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House Judiciary Committee hires two new outside counsels

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By Mike Memoli and Alex Moe

WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee is building out its legal team with an eye toward an aggressive oversight agenda, tasking new outside attorneys with a review of issues that could be at the heart of an impeachment case against President Trump.

The Democratic-led panel on Tuesday received approval to hire two “special oversight counsels” — Norm Eisen, a former ethics official in the Obama administration, and Barry Berke, a New York-based criminal defense attorney.

Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said the two would will “consult on oversight matters related to the Department of Justice, including the Department’s review of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, and other oversight and policy issues within the Committee’s jurisdiction.”

“The House Judiciary Committee is determined to ask critical questions, gather all the information, judiciously assess the evidence, and make sure that the facts are not hidden from the American people,” Nadler said in a statement. “I am glad to have such valuable resources available to help us ensure that this Administration is held accountable to our laws and to the American public.”

Committee officials stress that the new hires should not be seen as the precursor to impeachment. But the very issues they will be focused on — abuses of power, the rule of law and obstruction of justice — could well produce threads that lawmakers could use to lay the groundwork for that.

The new hires will get to work on what the committee says will be “robust oversight agenda.” Their immediate tasks will center on requests for documents from the administration on areas of interest – requests that may well prompt battles with the White House and potential executive privilege claims.

The committee will also launch a series of public hearings on these issues.

Eisen is the co-founder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, a prominent watchdog group. The committee describes Berke as one of the leading trial lawyers in the country and an expert on federal criminal law, including public corruption.



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El Paso’s GOP mayor says Trump insulted him after visiting mass shooting victims

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The Republican mayor of El Paso, Texas, said that President Donald Trump mocked him as a fake Republican last week during his visit to the border city following a deadly mass shooting there.

Dee Margo told PBS’ “Frontline” in an interview – excerpts of which were published Wednesday – that Trump called him a RINO, a derisive moniker meaning “Republican in Name Only,” when the two met after the president visited hospital staff and shooting survivors. The shooting, which targeted Latino immigrants, left 22 people dead and dozens injured earlier this month.

According to Margo, Trump was still steaming over a back-and-forth they had in February over his long-promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“He said, ‘You’re a RINO,’ and I said, ‘No sir, I’m not a RINO, I simply corrected the misinformation you were given by our attorney general, and that’s all I did’,” Margo told “Frontline,” adding that the president grinned when the mayor pushed back against the nickname.

RINO is often used by Republicans to disparage others within the party who are not sufficiently conservative.

Trump sharply criticized the mayor in February during an El Paso campaign rally, saying Margo and others were “full of crap” for saying portions of the wall built nearby did not reduce crime in the city.

“And I don’t care if a mayor is a Republican or a Democrat, they’re full of crap when they say it hasn’t made a big difference,” Trump said at the time. Margo excoriated Trump when he made similar comments during his State of the Union address earlier this year.

“El Paso was NEVER one of the MOST dangerous cities in the US. We‘ve had a fence for 10 years and it has impacted illegal immigration and curbed criminal activity. It is NOT the sole deterrent. Law enforcement in our community continues to keep us safe,” Margo tweeted in February.

Margo quipped at the “full of crap” remark, telling “Frontline” that “I’ve been to a proctologist and I’m doing much better.” He added that he hoped after their conversation that Trump “wouldn’t say that now.”

A physical barrier would not have prevented the Aug. 3 attack in an El Paso Walmart, which authorities said was carried out by a 21-year-old American man who wanted to target people of Mexican descent. Trump, who has called immigrants rapists, criminals and an infestation, rejected that his rhetoric contributed to the violence, calling his critics “political people.”

Margo told Frontline that as the two discussed immigration and border security, he told Trump that a border wall is not a “panacea.”

“I said, ‘If you want to deal with immigration, the first thing you do is you have Homeland Security define what is a secure border and what they need in the way of resources to handle that,’” Margo told the network. He added that his comments refuting misinformation about crime in El Paso seemed to “resonate” with Trump.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.



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‘You have no choice but to vote for me’

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MANCHESTER, N.H. — President Donald Trump made a rare move Thursday night — holding a rally in a state he didn’t win in 2016, New Hampshire.

Trump has spent most of his time as president in the key swing states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. But his advisers urged him to make a stop in New Hampshire, which he lost by less than 3,000 votes, despite the state’s having just four electoral votes.

In an election that could again turn on a razor’s edge, every vote will count. With New Hampshire at the center of the Democratic primaries, the rally gave Trump an opportunity to hit back at Democratic rivals who have been attacking him in the state for months. He took the opportunity to again accuse the party of being full of socialists who want to tear America apart.

“They look down upon the hardworking citizens who truly make our country run,” Trump said of Democrats, though he made only glancing references to potential 2020 rivals such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Vice President Joe Biden, or to Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., whose planned trip to Israel was short-circuited on Thursday after presidential tweets urging the government there to deny her entry.

Trump suggested without evidence that the only reason he lost New Hampshire in 2016 was because the election here was stolen from him.

“New Hampshire should have been won last time, except we had a lot of people come in at the last moment, which was a rather strange situation,” Trump told reporters before departing his summer retreat in Bedminster, New Jersey, for the rally in Manchester. “Thousands and thousands of people coming in from locations unknown. But I knew where their location was.”

It was a claim he repeated during the rally. “New Hampshire was taken from us,” he said.

In an hour and a half speech, Trump hit on most of his usual themes — emphasizing the economy and saying New Hampshire had been hit worse than most other states by negative long-term trends.

“You look like central casting for the closing of factories,” Trump said.

New Hampshire, which had a 2.8 percent unemployment rate when Trump took office, has continued to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

In a week when bond markets flashed what has historically been a major recession warning and the stock market had its worst day of the year to date, the president rolled out both his positive and negative economic pitches, again arguing that if he loses re-election, the stock market will plummet.

“You have no choice but to vote for me, because your 401(k) is down the tubes. Everything’s going to be down the tubes,” Trump said. “So whether you love me or hate me, you’ve gotta vote for me.”

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Trump’s Green New Deal: President considering buying Greenland

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This land is your land, this land is … Greenland?

President Donald Trump has on multiple occasions discussed trying to buy the country of Greenland, a source familiar with the matter told NBC News on Friday.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the news on Thursday.

Trump has with “varying degrees of seriousness” expressed an interest in trying to purchase the icy 811,000-square-mile island in the North Atlantic, according to The Journal, citing unnamed sources familiar with the deliberations.

Greenland is an autonomous Danish territory with a population of more than 50,000 and has natural resources such as coal and uranium. Trump reportedly told advisers in one exchange last spring he’d heard that Denmark was having financial problems because of the subsidies it pays to Greenland, and wondered if he should buy it. “What do you guys think about?” Trump asked the room, a source told the Journal. “Do you think it would work?”

Icebergs are seen from the window of an airplane carrying NASA scientists as they track melting ice in eastern Greenland on Aug. 14, 2019.Mstyslav Chernov / AP

It’s unclear what the price tag for the country would be, or whether Denmark would consider selling it.

Officials with Denmark’s Royal House and the Danish embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to the Journal’s request for comment on the talks.

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“We are open for business, but we’re not for sale,” Greenland’s foreign minister Ane Lone Bagger told Reuters.

Lars Lokke Rasmussen, the former prime minister of Denmark, also balked at the idea in a tweet on Thursday.

“It must be an April Fool’s Day joke!” he tweeted.

Trump is scheduled to visit Denmark in September.

The United States has previously tried to buy the strategically located country. President Harry S. Truman offered to purchase it for $100 million in 1946, but Denmark declined the offer, the Journal noted, adding the U.S. had also looked into acquiring the country back in 1867.

Technically a part of North America, Greenland is between the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, and between Canada and Europe. The U.S. has an airbase there, which is part of the country’s state-of-the-art ballistic missile early warning system and satellite tracking system.



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