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Transcripts reveal what Schiff told Gaetz when he crashed secure hearing



The House committees leading the impeachment inquiry released transcripts on Friday detailing the moment Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., was spotted in a secure room when a deposition was taking place.

Gaetz was in the room, called a SCIF, during testimony by Fiona Hill, a former top adviser to President Donald Trump on Russia and Europe. In the transcript, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is quoted as saying: “Mr. Gaetz, you’re not permitted to be in the room. Please leave.” At another point, Schiff tell Gaetz to “absent yourself” from the SCIF.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, ranking member on the House Oversight Committee and one of Trump’s key allies in Congress, came to Gaetz’s defense. He told Schiff that Gaetz is “going to stay and listen to the testimony,” according to the transcript.

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Gaetz insisted that he had a “right” to be there, asking Schiff if there was a “rule” the California lawmaker could cite that would bar Gaetz from entry to the SCIF.

In response, Schiff said: “You’re not a member of this committee. This is conducted in closed session.” He later added that he was “citing the House rules and the deposition rules. You are not permitted to be here.”

Gaetz pressed Schiff to specify which rule was being cited, at which point Schiff said: “Mr. Gaetz, why don’t you take your spectacle outside? This is not how we conduct ourselves in this committee.”

“I’ve seen how you’ve conducted yourself in this committee,” Gaetz replied. “I’d like to be here to observe.”

Schiff then said: “We’ll wait until Mr. Gaetz leaves before we begin.”

It appears the proceedings resumed as planned sometime shortly after that exchange.

House rules only allow members to participate in depositions if they serve on the committees holding the depositions, which in the case of the impeachment inquiry are the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees.

Gaetz serves on the House Judiciary Committee.

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Bernie Sanders retracts Cenk Uyger endorsement after backlash



Sen. Bernie Sanders pulled his endorsement for a California congressional candidate on Friday after coming under fire for supporting the online news personality who has made degrading comments about African Americans and women.

Cenk Uygur, host of the progressive online news and opinion broadcast “The Young Turks,” was endorsed by the Democratic presidential candidate on Thursday in a special election to replace former California Rep. Katie Hill’s seat after she resigned in October.

In a statement posted online, Sanders said Uygur “will serve ordinary people, not powerful special interests. He is a voice that we desperately need in Congress & will be a great representative for CA-25 and the country.”

In one blog post from 2000, Uygur wrote that “obviously, the genes of women are flawed. They are poorly designed creatures who do not want to have sex nearly as often as needed for the human race to get along peaceably and fruitfully.”

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Uygur also came under fire for using the N-word on his show multiple times. He acknowledged this week that “The Young Turks” had a policy of using the N-word when quoting racists as a means of mocking them but stopped after complaints.

In 2012, he said orthodox Jews and Muslims are teaching their children things that are “Looney Tunes.”

Ahead of Sanders’ endorsement, The Los Angeles County Democratic Party said as a result of Uygur’s past comments, “he does not belong in Congress.”

Almost immediately, calls began for Sanders to disavow Uygur. “If Bernie Sanders is a real progressive – he will disavow Cenk Uygur,” wrote the Hollywood chapter of the National Organization for Women.

By Friday afternoon, Sanders retracted his endorsement.

“I hear my supporters who were frustrated and understand their concerns. Cenk today said he is rejecting all endorsements for his campaign and I retract my endorsement,” the Vermont senator wrote on Twitter.

This is not the first time the Democratic presidential candidate has found himself associated with controversial supporters. The campaign earlier this month parted ways Darius Gordon, their newly-hired deputy director of constituency organizing after old tweets, including homophobic slurs and anti-Semitic tropes, resurfaced. In October, a hire on the digital team, Matt Orfalea, resigned from the campaign after 24 hours when offensive videos about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Hillary Clinton were discovered.

The primary is scheduled for March 3. The general election for the 25th Congressional District, covering parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, is May 12.

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Top Democratic candidates ask DNC to change debate qualifying rules



Led by Sen. Cory Booker, nine Democratic presidential candidates called on the Democratic National Committee on Saturday to ease qualification thresholds for upcoming debates after complaining the debate stage is becoming less diverse.

In a letter obtained by NBC News, they asked the DNC to use the previous criteria of meeting either the grassroots donor or minimum polling threshold, rather than both.

But the DNC refused to change the qualifications.

“The DNC has led a fair and transparent process and even told campaigns almost a year ago that the qualification criteria would go up later in the year- not one campaign objected,” DNC spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement.

“The DNC will not change the threshold for any one candidate and will not revert back to two consecutive nights with more than a dozen candidates,” she continued. “Our qualification criteria is extremely low and reflects where we are in the race.”

All seven candidates participating in Thursday’s debate at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles signed on to the request — former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer — plus Julian Castro, who also did not qualify for the debate sponsored by PBS NewsHour and Politico.

“The escalating thresholds over the past few months have unnecessarily and artificially narrowed what started as the strongest and most diverse Democratic field in history before voters have had a chance to be heard,” the letter reads.

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“As a result, candidates who have proven both their viability and their commitment to the Democratic Party are being prematurely cut out of the nominating contest before many voters have even tuned in — much less made their decision about whom to support,” it continued.

The candidates who qualified for Thursday’s debate threatened this week not to attend because of a labor dispute at Loyola Marymount, where the food workers’ union says it’s been working without a contract.

The union, Unite Here Local 11, said it would picket the debate, and the candidates said they would not cross that line.

In their letter Saturday, the nine candidates pointed to a lack of diversity on the debate stage.

“…While we know this was an unintended consequence of the DNC’s actions, many of the candidates excluded due to these thresholds are the ones who have helped make this year’s primary field historically diverse,” they said.

In its response, the DNC said that after votes are cast in February, debate criteria “will reflect those contests.”

The letter comes as it appears Booker will not qualify for the upcoming debate, and after Sen. Kamala Harris dropped out of the race, which means a black candidate will not be represented on stage.

It also comes amid a growing concern the field is narrowing to predominantly white candidates, renewing calls for voters to decide which candidates should advance in primaries instead of the DNC.

NBC News confirmed that presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is black, did not receive the letter nor heard from from the Booker campaign. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A rival campaign staffer told NBC News that Booker organized the letter in the last couple of days and had only a couple of candidates sign on until locking down the remainder Saturday morning. The staffer also said the DNC has pushed back on the Booker camp privately, and with the other campaigns, saying it will not revert back to earlier standards.

Campaigning in Iowa Saturday afternoon, Yang — the only candidate of color on next week’s debate stage — said Booker texted him asking him to sign onto the letter.

“Many Americans are looking up at the debate stage and are concerned that the candidates don’t represent their interests, their perspective, their point of view,” Yang said. “I’m friends with Cory. If a friend of mine asked me to do something and I think it’s positive, of course I will do it.

“So I’m excited for the DNC to consider changes moving forward that I think would be positive for the country and the party.”

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Jill Biden says Trump is a bully and ‘afraid’ to run against her husband



Former second lady Jill Biden lashed out at President Donald Trump on Saturday, accusing him of “bullying” and being “afraid” to run against her husband.

The wife of former Vice President Joe Biden told MSNBC’s “Up with David Gura” that Trump was wrong to attack 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who was named Time magazine’s person of the year before she was immediately mocked by the president.

“That’s bullying,” Jill Biden told MSNBC. “Look at what the president did this week with that 16-year-old girl, Greta. You can’t attack children. That’s the bottom line.”

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The Bidens have been center stage of impeachment proceedings against Trump, who asked the Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the former vice president and his son Hunter and a debunked theory about the 2016 election. The administration placed a hold on military funding to Ukraine that had been approved by Congress at roughly the same time.

Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company from 2014 to 2019 and Trump has asserted, with no evidence, that the former vice president used his office to advance his son’s business interests.

“We knew it was going to be tough. Our family knew it was going to be tough, but we could never have imagined that it would turn into Donald Trump … asking a foreign government to get involved in our elections,” Jill Biden said Saturday. “And I think it just proves he’s afraid to run against my husband, Joe Biden.”

Joe Biden, who recently turned 77, would be 78 and about three months if he were elected and took office in January 2021. Jill Biden dismissed reports that her husband would consider serving just one term.

“He has a lot of energy,” she said. “Most of the time I have to say to him in the morning like, ‘Joe, just wait until I have my coffee until you start with this idea or that idea.'”

President Trump is now 73.

With the Iowa caucuses about seven weeks away, Biden is locked in a close battle with South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

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