James Comey says he hopes Trump isn't impeached – as it happened

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Comey says Congress should pursue it if the facts are there, but impeachment would ‘deeply fracture our country’

12.06am GMT

Thanks for reading along. Here’s what happened Thursday night:

11.10pm GMT

House Democrats, whose requests for documents on Trump’s communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin were rebuffed by the White House today, have responded saying they are “consulting on appropriate next steps”.

Schiff, Engel and Cummings respond to WH rejection of demand for info about Trump-Putin meetings: “We will be consulting on appropriate next steps. Congress has a constitutional duty to conduct oversight and investigate these matters, and we will fulfill that responsibility.” pic.twitter.com/FjbwpBZw77

President Trump’s actions violate our Constitution’s fundamental principle of checks and balances. If our committee must resort to issuing subpoenas, there should be no doubt about why. This has nothing to do with presidential harassment and everything to do with unprecedented obstruction”.

10.27pm GMT

Responding to conservative activists who have accused colleges of censorship, President Trump signed an executive order today requiring free speech protections on campuses across the country. The order threatens the withdrawal of federal funding for research for all who don’t comply.

“Even as universities have received billions and billions of dollars from taxpayers, many have become increasingly hostile to free speech and to the First Amendment,” he said during the signing ceremony. “These universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity and shut down the voices of great young Americans.”

Trump’s hyped free speech order that he’s talking about right now will ask colleges to do what they already have to.https://t.co/51n9CHOPxK

Several free speech groups opposed the order, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which took issue with ‘the partisan nature of the administration’s rollout of this executive order.’

The top Republican on the Senate education committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander, said he supports the push for free speech but raised concerns about Trump’s approach.

9.16pm GMT

Gabrielle Canon here, taking over for Ben Jacobs.

Cesar Sayoc, the man arrested for sending explosives to 13 prominent Trump critics last year, has plead guilty today.

Related: Cesar Sayoc: what we know about the pipe bomb suspect

A weepy Cesar Sayoc pleads guilty to 65 counts with a guidelines range of life imprisonment plus 120 months.

“Apparently because the government believes it has power over the hereafter,” Judge Rakoff quipped.

Sept. 12 sentencing date.

More to come.

8.54pm GMT

8.38pm GMT

In an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo set to air tomorrow morning, Donald Trump criticizes John McCain yet again.

I’m not a fan. He was horrible what he did with repeal and replace. What he did to the Republican party and to the nation, and to sick people that could have had great health care was not good. So I’m not a fan of John McCain and that’s fine.

8.18pm GMT

Former President Barack Obama will meet with freshman House Democrats next week.

Politico reports that Obama will appear at a reception hosted by Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday night for the over sixty newly elected House Democrats.

8.10pm GMT

Former FBI director James Comey has written an op-ed for the New York Times about what he would like to see in the Mueller Report.

Comey expresses his hope that the report is a “demonstration to the world — and maybe most of all to our president and his enablers — that the United States has a justice system that works because there are people who believe in it and rise above personal interest and tribalism. That system may reach conclusions they like or it may not, but the apolitical administration of justice is the beating heart of this country. I hope we all get to see that.”

I hope that Mr. Trump is not impeached and removed from office before the end of his term. I don’t mean that Congress shouldn’t move ahead with the process of impeachment governed by our Constitution, if Congress thinks the provable facts are there. I just hope it doesn’t. Because if Mr. Trump were removed from office by Congress, a significant portion of this country would see this as a coup, and it would drive those people farther from the common center of American life, more deeply fracturing our country.

8.03pm GMT

While speaking about student loans at the White House, President Donald Trump ad libs “I’ve always been very good with loans. I love loans. I love other people’s money.”

7.55pm GMT

Democratic longshot Andrew Yang will debate conservative pundit Ben Shapiro about circumcision.

Yang, a entrepreneur who has already qualified for the first presidential debates by receiving 65,000 donations to his campaign, announced his opposition to circumcision earlier this week.

7.47pm GMT

Freshman Republican Dan Crenshaw is tired of Trump going after John McCain and wants it to stop.

Mr. President, seriously stop talking about Senator McCain.

7.41pm GMT

An Iowa state representative may have used an unique method of campaigning in 2018.

The Associated Press reports that Jon Thorup, an Iowa state trooper who was running for the state house in 2018, wrote only eight traffic tickets all year.

Thorup, a Republican from Knoxville, conceded that his ticket numbers were too low and that his superiors have long told him that. But he said they simply reflect his different philosophy than other troopers in how he does his job.

“Looking at the last year, could I have done more? Yeah. I wish I had,” Thorup said in an interview with AP. “But even having said that, I was responding to things that also needed to be responded to. In rural Iowa we should be dealing with a lot of other stuff, too.”

7.29pm GMT

A South Carolina state representative has becoming the highest ranking elected official to endorse the QAnon conspiracy theory.

The Daily Beast reports that Lin Bennett, a two term state representative from suburban Charleston, South Carolina has been a backer of the theory which revolves around an elaborate conspiracy involving Trump working with Robert Mueller to arrest top Democrats.

7.13pm GMT

The White House has rejected a request from Congress for documents related to Trump’s meeting with Putin citing executive privilege and the president’s authority to conduct foreign affairs.

Here’s the White House letter to Chairmen @RepCummings, @RepEliotEngel & @RepAdamSchiff rejecting request for docs related to Trump’s meetings with Putin –> pic.twitter.com/3SelUYlvLr

7.05pm GMT

Former top White House aide Steve Bannon believes the most dangerous Democrat ticket in 2020 has both Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris.

As the Daily Beast reports, Bannon believes “Beto on the ticket with Harris is the most dangerous ticket for Trump.”

7.02pm GMT

For what it’s worth, special counsel Robert Mueller hasn’t taken his usual lunch break today.

The #cnnstakeout team says they haven’t seen Mueller leave for lunch today. He usually does. @FossumSamuel

6.45pm GMT

Although the Washington Capitals will visit the White House after winning the Stanley Cup, none of the event will be public.

Traditionally championship sports teams have visited the president in the White House and had a brief public ceremony. However, that has changed since Donald Trump has taken office with both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Golden State Warriors declining to visit the White House after winning championships.

Capitals announce there will be no official ceremony or media availability while the team is in the White House. The team will take part in a private tour and will meet the President in the Oval Office.

6.38pm GMT

The Guardian’s Julian Borger has more on the stakes on Trump’s decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights:

The announcement marks a diplomatic coup for Netanyahu, two weeks before elections, and four days before he is due to visit Washington.

Administration officials had previously rebuffed Netanyahu’s pressure for recognition of Israel’s possession of the strategic border area, pointing out that Trump had already handed the Israeli leader a significant political gift by moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Related: Trump says US will recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights

6.22pm GMT

The Denver Post reports Colorado Senator Michael Bennet is close to launching a presidential bid.

Bennet, a two-term Democrat, has long been mulling a White House run.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is taking the final steps toward becoming the second Colorado Democrat in the 2020 race for president, with a possible announcement coming soon, sources familiar with his plan have told The Denver Post.

Craig Hughes, a longtime adviser, said a final decision has not been made.

6.11pm GMT

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the latest Democratic presidential hopeful to go on a hiring spree.

The 2020 Democratic candidate has nearly twenty jobs available on his website in five states for aspiring operatives.

5.59pm GMT

In a sign that he may be leaning towards a presidential bid, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has Iowa in the NCAA championship game, even though the team is a #10 seed. The state has the first in the nation caucuses.

Hogan has his home state Maryland Terps winning it all.

Never say never. pic.twitter.com/MjcIL7d8mE

5.49pm GMT

Steve King is holding another town hall in Iowa today. The Iowa congressman compares himself to Brett Kavanaugh positively saying that while women accused the Supreme Court Justice of sexual misconduct, no one has accused him of acting in a racist way.

King lost his committee assignments earlier this year for the latest in a series of racially charged comments where he questioned why the term “white nationalism” was offensive.

King’s repeating his ridiculous point about how no one’s ever seen him act in a racist way and how unlike Kavanaugh “I don’t even have any accusers.”

5.42pm GMT

An analysis by the Associated Press shows that Republicans got a big advantage from gerrymandering in the 2018 midterm elections.

The AP’s analysis indicates that Republicans won about 16 more U.S. House seats than would have been expected based on their average share of the vote in congressional districts across the country. In state House elections, Republicans’ structural advantage might have helped them hold on to as many as seven chambers that otherwise could have flipped to Democrats, according to the analysis.

5.24pm GMT

American Bridge, a top Democratic superPAC, is launching a $50 million campaign to target white working class voters in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that Trump and Barack Obama won.

The goal of the campaign will be to weaken Trump’s standing in the midwestern states he relied for victory in 2016.

5.11pm GMT

Congressional investigators are raising concerns after the revelation that Jared Kushner used both personal email and WhatsApp to conduct government business.

Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lovell confirmed to Elijah Cummings, the current chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee and Trey Gowdy, Cummings’s predecessor, that Kushner used WhatsApp for official business.

5.01pm GMT

Charles Kushner, the father of top White House aide Jared Kushner, has published a defense of his son and his family real estate business as op-ed in the Washington Post.

When he left the company, Jared took several steps to preclude conflicts of interest. At the recommendation of his legal counsel, in consultation with the Office of Government Ethics, he divested from more than 80 partnerships, including 666 Fifth Ave., at a substantial financial sacrifice. We walled off Jared from receiving information on the company, and he resigned as the controlling partner in more than 100 entities. This was all done out of an abundance of caution.

Jared’s service to the country has brought unprecedented scrutiny of the Kushner Companies from the media and government investigators. We are happy to assist with all inquiries, but I must note that we are already voluntarily adhering to the strictest standards to avoid even the appearance of conflicts. As a result, we have passed up many business opportunities that we normally would have pursued. That might not be as alluring as some of the crazy stuff I read about my family and our business. But it happens to be the truth.

4.52pm GMT

Donald Trump just tweeted that its time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!

Related: Trump says US will recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights

4.45pm GMT

One of the record number of donors to Beto O’Rourke during his Senate campaign was Josh Kushner, the brother of top White House aide Jared Kushner

Axios reports that Kushner gave the Texas Democrat a $2,600 donation on October 25, 2018. O’Rourke who narrowly lost to Ted Cruz has since launched a presidential campaign against Donald Trump.

4.31pm GMT

New York city councilman Richie Torres has filed to run for Congress against longtime Democratic incumbent Jose Serrano in a deep blue district in the Bronx. Serrano was first elected in 1990 and is a longtime member of the Progressive Caucus.

A real serious primary could be brewing in #NY15: @RitchieTorres filed with the FEC to run against @serranocongress. A source close to Torres confirmed to me that donors are planning an April fundraising, but that he is still considering “all his options” https://t.co/Acd9WEoBwD pic.twitter.com/h71TREP8iH

4.16pm GMT

A judge in Wisconsin has blocked laws passed by the Republican state legislature in a lame duck session last year to limit the power of incoming governor Tony Evers and attorney general Josh Kaul.

BREAKING: Dane County Judge issues temporary injunction blocking laws passed by GOP in lame-duck session limiting power of @GovEvers and Attorney General Josh Kaul.

4.10pm GMT

Mississippi governor Phil Bryant will sign a fetal heartbeat bill today which will ban abortions after roughly the six week mark in a pregnancy, which is when a fetus develops a heartbeat. The only exceptions are if the pregnancy would cause significant damage to a woman’s health.

Similar legislation passed in Kentucky has been blocked by federal courts. Advocates of the bill are hoping to force the supreme court to address the issue and potentially overturn Roe v Wade.

4.00pm GMT

In contrast to Obama, Texas senator Ted Cruz has the University of Houston winning his bracket. Cruz, a Houston resident, seems to be going with the hometown team rather than favorites like Duke or North Carolina.

Time to get my #MarchMadness bracket on the record…

Let’s go @UHCougarMBK! Let Phi Slama Jama rise again! pic.twitter.com/hTPmkhYGl2

3.55pm GMT

Former President Barack Obama has released his NCAA bracket in advance of the tournament’s tipoff this afternoon.

Obama predicts Duke to beat UNC in the final four. Obama also picks a couple of upsets with New Mexico State and Oregon, both of which are twelve seeds, advancing to the Elite Eight.

3.38pm GMT

Democratic presidential hopeful John Delaney has issued an unusual statement calling on Maryland’s Republican governor Larry Hogan to primary Donald Trump.

“Every day Donald Trump wakes up and finds a new way to divide our country and denigrate the office of the Presidency. His behavior is disgraceful and an embarrassment to the American people. Unless Republicans believe that Donald Trump is a fair and accurate representation of the Republican party as a whole, they should put up a challenger to run against him in the primary election. One of the biggest problems facing the country is that very few Republicans have shown the courage to stand up to Trump. We can’t go very far as a country if only one political party is committed to decency, honesty, and character.

“Voices like John Kasich and Governor Hogan, from my state, would do an enormous service to not just their party, but to their fellow Americans to stand up and challenge this President.

3.34pm GMT

Former Trump advisor Roger Stone is refusing a request for documents from the House Judiciary Committee.

The Daily Caller reports that Stone is invoking the Fifth Amendment in a letter to the committee’s chair Jerry Nadler.

“On the advice of counsel, Mr. Stone will not produce the documents requested by the House Committee on the Judiciary whether the documents requested by the House Committee on the Judiciary exist or not, they are subject to a Fifth Amendment claim. Mr. Stone’s invocation of his Fifth Amendment rights must be understood by all to be the assertion of a Constitutional right by an innocent citizen, who is currently defending his innocence, and one who denounces secrecy for the purposes of advancing innuendo.”

3.06pm GMT

Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign is already on the wrong side of the law.

The former Texas congressman hasn’t committed any campaign finance violations nor are there any intimations that he colluded with foreign powers. He did park illegally in New Hampshire though and earned a $50 ticket from the Manchester police.

Beto O’Rourke’s gray van just got a $50 parking ticket. O’Rourke, who was driving, left it in a no parking area outside the Manchester Courthouse while he went across the street at Consuelo’s Taqueria. An advance staffer quickly moved the van. Here’s where it was. pic.twitter.com/SmkJqUhEp9

3.03pm GMT

There is not a single House Republican who considers themselves pro-choice.

With the retirement of Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania and Rodney Freylinghusen of New Jersey, the House GOP caucus is unanimously pro life. There are still two pro-choice Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

2.50pm GMT

Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has joined the chorus of criticism towards Donald Trump for his attacks on John McCain.

Schwarzenegger said of McCain to the Atlantic:

“He was just an unbelievable person. So an attack on him is absolutely unacceptable if he’s alive or dead—but even twice as unacceptable since he passed away a few months ago. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to do that. I just think it’s a shame that the president lets himself down to that kind of level. We will be lucky if everyone in Washington followed McCain’s example, because he represented courage.”

2.42pm GMT

John McCain’s daughter Bridget who rarely speaks publicly has now weighed on Trump’s criticisms on Twitter.

@realDonaldTrump Everyone doesn’t have to agree with my dad or like him, but I do ask you to be decent and respectful. If you can’t do those two things, be mindful. We only said goodbye to him almost 7 months ago. (1/2)

@realDonaldTrump Even if you were invited to my dad’s funeral, you would have only wanted to be there for the credit and not for any condolences.
Unfortunately, you could not be counted on to be courteous, as you are a child in the most important role the world knows. (2/2)

2.34pm GMT

In an interview on Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo on Mornings With Maria, top White House aide Kellyanne Conway declined to weigh in on her husband’s feud with Donald Trump. “I appreciate the president defending what he thinks is unfairness. I’ll leave that up to him. I was raised, though, in a household of strong Italian Catholic women who taught me that you air grievances like that in private.” said Conway.

She also compared her husband’s criticism of Trump to that of others on social media who constantly criticize the president.

“Sure. It’s very unusual. It’s not just unusual. It’s unusual for George, who people know is a very private person who really hasn’t weighed in on many different matters over the years. But, anyway, that aside, of course we’ve talked about it in passing, but he’s the president of the United States. And here’s something I think is so remarkable. Peoples somehow think they have an equal platform to the president of the United States. Not George, but a lot of people out there are constantly attacking the president on Twitter and FaceBook and elsewhere. He’s the president and you’re not. And they somehow trick them into thinking, because we have the same platform — I can — I can just — I’m the same as the president. No, you’re not. He’s the president of the United States.”

2.26pm GMT

Economic models on Wall Street predict that Donald Trump will win re-election.

Models based primarily on economic data show Trump as favorite due to a strong economy and low unemployment.

“The economy is just so damn strong right now and by all historic precedent the incumbent should run away with it,” said Donald Luskin, chief investment officer of TrendMacrolytics, a research firm whose model correctly predicted Trump’s 2016 win when most opinion polls did not. “I just don’t see how the blue wall could resist all that.”

Models maintained by economists and market strategists like Luskin tend to ignore election polls and personal characteristics of candidates. Instead, they begin with historical trends and then build in key economic data including growth rates, wages, unemployment, inflation and gas prices to predict voting behavior and election outcomes.

2.12pm GMT

In an interview, former congressman John Delaney took a dismissive attitude towards many of his other fellow Democratic presidential candidates who support abolishing the electoral college.

“It’s a waste of time,” said the Maryland Democrat. “We all know it is never going to happen.”

.@JohnDelaney took a dim view of Dem candidates who want to abolish the electoral college today with @hughhewitt.

“It’s such a waste of time,” he said. “Putting aside the policy of it for a second, we all know it is never going to happen.” (h/t @DavidWright_CNN)

1.58pm GMT

The House Judiciary Committee just announced that it will hold an open hearing next week with Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman with ties to the Trump organization.

It will follow that hearing, scheduled for Wednesday March 27 with one the next day on “Putin’s Playbook: The Kremlin’s Use of Oligarchs, Money and Intelligence in 2016 and Beyond.”

1.50pm GMT

A new poll of Iowa caucusgoers shows Joe Biden with a large lead in the state.

The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf on End Citizens United, only polls a handful of the 2020 presidential contenders.

1.44pm GMT

Freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was savaged by the New York Daily News editorial board today for her attempt to defend her role in torpedoing Amazon’s effort to move to Queens.

Ocasio-Cortez was one of the leading critics of the widely popular deal for the corporate giant to build office in Queens that would create 25,000 jobs.

Even if one forgave Ocasio-Cortez for failing to grasp how the deal worked in the heat of a high-stakes fight — and why should we? She majored in economics — it takes willful ignorance to continue to misrepresent its terms now.

At a community board meeting in Astoria Tuesday night, AOC gave her lengthiest explanation yet of her opposition. It was riddled with falsehoods.

1.35pm GMT

Jimmy Carter became the oldest living president in American history today. The former one-term president just passed George HW Bush, who died last year to be the oldest living president in history.

Jimmy Carter has just become the oldest living former president in United States history.

At the age of 94 years and 172 days, he passes George H.W. Bush, who was 94 years, 171 days when he died last November. https://t.co/5S9SHuxcbQ

1.33pm GMT

Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh is under new scrutiny today. Pugh, who sold $500,000 worth of children’s books to the University of Maryland Medical System where she sat on the board, admitted that the hospital system was the only entity to purchase her books.

Pugh has since resigned from the board and returned a $100,000 payment to the hospital system.

1.18pm GMT

A number of prominent conservative writers have issued a statement arguing that Republicans cannot return to traditional American conservativism after Trump.

The statement published in First Things, a Christian conservative publication, argues that conservative consensus did too much promote “individual autonomy” at the expense of traditional values.

There is no returning to the pre-Trump conservative consensus that collapsed in 2016. Any attempt to revive the failed conservative consensus that preceded Trump would be misguided and harmful to the right.

We give credit where it is due: Consensus conservatism played a heroic role in defeating Communism in the last century, by promoting prosperity at home and the expansion of a rules-based international order. At its best, the old consensus defended the natural rights of Americans and the “transcendent dignity of the human person, as the visible image of the invisible God” (Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus) against the depredations of totalitarian regimes.

1.14pm GMT

In a statement, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont announced that his presidential campaign will offset all carbon emissions it produces. The effort comes as Democratic presidential candidates increasingly try to sell themselves as environmentally friendly.

In an effort to balance out the carbon emissions produced by travel activities associated with both himself and his staff, Sanders is partnering with NativeEnergy, a Vermont-based leader in emissions reduction project investments, to support renewable energy projects and invest in carbon reduction projects. Bernie 2020 will also offset event venue and attendee-related emissions.

12.52pm GMT

Good morning.

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order to protect free speech on college campuses this afternoon, Democratic presidential hopeful John Hickenlooper told CNN last night that he once went to a pornographic movie with his mother and advisers to Joe Biden are reportedly debating tapping losing Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams as a vice presidential pick when Biden announces his 2020 campaign.

Continue reading…
Source: israel
Link : James Comey says he hopes Trump isn’t impeached – as it happened


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