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US Monthly Headline News February 2020 Page 2

By John Bowden

Instances of white nationalist literature or other propaganda found on college campuses nearly doubled last year, according to a new study. Data released to The Hill by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) indicated that white nationalist recruitment on U.S. college campuses is rising, with a total of 433 schools in 43 states and Washington, D.C. reporting incidents in 2019. The report found a total of 630 instances of white nationalist propaganda distribution efforts across the reporting schools, an increase of 96 percent from 320 reported in 2018. The sharpest increase came during the fall semester last year, according to the ADL, which noted a 159 percent increase in incidents reported over the spring semester. Just three groups – the Patriot Front, American Identity Movement and the New Jersey European Heritage Association – are thought to be responsible for around 90 percent of the literature distributed, the ADL noted. The surge comes as the number of visible public events hosted by white nationalist groups on college campuses dropped between 2018 and 2019, from 95 to 76. “White supremacists see propaganda distribution – including fliering, leafleting and stickering – as a convenient and practically anonymous way to promote their messages of hate and intolerance,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.

By Reid Wilson

State attorneys general have filed an unprecedented number of lawsuits against the Trump administration, as Democratic-led states exercise new levers of power to block some of President Trump’s most controversial initiatives. States have formed coalitions to file 103 multi-state suits against the administration in its first three years, according to data compiled by Paul Nolette, a political scientist at Marquette University. The vast majority of those suits, 96, have been led by Democratic attorneys general. By contrast, states filed 78 multi-state suits in the eight years of President Obama’s administration, and 76 multi-state suits during President George W. Bush’s eight years in office. Democratic attorneys general sued Trump 40 times in his first year in office alone, more lawsuits than have ever been filed against an administration in a single year. “Every time this guy breaks the law, we take him to court,” said Xavier Becerra (D), California’s attorney general who has led 31 suits and been party to 25 others. Joining with other states to file suit “adds strength, it certainly adds value, and it shows unity. It demonstrates that the unlawful action that the Trump administration is looking to take impacts more than just one state.” The attorneys general have sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) more than any other agency in government. All told, the EPA has faced 31 lawsuits over proposals to roll back Obama-era environmental laws or to implement new rules. States have sued the Department of Health and Human Services and the Interior Department about a dozen times each.

By Jordain Carney

Senate Republicans blocked an effort by Democrats to unanimously pass three election security-related bills Tuesday, marking the latest attempt to clear legislation ahead of the November elections Democrats tried to get consent to pass two bills that require campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission (FEC) about foreign offers of assistance, as well as legislation to provide more election funding and ban voting machines from being connected to the internet. But Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) opposed each of the requests. Under the Senate's rules, any one senator can ask for unanimous consent to pass a bill, but any one senator can object and block their requests. Blackburn accused Democrats of trying to move the bills knowing that GOP lawmakers would block them and giving them fodder for fundraising efforts. “They are attempting to bypass this body’s Rules Committee on behalf of various bills that will seize control over elections from the states and take it from the states and where do they want to put it? They want it to rest in the hands of Washington, D.C., bureaucrats,” she said. Election security has become a point of contention during the Trump era. House Democrats have passed several election-related bills, including a sweeping ethics and election reform measure, but they've hit a wall in the GOP-controlled Senate.

By Sonam Sheth

Since he was acquitted last week following an impeachment trial, President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr have carried out a series of targeted firings and legal interventions that have the DOJ in turmoil. "Can't recall a worse day for DOJ and line prosecutors," a former prosecutor told Insider. "A robbery in broad daylight in the middle of Chicago is more subtle than Barr's obsession to shield Trump and his co-conspirators." "I am aware of no precedent remotely like it in the history of the DOJ," another longtime former prosecutor told Insider. "It seems to me to be a classic hallmark of a dictatorial [or] fascist government." One former senior DOJ official who worked with the special counsel Robert Mueller when he was FBI director told Insider the last few days have been "a devastating breakdown" in the checks and balances on Trump's power. As California Rep. Adam Schiff wrapped up his closing arguments in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial last week, he warned Senate Republicans that if they didn't vote to remove the president from office for abusing his power, he would "do it again." "He has not changed. He will not change," Schiff said. "A man without character or ethical compass will never find his way. He has done it before and he will do it again." In the end, the Senate acquitted Trump in a nearly party-line vote, with key swing-vote Republican senators like Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander voting to acquit while expressing hope that the president had learned his lesson from the bitter trial.

Here's what's happened since:

Last Friday, Trump fired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who testified against him in the House of Representatives' impeachment hearings. Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., indicated that Sondland and Vindman were fired in direct retaliation for their impeachment testimony.

On Monday, Attorney General William Barr acknowledged that he had set up an "intake process" for the Justice Department to vet material that Rudy Giuliani, who is Trump's personal lawyer, collects from Ukrainian sources about former Vice President Joe Biden.

On Tuesday, Barr and his top aides publicly overruled the career prosecutors working on the government's case against the longtime GOP strategist Roger Stone and called for a lesser sentence than the one prosecutors had recommended. Barr's intervention led to the withdrawal or resignations of all four prosecutors working Stone's case.

CBS Evening News

A father who moved into his daughter's college dorm is facing federal charges of extortion and sex trafficking. Officials said the case involves his daughter's classmates. Errol Barnett reports.

By James Walker

A senior adviser to Mike Bloomberg hit out at Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday, listing examples of his father's "racism and bigotry" after the president's eldest son shared a clip of the former New York City mayor defending his controversial "stop and frisk" policing strategy. In a thread posted on Twitter yesterday afternoon, Tim O'Brien described President Donald Trump as a "flagrantly hateful racist" and said his boss Bloomberg was not "in the same category" as the commander-in-chief. He went on to list examples of Trump being "racist" to people of color on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in the world, both before and during his presidency. The senior adviser's criticism of the president came shortly after a 2015 clip of Bloomberg defending stop and frisk and putting "all the cops" in minority neighborhoods surfaced on social media, causing the hashtag #BloombergIsRacist to trend. A copy of the Democratic presidential candidate's Aspen Institute speech shared by podcaster Benjamin Dixon has picked up more than seven million views so far. In the clip of his speech, Bloomberg is heard saying: "Ninty-five percent of your murders and murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take the description, Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities, 15 to 25." He also said: "One of the unintended consequences is people say, 'Oh my god, you are arresting kids for marijuana, they're all minorities.' Yes, that's true, why? Because we put all the cops in the minority neighborhoods. Yes, that's true. "Why did we do it? Because that's where all the crime is. And the first thing you can do for people is to stop them getting killed." After the audio resurfaced, the president's eldest son tweeted a clip of the talk with the hashtag #BloombergIsARacist. Responding to the post, O'Brien tweeted: "Your father is the most overt and flagrantly hateful racist and bigot of the modern presidency and nothing—absolutely nothing—in Mike Bloomberg's background puts him in the same category as your dad." He went on to list several allegations and examples of President Trump's past racism including his support of the birtherism conspiracy theory that wrongly suggested former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) By bulldozing into Roger Stone's sentencing, Donald Trump sparked a mutiny by four career prosecutors, raised fears about the impartial administration of justice and showed how his impeachment acquittal unchained an already rampant presidency. The Justice Department's decision to water down a recommendation by its own prosecutors for Stone to serve up to nine years in prison that outraged the President sent shockwaves through Washington. It also appears to reflect Trump's redoubled determination to escalate pressure on core institutions of the US government to pursue his personal and political priorities. Wednesday morning, he brazenly offered congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for "taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought," even though multiple courts have upheld former special counsel Robert Mueller's appointment, his authority, and the decisions he made. The sudden storm over Stone, triggered by an early-hours tweet by the President, is part of an accelerating pattern of unmoderated behavior since Trump was found not guilty of impeachable offenses a week ago by Republican senators -- some of whom expressed the hope that the scar of impeachment would temper his wildest impulses. Instead, the President appears to have drawn a lesson about impunity from his experience and seems committed to accelerating his bid to subvert constitutional and political norms. This may augur a period of expansive power plays by the President -- as he runs for reelection and that could become even more intense if he wins a second term. In another sign of his defiance, Trump last week fired officials, including White House Ukraine specialist Lt. Col Alexander Vindman, who were subpoenaed to testify in the impeachment inquiry in a manner that might have been interpreted as witness intimidation in a regular context and is likely to chill future accountability. On Tuesday, he said that he would "certainly" expect the military to look at disciplining Vindman, who testified that he was troubled by the President's call with Ukraine's President in July. Trump has also launched searing personal attacks on senators who voted to convict him, and questioned the faith of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who led the impeachment process there. Stone was convicted by a jury of lying to Congress and witness tampering. The Justice Department reversal that triggered the remarkable resignations of four top prosecutors in the case could fuel an impression that cronies of the President can commit crimes and get special treatment. It also poses the question of whether political appointees are undercutting the work of career prosecutors in a way that could prejudice the rule of law. "This is completely stunning. I have seen thousands of cases in my career as a federal and state prosecutor. I have never seen anything like this," CNN legal analyst Elie Honig told Jake Tapper. "It stinks to high hell. There are all sorts of problems here. This is not normal."

By Bobby Allyn

Michael Bloomberg is distancing himself from a 2015 speech in which the former New York City mayor defended aggressive police tactics in minority neighborhoods. Audio of the talk began recirculating online, generating fresh debate over stop and frisk, one of Bloomberg's signature policies as mayor, forcing him to back away from the remarks. Bloomberg, in a statement, noted how he had apologized for championing stop and frisk before kicking off his presidential bid. "I should've done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized — and I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on Black and Latino communities," Bloomberg said in the statement. "This issue and my comments about it do not reflect my commitment to criminal justice reform and racial equity." Bloomberg made the remarks at the Aspen Institute on Feb. 5, 2015. In the audio, he can be heard saying: "95% of your murders and murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take the description and Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities 15 to 25." He continues: "That's true in New York. That's true in virtually every city in America. And that's where the real crime is. You've got to get the guns out of the hands of the people that are getting killed."

By Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Ann E. Marimow and Spencer S. Hsu

All four career prosecutors handling the case against Roger Stone, a confidant of President Trump, asked to withdraw from the legal proceedings Tuesday — and one quit his job entirely — after the Justice Department signaled it planned to reduce their sentencing recommendation for the president’s friend. Jonathan Kravis, one of the prosecutors, wrote in a court filing he had resigned as an assistant U.S. attorney, leaving government altogether. Three others — Aaron S.J. Zelinsky, Adam Jed and Michael Marando — asked a judge’s permission to leave the case. Zelinsky, a former member of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team, also indicated in a filing he was quitting his special assignment to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office, though a spokeswoman said he will remain an assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore.

By Ryan Pickrell

President Donald Trump on Monday doubled down on his assertion that the injuries suffered by US troops during an Iranian missile attack on US forces are "not very serious." Swiftly retaliating for the death of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani at the hands of the US military, Iran fired over a dozen ballistic missiles at US and coalition forces in Iraq in early January. In the immediate aftermath, the president announced that "no Americans were harmed" and moved to deescalate tensions. Since then, the number of US troops diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injuries has steadily risen to 109, the Pentagon said on Monday. Symptoms of a TBI can be slow to manifest and sometimes harder to detect than other injuries. The Department of Defense has offered this as an explanation for initial misreporting on injuries. While roughly 70% of the injured troops have already returned to duty, at least 21 have been transported elsewhere for additional care, suggesting their injuries may be more severe.

By Dan Mangan, Kevin Breuninger

A federal prosecutor in the criminal case against President Donald Trump’s ally Roger Stone dramatically resigned Tuesday shortly after the Department of Justice said it will force prosecutors to cut their recommended prison sentence for Republican political operative. Aaron Zelinsky’s resignation as a special assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., was announced in a footnote of a court filing notifying a judge that Zelinsky was withdrawing from Stone’s case. “This Court is advised that the undersigned attorney has resigned effective immediately after this filing as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia,” the filing said. A spokesman for prosecutors did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the departure of Zelinsky, who earlier worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. On Monday night, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington told the judge in a filing that Stone should get a prison term of seven to nine years when he is sentenced Feb. 20 for crimes related to lying to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election and his efforts to get an associate, comedian Randy Credico, to cover for his lies. Zelinsky was one of four prosecutors who signed that sentencing memorandum.

By Dan Mangan, Kevin Breuninger

The Department of Justice will force federal prosecutors to cut their recommended prison sentence for Republican political operative Roger Stone — a longtime ally of President Donald Trump — from the term of seven to nine years that they first suggested Monday night. Justice Department officials objected to the very stiff recommended prison term for Stone, which was made by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. A new sentencing recommendation is expected to be filed today in U.S. District Court in Washington. Stone, 67, is due to be sentenced there Feb. 20 for crimes related to lying to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election and his efforts to get an associate, comedian Randy Credico, to cover for his lies. Trump early Tuesday morning blasted the original recommended sentence for Stone. Trump called the original sentencing suggestion “disgraceful,” and also tweeted that “this is a horrible and very unfair situation.” It is highly unusual for the DOJ to reverse a sentencing recommendation after it has been made by prosecutors in a U.S. Attorney’s office that has prosecuted a defendant. The Justice Department is headed by Trump’s appointee, William Barr.

By Pierre Meilhan, Brad Parks and Ryan Young, CNN

(CNN) A Cook County, Illinois, grand jury has returned a six-count indictment against actor Jussie Smollett for making false reports, a special prosecutor said Tuesday. Smollett, who is gay and black, said he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack near his Chicago apartment on January 29, 2019. Police say the actor orchestrated the incident and paid two men who were acquaintances from the TV show on which he starred -- brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo -- to stage the incident for publicity. The former "Empire" actor has repeatedly denied making up or orchestrating the attack. Dan K. Webb, the special prosecutor assigned in August to investigate how local prosecutors handled the TV actor's case, said in a statement he "has now completed all of its investigative steps regarding Jussie Smollett, and has made the decision to further prosecute Mr. Smollett." "Based on the recommendation of the OSP (Office of the Special Prosecutor), a Cook County grand jury returned a six-count indictment charging Jussie Smollett with making four separate false reports to Chicago Police Department officers related to his false claims that he was the victim of a hate crime, knowing that he was not the victim of a crime," he said. Smollett was initially charged with 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct, but Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx suddenly dropped all charges in March after a high-profile Chicago Police investigation that lasted several weeks and used dozens of investigators. Prosecutors said Smollett had forfeited $10,000 in bail money and done community service.

A clogged phone line was just one of many problems following the Iowa caucuses in February 2020.
By Dan Evon

Internet trolls attempted to disrupt the Iowa caucuses by flooding the phone lines where caucus managers called in results. The 2020 Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, 2020, didn’t go quite as smoothly as organizers had hoped. Issues with a new app-based reporting system led to delays and confusion about the final results. To make matters worse, organizers had to deal with an influx of prank calls from internet trolls. NBC News reported: The phone number to report Iowa caucus results was posted on a fringe internet message board on Monday night along with encouragement to “clog the lines,” an indication that jammed phone lines that left some caucus managers on hold for hours may have in part been due to prank calls. Shortly after the caucuses ended on Feb. 3, and just as news started to break that there were problems with the final results, messages started to appear on the internet forum 4chan urging people to call the number for Iowa caucuses reporting and clog the lines:

NBC News

The 2017 data breach — one of the biggest in history — compromised the names, birthdays and social security information of nearly 150 million Americans.

By Matt Keeley

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is under fire after a whistleblower complaint revealed that the department had given over $1 million in anti-human trafficking grants to two groups, Hookers for Jesus and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation, rather than highly recommended, established groups. A September 12 internal DOJ memo recommended that the grant money go to the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach and Chicanos Por La Causa of Phoenix, according to an exclusive report by Reuters. The recommendations were based on reviews from outside contractors. Instead, the grant money went to two organizations the contractors gave lower ratings: Hookers for Jesus and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation. The funding decision was made in order to "distribute funding across as many states as possible," according to a September 23 memo obtained by Reuters. Head of the Office of Justice Programs, Katharine Sullivan, approved the decision, telling Reuters, "Our funding decisions are based on a merit-based review system." Hookers for Jesus is a Christian organization founded by former sex worker and sex trafficking victim Annie Lobert in 2007. The organization operates Destiny House, a one-year safehouse program for sex-trafficking victims and women who want to leave sex work, as well as a number of other outreach programs.

Lindsey Graham has promised "investigations" of Trump's enemies for months: Now he'll be forced to deliver them
By Heather Digby Parton

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Fox News' Brian Kilmeade last week "When I go to meet God at the pearly gates, I don't think he's going to ask me, 'Why didn't you convict Trump?'" He may be right about that, but only because he's likely to first be asked to explain what he did afterward. Graham has become Trump's instrument of revenge in the Senate, and he isn't making any bones about it. Appearing on Judge Jeanine Pirro's Fox News show on Saturday night, Graham made it clear that the president's impeachment for coercing a foreign government to smear his opponent isn't the end of that story. Team Trump is just bringing their bag of dirty tricks back home where partisan warriors in the U.S. government can get the job done right. Pirro asked Graham if we could expect the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees to take a look at the whistleblower and the Bidens and get to the bottom of this world-shaking conspiracy. Graham replied:

By Jonathan Chait

Yesterday, Senator Lindsey Graham appeared on Face the Nation and blurted out an apparent confession of what, if true, would be a scandal of Nixonian proportions. Graham reported he had spoken with Attorney General William Barr that morning. “The Department of Justice is receiving information coming out of the Ukraine from Rudy,” he reported, explaining that Barr “told me that they’ve created a process that Rudy could give information and they would see if it’s verified.” Graham explained why, in his opinion, this state of affairs is appropriate: “Rudy Giuliani is a well-known man. He’s a crime fighter. He’s loyal to the president. He’s a good lawyer.” On the contrary, he is describing an arrangement that is not only the appearance of a conflict of interest but a massive abuse on its face. First, Giuliani is not a government official. He is representing Donald Trump as an individual, a fact he has made perfectly clear. He boasted to the New York Times last May that he was seeking to uncover “information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government.” The distinction between “will” and “may” was Rudy’s open acknowledgement that he was looking out for Trump, not the U.S. government, and that the interests of the two might not be the same. He was even more clear in a letter to Ukrainian President Zelensky, which his former partner, Lev Parnas, produced. The letter stated Giuliani was representing Trump “as a private citizen, not as President of the United States”: The second problem here is that Giuliani is not only representing a presidential candidate as his personal client. He is working in close contact with foreign partners who have a combination of personal interests and foreign-policy goals that do not line up with U.S. interests. He has not disclosed who is paying him for his work, but he was paid half a million dollars by Parnas, who was in turn paid by Dymtro Firtash, a Russian oligarch whose work tends to advance Russian foreign-policy interests. This raises the strong possibility that Giuliani is effectively a paid backchannel for Russian propaganda, and he now has a special line into the Department of Justice. Third, Giuliani himself is the reported subject of a criminal investigation. Two of his partners have already been arrested, and the Department of Justice is reportedly pursuing the possibility of charges against Giuliani as well. (He allegedly pursued his own profit-making scheme in Ukraine, and seems to have committed campaign finance violations, by funneling foreign donations to Republican allies.) Normally, people who are being investigated by the DOJ don’t have a special back channel that lets them feed allegations of their own to the attorney general. I am pretty sure that, if the DOJ opened up an investigation of me, and arrested two of my partners as they tried to leave the country with one-way tickets, I couldn’t just open up my own back channel to their boss.

By Amanda Macias, Ylan Mui, Annie Palmer

WASHINGTON — Amazon is seeking to depose President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and former Defense Secretary James Mattis over a $10 billion Pentagon cloud contract awarded to Microsoft. In court documents unsealed and filed Monday, Amazon’s cloud computing arm said it’s looking to depose seven “individuals who were instrumental” in the JEDI source selection and “played pivotal roles” in the ultimate awarding of the contract. Aside from Trump, Mattis and Esper, Amazon Web Services is also seeking to depose the Defense Department’s chief information officer, Dana Deasy, and the source selection authority, which awarded the contract to Microsoft, as well as the chairpersons of the SSA, according to the documents. A spokesperson for AWS told CNBC in a statement: “President Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to use his position as President and Commander in Chief to interfere with government functions – including federal procurements – to advance his personal agenda. The preservation of public confidence in the nation’s procurement process requires discovery and supplementation of the administrative record, particularly in light of President Trump’s order to ‘screw Amazon.’ The question is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of the DoD to pursue his own personal and political ends.”

By Annie Nova

As student debt continues to climb, President Donald Trump on Monday released a budget for 2021 that would slash many of the programs aimed at helping borrowers. Student loan spending would be cut by $170 billion in Trump’s plan, titled “A Budget for America’s Future.” The reductions include “sensible annual and lifetime loan limits” for graduate students and parents and the end to subsidized loans, in which the government covers the interest for borrowers who are still in school or experiencing economic hardship. It would also reduce the number of repayment options for borrowers and nix the popular, if challenged, public service loan forgiveness program. That program, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007, allows not-for-profit and government employees to have their federal student loans canceled after 10 years of on-time payments. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that up to one-quarter of American workers are eligible.

By David Shortell, CNN

Washington (CNN) Attorney General William Barr confirmed Monday that the Justice Department has been receiving information from Rudy Giuliani about his operation in Ukraine, solidifying the channels through which political dirt on the President's rivals has made it into the country's top law enforcement agency. At an unrelated news conference in Washington Monday morning, Barr said that the Justice Department has an "obligation to have an open door to anybody who wishes to provide us information that they think is relevant" but expressed skepticism about the reporting, noting that Ukraine can be a dubious source. As a result, Barr said, the Justice Department has put in place special precautions to ensure that Giuliani's information is "carefully scrutinized." "There are a lot of agendas in the Ukraine, there are a lot of cross currents, and we can't take anything we receive from the Ukraine at face value. For that reason we had established an intake process in the field so that any information coming in about Ukraine could be carefully scrutinized by the Department and its intelligence community partners," Barr said. "That is true for all information that comes to the Department relating to the Ukraine including anything that Mr. Giuliani might provide," he said. The acknowledgment marked the first time that the Justice Department has said it is considering some of the allegations related to the political investigations that initiated the impeachment inquiry, which capped last week in an acquittal of President Donald Trump.

Republicans have given Trump his crown. Sooner or later, they'll regret it — but this crime can't be undone
By Chauncey DeVega

Donald Trump's show-trial impeachment and "acquittal" was much better in the original Russian or German. Last Wednesday of last week all 53 Republicans in the United States Senate voted to acquit Donald Trump on the charge of obstruction of Congress. Despite overwhelming evidence — including Trump and his own minions' public admissions — Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah was the only Republican to partly respect the Constitution and rule of law by voting to impeach Donald Trump for abuse of power. Senate Democrats, on the other hand, voted unanimously to convict Donald Trump on both counts. In short, the Republican Party is more loyal to power than to the Constitution. Republicans all know that Trump was guilty as charged, and chose to acquit him anyway. Writing at Mother Jones, David Corn describes the alternate reality of TrumpWorld and the Republican Party's surrender to seductive lies:

by Paul Bedard

President Trump is making good on his promises to “drain the swamp” and cut Obama-era holdovers from his staffs, especially the critical and recently controversial National Security Council. Officials confirmed that Trump and national security adviser Robert O’Brien have cut 70 positions inherited from former President Barack Obama, who had fattened the staff to 200. Many were loaners from other agencies and have been sent back. Others left government work. The NSC, which is the president’s personal staff, was rocked when a “whistleblower” leveled charges that led to Trump’s impeachment.

   ....was given a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information. In other words, “OUT”.
   — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2020

Last week, one key official who testified against Trump at a House hearing on the Ukraine affair that led to impeachment was sent packing. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was returned to the Pentagon. His twin brother Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman was also given the boot. Trump had expressed displeasure that Alexander Vindman had testified against him when the Ukraine specialist said he did not like the phone conversation between the president and a newly elected president of Ukraine.

Republicans wanted to move on from impeachment. The president won’t let them.
By William Saletan

Republicans had a plan for the 2020 election. The plan was to end President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, sidestep questions about his misconduct, and talk instead about the economy. But on Thursday, Trump shattered that plan. In remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast and the White House, he flaunted his rage and impunity. He’s making 2020 a referendum on exactly what Republicans don’t want to talk about: his unpunished corruption. The last president who was impeached, Bill Clinton, tried to defuse public anger by acknowledging his sins. He called his behavior with Monica Lewinsky “wrong” and “a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.” He expressed “shame,” “regret,” and “remorse.” “I must take complete responsibility for all my actions,” said Clinton. “Accountability demands consequences, and I’m prepared to accept them.” Trump offers no such contrition. At the prayer breakfast, he accused his enemies of impeaching him “for nothing.” Hours later, before an audience of Republican lawmakers in the East Room of the White House, he declared “a day of celebration” over his acquittal. He called his extortion of Ukraine “totally appropriate” and insisted he had done “nothing wrong.” In fact, he claimed he had a “legal obligation” to press Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. “So that’s the story,” Trump concluded. “We’ve been treated very unfairly.”

By Tami Luhby, CNN

(CNN) The Trump administration wants to slash billions of dollars in federal support from Medicaid, food stamps and other safety net programs for the poor, while largely sparing the Medicare program that benefits seniors. The $4.8 trillion federal budget proposal for 2021, which the White House unveiled on Monday, is largely a wish list of President Donald Trump's priorities. But few of these cuts are expected to get past the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. Trump told the nation's governors at a White House event that he would preserve entitlement programs. "We're not touching Medicare. We want to keep Medicare. We're not touching Social Security," he said. "We're not decreasing Medicaid. But we're doing a lot of things that are very good, including waste and fraud." Here's what he is proposing:

Medicare changes
The budget does call for changes to the Medicare program, but they would largely affect doctors and hospitals.
The decrease in federal spending on Medicare would total about $750 billion over 10 years, but that includes shifting two programs out of the budget. After accounting for those changes, the reduction is just over $500 billion, said Marc Goldwein, senior policy director for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a watchdog group. Much of that cut comes from reducing payments to providers, which would not directly affect beneficiaries' costs. The budget notes that it supports legislative efforts to establish an out-of-pocket maximum for seniors in Medicare's Part D drug coverage.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a star witness in the House impeachment inquiry, was removed from his position at the White House on Friday.
By MARIANNE LEVINE

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is asking that every agency inspector general investigate retaliation against whistleblowers who report presidential misconduct, after the firing of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council. Schumer’s letters to 74 inspectors general, which will be sent Monday, comes after Vindman, a star witness in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, was removed from his position at the White House on Friday, along with his twin, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, an ethics lawyer at the NSC. Both brothers are active-duty Army officers and were reassigned to the Pentagon. Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union and another key witness, was also recalled from his post. In a letter to Acting Inspector General Glenn Fine at the Defense Department, Schumer described the NSC firings as “part of a dangerous, growing pattern of retaliation against those who report wrongdoing only to find themselves targeted by the President and subject to his wrath and vindictiveness.”

The senator said he made several phone calls to the White House before Sondland was removed to urge the president to not fire him.
By DANIEL LIPPMAN

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) on Sunday criticized President Trump recalling Gordon Sondland as ambassador to the European Union, saying in an interview that he “would have handled it a different way.” Sondland, a key witness in the House’s impeachment inquiry, was fired on Friday, just days after a narrow Senate majority voted to acquit the president. During his public testimony, Sondland said he believed Trump held up military aid to Ukraine in expectation of political favors. “Gordon was pretty resigned he was going to be leaving the post anyway and I think it would have been nice to give him the ability to exit on his own terms and in his own time in a few weeks,” Johnson told POLITICO. Johnson did note that since Sondland was a political appointee who served at the pleasure of the president, firing him was ultimately Trump’s call. But the ambassador's ouster, which came the same day another impeachment witness, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, was removed from his post at the National Security Council, was widely seen as retaliation against those who provided damning testimony to House lawmakers.

Trump sought in his budget proposal last year to slash foreign aid but faced steep resistance from Congress and did not prevail.
By Reuters

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will propose on Monday a 21 percent cut in foreign aid and slashing social safety net programs in his $4.8 trillion budget proposal for fiscal 2021, according to senior administration officials. The budget will seek an increase in funds to counter developing economic threats from China and Russia, but will also raise funds by targeting $2 trillion in savings from mandatory spending programs in the United States. Trump sought in his budget proposal last year to slash foreign aid but faced steep resistance from Congress and did not prevail. Trump latest blueprint for administration spending proposals is unlikely to be passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, particularly in an election year. The budget will raise military spending by 0.3 percent to $740.5 billion for the fiscal year 2021, starting Oct. 1 and propose higher outlays for defense and veterans, administration officials said. The White House proposes to slash spending by $4.4 trillion over 10 years. That includes $130 billion from changes to Medicare prescription-drug pricing, $292 billion from cuts in safety net programs — such as work requirements for Medicaid and food stamps — and $70 billion from tightening eligibility rules for federal disability benefits. Trump's foreign aid proposal seeks $44.1 billion in the upcoming fiscal year compared with $55.7 billion enacted in fiscal year 2020, an administration official said.

Trump's lawyers also gave thousands to Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and Ted Cruz before the trial began
By Igor Derysh

President Trump's legal team made numerous campaign contributions to Republican senators overseeing the impeachment trial. Former independent counsels Ken Starr and Robert Ray, who both investigated former President Bill Clinton ahead of his impeachment, contributed thousands of dollars to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last year before they joined the president's team, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics (CFPR). Starr, who lamented that "we are living in … the age of impeachment" during the trial on Monday and accused Democrats of waging a "domestic war," gave $2,800 to McConnell in July 2019, according to CFPR. Ray, who wanted to indict Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair but now claims Trump has been vindicated by the transcript of his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, contributed the maximum $5,600 to McConnell in September 2019, according to the report. The contributions came months before McConnell bragged to Fox News host Sean Hannity that he would be in "total coordination with the White House counsel's office and the people who are representing the president in the well of the Senate." "Everything I do during this, I'm coordinating with the White House counsel," he said. "There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this." Starr also contributed $2,700 to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in 2017. Graham has been one of the most ardent Trump defenders in the Senate and previously pushed for Republicans to dismiss the impeachment charges against Trump without a trial. Trump's personal attorney Jay Sekulow has contributed to multiple Republican senators over the last two decades, according to CFPR, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. John Thune of South Dakota. The right-wing Washington Times noted that "no Republican has been more active in defense of President Trump during the impeachment trial than Sen. Ted Cruz." Thune has accused Democrats of presenting an "especially partisan" case and rejected calls for new witnesses, arguing the record is "pretty complete."

By Jeremy Diamond and Kristen Holmes, CNN

Washington (CNN) National security adviser Robert O'Brien is expected to make major cuts to the National Security Council staff as early as next week, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN. Some people with knowledge of the impending change previously said once President Donald Trump's impeachment trial had concluded, O'Brien was expected to oust about a dozen or so officials as part of an effort to streamline the NSC, which critics charge has become too large. O'Brien has largely been downsizing the NSC by attrition and getting staffers detailed to the council from other departments to return earlier than planned to their home agencies, but one of the sources told CNN it looks like the final phase will involve more direct firings and cuts. "So it's bloated. We're going to bring it back to a size that's manageable and efficient. And look, the folks who are there, they really need to want to serve the President," O'Brien told Fox News' Laura Ingraham Tuesday night. "What I said when I came to the NSC is that I would drastically downsize it," he added. O'Brien said the council had "ballooned up" to 236 policy professionals in the Obama administration from about 100 during the Bush administration. "Another week or two, I think we'll have met our goal," he said. The NSC was in the spotlight this week after the firing of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the council's top Ukraine expert, in what appeared to be retribution for his testimony in the House impeachment probe late last year. Vindman, who was not slated to leave the NCS until July, was recalled from his post on Friday and is expected to return to the Defense Department. His lawyer, David Pressman, said in a statement that it's clear Vindman was fired for testifying in the impeachment probe. His twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, a National Security Council attorney, was also fired on Friday, "suddenly and with no explanation, despite over two decades of loyal service to this country," Pressman said.

NBC News interviewed dozens of Utah residents to find out what they thought about their senator bucking the GOP on impeachment.
By Lauren Egan

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — Republican Sen. Mitt Romney's vote to convict President Donald Trump on one count of abuse of power didn't bother Kelsey Malin. "I have kind of come to terms that even though he hasn't voted in a way that people say represents his party, the fact that he voted true to his conscience and over his party is a great thing," Malin, 28, said as she entertained her two children at a local library two days after the impeachment trial concluded last week. Malin was not alone. NBC News spoke with dozens of voters in Utah in the days immediately following the Senate's vote to acquit the president. Most identified themselves as Republicans who had supported Romney in 2018 and said that regardless of their opinion of the president, Romney's decision to go against his party was one that they understood and respected for its honesty. Many said they would not hold it against the first-term senator when he faces re-election in 2024. Malin, who voted for Trump in 2016 and for Romney in 2018 and plans to support both again, said that Romney had been a topic of conversation among her family and friends, but the outrage coming from Washington did not square with the discussions she was having at home. "It's surprising because it seems like the louder voice says he's betrayed the party, he's betrayed the people of Utah," she said. "But the people in my circle don't feel that way." Alan Anderson, 41, a financial planner from Salt Lake City, supported Romney in 2018 and said he will probably vote for him again. "I was fine with Romney — he had his reasons for it," Anderson said of the vote. "Whether you agree or disagree with his reasons, at least he had the courage to say whatever he felt was right."

Several officials at caucuses attended by NBC News reporters struggled with lengthy hold times that made it impossible for them to report results over the phone.
By Ben Collins, Maura Barrett and Vaughn Hillyard

The phone number to report Iowa caucus results was posted on a fringe internet message board on Monday night along with encouragement to “clog the lines,” an indication that jammed phone lines that left some caucus managers on hold for hours may have in part been due to prank calls. An Iowa Democratic Party official said the influx of calls to the reporting hotline included “supporters of President Trump who called to express their displeasure with the Democratic Party.” The party official’s comments were first reported late Wednesday by Bloomberg News. Users on a politics-focused section of the fringe 4chan message board repeatedly posted the phone number for the Iowa Democratic Party, which was found by a simple Google search, both as screenshots and in plain text, alongside instructions. "They have to call in the results now. Very long hold times being reported. Phone line being clogged," one user posted at about 11 p.m. ET on Monday, three hours after the caucuses began. "Uh oh how unfortunate it would be for a bunch of mischief makers to start clogging the lines," responded another anonymous user, sarcastically. Some users chimed in, posting alleged wait times on hold, imploring others to “clog the lines [and] make the call lads.” Rob Sand, state auditor of Iowa, said he took results calls on Monday night as a volunteer and received an influx of calls that appeared to have been generated by a post on the internet. “A lot of calls came in at a certain point where it was clear somebody had published the hotline number somewhere,” Sand said. He cautioned that he could not speak for other people who were taking calls and said he did not get any calls that said they were from Trump supporters. He added that the system prevented people from reporting fake results. He also said he was able to identify fake calls quickly.

By Sarah Westwood and Jason Hoffman, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the firing of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council. The President complained about news coverage of the firing in a tweet, saying reporting was done "as though I should think only how wonderful he was. Actually, I don't know him, never spoke to him, or met him (I don't believe!)." On Friday, Trump fired two key impeachment witnesses, dismissing Vindman, the top Ukraine expert at the council, and US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. An adviser to Trump told CNN the firings of the major impeachment witnesses was meant to send a message that siding against the President will not be tolerated. Trump on Saturday claimed that Vindman "reported contents of my 'perfect' calls incorrectly," which those close to Vindman have disputed. Vindman reported concerns about Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to other officials with the National Security Council. The President also attacked Vindman's work performance, claiming he was given a "horrendous" report by his superior that he had problems with judgment and leaking information. Tim Morrison, Vindman's boss at the time and a former top Russia and Europe adviser on the National Security Council, did question Vindman's judgment during congressional testimony in November. He testified he had been warned about Vindman's judgment when he took over the position and claimed Vindman did not keep him in the loop. Vindman defended himself during his testimony saying he reported his concerns about the July 25 phone call as he was directed to do. Also he brought with him a review from his former boss, then-White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill, who praised his performance, to rebut the issue Morrison raised.

By Alexander Lekhtman

Film and television, for many of us, were the first places we saw cannabis users humanized. In a society where we were raised to “Just Say No,” who can forget the positive impact when we saw the joyous, peaceful festivities depicted in Woodstock? Who didn’t laugh at rather than scorn classic pot-smoking teenage comedies like Dazed and Confused or Superbad? Who didn’t abandon their own ‘Reefer Madness’ stereotypes after getting schooled on medical cannabis by Sanjay Gupta’s Weed? But across the Pacific, one country is working to make sure its citizens see no marijuana in moving pictures. According to a new report released by digital streaming giant Netflix, the company complied with several demands from Singapore’s government that they remove content from their service. That includes three pieces of cannabis-themed programming: Cooking on High, The Legend of 420 and Disjointed. The other two films were Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ and Brazilian comedy The Last Hangover, which also includes overt drug-use and partying themes. Overall, the company disclosed it has received nine take-down requests worldwide since 2015. As first reported on Friday by Axios, Netflix promised that it will continue making these requests public on an annual basis. The content removed only applies to the country that requested the ban, and it can still be accessed in other markets. Singapore is notorious for having some of the harshest drug control laws in the world. Possession of small amounts of drugs is punished severely with up to ten years in prison, a $20,000 fine or both. Trafficking, which differs by quantity based on the substance, is punishable by execution. You can be put to death for having less than a pound of marijuana, for example.

By Chuck Jones

The U.S. Department of Labor released the January jobs report that showed better than expected growth of 225,000 new jobs vs. the consensus of 158,000. However, there were detailed updates with a major revision to 2018’s employment numbers, which substantially decreased job growth under President Trump.

Far from being the “Best economy ever”

Trump continually says that, “the U.S. is experiencing the best economy ever.” This is obvious gaslighting since the new results show that President Trump’s best year of job growth was 2.314 million in 2018 (the first year of the tax cut) but it falls short of any of Obama’s last three years. His boasts also don’t stand up when you peel the onion on GDP growth and realize that the Federal deficits during his Presidency will exceed any that were not impacted by a recession. The previous and updated job growth yearly totals for Obama’s last six years in office after the Great Recession and Trump’s first three years, along with the revisions, are:

2011: 2.075 million fell to 2.074 million, down 1,000 jobs
2012: 2.174 million fell to 2.176 million, up 2,000 jobs
2013: 2.302 million fell to 2.301 million, down 1,000 jobs
2014: 3.006 million fell to 3.004 million, down 2,000 jobs
2015: 2.729 million fell to 2.72 million, down 9,000 jobs
2016: 2.318 million increased to 2.345 million, up 27,000 jobs

2017: 2.153 million fell to 2.109 million, down 44,000 jobs
2018: 2.679 million fell to 2.314 million, down 365,000 jobs (Trump’s best year)
2019: 2.115 million fell to 2.096 million, down 19,000 jobs

While not exceeding Obama’s last three years, Trump’s 2.314 million in 2018 barely beat Obama’s 2.301 in 2014.

By Anita Chabria, Leila Miller, Nicole Santa Cruz

Brian Allen wasn’t surprised when he recently heard officers in the Los Angeles Police Department may have fabricated evidence to label people as gang members. He believes it happened to him, landing him on CalGang, the state’s secretive database of criminal street syndicates and their suspected crews that is in the middle of a contentious reform process. In June, after a two-year fight that ended in front of a Superior Court judge, the Los Angeles city attorney agreed to take Allen off the gang list — acknowledging in court documents that he’d been added based on nothing more than a single interview by officers who had conducted a traffic stop on Allen in 2017 as he drove home through South L.A., information Allen said was “no evidence, all speculation.” While Allen was on CalGang, he worried often about the consequences, that if “I didn’t blink my blinker or I didn’t stop at a stop sign, just something small could turn into something big,” he said. “For the couple years I was on there, I felt probably like 90% of other black American kids in the ’hood, like [police] didn’t care. Like it was a setup,” Allen said recently. The state Department of Justice has been working to fix CalGang for two years to prevent cases like those of Allen and other questionable gang identifications recently uncovered in the LAPD. But some are worried that the overdue overhaul is in jeopardy, as state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra signaled last month that he may backtrack on expected changes. Doing so, critics say, would leave too much latitude in the hands of local law enforcement when it comes to deciding who is in a gang.

By Sarah Gray

Former National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was fired from the White House on Friday — two days after President Donald Trump's acquittal in his bitter impeachment trial. Vindman was a central witness, testifying publicly on November 19 before the House Intelligence Committee that Trump's behavior towards the president of Ukraine had troubled him deeply. As the top Ukraine expert at the NSC, Vindman listened in on the now-infamous July 25 call between Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, where Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate his political rivals, the Biden family. Vindman told Congress he was "concerned," and found the call "inappropriate" given its partisan political character, and the conspiracy theory which underpinned it. During his opening statement, Vindman drew a contrast between how somebody in his position might be treated in Russia, and how he believed he would be treated in the US. He moved to address his father, who left the Soviet Union with Vindman, then aged three, for a new life in America: "In Russia, my act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions and offering public testimony involving the President would surely cost me my life.

By Sonam Sheth

The rumblings of payback began almost as soon as the Senate acquitted President Donald Trump on Wednesday of the two charges against him following a bitter impeachment trial. The next morning, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham gave the public a preview of the plan of action Trump would outline in a speech Thursday afternoon addressing his acquittal. "He is going to be honest, going to speak with honesty and I think with a little bit of humility that he and the family went through a lot," Grisham told Fox News. "But I think he's also going to talk about just how horribly he was treated and, you know, that maybe people should pay for that." The first person to pay the price was Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. Vindman, a decorated war veteran and Purple Heart recipient, was abruptly fired and escorted out of the White House on Friday along with his twin brother, Yevgeny, who also served on the NSC. Vindman was given no explanation for his dismissal, but his attorney made it clear in a statement to Insider that the army colonel was forced out as retaliation for testifying against Trump in the impeachment hearings after receiving a congressional subpoena.

By Kaitlan Collins, Kristen Holmes, Katelyn Polantz, Gloria Borger, Kevin Liptak and Jim Acosta, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump fired two key impeachment witnesses Friday, dismissing Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, the top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council, and US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. An adviser to Trump said the firings of the major impeachment witnesses was meant to send a message that siding against the President will not be tolerated. "Flushing out the pipes," the adviser told CNN. "It was necessary." Vindman was pushed out of his role Friday months earlier than expected, according to a statement from his attorney. Vindman was not slated to leave until July, but had been telling colleagues in recent weeks he would likely leave soon. Sondland said in a statement Friday that he is being recalled from his post. "I was advised today that the President intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union," Sondland said. "I am grateful to President Trump for having given me the opportunity to serve, to Secretary Pompeo for his consistent support, and to the exceptional and dedicated professionals at the U.S. Mission to the European Union. I am proud of our accomplishments. Our work here has been the highlight of my career." The dismissals appear to be retribution for Vindman and Sondland's explosive testimonies to the House impeachment probe late last year. Trump had continued to fume privately about Vindman's testimony during the impeachment inquiry and foreshadowed his dismissal earlier Friday. "Well, I'm not happy with him," Trump said. "You think I'm supposed to be happy with him? I'm not." And Sondland's ties to the White House and Trump had deteriorated since his testimony. A person familiar with the situation says Sondland's ties to the White House and Trump had frayed badly since he testified last year. He once had Trump effectively on speed-dial, or the presidential equivalent of it, but since his appearance he hasn't spoken with Trump. He was also pulled from overseeing the Ukraine portfolio, which wasn't directly related to his position as EU ambassador.

Vindman dismissed early
Vindman, a decorated veteran who was born in Ukraine, was escorted out of the White House by security and told his services were no longer needed, according to his lawyer, David Pressman. Pressman said in a statement that it is clear he was fired for testifying in the impeachment probe. "There is no question in the mind of any American why this man's job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House," Pressman said. "LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful." He added, "Truth is not partisan. If we allow truthful voices to be silenced, if we ignore their warnings, eventually there will be no one left to warn us."

By David A. Fahrenthold, Jonathan O'Connell, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey

President Trump’s company charges the Secret Service for the rooms agents use while protecting him at his luxury properties — billing U.S. taxpayers at rates as high as $650 per night, according to federal records and people who have seen receipts. Those charges, compiled here for the first time, show that Trump has an unprecedented — and largely hidden — business relationship with his own government. When Trump visits his clubs in Palm Beach, Fla., and Bedminster, N.J., the service needs space to post guards and store equipment. Trump’s company says it charges only minimal fees. But Secret Service records do not show that. At Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the Secret Service was charged the $650 rate dozens of times in 2017, and a different rate, $396.15, dozens more times in 2018, according to documents from Trump’s visits. And at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, the Secret Service was charged $17,000 a month to use a three-bedroom cottage on the property, an unusually high rent for homes in that area, according to receipts from 2017. Trump’s company billed the government even for days when Trump wasn’t there.

By Jennifer Jacobs and Nick Wadhams

Alexander Vindman, who testified in Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry, was escorted out of the White House on Friday, two days after the president’s acquittal in his Senate trial. “Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth,” said his lawyer, David Pressman. “His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.” The ouster of Vindman, who worked on the National Security Council, came after the Senate acquitted Trump of two articles of impeachment in a near party-line vote. The White House was preparing to portray the move as part of a broader downsizing of the NSC staff, not retaliation, according to the people. NSC spokesman John Ullyot said he couldn’t comment on personnel matters. Asked Friday whether he wanted Vindman to leave, Trump said: “Well, I’m not happy with him.”

Brother Dismissed

Vindman’s twin brother, Yevgeny, was also dismissed from his post as an ethics lawyer for the NSC, according to people familiar with the matter. Alexander Vindman was one of the Democrats’ most crucial witnesses in their impeachment proceedings -- a decorated Army lieutenant colonel, who raised the alarm over the president’s July 25 telephone call with Ukraine’s leader. Before Vindman’s testimony, the only account of that call came from an anonymous whistle-blower whose identity has remained largely hidden to this day, and a partial transcript released by the White House.

By Kaitlan Collins, CNN

Washington (CNN)Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, the top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council, was pushed out of his role Friday months earlier than expected, according to a statement from his attorney. Vindman was not slated to leave until July, but had been telling colleagues in recent weeks he would likely leave soon. Vindman, a decorated veteran who was born in Ukraine, was escorted out of the White House by security and told his services were no longer needed, according to Vindman's lawyer, David Pressman. His twin brother Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, a National Security Council attorney, was also fired and walked off the White House grounds alongside him. National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot said: "We do not comment on personnel matters." President Donald Trump has continued to fume privately about Vindman's testimony during the impeachment inquiry, and some Democrats say the move is clearly retribution for it. Trump foreshadowed Vindman's dismissal earlier Friday. "Well, I'm not happy with him," Trump said. "You think I'm supposed to be happy with him? I'm not." Vindman is expected to return to the Pentagon, though it's still unclear what his assignment will be until he's expected to attend war college this summer. "We welcome back all of our service members, wherever they serve, to any assignment they are given," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Friday when asked about Vindman's expected ouster. Vindman told lawmakers during his November congressional testimony that he reported concerns about Trump's July 25 call with the leader of Ukraine to the top National Security Council lawyer within hours of the call, and said some of the changes he tried to make to the since-published transcript were left out, though he didn't say why. Vindman also told lawmakers that later, he was told not to discuss the call with anyone else.

MYSTERY MAN
Andrew Peek’s colleagues raised concerns about him before he left to join the White House’s staff, two officials familiar with the probe tell The Daily Beast.
By Erin Banco National Security Reporter, Spencer Ackerman Senior Nat’l Security Correspondent

Multiple officials in the State Department and the White House are cooperating in a security-related investigation into Andrew Peek, the former senior director for Russia and Europe at the National Security Council, The Daily Beast has learned. Peek was escorted off the grounds of the White House on Jan. 17 and placed on administrative leave pending investigation, the details of which have been closely held. Axios previously reported that Peek was expected to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos prior to his exit. He had barely been on the Russia job for two months. Since then, rumors have swirled within the ranks of the White House, State Department, and on social media about the reason for Peek’s sudden exit. The Trump administration has said nothing to explain Peek’s departure. But two officials familiar with the probe tell The Daily Beast that the investigation has been ongoing for several months and that Peek’s State Department colleagues raised concerns about him before he left to join the White House’s staff. However, one official who spoke to The Daily Beast also said Peek had close, collegial working relationships with several individuals at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs during his time at State. Peek has also retained counsel, those officials said.

Several officials at caucuses attended by NBC News reporters struggled with lengthy hold times that made it impossible for them to report results over the phone.
By Ben Collins, Maura Barrett and Vaughn Hillyard

The phone number to report Iowa caucus results was posted on a fringe internet message board on Monday night along with encouragement to “clog the lines,” an indication that jammed phone lines that left some caucus managers on hold for hours may have in part been due to prank calls. An Iowa Democratic Party official said the influx of calls to the reporting hotline included “supporters of President Trump who called to express their displeasure with the Democratic Party.” The party official’s comments were first reported late Wednesday by Bloomberg News. Users on a politics-focused section of the fringe 4chan message board repeatedly posted the phone number for the Iowa Democratic Party, which was found by a simple Google search, both as screenshots and in plain text, alongside instructions. "They have to call in the results now. Very long hold times being reported. Phone line being clogged," one user posted at about 11 p.m. ET on Monday, three hours after the caucuses began. "Uh oh how unfortunate it would be for a bunch of mischief makers to start clogging the lines," responded another anonymous user, sarcastically.

By Josh Dawsey, Robert Costa and Greg Miller

President Trump is preparing to push out a national security official who testified against him during the impeachment inquiry after he expressed deep anger on Thursday over the attempt to remove him from office because of his actions toward Ukraine. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman — a National Security Council aide who testified during House Democrats’ impeachment hearings — will be informed in the coming days, likely on Friday, by administration officials that he is being reassigned to a position at the Defense Department, taking a key figure from the investigation out of the White House, according to two people familiar with the move who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel decisions. Vindman had already informed senior officials at the NSC that he intended to take an early exit from his assignment and leave his post by the end of the month, according to people familiar with his decision, but Trump is eager to make a symbol of the Army officer soon after the Senate acquitted him of the impeachment charges approved by House Democrats. Trump made clear on Thursday that he is ready to make his impeachment a key part of his reelection strategy and highlight his anger at Democratic leaders who led the charge to remove him from office, as well as Republicans who did not embrace the defense of his actions even though he was acquitted by the Senate on Wednesday.

By Jordain Carney

A pledge to investigate the Bidens and Ukraine once the impeachment trial wraps is sparking divisions among Senate Republicans. President Trump and top allies have homed in on former Vice President Joe Biden’s push to oust a top Ukrainian prosecutor and Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas company, as they’ve sought to counterprogram on the sidelines of the months-long impeachment drama. Now, with the trial in the rearview mirror, that chatter is set to move to center stage as Republicans strategize over their next steps. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a vocal ally of Trump’s, is pledging “oversight.” Other GOP senators are warning that it’s time for the Senate to move on after a weeks-long divisive fight that left scars on the chamber’s normally clubby atmosphere. “I know there’s been some discussion about the Judiciary Committee taking a look at that. I think what I would like to see happen around here is a return to normalcy,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, in response to a question from The Hill about talk within the caucus about investigating the Bidens.

By Jennifer Jacobs and Nick Wadhams

The White House is weighing a plan to dismiss Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council after he testified in President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry, preparing to position the move as part of a broader effort to shrink the foreign policy bureaucracy, two people familiar with the matter said. Any moves would come after the Senate on Wednesday acquitted Trump on a near party-line vote at the conclusion of the two-week impeachment trial. The White House intends to portray any house-cleaning as part of a downsizing of the NSC staff, not retaliation, according to the people. File: U.S. President Donald Trump's Third Year In The Oval Office Vindman was one of the Democrats’ most crucial witness in their impeachment proceedings -- a decorated Army lieutenant colonel, who raised the alarm over the president’s July 25 telephone call with Ukraine’s leader. Before Vindman’s testimony, the only account of that call came from an anonymous whistle-blower whose identity has remained largely hidden to this day, and a partial transcript released by the White House.

MORE TO COME
Members of Trump’s Ukraine team ensnared in the scandal appear to have been the biggest casualties in the Giuliani-led crusade.
By Asawin Suebsaeng White House Reporter, Erin Banco National Security Reporter

President Trump may have been acquitted by the Senate on Wednesday. But some of his allies and most prominent lieutenants are in no mood to let the Ukraine impeachment scandal go. Rudy Giuliani—Trump’s personal attorney whose Biden-related digging and controversial shadow-diplomacy led directly to this president’s impeachment—is very much in the category of Trumpworld’s unrepentant. Giuliani, for one, is planning on “ramping up” his investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden. “It’s a matter of the fair administration of justice for real,” he told The Daily Beast. Giuliani did not go into details regarding what these continued private probes would entail, but the former New York mayor wasn’t alone in his enthusiasm. In Giuliani’s quest to uncover dirt on, or provoke a Ukrainian announcement of an investigation into, the then-frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, he openly collaborated with the fervently pro-Trump cable outlet One America News Network. In recent months, OAN launched a series with Giuliani in an effort to exonerate the president and implicate the Bidens in misconduct and “corruption,” with some accusations being entirely baseless and conspiracy-theory minded. This endeavor—which included a high-profile joint trip to European countries at the height of the impeachment probe, a jaunt that freaked out various senior officials in Trump’s national-security apparatus—did not end up saving the president from being impeached.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) Less than 24 hours after formally being acquitted by the Senate, President Donald Trump riffed for over an hour from inside the White House -- a vengeful, angry, fact-challenged spew of score-settling that even for this most unorthodox of presidents was eye-opening in its tone and jaw-dropping in its boundary busting. "It's a celebration," Trump said of the event, attended by a "who's who" of Republican politics, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, as well as the President's Cabinet and the legal team that defended him in the Senate trial. But it didn't feel like one, as Trump spent the bulk of his stream-of-consciousness "speech" savaging his various enemies, which included, well, almost everyone not in the room. "It was evil, it was corrupt," Trump said of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which concluded that the Russians sought to actively interfere to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. "We caught 'em in the act ... dirty cops, bad people," Trump said of, well, something. "We went through Russia, Russia, Russia ... and it was all bullshit," Trump said. "Little did we know we were running against some bad and evil people," Trump said. "A man who got James Comey to choke -- and he was just talking in his regular voice," Trump said of Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. (Trump went on to call Comey, the former FBI director, a "sleazebag.") "There were some that used religion as a crutch. ... A failed presidential candidate so things can happen when you fail so badly running for president," Trump said of Sen. Mitt Romney, who voted to convict Trump on abuse of power. "A guy who can't stand the fact that he ran one of the worst campaign in the history of the country," Trump added on Romney. "Two low-lifes," Trump said of former FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok. *Adam Schiff is a vicious horrible person," Trump said of the California Democrat. "Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person. ... I doubt she prays at all," Trump said of the Speaker of the House. "They want to destroy our country," Trump said of Democrats. "Top scum," Trump said of the FBI leadership. And on and on and on it went. Trump attacking opponents. Trump belittling members of his own party. Trump outright lying about what he has done (and hasn't) as President.

GEE, YA THINK?
In documents obtained by The Daily Beast, Fox’s research team advises colleagues to be wary of “disinformation” from several Trump-boosting on-air regulars, including Giuliani.
By Will Sommer, Maxwell Tani, Andrew Kirell

Fox News’ own research team has warned colleagues not to trust some of the network’s top commentators’ claims about Ukraine. An internal Fox News research briefing book obtained by The Daily Beast openly questions Fox News contributor John Solomon’s credibility, accusing him of playing an “indispensable role” in a Ukrainian “disinformation campaign.” The document also accuses frequent Fox News guest Rudy Giuliani of amplifying disinformation, as part of an effort to oust former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, and blasts Fox News guests Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova—both ardent Trump boosters—for “spreading disinformation.” The 162-page document, entitled “Ukraine, Disinformation, & the Trump Administration,” was created by Fox News senior political affairs specialist Bryan S. Murphy, who produces research from what is known as the network’s Brain Room—a newsroom division of researchers who provide information, data, and topic guides for the network’s programming. The research brief is especially critical of Solomon, a former opinion columnist at The Hill whose opinion pieces about Ukraine made unsubstantiated claims about its government interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Solomon’s pieces for The Hill fueled Giuliani’s efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine, which eventually helped lead to Trump’s impeachment. Trump has also frequently cited Solomon’s questionable reporting on Twitter in his own defense.

Analysis By Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

Washington (CNN)Sen. Mitt Romney's decision to break party ranks and vote to convict President Donald Trump of abusing his power in relation to his dealing with Ukraine was a deeply personal act. But whether the Utah Republican intended it or not, it was (and is) also a decision with potentially profound consequences for the future of his party. At the moment, that party is, largely, inseparable from Trump. The hostile takeover of the GOP that Trump conducted during the 2016 campaign is now virtually complete, with Republican members of Congress cheering on the President for fear of what it might cost them politically if they don't. There was no better example of that almost-total capitulation to Trump than on Thursday at the White House. The President ranted and raved for more than an hour -- casting doubts on the actual religiosity of Romney (and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi), decrying the top brass at the FBI as "top scum" and repeatedly calling his opponents "evil."

Opinion by Elliot Williams

(CNN) There is no question that Rush Limbaugh is a man of immense talent, wit and on-air charisma. There is also no question that he has devoted much of his career to belching out racist invective and dividing the country. He has a colossal audience and has been instrumental in fueling the vicious toxicity and knee-jerk partisanship that characterizes our moment. And so to some extent, we should be alarmed by President Donald Trump's choice to use this year's State of the Union to award Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Or, at this point, maybe we shouldn't. Established in 1963 by John F. Kennedy, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is widely considered the nation's highest honor bestowed on civilians. Certainly, all presidents send political messages through their choice of who gets an award. For instance, it can be no accident that George H.W. Bush chose to give an award in 1989 to George F. Kennan -- one of the early architects of the policy of containing Soviet expansion -- the same year revolution and change began to spread across the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. However, for the most part, the roster of award winners reads as a who's who of figures who embody America's best angels -- those whose contributions to the human experiment were far more moral than anything else. The list includes Nobel laureates like Elie Wiesel and Mother Teresa, and once-in-a generation creative minds like Maya Angelou, Georgia O'Keeffe and Walt Disney. Or civil rights figures like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. Add to that Neil Armstrong, the first human on the moon, and Jonas Salk, who saved entire swaths of the planet from certain paralysis by inventing the polio vaccine.

A memo tied to Bannon revealed the claim that Kushner “attempted to back channel for communications with Russia"
By Igor Derysh

The Department of Justice (DOJ) released a summary of an FBI interview with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner from November 2017, though it redacted nearly the entire memo. The significantly redacted release came after the DOJ refused to comply with a court order to release the memo on Kushner's interview along with dozens of others from the Russia investigation led by former special counsel Robert Mueller. A judge ordered the FBI to turn over the memos to BuzzFeed News and CNN by last month after the outlets filed a Freedom of Information Act request. The DOJ argued that "a member of the intelligence community" must review the memos and add "appropriate reductions." The DOJ finally released the Kushner memo on Monday, but BuzzFeed reporter Jason Leopold quickly found that it was "almost entirely redacted." In fact, only three lines of the document were left intact:

By Jordain Carney

The Treasury Department has handed over documents to a pair of GOP Senate chairmen as part of a months-long probe into Burisma Holdings, Ukraine and Hunter Biden, according to the top Democrat on one of the panels. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) — the chairmen of the Finance and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees, respectively — sent a letter to the Treasury Department in November saying they were investigating "potentially improper actions" during the Obama administration. The Treasury Department is complying with their request, according to a spokeswoman for Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, who noted that Democratic requests for information have been stonewalled. "For its part, the Trump administration refused to comply with all Democratic requests for documents and witnesses associated with impeachment. Applying a blatant double standard, Trump administration agencies like the Treasury Department are rapidly complying with Senate Republican requests—no subpoenas necessary—and producing ‘evidence’ of questionable origin," Ashley Schapitl, a spokeswoman for Wyden, said in a statement. The development was first reported by Yahoo News, with a source telling the publication that the Treasury Department began complying with the Grassley-Johnson request in less than two months. A spokesman for the Treasury Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. In the November letter — which was not publicly released by either of the committees but obtained by Reuters — Grassley and Johnson say that they are "conducting an investigation into potentially improper actions by the Obama administration with respect to Burisma Holdings ... and Ukraine."

By William Cummings - USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who testified in the impeachment inquiry, said in an op-ed Thursday that President Donald Trump's administration has "undermined our democratic institutions." Yovanovitch, who retired at the end of last month, was pulled from her post in Ukraine last April after what some of her former State Department colleagues testified was a "smear campaign" against her by Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. During the Senate impeachment trial, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said removing Yovanovitch cleared the way for Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into opening investigations for Trump's political benefit. "When civil servants in the current administration saw senior officials taking actions they considered deeply wrong in regard to the nation of Ukraine, they refused to take part, When Congress asked us to testify about those activities, my colleagues and I did not hesitate, even in the face of administration efforts to silence us," Yovanovitch wrote in The Washington Post. "We did this because it is the American way to speak up about wrongdoing." Marie Yovanovitch testimony:Ex-Ukraine ambassador tells lawmakers Trump 'pressured' State Department to remove her The day after the Republican-controlled Senate voted to acquit Trump on two articles of impeachment, Yovanovitch said the U.S. political system was more fragile than many Americans realize and "the last year has shown that we need to fight for our democracy."

By Tyler Pager and Jennifer Epstein

Supporters of President Donald Trump flooded a hotline used by Iowa precinct chairs to report Democratic caucus results after the telephone number was posted online, worsening delays in the statewide tally, a top state Democrat told party leaders on a conference call Wednesday night. According to two participants on the call, Ken Sagar, a state Democratic central committee member, was among those answering the hotline on caucus night and said people called in and expressed support for Trump. The phone number became public after people posted photos of caucus paperwork that included the hotline number, one of the people on the call said. The phone call Wednesday night between the Iowa Democratic Party staff and state central committee, the party’s elected governing body, came as the party was still counting results.

By Caroline Kelly

(CNN) The acting secretary of Homeland Security announced on Wednesday that New York state residents can no longer participate in certain Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry, due to provisions in the state's new "Green Light Law" supporting undocumented immigrants. The law, which went into effect in December, allows undocumented immigrants to apply for New York driver's licenses while protecting applicants' information from immigration enforcement agencies. "Today, we sent a letter to New York indicating, because they took these measures, that New York residents are no longer eligible to enroll in these Trusted Traveler Programs," acting Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Wednesday. New York state residents cannot "enroll or re-enroll" in the programs "because we no longer have access to make sure that they meet those program requirements, so we need to do our job," Wolf added. The letter states that the Green Light Law will impede Immigration and Customs Enforcement's "objective of protecting the people of New York from menacing threats to national security and public safety," according to a copy obtained by Fox News and confirmed to CNN by a source familiar with the letter. Since the law "prevents DHS from accessing New York DMV records in order to determine whether a (Trusted Traveler Program) applicant or re-applicant meets program eligibility requirements, New York residents will no longer be eligible to enroll or re-enroll in CBP's Trusted Travel Programs," the letter adds. The letter lists four such programs that are managed by US Customs and Border Protection: Global Entry, which allows for faster clearance in customs for participants when they enter the US; NEXUS, which allows for quicker border crossing for qualified travelers between the US and Canada; Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI), another program that allows for quicker clearance for qualified travelers when they arrive in the US; and the Free And Secure Trade (FAST) program, which allows for quicker clearance for commercial shipments crossing the US border from Canada or Mexico.

A 2006 controversy resurfaced in 2020 after the conservative radio host was diagnosed with lung cancer.
By Dan Evon

Radio host Rush Limbaugh once claimed that actor Michael J. Fox was "exaggerating" his Parkinson's disease symptoms in a political ad. In February 2020, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh announced that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. While U.S. President Donald Trump honored the controversial commentator with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, some social media users noted that Limbaugh had a history of making demeaning comments on his program. For instance, one widely shared video clip supposedly showed Limbaugh mocking actor Michael J. Fox and claiming that he was “exaggerating” symptoms of his Parkinson’s disease.

Just A Quick Reminder Of The Time Rush Limbaugh Mocked Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's By Pretending To Shake Uncontrollably. pic.twitter.com/dX3L0jtnUv

— Austin (@austin63867) February 3, 2020

This is a genuine clip of Limbaugh describing Fox on his program. Media Matters archived the full audio of this segment, which originally aired during an Oct. 23, 2006, episode of Limbaugh’s radio show.

By Sarah Westwood and Maegan Vazquez, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump began his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast by taking veiled shots at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was on the stage with him as he spoke, and Sen. Mitt Romney, the morning after the GOP-controlled Senate acquitted him. Romney, citing his Mormon faith, was the only Republican to vote against his party and join Democrats in voting to convict Trump. Beginning his speech at the bipartisan annual event, Trump criticized "dishonest and corrupt people" who "badly hurt our nation" -- an apparent reference to Democrats who pursued his impeachment over what they claimed was an abuse of power in holding up aid in Ukraine. The President thanked "courageous Republican politicians and leaders (who) had the wisdom, fortitude and strength to do what everyone knows was right." He then obliquely referenced Romney and Pelosi. "I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong nor do I like people who say, 'I pray for you,' when they know that's not so. So many people have been hurt and we can't let that go on," Trump said. Pelosi has previously said she prays for the President daily. "We have allies, we have enemies, sometimes the allies are enemies but we just don't know it. But we're changing all that," Trump later remarked. Trump walked into the annual, bipartisan breakfast and immediately picked up the newspaper laid on his place setting, a hard copy of USA Today, with the headline "ACQUITTED." He displayed the headline to the room and to the cameras, to laughter from the audience.

By Marshall Cohen, CNN

Washington (CNN) Impeachment is over. President Donald Trump has been acquitted. One bruising chapter has ended, but another phase of the Ukraine affair is only now beginning. Because Senate Republicans blocked all efforts to hear from new witnesses and subpoena documents, the complete story of what happened between Trump and Ukraine still hasn't been told. They calculated that it was better to acquit and move on, even if a smoking gun comes out later. Over the past five months, new information about the Trump-Ukraine scandal has emerged from the House investigation, public comments from key players, reporting from news outlets, and public records lawsuits. Disjointed as they've been, these revelations have nonetheless painted a damning picture of how Trump used his powers to pressure Ukraine to help his 2020 campaign. Information will continue flowing long after Congress returns to business as usual. Former Trump adviser John Bolton's bombshell book comes out next month, and transparency groups are getting more Trump administration documents from their lawsuits. Here are eight big questions that still haven't been fully resolved. The answers, whenever they come out, could dramatically reshape how the public looks back at Trump's presidency.

Wray evaded the questions, saying the bureau would only investigate "the facts."
By Alexander Mallin

FBI Director Christopher Wray sought to reassure lawmakers on Wednesday, as he was pressed on whether the FBI was asked to open investigations that would politically benefit President Donald Trump. "No one has asked me to open an investigation on anything other than the facts, the law and proper predication," Wray said as he testified before the House Judiciary Committee.  His answer came after New York Rep. Jerry Nadler -- also a trial manager during the Senate impeachment trial -- said he was concerned that after the Senate's expected vote to acquit Trump Wednesday afternoon, the president would seek investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and others who he felt had wronged him during the impeachment probe. He asked the director if the administration -- the White House or Attorney General William Barr -- had yet approached the FBI about such investigations of his political rivals.  Wray would not directly answer Nadler's questions, saying the bureau would only investigate "the facts." "I can assure Congress today that the FBI will only open investigations based on the facts and the law and proper predication," he repeated.

Fred Guttenberg was escorted from the gallery by security officers after the president said, “So long as I am president, I will always protect your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”
Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The father of a student killed in the 2018 Florida high school massacre apologized for disrupting President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address by shouting as the president said the rights of gun owners are under siege. Fred Guttenberg was escorted from the gallery by security officers after shouting about his slain daughter Jaime just after the president said, “So long as I am president, I will always protect your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.” The audience turned and looked up at the ruckus as he was led out. “I let my emotions get the best of me,” Guttenberg tweeted early Wednesday. “I simply want to be able to deal with the reality of gun violence and not have to listen to lies” about the Second Amendment. “That said, I should not yelled out. I am thankful for the overwhelming support I am receiving. However, I do owe my family and friends an apology. I have tried to conduct myself with dignity throughout this process and I will do better as I pursue gun safety,” tweeted Guttenberg, who was a guest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Jaime Guttenberg, an aspiring dancer and gymnast, was 14 when she died with 16 others in the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Her brother fled the shooting physically uninjured.


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