Review Category : Politics

FBI director expected to undercut Trump claims of wiretapping

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Within the first minutes of a much-anticipated House hearing Monday, FBI Director James Comey is expected to officially undercut the wiretapping allegations that have been promoted by the White House for more than two weeks, according to sources familiar with Comey’s thinking.

Comey’s expected comments to the House Intelligence Committee will mark the U.S. law enforcement community’s first public response to President Donald Trump’s continuing insistence that the Obama administration “wiretapped” or otherwise conducted surveillance of Trump’s presidential campaign. National Security Agency director Mike Rogers will also be testifying.

“It never hurts to say you’re sorry,” a Republican member of the committee, former CIA officer William Hurd, R-Texas, advised Trump Sunday, telling ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos that the commander-in-chief should apologize for his false statements, which have angered key allies such as Great Britain.

But the hearing Monday is about much more than the unfounded accusations first lodged on Twitter — its main purpose is to look at how Russia interfered with last year’s presidential election, and to understand FBI inquiries into whether any U.S. citizens helped the Russian government.

“I would like the American people to walk away understanding that we were attacked,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-California, told ABC News. “The perpetrator was Russia, and there are serious questions about ties” between Trump associates and Russian officials, he said.

Indeed, the FBI has been conducting a months-long and multi-pronged investigation of Russia’s attempts to influence the presidential election.

One key part of the probe has focused on Russian hackers who stole and then disseminated damaging information from inside the Democratic National Committee and U.S. political institutions, while another division of the FBI is looking at Russian efforts to collect intelligence on U.S. policy and the presidential campaigns, including contacts between Russian operatives and associates of President Trump.

“If it’s just 100 coincidences, let the world know that is what it is, and let’s move on,” but if there is more to the contacts and a “convergence of political and financial ties,” then those ties need to be “investigated fully,” Swalwell said. “This is not going away until we find out whether these are coincidences or a convergence.”

Meanwhile, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, told NBC News Sunday “there is circumstantial evidence of collusion” and “direct evidence I think of deception.”

In citing alleged deception, Schiff was likely referring to former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, who was fired from the White House after falsely telling Vice President Michael Pence and others that he never spoke about sensitive matters with Russian officials ahead of the inauguration.

But Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, the chairman of the committee — one of several congressional committees looking into allegations of Russian meddling in the election — insisted he has seen “no evidence of collusion” between Trump associates and the Russian government, noting that the only direct evidence of a crime he’s seen is the leaking of classified U.S. intelligence to reporters, including information about Flynn’s pre-inauguration contacts with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak.

The Washington Post first revealed that, despite Flynn’s private denials, he had discussed Obama administration sanctions against Russia with Kislyak — a discussion captured by U.S. spy agencies eavesdropping on Kislyak. The Washington Post later revealed that now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had also met with Kislyak at least twice during the campaign.

Sessions, a former senator and top adviser to Trump’s campaign, has since recused himself from any criminal investigations tied to last year’s presidential race.

Comey’s testimony Monday will “probably be the most limited” on the issue of alleged collusion, “but there’s a lot he can tell us about the Russian motivations for their intervention, how the Russians operate in Europe, [and] what techniques they use,” Schiff said Sunday.

Asked whether Comey will make clear Monday that there is no evidence to support White House claims of Obama-era wiretapping against Trump associates, Schiff said, “I expect that he will, and I hope that we can put an end to this wild goose chase because what the president said was just patently false.”

Swalwell called the wiretapping claims a “smoke bomb” intended to “fog up the place and obstruct” investigations into ties between Trump circles and the Russian government.

Even Nunes acknowledged there is no evidence indicating the Obama administration was eavesdropping on the Trump campaign.

“Was there a physical wiretap of Trump Tower? No. There never was,” Nunes told Fox News on Sunday.

Nunes and Schiff are among a handful of top lawmakers who have already been privately briefed by Comey about FBI findings so far related to Russia.

The White House escalated the entire issue last week when spokesman Sean Spicer cited a Fox News commentator’s claims that a British spy agency eavesdropped on the Trump campaign at the Obama administration’s behest. The claims angered British officials and have since been widely panned as unfounded — even by Fox News itself.

Trump should apologize to Britain and the American people for making the false wiretapping claims, Hurd said on ABC’s This Week.

“We got to make sure that we’re all working together,” he added. “We live in a very dangerous world, and we can’t do this alone.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Trump approval rating sinks to new low

ABC News(NEW YORK) — President Trump’s approval rating has fallen to 37 percent, the lowest of his fledgling presidency, according to Gallup. His disapproval rating rose correspondingly, hitting 58 percent.

At this point in his first term, President Obama’s approval rating was hovering in the low 60s, while President George W. Bush’s was in the mid-50s. (Obama’s approval rating would later sink to a low of 40 percent, while Bush bottomed out at 25 percent.)

In fact, Trump’s current approval rating is lower than any other commander-in-chief at this point in his first term since Gallup started tracking the issue in 1945, the year Harry Truman took office.

President Bill Clinton hit the 37 percent rating about five months into his first term, in June 1993, and Ronald Reagan dipped below it in January 1983, about a year after he took the oath of office. It took George H.W. Bush more than three years to fall to 37 percent, which he did in June 1992. And Richard Nixon, who resigned at 24 percent, first sunk below 37 percent in the first year of his second term, in August 1973, as the Watergate scandal raged.

The lowest job approval ever recorded by Gallup was 22 percent, the public’s assessment of Harry Truman’s performance in February 1952, nearly 7 years into his presidency.

Gallup’s latest analysis of Trump comes on the heels of a turbulent first 50+ days, which saw the sudden resignation DIA Director Michael T Flynn amid rumors of Trump campaign collusion with Russia, an unsubstantiated allegation of wiretapping, and a litany of complications for both of the president’s travel bans.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Trump expected to pick George Conway, Kellyanne’s husband, for key Justice Department role

ABC News(NEW YORK) — President Donald Trump is expected to name attorney George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, to lead the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, senior sources tell ABC News. The appointment would require Senate confirmation.

The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

If confirmed, Conway would be responsible for leading a division in charge of enforcing laws preventing discrimination.

A partner at law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and prominent Republican lawyer, Conway has litigated a number of high-profile cases in federal and state and would be responsible for overseeing the administration’s legal conflicts, such as those mounting against Trump’s travel ban.

Conway was also part of the legal team that represented Paula Jones, the former Arkansas state employee who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton during his presidency.

Jones’ lawsuit went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. After four years of legal battle, Jones and Clinton reached an out-of-court settlement, in which Clinton agreed to pay Jones $860,000 to drop the lawsuit.

Conway is a graduate of Harvard College and received his law degree from Yale University.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Rand Paul says GOP health care bill unlikely to pass in Congress

Office of United States Senator Rand Paul(NEW YORK) — Republican Sen. Rand Paul said the House GOP health care bill is unlikely to pass in Congress because there are “enough conservatives that don’t want ‘Obamacare lite.’”

The Kentucky senator told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday that the Republican-led Congress should repeal Obamacare in its entirety.

He says the current bill, which is set for a vote Thursday in the House, doesn’t go far enough. “They’re going to repeal part of it and leave in place all of the stuff that causes your insurance rates to go through the roof,“ Paul said.

Paul added that the House GOP plan doesn’t “fix the fundamental problem of Obamacare,” which he said are the mandates on insurance companies.

“My fear is that a year from now people are going to come back and we’re going to have all the same arguments that insurance premiums are still going through the roof and we still have a mess,” he said.
In a separate interview Sunday on “This Week,” Stephanopoulos asked Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price about Paul’s proposal for a “clean repeal” of Obamacare and a “wide open debate” about how to replace it.

Price said that would “place vulnerable people at risk.”

“That’s not something that the president’s willing to do,” said Price. “What [the president] has said is that repeal and replace need to occur essentially at the same time … That’s what we’re moving forward with in this first phase.”

Paul, in his interview, countered this view. “They call it repeal and replace, but when it doesn’t fix the problems and you say you’ve fixed the problems, they’re going to own it. And I promise you, in a year, the insurance markets will still be unraveling … They have in the House plan bailouts for insurance companies. Conservatives are not for bailing out the insurance companies. We’re for empowering the consumer to drive prices down so you can get better-cost insurance,” the Kentucky Republican said.

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

‘It never hurts to say you’re sorry,’ a GOP House member advises Trump

Courtesy of the United States Government(NEW YORK) — A key House Intelligence Committee member said he has seen no evidence to support President Trump’s claim of former President Obama wiretapping Trump Tower and offered that Trump may want to consider some favorite advice by the congressman’s father.

“To quote my 85-year-old father … ‘It never hurts to say you’re sorry,’” Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” on Sunday. “And it’s not just sorry to [Obama] but sorry to the [United Kingdom] for the claims – or the intimation – that the U.K. was involved in this as well.”

Hurd, a former CIA agent, said the unsubstantiated wiretapping claims “take away from the rest of [President Trump’s] agenda.”

A key House Intelligence Committee member said he has seen no evidence to support President Trump’s claim of former President Obama wiretapping Trump Tower and offered that Trump may want to consider some favorite advice by the congressman’s father.

President Trump made the unsubstantiated claims two weeks ago when he accused Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower during the election campaign.

His press secretary, Sean Spicer, in a press briefing Thursday gave a lengthy defense of the president’s wiretap allegations. Spicer read news articles from the podium that cited remarks by Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News commentator and former New Jersey superior court judge, suggesting that Obama used a British intelligence agency to spy on Trump.

A spokesperson for the British intelligence agency, GCHQ, dismissed the suggestion as “utterly ridiculous” and “nonsense.”

Also in the interview on “This Week” was another key House Intelligence Committee member, Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas.

Asked by Stephanopoulos if he has seen any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign associates with Russia’s alleged attempts to interfere with the election, Castro said: “That’s exactly what’s being investigated.

Castro, Hurd and the rest of the House Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing Monday on the allegations around Russia, the election and wiretapping claims.

Hurd cautioned that some in the public may be disappointed in what can be said publicly at the hearing.

“I think that some folks will probably be frustrated on Monday,” Hurd said. “I’m not hearing certain answers because there may be an active investigation going on, criminal investigation.” “And if there’s an active criminal investigation we need to allow law enforcement in order to do their job,” Hurd said.

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

HHS Secretary says passing health care bill through House and Senate ‘a fine needle’ to be thread

Courtesy of the Office of the President(NEW YORK) — Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price acknowledged that passing the White House backed health care bill through both houses of Congress is going to be tricky, but said he is confident that the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare will move forward.

“So everything you do to get votes in the House, is going to cost you votes in the Senate, isn’t it?” ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos pressed Price.

“Well it’s a fine needle that needs to be thread. There’s no doubt about it,” Price responded, acknowledging changes made to the bill to win over conservatives could scare off moderate Republicans.

President Trump said Friday he and GOP lawmakers made made “certain changes” to the bill. “All of these nos, or potential nos, are all yeses. Every single person sitting in this room is now a yes,” the president said as he met with members of the Republican Study Committee, most of whom already supported the bill.

But, any changes made to the bill to win the votes of conservatives could scare off moderate Republicans. Votes House Speaker Paul Ryan needs to pass the bill.

The far-right House Freedom Caucus is still formally opposed to the bill, and made their stance clear in a tweet Friday.

“The House Freedom Caucus still opposes the GOP replacement bill in its current form,” the group tweeted after Trump’s statement Friday.

The House plan has also received criticism from Republican senators, including Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, who is concerned the House plan would make it harder for poorer, older Americans to afford insurance.

“That may be the case and that’s why as it works through this legislative process, we’re looking at it and working with our legislative colleagues to make certain that we’ve got the kind of plan that actually works for people in the real world — something that the previous administration didn’t do,” Price said responding to Cassidy’s concerns.

“So if it needs more beefing up, as you say, for folks who are low-income between 50 and 64 years of age, that’s something that we’ve talked about, that’s something that we’ve entertained and that may happen throughout the process,” Price said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

VP Mike Pence calls on conservatives to support GOP health care bill

Courtesy of the White House(NEW YORK) — Ahead of a key vote on Capitol Hill, Vice President Mike Pence called on skeptical Republicans to get behind the GOP health care bill in remarks to conservative donors and members of Congress Saturday night.

Speaking at the Club for Growth’s dinner at the Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida, Pence said the new Republican plan represented “the kinds of solutions conservatives have been talking about for years,” and promised to work with lawmakers to improve the legislation.

“Let me be blunt, we need your help,” he said to conservatives of the American Health Care Act, which the House is expected to take up on Thursday.

He addressed a crowd of roughly 140 people, including Reps. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, and Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, leaders of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus that have called for substantial changes to the American Health Care Act before they can support it on Capitol Hill.

“I know there have been concerns,” Pence said. “Just know the president and I and the entire administration are listening.”

Earlier in the day, Pence, joined by Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott, met with small business owners about Obamacare and the Republican plan to repeal and replace the law at Mac Papers Envelope Converters in Jacksonville.

On Friday, President Trump met with members of the Republican Study Committee, a large and influential group of House Republicans, and agreed to adjust the health care proposal to allow states to impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients and change the way the federal government transmits Medicaid payments to the states.

Still, members of the Freedom Caucus are pushing for additional changes to address premiums and adjust the proposal’s refundable tax credits that would help people pay for insurance.

They also want to phase out the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion before 2020, which moderate Republicans consider a non-starter.

Pence also said the White House would follow through on tax reform and work to roll back Dodd-Frank financial regulations.

While Pence has longstanding ties to the Club for Growth, the free-market advocacy group initially opposed the proposed health care legislation, and was also critical of Trump during the presidential campaign.

On Saturday, Pence argued that the organization and the White House share the same goals.
“We have a pro-growth House, a pro-growth Senate and a pro-growth president of the United States of America,” he said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Fact-checking Trump’s tweets: Does Germany owe NATO ‘vast sums of money’?

ABC News(WASHINGTON) – President Trump took to Twitter Saturday morning from Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, slamming media’s characterization of his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and claiming Germany “owes vast sums of money to NATO.”

Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Germany owes…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2017

…vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2017

But according to a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, the president’s statements are misleading.

“There is no ledger sheet that shows Germany in the red,” Doug Lute, who served as ambassador under former President Obama from 2013 to 2017, told ABC News. “That’s not how it works in NATO.”

The alliance’s roughly $2 billion operating budget is paid by fixed apportions across the 28 allied members. (The United States, for example, contributes the most: about 22.14 percent of that $2 billion annually. Germany comes in second, supplying 14.65 percent.)

NATO also asks its members to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on national defense.

Since the early 2000s, the U.S. has routinely budgeted between 3 percent and 5 percent of GDP for defense.

But like many other NATO countries — including Canada, Spain, and Italy — Germany hasn’t been spending 2 percent of its GDP on defense.

However, as Merkel affirmed Friday, the nation has promised to meet the 2 percent threshold for the next seven years at least. “We committed to this 2 percent goal until 2024,” she told reporters during a joint press conference at the White House.

Technically, Germany doesn’t owe NATO money. Rather, the nation owes it to the alliance to spend more on its own national defense.

“Like all Allies, Germany does owe its own people and the NATO alliance sufficient defense spending to meet current security challenges,” Lute said. “In NATO that means 2 percent of GDP.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Hillary Clinton says she’s ‘ready to come out of the woods’

Getty/Pool(SCRANTON, Pa.) — Hillary Clinton said Friday she’s “ready to come out of the woods” and help Americans find common ground.

Clinton’s gradual return to the public spotlight following her presidential election loss continued with a St. Patrick’s Day speech in her late father’s Pennsylvania hometown of Scranton.

“I’m like a lot of my friends right now, I have a hard time watching the news,” Clinton told an Irish women’s group.

But she urged a divided country to work together to solve problems, recalling how, as first lady, she met with female leaders working to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

“I do not believe that we can let political divides harden into personal divides. And we can’t just ignore, or turn a cold shoulder to someone because they disagree with us politically,” she said.

Friday night’s speech was one of several she is to deliver in the coming months, including a May 26 commencement address at her alma mater, Wellesley College in Massachusetts. The Democrat also is working on a book of personal essays that will include some reflections on her loss to Donald Trump.

Clinton, who was spotted taking a walk in the woods around her hometown of Chappaqua, New York, two days after losing the election to Donald Trump, quipped she had wanted to stay in the woods, “but you can only do so much of that.”

She told the Society of Irish Women that it’ll be up to citizens, not a deeply polarized Washington, to bridge the political divide.

“I am ready to come out of the woods and to help shine a light on what is already happening around kitchen tables, at dinners like this, to help draw strength that will enable everybody to keep going,” said Clinton.

Clinton was received warmly in Scranton, where her grandfather worked in a lace mill. Her father left Scranton for Chicago in search of work during the Great Depression, but returned often. Hillary Clinton spent summers at the family’s cottage on nearby Lake Winola.

She fondly recalled watching movies stretched across a bed sheet in a neighbor’s yard, and told of how the cottage had a toilet but no shower or tub.

“Don’t tell anybody this, but we’d go down to the lake,” she said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Hillary Clinton says she’s ‘ready to come out of the woods’

Getty/Pool(SCRANTON, Pa.) — Hillary Clinton said Friday she’s “ready to come out of the woods” and help Americans find common ground.

Clinton’s gradual return to the public spotlight following her presidential election loss continued with a St. Patrick’s Day speech in her late father’s Pennsylvania hometown of Scranton.

“I’m like a lot of my friends right now, I have a hard time watching the news,” Clinton told an Irish women’s group.

But she urged a divided country to work together to solve problems, recalling how, as first lady, she met with female leaders working to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

“I do not believe that we can let political divides harden into personal divides. And we can’t just ignore, or turn a cold shoulder to someone because they disagree with us politically,” she said.

Friday night’s speech was one of several she is to deliver in the coming months, including a May 26 commencement address at her alma mater, Wellesley College in Massachusetts. The Democrat also is working on a book of personal essays that will include some reflections on her loss to Donald Trump.

Clinton, who was spotted taking a walk in the woods around her hometown of Chappaqua, New York, two days after losing the election to Donald Trump, quipped she had wanted to stay in the woods, “but you can only do so much of that.”

She told the Society of Irish Women that it’ll be up to citizens, not a deeply polarized Washington, to bridge the political divide.

“I am ready to come out of the woods and to help shine a light on what is already happening around kitchen tables, at dinners like this, to help draw strength that will enable everybody to keep going,” said Clinton.

Clinton was received warmly in Scranton, where her grandfather worked in a lace mill. Her father left Scranton for Chicago in search of work during the Great Depression, but returned often. Hillary Clinton spent summers at the family’s cottage on nearby Lake Winola.

She fondly recalled watching movies stretched across a bed sheet in a neighbor’s yard, and told of how the cottage had a toilet but no shower or tub.

“Don’t tell anybody this, but we’d go down to the lake,” she said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →