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House investigating whether Trump lied to Mueller, lawyer tells court

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WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives’ top lawyer told a federal appeals court Monday that the House is investigating whether President Donald Trump lied to special counsel Robert Mueller, and the attorney urged the judges to order the release of still-secret material from Mueller’s investigation.

Two of the three judges who heard arguments at the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — Judith Rogers, a Clinton appointee, and Thomas Griffith, an appointee of George W. Bush — seemed prepared to order at least some of the material sought by the House to be turned over.

House General Counsel Douglas Letter told the judges that the need for the still-secret material redacted from the Mueller report is “immense” because it will help House members answer the question, “Did the president lie? Was the president not truthful in his responses to the Mueller investigation?” in his written responses to the probe.

The House Judiciary Committee is seeking grand jury testimony and other details redacted from the public version of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Last month a judge ordered the Justice Department to turn over the redacted material, but the Trump administration appealed. Whatever the appeals panel decides, the case is likely headed to the Supreme Court.

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Griffith suggested that the House had a particular need for the material since the Mueller report ultimately left it to Congress to decide whether Trump had obstructed the Mueller probe.

But a third judge, Trump appointee Neomi Rao, seemed more sympathetic to the Justice Department’s arguments against releasing the information. She questioned whether the courts should get involved in any way in a dispute over impeachment between the legislative and executive branches.

Justice Department lawyers say they are barred from releasing the redacted material, in part because an impeachment inquiry does not qualify as a “judicial proceeding” under the federal law governing release of grand jury materials. Trump has called the impeachment inquiry “a witch hunt.”

Griffith, in his questioning, raised the possibility of releasing less material than what U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell called for in her Oct. 25 order. Griffith asked whether it made more sense for a judge to hold a hearing and go through each redaction in the Mueller report and hear arguments on whether Congress could articulate a particularized need for that information.

He also asked whether the information could perhaps be released on a limited basis to House staff and lawyers while the courts continue to hear arguments on the broader question of what can be fully provided to Congress.

Democrats believe the redacted information could shed light on key episodes of the investigation, including discussions Trump is reported to have had with associates about the release of stolen emails during the campaign and conversations about a 2016 Trump Tower meeting at which Trump’s eldest son expected to receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

In court papers, House lawyers cited one redaction that “appears to relate to grand jury evidence indicating that President Trump sought or obtained advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’s plans during the campaign” to release damaging emails related to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. In his written testimony, Trump said he had no recollection of any particular conversations about the hacked emails.

The questions about whether Trump lied in his written testimony to Mueller come as Trump tweeted Monday he might be willing to offer written testimony as part of the House impeachment inquiry.

Other redactions cited in the court papers relate to contacts members of the Trump campaign met with Ukrainian officials “and therefore may be relevant to the House’s examination of whether the President committed impeachable offenses by soliciting Ukrainian interference in the 2020 Presidential election.”

In public proceedings last week in front of the House Intelligence Committee, the impeachment inquiry focused on whether the president withheld aid from Ukraine to pressure the government there to launch a public investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

At the court hearing Monday, Griffith asked Letter whether the material sought was still relevant, given the apparent recent focus on Ukraine as opposed to the Mueller report.

“Don’t believe everything you’ve read in the press,” Letter responded.

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EU digs its heels in: Brussels blames Britain for no progress – ‘Not our fault!’

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BRUSSELS has continued its assault on the UK for the lack of progress made in the current Brexit talks between the two sides.

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Senate Republicans cool to 2nd round of stimulus checks, direct deposits

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WASHINGTON — Democrats want another round of direct stimulus payments to Americans up to $1,200 as coronavirus cases rise in dozens of states. President Donald Trump isn’t ruling it out. But Senate Republicans are on the fence or opposed, complicating its prospects.

“I wasn’t supportive of the first round. I don’t think I’d be supportive of the second,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. “This is not a classic recession that requires financial stimulus.”

House Democrats have passed a $3 trillion bill that includes another round of direct deposits and checks. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has endorsed that bill nudged Senate Republicans on Thursday to “get off their hands and finally work with Democrats to quickly provide additional federal fiscal relief.”

Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said Republicans are divided on whether to send more money to Americans when asked about Trump’s interest in a second round of payments.

“About direct payments or some of the checks — that’s something he’s talked about, and some of our members are interested in that as well. There are some of our members who aren’t interested in that, so we’ll see where that goes,” the South Dakota Republican said.

Thune said Republicans would still need to agree “on a number” and other components of it.

The Senate left on Thursday for a two-week recess.

Coronavirus cases have risen in states like Florida, Texas, Arizona and California — numerous states have paused or rolled back their reopening. The state of the economy over those two weeks is likely to impact the Senate Republican calculus.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., outlined three broad priorities for the next coronavirus relief bill: “Kids, jobs and health care.” He said he wants it to pass before August, which leaves just two weeks to act once the Senate returns from break on July 20.

Asked by Fox Business Network if he favors another round of direct payments, Trump said, “I do. I support it. But it has to be done properly.” He then segued to discussing unemployment insurance.

Asked again if he wants more direct payments, Trump responded, “I want the money getting to people to be larger so they can spend it,” before saying he doesn’t want it to be “an incentive not to go to work,” an apparent reference to the $600 weekly jobless benefit in the CARES Act that Republicans don’t want to extend.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said the “direct stimulus checks are going to depend on how the economy is doing” and noted the “great unemployment numbers” of June, when the rate fell to 11.1 percent.

“So if it turns out the economy is recovering, that’s a good thing and direct stimulus checks may not be necessary,” he added.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said the Senate will “talk seriously and in earnest when we get back” about what might be in the next relief bill, mentioning the rising debt as a concern for the GOP.

“If there is another bill, it will be targeted,” Kennedy said. “Hopefully, we’ll learn from our first three bills in terms of what works and what doesn’t. The subtext, or the undercurrent, here at least on my side of the aisle is the fact that we owe $25 trillion and climbing.”

The first round of stimulus payments cost $293 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Surveys show they’re popular among voters as the Nov. 3 general election nears. A CNBC/Change Research poll conducted in early May found 74 percent approval for sustained direct payments in the 2020 battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

A FT-Peterson US Economic Monitor poll showed that 76 percent of Americans say an additional payment is “very” or “somewhat” important to them, while 24 percent said it was not. The results were nearly identical when limited to battleground states.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who faces a competitive re-election battle this fall, was noncommittal when asked about another round of stimulus checks and direct deposits.

“We need to look at it, the jobs numbers. I want to see Iowa and how we’re doing at getting folks back to work. And we’ll take it from there,” she told NBC News.

Leigh Ann Caldwell contributed.



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Verhofstadt told to 'keep his nose out' after attack on UK plan to end freedom of movement

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GUY Verhofstadt has stirred up more rage among Brexiteers on social media after taking another swipe at Home Secretary Priti Patel over the Government’s plans to end freedom of movement.

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