"Where you can find almost anything with A Click A Pick!"
Go to content

US Monthly Headline News Page 1

News > US News
March 2019: Get the latest monthly headline news from multiple news sources and news links. Get real facts, real news from major news originations.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4KPYh77wuM
Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation "did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities" during the 2016 campaign, he wrote in his final report. Attorney General William Barr summarized the report's findings in a letter to lawmakers Sunday. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called the report a "total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States." Barr says Mueller described the facts surrounding his investigation into allegations of obstruction of justice but made no determination as to whether President Trump committed a crime, deferring to Barr. The report "does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him," Barr quotes Mueller as writing.

By Eric Schmitt, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Helene Cooper and Alissa J. Rubin

WASHINGTON — The fight to expel the Islamic State from its last shard of territory in Syria may be over. But the United States and its partners still face significant battles against the terrorist group, its affiliates and other networks that are less formally aligned with it elsewhere, in Afghanistan, West Africa and the Philippines. Even before an American-backed Kurdish and Arab militia ousted the last extremist fighters from the eastern Syrian village of Baghuz on Saturday, the Islamic State had shifted gears. The organization that once staked out a self-proclaimed caliphate across Iraq and Syria has now metastasized into a more traditional terrorist group — an atomized, clandestine network of cells engaged in guerrilla attacks, bombings and targeted assassinations. Thousands of American troops are helping the Afghan Army and security forces combat the Islamic State and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan. Armed American drones are hunting Islamic State cells in Libya. And American forces are advising and providing intelligence to local troops fighting the Islamic State in Burkina Faso and in the Philippines. Thousands of Islamic State fighters are also still at large in Iraq and Syria, biding their time to rearm and regroup to strike the same regions again. Many of them slipped out or surrendered when the final wave of civilians fled Baghuz, American commanders and intelligence analysts said. “What we are seeing now is not the surrender of ISIS as an organization — but in fact a calculated decision to preserve the safety of their families and preservation of their capabilities,” Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the head of the military’s Central Command, told lawmakers this month about the exodus from Baghuz. “The ISIS population being evacuated from the remaining vestiges of the caliphate largely remains unrepentant, unbroken and radicalized,” he said.


By Katelyn Polantz, Erica Orden and Kara Scannell, CNN

(CNN) As Robert Mueller exits stage left, the Justice Department will continue to pursue a handful of investigations—and potentially more prosecutions -- that began with or were bolstered by the special counsel's work. And a significant group of them still focus around President Donald Trump.
The still-live investigations range from an expansive probe into the Trump inaugural committee, to various investigations relating to former top Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, to tips that stemmed from Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen's experience with Trump and his family's company. It's possible other investigations are being conducted quietly, as well. In all, Mueller leaves behind a mess of prosecutors in federal and state government still collecting documents, interviewing witnesses and prosecuting cases that may keep Trump's family and associates on edge for months. Much of the apparent action so far has been out of the powerful, insular US Attorney's Office in Manhattan. The Southern District of New York office is already looking into donations and expenditures of the Trump inaugural, into the Trump Organization, into allegations from Cohen related to campaign finance and a possible suggested pardon. They're also investigating well-known US lobbyists who worked for Ukraine. Prosecutors from state and local offices and other federal prosecutor offices are also getting involved in the sprawling set of cases. The inaugural investigation. Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York in February sent a wide-ranging subpoena to the Trump inaugural committee, marking a major step in what could be a devastating probe in Trump's political world. The Manhattan-based prosecutors were seeking virtually every piece of documentation related to the inaugural's donors, vendors and finances. The subpoena, which was signed by Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman, disclosed that prosecutors are investigating a broad array of potential crimes related to the inauguration's business conduct: conspiracy against the US, false statements, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, inaugural committee disclosure violations and violations of laws prohibiting contributions by foreign nations and contributions in the name of another person, also known as straw donors. The subpoena also specifically sought information on a donor named Imaad Zuberi and his investment firm, Avenue Ventures LLC, which donated $900,000 to the inaugural fund, according to Federal Election Commission records.

By Jacqueline Thomsen

The end of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is shifting the spotlight to federal prosecutors in President Trump's hometown. While all eyes this weekend are on the Department of Justice and Mueller’s conclusions, the end of the special counsel’s report won’t finish all of the investigations into Trump. The U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York is reportedly already carrying out a series of probes related to the president, including efforts focused on Trump's inaugural committee. It is also overseeing an investigation into potential campaign finance violations tied to the president. Trump and his allies are well aware of the investigations and the dangers of the New York prosecutors. The office is legendary for its ruthless and broad investigations and has shown a willing to take on big names from mafia bosses to celebrities to economic powerhouses. Legal experts told The Hill that even as the Mueller probe ends, SDNY could pose an even greater threat to the president, his family and his businesses. “That office has been very aggressive about going after high-profile targets,”  said former federal prosecutor Kendall Coffey, who called the Manhattan attorney’s office “utterly fearless.” “Anybody that might be in their bullseye ought to be mighty worried,” Coffey added. Jonathan Turley, a professor at GW Law School, said that charges pursued by SDNY could have a statute of limitations that extend beyond Trump’s term, meaning that Trump could be indicted once he leaves office. “If the president was found to be part of a criminal conspiracy or violation, it’s possible that they could proceed with charges after the election,” said Turley, an opinions contributor to The Hill. The White House and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow did not respond to requests for comment for this story. Documents from the federal raids on former Trump attorney Michael Cohen released Tuesday indicated that federal prosecutors in New York are probing a potential campaign finance violation. Cohen has publicly implicated the president in the scheme to make hush-money payments to women alleging affairs, as have court filings from SDNY. Trump has denied any wrongdoing in the case. The New York Times also reported Saturday that the Manhattan attorney’s office is conducting several investigations tied to the president, including one into his inaugural committee and two others linked to former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort.

By Ralph Ellis, CNN

(CNN) More than 600 cities, counties and Native American tribes from 28 states have filed a federal lawsuit against eight members of the Sackler family -- owners of the pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma LP -- accusing them of creating the opioid addiction crisis through ownership of the company that manufactures the painkiller OxyContin. Like other suits that have been filed, this one alleges the Sackler family made a fortune by using deceptive marketing to sell addictive and potentially deadly painkillers. "Eight people in a single family made the choices that caused much of the opioid epidemic," the suit says, then naming the eight defendants. "Because they controlled their own privately held drug company, the Sackler Defendants had the power to decide how addictive narcotics were sold. They got more patients on opioids, at higher doses, for longer, than ever before. They paid themselves billions of dollars. They are responsible for addiction, overdose, and death that damaged millions of lives. They should be held accountable now." The lawsuit does not specify the amount of monetary damages sought. The suits seeks a number of actions, including having the Sacklers issue "corrective advertising statements" in national and regional publications, medical journals, television shows and websites. The plaintiffs say they deserve compensation because the opioid crisis increased costs for law enforcement, child care for children of people addicted to opioids and physical and mental health treatment. The plaintiffs also say property values decreased in some areas because of the drug epidemic.

The tape of a private meeting was made shortly after the lawyer for an influential industry group was tapped for a high-level post at the Department of the Interior.
By LANCE WILLIAMS

Gathered for a private meeting at a beachside Ritz-Carlton in Southern California, the oil executives were celebrating a colleague’s sudden rise. David Bernhardt, their former lawyer, had been appointed by President Donald Trump to the powerful No. 2 spot at the Department of the Interior. Just five months into the Trump era, the energy developers who make up the Independent Petroleum Association of America had already watched the new president order a sweeping overhaul of environmental regulations that were cutting into their bottom lines — rules concerning smog, fracking and endangered species protection. Dan Naatz, the association’s political director, told the conference room audience of about 100 executives that Bernhardt’s new role meant their priorities would be heard at the highest levels of Interior. “We know him very well, and we have direct access to him, have conversations with him about issues ranging from federal land access to endangered species, to a lot of issues,” Naatz said, according to an hourlong recording of the June 2017 event in Laguna Niguel provided to Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. The recording gives a rare look behind the curtain of an influential oil industry lobbying group that spends more than $1 million per year to push its agenda in Congress and federal regulatory agencies. The previous eight years had been dispiriting for the industry: As IPAA vice president Jeff Eshelman told the group, it had seemed as though the Obama administration and environmental groups had put together “their target list of everything that they wanted done to shut down the oil and gas industry.” But now, the oil executives were almost giddy at the prospect of high-level executive branch access of the sort they hadn’t enjoyed since Dick Cheney, a fellow oilman, was vice president. “It’s really a new thing for us,” said Barry Russell, the association’s CEO, boasting of his meetings with Environmental Protection Agency chief at the time, Scott Pruitt, and the then-Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke. “For example, next week I’m invited to the White House to talk about tax code. Last week we were talking to Secretary Pruitt, and in about two weeks we have a meeting with Secretary Zinke. So we have unprecedented access to people that are in these positions who are trying to help us, which is great.”

By Kristine Phillips, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – The investigation that has cast a cloud over Donald Trump's presidency is over. Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted his final and confidential report on Friday afternoon, signaling the end of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible links to Trump's campaign. Attorney General William Barr announced its end in a letter to top lawmakers on the House and Senate judiciary committees. "The Special Counsel has submitted to me today a 'confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions' he has reached," Barr wrote. "I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel's principal conclusions as soon as this weekend." We know the report is "comprehensive," as described by Department of Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec. We know that 34 people and entities were indicted and that a half a dozen of them are former Trump advisers and aides who were convicted of federal crimes. Here's what we know, what we don't know, and what we might never find out: Did Mueller find collusion?  We don't know — yet. The investigation did not charge any Americans with coordinating with Russia to help Trump win. And a senior Justice Department official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the special counsel's office did not recommend new indictments.

What happens Next?
As Barr said in his letter, he could alert Congress as soon as Saturday about Mueller's "principal conclusions." That does not amount to the whole report. Instead, it's a written summary of Mueller's findings — essentially parts of the report that Barr believes he can share in accordance with Justice Department rules. The only information Barr is required to reveal is whether Mueller's bosses overruled his investigative actions. And Barr said that did not happen.

Will we get to read the Mueller report?
It's too soon to tell. What's certain is that there will be a fight in Congress to make the report public. Lawmakers and President Trump have indicated that they want the report to become public. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said minutes after Barr's letter to Congress that he looks forward to getting the "full report and related materials." "Transparency and the public interest demand nothing less," Nadler tweeted. Barr told lawmakers that he was "committed to as much transparency as possible." But he did not say he would release Mueller's complete report. Instead, he said he would consult with Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to "determine what other information from the report can be released  consistent with the law ... and the Department's long-standing practices and policies." Barr has said that the department often cannot reveal information about grand juries, or "derogatory" information about people who have not been charged with a crime.

Democrats are gearing up to fulfill their oversight responsibilities in a manner wholly consistent with what Republicans called for during the Obama years.
By Kurt Bardella, NBC News THINK contributor

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month-long investigation into the relationship between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia is finally over, bringing an end to this dramatic investigative chapter into the activities of the American president and those closest to him. But the thing is, this was just chapter one. Anyone thinking or hoping that the completion of the Mueller report would be the finale of the story will be sorely disappointed. Because the next chapter belongs to Attorney General William Barr and the new Democratic majority in the House as they fight for full access to the report and the underlying evidence used to compile it. And remember, while Mueller’s long-awaited report was submitted to the Justice Department on Friday, Barr has yet to determine what will be publicly revealed to Congress, if anything at all. First, Congressional oversight committees will fight for possession of the Mueller report. Then, they will use the Mueller report as a blueprint to guide their investigations into every part of Donald Trump’s presidency including his foreign policy decisions, financial interests, political activities, and personal relationships. Just three months ago, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that “some of it should be sanitized…I’ll trust Mr. Barr too work with us to get as much out as we can.” Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, advocated for the president’s legal team to have the right to “correct it” before the report is made public or released to Congress. Anything short of releasing the full, un-redacted report to Congress will presumably result in a high-stakes standoff between Congress and the executive branch. Should the attorney general fail to voluntarily produce the report, Congressional committees will subpoena the Justice Department for it. If the DOJ refuses to comply with the subpoena, a lawsuit will be filed and this could end up in the Supreme Court’s hands. Meanwhile, newly minted private citizen Robert Mueller will almost certainly be invited to testify at a congressional hearing to discuss his report’s findings.

By Niall Stanage

President Trump’s ugly grudge with the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been on vivid display this week, overshadowing the White House’s economic message and roiling its GOP allies. Among people who are part of Trump’s orbit, there is tacit acceptance that the McCain battle does the president little good. But there is also a combination of head-scratching and shoulder-shrugging. “In the short term the question is, would it be best for him to focus on other things? Well, sure,” said one former White House official. "But this is actually the appeal of Trump: You are not getting a phony politician, you are getting someone who is telling you what he actually thinks.” The battle with McCain, and Trump’s other big feud this week with George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, are bringing new scrutiny to Trump’s willingness to hold a grudge — even with someone in the grave. And Trump, true to form, is not backing down. On Thursday, he reportedly described McCain as a “horrible person” in an interview with Maria Bartiromo set to air Friday on the Fox Business Network. The previous day, the president had startled even seasoned Trump-watchers by complaining that he had not received sufficient thanks for McCain’s funeral. “The McCain attacks are strange. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense,” said a GOP strategist with ties to the White House. “I don’t know if he is trying to fill time or trying to distract from Robert Mueller,” the special counsel whose report is expected soon. The audience listening to Trump’s remarks about McCain’s funeral gave them a notably muted reception. In broader GOP circles, they have created a weariness. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) tweeted Thursday: “Mr. President, seriously stop talking about Senator McCain.” Trump can make up with someone and seemingly let a grudge die. During the GOP presidential primary, he gave out Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) personal phone number and suggested Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) father was connected to the assassination of President Kennedy. The senators and president have since made up, though many political observers have noted that both Graham and Cruz needed Trump’s support with the GOP base. Trump has weathered innumerable controversies before, and this week’s events represent continuity of a kind, since his unusual ability to sail through such storms was first displayed early in his campaign when he suggested McCain should not be considered a war hero because of his years as a POW during the Vietnam War. Since then he has feuded not only with GOP primary rivals, but with the parents of an American soldier who was killed in action, his own attorney general and his former secretary of State, innumerable journalists, TV shows including “Saturday Night Live,” and the cast of “Hamilton” — among hundreds of others. The willingness to incite and intensify verbal assaults is an ingrained part of his character, according to some of the people who have known Trump longest.Personal attacks were “quite common” during his time as a real estate developer in New York, said Barbara Res, a former vice president of the Trump Organization who worked with the future president for more than a decade. She recalled a long-running, and now barely remembered, feud with another New York developer, Leonard Stern, in the late 1980s. “If somebody wrongs him in any possible way, he will fight back and he will fight back much, much harder,” said Res. She added that she experienced this herself after she made a comment suggesting he was dishonest “and he came back at me gangbusters.” Sam Nunberg, who worked for the future president for several years but was fired from the nascent presidential campaign in 2015, contended that Trump “was completely disloyal and he left me out to dry.” “I was working for him for four and a half years. I was on the campaign for all of six weeks and he screwed me over.” Trump later threatened to sue Nunberg. Nunberg said the case was settled “amicably.”

Analysis: The president can't hide the special counsel's findings — and he may not want to — but no matter what they are, he will frame them as a vindication.
By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — Like any master showman, President Donald Trump surely knows the goods can't stay hidden from the audience forever. The Mueller Report will come out. There's pressure from Trump's presidential rivals and Congress — the House voted unanimously for its release. The president himself has said he favors putting it out. And there's a long history of government documents, from the Pentagon Papers to the Iran/Contra report and the Starr report, making their way into the public domain through authorized release, congressional dump and just plain old leaking. Like Trump himself said, that might be exactly what he wants. If he's exonerated, he'll be the first to yell "NO COLLUSION!" from the Twitter mountaintop and from campaign rallies in the valleys of the Midwest. "Without an indictment against him, Trump is going to hammer home the waste of time, taxpayer money and resources to prove that he was right all along and that he did nothing wrong," said Ron Bonjean, a veteran Republican strategist who helped shepherd Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch through his Senate confirmation process. Trump may do that even if the report casts brutal aspersions on his activities and those of his family and friends — or if it delivers a mixed bag of reasons that special counsel Robert Mueller declined to prosecute certain individuals in the Trump orbit. After all, Trump's no stranger to spin. The bottom line for him, and for GOP voters, is that Mueller didn't file charges against him.

By Rachel Frazin

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) called Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) a "white supremacist" after King contrasted how the people of New Orleans reacted to Hurricane Katrina with how the people of Iowa are reacting to flooding. "My heart goes out to all Iowans. Though it unsettles me that @SteveKingIA would dare compare them to the countless victims of Katrina, many of whom lost their lives," Richmond, who represents a large portion of New Orleans, tweeted Friday. "When people show you who they are, believe them. Steve King is a white supremacist and I won’t stand for it," he added. My heart goes out to all Iowans. Though it unsettles me that @SteveKingIA would dare compare them to the countless victims of Katrina, many of whom lost their lives. When people show you who they are, believe them. Steve King is a white supremacist and I won’t stand for it. — Rep Cedric Richmond (@RepRichmond) March 22, 2019. King at a Thursday town hall said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) told him that the people of New Orleans asked for help, while the people of Iowa helped each other. “Here’s what FEMA tells me: We go to a place like New Orleans and everybody’s looking around saying, ‘Who’s gonna help me?'” King said, according to a video posted to his Facebook page. He said that FEMA told him that a person from Iowa would say, “Wait a minute, let me get my boots, it’s Joe that needs help. Let’s go down to his place and help him.”

By Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has submitted a confidential report to Attorney General William P. Barr, marking the end of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump, a Justice Department spokeswoman said. The Justice Department notified Congress late Friday that it had received Mueller’s report but did not describe its contents. Barr is expected to summarize the findings for lawmakers in coming days. In a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees, Barr wrote that Mueller “has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters.” The submission of Mueller’s report marks the culmination of his closely held inquiry, a case that has engulfed the Trump administration since its inception and led to multiple guilty pleas from former advisers to the president. With the closing of his investigation, Congress and the newly empowered Democratic House majority will soon assess his findings — and determine what steps to take next. Barr wrote that Mueller submitted a report to him explaining his prosecution decisions. The attorney general told lawmakers he was “reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.” The attorney general wrote he would consult with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and Mueller “to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law, including the Special Counsel regulations, and the Department’s long-standing practices and policies.” Barr said there were no instances in the course of the investigation in which any of Mueller’s decisions were vetoed by his superiors at the Justice Department. “I remain committed to as much transparency as possible, and I will keep you informed as to the status of my review,” Barr wrote. After a week of growing expectation that Mueller’s long-awaited report would soon arrive, a security officer from Mueller’s office delivered it Friday afternoon to Rosenstein’s office at Justice Department headquarters, according to spokeswoman Kerri Kupec. Within minutes of that delivery, the report was transmitted upstairs to Barr. Around 4:35, White House lawyer Emmet Flood was notified that the Justice Department had received the report. About a half-hour after that notification, a senior department official delivered Barr’s letter to the relevant House and Senate committees and senior congressional leaders, officials said. One official described the report as “comprehensive,” but added that very few people have seen it.

By Sharon LaFraniere and Katie Benner

WASHINGTON — The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has delivered a report on his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election to Attorney General William P. Barr, according to the Justice Department, bringing to a close an investigation that has consumed the nation and cast a shadow over President Trump for nearly two years. Mr. Barr told congressional leaders in a letter late Friday that he may brief them within days on the special counsel’s findings. “I may be in a position to advise you of the special counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend,” he wrote in a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Judiciary committees. It is up to Mr. Barr how much of the report to share with Congress and, by extension, the American public. The House voted unanimously in March on a nonbinding resolution to make public the report’s findings, an indication of the deep support within both parties to air whatever evidence prosecutors uncovered. Mr. Barr wrote that he “remained committed to as much transparency as possible and I will keep you informed as to the status of my review.” He also said that Justice Department officials never had to check Mr. Mueller because he proposed an inappropriate or unwarranted investigative step — an action that Mr. Barr would have been required to report to Congress under the regulations. His statement suggests that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry proceeded without political interference.

By Alan Rappeport

WASHINGTON — President Trump undercut his own Treasury Department on Friday by announcing that he was rolling back North Korea sanctions that it imposed just a day ago. The move, announced on Twitter, was a remarkable display of dissension within the Trump administration and represented a striking case of a White House intervening to reverse a major national security decision made only hours earlier by the president’s own officials. “It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!” Mr. Trump appeared to confuse the day that the sanctions were announced, saying the move occurred on Friday rather than on Thursday. The Treasury Department on Thursday imposed new sanctions on two Chinese shipping companies that it says have been helping North Korea evade international sanctions. The sanctions linked to North Korea were the first that the Treasury Department had imposed since late last year and came less than a month after a summit meeting between Mr. Trump and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, collapsed in Hanoi, Vietnam, without a deal. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said the decision was a favor to Mr. Kim. “President Trump likes Chairman Kim, and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary,” she said. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary and one of Mr. Trump’s most loyal aides, personally signed off on the sanctions and hailed the decision in a statement accompanying them on Thursday. “The United States and our like-minded partners remain committed to achieving the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea and believe that the full implementation of North Korea-related U.N. Security Council resolutions is crucial to a successful outcome,” Mr. Mnuchin said in the statement. Tony Sayegh, a Treasury Department spokesman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mr. Trump’s tweet on Friday. Treasury and State Department officials, including career staff members and political appointees, spend months carefully crafting sanctions based on intensive intelligence gathering and legal research. Current and former Treasury Department officials were stunned by Mr. Trump’s decision on Friday. Some said they wondered if the move was planned in advance, as a gesture to Mr. Kim. Others feared that America’s vaunted sanctions regime had been compromised. “For an administration that continues to surprise, this is another first — the president of the United States undercutting his own sanctions agency for imposing sanctions on Chinese actors supporting North Korea,” said John E. Smith, the former director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, who left the department last year. “It’s a win for North Korea and China and a loss for U.S. credibility.” The department did issue a new round of sanctions against Iran on Friday, targeting a research and development unit that it believes could be used to restart Tehran’s nuclear weapons program. It also announced new sanctions on Bandes, Venezuela’s national development bank, and its subsidiaries, as part of its effort to topple the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

It’s actually about power — specifically, the conservative attempt to seize it on college campuses.
By Zack Beauchamp

President Donald Trump gleefully pressed on another culture war hot button Thursday afternoon, issuing an executive order that’s supposed to address allegedly serious threats to free speech on America’s college campuses. The order itself does very little in practical terms: As my colleague Ella Nilsen explains, it basically amounts to reminding universities about existing law. But that doesn’t mean the order is insignificant. It reflects, instead, the degree to which the conservative movement, joined by a few prominent anti–political correctness crusaders, has created a panic about the limitation of free speech on college campuses — as Trump demonstrated in his signing statement for the order. “Under the guise of speech codes and safe spaces and trigger warnings, these universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity, and shut down the voices of great young Americans,” he said. But there is no campus free speech crisis. Certainly, campuses are not perfect havens of free speech — it really is true that conservatives are underrepresented in campus political discussions — but a few problems do not warrant a major panic. Most of the conversation about campus censorship and free speech violations stemmed from a handful of high-profile incidents, inflated by right-wing campus watchdogs and breathless media coverage about the kids these days, in a country with thousands of college campuses and millions of college students. But the fact that Trump issued the executive order at all shows just how central universities are in the conservative cultural imagination, and how devoted the current right is to a political vision in which radical professors and left-wing students are responsible for America’s problems. They are so concerned, in fact, that they are willing to endorse the federal government interfering to punish universities they deem insufficiently friendly to conservatives. That’s because this isn’t a battle about free speech. it’s a fight over political power and cultural control.

The phantom free speech crisis
The relevant portion of Thursday’s executive order instructs 12 federal agencies to ensure that the universities receiving research grants “promote free inquiry.” What this means in practical terms was left unspecified. The order doesn’t change existing law or regulation. It just sends a message to schools to be extra-careful that they’re following “all applicable Federal laws, regulations, and policies” if they want to keep getting federal dollars. But when conservatives raise the alarm about a “campus free speech crisis,” they don’t speak in terms of violations of federal law. Instead, they allege that dissenting voices are being muzzled on campus in softer ways: conservative speakers disinvited from campus engagements, or professors fired for expressing controversial opinions. Certainly there are instances of political censorship on campuses. But the evidence that they are a major problem, one requiring presidential-level attention, is quite thin. The best work on this front, to my mind, has been done by Acadia University’s Jeffrey Sachs. In a piece published by the center-right Niskanen Center, Sachs marshaled a wealth of data to show that the number of free speech-threatening incidents on US college campuses is small and actually declining. Sachs’s chart of data on campus speaker disinvitations shows that last year, such incidents were at their lowest number in 10 years.

The president said Thursday that American students and values are 'under siege' and universities are 'anti-First Amendment'
By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday that would withhold federal research and education funds from colleges if they don't certify that they will protect free-speech rights on campus. "We’re here to take historic actions to defend American students and American values," Trump said at the White House. "They’ve been under siege." Colleges and universities spend as much as $40 billion in federal research and development dollars annually, according to the National Science Foundation, a total which doesn't include higher education grants that would also be subject to the executive order. A senior administration official said federal financial aid for tuition would not be affected by the action. Public colleges and universities are already required to abide by the First Amendment. Trump took a similar approach to try to cut off Justice Department grants to so-called sanctuary cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. But that executive order has been ruled unconstitutional by multiple federal courts. The idea that universities are cracking down on conservative thought and speech has become a cause celebre on the political right, and one that Trump has taken up as a major political issue as he heads into his re-election campaign. In recent weeks, he has focused attention to an altercation on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, in which an organizer for the conservative group Turning Point USA was punched while "tabling" — or providing information — to students on campus. Neither the student who was punched nor the person charged in the incident, who pleaded not guilty, are students at the school. The university has called the discussion around the incident "willfully distorted and inaccurate."

By Manu Raju and Lauren Fox, CNN

(CNN) House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings said Thursday his committee has obtained new information that several senior White House officials have used personal email and messaging accounts to conduct government business, asserting that President Donald Trump's son-in-law communicated with foreign leaders through a private messaging application that appears to lack adequate safeguards. In a Thursday letter to the White House, the Maryland Democrat alleged that Jared Kushner, who is also a senior White House adviser, had been using WhatsApp, a popular messaging application, to "communicate with foreign leaders" -- something he said that Kushner's attorney had confirmed in a private meeting. He also contended that Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, also a senior adviser, may be in violation of the Presidential Records Act by her use of private emails. The allegations from Democrats that some of Trump's closest confidants -- as well as former officials Steve Bannon and K.T. McFarland -- used personal email come as Trump continues to attack Hillary Clinton for using a private email system when serving as secretary of state. In the letter, Cummings revealed that his panel learned the new information in a private meeting in December with Abbe Lowell, an attorney for both Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Lowell referred inquiries to the White House and National Security Council about whether Kushner communicated classified information through WhatsApp, something that Cummings said would constitute a "major security breach." "For example during a meeting with Mr. Kushner's attorney, Abbe Lowell, Mr. Lowell confirmed that Mr. Kushner has been using the messaging application WhatsApp as part of his official White House duties to communicate with foreign leaders. Mr. Lowell could not answer whether Mr. Kushner's communications included classified information," Cummings wrote. According to Cummings, when pressed how Kushner was backing up his communications in order to assure that he wasn't violating the Presidential Records Act, Lowell responded that Kushner took "screenshots" and forwarded them to his official White House email account or to the National Security Council. According to Cummings, when Lowell was asked if Kushner ever communicated classified information on WhatsApp, Lowell responded, "That's above my paygrade." The Oversight Committee began looking into the use of personal email at the White House in March 2017, when Republicans still controlled the committee. The committee launched a bipartisan investigation into the use of "personal email and messaging accounts" by "non-career officials at the White House," but Cummings says in the letter that even after he followed up in December 2018 requesting documents on the cusp of becoming chairman, "the White House failed to produce any additional documents" and "failed to provide the promised briefing during this timeframe."

Trump exaggerated his role in handling funeral arrangements for McCain, who could not thank him because he was dead
By Shira Tarlo

President Donald Trump on Wednesday continued — and escalated — his unrelenting attacks on former Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has remained one of the president's most prominent targets seven months after his death. In an appearance in Lima, Ohio, Trump claimed McCain"didn't get the job done" for veterans — even though McCain and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., sponsored the Veterans Choice Act in 2014 to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand veterans' access to healthcare and make it easier for department officials to handle misconduct. McCain fought to expand the program after it was first signed into law in 2014 — and Trump signed the expansion into law in May 2018. Trump also complained he did not receive proper gratitude for handling arrangements for McCain's funeral last September. "I gave him the kind of funeral he wanted, which as president I had to approve," Trump said. "I don't care about this, but I didn't get a thank you. That’s OK. We sent him on the way, but I wasn't a fan of John McCain." "I have to be honest, I never liked him much – hasn't been for me. I've really – probably, never will," the president added. Trump authorized the use of military transport to carry McCain's body to Washington, but he only ordered the American flag to be flown at half-staff at the White House and other public buildings after facing criticism from his own staff, veterans groups and lawmakers. Other elements of McCain's funeral were not decided by the president. McCain was lain in the Capitol Rotunda – a decision formally approved by Congress. The president's repeated denunciation of a senator from his own party, who passed away in August after a months-long battle with brain cancer and has been hailed as a "maverick," is significant even for a president constantly at war with those he sees as challenging him. It also comes amid a wave of statements in recent days praising McCain in the wake of Trump's attacks. However, while many Republican lawmakers stepped up their defense of McCain, few called out Trump for his insults. "I just want to lay it on the line that the country deserves better, the McCain family deserves better," Sen. Johnny Jackson of Georgia told The Bulwark, a conservative news site, in an interview published Wednesday. "I don't care if he's president of United States, owns all the real estate in New York or is building the greatest immigration system in the world." Trump recently reignited his years-long offensive against the Arizona Republican, lashing out at the late senator on Twitter and telling reporters in the Oval Office that he remains "very unhappy" with McCain. The president voiced his frustration over the late senator's famous late-night thumbs down vote against legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Trump called McCain's pivotal "no" vote against a so-called "skinny" repeal measure of the Affordable Care Act "disgraceful" and claimed McCaine sank efforts by Republicans to repeal the healthcare law, among "other things" which have left him angered. In addition to his 2017 healthcare vote, the president took aim at McCain, who passed away in August after a months-long battle with brain cancer, for his reported role in passing a salacious dossier full of damning allegations about Trump's ties to Russia to the FBI. BuzzFeed News published the 35-page dossier in full in January of 2017, with the disclaimer that the dossier was "not just unconfirmed: It includes some clear errors." Many of the claims in the document have been confirmed, but the most explosive claims remain unverified.

By Shawn Johnson

A judge has struck down the laws Wisconsin Republicans passed in December's lame-duck session of the Legislature, restoring powers to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, if only temporarily. A county judge ruled Thursday that all of the laws and appointments passed by legislators were unlawful because they met in what's known as an "extraordinary session," which isn't explicitly allowed under the state constitution. Gov. Evers seized on the decision almost immediately, calling on the Wisconsin Department of Justice, led by Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, to withdraw the state from a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the Affordable Care Act. "As the governor has requested, please take whatever steps are necessary to remove Wisconsin from Texas v. United States," wrote Evers' chief legal counsel, Ryan Nilsestuen in an email to the Department of Justice shortly after the ruling was released. Evers and Kaul campaigned on leaving the case, but one of the lame-duck laws has prevented them from following through on their pledge. The ruling also temporarily struck down 82 appointments former Republican Gov. Scott Walker made during the waning days of his administration, all of which were confirmed by Republican state Senators in the lame-duck session. If the ruling holds, those appointments would now be Evers' to make. Evers issued a statement praising the ruling, calling it a victory for the people and one that preserves the Wisconsin Constitution. "The Legislature overplayed its hand by using an unlawful process to accumulate more power for itself and override the will of the people, despite the outcome of last November's election," Evers said. "I look forward to putting this disappointing chapter behind us so we can move forward together to put the needs of the people of Wisconsin first." What remains to be seen is whether a higher court will step in to block Evers from taking further action.

by Quin Hillyer

One can spend several days trying not to overreact to President Trump’s latest, unprovoked tweetstorm against the late Sen. John McCain R-Ariz., yet still conclude that there is something sick and twisted about Trump’s obsession with the singular American hero Trump disparages. Tom Rogan already in these pages has eloquently explained why, fake heel spurs or no fake heel spurs, Trump could never be fit to wear McCain’s discarded shoes. And lawyer George Conway, husband of top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, has presented a persuasive case that Trump’s fulminations about McCain and other bizarre eruptions are signs of a personality disorder. What remains, though, is a reminder that on facts as well as fulminations, Trump’s flip-out against McCain is full of falsehoods. First, as many others have noted, Trump repeatedly accused McCain of trying to spread the so-called “Steele dossier” as a way to block Trump’s election, but the undisputed evidence shows McCain didn’t even become aware of the dossier until after Election Day. (Plus, McCain did exactly what a senator should do when provided such material: He turned it over to the FBI, without prejudice. But that’s beside the point about Trump’s dishonesty.) What has not been as adequately refuted is Trump’s allegation that McCain voted against a bill to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, and that McCain’s vote was a big surprise. Neither element of that story is true.

First, by the time a healthcare bill finally reached a vote in the Senate, it was in no way, shape or form a “repeal and replace” bill. In reality, it was a shell of a bill known as “skinny repeal,” which did next to nothing other than keep a title and fulfill a promise to repeal the individual and employer mandates from Obamacare. The bill, in short, was an absolute sham. On its own terms, as even most of its supporters admitted, it made no sense, but would have thrown the healthcare market into absolute turmoil. Instead, skinny repeal was meant only to keep alive the anti-Obamacare effort until something could be concocted behind the closed doors of a conference committee with members of the House. As neither the House nor the Senate versions had been vetted in open committee hearings, and as the Senate’s skinny repeal was such a sham anyway, McCain reasoned that whatever emerged from conference committee would be seen by the public as illegitimate. He may or may not have been right in that assessment, but it was not unreasonable. And, as skinny repeal itself was a fraud, McCain was indisputably not breaking his pledge to support a repeal of Obamacare combined with a free-market replacement. Not only that, but he believed, correctly, that the one substantive element of skinny repeal, the elimination of the individual mandate, could be accomplished anyway — as, indeed, it was, in the GOP tax reform bill that later became law. Thus, McCain’s vote effectively blocked no GOP progress on that front, none at all. Finally, it is just a lie to say McCain had not signaled his intentions, and his reasoning, well in advance. Two days earlier, in his tour de force of a major floor speech upon his return to the Senate from his initial cancer treatment, McCain signaled quite clearly where he stood [with my emphases in Italics]: “I will not vote for the bill as it is today. It's a shell of a bill right now. We all know that. I have changes urged by my state's governor that will have to be included to earn my support for final passage of any bill. I know many of you will have to see the bill changed substantially for you to support it. We've tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them it's better than nothing, asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition. I don't think that is going to work in the end. And it probably shouldn't.” And he continued in that vein for several more paragraphs. - Only a dirty, scandalous low life would attack the dead.

By Brian Naylor

Amid signs that special counsel Robert Mueller will soon complete his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, President Trump says that he looks forward to seeing the report and that it should be made public. Answering questions from reporters on the South Lawn of the White House prior to traveling to Ohio on Wednesday, Trump said of Mueller's report, "Let it come out. Let people see it — that's up to the attorney general." Federal law requires Mueller to present Attorney General William Barr with a confidential report upon the completion of his work. By an overwhelming vote last week, the House called on Barr to release whatever report Mueller submits to the Justice Department. During his confirmation hearing in January, Barr said his goal "will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law," regarding Mueller's final report, but stopped short of promising to release it. Trump again on Wednesday insisted, "There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. There was no nothing." He added, "I want to see the report, and you know who will want to see it? The tens of millions of people that love the fact that we have the greatest economy that we have ever had." Trump also criticized, although not by name, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself from the Russia probe, leaving Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to oversee Mueller's work. Rosenstein appointed Mueller, a former FBI director, to conduct the investigation. On Wednesday, Trump said that Sessions "didn't have the courage to do it himself" and said that it was interesting "that a man out of the blue just writes a report," before again recalling his Electoral College victory in 2016.

By Ted Barrett and Devan Cole, CNN

Washington (CNN)Sen. Johnny Isakson said President Donald Trump's criticism of the late Sen. John McCain is "deplorable," and the Georgia Republican promised to continue speaking out against Trump if he continues to speak ill of the deceased war hero and former GOP presidential nominee. "It's deplorable what he said," Isakson told Georgia Public Broadcasting on Wednesday afternoon when asked about a series of critical comments Trump has made about McCain. "That's what I said on the floor of the Senate seven months ago. It will be deplorable seven months from now if he says it again and I will continue to speak out." Isakson continued "There aren't Democratic causalities and Republican casualties on the battlefield, there are American casualties. And we should never reduce the service that people give to this country including the offering of their own lives to any political fodder in Washington, DC, or anywhere else for that matter." In the wake of McCain's death last year, Isakson gave a Senate speech at the time that said "anybody who in any way tarnishes the reputation of John McCain deserves a whipping because most of those who would do the wrong thing about John McCain didn't have the guts to do the right thing when it was their turn." Isakson told the station Wednesday, "we can't talk about our veterans in any way but to thank them for the service they render for the job that they do." "If my kids started talking John McCain not being a hero, or because he was a prisoner of war didn't make any difference, they would have a serious conversation with me and I would have it with them," Isakson continued. Isakson previewed his comments Wednesday in remarks to The Bulwark, where said in an interview Tuesday that "I want to do what I said that day on the floor of the Senate." "I just want to lay it on the line, that the country deserves better, the McCain family deserves better, I don't care if he's President of United States, owns all the real estate in New York, or is building the greatest immigration system in the world. Nothing is more important than the integrity of the country and those who fought and risked their lives for all of us," Isakson told the news outlet from the conservative Defending Democracy Together Institute. Isakson has previously made clear his reluctance to criticize Trump.

The ruling temporarily halts drilling on 300,000 acres of leases in Wyoming.
By Juliet Eilperin

A federal judge ruled late Tuesday that the Interior Department violated federal law by failing to take into account the climate impact of its oil and gas leasing in the West. The decision by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras of Washington marks the first time the Trump administration has been held to account for the climate impact of its energy-dominance agenda, and it could have sweeping implications for the president’s plan to boost fossil fuel production across the country. Contreras concluded that Interior’s Bureau of Land Management “did not sufficiently consider climate change” when making decisions to auction off federal land in Wyoming to oil and gas drilling in 2015 and 2016. The judge temporarily blocked drilling on roughly 300,000 acres of land in the state. The initial ruling in the case brought by two advocacy groups, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility, has implications for oil and gas drilling on federal land throughout the West. In the decision, Contreras---a Barack Obama appointee — faulted the agency’s environmental assessments as inadequate because it did not detail how individual drilling projects contributed to the nation’s overall carbon output. Since greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change, the judge wrote, these analyses did not provide policymakers and the public with a sufficient understanding of drilling’s impact, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. “Given the national, cumulative nature of climate change, considering each individual drilling project in a vacuum deprives the agency and the public of the context necessary to evaluate oil and gas drilling on federal land before irretrievably committing to that drilling,” he wrote. Contreras did not void the leases outright, but instead ordered BLM to redo its analysis of hundreds of projects in Wyoming.

"I can't say thank you enough to them," the mother said of the officers. "I owe them the world, because they saved my world."
By Minyvonne Burke

Police body camera video shows the heroic moment four Iowa officers rescued three children from a fire in an Iowa apartment building after instructing their mother to drop them from a third-floor window. The video was released by the Des Moines Police Department praising officers Cole Johnson, Craig Vasquez, Tyler Kelley, and Casey Sanders for their quick-thinking action that saved the family-of-four during a Tuesday morning blaze. In the footage, one officer tells the mother, identified by NBC 13 as O'Sheana Harrison, to get her children "by the window." The outlet reports that the children are under the age of 3. The Des Moines Police Department said officers responded to the inferno to assist the fire department. Officers told Harrison to drop her kids out the window because heavy smoke prevented them from getting to the third floor, where her apartment was. "Send them down. I got them," an officer says in the video. Harrison then drops the first child out the window and into the officer's arms. The officer tells the child, who is crying, to stand next to him and then instructs Harrison to drop the second child. "Keep going," he says. "I got them, I got them. Go!" The video shows the policeman catching the second child as several other officers come over to help. After the third child is safely dropped from the window, an officer tells Harrison to "stay on the edge" and yells for someone to bring a ladder.

We don’t know what Mueller will find, but here’s an overview of the president’s other legal woes.
By Andrew Prokop

No matter what special counsel Robert Mueller finds, it won’t be the end of the president’s legal woes — because he, his business, and his family are in jeopardy from many other investigations and lawsuits. The Justice Department is digging into the Trump Organization’s role in hush money payments and the Trump inaugural committee’s finances. Congressional committees are probing everything from how Trump’s son-in-law and daughter got security clearances to Trump’s taxes. State investigators are looking into Trump’s foundation and business. There have also been several high-profile lawsuits against the president that could surface damaging new information. In particular, a defamation suit by a former Apprentice contestant could result in Trump’s deposition under oath about sexual assault accusations. So it’s worth looking at all the legal threats to Trump and organizations close to him that aren’t run by Mueller — the ones we know about, at least. This isn’t an exhaustive list — I’ve left out the investigations into his donors or his former aides’ lobbying associates. The list is long enough already.

The hush money investigation:  What’s it about? The probe focuses on hush money payments made on Donald Trump’s behalf before the 2016 election — payments that prosecutors say violated campaign finance law. Prosecutors have outlined two such payments for women who alleged affairs with Trump. First, American Media Inc. (the parent company of the National Enquirer) gave $150,000 to Karen McDougal. Second, Michael Cohen gave $130,000 to Stormy Daniels. Trump later repaid Cohen for the money in 2017. Who’s in charge? The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY). SDNY’s US Attorney Geoffrey Berman has recused himself, so Deputy US Attorney Robert Khuzami has oversight over the probe. What’s happened so far? In August 2018, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to two violations of campaign finance law (and other crimes related to his own finances). He later received a three-year prison sentence. In December 2018, SDNY announced that they’d reached a non-prosecution agreement with American Media Inc. As of February 2019, SDNY continued to have an “ongoing investigation” related to the hush money payments. What could be next? Prosecutors have already stated that in making the payments, Cohen acted “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1”: Donald Trump. That’s a sign that Trump himself may face legal risk. The roles of the Trump Organization and its top-level executives in the payments are reportedly under scrutiny too.

The Trump inaugural committee investigations: What’s it about? In short, money. Federal prosecutors are scrutinizing a host of matters related to the Trump inaugural committee’s finances. They are looking into potential corruption involving favors for donors, whether foreign funds were illegally given through “straw donors,” how the committee spent the money it took in, and how it accounted for that spending. What’s happened so far? In August 2018, Republican lobbyist Sam Patten struck a plea deal in which he admitted to helping steer $50,000 from a Ukrainian oligarch client to the inaugural committee, and agreed to cooperate with investigators. In February 2019, SDNY prosecutors sent a sweeping subpoena to Trump’s inaugural committee, demanding extensive documents on the company’s donations and spending. Also in February, the attorney general offices for New Jersey and the District of Columbia sent their own civil subpoenas to the inaugural committee.

The top congressional inquires threatening Trump: Since Democrats retook the majority in the House of Representatives, their committees in the chamber have launched a number of investigations into Trump and his administration. There are too many to list them all here, but a few stand out already as seeming particularly dangerous to Trumpworld. The House Russia and obstruction probes: Special counsel Robert Mueller is widely believed to be nearing the end of his investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election and obstruction of justice. But House Democrats aren’t waiting for that — they’ve already launched their own probes, led by Rep. Adam Schiff’s House Intelligence Committee and Rep. Jerry Nadler’s (D-NY) House Judiciary Committee. Full story

Does a request for an extension on a court deadline give us a clue about Mueller’s plans?
By Andrew Prokop

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office asked a court for an 11-day extension on a filing deadline Tuesday — claiming that, for the time being, key attorneys on their team were too busy with “the press of other work.” The reference immediately raised eyebrows among close watchers of the special counsel’s work — because there are no known important deadlines in Mueller cases coming up. So what, then, is Mueller’s team so busy with at the moment? For months now, rumors have been rampant that Mueller’s final report and the conclusion of his work are imminent. Some top attorneys on his team are leaving, and his top FBI agent has already left. All the specific predictions about when, exactly, the report would be done have turned out to be wrong so far, but all things must come to an end eventually. Now, Tuesday’s request comes in response to a request by the Washington Post to unseal certain materials related to former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. The deadline for Mueller’s team to respond was supposed to be this Thursday, March 21 — but they’ve asked it be extended to April 1. Here’s the key paragraph:

“The counsel responsible for preparing the response face the press of other work and require additional time to consult within the government,” Mueller’s team writes.

The lawyers referenced are Michael Dreeben and Adam Jed. But it’s unclear what they’re busy with at the moment. There are no imminent deadlines in Roger Stone’s case, or the two appeals from a Stone associate and a mystery company. There’s a March 25 deadline in the Russian troll farm case, but Dreeben and Jed don’t appear to be involved in that filing. They seem to be working on something else, and that could well be Mueller’s report. Both Dreeben and Jed are appellate attorneys rather than trial prosecutors. So it would make sense if they were spending their time on Mueller’s biggest task of all, his report, for which there are unsettled legal and constitutional issues about what information can be made public and how to handle Trump’s role as president. It is also possible, though, that the pair are working on some other secret matter we don’t know about. In any case, Mueller’s team expects they’ll have more free time to file a response in this Manafort matter by April 1. It’s hardly definitive, but it’s an interesting tea leaf as we await the special counsel’s findings.

By JOSH GERSTEIN

RICHMOND — A federal appeals court panel was indisputably hostile Tuesday to a lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of violating the Constitution by profiting from his business dealings with foreign countries seeking to curry favor with his administration. The uphill battle the suit faces was evident before the arguments even began Tuesday morning when it was revealed that all three 4th Circuit Court of Appeals judges assigned to the case are GOP appointees, including two of the court’s most conservative jurists. One of those judges suggested that the suit could be a precursor to attempting to drive the president from office through impeachment. And two of the judges came close to accusing the Maryland-based district court judge handling the suit, Clinton-appointee Peter Messitte, of impropriety for trying to engineer the challenge rather than responding to legal issues presented to him by the officials who brought the suit: the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C. The arguments in the so-called foreign emoluments case test largely uncharted areas of constitutional law, but also serve as a reminder of the numerous ethical challenges Trump’s administration has faced, with a series of Cabinet members departing under clouds of scandal. Maryland and D.C. jointly brought the emoluments case in 2017. Of the three appeals judges who heard more than two hours of arguments Tuesday, Judge Dennis Shedd sounded most skeptical about the case, challenging lawyers for D.C. and Maryland at every turn. Shedd pressed D.C. Solicitor General Loren AliKhan on what her office was looking to get out of the suit beyond a declaration that Trump is breaking the law. “Do you think that will be a basis for a high crime or misdemeanor for impeachment?” asked Shedd, an appointee of President George W. Bush.

Whether Mueller will answer that question is unclear. But House Intel Chair Adam Schiff said he is steering his probe in a new direction to focus on it.
By Ken Dilanian

WASHINGTON — Nearly two years into his investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller has not accused any member of the Trump campaign of conspiring with the 2016 election interference effort — and it's not clear whether he will. But legal experts, along with the congressman leading the House Russia investigation, tell NBC News that the most important question investigators must answer is one that may never have been suitable for the criminal courts: Whether President Trump or anyone around him is under the influence of a foreign government. "It's more important to know what Trump is NOW than to know what he did in 2016," said Martin Lederman, professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and former deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel during the Obama administration. "It's more important to know whether he has been compromised as president than whether his conduct during the campaign constituted a crime." Whether Mueller will answer that question in the absence of criminal charges is unclear. But in an interview with NBC News, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said he is steering his investigation in a new direction to focus on it — and he will demand any relevant evidence compiled by the FBI or Mueller's team. The California Democrat also expressed concern that Mueller hasn't fully investigated Trump's possible financial history with Russia. "From what we can see either publicly or otherwise, it's very much an open question whether this is something the special counsel has looked at," Schiff told NBC News. Schiff said the public testimony from former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that in 2016 Trump stood to earn hundreds of millions of dollars from a secret Moscow real estate project is a staggering conflict of interest that must be fully explored. "I certainly agree that the counterintelligence investigation may be more important than the criminal investigation because it goes to a present threat to our national security — whether the president and anybody around him are compromised by a foreign power," Schiff said. "That's not necessarily an issue that can be covered in indictments." In fact, most FBI counterintelligence investigations don't result in criminal charges, experts say, because they tend to involve secret intelligence that either can't be used in court or doesn't add up to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If the FBI assesses that a government official is compromised by a foreign adversary, officials often will quietly remove that person from a sensitive role or wall him or her off from classified information.

New details are emerging about the long, symbiotic and at times troubled relationship between the president and his loyal German bank.
By David Enrich

For nearly two decades, Donald J. Trump relied on Deutsche Bank to lend to him when other banks wouldn’t. Deutsche Bank, eager to expand in the United States, made a decision to repeatedly take a risk on him. Much has been written about their relationship, which is now under investigation on Capitol Hill and by the New York attorney general. Here are some of the new revelations from The New York Times’s investigation into Mr. Trump’s ties to Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank cut off Mr. Trump twice — and then kept lending to him. From the outset, Deutsche Bank executives recognized that Mr. Trump was a risky client — that’s why most other banks considered him off-limits. But the bank soon got an up-close view of its client’s problems. In 2003, Deutsche Bank helped Mr. Trump’s casino company sell hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds. (The salesmen were rewarded with a trip to Mar-a-Lago.) Mr. Trump’s company defaulted in 2004, leaving Deutsche Bank’s clients with deep losses. The bank’s investment division that sold the bonds vowed to not do business again with Mr. Trump. A year later, though, Mr. Trump approached another part of the investment division for a $640 million loan to build a skyscraper in Chicago. It made the loan — and in 2008, Mr. Trump defaulted and sued Deutsche Bank. That prompted the whole investment division to sever ties with Mr. Trump. And then, three years after his previous default, Deutsche Bank started lending to him again, this time through the private-banking division that catered to the superrich. In fact, it lent Mr. Trump money that he used to repay what he still owed Deutsche Bank’s investment division for the Chicago loan. Top bank executives supported the relationship. Since Mr. Trump won the 2016 election, Deutsche Bank officials have been trying to minimize the importance of their business with the new president, arguing that some senior executives didn’t even know the relationship existed. But two of Deutsche Bank’s chief executives — as well as numerous other senior executives — knew about and at times aided the relationship.

Every year, the Supreme Court hears around 150 cases, and while there will usually be a few blockbuster opinions, the majority garner little media attention. But these more obscure decisions can often illustrate something interesting, even unexpected, about one of the justices. And so it was on Tuesday with Justice Neil Gorsuch and a relatively obscure and underplayed Indian treaty case. On this conservative court, Gorsuch has been one of the most conservative voices. But in cases involving Indian treaties and rights, he is most often counted among those sympathetic to Indian claims. On Tuesday, Gorsuch split from his conservative colleagues, siding with the court's more liberal members in a case involving the Yakama Tribe and its right under an 1855 treaty to travel the public roads without being taxed on the goods brought to the reservation. Not only did he provide the decisive fifth vote in the case, he wrote an important concurring opinion for himself and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the leader of the court's liberal wing. For those familiar with Gorsuch's record, his vote was not a surprise. He is, after all, the only westerner on the Supreme Court; indeed, prior to his 2017 appointment to the court, he served for 11 years on the federal court of appeals based in Denver — a court that covers six states and encompasses 76 recognized Indian tribes. The issue before the court on Tuesday centered on the Yakama Indian Nation, and one of its members, who owns a wholesale fuel company, Cougar Den, Inc., that imports large amounts of gasoline from Oregon to gas stations on the Yakama reservation in Washington state.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump looks -- and is acting -- rattled and encircled by the Russia investigation. And a series of fresh disclosures on Tuesday show there is every reason for him to feel threatened by the vast shadow it is casting over his life, business and presidency. Newly unsealed court documents detailing special counsel Robert Mueller's activity reveal an investigative field of breathtaking scope and a prosecutorial machine that ratcheted quickly up in mid-2017. The search warrants targeting Trump's ex-personal lawyer Michael Cohen offer a glimpse of the covert world of the probe. As is often the case with Mueller, they give only a tantalizing hint of the wider, yet still hidden, puzzle. But such disclosures are almost never good news for Trump. There is enough to explain from Tuesday's reveal why the investigation must be weighing on Trump's spirits, and driving his angry Twitter outbursts. The vast breadth of the investigation by various jurisdictions also could offer a rich seam for Democratic House chairmen should they eventually subpoena primary evidence uncovered by Mueller and other prosecutors. And the release underlines that various investigations that are penetrating deep into Trump's business, personal and political life are likely to be haunting the President for years to come -- even after Mueller has left the stage. The pages of warrants make clear that the investigation into whether the Trump Organization is implicated in the campaign finance case involving his hush money payments to women before the 2016 election is still open. Eighteen-and-a-half blacked-out pages at the end of one document under the title "The Illegal Campaign Contribution Scheme" almost certainly contain details of Trump's interactions with Cohen. That prosecutors from the Southern District of New York believe those elements need to be kept out of the public eye suggests that their investigations -- which have already indirectly implicated Trump -- are not over. "They are not done. We have seen this in filings over and over again," Preet Bharara, a former US attorney for the Southern District of New York, told CNN's Jake Tapper. So Trump cannot yet be sure whether his family members or top business associates in his firm could face criminal jeopardy. For the President, who seeks to exert dominance over every room, situation or relationship, the lack of control over the fate of his own clan and the business that bears his name as prosecutors bear down must be close to intolerable. Some legal observers see the work of the Southern District as Trump's most perilous legal front, even more so than Mueller's look at whether there was coordination between Trump campaign aides and Russia and whether the President obstructed justice to cover it up. While a sitting President cannot be indicted, according to current Justice Department guidance, Trump cannot be certain that he will not be prosecuted for campaign finance violations when he eventually leaves office. "If I was Donald Trump, I would be scared," Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, said on CNN's "The Situation Room." The fact that prosecutors have already endorsed Cohen's statement that he made the payments in violation of campaign finance laws at the direction of Trump means "there may be another shoe to drop," said Bharara. "There may be other people who are assisting or who are conspiring, up to and including the President, and they haven't decided how they want to proceed on that," he added.

By ANDREW DESIDERIO and KYLE CHENEY

A small fraction of the 81 individuals and entities connected to President Donald Trump have turned over documents to the House Judiciary Committee by Monday’s deadline as part of the panel’s sweeping obstruction of justice investigation, according to Republican aides. The committee had received just eight responses as of Tuesday morning, GOP counsels to the committee said. The vast majority of the 8,195 pages of material in those responses was provided by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who handed over 2,688 pages; Trump confidant Thomas Barrack, who supplied 3,349 pages; and the National Rifle Association, which turned over 1,466 pages, the Republicans said. The committee's Democratic chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, said on Monday that the panel had heard from a “large number” of recipients who “either sent or agreed to send documents to the committee” — documents which they said “already number in the tens of thousands.” The committee’s chairman, Nadler (D-N.Y.), said that witnesses pledged to provide additional documents to the panel, but the committee hasn’t yet received them. He also said some people were seeking “friendly” subpoenas in order to compel their compliance with the request. A spokesman for Nadler did not respond to request for comment. On Monday, the spokesman said the panel would not answer questions about specific responses the committee had received. In addition to Bannon, Barrack and the NRA, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos submitted 47 pages of documents; another campaign adviser, J.D. Gordon, turned over 51 pages; former Russian intelligence officer Rinat Akhmetshin, who attended the 2016 Trump Tower meeting arranged by Donald Trump Jr., provided 467 pages; ex-campaign adviser Sam Nunberg turned over 23 pages; and the Trump Inaugural Committee, chaired by Barrack, provided 104 pages.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has reached an agreement with Attorney General William Barr to stay on at the Justice Department “a little while longer,” according to Fox News. DOJ officials previously briefed that Rosenstein—who appointed the special counsel to investigate ties between Russia and the Trump campaign—would step down from his role in mid-March, but he’s reportedly yet to hand in his two weeks’ notice. It was thought he would quit as soon as Barr took office. Fox News reports Rosenstein would like to stay in his post until the Mueller investigation concludes, and sources confirmed to the channel that he’s still the primary liaison between department headquarters and Mueller’s office. However, Barr now has ultimate oversight over the Russia investigation. The probe is believed to be entering its final stages before its findings are handed to the DOJ.

A teacher in St. Louis, Missouri, allegedly made preschoolers stand naked in a closet as a form of punishment, CBS News reports. Two teachers are now on paid administrative leave after the students—ages 4 and 5—were allegedly forced to strip off all their clothes for disobeying orders. The second teacher is accused of knowing about the behavior and not reporting. The teachers and students are part of the Head Start program operated by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. “Children would misbehave in class and this teacher would have them disrobe and stand them, make them stand inside a closet for five or 10 minutes as their discipline. Then they would redress and join the class,” said campus Police Chief Kevin Schmoll. Four of the 20 students in the class were forced to take their clothes off, according to Schmoll. “We felt that was very inappropriate and possibly there’s some criminal action, charges could come as a result of this,” he said. One of the teachers is 26 years old and has been at the Head Start center for three years, according to police. The second teacher, who is 41 years old and has five years of experience in the program, was put on paid administrative leave for not reporting the unusual punishment, according to authorities. Police said they don’t believe there was any sexual contact between the adults and children.

Anthony Comello, the man suspected of fatally shooting Gambino mob boss Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali outside his Staten Island home last Wednesday, once tried to make a citizen’s arrest of Mayor Bill de Blasio, the New York Post reported Tuesday. Comello, 24, allegedly showed up outside City Hall a few months ago to protest the NYC mayor and demanded “Hizzoner behind bars,” according to police sources. Investigators believe Comello murdered the crime family boss after he was barred from dating his 24-year-old niece, law-enforcement sources told the newspaper.

The Ukrainian mogul, a background presence in the story of Russian influence in U.S. elections, praised Manafort’s savvy but dismissed Trump in an interview with The Daily Beast.
By Betsy Woodruff

VIENNA, Austria—An indicted Ukrainian oligarch who faces years in an American prison joked about President Donald Trump’s intellect and distanced himself from Paul Manafort’s business dealings in an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with The Daily Beast at his palatial corporate offices in Vienna. Dmytro Firtash is a Ukrainian oligarch-in-exile who controls much of the country’s natural gas distribution. He also befriended Manafort, did business with Russia’s state-owned gas behemoth, and became a target of Barack Obama’s Justice Department. He’s been a constant presence in the background of the story of Russian influence in the American elections—but now, he says American influence on Ukraine is the real story. In recent years, Firtash has found himself at the heart of Ukrainian political fights with geopolitical consequences. The mogul, whose estimated net worth was $500 million in 2014, made his fortune after the Soviet Union’s collapse. He told The Daily Beast he moved from Ukraine to Moscow in the early days after the USSR fell to expand his food business. After making a deal with a group of Turkmen he met at the Rossiya Hotel—a now-demolished structure he described as “Soviet nice”—he traveled to Turkmenistan to try to get them to pay up. According to Firtash, the Turkmen told him they had very little cash but lots of gas. And since Moscow was not centrally managing the gas industry, they weren’t sure how to distribute and sell it. Firtash said that’s how he got started as a gas trader—squeezing his foot into a door that opened to fabulous wealth, extraordinary political power, and, ultimately, indictment. His gas work also resulted in thick business ties with the Kremlin, including a 50-50 partnership with Russia’s state-backed Gazprom to sell gas in Ukraine. Russia-watchers often cite this as evidence Firtash is a Moscow front. Firtash, meanwhile, claimed Gazprom courted his business because they wanted his expertise in the Central Asian gas trade. Because of his work in the gas industry, Firtash also met a man who would become one of the globe’s most notorious thugs: Semion Mogilevich, a Russian mob boss who has spent years on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Before he was poisoned in the U.K., ex-Soviet spy Alexander Litvinenko claimed Putin and Mogilevich had a “good relationship,” as Business Insider detailed. “Half of the Soviet Union knows him, everyone knows him,” Firtash said. “He’s from Ukraine. Everyone knows him, I’m not the only one who knows him. As I remember, we met in one gas company, but I don’t want to name it.”

By Hugh Son

J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said that the U.S. economy has essentially been split into those benefiting from thriving corporations and those who are left behind. “I don’t want to be a tone deaf CEO; while the company is doing fine, it is absolutely obvious that a big chunk of [people] have been left behind,” Dimon said. “Forty percent of Americans make less than $15 an hour. Forty percent of Americans can’t afford a $400 bill, whether it’s medical or fixing their car. Fifteen percent of Americans make minimum wages, 70,000 die from opioids” annually. “If you travel around to most neighborhoods where companies live, they’re doing fine,” Dimon said. “So we’ve kind of bifurcated the economy.“ Dimon was speaking at an event at the bank’s New York headquarters to unveil a new $350 million program to boost job prospects for people in under-served communities. The J.P. Morgan chairman and CEO has frequently voiced concern about the declining labor force participation rate and the shortfalls of the educational system in preparing people for emerging roles. Making progress against these issues involves companies working with local organizations to provide skills outside of the university context, he said.

By Colby Itkowitz

Former House speaker Paul D. Ryan has landed his first post-Congress job as a board member for Fox, the new parent company of Fox News. Fox spun off from the larger 21st Century Fox, which Rupert Murdoch sold to Walt Disney Co. Ryan (R-Wis.), who retired from Congress last year citing his desire to spend more time with his family, was named to the board Tuesday. A Fox news release credited him for leading “efforts to revise the federal tax code, rebuild the national defense, expand domestic energy production, combat the opioid epidemic, and reform the criminal justice system.” The once rising star of the Republican Party has kept a relatively low profile since leaving Congress, his legacy forever intertwined with the rise of Donald Trump and Ryan’s reluctance to challenge Trump. Last week, Ryan reportedly told a crowd during a lecture in Vero Beach, Fla., that the Democrat who defines the race as one about Trump and Trump’s personality could beat him. But he quickly backtracked on Twitter to clarify that he believes Trump deserves to win. “To be clear, GOP wins elections when they’re about ideas not when they’re personality contests like Dems & media want. We’re clearly better off because of @RealDonaldTrump,” Ryan tweeted. “His record of accomplishment is why he’ll win re-election especially when compared to Dems’ leftward lurch.” Ryan will serve on the seven-member board along with Murdoch, Fox’s founder, and his son, Lachlan Murdoch, Fox’s chairman and chief executive.

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday endorsed the U.S. government’s authority to detain immigrants awaiting deportation anytime - potentially even years - after they have completed prison terms for criminal convictions, handing President Donald Trump a victory as he pursues hardline immigration policies. The court ruled 5-4 along ideological lines, with its conservative justices in the majority and its liberal justices dissenting, that federal authorities could pick up such immigrants and place them into indefinite detention anytime, not just immediately after they finish prison sentences. The ruling, authored by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, left open the possibility that some immigrants could challenge their detention. These immigrants potentially could argue that the use of the 1996 federal law involved in the case, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, against them long after finishing their sentences would violate their due process rights under the U.S. Constitution. Most of the plaintiffs in the case are legal immigrants. The law states the government can detain convicted immigrants “when the alien is released” from criminal detention. Civil rights lawyers in the case argued that the language of the law shows that it applies only immediately after immigrants are released. The Trump administration said the government should have the power to detain such immigrants anytime. In dissent, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer said the ruling raises serious due process questions. “It runs the gravest risk of depriving those whom the government has detained of one of the oldest and most important of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms,” Breyer wrote.

Trump doesn’t plan to negotiate with Congress over investigations the way his predecessors did.
By ANITA KUMAR

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler wrote to the White House last month demanding information about President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to fund the construction of a southern border wall. Yet Nadler’s Feb. 22 deadline came and went with no response. Not only did the Democratic congressman not receive the documents he wanted, he didn’t even receive a customary letter back from the White House acknowledging his request. It was just one example of the Trump White House’s unusually hostile — or in this case, non-existent — response to congressional investigators. In their early response to an onslaught of Democratic requests, Trump officials are breaking from norms set by previous administrations of both parties, according to people who worked in the White House or Capitol Hill during the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Over the last two months, Trump’s intent has become clear: He doesn’t plan to negotiate with Congress over their demands for information and witnesses the way his predecessors did. Instead, House Democrats are going to have to fight him for everything.  POLITICO contacted the 17 House committees that unsuccessfully requested records or witnesses from the Trump administration over the last two months. In most cases involving the White House itself, as opposed to agencies and departments, the request was ignored altogether. In at least one instance, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone responded with an aggressive letter questioning the committee’s authority to even ask for information. (In contrast to the White House, departments and agencies often delivered requested information politely.) Another deadline came and went on Monday. The White House ignored Nadler’s latest request for a slew of documents about fired administration officials, Russian nationals and Trump businesses, according to a person familiar with the situation. The White House and Committee declined to comment. As a result — despite high hopes among Democrats that they would quickly be in possession of troves of internal Trump administration documents, and grilling a succession of administration witnesses — a long and frustrating fight with Trump lawyers lies ahead, a fight that could end up in court. Splashy demands of the White House made in the early days of the new House Democratic majority, could take many months, possibly stretching well into 2020, to produce results. Democrats are already furious over what they call the brazen stonewalling. But David Bossie, a Trump confidant and adviser who served as the House GOP’s lead investigator into the Clinton White House in the 1990s, predicted that Trump officials will face no serious legal consequences for ignoring the requests — and said they are justified in doing so because Democrats are waging what they call nakedly partisan inquiries. “The White House is taking the exact right tactic to ignore the requests and see what comes of it,” he said. “I wouldn’t respect [the Democrats’] process.”


Looking for Older Headline News:


Back to content