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US Monthly Headline News February 2020 Page 5

Unconstrained by the law, enabled by his staff, the unitary executive is raging.
By Dahlia Lithwick

On Thursday, President Donald Trump railed at the Oscars for awarding its highest honors to a foreign film. He then installed an acclaimed insult comic with no national intelligence experience as his acting director of national intelligence, because he prefers hearing from intelligence directors who tell him what he wants to believe as opposed to what is happening. He also indicated that when he threatens judges and jurors involved in federal criminal cases it’s OK because he has First Amendment needs that transcend the demands of rule of law. In other words, in the span of a few days, we’ve moved from unitary executive to peak Lear-wandering-on-the-heath executive. The only remaining operative question is: Who will be rewarded for loving the king as much as the king demands?  The American constitutional order is comprised of two camps in this moment: the president’s enemies and the president’s staffers. Having asserted this week that he is the “chief law enforcement officer of the United States,” and having previously concluded that the Constitution gives him “the right to do whatever I want,” the president has carved the world into the only two categories he comprehends: his interchangeable fixers and his mortal enemies. Attorney General Bill Barr, who auditioned for his position by offering himself up specifically as a fixer, has tried as valiantly as possible to get the president to stop tweeting about ongoing criminal matters. He even said he might quit if the president didn’t stop treating him like the president’s pool boy. Needless to say, he didn’t quit, and is, as a formal matter now, the president’s pool boy. It would demand a smaller ego for Donald Trump to recognize that he was already a pawn in 2016 and is still a useful pawn in 2020. Even when they depart, nobody ever stops being on the president’s roster of lifelong staffers. Not Don McGahn, not John Bolton, not John Kelly, and not Hope Hicks. Some of them leave the White House and then some drift back to the White House, emptying ashtrays and hampering attempts at obstruction, but they’re forever on staff, lashed to the president by way of elaborate (unenforceable) NDAs, or legal claims of absolute privilege, or by their own paradoxical beliefs that they are not in fact essential to the plot, but also that you should definitely preorder their book about the experience on Amazon.

By Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan

U.S. officials have told Sen. Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest, according to people familiar with the matter. President Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill also have been informed about the Russian assistance to the Vermont senator, those people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. It is not clear what form that Russian assistance has taken. U.S. prosecutors found a Russian effort in 2016 to use social media to boost Sanders’s campaign against Hillary Clinton, part of a broader effort to hurt Clinton, sow dissension in the American electorate and ultimately help elect Donald Trump. “I don’t care, frankly, who [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to be president,” Sanders said in a statement. “My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do. “In 2016, Russia used Internet propaganda to sow division in our country, and my understanding is that they are doing it again in 2020. Some of the ugly stuff on the Internet attributed to our campaign may well not be coming from real supporters.” The disclosure of Russian assistance to Sanders follows a briefing to lawmakers last week in which a senior intelligence official said that Russia wants to see Trump reelected, viewing his administration as more favorable to the Kremlin’s interests, according to people who were briefed on the comments. In that closed hearing for the House Intelligence Committee, lawmakers were also told that Sanders had been informed about Russia’s interference. The prospect of two rival campaigns both receiving help from Moscow appears to reflect what intelligence officials have previously described as Russia’s broader interest in sowing division in the United States and uncertainty about the validity of American elections.

The president said the intelligence finding that Russia was again meddling in a coming presidential election in his favor was a partisan “misinformation campaign.”
By Katie Rogers

LAS VEGAS — President Trump said Friday that a disclosure by American intelligence officials that Russia was again meddling in a presidential election in his favor was merely another partisan campaign against him, dismissing the warning as a hoax cooked up by rivals. “Another misinformation campaign is being launched by Democrats in Congress saying that Russia prefers me to any of the Do Nothing Democrat candidates who still have been unable to, after two weeks, count their votes in Iowa,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “Hoax number 7!” The intelligence assessment, delivered last Thursday to lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee, determined that Russia is planning to interfere in the 2020 primaries as well as the general election. But the way it was delivered angered some Republicans, and the attendance of Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the committee who led the impeachment proceedings, particularly angered Mr. Trump. The president’s decision to remove Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, and install Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and a fervent loyalist, was also seen as a direct outcome of the briefing. On Thursday evening, Mr. Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, an ally and a vocal opponent of impeachment, was one of the candidates under consideration as a permanent successor. By Friday morning, Mr. Collins said he was not interested. “This is not a job that interests me; at this time, it’s not one that I would accept because I’m running a Senate race down here in Georgia,” Mr. Collins said in an interview on Fox News. Mr. Trump has a long history of discarding assessments made by intelligence agencies that he has deemed unfair or unflattering. Multiple intelligence groups have determined that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, and, before the 2018 midterms, delivered warnings that Russia was prepared to do it again. Early in his presidency, Mr. Trump grudgingly accepted those assessments before falling back on personal assurances from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. “He said he didn’t meddle,” Mr. Trump said in November 2017. “I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.” Since then, Mr. Trump, with the assistance of his Justice Department, has moved to retaliate against the intelligence community rather than Mr. Putin: A federal prosecutor is scrutinizing how the intelligence officials assessed Russia’s 2016 election interference, targeting the former C.I.A. director John O. Brennan in particular. - It is not a hoax Russia is meddling again. What is Trump trying to hide?

CBS This Morning

President Trump was furious that Joseph Maguire, the former acting director of national intelligence, allowed one of his subordinates to tell House lawmakers that Russia appears to favor him in the 2020 election. Democrats are now calling for additional hearings, while Republicans are questioning the evidence presented, Paula Reid reports. - It is not a hoax Russia is meddling again. What is Trump trying to hide?

By Jeffery Martin

First lady Melania Trump received a "Woman of Distinction" award on Wednesday from Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) in Florida, despite concerns from some residents that she was undeserving of the honor. As the award is typically given at the Women of Distinction luncheon to Palm Beach residents who have greatly contributed to the community, some locals have faulted the nominating committee's decision-making process because Trump and her husband, President Donald Trump, have only been official Palm Beach residents since September 2019. "Our first lady is an exquisite human being, a magnificent wife and life partner, a superb mother and an outstanding first lady, who represents us brilliantly in the United States and worldwide," said event co-chairwoman Eileen Burns in January. "Melania is a perfect example of a Woman of Distinction and we are most proud to honor her." Some critics of the first lady voiced their disapproval. "This award has historically gone to women whose character and impact in Palm Beach have shaped the culture of our home," PBAU senior Graysen Boehning told The Hill, "and I have not been convinced that the first lady's character or impact here is worthy of that recognition." "While many students were excited that the school was bringing in the first lady of the United States to speak," Boehning continued, "others felt that her character was not representative of the community of love for people of all backgrounds and beliefs that PBA houses and fosters." "Why would a woman of no achievements have been selected?" wrote Carol Bodeen in a February letter to the editor of The Palm Beach Post. "We seldom hear from her or see her other than attending state affairs or exiting Air Force One with the president."

By Adam Gabbatt

Former national security adviser John Bolton faced a roasting from one of his predecessors on Wednesday night, in his second public appearance since the conclusion of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. Bolton, speaking alongside Susan Rice at a lecture series at Vanderbilt University, was taken to task by his co-speaker, who served as national security adviser under Barack Obama. Rice criticized Bolton for refusing to testify before the House of Representatives during the impeachment hearings. It later emerged that Bolton has documented, in a forthcoming book, evidence regarding Trump and Ukraine that Democrats had sought him to provide on the record. “I can’t imagine withholding my testimony with or without a subpoena,” Rice said at the Vanderbilt event, according to CNN reporter Jennifer Hansler. “I would feel like I was shamefully violating the oath that I took to defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.” Bolton refused to give testimony during the House impeachment hearings late last year. In January he said he was prepared to testify, if subpoenaed, in the Senate trial, where Republicans – as expected – voted against hearing from new witnesses. At the Vanderbilt event, Bolton said, according to the Vanderbilt Hustler student newspaper: “I said I would testify if subpoenaed. My position is exactly the same as Joe Biden.” Rice reportedly responded: “Except Joe Biden didn’t have firsthand knowledge about what transpired with Ukraine.”

Kash Patel, a former acolyte of Rep. Devin Nunes, is now a top adviser in the Office of National Intelligence.
By DANIEL LIPPMAN

Kash Patel, a former top National Security Council official who also played a key role as a Hill staffer in helping Republicans discredit the Russia probe, is now a senior adviser for new acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, according to four people familiar with the matter. It’s not clear what exact role Patel is playing in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the U.S. intelligence community. He started at ODNI on Thursday, according to an administration official. Patel, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, joined the National Security Council’s International Organizations and Alliances directorate last February and was promoted to a senior counterterrorism role at the NSC in mid-summer. He had previously worked as Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)’s top staffer on the House Intelligence Committee and was the lead author of a report questioning the conduct of FBI and DOJ officials investigating Russia’s election interference. Republicans later used the report to bolster arguments that the probe was a plot to take down President Donald Trump. Grenell, who has not served in any U.S. intelligence agency and will also continue as the U.S. ambassador to Germany, will not require Senate confirmation to serve as acting director. Nor will Patel in his new role.

By Kylie Atwood, Zachary Cohen and Kaitlan Collins, CNN

Washington (CNN) Deputy national security adviser Victoria Coates is leaving the National Security Council and going to the Energy Department, according to a statement released by the council on Thursday. The reassignment comes as rumors have been circulating that Coates was the anonymous administration official who wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in 2018 and published a book last November titled: "A Warning" by Anonymous. A senior administration official rejected those rumors Thursday and said that Coates' move has been in the works for some time. "The White House leadership rejects rumors that have circulated recently and does not put any stock in the suggestion that Victoria Coates is the author of Anonymous: A Warning or the related Op-Ed in the New York Times," the senior official said.

By Kristine Phillips, Kevin Johnson, Nicholas Wu USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of President Donald Trump, was sentenced Thursday to 40 months in prison, a punishment that is likely to fuel criticism from the president and speculation that he'll pardon the flamboyant GOP operative. Though less than what prosecutors originally asked for, the sentence marks a stunning downfall for the longtime political consultant who has advised presidential campaigns stretching back to Richard Nixon. The 67-year-old was found guilty in November of repeatedly lying to the House Intelligence Committee and obstructing its investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential race. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Stone "took it upon himself to lie, to impede, to obstruct before the investigation was complete, in an endeavor to influence the result." She continued: "The truth still exists, the truth still matters. Roger Stone insisted that it doesn’t." Stone stood expressionless next to his three defense attorneys. Jackson also sentenced Stone to two years of probation and ordered him to pay $20,000 in fines. Stone, wearing a dark pinstripe suit and blue tie, smiled briefly as he exited the courtroom. He declined to respond to questions shouted by a gauntlet of reporters.

CNN

Former Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron discusses the flood of pardons from President Donald Trump, saying Trump's campaign promise to "drain the swamp" is seeming more like "deepening it." #CNN #News

By Madeline Holcombe, CNN

(CNN) When Kanji Sahara remembers 1942, he pictures throwing paper airplanes from his makeshift classroom in the Santa Anita Park grandstand.
He was eight years old when he was uprooted from his home and interned in the racetrack with about 18,000 Americans of Japanese descent, he told CNN. About 10,000 were in barracks set up in the track's parking lot. The other 8,000 went to live in horse stables, he said. And now, at 85, he may finally get an apology from his home state. California is expected to pass a resolution formally apologizing for supporting "unjust exclusion, removal, and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, and for its failure to support and defend the civil rights and civil liberties of Japanese Americans during this period." It was the largest single forced relocation in US history, with more than 100,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated around the country.
Lawmakers and survivors say the apology is an important reminder for the nation not to repeat its past mistakes.

Collins won previous elections with more than 60% support of women voters. More than 60% of women now oppose her
By Igor Derysh

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, appears to be facing the toughest election of her career, with her support plummeting in a new poll. Collins is in a virtual tie with Maine Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, one of four Democrats running to face the GOP incumbent, according to a new Colby College poll first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Gideon leads the Democratic field in the poll by more than 50% and is the overwhelming favorite to face the Republican in November. Gideon leads Collins 43-42 in the survey, which has a margin of error of 3%. Fourteen percent of Maine voters remain undecided. The poll was the first conducted in Maine in many months. The last poll, conducted in June, showed Collins leading Gideon by 16 points. Collins has never lost re-election and won her last race by nearly 40 points. The Colby College poll finds that 54% of Maine voters have an unfavorable opinion of Collins, compared to 42% who have a favorable opinion of the senator. It comes after Collins voted to acquit President Donald Trump in his Senate impeachment trial, claiming that he learned a "big lesson" from the experience. Collins also angered Democrats and independents alike when she voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh despite multiple allegations of sexual assault.

By Mark Moore

President Trump on Thursday tweeted a clip of a Fox News host calling on him to pardon longtime ally Roger Stone. “Trump could end this travesty in an instant with a pardon and there are indications tonight that he will do that,” the clip showed Tucker Carlson saying Wednesday night. “Democrats will become unhinged if Trump pardons Stone, but they’re unhinged anyway,” Carlson added. Trump did not add any commentary in the posting. Stone, the 67-year-old self-described dirty trickster who was convicted last November of lying to Congress about the Russia collusion investigation and witness intimidation, is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in federal court in Washington, DC. Carlson called US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, a President Barack Obama appointee who will sentence Stone, an “open Democratic partisan.” “What has happened to Roger Stone should never happen to anyone in this country of any political party,” Carlson said. “It’s completely immoral, it’s wrong. Fixing it is the right thing to do.” The president on Tuesday granted pardons and commuted the sentences of 11 people, including former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik, financier Michael Milken and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Analysis by Zachary B. Wolf, CNN

(CNN) This is the moment for the ultimate question of the Bernie Sanders movement: is the United States ready for a socialist President? At Wednesday's Democratic presidential debate, Sanders defended himself as a socialist (he calls himself a democratic socialist) and then dismissed a recent poll that suggested Americans do not have a favorable view of socialism. Who was leading in that poll, he asked the debate moderator? He was, although the moderator didn't know it. The moment allowed Sanders to skate with the impression that it doesn't matter that Americans oppose socialism because clearly they like him.

Polling does suggest discomfort with a socialist President
It is true the Sanders was leading in the poll, conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC -- but only among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents when asked who they supported for the Democratic nomination. He had 27% support compared to Mike Bloomberg, Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, each with 14% support. And in a hypothetical matchup, he was narrowly ahead of President Donald Trump. But two-thirds of all voters -- Democrats plus everyone else -- said they would be uncomfortable with a socialist President.

By Rebecca Beitsch

President Trump on Wednesday signed an order in California to re-engineer the state’s water plans, completing a campaign promise to funnel water from the north to a thirsty agriculture industry and growing population further south. The ceremonial order comes after the Department of the Interior late last year reversed its opinion on scientific findings that for a decade extended endangered species protections to various types of fish — a review that had been spurred by the order from Trump. Trump said the changes to the “outdated scientific research and biological opinions” would now help direct “as much water as possible, which will be a magnificent amount, a massive amount of water for the use of California farmers and ranchers.” “A major obstacle to providing water for the region's farmers has now been totally eliminated by the federal government,” Trump said Wednesday in Bakersfield, Calif., flanked by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as well as Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who helped shepherd the changes to the state’s water policy. Trump's order comes as the state has taken several steps to deal with the water scarcity that has lasted for decades. "It would be different if you had a drought," Trump claimed, despite concerns the state may be headed into another drought. "You don't have a drought. You have tremendous amounts of water." The state is expected to fight the order. “California won’t allow the Trump Administration to destroy and deplete our natural resources,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) said in a statement after the speech. “We’re prepared to challenge the Trump Administration’s harmful attack on our state’s critical ecosystems and environment.” Critics fear the new plan, which would allow large quantities of water to be diverted from the San Francisco Bay Delta to the Central Valley in order to irrigate farmland, would ultimately harm chinook salmon and the delta smelt, a finger-sized fish that for three decades has stood in the way of the diversion. Trump in October 2018 had ordered Interior to reconsider the scientific evidence that helped bar redistribution of the state’s water. In October of last year, Interior released a new biological opinion limiting the longtime protections for the fish.

The president’s rhetoric has changed the way hundreds of children are harassed in American classrooms, The Post found
By Hannah Natanson, John Woodrow Cox and Perry Stein Feb. 13, 2020

Two kindergartners in Utah told a Latino boy that President Trump would send him back to Mexico, and teenagers in Maine sneered "Ban Muslims" at a classmate wearing a hijab. In Tennessee, a group of middle-schoolers linked arms, imitating the president's proposed border wall as they refused to let nonwhite students pass. In Ohio, another group of middle-schoolers surrounded a mixed-race sixth-grader and, as she confided to her mother, told the girl: "This is Trump country." Since Trump's rise to the nation’s highest office, his inflammatory language — often condemned as racist and xenophobic — has seeped into schools across America. Many bullies now target other children differently than they used to, with kids as young as 6 mimicking the president’s insults and the cruel way he delivers them. Trump’s words, those chanted by his followers at campaign rallies and even his last name have been wielded by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since the start of 2016, a Washington Post review of 28,000 news stories found. At least three-quarters of the attacks were directed at kids who are Hispanic, black or Muslim, according to the analysis. Students have also been victimized because they support the president — more than 45 times during the same period. Although many hateful episodes garnered coverage just after the election, The Post found that Trump-connected persecution of children has never stopped. Even without the huge total from November 2016, an average of nearly two incidents per school week have been publicly reported over the past four years. Still, because so much of the bullying never appears in the news, The Post’s figure represents a small fraction of the actual total. It also doesn’t include the thousands of slurs, swastikas and racial epithets that aren’t directly linked to Trump but that the president’s detractors argue his behavior has exacerbated. “It’s gotten way worse since Trump got elected,” said Ashanty Bonilla, 17, a Mexican American high school junior in Idaho who faced so much ridicule from classmates last year that she transferred. “They hear it. They think it’s okay. The president says it. . . . Why can’t they?”

The newly revealed comment is one of the former president’s strongest known critiques of his successor.
By Edward-Isaac Dovere

Barack Obama’s private assessment of Donald Trump: He’s a fascist. That is, at least, according to Tim Kaine, the Democratic senator from Virginia and a friend of the former president. In a video clip from October 2016, Kaine is seen relaying Obama’s comment to Hillary Clinton. The footage is part of the new Hulu documentary Hillary, which was obtained by The Atlantic ahead of its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival today. “President Obama called me last night and said, ‘Tim, this is no time to be a purist,’” Kaine tells his then–running mate. “‘You’ve got to keep a fascist out of the White House.’” Clinton replies: “I echo that sentiment.” A representative for Obama declined to comment on the conversation. A representative for Kaine did not respond to requests for comment. In an interview at Sundance today with Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Clinton elaborated on her exchange with Kaine. “If you look at the definition [of fascist], which I’ve had the occasion to read several times,” Clinton said, “I think we can agree on several things: One, he has authoritarian tendencies and he admires authoritarian leaders, [Vladimir] Putin being his favorite. He uses a form of really virulent nationalism. He identifies targets: immigrants, blacks, browns, gays, women, whoever the target of the day or week is … I think you see a lot of the characteristics of what we think of [as] nationalistic, fascistic kinds of tendencies and behaviors.”

Democrats’ previous president and maybe their next one have a particularly fraught relationship.
By Edward-Isaac Dover

Bernie Sanders got so close to running a primary challenge to President Barack Obama that Senator Harry Reid had to intervene to stop him. It took Reid two conversations over the summer of 2011 to get Sanders to scrap the idea, according to multiple people who remember the incident, which has not been previously reported. That summer, Sanders privately discussed a potential primary challenge to Obama with several people, including Patrick Leahy, his fellow Vermont senator. Leahy, alarmed, warned Jim Messina, Obama’s presidential reelection-campaign manager. Obama’s campaign team was “absolutely panicked” by Leahy’s report, Messina told me, since “every president who has gotten a real primary has lost a general [election].” David Plouffe, another Obama strategist, confirmed Messina’s account, as did another person familiar with what happened. (A spokesman for Leahy did not comment when asked several times about his role in the incident.) Messina called Reid, then the Senate majority leader, who had built a strong relationship with Sanders but was also fiercely defensive of Obama. What could you be thinking? Reid asked Sanders, according to multiple people who remember the conversations. You need to stop. Sanders didn’t end up running against Obama. But their relationship didn’t improve in the years that followed. In another incident, in 2013, Sanders laid into Obama in a private meeting he held with Democratic senators, saying that the president was selling out to Republicans over Social Security benefits. (More on that incident, which has also not been previously reported, below.)

QUID PRO QUO
Lawyers acting for the WikiLeaks founder said Dana Rohrabacher, a former Republican congressman, had brought the message to London from Trump.
By Nico Hines London Editor

LONDON—A lawyer for Julian Assange has claimed in court that President Trump offered to pardon Assange if the WikiLeaks founder agreed to help cover up Russia’s involvement in hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee. Assange’s lawyers said on Wednesday that former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher offered Assange the deal in 2017, a year after emails that damaged Hillary Clinton in the presidential race had been published. WikiLeaks posted the stolen DNC emails after they were hacked by Russian operatives. The claim that Rohrabacher acted as an emissary for the White House came during a pre-extradition hearing in London. Assange has argued that he should not be extradited to the U.S. because the American case against him is politically motivated. He spent almost seven years hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in Central London claiming that he would be jailed in the U.S. if he wasn’t granted asylum. He was kicked out of the embassy last year. His lawyers told the court that Trump’s alleged offer to pardon Assange proved that this was no ordinary criminal investigation. Edward Fitzgerald, who was representing Assange in court, said he had evidence that a quid pro quo was put to Assange by Rohrabacher, who was known as Putin’s favorite congressman. Fitzgerald said a statement produced by Assange’s personal lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, included a description of “Mr Rohrabacher going to see Mr Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange... said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.” District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who is presiding over the pre-trial hearing in Westminster Magistrates’ Court, said the allegation would be admissible during the extradition hearing, which is due to begin next week.

‘Confidential’
After being given a secret document by officials in Moscow, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher sought to alter sanctions legislation and tried to set up a virtual show trial on Capitol Hill.
By Nico Hines

Members of the team of Russians who secured a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner also attempted to stage a show trial of anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder on Capitol Hill. The trial, which would have come in the form of a congressional hearing, was scheduled for mid-June 2016 by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a long-standing Russia ally who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe. During the hearing, Rohrabacher had planned to confront Browder with a feature-length pro-Kremlin propaganda movie that viciously attacks him—as well as at least two witnesses linked to the Russian authorities, including lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Ultimately, the hearing was canceled when senior Republicans intervened and agreed to allow a hearing on Russia at the full committee level with a Moscow-sympathetic witness, according to multiple congressional aides. An email reviewed by The Daily Beast shows that before that June 14 hearing, Rohrabacher’s staff received pro-Kremlin briefings against Browder, once Russia’s biggest foreign investor, and his tax attorney Sergei Magnitsky from a lawyer who was working with Veselnitskaya. Although House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) had prohibited Rohrabacher from showing the Russian propaganda film in Congress, Rohrabacher’s Capitol Hill office still actively promoted a screening of the movie that was held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on June 13, 2016. Veselnitskaya was one of those handling the movie’s worldwide promotion. Invitations to attend the movie screening were sent from the subcommittee office by Catharine O’Neill, a Republican intern on Rohrabacher’s committee. Her email promised that the movie would convince viewers that Magnitsky, who was murdered in a Russian prison cell, was no hero. The invite, reviewed by The Daily Beast, claimed that the film “explodes the common view that Mr. Magnitsky was a whistleblower” and lavishes praise on the “rebel director” Andrei Nekrasov. “That invitation was not from our office. O’Neill was an unpaid intern on the committee staff. Paul denies asking her to send the invitations,” said Ken Grubbs, Rohrabacher’s press secretary, referring to the congressman’s staff director, Paul Behrends. O’Neill went on to secure a job on the Trump transition team and then in the State Department’s Office of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. She did not return a call for comment. Rohrabacher’s office was given the film by the Prosecutor General’s office in Moscow, which is run by Yuri Chaika, a close associate of President Vladimir Putin who is accused of widespread corruption, and Viktor Grin, the deputy general prosecutor who has been sanctioned by the United States as part of the Magnitsky Act.  That same Prosecutor General’s office also was listed as being behind the “very high level and sensitive information” that was offered to Donald Trump Jr. in an email prior to his now infamous meeting with Russian officials at Trump Tower on June 9—just days before the congressional hearing. Veselnitskaya attended that meeting with Trump Jr. She also happens to have worked as a prosecutor in the Moscow region and is a close personal friend of Chaika. The Daily Beast reviewed a copy of a document that was passed to Rohrabacher in Moscow in April 2016. The document, marked “confidential,” was given to Rohrabacher and Behrends. It lays out an alternate reality in which the U.S.—and the rest of the world—has been duped by a fake $230 million scandal that resulted in sanctions being imposed on 44 Russians linked to murder, corruption, or cover-ups.

Democratic presidential candidate made remark after recent homophobic comments from conservative radio host
By Oliver Milman in New York

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has again taken aim at Donald Trump over the issue of “family values” by pointing out that his marriage has never involved him paying “hush money to a porn star”.Buttigieg, who came out as gay in 2015 and married his husband, Chasten, in 2018, has been the subject of recent homophobic comments by Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio host, who told his listeners were “still not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage president”. Limbaugh, who was controversially given the presidential medal of freedom by Trump, said the US president told him to “never apologize” for his comments. Asked during a CNN town hall in Las Vegas whether he believed Trump would not be opposed to a president coming from the LGBTQ+ community, Buttigieg said: “Well, not if he’s sending out his supporters to talk in this way. “And, look, I mean, the idea of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump lecturing anybody on family values,” the Democratic presidential nominee said to applause. Buttigieg then made a pointed reference to the money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels by Trump via his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. “I mean, I’m sorry, but one thing about my marriage is it’s never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star after cheating on my spouse with him or her,” he said. “So they want to debate family values? Let’s debate family values. I’m ready.”

By The Hill staff

On Nov. 18, 2019, The Hill announced it was reviewing John Solomon's opinion columns on Ukraine after State Department diplomats criticized several of those columns during House impeachment hearings. This review was conducted independently by The Hill’s news staff under the direction of Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack. The Hill established working panels for each of 14 relevant pieces that appeared on TheHill.com. These working groups analyzed and discussed the columns at length, looking at possible corrections and/or context that could have been added at the time of the writings. In addition, The Hill reviewed congressional testimony and other public documentation related to Solomon's columns, as well as related media reports, to add editor's notes to the columns regarding what has been learned since the columns were posted by The Hill. The Hill also reviewed its editorial policies and processes. Solomon has responded to critics during television appearances, on Twitter and on his podcast. The Hill has included some of his relevant public remarks in this report.

By Dan Mangan

Your move, Mr. Attorney General. President Donald Trump on Wednesday retweeted claims that he is “the victim” of a Justice Department conspiracy, hours after reports that the department’s chief official has threatened to quit if the president continues such criticism. A tweet Trump promoted to his nearly 73 million followers also said that Attorney General William “Barr should clean house” at the Justice Department — and argued that Trump “can also appoint a special counsel directly” to investigate the purported conspiracy against him. That tweet was first posted by Tom Fitton, president of the right-wing advocacy group Judicial Watch, and included a link to a more than eight-minute-long appearance by Fitton on Fox News. Trump soon afterward retweeted another post by Fitton, who said Judicial Watch is “doing the heavy lifting exposing the worst corruption scandal in American history.” That post referenced so-called astonishing emails that show former Justice Department official Rod Rosenstein “had many Obama/Clinton and media friends” supporting him when he “infamously appointed” former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel. Trump’s retweets Wednesday morning came after reports on Tuesday night that Barr — who is the head of the Justice Department — has told people close to the president that he might resign if Trump does not stop making public comments about cases lodged by federal prosecutors who report to the attorney general.

By Jim Sciutto, Barbara Starr and Zachary Cohen, CNN

Washington (CNN) The Pentagon's top policy official who warned against withholding military aid to Ukraine last year resigned on Wednesday at the request of President Donald Trump, according to a copy of his resignation letter obtained by CNN. John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the Pentagon, is the latest senior national security official involved in the Ukraine controversy to be forced out following Trump's acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial. but sources told CNN that he broke with the administration on several issues, in addition to the handling of aid to Ukraine, leading to a loss of support from leadership. "It is my understanding from Secretary Esper that you requested my resignation from serving as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Senior administration officials appointed by the President serve at the pleasure of the President, and therefore, as you have requested, I am providing my resignation effective February 28, 2020," Rood wrote in his letter to President Donald Trump, dated Wednesday. CNN was first to report Rood's impending departure which was confirmed by Trump in a tweet Wednesday. "I would like to thank John Rood for his service to our Country, and wish him well in his future endeavors!" Trump wrote, also sharing a story from Bloomberg News which indicated that Rood "faced pressure to resign from some who lost confidence in his ability to carry out Trump agenda." Defense Department press secretary Alyssa Farah said in a statement that "Dr. James Anderson, the current senior official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy will take over the responsibilities of Undersecretary Rood until a permanent replacement is appointed by the President and confirmed."

Not just Ukraine
Officials tell CNN that Rood has differed with the administration on a number of issues including Afghanistan and Ukraine. Officials have said Rood often was perceived as not embracing some of the changes in policy the White House and senior Pentagon officials wanted. One official said some examples of Rood's differing views from some of Trump's key policy stances included being skeptical about peace talks with the Taliban as well as the administration decision to scale down military exercises with South Korea during talks with North Korea and him pushing for a more aggressive approach to Russia by supporting Ukraine. Rood is the Pentagon's top policy official and oversees aspects of the Pentagon's relationship with US allies and partners. He was involved in certifying to Congress that Ukraine had embarked on significant reforms to justify its receipt of $250 million in security assistance.

By Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump wielded his powers of clemency Tuesday for convicted white-collar criminals and the former Illinois governor accused of attempting to sell a US senate seat. The wave of pardons and commutations, some of which Trump has been considering for years, came amid a post-impeachment flurry of presidential prerogative, from ridding his team of aides he deemed disloyal to flagrantly inserting himself into Justice Department matters. Trump announced midday he had commuted the prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who has served eight years of a 14-year sentence for the pay-for-play charges. Trump had been weighing the move since at least since 2018. "He served eight years in jail, a long time. He seems like a very nice person, don't know him," Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews, suggesting the television appeals of Blagojevich's wife Patti helped cement his decision. Trump also announced pardons for former New York police commissioner Bernie Kerik, convicted of tax fraud and lying to officials; Mike Milken, an investment banker known as the "Junk Bond King" who was convicted of felony charges that included securities fraud and conspiracy; and Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers who pleaded guilty in 1998 to failing to report a felony in a bribery case. In total, Trump granted clemency to 11 convicted criminals on Tuesday. The moves furthered the impression of a President unbound after the Senate acquitted him following impeachment charges he abused his power. Aides had worked to convince Trump against reducing Blagojevich's sentence, believing it would play poorly. And Republican members of Congress lobbied Trump to drop the idea. But aides say Trump feels newly emboldened after the Senate acquittal, and the steps he announced on Tuesday were long in the works. Trump publicly hinted he would use his clemency powers for Blagojevich, a Democrat, in August. But he faced sharp blowback from some conservative members of Congress, including from Illinois, as well as from some White House advisers who said it would undercut a message of draining Washington's swamp. On Tuesday, Trump linked Blagojevich's prosecution to a longtime foe, former FBI Director James Comey, a close friend of former US attorney in Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald, who led the prosecution against Blagojevich. "It was a prosecution by the same people -- Comey, Fitzpatrick -- the same group," Trump said, misstating the Illinois US attorney's surname. Trump has raged over the past week at what he says are prosecutors run amok, including in the case involving his friend Roger Stone, who is due to be sentenced this week.

BECAUSE THEY DON’T CARE?
Fox’s own research team accused Giuliani and John Solomon of trafficking in “disinformation,” The Daily Beast revealed. And yet the news channel keeps booking them.
By Justin Baragona Contributing Editor

Even though internal Fox News documents caution that frequent guests Rudy Giuliani and John Solomon traffic in “disinformation,” the network can’t seem to quit booking them. Since The Daily Beast first reported on the 162-page document, produced by the network’s research division known as the “Brain Room,” Giuliani—who, according to the briefing, has a “high susceptibility to disinformation”—has made at least four separate appearances on Fox.  And Solomon, whom the documents accused of playing an “indispensable role” in Team Trump’s Ukraine “disinformation campaign,” has popped up twice on the Fox Business Network. The internal briefing, titled “Ukraine, Disinformation, & the Trump Administration,” accused the former New York City mayor Giuliani of amplifying disinformation pushed by bad-faith Ukrainian actors like former Ukrainain prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko and indicted oligarch Dmytro Firtash. The document also noted Giuliani’s ties to indicted associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who Murphy writes had “strong reported financial links to Firtash.” “Reading the timeline in its entirety—not a small task—makes clear the extensive role played by Rudy Giuliani and his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, in spreading disinformation,” the briefing added. Despite the network’s own research team preaching caution over Trump’s personal hatchet man peddling conspiracies and agitprop through the media, shows on Fox News and Fox Business Network have continued to host Giuliani for freewheeling interviews in which he has repeatedly (and baselessly) claimed he is in possession of “smoking gun” evidence that proves former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter was involved in criminal activity in Ukraine.

By Chuck Jones

Exactly 11 years ago today, February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 or the Recovery Act into law. The $831 billion in spending kicked off the longest period of economic growth and job creation in American history.

Over a decade of economic growth

The National Bureau of Economic Research or NBER determines the length of economic expansions and recessions. The recent growth period started in July 2009 and has lasted for 127 months through January 2020. This surpasses the previous record of 120 months from December 2001 to November 2007, which then led into the Great Recession that Obama inherited. Starting with the September 2009 quarter GDP growth has been positive every year since then. It ranged from 1.6% to 2.9% per year under Obama and from 2.3% to 2.9% under Trump. The recent negative revisions to 2018’s job growth numbers could lead to a lower reading on Trump’s 2.9% GDP growth in 2018. The revised numbers should be out in July this year when the first estimate for June’s GDP growth is released. Each of the last three years of Obama’s economy were stronger than Trump’s 2019 when adjusted for trade, inventory impacts and government spending. To get an overall view of Trump’s economy this article has 10 economic metrics of his three years in office.

The attorney general is working to destroy the integrity and independence of the Justice Department, in order to make Donald Trump a president who can operate above the law.
By Donald Ayer

When Donald Trump chose Bill Barr to serve as attorney general in December 2018, even some moderates and liberals greeted the choice with optimism. One exuberant Democrat described him as “an excellent choice,” who could be counted on to “stand up for the department’s institutional prerogatives and … push back on any improper attempt to inject politics into its work.” At the end of his first year of service, Barr’s conduct has shown that such expectations were misplaced. Beginning in March with his public whitewashing of Robert Mueller’s report, which included powerful evidence of repeated obstruction of justice by the president, Barr has appeared to function much more as the president’s personal advocate than as an attorney general serving the people and government of the United States. Among the most widely reported and disturbing events have been Barr’s statements that a judicially authorized FBI investigation amounted to “spying” on the Trump campaign, and his public rejection in December of the inspector general’s considered conclusion that the Russia probe was properly initiated and overseen in an unbiased manner. Also quite unsettling was Trump’s explicit mention of Barr and Rudy Giuliani in the same breath in his July 25 phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, as individuals the Ukrainian president should speak with regarding the phony investigation that Ukraine was expected to publicly announce. When Donald Trump chose Bill Barr to serve as attorney general in December 2018, even some moderates and liberals greeted the choice with optimism. One exuberant Democrat described him as “an excellent choice,” who could be counted on to “stand up for the department’s institutional prerogatives and … push back on any improper attempt to inject politics into its work.” At the end of his first year of service, Barr’s conduct has shown that such expectations were misplaced. Beginning in March with his public whitewashing of Robert Mueller’s report, which included powerful evidence of repeated obstruction of justice by the president, Barr has appeared to function much more as the president’s personal advocate than as an attorney general serving the people and government of the United States. Among the most widely reported and disturbing events have been Barr’s statements that a judicially authorized FBI investigation amounted to “spying” on the Trump campaign, and his public rejection in December of the inspector general’s considered conclusion that the Russia probe was properly initiated and overseen in an unbiased manner. Also quite unsettling was Trump’s explicit mention of Barr and Rudy Giuliani in the same breath in his July 25 phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, as individuals the Ukrainian president should speak with regarding the phony investigation that Ukraine was expected to publicly announce.

By Laura Ly, CNN

(CNN) The Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy, according to a court document filed in Delaware bankruptcy court early Tuesday.
The youth organization, which celebrated its 110th anniversary February 8, listed liabilities of between $100 million and $500 million, but $50,000 or less in assets. The bankruptcy filing comes at a time when the organization faces hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits, thousands of alleged abuse victims and dwindling membership numbers. As a result of the filing, all civil litigation against the organization is suspended. Paul Mones, a Los Angeles-based attorney representing "hundreds of sexual abuse victims in individual lawsuits," called the organization's bankruptcy filing a "tragedy." "These young boys took an oath. They pledged to be obedient, pledged to support the Scouts and pledged to be honorable. Many of them are extremely angry that that's not what happened to them and the Boy Scouts of America did not step up in the way they should have," Mones said. The Boy Scouts of America was fielding several hundred sexual abuse lawsuits. The Boy Scouts of America faced hundreds of lawsuits from alleged sexual abuse victims across the country -- all of which are now suspended because of the bankruptcy filing. Several of the lawsuits allege repeated fondling, exposure to pornography, and forced anal or oral sex. In response, the Boy Scouts of America said at the time that they "care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting." They added that they were "outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our program to abuse innocent children."

By Kevin Johnson USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – A national association of federal judges has called an emergency meeting Tuesday to address growing concerns about the intervention of Justice Department officials and President Donald Trump in politically sensitive cases, the group’s president said Monday. Philadelphia U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe, who heads the independent Federal Judges Association, said the group “could not wait” until its spring conference to weigh in on a deepening crisis that has enveloped the Justice Department and Attorney General William Barr. “There are plenty of issues that we are concerned about,” Rufe told USA TODAY. “We’ll talk all of this through.” Rufe, nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush, said the group of more than 1,000 federal jurists called for the meeting last week after Trump criticized prosecutors' initial sentencing recommendation for his friend Roger Stone and the Department of Justice overruled them. Trump also took a swipe at the federal judge who is set to preside at Stone’s sentencing hearing Thursday. “Is this the judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something not even mobster Al Capone had to endure?” Trump tweeted last week, referring to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson. “How did she treat Crooked Hillary Clinton? Just asking!" Jackson jailed Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, prior to his convictions in two separate financial fraud cases after he sought to tamper with potential witnesses. Rufe said the judges' association is “not inclined to get involved with an ongoing case,” but she voiced strong support for Jackson. “I am not concerned with how a particular judge will rule,” Rufe said, praising Jackson's reputation. “We are supportive of any federal judge who does what is required.” The unusual concern voiced by the judges’ group comes in the wake of an equally unusual protest. More than 2,000 former Justice Department officials called on Barr to resign Sunday, claiming his handling of the Stone case "openly and repeatedly flouted" the principle of equal justice.  

A mysterious super PAC with GOP ties is attempting to boost little-known Erica Smith over DSCC-endorsed Cal Cunningham in the North Carolina primary.
By JAMES ARKIN and BURGESS EVERETT

Democrats are growing alarmed about Republican attempts to prop up an insurgent liberal candidate in North Carolina — fearful that GOP meddling will undercut the party’s prospects in a key Senate contest. What seems like a generic campaign ad pitching Erica Smith, a North Carolina state senator, as “the only proven progressive” in the state’s high-profile Senate race is actually part of a multimillion dollar investment from a mysterious super PAC — the innocuously named "Faith and Power PAC" — with apparent ties to Republicans. The ad campaign, which began last week ahead of the March 3 primary, immediately disrupted the bid from frontrunner and Democratic leadership favorite Cal Cunningham to emerge from his primary and face incumbent GOP Sen. Thom Tillis in November. The North Carolina race is critical: Without beating Tillis, Democrats' path back to the Senate majority is nearly impossible. Cunningham, a former state lawmaker and military veteran, lost a Senate primary in 2010, and Democrats are eager to avoid the same result this year. But things are getting messy — and expensive. Smith, whose low-budget campaign has otherwise posed little threat to Cunningham, has denounced the intervention. But the episode threatens Democrats’ hopes of getting the better-funded, more moderate Cunningham through the primary unscathed. “It’s so brazen and obvious. … They recognize that Cunningham is a strong candidate, and they’re worried about holding onto that seat,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “When Republicans are weighing in for somebody, they’ve made the judgment that they’re worried about Cal, and they’re not worried about her.” Privately, Senate Democrats have been discussing the matter internally, with one fretting that Smith is “unelectable” in a general election and will be painted as a Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) acolyte. Few in the party want to criticize Smith publicly since no matter who emerges as Democrats’ nominee, North Carolina is a must-win to take back the Senate. But the GOP infusion of money is increasing worries about disarray. “You want your strongest candidate. And if she’s not the strongest candidate, yes, it makes it much tougher,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who supports Cunningham. “There’s just too much money in politics, and they spend it on trying to get the weakest candidate to run against” Tillis.

CBS This Morning

Mississippi is in a state of emergency Monday morning after historic levels of flooding damaged at least 200 homes near the state capitol of Jackson. At least four people had to be rescued from their homes as the Pearl River’s rising water flooded entire neighborhoods. Omar Villafranca is in Jackson to report on the latest damage.

By David Brennan

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor has said that no officials at the State Department ever seriously considered conspiracy theories alleging that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential elections to undermine President Donald Trump. Taylor—who appeared as a witness during the House impeachment investigation into the president—told CBS News' 60 Minutes program he saw no merit in the conspiracy theory, which has been propagated by the president and his allies. In the interview, broadcast Sunday, Taylor told correspondent Scott Pelley he was frustrated by Trump's parallel Ukraine policy, in which top advisers worked to bolster the president's political fortunes. The president's attorney Rudy Giuliani was at the forefront of this effort, as he tried to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and find evidence that the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee was directed from Ukraine and blamed on Russia. The theory alleges that the DNC then gave a key server that might contain evidence to Ukrainian company CrowdStrike. The theory has been debunked, but this has not stopped the president peddling the allegations. Taylor told CBS News that no one at the State Department was told to investigate whether there was a DNC server in Ukraine because "no one took it seriously." Asked if this was something that anyone at the embassy in Kiev was concerned about, Taylor replied, "No." Newsweek has contacted the State Department to request comment on Taylor's remarks. Taylor headed up the U.S. embassy in Ukraine while Trump froze hundreds of millions of military aid earmarked to the country. The president was allegedly trying to extort the new government led by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy into announcing an investigation into Biden. Trump and his allies accuse Biden and his son Hunter of corruption, related to Hunter's position on the board of the Burisma natural gas company during President Barack Obama's tenure. During his House testimony, Taylor warned that Trump's conduct damaged U.S. and Ukrainian national security, and undermined Kiev's fight against Russian-backed separatist militias in the east of the country. Taylor told Pelley, "Ukraine's security is important to our security and the reason I believe that is that Ukraine is on the front line." He explained that Russia is waging "a hybrid war against Ukraine, but it's not just about Ukraine, they are fighting a hybrid war against Europe and against the United States."

With progressive district attorneys on the march, Attorney General William Barr delivered a blistering attack speech.
By Allan Smith

Progressive prosecutors, coming off one of the biggest years in their movement's short history, are looking to 2020 with hope of winning key district attorney offices around the nation and boosting their influence with an overhaul of the system from within. Attorney General William Barr is standing in their way. Tensions reached a peak last week after Barr eviscerated the movement in a speech before the Major County Sheriffs of America. He said the "self-styled 'social justice' reformers are refusing to enforce entire categories of law, including law against resisting police officers." "In so doing, these DAs are putting everyone in danger," Barr added, asserting that their "policies are pushing a number of America's cities back toward a more dangerous past." In a response signed by about 40 reform-minded prosecutors from around in the country, the progressives said they "spend every day trying to make our communities safer and healthier." "We hold our jobs because our communities put us in them after we promised a different and smarter approach to justice, one grounded in evidence-based policies that lift people up while prioritizing the cases that cause real harm," they wrote. "Sadly, we are perceived as a threat by some who are wedded to the status quo or, even worse, failed policies of past decades." They added: "This is the same attorney general who in the span of 24 hours attacked reform-minded, elected district attorneys for being soft on crime, while demanding his own federal prosecutors lighten the punishment for an ally of his boss. He touts the importance of the rule of law, yet undermines it in the same breath."

By David Lightman and Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks

The Trump administration is proposing a cut in homeless assistance funding next year, frustrating advocates who say the crisis in Sacramento and other cities is worsening. The White House budget plan for fiscal 2021, which begins Oct. 1, proposes $2.773 billion for homeless assistance grants, slightly less than the current year. The administration also wants to cut funding for affordable housing programs as well as Community Development Block Grants, which help revive and improve neighborhoods. It’s part of a $4.8 trillion budget blueprint for the entire government includes deep cuts in environmental, health, education and housing programs. The Housing and Urban Development budget would be reduced by 15 percent. In Sacramento County, federal dollars go toward offering rental assistance or permanent housing that includes wrap-around services like employment training, education and other behavioral services. Cutting mainstay federal programs like housing vouchers and block grants for affordable housing will likely lead to more low income families sliding into homelessness, said Lisa Bates, CEO of Sacramento Steps Forward, the county’s main partner nonprofit on homeless services. “We definitely want to see an increase in federal support,” Bates said. “You’re seeing the state is having to come up with huge amounts of funding, providing billions of dollars, to address it in part because we haven’t seen a substantial increase to match our need from the federal government.” A new round of federal spending cuts could very well displace more people and force them into homelessness, critics said. “This budget is not really looking for solutions to the homeless problem,” said Steve Berg, vice president for programs and policy at the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

By Kara Scannell and Erica Orden, CNN

New York (CNN) Federal prosecutors are weighing new charges against associates of Rudy Giuliani in connection with a company that paid him $500,000, according to people familiar with the investigation. Prosecutors with the US attorney's office for the Southern District of New York are considering whether to charge Giuliani associate Lev Parnas and at least one of his business partners with misleading potential investors for Fraud Guarantee, the Florida-based company that paid Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, these people say. Parnas co-founded Fraud Guarantee with the idea of providing insurance to companies to protect against fraud. The scrutiny of Fraud Guarantee brings the investigation closer to Giuliani, Trump's vocal defender, and raises questions about what role the former mayor played, if any, in the marketing of the company. A lawyer for Giuliani said his client never had any conversations about investor pitches or marketing with Parnas or his business partner David Correia. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan for months have been investigating Giuliani's actions, including his efforts to oust Marie Yovanovitch, then-US ambassador to Ukraine, and push for an investigation into the son of Trump's political rival Joe Biden. Giuliani has not been accused of wrongdoing. Yovanovitch was recalled early from her position in April 2019. In the case of Fraud Guarantee, investigators have focused on the marketing pitch, specifically examining whether the men duped investors about the value of the company and how they intended to use the proceeds, the people familiar with the investigation say. FBI agents and prosecutors interviewed investors who were pitched on the company, and through subpoenas have obtained text messages and other documents related to the effort. One person with knowledge of the company has said the men spent proceeds from investors on pricey personal expenses. The new charges, if they are brought, would significantly increase the legal pressure on Parnas and Correia. Those men, plus Igor Fruman, another Parnas business associate, and Andrey Kukushkin, an associate in a marijuana venture, have been charged by Manhattan federal prosecutors with campaign finance violations relating to donations they made to US candidates. All four have pleaded not guilty.

When the CIA gave Trump a list of major terror leaders to kill, he said he'd never heard of them. Instead he focused on a target with a famous name.
By Ken Dilanian, Courtney Kube and Dan De Luce

WASHINGTON — When intelligence officials briefed President Donald Trump on the most worrisome terrorist threats during the first two years of his tenure, they regularly mentioned the names of the senior terror figures the CIA was working hardest to find and kill, including the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri. Trump would ultimately greenlight successful strikes on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Yemeni al Qaeda chief Qasim al-Rimi — perhaps the most significant names on the CIA list of potential U.S. targets. But he was more interested in a young and less influential figure much farther down the list, according to two people familiar with the briefings, because he recognized the name. "He would say, 'I've never heard of any of these people. What about Hamza bin Laden?'" one former official said. "That was the only name he knew," a Pentagon official added. Although Osama bin Laden's youngest son was not believed to be planning attacks, the U.S. ultimately carried out an airstrike that killed him in 2018, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter. At first, officials weren't sure of his fate, but in July, NBC News was the first to report that U.S. officials believed he was dead.

"Again, Joni Ernst has shown that she is willing to push our families into poverty with a smile."
By Jake Johnson

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa told donors at a fundraiser in Washington, D.C. last March that federal spending on non-discretionary programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security is "out of control" and will require "changes" in the future. That's according to a 55-second audio clip published Wednesday by Iowa Starting Line. In the recording, Ernst is asked by an attendee whether she is on board with Sen. David Perdue's (R-Ga.) call for cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. "I think we all are because we understand that our non-discretionary spending is growing like this," replied Ernst, who is up for reelection in 2020. "Everyone focuses on discretionary spending because that is what we can control in Congress. The rest is on autopilot and is out of control. We have to figure out ways to honor the commitments that have been made, but make changes for the future. How we do that, I don't know." Progressive advocacy group Social Security Works tweeted that "changes" is "code for massive cuts." Kimberly Graham, one of five Democrats vying to unseat Ernst in November, tweeted Thursday that "we barely invest in the health and well-being of our people as it is, and Joni Ernst thinks even that is too much." "Joni doesn't work for Iowans," added Graham. "Joni works for the wealthy donors that fill her campaign coffers." The audio clip comes months after the Democratic super PAC American Bridge posted a video of Ernst telling a town hall audience in August that members of Congress should negotiate changes to Social Security "behind closed doors" to avoid scrutiny from advocacy groups and the press.


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