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GOP Watch Keeping an Eye on Republicans for You - Page 23

“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.” ― Theodore Roosevelt Welcome to GOP Watch keeping an eye on Republicans for you. The Republican Party is using lies, hate, fear, alterative facts and whataboutism to stay in power and protect a comprised and corrupt Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party and Putin. The GOP is a danger to America and Americans.

By Jason Lemon

Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said Thursday that Republican complaints about the "secrecy" of closed-door impeachment hearings don't hold water because the process is "consistent with the rules" that a "Republican majority" signed into law. Trump and his Republican supporters have repeatedly argued that the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry has been conducted improperly because the testimony of witnesses has been carried out in close-door hearings. On Wednesday morning, a group of GOP representatives, some of whom did not serve on the investigating committees, stormed one of those secure depositions, chanting "let us in." This delayed the hearing, but it eventually went forward in the afternoon with only the Democrats and Republicans serving on the relevant committees permitted to attend. "As frustrating as it may be to have these hearings going on behind closed doors...they are consistent with the rules," Napolitano, who previously served as a New Jersey Superior Court judge, explained during a segment of the Fox News morning show Fox & Friends. "When were the rules written last?" the legal expert asked. "In January of 2015. And who signed them? John Boehner [the Republican speaker of the House]. And who enacted them? A Republican majority," he asserted. "The rules say that this level of inquiry, this initial level of inquiry, can be done in secret," Napolitano said. He pointed out that he personally wishes he could view the testimony and that it was public, but he added that the impeachment investigation was thus far consistent with the ones conducted against Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Nixon inevitably resigned to avoid impeachment, while Clinton was formally impeached by the House but not removed by the Senate. "Eventually, there will be a public presentation of this, at which lawyers for the president can cross-examine these people and challenge them," Napolitano explained. "This is like presenting a case to a grand jury, which is never done in public." more...

By Max Burns - New York Daily

If Americans needed any further proof that Donald Trump’s toxic presidency has corroded the Republican Party beyond recognition, Rep. Matt Gaetz just proved the argument in grand fashion. Gaetz, a pro-Trump mouthpiece most notable for pushing “deep state” conspiracy theories on Fox News and not studying his Bible, has sought to undermine the legitimacy of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s investigations into Trump since the earliest days of the Mueller investigation.

Today Gaetz escalated his personal vendetta against Schiff to a dangerous new level, gleefully shredding America’s sacrosanct national security protocols in the process. In a bizarre press conference this morning, Gaetz and a motley gang of Trump ultras and Freedom Caucus members decided to storm the Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility (or SCIF) where Schiff was conducting a classified deposition related to the ongoing House impeachment inquiry. There was no time to waste, Gaetz claimed. Conspiracies were afoot! In an America with healthy institutions, the very suggestion of raiding a secure facility would be met with condemnation. Actually going through with such a misguided plot would merit an immediate ethics investigation and censure by the full House. This is not an America with healthy institutions. Not only did Gaetz and his mob successfully force their way into the SCIF — causing an uproar from members of Congress actually authorized to attend the hearing — they proceeded to spend the afternoon making political hay of their imaginary coup.

Some brought cell phones into the facility, something expressly prohibited by national security protocols. Others ordered pizza. Gaetz, in true Trumpian fashion, took the opportunity to tweet. If Gaetz and the Freedom Caucus wanted a rift with career intelligence community experts, they got one. Veteran Navy intelligence operative Naveed Jamali was especially incensed, reminding Gaetz that “literally rule number one” in national security protocol is “no cell phones in a SCIF.” “Anything that transmits and can record video or audio is specifically forbidden,” Jamali continued. “If you break these rules, you might as well drop the “S” (secure) in SCIF.” The abandonment of sensitive intelligence protocols isn’t just a disgrace for Gaetz, who likely only cares that his misadventure will get top billing on Fox News tonight.

It’s a disgrace to a Republican Party that once put national security — or at least performative deference to national security — at the heart of its political self-identity. SCIFs are one of the most visible symbols of a powerful idea: that some things, like national security briefings and sensitive intelligence operations, are simply too important for partisan games. Democrats and Republicans have disagreed in the past on the goals and methods behind American intelligence operations. None have ever gone so far as to discard security protocol entirely, as Gaetz and the Freedom Caucus did today. That’s because Gaetz and his ilk aren’t really interested in the nuts-and-bolts of being legislators. They have no patience for boring national security briefings and the reams of guidelines and rules that enforce secrecy on members of Congress. For Gaetz and Trumpist Republicans, being a congressman is about attention-grabbing public performance. Everything must please the boss. Gaetz makes the laughable claim that Republicans are being excluded from impeachment inquiry depositions like the one his mob compromised today. That is categorically false: Republican members of the House Intelligence and Oversight Committees were in attendance for today’s deposition. Gaetz’s gripe is that those Republicans were unwilling to turn a serious intelligence hearing into a media circus. more...

by Jerry Lambe

In a jarring protest of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, House Republicans on Wednesday delayed the process by storming a secure facility during a witness deposition and refusing to leave. The reckless, pizza-fueled, rule-breaking, and potentially law-breaking maneuver was reportedly supported by President Trump. According to Bloomberg News, Trump was made aware in advance of the planned intrusion and “supported” it: Trump had advance knowledge and supported a protest by Republicans who told him they planned to barge into a secure hearing room on Capitol Hill where Democrats are holding impeachment testimonies, according to four people familiar with the matter.

Trump on Tuesday met with about 30 House Republicans at the White House to talk about the situation in Syria and the impeachment inquiry. During a nearly two-hour meeting, which focused mostly on the impeachment inquiry, lawmakers shared their plans to storm into the secure room, the people said. Trump supported the action, saying he wanted the transcripts released because they will exonerate him, the people said. CNN also reported that the president had advance knowledge of what was going to happen. The faction of approximately two dozen House GOP members, reportedly led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), barged into the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, also known as a SCIF, interrupting the deposition of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper, yelling and shouting down the procedure as a “sham process.” WATCH: here's the video of when 2 dozen GOP members, led by @mattgaetz entered the secure hearing room (SCIF) to interrupt witness testimony in the #ImpeachmentInquiry as they demand access, despite not being committee members.

They're complaining it's a "Soviet-style process". pic.twitter.com/8KddYz3r9D — Scott Thuman (@ScottThuman) October 23, 2019. Gaetz was booted nine days ago when attempting to crash Fiona Hill’s deposition. At least some of the congressional protestors brought their personal cell phones into the SCIF, a major violation of House procedural rules which baffled experienced national security professionals, many of whom noted that the stunt could potentially compromise U.S. national security. SCIFs are secure facilities specifically designed to prevent electronic eavesdropping to enable members of Congress to freely receive and discuss highly classified information relating to national security, such as information collection methods and details in ongoing intelligence operations. Mieke Eoyang, the Vice President of the National Security Program for Washington think tank Third Way, further explained why Wednesday’s ploy potentially endangered U.S. interests. “Foreign adversaries are constantly trying to figure out what goes on inside those rooms to figure out what the U.S. knows about them, to out U.S. high-level sources in their governments, to know what the US government knows and use it against us,” Eoyang remarked. She explained that members of Congress, many of whom do not generally utilize sophisticated security measures, are extremely high-value targets for foreign intel services. “This means they may not know they have been compromised. For example, their phones can be turned into listening devices without their knowledge,” she wrote. “But in ‘storming the SCIF’ without observing the security protocols, Rep. Gaetz et al., endangered our national security [and] demonstrated they care more about a political stunt than protecting intelligence information. I cannot emphasize enough how serious this is.” more...

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and other Democrats knocked House Republicans on Wednesday for barging into a classified intelligence room in the U.S. Capitol to disrupt the deposition of a top Defense Department official who was set to testify about President Trump's dealings with Ukraine. “This is what happens when people elect members more interested in media hits than the protection of our national security,” Omar wrote on Twitter. “FYI to everyone who is concerned about my security clearances, I at least know to not bring my cell phones to SCIF and follow protocol.” This is what happens when people elect members more interested in media hits than the protection of our national security. FYI to everyone who is concerned about my security clearances, I at least know to not bring my cell phones to SCIF and follow protocol. https://t.co/R6b93yHZL8 — Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) October 23, 2019. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said Republican members who stormed in “compromised the security” of the room by bringing in phones.

He said some members did not give up their phones when asked. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) called the move “dangerous” and said the Republican members should face consequences for “this reckless behavior that endangers national security.” “Harassment and obstruction by Members cannot be tolerated,” wrote Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) on Twitter. Dozens of representatives, including members of GOP leadership, stormed into the secure room, known as a sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF), where the deposition of Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, was set to take place privately. Republicans argued that other lawmakers, and not just members of the three committees leading the impeachment inquiry into the president, should be able to witness the closed-door hearings. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) postponed the meeting and is reportedly threatening the GOP members with ethics violations.

Rep. Matt Gaetz: "We're going to go and see if we can get inside." GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) wrote in a tweet that he was “still inside” the SCIF and was quickly scolded by social media users for using his phone in the room designed to protect sensitive intelligence information. I’ve been in SCIFs a lot. The stupidest thing someone can do is bring an electronic device. You would lose your security clearance +may even face criminal prosecution. If these reports are accurate, those remedies should be looked at.Foreign govts want to target SCIF all the time https://t.co/y8DlS9nLSl — Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) October 23, 2019. Wait!!? Republicans tried to storm a Secure Classified Information Facility (SCIF) where TOP SECRET +++ information is stored & shared? ITS A TOP SECRET FACILITY RUN BY THE CIA/DOD & GUARDED BY TS/SCI CLEARED ARMED POLICE. This isn’t a joke anymore. Charge them with trespass. https://t.co/1rlN8CxTpT — Malcolm Nance (@MalcolmNance) October 23, 2019. Bringing electronic devices into a SCIF, and this SCIF in particular is *very* problematic, especially when done by members of Congress. more...

House Republicans’ impeachment stunt is an attempt to distract from the allegations against Trump
Here’s why House Republicans stormed into an impeachment deposition on Wednesday.
By Li Zhou and Ella Nilsen

For weeks, House Democrats have been deposing current and former Trump administration officials behind closed doors as part of their impeachment inquiry — and for just as long, Republicans have been lambasting the secretive process, using those complaints to distract from the substance of the probe. Things reached a boiling point on Wednesday, as a slew of House Republicans, including ones not on the committees overseeing the inquiry, descended on the House SCIF — the secure room where the depositions are being held. “Behind those doors, they intend to overturn the results of an American presidential election,” argued Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Republican who quite literally led the charge of more than two dozen lawmakers into a highly secured area where they were not supposed to be. The entrance and ensuing shouting from Republicans inside the SCIF was meant to be a major disruption, and it was. Roughly 30 Republicans reportedly rushed past police officers and occupied the room for hours, even ordering pizza at one point — all to delay witness testimony from Pentagon official Laura Cooper. And soon after, Democrats discovered that some of these Republicans had their cellphones on them; a major breach of SCIF protocol. “The whole thing was threatening. Shouting back and forth,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), a member of the Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committee, told Vox. “I sat down, and all of a sudden the room filled up with non-committee members. Initially it was a little hard to realize what was happening. In fact, to be honest with you, I got a little concerned.” more...

Republican members of Congress disrupted the closed-door proceedings of the House impeachment inquiry, preventing a Pentagon official from giving her testimony. Arguing that the inquiry's interviews should not be held behind closed doors, GOP lawmakers entered the secure area in the Capitol Wednesday where witnesses are typically questioned. "Behind those doors, they intend to overturn the results of an American presidential election" said Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican ally of the president's. "We're going to try to go in there ... on behalf of the millions of Americans that we represent that want to see this Congress working for them, and not obsessed with attacking a president who we believe has not done anything to deserve impeachment." Democratic lawmakers have argued that the initial interviews of the investigation must be done in private to prevent witnesses from coordinating testimony. "As the investigation proceeds, and at a time that it will not jeopardize investigative equities, we will make the interview transcripts public," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said in a letter to colleagues last week.

Schiff also promised public hearings would be coming in the future "so that the full Congress and the American people can hear their testimony firsthand." This was not enough to mollify the group of GOP lawmakers. On Wednesday morning, led by Gaetz, approximately two dozen lawmakers attempted to enter the rooms in the Capitol where Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper was scheduled to be interviewed. Since these lawmakers were not members of the committees overseeing the impeachment inquiry, they were denied access. The impeachment inquiry is being led by the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees. The effort proved disruptive to the day's proceedings. Cooper's testimony has been delayed indeterminately because a number of Republican lawmakers are still in that secure area, where they are not authorized to be. The area is designated as secure — classified materials and witness testimony is discussed there and only lawmakers and a small number of staff are allowed entry. more... - Republicans cannot defend Trump on facts so there going to try to use the process to defend Trump. If Bill Barr had done his job and investigated the whistleblower’s compliant Democrats would not have to do the investigation needed before and impeachment vote. Republicans do not believe our laws and constitution applies to them. Republicans only care about our laws and the constitution when they are using it to attack democrats.

Republicans storm impeachment inquiry deposition in House Intel hearing room
By Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, CNN

(CNN) - Roughly two-dozen House Republicans on Wednesday stormed a closed-door deposition in secure House Intelligence Committee spaces to rail against the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, a political stunt ratcheting up the GOP complaints about the process that threw the deposition into doubt. The conservative lawmakers, led by Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, barged into the deposition and demanded they be allowed to see the closed-door proceedings where members of three committees planned to interview Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper as part of the impeachment probe into President Donald Trump. The chaotic scene, with Republicans flouting House rules to make a political point, represented a new and more confrontational phase of the Republican attack on House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and the Democratic impeachment investigation.

By early afternoon, pizza and snacks were being brought into the committee area. While the lawmakers in the secure room left around 2 p.m. ET to attend House votes, Minority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican who was one of the lawmakers taking part in the protest, said they might return later in the day. It wasn't clear whether the deositon would still happen on Wednesday. A source in the room said that as the witness, Cooper, was sitting down to testify, the Republicans stormed through the room's three different doors. Rep. Bradley Byrne of Alabama was yelling at Schiff, but the California Democrat did not engage, the source said. Other Democrats, including Rep. Val Demings of Florida, shouted back at both Byrne and Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, who were yelling about the process. Demings, according to one source in the room, asked Republicans if they were trying to teach their children "that it's OK to lie, steal and cheat so long as you don't get caught?" "Don't you have any work to do today?" she said to one Republican member, according to the source.

Cooper left the room while the Republicans refused to vacate the space. The source says the Capitol Police and sergeant at arms have been consulted as members refuse to leave the room, and lawmakers say there are ongoing negotiations about how to end the standoff. "It was closest thing I've seen around here to mass civil unrest as a member of Congress," said one source in the room. The Republicans even walked into the hearing room with their electronics, according to Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, which is prohibited in the space, known as a SCIF -- a sensitive compartmented information facility -- because it's a secure room used for discussing and handling classified information. GOP Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, who is on the House Intelligence Committee, collected the electronics. "All of us put our electronics in boxes outside," Connolly said. "That SCIF is used by Congress for lots of highly classified purposes. To compromise that to make a point, is deeply troubling." more... - Republicans cannot defend Trump on facts so there going to try to use the process to defend Trump. If Bill Barr had done his job and investigated the whistleblower’s compliant Democrats would not have to do the investigation needed before and impeachment vote. Republicans do not believe our laws and constitution applies to them. Republicans only care about our laws and the constitution when they are using it to attack democrats.

Many Senate Republicans disagree with the president. But they won’t be voting on a resolution that says so.
By Li Zhou

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a longtime opponent of “endless wars,” just blocked a resolution condemning President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from northern Syria. “I object to this resolution because it does nothing to fix this problem,” Paul said, while pushing his own bill to stop arms sales to Turkey. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had called for the Senate to consider a vote on this resolution, which passed the House with a bipartisan 354-60 majority on Wednesday, with the goal of sending Trump a message about Congress’s disapproval of his recent actions. “Because of the president’s precipitous action ... ISIS prisoners are escaping,” Schumer said in a floor speech on Thursday. “The president’s incompetence has put American lives in danger.”

Schumer is far from the only one who’s criticized Trump’s decision, which many Republicans also view as a betrayal of the United States’s Kurdish allies in the region, who’ve been forced to confront a Turkish military offensive. Despite their outcry on the subject, it’s still not clear just how much Republicans are willing to clash with the president explicitly on this issue. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unlikely to allow the non-binding resolution condemning Trump to come to the floor, and he has previously said it has some “serious weaknesses.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a prominent Trump ally, has questioned the president’s efforts in Syria and is also pushing his own legislation alongside Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), which would impose stricter sanctions on Turkey that target military transactions and energy resources. Paul, meanwhile, is taking specific aim at arms sales. The congressional backlash to Trump’s decision began last week when he announced that he’d be withdrawing American troops from the region, prompting concerns that the US was abandoning its Kurdish allies and offering an opening for the Islamic State. Since the decision, ISIS members have begun to break out of prisons in the region.

Giuliani is staunchly opposed to cashing in on political connections — unless he’s doing it.
By Aaron Rupar

For months, Rudy Giuliani has played a leading role in the ongoing effort by President Donald Trump and his allies to gin up a scandal surrounding Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine. But new reporting about Giuliani’s own business dealings with shadowy Ukraine-linked figured shines a light on just how hypocritical his posturing has been. On Monday, both Reuters and the Washington Post reported that Giuliani received $500,000 from a company founded by a man at the center of a scheme to funnel foreign payments to Republican groups, including the pro-Trump super PAC “America First Action,” in 2018.

The company in question has the unfortunate name of Fraud Guarantee and was founded by Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian American associate of Giuliani’s who was arrested with Igor Fruman (another Giuliani associate) last week. Both men were charged with making false disclosures related to hundreds of thousands of dollars of political contributions that were meant to conceal their foreign origins. As my colleague Andrew Prokop wrote, Parnas and Fruman are often described as “fixers” for Giuliani, and the three men collaborated in a successful effort to oust the then-US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, amid the Trump administration’s efforts to cajole the new Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens. Reuters reports that Fraud Guarantee marketed itself as helping clients “reduce and mitigate fraud,” but details surrounding the company remain murky. In interviews with the Post and Reuters, Giuliani insisted the payments he received for consulting and legal services did not originate from foreign sources — but he had a remarkably hard time explaining where else they might have come from. From Reuters:

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
(CNN) - Well, this is a new one.

In the wake of President Donald Trump's disastrous decision to pull American troops out of northern Syria, House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) suggested that she had figured out what led Trump to this: Impeachment! Yes, impeachment. Here's Cheney on "Fox & Friends" on Monday: "The impeachment proceedings that are going on and what the Democrats are doing themselves to try to weaken this President is part of this. It was not an accident that the Turks chose this moment to roll across the border. And I think the Democrats have got to pay very careful attention to the damage that they're doing with impeachment proceedings." Wait, wait, wait. So because Democrats -- three weeks as of Tuesday -- formally launched an impeachment inquiry centered on Trump's conduct in Ukraine, the President decided to go pull troops out of Syria? The argument here is, well, nonsensical. The decision to pull troops was Trump's and Trump's alone.

The reason that the Turks began to "roll across the border" is because of the announced withdrawal of American troops from northern Syria. And again, that withdrawal decision was Trump's -- against, it's worth adding, the clear wishes of his own party. Cheney's argument would be funny if she wasn't serious about it. There is simply no way to lay Trump's decision on Democrats or impeachment. Like, none. If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was monitoring the impeachment efforts to drive his military strategy, why didn't he invade Syria three weeks ago? What's that, you say? Because American troops were still there? Oh, yeah! Cheney was an early critic of Trump's move, tweeting on October 9, "News from Syria is sickening. Turkish troops preparing to invade Syria from the north, Russian-backed forces from the south, ISIS fighters attacking Raqqa. Impossible to understand why @realDonaldTrump is leaving America's allies to be slaughtered and enabling the return of ISIS."

By Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade

Several key players in the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump were the strongest proponents of Republicans’ iron-fisted oversight of the Obama administration, culminating in a two-year House probe into the deadly 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Now, faced with a politically charged investigation into a president of their own party, they have dropped their formerly stout defense of congressional prerogatives and have joined Trump in endorsing a campaign of massive resistance to the impeachment probe — a turnabout that has left many Democrats and even some Republicans aghast. Among those who participated in the select committee that probed the attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya were Mike Pompeo, then a Kansas congressman and now secretary of state and a key target of the current Democratic investigation, and Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), who is the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee.

The panel’s chairman, then-Rep. Trey Gowdy (S.C.), who has since left Congress, was poised to serve as an outside lawyer for Trump. The president said Thursday that Gowdy would have to wait until January to start due to lobbying rules. “The notion that you can withhold information and documents from Congress no matter whether you are the party in power or not in power is wrong,” Gowdy said in 2012, as a House panel moved to hold then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt for failing to cooperate with its probe of a botched gunrunning operation. “Respect for the rule of law must mean something, irrespective of the vicissitudes of political cycles.” Gowdy did not respond to requests for comment but criticized the House investigation last week in Fox News Channel appearances — calling its leader, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), “deeply partisan” and accusing him of leaking information “like a sieve.” In a 2016 addendum to the House Benghazi probe’s findings, Pompeo and Jordan thrashed Democrats, saying they “showed little interest in seeking the truth” and “spent the bulk of their time trying to discredit the Republican-led committee and leveling baseless personal attacks.”

But in past weeks, the two have used similar tactics to undermine the House impeachment probe by, in Pompeo’s case, accusing Democrats of “bullying and intimidating State Department employees” in justifying a decision to block testimony and, in Jordan’s case, accusing the probe’s leader of misconduct and disqualifying political bias. “There is obviously a massive hypocrisy here,” said Jen Psaki, an Obama administration veteran who served as State Department spokeswoman during the Benghazi probe. Pompeo, she added, “was one of the ringleaders of a massive political circus around Benghazi; he was responsible for dragging countless Foreign Service officers, civil servants — people who had been serving Democrats and Republicans for decades — in front of Congress, through the mud. Now he’s claiming that he’s defending the institution? That irony is not lost.”

CNN State of the Union
CNN's Jake Tapper takes a look at how lawmakers' legacies live on based on their responses to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and how history will see Republicans in the era of President Donald Trump.

Vox - It wasn't always this way for the Republican Party.

As lawmakers retreat from scrutiny, TV hosts are taking unusual steps to hold them accountable.

News anchors are increasingly focusing not on who’s on their shows, but who’s not: Republican lawmakers answering questions about President Trump’s efforts to cajole foreign governments into digging up dirt on his political opponents. CNN’s Jake Tapper proclaimed on Sunday that no Republican Senate or House leaders would appear on his “State of the Union” to defend Trump; over on NBC, Chuck Todd expressed exasperation at one GOP senator who did agree to appear, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, for refusing to answer whether Trump’s actions were wrong. Tapper, in an interview with POLITICO, defended the unusually aggressive posture of TV anchors by saying he doesn’t think it should be controversial to say that “using your political office to push foreign nations to dig up dirt on your political opponents” is empirically wrong, as he implored Republicans to say on his show. “This is a precedent that will destroy the concept of free and fair elections,” Tapper said on Monday.

“It’s not really picking any sort of bold moral stance to say that you can’t have that. I don’t know why so few people are willing to say it.” If impeachment is largely fought in the court of public opinion, Republicans lawmakers are barely mounting a defense on television. Since the Sept. 25 release of a rough transcript of Trump urging Ukraine’s president to investigate the Bidens, none of the 53 Republican Senators have appeared on MSNBC, though a source told POLITICO the network has put out invitations to them. Just four of 197 Republican House members have appeared on MSNBC, one of whom isn’t running for reelection. Seven Republican House members have appeared on CNN during this time period, but no senators have done so. CNN anchor Jim Sciutto said Friday that more 60 Republican members of the House and Senate didn’t respond when asked if Trump went too far in publicly asking China to investigate a political rival.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) - With each passing day, the ongoing attempts of Republican elected officials to defend President Donald Trump's behavior are getting more and more ridiculous. The latest example? Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson's pained and downright bad attempt to change the subject when asked by NBC's "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd to explain a quote he gave to The Wall Street Journal. CHUCK TODD: Let me start with something you told The Wall Street Journal late last week. You had said when Mr. Sondland -- Gordon Sondland seemed to imply that -- the frozen military aid was connected to a promise by Zelensky for investigations, you said, "At that suggestion, I winced. My reaction was, 'Oh God. I don't wanna see those two things combined.'"

Why did you wince and what did you mean by "those two things combined?" SEN. RON JOHNSON: Well, fir-- first of all, your setup piece was --you know, typically, very unbiased. But, you know, le -- let me first, before I started answering all the detailed questions, let me just talk about why I'm pretty sympathetic with what President Trump has gone through. You know, I'm 64 years old. I have never in my lifetime seen a president, after being elected, not having some measure of well wishes from his opponents. I've never seen a president's administration be sabotaged from the day after election. I -- I've never seen -- no-- no measure of honeymoon whatsoever. And so what President Trump's had to endure, a false accusation -- by the way, you've got John Brennan on -- you oughta ask Director Brennan what did Peter Strzok mean when he texted Lisa Page on December 15th, 2016? Uh, what? (You should read the transcript, the interview only went downhill from there.)

Again, what Todd is asking here is for Johnson to further explain his own quote about "wincing" at the suggestion that military aid might be linked to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's willingness to investigate Joe Biden. This isn't some sort of "gotcha" question. Johnson said it! And recently! Johnson's response -- Strzok! Page! "deep state!" -- has nothing to do with what Todd asked him. Which, again, was to explain a quote he gave to The Wall Street Journal about 'wincing" when he heard that there might have been linkage between military aid and investigations in Ukraine. What the hell does the that quote -- and Trump's broader actions in Ukraine -- have to do with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page and former FBI agent Peter Strzok? Yes, Strzok was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's team when texts with Page (whom he was having an affair with) emerged that seemed to suggest anti-Trump bias. And yes, the Justice Department is investigating the roots of the counter-intelligence investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. But none of those things have anything to do with the fact that Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate Biden -- first in a transcript of a July call released by the White House and then right there in public last week outside the White House. Trump telling Ukraine -- and China! -- to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter, has literally zero to do with Lisa Page or Peter Strzok. Nothing. (There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden, by the way).

By Kat Tenbarge

The Sunday morning slate didn't have very many defenders of President Donald Trump. There were no appearances by any members of the Trump administration on the Sunday morning political shows, but a few GOP members did make it on the air, including Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin. In a fiery back-and-forth with NBC's "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd, Johnson reversed the stance he held at a constituent event in his home state on Friday. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Trump blocked Johnson in August from telling Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky that US aid was on its way, at the same time that the president was appealing to Zelensky to investigate his potential 2020 contender Joe Biden.

"I was surprised by the president's reaction and realized we had a sales job to do," Johnson said, indicating that the president was using the aid package as a bargaining tool for his political purposes. "I tried to convince him to give me the authority to tell President Zelensky that we were going to provide that. Now, I didn't succeed." On "Meet the Press," Johnson instead pushed a conspiracy theory that members of the FBI and CIA are conspiring to bring down Trump with investigations into his conduct and that the press was pushing a false narrative that Trump was digging up dirt on his 2020 opponent.

By Jordain Carney
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) reelection campaign is seizing on the fight over impeachment, pledging in Facebook ads that he will lead Republican efforts to stop President Trump from being removed from office. "Nancy Pelosi's in the clutches of a left wing mob. They finally convinced her to impeach the president. All of you know your Constitution, the way that impeachment stops is a Senate majority with me as majority leader," McConnell says in an ad that began running on Thursday. "But I need your help. Please contribute before the deadline," McConnell continues in the ad. McConnell's campaign, according to Facebook's ad library, began running the digital ads with the video on Sept. 27, three days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) formally announced that House Democrats would launch an impeachment inquiry.

The decision, which followed months of pressure from progressives, came following reports of a whistleblower complaint alleging Trump urged the Ukranian government to investigate former Vice President Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. McConnell, who has tied himself closely to Trump as he runs for reelection in the deeply red state, doesn't address the allegations surrounding the president's communication with Ukraine in the roughly 17-second video. The GOP leader, along with most of his caucus, have remained silent despite the growing scrutiny on the president this week. In one caption for an ad that has run since Sept. 30, McConnell's team argues that a "conservative Senate Majority is the ONLY thing stopping Nancy Pelosi from impeaching President Trump. Donate & help us keep it." - Trump should be impeached he has repeatable to violated our laws and our constitution. Mitch McConnell is protecting Donald J. Trump and does not care about America or the constitution.

By Judge Andrew P. Napolitano

The House of Representatives has begun to gather evidence in an effort to determine if President Trump has committed impeachable offenses. The Constitution defines an impeachable offense as "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." The president need not have committed a crime in order to be impeached, but he needs to have engaged in behavior that threatens the constitutional stability of the United States or the rule of law as we have come to know it. Has Trump committed any impeachable offenses? A CIA agent formerly assigned to the White House – and presently referred to as the "whistleblower" – reported a July 25, 2019 telephone conversation that Trump had with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. That conversation manifested both criminal and impeachable behavior.

The criminal behavior to which Trump has admitted is much more grave than anything alleged or unearthed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and much of what Mueller revealed was impeachable. What has Trump admitted? The whistleblower’s revelation caused the White House to release a near-verbatim summary of the conversation between the two presidents. By releasing it, Trump has admitted to its accuracy. In it, Trump asked Zelensky for dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, who at this writing is Trump's likely Democratic opponent in the 2020 presidential election. Trump also admits to holding up $391 million in aid to Ukraine – $250 million in the purchase of already approved and built military hardware and $141 million in a congressionally authorized grant. This is aid that Trump's own secretaries of state and defense, his own director of national intelligence and director of the CIA, and his own National Security Council unanimously asked him to release. Trump has also admitted to accusing the as-yet publicly unnamed whistleblower of treason, and suggesting that the whistleblower and those who have helped him are spies and ought to be treated as spies were in "the old days" (Trump’s phrase) – that is, by hanging.

By Paul Brandus

The Russians attacked us. If the commander in chief who swore to defend us said it didn't bother him, this was 'giving them aid and comfort.' Let’s say we had a president who did the following: Redistributed wealth by taxing the rich and giving to the poor. Boosted entitlements. Signed a law to strengthen workplace safety. Poured money into cleaning up the environment. Even helped finance National Public Radio. Liberals would be pleased, right? We did have such a president. His name was Richard Nixon. Of course, all this is largely forgotten today, overshadowed by Nixon’s involvement in Watergate — the scandal that drove him from office in 1974, as impeachment and possibly even Senate conviction were nipping at his heels.

Because of this mixed legacy, Nixon ranks as the 28th best president (or the 16th worst, depending on how you look at it) in a 2017 C-SPAN survey of historians. In 10 categories, he scores near the middle for most, though 10th for “International Relations.” But in terms of “Moral Authority” he’s near the bottom, ranked 42nd. Lying to the American people and covering up a Constitution-shredding crime will do that to a guy. How will historians rate Trump? President Donald Trump will be included in the next survey, which is taken every time we have a new president. Where do you think he'll rank? For starters, let's compare his actions with all the Nixon accomplishments mentioned above.

Trump is the anti-Nixon. After lying through his teeth in 2017 about how “the rich will not be gaining at all with this plan," he gave them (and himself) a huge tax break. Entitlements? He has reportedly told Senate Republicans that cutting Social Security and Medicare could be a second-term project. We got a preview of his plans to do just that in his 2020 budget blueprint in which he proposed cuts. Funny, Trump likes to run his mouth on Twitter and at his rallies, but this is something he hasn’t blabbed to his wide-eyed, believe-whatever-he-says base. Strengthen workplace safety? “We want to protect our workers,” Trump said in 2017. But that was another lie. His administration has rolled back worker protections, making already dangerous jobs like coal mining, working on oil rigs and in meat processing plants even more so. Overall, "they've done more things to hurt workers than they have to help them. And that's unfortunate," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said last month on Fox News Sunday. Trump vs. Nixon is no contest And cleaning up the environment? Nixon proposed a new Environmental Protection Agency in July 1970, and it began operations five months later.

Trump has gutted it, and when he brags about all the regulations he has cut — to the wild applause of his base — what he’s not telling them is that he is endangering the air they breathe and the water they drink. They applaud and then go home, apparently oblivious to the 85 (and counting) rules he has rolled back. Air pollution, water pollution, toxic substances, on and on and on. There's more, but you get the point: Trump is worse than Nixon. And I haven't even gotten to the scandals. What Trump has done is far more damaging to our country. To me, it can be summed up from just one event: his infamous meeting in the Oval Office in May 2017 with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. It was bad enough that Trump revealed highly classified information that, according to two unnamed officials cited in The New York Times, exposed an intelligence source in the Middle East. But we’ve since learned — based on three sources obtained by The Washington Post — that Trump told his Kremlin guests he didn't care that the Russians had interfered in our 2016 election.

Opinion by Peter Eisner

(CNN) - To be fair to Mike Pence, he probably never dealt with someone like Donald Trump before 2016. Now Pence is hearing Trump's critics compare the president to an organized crime boss. Whether or not he agrees, thanks to the movies, everyone knows how the game works and so the vice president surely had an inkling about President Trump's modus operandi. In fact, he had more than a hint of what was to come. "He was going into this with his eyes open," a source close to Pence told me in 2018 referring to Pence's decision to accept Trump's offer in 2016 to run for vice president. "He knew exactly who Trump was and what he faced." Pence already knew that Trump had come to the Republican nomination with lies and slander, starting with his campaign to claim that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States; and by 2016 Trump had denigrated Mexican immigrants, saying "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

But Pence's ambition was stronger than any possible concerns about the character of the man he would have to support, and wavered but did not back out even after the Access Hollywood tape was published in October 2016. Pence and his wife had already prayed for guidance—and decided he had a purpose and a mission, from God, to serve the country as vice president, said the source. "Once he got to that point, he never looked back." Pence should have expected that at some point his patron would make him get his hands dirty. It may have happened in the case of Trump's scandalous, and perhaps impeachable, request that Ukraine investigate his political rival Joe Biden. Trump's Ukraine gambit appears to be a variation on classic extortion that started with his decision to freeze the roughly $400 million in military and security aid approved to help Ukraine fight its ongoing war against Russian invaders. "I would like you to do us a favor, though," said Trump after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned the aid in a phone call.

Trump wanted Zelensky to look into the allegation that Ukrainians stole the Democratic National Committee email server during the 2016 campaign. This is a debunked conspiracy theory. He also asked Zelensky to work on the matter with Attorney General William Barr and Trump's own personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Although Trump's words were imprecise -- he never said "Do this or you don't get the $400 million" -- his meaning was clear. A White House memo reconstructing the conversation showed the president returned to the subject of investigating former Vice President Biden repeatedly during their talk, Zelensky promised that his yet-to-be-named chief prosecutor would look into the matter.


Australia’s ambassador to the U.S. confirmed to Sen. Lindsey Graham that the Australian government is assisting Attorney General William Barr’s investigation of foreign interference in the 2016 election — but disputed the lawmaker’s reference to an Australian diplomat involved in the Russia probe’s origins. Graham on Wednesday had asked the prime ministers of Australia, Italy and Britain to continue to aid Barr in his inquiry, which critics say represents another effort by President Donald Trump to discredit the work of former special counsel Robert Mueller. “It appears that the United States law enforcement and intelligence communities relied on foreign intelligence as part of their efforts to investigate and monitor the 2016 presidential election,” the South Carolina Republican wrote in his letter to the leaders.

Graham added that those efforts by American officials included “accepting information from an Australian diplomat who was … directed to contact [Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George] Papadopoulos and relay information obtained from Papadopoulos regarding the campaign to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” It has been reported that Papadopoulos had revealed to an Australian diplomat, believed to be Alexander Downer, details of his April 2016 conversations with Josef Mifsud, a London-based professor with ties to the Kremlin. Mifsud allegedly told Papadopoulos that Moscow had “thousands of emails” damaging to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In a letter responding to Graham dated Wednesday, Ambassador Joe Hockey wrote that the Australian government “is cooperating” with Barr’s inquiry and has “been public about our willingness to cooperate.” Hockey added: “In your letter you made mention of the role of an Australian diplomat. We reject your characterisation of his role.” - Its official Lindsey Graham is carrying the water for Trump.

By John Harwood

The Republican defenses for President Donald Trump’s conduct on Ukraine simply don’t hold up. At first glance, that can be hard to discern. Trump, his aides and select allies in Congress have feverishly sought to redirect a whistleblower’s complaints toward Democratic adversaries. “It is the height of insanity for the Democrats to try and bogusly impeach President Trump for simply calling out this corruption,” a Republican National Committee spokesman asserted over the weekend. Yet even cursory scrutiny of evidence that has emerged so far knocks down assorted GOP arguments like shanties in a hurricane. Here’s a brief review: It was hearsay: House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy notes that “the whistleblower wasn’t on the call” between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart. “Hearsay,” Sen. Lindsey Graham insists, cannot be a basis for impeachment. Both observations are irrelevant. In the partial transcript of the call released by the White House itself, Trump’s own words affirm the whistleblower’s account. That is direct evidence, not hearsay. “If they thought it would be exculpatory, they miscalculated badly,” GOP former Sen. Jeff Flake told me. Biased whistleblower: The president says the still-unidentified whistleblower harbors “known bias” against him. This observation, which the intelligence community inspector general called “arguable,” does not discredit the whistleblower’s allegations, which the inspector general found “credible.” If the whistleblower’s information is accurate, his motivation doesn’t matter. Trump’s own former homeland security advisor, Thomas Bossert, has described himself as “deeply disturbed” by the president’s behavior, too.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham also argued a "high crime" was simply an important person hurting someone of low means.
By Dan Evon

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham argued in 1999 that a crime wasn't necessary for presidential impeachment. An old quote supposedly uttered by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham about the requirements for presidential impeachment is frequently shared on social media in response to the South Carolina lawmaker’s staunch defense of President Donald Trump: This is a genuine quote from Graham. Graham was one of 13 U.S. House Republicans from the judiciary committee who served as a “manager” (similar to a prosecutor) during the impeachment trial of then-President Bill Clinton. As Graham made his case for Clinton’s impeachment on Jan. 16, 1999, the South Carolina lawmaker explained his thoughts on what constituted a “high crime” and argued that a president’s being convicted of a crime was not required for impeachment. The viral quote can be heard in the following clip from C-Span:

So now it’s a threat of “civil war.” How low can Trump go? Don’t answer that.
By Matt Lewis

In January 1973, National Lampoon featured an infamous cover declaring: “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine We’ll Kill This Dog.” I was reminded of that when Donald Trump sent a similarly desperate tweet this weekend, suggesting that “If You Don’t Stop This Impeachment My People and I Will Start a Civil War.” At least, that’s my interpretation of Trump’s tweet—which predicted: “If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office… it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” It is, perhaps, ironic that in seeking to clear himself of making an alleged veiled threat to Ukraine that he would hold up the country’s funding, Trump is now issuing a veiled threat to America: It’s a nice country we got here, it’d be a shame if anything happened to it!

By Alexander Bolton

Republican senators scrambling to protect President Trump from a formal impeachment inquiry are attacking the credibility of the whistleblower who filed a complaint. GOP lawmakers are asserting the whistleblower did not have firsthand knowledge of the actions detailed in the complaint and question whether the person had a political agenda. “It doesn’t come from a person with personal knowledge. It’s like I heard these people say this, and now I’m reporting it. I think that is pretty bizarre,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “Secondly, after a certain point, it doesn’t just allege facts, it really is kind of a dossier or political diatribe, so I think there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. Having said that, we are in the process of talking to the director of national intelligence and the inspector general.” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has had a reputation for protecting whistleblowers, said the one at the center of the Trump impeachment inquiry didn’t necessarily deserve protections. “If they are not really a whistleblower, they don’t get the protection,” he said. The remarks from Grassley, Cornyn and other senators echo arguments coming from Trump, but stand in stark contrast to the testimony last week from acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, who said the whistleblower acted in good faith. - Once again, Republicans show they do care about our laws only about protecting Trump and the Republican Party. - If it were Obama Republicans would be calling the whistleblower a hero.

By Ramsey Touchberry

Republican-turned-Independent congressman Justin Amash laid into the House's top Republican on Sunday, saying House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Cali.) lacked competence and was dishonest in a CBS 60 Minutes interview where he defended President Donald Trump's actions involving the Ukraine whistleblower scandal. "Kevin McCarthy again displays his unique brand of incompetence and dishonesty," Amash wrote on Twitter, along with a portion of McCarthy's 60 Minutes interview. Amash, once a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, left the Republican Party in July and became an Independent after becoming the first and only member of his party to call for Trump's impeachment based on evidence from the Mueller report. He pointed to the roughly 10 instances of potential obstruction of justice as the crux for his belief Trump should be ousted from office.

‘You said ‘I’d like you to do [me] a favour though’?’ Congressman says during 60 Minutes segment
By Zamira Rahim

Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the house of representatives, appeared to learn about the most controversial part of Donald Trump’s call with Volodymyr Zelensky during a television interview. The 54-year-old was interviewed for CBS’ 60 Minutes programme by Scott Pelley, who read out parts of the White House summary of the call during the exchange. He focused on a point where Mr Zelensky, the Ukranian leader, discussed a defence deal. “We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins [missiles] from the United States for defence purposes,” Mr Zelensky said during the call. The US president replied: “I would like you to do us a favour though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike ... I guess you have one of your wealthy people... The server, they say Ukraine has it.” “You just added another word,” Mr McCarthy said during the interview, appearing to refer to the word “though”. “No,” Scott Pelley said. “It’s in the transcript.” “You said ‘I’d like you to do [me] a favour though’?” Mr McCarthy said, with apparent surprise. “Yes, it’s in the White House transcript,” Mr Pelley said. The controversial exchange in the phone call refers to CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity company which investigated the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The New York Republican was the first member of Congress to back Trump's presidential bid. Collins' resignation will be effective Tuesday.
By Tom Winter and Alex Moe

Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., has sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office stating that he is resigning his House seat, a source familiar with the matter tells NBC News. Collins' resignation comes ahead of his expected guilty plea Tuesday to charges relating to insider trading, according to documents filed in federal court Monday. His resignation will become effective once his letter is read on the House floor during Tuesday’s pro-forma session. Collins, the first member of Congress to announce his support for Donald Trump's presidential bid, is scheduled to appear for a "change of plea" hearing in a Manhattan courtroom at 3 p.m. Tuesday. He pleaded not guilty to insider trading and several other charges when he was first indicted in 2018. Experts say the hearing means he is likely changing his plea to guilty. Collins' lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Collins, 68, who was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president in February 2016, was charged with insider trading in August 2018 along with his son, Cameron, and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron's fiancée, according to the indictment. The men are also charged with lying to the FBI in interviews to cover up the alleged scheme to profit off insider knowledge about a company called Innate Immunotherapeutics. In a news conference following his indictment, Collins said, "I believe I acted properly and within the laws at all times." "Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have followed all rules and ethical guidelines," he added.

By Rachel Frazin

A new report by Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee alleges that the National Rifle Association (NRA) "became a foreign asset" for Russia ahead of the 2016 election. The document published Friday says that the NRA and its officers, board members and donors "engaged in a years-long effort to facilitate the U.S.-based activities of Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin," despite being aware of the two Russian nationals' ties to the Kremlin. "The scope of the NRA’s support for these Russian activities raises concerns about whether the activity in which the NRA, its officers and board members engaged were in furtherance of the organization’s exempt purpose," it said.  Last year, Butina pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent on behalf of the Russian government. Torshin is a Russian banker and former politician.  The report cited a series of emails between NRA officials and and interviews conducted during the 18-month investigation. One 2015 email seen by NRA executives said "Many powerful figures in the Kremlin are counting on Torshin to prove his American connections–a last minute important member cancellation could affect his political future." The Senate Democrats also found that over a years-long period, "NRA officers and board members directed organization resources toward facilitating the activities of Butina and Torshin in the United States." The report also raised questions about an NRA delegation's travel to Moscow in December 2015.  "The NRA initially reimbursed some trip expenses," it said. "In 2018, after Senator Wyden first asked the NRA about its relationship to Torshin, the organization sought reimbursement ... to get trip expense payments 'off the NRA’s books.' " Democrats said that the report shows wrongdoing by the gun rights organization.

By Tim Mak

The National Rifle Association acted as a "foreign asset" for Russia in the period leading up to the 2016 election, according to a new investigation unveiled Friday by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. Drawing on contemporaneous emails and private interviews, an 18-month probe by the Senate Finance Committee's Democratic staff found that the NRA underwrote political access for Russian nationals Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin more than previously known — even though the two had declared their ties to the Kremlin. The report, available here, also describes how closely the gun rights group was involved with organizing a 2015 visit by some of its leaders to Moscow. Then-NRA vice president Pete Brownell, who would later become NRA president, was enticed to visit Russia with the promise of personal business opportunities — and the NRA covered a portion of the trip's costs. The conclusions of the Senate investigation could have legal implications for the NRA, Wyden says. Tax-exempt organizations are barred from using funds for the personal benefit of its officials or for actions significantly outside their stated missions. The revelations in the Senate report raise questions about whether the NRA could face civil penalties or lose its tax-exempt status. Attorneys general in the state of New York and the District of Columbia are conducting separate probes into alleged wrongdoing at the gun rights organization. These probes have a broader scope than the Senate report, which focuses on Russia.

By Maureen Groppe and Ledyard King, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans on Wednesday dismissed a call between President Donald Trump and the leader of Ukraine as much ado about nothing, despite a summary of the call showing Trump repeatedly pressing for an investigation into a political rival. “What a nothing (non-quid pro quo) burger,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “Democrats have lost their minds when it comes to President @realDonaldTrump.” House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries labeled the call a “textbook abuse of power” but declined to say whether it’s evidence enough to impeach the president. “We are in the midst of an impeachment inquiry,” Jeffries said. The next step, he said, is getting a complaint filed by a whistleblower in the intelligence community. “We can only imagine what is in that document,” Jeffries said, hours before the administration delivered the complaint to lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees. The Democratic-controlled House passed a nonbinding resolution calling on the Trump administration to turn the complaint over to Congress immediately as required by law. It was the first chance for the House to weigh in on the controversy since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry Tuesday.

By Shane Croucher

President Donald Trump appeared to mock Greta Thunberg after her emotional speech to the United Nations on Monday. Thunberg, 16, was tearful and her voice broke as she chided world leaders for having "stolen my dreams and my childhood" with their inaction on climate change. The Swedish activist founded the school strike campaign to raise awareness about the climate emergency and the urgent need for governments to take comprehensive action quickly. She has since traveled the world to campaign on climate change and recently sailed across the Atlantic to New York City so she could give this speech to the U.N. "She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!" Trump wrote on Twitter alongside a clip of Thunberg's speech. He tweeted after a video of Thunberg glaring at him as he entered the U.N. headquarters went viral on social media. Trump has questioned climate change science and sought to roll back environmental protections, as well as encouraged greater production in the fossil fuel industry. But climate scientists are near-unanimous in the view that humans are the driving force of the current changes to the climate and that time is almost out for us to halt it and reverse its effects.

By Alexander Bolton

Senate Republicans are scrambling to contain the political fallout from reports that President Trump pressured a foreign leader to investigate his leading Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. Several Republican lawmakers have called on Trump to reveal more details from his conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which the president on Sunday acknowledged discussing Biden and his possible links to corruption in Ukraine. This effort comes as some Democrats in the House are ramping up their calls for a vote on an impeachment inquiry. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced on the Senate floor Monday afternoon that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is trying to bring the Trump-appointed intelligence community’s inspector general who received a complaint from a whistleblower before his panel to investigate the matter. But McConnell cautioned his colleagues to handle the issue with bipartisan cooperation and refrain from some of the political fireworks that have erupted in the House over the complaint. “I believe it’s extremely important that their work be handled in a secure setting with adequate protections in a bipartisan fashion, and based on facts rather than leaks to the press,” he said. Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) told reporters Monday that Congress needs to be briefed on the whistleblower complaint. “I would hope that whatever information is available that is in the possession of the inspector general of the DNI [director of national intelligence] that we would get access to that,” he said.

By Caroline Kelly, CNN

(CNN) - Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said he has "no obligation" to tell the truth to the media while acknowledging that he had not told the truth when asked earlier this year about his interactions with President Donald Trump. During congressional testimony on Tuesday, Lewandowski -- a former CNN political commentator -- acknowledged that "perhaps I was inaccurate" during a February interview on MSNBC. In that interview, Lewandowski said he did not remember the President ever asking him to get involved with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions or the Department of Justice, which differs from what he told special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller's report stated that Lewandowski said that in June 2017, Trump instructed him to tell Sessions to curtail the Mueller investigation, and that Lewandowski did not follow through. While being questioned by Barry Berke, a lawyer for the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, Lewandowski was shown a video of the interview. He said the clip "can be interpreted any way you'd like." "I have no obligation to be honest with the media," he told the panel.

By Chandelis Duster, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh said Monday his campaign will go straight to Republican voters in states where Republican parties canceled 2020 presidential primaries, saying the party has become a "cult" that "is all about washing their leaders' feet every day."
Walsh, along with Republican primary challengers former South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, criticized GOP leaders and President Donald Trump in a Washington Post op-ed on Friday on the heels of party leaders in Kansas, South Carolina and Nevada canceling their primaries in a show of support for Trump. When asked on CNN's "New Day" on Monday how he plans to challenge it, Walsh said he is going to take his campaign straight to voters. "We're going to take our campaign directly to Republican voters, and I'll add, in all 50 states, we're going to campaign in all 50 states," Walsh said. "We're going to campaign in South Carolina, Arizona, Nevada, and Kansas, because I believe if we let these Republican voters know that the President of the United States just took away their right to vote, they'll march on the headquarters of their state parties to get that right to vote back." Walsh, who voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election and is now outspoken against the Trump presidency, called Trump a "would-be dictator." "I always want to pinch myself and remind myself that this isn't Russia. I do not live in Russia. I refuse to live in Russia," Walsh said. "We can't just cancel elections in this country. That's what Donald Trump is doing. He's literally canceling elections, and it's very easy to be p***** off at Trump, but we're used to this with Trump. He is a would-be dictator. He would like this to be Russia." Walsh also said on Monday he has "given up on the Republican Party," calling it "a cult." "They no longer stand for ideas. The Republican Party right now is all about washing their leaders' feet every day. That's what they do."  

Moscow Mitch has done more to help Russia than he has done to help America. We know Moscow Mitch knew about Russian interference during the 2016 election so why does he keep preventing election security bills from passing. Moscow Mitch has done nothing to prevent Russian hacking of the 2020 election and it does not appear he plans to do so. We elect our representatives to protect us from our enemies both foreign and domestic Moscow Mitch refuses to protect us from both. Read below to find out more about Moscow Mitch.

North Carolina's sleazy 9/11 veto override is just the tip of the iceberg: Republicans don't respect democracy
By Sophia Tesfaye

A change is coming in 2020. Gerrymandered maps are being struck down by courts across the country, and the 2018 midterm elections point to massive turnout in the next election. Republicans, clearly running scared, are preparing for the course correction by breaking, bending and reshaping the rules in an obvious attempt to make a mockery of the democratic process. From Oregon to North Carolina, GOP lawmakers have used every dirty trick they can to seize power and undermine the power Democrats even after they win elections. They have taken Grover Norquist’s goal — to turn the tone in state capitals toward bitterness and partisanship — to heart in a major way. “Our goal is to inflict pain. It is not enough to win. It has to be a painful, devastating defeat. Like when the king would take his opponent's head and spike it on a pole for everyone to see,” Norquist infamously said in the National Review. Except for the shock election of Donald Trump to the presidency, however, Republicans haven’t had the best record of winning of late. Based on their behavior while losing, it seems that the revised Republican goal goes beyond pain to utter destruction. Take for instance the extreme and ridiculous proposal by a Texas Republican state lawmaker to abolish the state capital of Austin. Apparently upset that the progressive city approved $150,000 in grants to organizations like Planned Parenthood, GOP state Rep. Briscoe Cain called for direct retaliation against the city of more than 950,000 people, saying the Republican-controlled state legislature should get “supreme authority over mayor and council.”

By Jessica Kwong

Democratic Governor Roy Cooper said state House Republicans "cheated the people of North Carolina" by holding a surprise vote and overriding his veto on the budget while he was attending a 9/11 memorial event on Wednesday. "Today, Republicans waged an assault on our democracy," Cooper said at an impromptu press conference he held after the vote. "They cheated the people of North Carolina." House Republicans apparently told Democrats that no votes would be held, but ended up overriding Cooper's budget veto 55-9, with just 64 of the 120 members in the house present. Cooper said that Republicans for two months refused to negotiate with him or offer a compromise on the budget. "Democrats were told there would be no votes this morning," Cooper said. "That was a bald-faced lie." Cooper added that such behavior from Republicans was unprecedented. "I have never seen anything like this in my 30-plus years in state government," the governor said, "This is a true assault on our democracy. There is no question about it."

Jerry Falwell Jr. is pushing greed, racism, sexism and homophobia instead of the word of the god. God warns us of false prophets and those who use his name to promote their ideas and enrich themselves, they are a danger to all of us, and they are not doing the work of the lord.

The moves, which critics called undemocratic, are the latest illustration of the president's total takeover of the GOP apparatus.

Four states are poised to cancel their 2020 GOP presidential primaries and caucuses, a move that would cut off oxygen to Donald Trump’s long-shot primary challengers. Republican parties in South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Kansas are expected to finalize the cancellations in meetings this weekend, according to three GOP officials who are familiar with the plans. The moves are the latest illustration of Trump’s takeover of the entire Republican Party apparatus. They underscore the extent to which his allies are determined to snuff out any potential nuisance en route to his renomination — or even to deny Republican critics a platform to embarrass him. Trump advisers are quick to point out that parties of an incumbent president seeking reelection have a long history of canceling primaries and note it will save state parties money. But the president’s primary opponents, who have struggled to gain traction, are crying foul, calling it part of a broader effort to rig the contest in Trump’s favor. “Trump and his allies and the Republican National Committee are doing whatever they can do to eliminate primaries in certain states and make it very difficult for primary challengers to get on the ballot in a number of states,” said former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), who recently launched his primary campaign against the president. “It’s wrong, the RNC should be ashamed of itself, and I think it does show that Trump is afraid of a serious primary challenge because he knows his support is very soft.” “Primary elections are important, competition within parties is good, and we intend to be on the ballot in every single state no matter what the RNC and Trump allies try to do,” Walsh added. “We also intend to loudly call out this undemocratic bull on a regular basis.” Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld said in a statement, “We don’t elect presidents by acclamation in America. Donald Trump is doing his best to make the Republican Party his own personal club. Republicans deserve better.” RNC officials said they played no role in the decisions. The cancellations stem in part from months of behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the Trump campaign. Aides have worked to ensure total control of the party machinery, installing staunch loyalists at state parties while eliminating potential detractors. The aim, Trump officials have long said, is to smooth the path to the president’s renomination and ensure he doesn’t face the kind of internal opposition that hampered former President George H.W. Bush in his failed 1992 reelection campaign.

A North Carolina judicial panel rejected state legislative district maps Tuesday, saying legislators took extreme advantage in drawing voting districts to help elect a maximum number of Republican lawmakers. The judges gave lawmakers two weeks to try again. The three-judge panel of state trial judges unanimously ruled that courts can step in to decide when partisan advantage goes so far it diminishes democracy. Their ruling comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June in a separate case involving North Carolina's congressional map that it's not the job of federal courts to decide if boundaries are politically unfair — though state courts could consider whether gerrymandering stands up under state laws and constitutions. The state judges found that the way the majority-Republican General Assembly redrew legislative district maps in 2017 violated the rights of Democratic voters under the state constitution's equal protection and freedom of assembly clauses.

By Jordain Carney

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pledged Tuesday that Republicans would fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2019 or 2020, arguing the dynamic is different now than when the party held open a seat in 2016. Asked during an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt if Republicans would support filing a vacancy on the Supreme Court in 2019 or 2020, McConnell said "absolutely." McConnell has earned fierce pushback for blocking Merrick Garland, President Obama's final Supreme Court nominee, from getting a hearing or a vote. But he's said that Republicans would fill a vacancy ahead of the 2020 presidential election. He has argued that there was a divided government in 2016, but there would not be in 2019 or 2020 because Republicans control both the Senate and White House. "You have to go back to 1880 to find the last time, back to 1880s to find the last time a Senate of a different party from the president filled a Supreme Court vacancy created in the middle of a presidential election. That was entirely the precedent," McConnell said on Tuesday about his decision to block Garland. "There was nothing I did that was, would not have been done had the shoe been on the other foot had there been a … Republican president and a Democratic Senate. So look, they can whine about this all day long. But under the Constitution, there is co-responsibility for appointments," McConnell added. Republicans have put a premium on confirming President Trump's judicial nominees. In addition to setting a record on the number of circuit court picks confirmed, Trump has also gotten two Supreme Court nominees through the GOP-controlled Senate. Trump's two nominees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, at 52 and 54, respectively, are the court's two youngest justices. Three of the nine current justices on the Supreme Court are 70 or older: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 86, Stephen Breyer is 81, and Clarence Thomas is 71. Ginsburg and Breyer are both members of the court's liberal wing, while Thomas is a conservative. - McConnell stole Obama’s Supreme Court pick. - McConnell’s Coup d'état, McConnell stole Obama’s Supreme Court pick.

By Steve Benen

A couple of weeks ago, Donald Trump’s Republican allies considered a variety of defenses to explain away the president’s racist criticisms of four Democratic congresswomen of color. The one from House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) stood out as … unique. The Louisiana Republican suggested controversies like these wouldn’t happen if Democrats were as polite to Trump as GOP lawmakers were to Barack Obama during his presidency. “[W]e had disagreements with a lot of Barack Obama’s policies, but we never disrespected the office,” Scalise said. “We expressed our disagreements in a respectful, respectful way.” The GOP congressman did not appear to be kidding. It led a variety of observers (including me) to point out a hearty list of instances in which Republicans registered their opposition to Obama in ways that were far short of “respectful.” But Scalise isn’t the only one with a selective memory. Consider Donald Trump’s reflections of the Obama era at a White House event the other day. “Frankly, the Republicans were gentlemen and women. When we had the majority in the House, they didn’t do subpoenas all day long. They didn’t do what they – what these people have done.” The president has bragged more than once about having “one of the great memories of all time,” but partisan amnesia appears to be affecting him, too. The point about Republican lawmakers being “gentlemen and women” toward Obama has already been discredited, but when it comes to Trump’s observations about subpoenas, the Associated Press explained that the sitting president is “distorting recent history.”

By AL.com staff

Gov. Kay Ivey is contacting state legislators, and apologizing for her role in a racist student skit from her time as an Auburn student. Ivey was president of her Alpha Gamma Delta pledge class at Auburn. Photos of her sorority sisters in blackface emerged earlier this year. None showed the governor. But Thursday she apologized after audio emerged of a skit at a Baptist Student Union Party. The audio is a radio interview of Ivey and her then-fiance, Ben LaRavia. He describes Ivey as wearing blue coveralls and said she “had put some black paint all over her face.” LaRavia in the interview said they were acting out a skit called “cigar butts” that “did not require a lot of talent, as far as verbal talent, but did require a lot of physical acting, such as crawling around on the floor looking for cigar butts and things like this, which certainly got a big reaction out of the audience.”

The Federal Election Commission will be without a quorum as of August 31 and will be powerless to enforce election law.
By Josh Israel

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) — intended to be a group of no more than three Democrats and no more than three Republicans overseeing the federal campaign finance system — has been operating with just a bare quorum of four for the past 18 months. With the resignation of Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen, at the end of the week, the commission will be virtually paralyzed. The reason for this: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. The FEC is a peculiar agency. It was created in 1974 to enforce finance laws for House, Senate, presidential, and vice presidential campaigns. Unlike most agencies, neither party is allowed to hold a working majority of seats at any time. Scott Harshbarger, the former president of the campaign finance reform group Common Cause, once quipped that the FEC is “probably the only agency in Washington that has done from the beginning exactly what it was intended to do, which was to do nothing.’’ But while the commission has often deadlocked along party lines — especially in recent years — it still has played some role in issuing fines, auditing campaign filings, and investigating corruption. With just three active members, it will be able to do none of that. The six commissioners are appointed by the president — subject to Senate confirmation — to serve a single six-year term. The terms are staggered so two (typically one Democratic and one Republican commissioner) are up every two years. If no successor is confirmed, commissioners may stay on as long as they are willing. While the positions were once filled in pairs with little fanfare, since McConnell (an avowed foe of campaign finance law) became majority leader in 2015, not a single commissioner has been confirmed. Petersen and the remaining commissioners are all serving expired terms.

By Peter Beinart

When Democrats are accused of anti-Semitism, Republicans understand that coded language can be hurtful. But Trump’s racist comments get a pass. Most of the time, conservatives and Republicans want the bar for what constitutes bigotry to be set extremely high. When President Donald Trump tweeted last weekend that four nonwhite Democrats in Congress should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” he offered a textbook example of racism. Trump’s own Equal Employment Opportunity Commission uses the phrase Go back to where you came from as one of its examples of discrimination based on national origin. Yet Trump insisted that “those Tweets were NOT Racist”—even as he doubled down on them by launching an attack on Representative Ilhan Omar that prompted rally-goers in North Carolina on Wednesday night to chant “Send her back!” At the same time that Trump was denying charges of bigotry, however, he was also leveling them. At the North Carolina rally, he accused Omar of “vicious anti-Semitic” remarks—a reference to her tweet that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s influence in Washington is “all about the Benjamins” and her allegation that pro-Israel groups “push for allegiance to a foreign country.” Those comments—which evoked hoary stereotypes of Jews as money-driven and disloyal—elicited criticism even from Democrats, and Omar apologized for the first. But however damning one considers her statements, it’s utterly illogical to claim that they constitute bigotry while Trump’s far more direct attack does not. Yet this is exactly what Trump and other prominent Republicans are doing.

By Zak Cheney-Rice

For a political movement whose rallying cry was “build the wall” to keep Mexicans out of the United States, it was perhaps inevitable that a Muslim, Somali-born congresswoman would eventually have chants of “send her back” aimed her way. Spurred by President Donald Trump — who on Sunday tweeted that Democratic Representatives Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested” countries they “originally came from” — supporters at his rally in Greenville, North Carolina shouted this directive on Wednesdsay after Trump suggested that Omar was an Al Qaeda sympathizer who looked down on Americans. Racist remarks are routine for the president, who, incidentally, saw his approval rating among Republican voters receive a five point jump after his bigoted tweetstorm, raising it to 72 percent. But some Republican officials have expressed trepidation since Wednesday’s rally. Politico reports that a handful of GOP members of Congress approached Vice-President Mike Pence with concerns about Trump’s broadsides against the four Democratic congresswomen, three of whom, despite his rhetoric, were born in the U.S. “It’s one thing to do chants of ‘lock her up,’” Representative Paul Mitchell of Michigan told the outlet, referencing the 2016 pro-Trump rallying cry aimed at Hillary Clinton. “But a chant like [‘send her back’] is simply not reflective of our constitution.” (Neither is incarcerating people who haven’t been charged with or convicted of crimes, it’s worth noting.) “[Pence] said, ‘at first I couldn’t even tell what it was,’” added Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma. “And he said, ‘that just needs to not happen.’ [The vice-president] seemed as appalled by it as everybody else.” But perhaps the most telling response came from Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina, who in addition to being a former pastor, is vice-chairman of the House Republican conference. “We talked about [the chant], and [Pence] — we — felt like this is going to be part of our discussion to make sure we are not defined by that,” Walker said. “We want our policies, from the House all the way up to the administration, to define us.”

By Andrew Kaczynski, CNN

(CNN) - Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, was a founding member of a group more than a decade ago that described undocumented immigrants as "foreign invaders" responsible for "serious infectious diseases, drug running, gang violence, human trafficking, terrorism." The group, State Legislators for Legal Immigration, was established in 2007, when an immigration revamp was being hotly debated in Congress. Its founding principle was that undocumented immigration represented an invasion of the United States on par with foreign invasion that should justify invoking war powers under the Constitution -- extreme rhetoric Cuccinelli has continued to use in recent years, and that has been adopted by President Donald Trump and other Republicans. Speaking with Breitbart radio in October of last year, Cuccinelli argued that states could use "war powers" to block Central American migrants, many of whom were reportedly planning to seek asylum in the US and who'd formed a so-called caravan, from coming across the border. "We've been being invaded for a long time, and so the border states clearly qualify here to utilize this power themselves. And what's interesting is they don't need anyone's permission," Cuccinelli said. "They can do it themselves. And because they're acting under war powers, there's no due process. They can literally just line their National Guard up with, presumably with riot gear like they would if they had a civil disturbance, and turn people back at the border. Literally, you don't have to keep them, no catch and release, no nothing. You just point them back across the river and let them swim for it."

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