that article to support the FBI request for surveillance of Page. Except when you read the actual FISA document, that article is noted under a section headlined, “Page’s Denial of Cooperation with the Russian Government,” as the FBI even includes information from a letter that Page wrote to the FBI Director denying any wrongdoing. The GOP memo is first in the below graphic, followed by the FISA warrant request.

8. The FBI’s bottom line in October 2016. The FBI wraps up its request with a succinct accusation – “the FBI believes that Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian Government.”

9. This is really four surveillance applications. While the document begins with the FBI’s initial request for 90 days of surveillance on Carter Page from October of 2016, the 412 pages also include a renewal request from January of 2017, another renewal in April 2017, and a final renewal of the FISA warrant on Page in June of 2017. Each time, the information supporting the request for surveillance increased in length, suggesting that the FBI was including actual intelligence information gleaned from the investigation of Page, and why it supported further monitoring by U.S law enforcement. We don’t get to read any of that, because in those sections, it is page after page of blacked-out materials, making it difficult for us to evaluate what was presented by the FBI, and how the rulings were made by the intelligence court.

10. The four judges involved were appointed by Republicans. For the first time, we learned the identities of the judges on the special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court who dealt with the four requests for surveillance on Carter Page – and it turns out that all four were put on the federal bench by Republican Presidents – Reagan, the first President Bush, and President George W. Bush. In a tweet, the President quoted Andrew McCarthy, a legal analyst who often appears on Fox News: “This is so bad that they should be looking at the judges who signed off on this stuff, not just the people who gave it.”

 

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FBI releases declassified Carter Page FISA application

Published: Saturday, July 21, 2018 @ 7:04 PM

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Saturday released a highly redacted copy of the application made by the bureau to a special intelligence court, asking to establish surveillance in the fall of 2016 on Carter Page, a one-time foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign, showing officials feared that Page was working with Russia to undermine the Presidential election.

“The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian Government,” the document states – interrupted by redactions – but then continues, “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election in violation of criminal law.”

The FBI released an unclassified version of the FISA application document after requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

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At one point, the 412 page document states that “the FBI believes that the Russian Government’s efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with Candidate #1’s campaign.”

“Page has established relationships with Russian Government officials, including Russian intelligence officers,” the documents states, before additional evidence was redacted, in order to protect intelligence sources and classified information.

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White House figures show Trump on pace to equal Obama deficits

Published: Saturday, July 21, 2018 @ 4:18 AM

Despite clear signs of expanded economic growth, the latest White House budget estimates predict that President Donald Trump is on the verge of overseeing an expansion of federal deficits which will rival that of President Barack Obama’s two terms in office, as the Trump Administration now forecasts a deficit next year that will be over $1 trillion, with no signs of a balanced budget on the horizon.

The latest figures issued by the Office of Management and Budget now predict a deficit this year of $890 billion – and deficits of over $1 trillion per year in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

When you take the $665 billion deficit from Fiscal Year 2017 – Mr. Trump’s first year in office – and then add the projected deficits from the White House budget office for seven more years – you get $7.3 trillion in debt for what would equal two terms of a Trump Administration.

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That would be almost identical to the $7.28 trillion in deficits run up under the eight years of the Obama Administration.

The deficit for 2018 is already running at $607 billion, not far from the 2017 total of $665 billion; one reason for the increase this year is fairly straightforward according to figures from the Treasury Department – revenues coming in to Uncle Sam are down since the implementation of the tax cut plan earlier this year, and overall government spending is up.

The update in budget deficit estimates earlier this month by the White House drew almost no attention on Capitol Hill, where GOP demands for budget restraint have for the most part, gone silent.

The last time the budget was close to being balanced was 2007, when the deficit dropped to $161 billion. But in 2008, the Wall Street Collapse led to an extended recession, as deficits jumped to $458 billion in 2008, and $1.41 trillion in 2009.

A few weeks ago, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow boldly pronounced in a television interview that the federal deficit was coming down, because of a jump in revenues spurred by economic growth under the Trump tax cuts.

But figures clearly show, that just is not the case, as the budget estimates for the White House show flat revenues in 2018, when compared to a year earlier.

“The White House is living in an alternate economic universe,” says Maya MacGuiness, the head of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

But few in Washington seem to be listening to warnings from budget watchdog groups like the CFRB, as the deficit just keeps going up, generating little consternation among GOP lawmakers in Congress who once badgered the Obama Administration about its deficit spending.

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Cohen’s lawyer confirms existence of Trump tape

Published: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 6:28 PM

A lawyer for Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney for President Donald Trump, confirmed late Friday that Cohen does have a recording of a phone call with Mr. Trump from 2016, disputing assertions by the President’s current lawyer that it would be ‘exculpatory’ evidence which would help the President.

In a post on Twitter, Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis wrote, “suffice it to say that when the recording is heard, it will not hurt” Cohen.

“Any attempt at spin can not change what is on the tape,” Cohen added, in what was interpreted by some as a jab at Mr. Trump’s lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who downplayed the tape to news organizations on Friday.

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The recording of the President – if done by Cohen in New York – would be legal, as the Empire State has laws which only require one party on a phone call to consent to any recording.

The White House made no statement about the tape. The President ignored questions shouted at him about the subject, as he left the White House for a weekend at his golf club in New Jersey.

The tape was part of extensive evidence seized by the FBI during an April 9 raid on Cohen, which sparked outrage from the President – “Attorney-client privilege is dead!” Mr. Trump tweeted a day after the raid.

The raid was an effort by prosecutors in New York to find out more about work that Cohen had done for the President on payments to women such as porn star Stormy Daniels, and model Karen McDougal. Both women have claimed they had relationships with the President, and were paid money to keep quiet.

Prosecutors have indicated that they are probing questions about how the payments were made before the 2016 elections – and whether any of the transactions could run afoul of federal campaign finance laws.

In recent weeks, Cohen has cut his legal cooperation with the President, making it clear in statements and interviews that his loyalty was to his family, and not Mr. Trump.

“I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy,” Cohen told ABC News earlier this month.

It wasn’t immediately clear if this tape recording of a Cohen-Trump phone call was among the items which had been reviewed by a former federal judge, as to whether or not attorney-client privilege would prevent its release to prosecutors.

Acting as special master in the Cohen case, Barbara Jones has already released over 2 million items seized by the FBI to prosecutors.

On Friday, she told a federal judge in court documents that of 4,085 items designated as privileged – either by Cohen or by the President’s lawyers – 1,452 of those did not deserve that designation, and were given to the feds for further review.

No charges have yet been filed against Cohen, as he now is being represented by Davis, well known for his unyielding defense of President Bill Clinton during the Whitewater investigation.

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