Review Category : Politics

Trump’s first budget calls for deep cuts to Medicaid, other safety net programs

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) — President Trump’s first budget proposal to Congress includes $1.7 trillion in mandatory spending cuts over 10 years, including $800 billion from Medicaid and $193 billion from food stamps, in an effort to balance the federal budget.

The proposal for Fiscal Year 2018, called “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” also includes sunny projections for economic growth and tax revenue, and factors in the passage of the GOP health care bill recently approved by the House.

“What Trumponomics is and what this budget is a part of, is trying to get to sustained three percent economic growth in this country again,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said in a briefing with reporters on Monday. “We do not believe that is something fanciful.”

In addition to the cuts, the proposal, set to be delivered to Capitol Hill Tuesday morning, also includes a boost to military spending, $25 billion over 10 years for Ivanka Trump’s paid family leave proposal — six weeks for new/adoptive parents — and $1 billion for construction of a border all on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We’re not going to measure success by how much money we spend, but by how many people we help,” Mulvaney said of the reduced spending, adding that the White House believes in the “social safety net.”

Like every presidential budget proposal, Trump’s first budget blueprint is expected to be dead on arrival in the House and Senate, with many members reluctant to approve deep cuts to Medicaid and foreign aid, among other programs.

Democrats are criticizing the White House proposal, and accusing Trump of going back on his promise to his campaign supporters not to touch Medicaid and Social Security.

“Candidate Trump campaigned as a populist,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said on the Senate floor Monday. “Since he has taken office he has governed like a hard-right conservative — pushing policies that help the uber wealthy at the expense of the middle class.”

“Based on what we know about this budget, the good news — the only good news — is that it’s likely to be roundly rejected by members of both parties here in the Senate — just as the last budget was,” Schumer said.

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What you need to know about the 5th Amendment and how it applies to Flynn

Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, through his lawyers, on Monday invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to hand over documents subpoenaed by a Senate committee.

The Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Flynn’s personal documents on May 10, after he declined to cooperate with its April 28 request in relation to the panel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible ties to Trump campaign associates. Before the April request, Flynn said through a statement from his lawyer that he wouldn’t submit himself to questioning from the committee “without assurances against unfair prosecution.”

The Fifth Amendment gives criminal defendants the right to refuse to testify at trial. No person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,” according to the U.S. Constitution.

Although a congressional investigation is not a criminal matter, Flynn would still have the right to invoke the Fifth Amendment with regard to certain questions that could potentially incriminate him in a future criminal case. But he does not have the right to refuse to testify before Congress altogether.

As a general matter, the Fifth Amendment applies only to testimony and does not give criminal defendants or witnesses in congressional investigations the right to refuse to turn over subpoenaed documents. But there is an exception when the act of producing a document is itself incriminating.

“The fact that the content of the documents are incriminating does not give you a Fifth Amendment right not to produce them,” explained Michael Seidman, a criminal law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. “But the mere act of producing them can be incriminating if the government doesn’t know that they exist or that you have them.”

If the government already knows that certain documents exist, it could turn into a complicated legal question about whether Flynn must release them, said Seidman.

In a letter to Sens. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, and Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence dated May 22 obtained by ABC News, Flynn’s lawyers argued that “[p]roducing documents that fall within the subpoena’s broad scope would be a testimonial act, insofar as it would confirm or deny the existence of such documents.”

“The context in which the Committee has called for General Flynn’s testimonial production of documents makes clear that he has more than a reasonable apprehension that any testimony he provides could be used against him,” the letter reads.

Seidman said this is a standard legal strategy and that “any competent lawyer would tell Flynn that if he might have a Fifth Amendment privilege he should assert it.” Also, if he produces documents and makes statements, he risks inadvertently “waiving” his rights against self-incrimination as the Russia investigation progresses, Seidman said.

Legal experts also pointed out that if Flynn is granted immunity from criminal prosecution, then he would no longer have Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and could be compelled to answer all questions and release all documents.

“In the same way that immunizing a low- or mid-level person in a crime ring can lead to fingers pointed all the way up to the Don,” said Akhil Amar, a constitutional law professor at Yale Law School, who said the “Don” pun was intentional.

Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Monday that they would use all available tools to get information from Flynn, including holding him in contempt of Congress, which could open him up to criminal charges.

“We’re going to keep all the options on the table,” Warner told ABC News.

“We’re going to help honor the constitutional rights but we still have to be able to get to the facts. We can’t just step back and say, ‘Oh, OK we can’t get it,’” added ” Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, another member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Lankford also suggested that the committee will still try to negotiate with Flynn’s lawyers to get access to the information he is currently refusing to share.

Warner added that there might be a legal gray area that prohibits Flynn from using the Fifth Amendment to protect his refusal to provide documents, versus his clear constitutional right against testimony that might incriminate him.

“We know there’s a Fifth Amendment right on testimony but I think there’s an open question on documents and we’re looking into that right now,” he said.

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The events that could rock Washington this week

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — There’s never a dull moment in the nation’s capital these days. And even with President Donald Trump out of town for his first overseas trip, there’s a good chance Washington, D.C., will continue to reel from the latest revelations in the Russia election probe.

Former FBI Director James Comey will convene with at least one top lawmaker this week and the memos he is said to have written about his meetings with the president could be shared with investigators in the House of Representatives.

Here is a rundown of events that could rock Washington this week.

Recap: last week’s big events

The revelation that Trump disclosed what had been highly classified information in a May 10 meeting with Russian officials at the White House kicked off an especially fraught week for the administration.

The Washington Post first reported the news of the disclosure, on May 15, and while a number of White House surrogates at first denied the entirety of the story, the specifics of those denials changed over time.

The next day Trump seemingly admitted that he shared some information with the Russians but denied any wrongdoing.

“As president I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism,” he wrote in two tweets.

A major concern that was raised in the wake of the disclosure was whether or not Trump’s revelations put the source of the information and the methods of collection in jeopardy. National security adviser H.R. McMaster, who replaced Mike Flynn after he was forced to resign in February, said that Trump “wasn’t even aware” of the source of the information. It was later revealed that Israel had collected the intelligence.

Later on May 16, reports of a memo that Comey reportedly wrote shortly after a Jan. 22 meeting with Trump surfaced. The memo, which purportedly said that the president asked Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into Flynn, was first reported by The New York Times. Details of its reported contents were later confirmed to ABC News by sources close to Comey. No reporter has seen the notes.

In the memo said to be shared with top FBI associates, Comey wrote that Trump told him, “I hope you can let this go,” referring to the inquiry into Flynn’s actions. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” said Trump, according to a source who read the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” Trump reportedly said.

The Department of Justice announced on May 17 that a special counsel was appointed to investigate Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that he assigned former FBI Director Robert Mueller to “oversee the previously confirmed FBI investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters.”

Trump ended the week by going on the first foreign trip of his presidency, stopping first in Saudi Arabia. Over the course of his eight-day trip, he will also visit Israel, Vatican City, Belgium and Italy before returning to the U.S. on May 27.

What to look for this week

Even though Trump is away, there is a lot of action unfolding on Capitol Hill this week.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said on ABC News’ “This Week” that he is slated to speak with Comey sometime Monday.

“What I have heard is that I believe Director Comey and I are going to have a conversation on Monday. So I have not spoken directly with him,” Chaffetz said on Sunday.

“It’s important to remember nobody’s actually seen these documents. Even the reporter at The New York Times has not seen these documents,” Chaffetz said, referring to the documents alleging that Trump called Comey a “nut job” at his meeting with the Russians. “So there’s been an awful lot written and said about it, but I don’t even know that the Department of Justice has them. Maybe Director Comey has them. I don’t know where they reside. I don’t know if there are documents. But we’re certainly pursuing them.”

Former CIA Director John Brennan is slated to appear before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday as part of its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Chaffetz set a Wednesday deadline for acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to share internal FBI documents relating to the bureau’s Russia investigation, which likely includes any memos Comey wrote.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to testify before a House subcommittee on commerce and justice about the DOJ’s budget, but members of the committee will be able to ask questions on other topics as well.

Away from the Hill, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is speaking at a Harvard Law School event on Wednesday, and former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is speaking at New York Law School’s graduation on Thursday.

Where things go from here

The FBI, the House of Representatives and the Senate are all still working on their respective Russia investigations.

Mueller has until mid-July to put together a budget for his investigation, and that budget must be approved by Rosenstein. Sessions previously recused himself from all matters related to the presidential campaign.

Beyond the Russia investigations, the health care reform battle and the president’s budget are expected to be areas of focus for lawmakers.

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Flynn last year highlighted a Clinton aide’s pleading the 5th Amendment

George Frey/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who is expected to take the Fifth Amendment in response to a Senate committee’s subpoena, once promoted news of Hillary Clinton’s computer-tech aide’s invoking the same constitutional right.

“IT specialist takes 5th over 100 times,” Flynn tweeted, linking to a June 22, 2016, story about the deposition of a former Clinton aide in a lawsuit related to her use of a private email server as secretary of state.

@HillaryClinton IT specialist takes 5th over 100 times. #Trump2016 #fieldoffight #AmericaFirst https://t.co/5U4R8FQ8JN

— General Flynn (@GenFlynn) June 23, 2016

The Fifth Amendment gives an individual the right to protect against self-incrimination.

Flynn will plead the Fifth Amendment and refuse to honor a Senate Intelligence Committee subpoena request for documents relating to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to Trump associates, a source close to Flynn told ABC News Monday.

“He will not be producing the documents they sought. He is entitled to decline, pursuant to the Fifth Amendment,” the source said.

To date, Flynn is the only Trump associate whom the Senate has subpoenaed in its Russia investigation.

Last year, when Flynn was a prominent surrogate for Trump, he and others in the candidate’s circle hammered the campaign of rival Hillary Clinton over the FBI investigation of emails. Flynn also jumped on news of Clinton’s former IT specialist’s pleading the Fifth Amendment when he was asked about her email setup during a deposition in June.

The tech specialist, Bryan Pagliano, was deposed as part of a lawsuit brought by the conservative group Judicial Watch.

“125 times – thats how many times @HillaryClinton IT guy invoked the 5th to cover up her server scandal,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tweeted in June.

Then-candidate Trump suggested that the aide’s taking the Fifth implied guilt and he drew comparisons to the mafia.

“The mob takes the Fifth Amendment,” Trump said at a rally in Iowa in September 2016. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”

Trump himself pleaded the Fifth Amendment 97 times in 1990 during his divorce proceeding from former beauty queen Marla Maples, according to report in The Huffington Post.

Flynn’s tweet on June 23 about the Clinton’s aide’s taking the Fifth Amendment came minutes after his son, Michael Flynn Jr., posted about it.

“Unbelievable,” his son tweeted.

@GenFlynn unbelievable…. https://t.co/osgqG0LJsA

— I LOVE AMERICA🇺🇸 (@mflynnJR) June 23, 2016

Flynn and his son were notably harsh critics of former Secretary Clinton and frequently focused on issues related to ethics when arguing against her candidacy.

In late October, just prior to Trump’s election victory, Flynn called Clinton a “grifter” in a tweet, and claimed that the media had failed to adequately cover her “incredible corruption.”

Responding to a question on Twitter from a user on July 6, 2016, asking what would have happened to Flynn had he acted as carelessly as Clinton while serving as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, a post he held during President Obama’s second term, he suggested that he would have been jailed.

“Removed, clearance revoked, subjected to intense investigation and put in jail,” Flynn wrote. “She’s guilty but will get away [with] it?”

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Republicans delay decision on Obamacare payments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — House Republicans and the Trump administration, seeking to end payments on Obamacare subsidies, have requested a 90-day extension on the cost-sharing reductions, a move decried by some Democrats.

In the lawsuit House v. Price (previously known as House v. Burwell), Republicans argue that the Obama administration was not authorized to make the payments, which total $175 billion over 10 years.

The court previously ruled that payments would continue as congressional Republicans and the new Trump administration worked toward a resolution.

Skeptics are concerned that ending the payments to insurance companies would lead to higher premiums for low-income Americans.

“We continue to work with the Trump administration on a solution,” AshLee Strong, press secretary to House Speaker Paul Ryan, said Monday, confirming the filing.

The House of Representatives, at the prompting of its Republican majority, initially filed suit on Nov. 21, 2014.

The case is currently waiting in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The parties are expected to file a status report every 90 days. Since the American Health Care Act, the GOP bill to replace Obamacare, is currently making its way through the legislative process, the joint motion requests another 90-day extension.

“By order dated March 2, 2017, this Court granted the parties’ joint motion to continue the abeyance of this appeal and to file a status report by May 22, 2017, and at 90-day intervals thereafter,” the filing reads. “The parties respectfully request that the abeyance be continued as contemplated by the March 2 order. The parties continue to discuss measures that would obviate the need for judicial determination of this appeal, including potential legislative action.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi complained the delay exacerbates “uncertainty in the health coverage of millions of Americans.”

“At a critical period when insurers are deciding premiums for next year, Republicans are pouring uncertainty into the health insurance marketplaces,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “If Republicans allow their cynical lawsuit to cut off the Cost Sharing Reduction payments, they will be directly responsible for increasing premium costs for consumers by 19 percent, causing some insurers to withdraw from rural counties, and increasing costs for taxpayers by billions of dollars.”

On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its revised score of the American Health Care Act, which narrowly passed through the lower chamber on May 4.

If the CBO’s analysis of the legislation identifies sufficient savings to survive procedural roadblocks, House Speaker Ryan is expected to sign the bill and send it to the Senate, where it may be rewritten by senators over several months.

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Tillerson: Human rights ‘not the central part’ of Trump’s talks with Saudi Arabia

State Department photo/ Public Domain(TEL AVIV, Israel) — Human rights was not a primary focus of President Trump’s talks with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.

“It was not the central part of our conversations,” Tillerson told reporters aboard Air Force One as the U.S. delegation flew from Saudi Arabia to Israel earlier Monday.

Saudi Arabia is the 10th worst nation in the world for granting political and civil rights to its citizens, according to the 2017 ranking by Freedom House, an independent watchdog group.

Tillerson told reporters that in Trump’s conversations over the weekend with the Saudi king and others in the royal family, “We were focused on this fight against terrorism primarily.”

The secretary of state also responded to questions about some of the president’s troubles back home, including about Trump’s disclosure of sensitive intelligence to Russian officials and his firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

Ahead of the president’s arrival in Tel Aviv, Israel and his meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday, Tillerson was asked if Trump planned to apologize for sharing Israeli intelligence information about ISIS with Russian officials at a recent White House meeting.

“I don’t know that there’s anything to apologize for,” Tillerson told reporters aboard Air Force One as the U.S. delegation traveled to Israel with Trump on his first foreign trip as president.

The Washington Post
reported that Trump disclosed sensitive information to Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a May 10 meeting in the Oval Office.

U.S. officials told ABC News that the intelligence was shared with the U.S. with the intent that the source remain confidential and, according to the Post, that the information not be disclosed to others.

Trump on Twitter argued that he has the “absolute right” to share information with the Russians, and wanted to share with them “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”

When Tillerson was asked about any concerns by Israel about the sharing of its intelligence, he said: “To the extent the Israelis have any questions, or clarification, I’m sure we’re happy to provide that.”

The New York Times reported on Friday that during that Oval Office meeting Trump told the Russians that he “faced great pressure because of Russia” — an apparent reference to investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and any potential ties between it and Trump’s campaign — but with the firing of Comey, that has been “taken off.”

In a statement Friday in response to the Times’ report, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Comey “created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.”

Tillerson was asked Monday whether Comey’s dismissal makes his job easier as secretary of state.

“It’s had no effect on my dealings with Russia,” he said, adding, “It’s had no impact on my ability to conduct foreign affairs from the State Department with my counterparts.”

Tillerson’s press briefing aboard Air Force One Monday came after Sunday’s press conference in Riyadh with the Saudi foreign minister, which members of the traveling American press corps were not informed about.

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed to ABC News that the press conference came about at the “last minute” and that “regrettably, there was not enough time to issue an alert to the traveling U.S. media.”

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Tillerson not sure of ‘anything to apologize for’ on Trump’s sharing Israeli intelligence with Russia

State Department photo/ Public Domain(TEL AVIV, Israel) — Even while abroad, President Trump and his secretary of state are still dogged by questions about the president’s troubles back home, including his disclosure of sensitive information to Russian officials and the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

Ahead of Trump’s arrival in Tel Aviv, Israel and his meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asked about Trump’s meeting with Russian officials nearly two weeks ago in which he passed on highly sensitive intelligence that originated with Israel.

“I don’t know that there’s anything to apologize for,” Tillerson told reporters aboard Air Force One, traveling to Israel with Trump on his historic first foreign trip as president.

The Washington Post reported that Trump disclosed sensitive information to Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a May 10 meeting in the Oval Office. U.S. officials told ABC News that the intelligence was shared with the U.S. with the intent that the source remain confidential and, according to the Post, that the information not be disclosed to others.

Trump on Twitter argued that he has the “absolute right” to share information with the Russians, and wanted to share with them “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”

When Tillerson was asked about any concerns by Israel about the sharing of its intelligence, he said: “To the extent the Israelis have any questions, or clarification, I’m sure we’re happy to provide that.”

The New York Times reported on Friday that during that Oval Office meeting Trump told the Russians that he “faced great pressure because of Russia” — an apparent reference to investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and any potential ties between it and Trump’s campaign — but with the firing of Comey, that has been “taken off.”

In a statement Friday in response to the Times’ report, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Comey “created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.”

Tillerson was asked Monday whether Comey’s dismissal makes his job easier as secretary of state.

“It’s had no effect on my dealings with Russia,” he said, adding, “It’s had no impact on my ability to conduct foreign affairs from the State Department with my counterparts.”

Tillerson’s press briefing aboard Air Force One Monday came after Sunday’s press conference in Riyadh with the Saudi foreign minister, which members of the traveling American press corps were not informed about.

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed to ABC News that the press conference came about at the “last minute” and that “regrettably, there was not enough time to issue an alert to the traveling US media.”

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Michael Flynn to take Fifth Amendment and decline Senate subpoena

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to honor a Senate committee’s subpoena request for documents relating to Russian interference in the election, a source close to Flynn confirms to ABC News.

The Fifth Amendment gives an individual the right to protect against self-incrimination.

“He will not be producing the documents they sought. He is entitled to decline pursuant to the Fifth Amendment,” a source close to Flynn tells ABC News.

To date, Flynn is the only Trump associate whom the Senate has subpoenaed.

Legal experts told ABC News that Fifth Amendment rights do not just apply to someone seated at a witness table. It also allows the individual to decline to produce documents that could potentially be incriminating.

The Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Flynn’s personal documents on May 10 after the former national security adviser declined to cooperate with their original April 28 request in relation to the panel’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and its possible ties to Trump associates.

Prior to the April request, Flynn said through a statement from his lawyer that he wouldn’t submit himself to questioning from the committee “without assurances against unfair prosecution.”

President Trump then weighed in on Twitter, saying that Flynn was right to ask for immunity “in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!”

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on March 31 that the president “believes that Mike Flynn should go testify.”

Spicer told reporters that Trump wants Flynn to “go testify, go get it out there, do what you have to do.”

Last week, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said that “Gen. Flynn’s lawyers said that he would not honor the subpoena and that’s not a surprise to the committee,” but Burr’s office later put out a statement saying that Flynn’s attorneys had not yet gotten back to them.

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Everything you need to know about Montana’s special election

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The road of high-stakes 2017 special elections is now traveling into the Mountain West, where on Thursday Republican multi-millionaire tech executive Greg Gianforte is slated to face off against Democratic populist singer-songwriter Rob Quist in Montana.

After the GOP survived a closer-than-expected battle in Kansas’s 4th district and kept Democrat Jon Ossoff below the 50 percent threshold in Georgia’s 6th district to force a runoff, Republicans are hoping to hold on to this seat for Montana’s at-large U.S. House district.

The seat was vacated after President Trump tapped Rep. Ryan Zinke to be secretary of the interior. He was confirmed on March 1, and Governor Steve Bullock scheduled a special election for May 25. Republicans have held this seat for the last two decades and are favored to hold onto it this week, but Montana has been known to split their tickets: they have a sitting Democratic governor and U.S. senator.

But the election isn’t ultimately about control of this single seat, one out of the 435 in the U.S. House; Republicans will maintain a significant majority in that chamber regardless of this race’s outcome.

It’s actually all about momentum: Democrats are hoping a surprise win will energize their base, boost their national fundraising numbers and invigorate activists hoping to tip the entire U.S. House blue during the 2018 midterm elections. Meanwhile, Republicans are hoping to hang onto yet another House seat and block the narrative that Trump’s unpopularity might hurt down-ballot Republicans in 2018.

Here’s everything you need to know about Montana’s special election.

Meet the candidates

Republican Greg Gianforte, 56, is a former technology and software company executive who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2016. He founded Brightwork Development in 1986 and sold the business eight years later. He retired at 33, according to Inc. Magazine.

“After realizing that he couldn’t spend the rest of his life fly-fishing,” according to Inc., the multi-millionaire founded another technology company based in Bozeman, called RightNow Technologies, which he sold in 2011.

Gianforte owns almost $250,000 of shares in Russian companies that have been sanctioned by the U.S. government, according to the Guardian. His assets range between $96 and $328 million, according to the Associated Press.

Opponents also say Gianforte is anti-public lands because of a dispute over a public stream access point. He has been supportive of major pieces of Trump’s agenda, like health care reform and his travel ban, as well as his firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Democrat Rob Quist, 69, is a bluegrass and country singer-songwriter, a former member of the Montana Arts council, and a small business owner. A Bernie Sanders-esque populist candidate who frequently performs at an Idaho nudist resort, Quist toured the country with the Mission Mountain Wood Band before moving to a horse ranch in rural northwest Montana.

Quist narrowly defeated former U.S. Senate candidate Amanda Curtis at the party’s convention in March in four ballots. His past financials are under scrutiny, as he underreported his personal income by $57,000 on federal financial disclosures, according to the AP. He also defaulted on a loan, failed to pay a contractor he hired and had multiple delinquent tax payments, according to the AP.

Montana’s electoral history

A Republican hasn’t held the U.S. House seat in Montana since 1997, but the state has a habit of electing Democrats in some statewide races. The Treasure State has a two-term Democratic governor, who won 50 percent to 46 percent over Gianforte in November. It also has a two-term Democratic U.S. senator. But former Rep. Ryan Zinke won his seat in November by 15 percentage points, and Trump won Montana by more than 20 points — 56 percent to 35 percent.

Gaining national attention

The race has attracted some national attention — though it’ has still failed to garner any comments from Trump. Vice President Mike Pence, however, held a rally in Billings for Gianforte on May 12, and rode horseback earlier in the day at a coal mine. Donald Trump Jr. also visited the state twice to campaign for Gianforte. Meanwhile, Sanders was in Missoula, Butte and Billings on May 20 and Bozeman on May 21 to campaign for Quist.

On the airwaves

Gianforte ran an ad in which he fires a gun at a computer monitor displaying graphics charging Quist with supporting a national gun registry. Meanwhile, an ad has Quist firing his gun at a television with a Gianforte ad on the screen, calling his opponent a “millionaire from New Jersey.”

Quist decried “nearly 300 millionaires in Congress” and said “there’s enough millionaires in Washington,” adding that the House shouldn’t be a “millionaire’s club.” He also said “Washington’s out of tune” — a nod to his musical background. He also promises to represent all Montana, “not just the millionaires.”

Gianforte, meanwhile, embraced Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” in this TV ad, adding that D.C. insiders have “rigged the system.” Gianforte has also said he will fight Washington, D.C.’s “war on the West” by supporting public lands and promising to “stop the terrible trade deals.”

It’s all about the money

Gianforte’s campaign has raised $2.3 million and spent $2.5 million, according to the latest available campaign finance numbers from the Federal Election Commission. Gianforte has also loaned himself $1 million. Quist’s campaign, meanwhile, has raised $3.3 million and spent $2.6 million. Outside groups haven’t been as involved as other races: A Democratic group House Majority PAC is buying $25,000 of airtime — a small, late investment from a national group, according to Politico. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is making a late investment of $200,000 in commercials, according to Politico.

The county to watch

If you’re only watching one county on Thursday night, keep your eyes on Lake County. It’s a small area with less than 30,000 people — split between the small town of Polson, the Flathead Indian reservation and other rural areas — but it’s been nearly perfect in predicting Montana’s federal and gubernatorial statewide elections over the last two decades.

Lake County has matched both major party candidates’ statewide result within 2 percentage points or less in 16 of the last 19 such statewide elections. It’s predicted the statewide margin within an average of 2.5 percentage points since 2004 — and a razor-thin 1.2 points in the last five such statewide races.

The county did not match the statewide vote in the 2008 presidential race — the only mismatch in federal or gubernatorial races since 1996 — siding with former President Barack Obama by a 49-47 percent margin while the state voted for Sen. John McCain by a 50-47 percent margin.

After Montana’s race, here are the next special elections to watch:

California’s 34th U.S. House district special election — June 6. Rep. Xavier Becerra resigned to become California Attorney General. Hillary Clinton won this Los Angeles district 84-11 percent in November. Democrats have held the seat since 1983.

Georgia’s 6th U.S. House district special election runoff — June 20. Rep. Tom Price resigned to become Secretary of Health and Human Services. Trump won this northern Atlanta district by only 2 percentage points. Republicans have held this seat, for two decades under Newt Gingrich, since 1979.

South Carolina’s 5th U.S. House district special election — June 20. Rep. Mick Mulvaney resigned to become Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Trump won this rural northern South Carolina district 56 percent to 35 percent. Mulvaney was the first GOP representative here since 1883.

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GOP Sen. Sasse: ‘A lot that’s troubling’ in events around Comey’s firing

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said there’s “a lot that’s troubling” in the events surrounding President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

The senator was asked by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday about recent reports that Trump had asked Comey for his loyalty, told the FBI chief to let go of a probe of his former national security adviser and, according to The New York Times, told Russian officials after firing Comey that the pressure was now “off.”

“There’s obviously a lot that’s troubling about that,” Sasse responded. “There’s also a lot that we don’t know yet and I want to underscore how good it is for America that Bob Mueller has this position,” he said, referring to former FBI director Robert Mueller’s appointment as Justice Department special counsel over the probe of Russia’s election meddling and possible ties to Trump associates.

“This is a decorated Marine through to U.S. attorney to head of the criminal division to bipartisan applauded head of the FBI for 12 years,” Sasse said of Mueller. “Lots of good stuff for the American people to put hope in about the fact that Bob Mueller is going to conduct that investigation.”

On Trump’s request for Comey’s loyalty, he said: “The FBI is a special institution that is supposed to be defending the American Constitution by letting investigative paths go where they lead. And, obviously, when you’re an agent at the Bureau, all the way up to the director of the bureau, you don’t take a loyalty pledge.”

With Mueller’s appointment, he said, “We all need to be looking forward to the task of trying to rebuild trust in a lot of these institutions” of government, including the FBI.

Sasse was a well-known member of the ‘Never Trump’ movement during the 2016 campaign who questioned then-candidate Trump’s understanding of the Constitution and the U.S. government’s system of checks and balances.

Asked by Stephanopoulos if the concerns he expressed during the campaign are proving true, Sasse said that the erosion of a shared understanding of U.S. civic values was happening before Trump was elected.

“We’ve had an erosion of an understanding of basic American civics for decades,” he said. “But, yes, I am concerned that at this particular moment, there’s not enough long-term thinking about how we restore an understanding of the American structure of government.”

“I wish that everybody in government, including in particular the president, would spend a lot more time and energy saying [in] five and 10 years from now, am I going to have contributed to a world where American kids understand why the First Amendment is so glorious?” Sasse said.

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