Russian troll farm was shut down by US military on day of midterms – as it happened

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The US military blocked internet access to a company underwritten by an oligarch close to Vladi­mir Putin during the 2018 midterms

1.18am GMT

If you are just joining us, here’s what’s been happening in politics Tuesday evening:

Related: Michael Cohen tipped to detail Trump ‘crimes’ as he testifies before Senate

Related: House passes resolution to revoke Trump’s national emergency declaration

12.05am GMT

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement on Twitter in response to the comments made by Representative Gaetz, reminding members of Congress to be more “mindful” with what they say on social media or to the press:

I encourage all Members to be mindful that comments made on social media or in the press can adversely affect the ability of House Committees to obtain the truthful and complete information necessary to fulfill their duties.

12.00am GMT

With a sweeping 363-62 bipartisan vote, this evening the House passed one of the largest public lands bills in decades. The package permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), protects 1.3 million acres of wilderness, and expands national parks and monuments.

Today, I’m proud to bring to the Floor a #PublicLands bill that permanently reauthorizes #LWCF and protects millions of acres of land, national parks, rivers, and resources for generations to come. I thank @NRDems for their leadership on this legislation #ForThePeople.

The #PublicLands package is the biggest conservation agreement passed in years. Today, @HouseDemocrats are voting to permanently reauthorize #LWCF, protect millions of acres of lands from mining and save taxpayers $9 million.

“The Sierra Club applauds Congress for passing the largest single wilderness bill in a decade. This is a historic day for the American people and for the public spaces we all enjoy and explore.”

11.42pm GMT

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has advanced a resolution to terminate Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration at the US-Mexico border, in a bid to block the president from beginning construction on a border wall without approval from Congress.

In a vote of 245-182, the House easily passed the measure. hours as Trump prepared for his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.

Of note, the number of votes in favor falls 40ish votes short of a two-thirds veto proof majority.
Pres. Trump has issued a veto threat.

11.35pm GMT

Michael Cohen’s attorney Lanny J. Davis issued a statement rebuking Florida Congressman and Trump ally Matt Gaetz for a tweet largely perceived as a threat, a day before Cohen is slated to testify.

“We will not respond to Mr. Gaetz’s despicable lies and personal smears, except to say we trust that his colleagues in the House, both Republicans and Democrats, will repudiate his words and his conduct,” Davis said.

11.13pm GMT

Tomorrow, Michael Cohen is expected to produce evidence for the House Oversight Committee that Trump was directly involved in the cover-up of his affair with Stormy Daniels and hush-money payment during his campaign for president, the Wall Street Journal reports.

New from Wall Street Journal:

Cohen to show Congress check signed by the President, reimbursing him for illegal hush money payments made to benefit campaign. Expense was allegedly falsely booked at Trump Organization as legal fees.

10.52pm GMT

Maria Butina, a unregistered Russian spy who pleaded guilty in December to helping her home country influence the 2016 US presidential election will not be sentenced for another month, as she is helping prosecutors pursue others involved.

Govt asks judge to delay setting sentencing date for Maria Butina, saying her cooperation is ongoing. Judge Chutkan sets next hearing for March 28, but tells govt to do sooner if possible and tells both sides to be ready to move quickly to sentencing.

Butina is largely expected to be helping investigators pursue cases against her American boyfriend Paul Erickson, a Republican political operative. He pleaded not guilty to money laundering in South Dakota recently, and was under investigation by DC federal prosecutors, who have not brought charges. Butina has been held in Washington area jails since summer 2018”.

10.31pm GMT

Gabrielle Canon here taking over for Amanda Holpuch.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is getting closer to entering the 2020 race, telling a crowd at the University of Delaware today that his family supports the move.

Adding to this: Joe Biden has also made job offers in South Carolina, a source tells me.

9.47pm GMT

Attorneys and political commentators are alerting a sitting US congressman to the US law on “witness tampering” after the representative in question, Matt Gaetz, appeared to threaten Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who testified before Congress today.

Gaetz, who is from Florida, said:

Hey @MichaelCohen212 – Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot…

This should not be legal. Intimidating a witness before Congress should be against the law.

Who wants to tell @mattgaetz that sitting members of Congress aren’t immune from indictment?

My short text convo with @mattgaetz just now:

Me: Congressman, Any chance you have a few minutes to discuss what you implied with your tweet to Michael Cohen? Perhaps a preview?

Gaetz: Watch tomorrow.

Me: Will do — anything I should be prepared for?

Gaetz: Fireworks


Me: Any response to those who say you’re witness tampering? @mattgaetz: I’m witness testing. We still are allowed to test the veracity and character of witnesses, I think.

Me: So you disagree with those who say you’re witness tampering?

Gaetz: Yes.

9.24pm GMT

Top strategists from Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign announced they would not be sticking with the Vermont senator for his 2020 campaign.

The New York Times said the departure of the three men, who produced Sanders’ 2020 announcement video last week, was “abrupt.”

Their departure could be indicative of Sanders’ desire to get serious about making changes to his team of strategists in an effort to make a deep run in a wide open Democratic primary field.

8.50pm GMT

The House has began to debate the resolution to block Donald Trump’s national declaration to build a border wall.

“Border crossings are at a four decades low,” says Joaquin Castro, a Democratic representative from Texas.

Related: Democrats prepare to vote to reverse Trump’s border wall emergency call

8.20pm GMT

Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, will no longer be allowed to practice law, according to the New York Daily News.

The Daily News reported that the state Supreme Court in Manhattan disbarred Cohen, who first began practicing law in 1992, today while he was testifying in Washington DC. The Guardian has not independently confirmed this report.

7.48pm GMT

Mark Harris, the Republican who won a North Carolina congressional seat but was then investigated for election fraud, has said he will not run in a scheduled re-election.

Harris, a 52-year-old pastor who ran unsuccessfully in 2016, made the announcement in a Facebook post. He attributed the decision to poor health and made no mention of the alleged ballot fraud scandal that has swamped his run for North Carolina’s ninth district.

7.22pm GMT

US journalists were booted at the last minute from their Hanoi hotel this morning – after it emerged it had also been booked by Kim Jong-Un.

My colleagues in Vietnam report that after “a brief discussion” between North Korean and Vietnamese officials “the US journalists were unceremoniously evicted from the media centre that the White House advance teams had spent days erecting”.

The fact that the problem was only discovered on Tuesday, the day before Kim is due to meet Donald Trumpin the Vietnamese capital, said a lot about the haste with which this second summit between the two leaders has been arranged. Hanoi was agreed as a venue two weeks ago, a win for the North Koreans who wanted to combine the trip with a relationship-building session with the Vietnamese leadership. The Trump administration had wanted to meet in the coastal resort of Danang.

7.13pm GMT

Michael Cohen was given a “grilling” by the Senate Intelligence Committee today, according to Susan Collins, the Republican Senator for Maine.

The hearing today was behind closed doors, but tomorrow Cohen will appear in public before the House Oversight Committee.

Susan Collins wouldn’t talk details but said Michael Cohen is enduring “an extensive grilling” from Senate Intel.
Asked by @tedbarrettcnn if there was anything that surprised her, she responded, “uh, yes. He’s a very different guy.”

6.28pm GMT

The House Oversight Committee will subpoena the Department of Justice, Homeland Security and Health for documents on family separations at the border.

Elijah Cummings, chair of the oversight committee, said documents provided by the three agencies were insufficient. Cummings, who represents Maryland, had earlier warned the Trump administration the committee was considering the move.

“Today, we are considering a resolution authorizing subpoenas to compel the #DOJ, the #DHS, and #HHS to produce documents relating to the #TrumpAdministration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families.” – Chairman @RepCummings

An HHS internal audit of the policy released in January said the administration separated thousands more children than previously acknowledged. The report found the number of separated children remained unknown because of the administration’s failure to track the families.

5.56pm GMT

The US military launched an internet strike of its own during the 2018 midterms, blocking internet access to an infamous Russian troll farm, according to the Washington Post.

The military blocked internet access to the Internet Research Agency in St Petersburg, a company underwritten by an oligarch close to Vladi­mir Putin, the Post reported.

The operation marked the first muscle-flexing by U.S. Cyber Command, with intelligence from the National Security Agency, under new authorities it was granted by President Trump and Congress last year to bolster offensive capabilities.

Whether the impact of the St. Petersburg action will be long-lasting remains to be seen. Russia’s tactics are evolving, and some analysts were skeptical of the deterrent value on either the Russian troll factory or on Putin, who, according to U.S. intelligence officials, ordered an “influence” campaign in 2016 to undermine faith in U.S. democracy. U.S. officials have also assessed that the Internet Research Agency works on behalf of the Kremlin.

5.18pm GMT

Related: Get a new perspective on the US. Sign up for the morning briefing

4.44pm GMT

Michael Cohen is currently giving testimony in the closed door Senate Intelligence Hearing in Washington DC – testimony which will reportedly “provide evidence of alleged criminal conduct by Trump since he became president”.

Axios is now reporting that this evidence was “stumbled across … within the last 48 hours”.

4.16pm GMT

The point Aaron Rupar is making here is that the dispute in the victory of Mark Harris, the Republican who was running for Congress in North Carolina’s ninth district, is over election fraud – not voter ID laws.

Allegations surfaced after Harris narrowly beat his Democratic opponent that a political operative employed by Harris may have tampered with mail-in ballots.

On Senate floor, @senatemajldr McConnell shamelessly blames Dems for Mark Harris’ election fraud in North Carolina, because Dems haven’t supported voter ID laws.

3.52pm GMT

John Kasich, the Republican former Ohio governor who is flirting with a 2020 presidential run, will tell fellow Republicans to get real on climate change in a speech tonight.

Kasich, who ran for the Republican nomination in 2016, is speaking at a British Columbia event on Tuesday.

This is like a call to arms. Let’s have conservatives have a discussion instead of being in denial that this is a problem. You can’t just be a science denier.

3.27pm GMT

Here’s Michael Cohen arriving at his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing a little while ago. He looks fairly chipper:

JUST IN: Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen arrives on Capitol Hill for closed-door testimony. He is expected to discuss publicly for the first time Trump’s role in some of the crimes Cohen pleaded guilty to last year.

3.03pm GMT

Ivanka Trump has criticized Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, which includes a living wage and jobs guarantee, claiming that Americans do not “want to be given something”.

In an interview with Fox News, Trump said:

I don’t think most Americans, in their heart, want to be given something. I’ve spent a lot of time traveling around this country over the last 4 years. People want to work for what they get.

So, I think that this idea of a guaranteed minimum is not something most people want. They want the ability to be able to secure a job. They want the ability to live in a country where’s there’s the potential for upward mobility.

2.32pm GMT

Donald Trump has exited Air Force One ahead of the North Korea summit.

The president’s plane landed at Noi Bai airport at around 9am ET, and Trump successfully navigated the stairs in his familiar hang-on-to-the-hand-rail-for-dear-life style.

2.19pm GMT

One of the many surprising events of the past two years has been the complete reversal of Lindsay Graham regarding Donald Trump.

Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, went from being one Trump’s staunchest critics to what one might charitably describe as a supporter, or what many have described as a lapdog.

“Well, ok, from my point of view, if you know anything about me, it’d be odd not to do this,” he said.

I asked what “this” was. “ ‘This,’ ” Graham said, “is to try to be relevant.” Politics, he explained, was the art of what works and what brings desired outcomes. “I’ve got an opportunity up here working with the president to get some really good outcomes for the country,” he told me.

1.52pm GMT

Both NBC News and the New York Times say Cohen is planning an explosive testimony on Capitol Hill.

The former Trump lawyer is appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee today, the first of three hearings this week.

1.21pm GMT

Good morning and welcome to today’s US politics news.

•Michael Cohen, long-time aide to Donald Trump, plans to tell Congress that Trump broke the law while in office, according to reports. Cohen has previously said the president ordered him to make hush payments to women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. According to the New York Times, Cohen will provide evidence of reimbursements received after Trump became president. Today’s hearing is behind closed doors, but Cohen is due to testify in public on Wednesday.

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Link : Russian troll farm was shut down by US military on day of midterms – as it happened


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