Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday he disagreed with President Trump’s description of former FBI Director James Comey as a “nut job.”

“I don’t agree with that and he’s not,” Ryan said in an interview with Mike Allen at a conference with media company Axios.

The New York Times reported Friday that Trump called Comey a “nut job” in his Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, one day after he fired him from the FBI. The White House did not deny the report to ABC News.

“I like Jim Comey,” Ryan said Wednesday. “I know that there are people on both sides of the aisle who are concerned about decisions he made.”

Ryan said Comey was put in an “impossible position” at the FBI with the Clinton email investigation, after former President Bill Clinton met briefly with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch at an airport in Phoenix.

After that encounter, Lynch said she would accept the recommendation of the FBI in the investigation, recusing herself from leadership of the probe.

Ryan said he supported letting the Russian election interference investigations “take their course” at the Department of Justice and on Capitol Hill, declining to comment about items “under ongoing review.”

He praised Trump’s “energy and engagement,” noting his involvement in passing the GOP health care bill in the House.

“I’ve never seen a president … get so deeply engaged on a person-to-person basis to help achieve a goal,” he said.

The Wisconsin Republican also predicted that Congress would be able to send Trump a tax reform bill by December 23rd, the end of the legislative calendar.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, told ABC News that he will testify before the House Intelligence Committee on June 6 as part of its ongoing investigation of Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

He also confirmed to ABC News that he has retained legal counsel.

In a May 23 letter addressed to Representatives L. Michael Conway and Adam Schiff, the ranking members of the committee, Page outlined his objections to former CIA director John Brennan’s testimony Tuesday that Russia “brazenly interfered” in the election.

“I saw interaction that in my mind raised questions of whether it was collusion,” Brennan said. “It was necessary to pull threads.”

Page, however, dismissed Brennan’s claims as “false Russia conspiracy theories,” and provided a five-page “Appendix,” complete with footnotes, detailing a point-by-point protest.

“The vast majority of the open session testimony by Mr, Brennan and other Clinton/Obama regime appointees who have recently appeared before your committee loyally presented one biased viewpoint and base of experience.” Page wrote. “When I have my turn next month, I look forward to adding some accurate insights regarding what has really been happening in Russia over recent years including 2016.”

When reached for comment, a spokesman for Rep. Schiff said the congressman would not confirm or comment on upcoming witnesses. The committee has typically not announced its plans until much closer to a scheduled hearing.

Page, a New York businessman who owns a consulting firm called Global Energy Capital, joined the Trump campaign in March of 2016, but after he traveled to Moscow in July to deliver a speech at the New Economic School advocating for better relations with Russia, the campaign attempted to distance their candidate from Page.

In an interview with ABC News’ chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America in April, Page wavered on whether he discussed easing sanctions against Russia with anyone in the Russian government during that trip.

“Something may have come up in a conversation,” Page replied. “I have no recollection, and there’s nothing specifically that I would have done that would have given people that impression.”

“Someone may have brought it up,” he continued. “And if it was, it was not something I was offering or that someone was asking for.”

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Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Senate Intelligence Committee has announced two new subpoenas against former national security adviser Michael Flynn to compel him to turn over documents related to his contact with the Russians, adding that Flynn risks being held in contempt of Congress if he does not comply with the requests.

Flynn invoked the Fifth Amendment and rejected the committee’s subpoena request for documents relating to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election earlier this week. The Fifth Amendment gives an individual the right to avoid self-incrimination.

Briefing reporters following a closed-door intelligence meeting on Tuesday, Sens. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, said all options are on the table.

The Senate Intelligence Committee originally 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 of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible ties to Trump 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 committee leaders are directing the two new subpoenas at Flynn’s Virginia-based businesses because businesses don’t have a right to plead the Fifth, Warner said.

“… While we disagree with Gen. Flynn’s lawyers’ interpretation of taking the Fifth, it’s even more clear that a business does not have the right to take a Fifth if it’s a corporation. One subpoena has been served, one is in the process of being served,” Warner said.

The committee also sent a letter to Flynn’s lawyer Tuesday addressing concerns that their original subpoena lacked specificity.

“We’ve been very specific in the documents now that we’ve requested from Gen. Flynn,” Burr said.

A contempt charge is still a possibility.

“If in fact there is not a response, we will seek additional counsel advice on how to proceed forward. At the end of that option is a contempt charge and I’ve said that everything is on the table,” Burr said. “That is not our preference today. We would like to hear from Gen. Flynn. We’d like to see his documents. We’d like him to tell his story because he publicly said ‘I’ve got a story to tell.’ We’re allowing him that opportunity to do it.”

But immunity is not on the table.

“It’s a decision that the committee has made that we’re not at the appropriate avenue in a potential criminal investigation. As valuable as Gen. Flynn might be to our counterintelligence investigation, we don’t believe that it’s our place today to offer him immunity from this committee,” he added.

With regard to former CIA Director John Brennan’s shocking testimony Tuesday morning that he confronted a Russian counterpart about election meddling last summer, Warner said the committee is now looking into it.

“We have to make sure we don’t see it coming forward again in the future. And what we’re looking at now is to look at those contacts that Mr. Brennan spoke about and see what they were, how extensive they were and what they led to if anything,” he said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Republicans on Capitol Hill are preparing for the release of the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the GOP health care bill that passed the House earlier this month.

The estimate of the American Health Care Act impact on the federal deficit could determine whether the Senate will take up the measure, which passed with only one vote to spare in the House.

Senate budget rules require the AHCA to save $2 billion over 10 years in order to be taken up under reconciliation — a process that would allow Senate Republicans to pass the bill with only 51 votes.

If the nonpartisan CBO determines that the bill doesn’t pass muster for reconciliation, Democrats would be able to filibuster the measure, which could send the bill back to House Republicans to amend and hold another vote.

Republican leadership aides say it’s unlikely the bill won’t meet the Senate requirements.

The CBO score will also include an estimate of whether the number of Americans with health insurance would change and by how much.

An earlier analysis of the bill estimated that 24 million Americans would lose health insurance under the GOP’s AHCA, compared to Obamacare.

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ABC News(HELENA, Mont.) — If you’re only watching one county in Thursday’s special election for Montana’s lone U.S. House seat, it should be Lake County.

Wrapping around the base of Flathead Lake in rural northwest Montana, the county includes just three cities and towns, in addition to the Flathead Indian reservation and other rural areas. But this unassuming rural Montana area has had nearly perfect accuracy in predicting Montana’s federal and gubernatorial statewide elections over the past two decades.

Republican multi-millionaire tech executive Greg Gianforte is slated to face off against Democratic populist singer-songwriter Rob Quist in this GOP-leaning U.S. House district on Thursday, after the seat was vacated by now-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Republicans have held this U.S. House seat for the last two decades and are expected 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. And even though President Donald Trump won the state by more than 20 percentage points, its incumbent Democratic governor also won re-election in November.

But in November, Lake County pinpointed both candidates’ support in both races within 1 percentage point.

The county did not match the statewide vote in the 2008 presidential race — the only mismatch in federal or gubernatorial races in the last two decades — siding with former President Barack Obama by a 49-47 percent margin while the overall state voted for Sen. John McCain by a 50-47 percent margin. The next closest election it missed? The U.S. Senate race in 1996.

Not only has Lake County called the correct winner with a shocking degree of accuracy; it’s also precisely matched the support of each candidate in such statewide races.

Lake County has matched both major party candidates’ statewide result within 2 percentage points or less in 22 of the last 26 federal and gubernatorial elections. It’s also predicted the statewide margin within an average of 2.5 percentage points since 2002 — and a razor-thin 1.2 points in the last five such statewide races.

So what makes Lake County such a predictive swing county in Montana? It’s home to fewer than 30,000 people in only three census-designated cities or towns.

Democratic-leaning areas are mostly located in the south of Lake County. The only precinct to vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race was in Arlee, a small town of 636 people dubbed the “southern gateway” to the Flathead reservation. Half of its population is “American Indian,” according to the census, a demographic which tends to vote Democratic.

The former secretary of state defeated President Trump by a 50-43 percent margin there and it went for Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock by more than 30 percentage points.

Other small areas in the southern part of the county with large American Indian populations — like St. Ignatius and Ronan — also went for Bullock in the gubernatorial race in November. The eastern side of Polson — the major city in Lake County located on the southern tip of Flathead Lake — also went narrowly for Bullock.

But rural areas in the northern part of the county vote overwhelmingly for Republican candidates. One rural precinct near Swan Lake voted for Trump by almost 60 percentage points. Other strong GOP areas that voted for Gianforte in the gubernatorial race by double digits include Dayton, Ferndale and the western side of Polson.

And if there’s one precinct to watch, it’s the eastern side of downtown in the county’s largest city: Polson. The 5th precinct nearly exactly matched both the Lake County and the Montana statewide margins in these two races. Trump won the precinct by 19 percentage points and Bollock won it by a single percentage point. Its eastern neighbor, the 7th precinct of Polson, is another one to watch.

The county also splits its representation in the state legislature among five Republicans and three Democrats, according to the county’s website.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump is expected to retain lawyer Marc Kasowitz as his private attorney representing him on matters related to the Russia investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a source close to Kasowitz and sources familiar with the Trump’s decision confirmed to ABC News.

Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last week to lead the investigation into interference in the presidential election and any possible collusion with the Trump campaign. Mueller, a 12-year director of the FBI, was selected a week after his successor James Comey was fired by Trump, who later admitted he was thinking about the bureau’s inquiry into the matter when he took action on Comey.

Kasowitz has represented Trump “on a wide range of litigation matters for over 15 years” according to his biography on his law firm’s webpage. The firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, publicizes a number of its partner’s representations of the president on its website, including in the restructuring of business debt, defamation cases and the effort to keep Trump’s divorce records sealed as he campaigned last year.

The firm also employs former Senator Joe Lieberman as senior counsel, whom Trump said last week was his top choice to follow Comey as FBI director, though no nomination has yet been made.

The White House has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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Mario Tama/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Senate Intelligence Committee has announced two new subpoenas against former national security adviser Michael Flynn to compel him to turn over documents related to his contact with the Russians, adding that Flynn risks being held in contempt of Congress if he does not comply with the requests.

Flynn invoked the Fifth Amendment and rejected the committee’s subpoena request for documents relating to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election earlier this week. The Fifth Amendment gives an individual the right to avoid self-incrimination.

Briefing reporters following a closed-door intelligence meeting on Tuesday, Sens. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, said all options are on the table.

The Senate Intelligence Committee originally 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 of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible ties to Trump 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 committee leaders are directing the two new subpoenas at Flynn’s Virginia-based businesses because businesses don’t have a right to plead the Fifth, Warner said.

“… While we disagree with Gen. Flynn’s lawyers’ interpretation of taking the Fifth, it’s even more clear that a business does not have the right to take a Fifth if it’s a corporation. One subpoena has been served, one is in the process of being served,” Warner said.

The committee also sent a letter to Flynn’s lawyer Tuesday addressing concerns that their original subpoena lacked specificity.

“We’ve been very specific in the documents now that we’ve requested from Gen. Flynn,” Burr said.

A contempt charge is still a possibility.

“If in fact there is not a response, we will seek additional counsel advice on how to proceed forward. At the end of that option is a contempt charge and I’ve said that everything is on the table,” Burr said. “That is not our preference today. We would like to hear from Gen. Flynn. We’d like to see his documents. We’d like him to tell his story because he publicly said ‘I’ve got a story to tell.’ We’re allowing him that opportunity to do it.”

But immunity is not on the table.

“It’s a decision that the committee has made that we’re not at the appropriate avenue in a potential criminal investigation. As valuable as Gen. Flynn might be to our counterintelligence investigation, we don’t believe that it’s our place today to offer him immunity from this committee,” he added.

With regard to former CIA Director John Brennan’s shocking testimony Tuesday morning that he confronted a Russian counterpart about election meddling last summer, Warner said the committee is now looking into it.

“We have to make sure we don’t see it coming forward again in the future. And what we’re looking at now is to look at those contacts that Mr. Brennan spoke about and see what they were, how extensive they were and what they led to if anything,” he said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Many Republican senators who weren’t outright condemning President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget made sure to acknowledge a universal truth of budgeting in Washington: The spending bills Congress eventually passes don’t always bear much resemblance to the president’s list of priorities.

“We’ll be taking into account what the president’s recommending, but it will not be determinative in every respect,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, told reporters Tuesday.

In written statements, several other Senate Republicans asserted Congress’ lead role in government spending, emphasizing that the White House can suggest spending but that it’s the Capitol that has the final say.

“We will take a close look at his budget, but Congress is mandated by the Constitution with key spending responsibilities and will ultimately decide what the nation’s fiscal priorities will be,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, said.

“The president proposes and Congress disposes. Congress has the power of the purse strings. I’ve never seen a president’s budget proposal not revised substantially,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said.

“The president’s budget request is always subject to significant revision by Congress, and this budget will be no exception. Throughout my time in the Senate, I have never seen a president’s budget make it through Congress unchanged,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, added.

Trump’s first budget proposal to Congress includes $1.7 trillion in entitlement spending cuts over 10 years, including $800 billion from Medicaid and other benefits programs. It also includes a boost to military spending, $25 billion over 10 years for a paid family leave proposal spearheaded by Ivanka Trump and $1 billion for border wall construction. Foreign aid, except for Israel and Egypt, also takes a hit.

Some foreign policy-minded senators decried the president’s proposed cuts to diplomatic programs.

“This budget, if fully implemented, would cause us to retreat from the world diplomatically or put people at risk. You have a lot of ‘Benghazis’ in the making if this thing becomes law,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, known for his hawkish stances, said Trump wasn’t proposing enough additional funding for the military to amount to a buildup, calling it “inadequate to the challenges we face, illegal under current law, and part of an overall budget proposal that is dead on arrival in Congress.”

McCain called the budget “illegal” because it exceeds spending caps set up in the Budget Control Act of 2011, which led to across-the-board spending cuts to most federal agencies and programs.

Just as most presidents’ budgets are more reflections of their policy priorities than documents they expect to get turned into law, so too are some senators’ criticisms as much about provincial concerns rather than sweeping critiques of presidential policies.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, called the budget “anti-Nevada” for its proposed funding to re-start the development of a nuclear waste depository on top of Yucca Mountain in his state.

And Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, criticized the proposal’s cuts to programs that fund restoration projects for his state’s coastline.

“Our state’s future depends on this funding to rebuild our coastline. However, this budget is a guideline; Congress must now hold hearings and do the necessary work to ensure the bill protects American taxpayers and families.”

Past presidents from both parties have also come under friendly fire for including provisions in their budgets that weren’t universally praised. Former President Barack Obama was panned by liberal Democrats for seeking changes to the way Social Security payments are calculated.

Plus not all Senate Republicans criticized Trump’s budget proposal. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the party whip, praised its broad strokes.

“I think it’s worth pointing out several aspects of the president’s budget that are encouraging and a welcome change from the previous administration. For one, it balances in 10 years,” Cornyn said. “The president’s budget reflects a better understanding of the threat environment ahead, and for that I am grateful.”

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former CIA Director John Brennan told Congress that U.S. intelligence found contact between Russian officials and people involved with the Trump campaign at a time in 2016 when the Russians were “brazenly” interfering in the presidential election.

“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals,” Brennan said Tuesday at an open session of the House Intelligence Committee. “And it raised questions in my mind again whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals,”

Brennan added, however, that he did not know whether any collusion existed as a result of those contacts. The president has dismissed such a possibility, saying there is no evidence of collusion.

Brennan testified that there was a “sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation” by the FBI to determine whether or not U.S. citizens were “actively conspiring, colluding” with Russian officials.

“I was worried by a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons,” he said.

The former CIA chief said he was concerned because of tactics that Russians are known to use, including trying to get individuals, including U.S. persons, to act on their behalf. Russian intelligence operatives won’t identify themselves as Russians or as members of the Russian government; they will try to develop personal relationships with individuals and then over time, they will try to get those people to do things on their behalf, said Brennan.

“By the time I left office on January 20, I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf,” he said.

When asked if Russia’s contacts were with official members of the Trump campaign, Brennan repeatedly declined during the hearing to identify specific individuals because of the classified nature of the information.

Warning to the Russians

“It should be clear to everyone that Russia brazenly interfered in our 2016 presidential election process and that they undertook these activities despite our strong protests and explicit warning that they not do so,” Brennan during his opening remarks at Tuesday’s hearing.

He further testified that on Aug. 4, 2016, he warned the head of Russia’s intelligence service that any continued interference would destroy near-term prospects for improvement of relations between Washington and Moscow and would undermine the chance of their working together on matters of mutual interest.

During that meeting with Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s Federal Securities Bureau (FSB), Brennan said he warned that if Russia had such a campaign of interference underway, which had already been reported in the press, it would be “certain to backfire.”

“I said that all Americans, regardless of political affiliation or whom they might support in the election, cherish their ability to elect their own leaders without outside interference or disruption,” said Brennan.

The head of the FSB said Russia was not doing anything to influence the presidential election and claimed that Moscow is a traditional target of blame by Washington for such activities. Russia has since repeatedly denied any interference in the election.

Despite his denial, Bortnikov said he would inform Russian President Vladimir Putin of Brennan’s concerns, Brennan said.

The former CIA chief said his meeting with Bortnikov was primarily focused on Syria, but that he also told the Russian official that Moscow’s continued mistreatment of U.S. diplomats there was “irresponsible, reckless, intolerable, and needed to stop.”

Several months after that meeting, in January of this year, a declassified U.S. intelligence report was released which found that Putin “ordered” a campaign to influence the election in an attempt by Russia to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process.”

Russia also sought to denigrate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and harm her election prospects and potential presidency, U.S. intelligence agencies found at the time.

Trump’s Oval Office meeting with the Russians

Brennan said it is not unprecedented to share intelligence with Russia or other partners. But he said if reports are true that Trump shared information with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a White House meeting on May 10, it would have violated two protocols.

The first is that classified intelligence of this nature is not shared with visiting foreign ministers or local ambassadors, but rather through intelligence channels so that it’s handled the “right way” and to make sure it is not exposed, Brennan said.

Secondly, before sharing any classified intelligence with foreign partners, it is important to go back to the originating agency to make sure that sharing the language and substance is not going to reveal sources and methods, potentially compromising future collection capability, said Brennan.

“So, it appears as though, at least from the press reports, that neither did it go in the proper channels, nor did the originating agency have the opportunity to clear language for it. So, that is a problem,” said Brennan.

During the meeting, the president reportedly shared with the Russians intelligence information about ISIS that came from Israel.

Trump has defended his disclosure, arguing he has the right to share such information with Russia.

On Monday, while visiting Israel, Trump told reporters, “I never mentioned the word or the name Israel. Never mentioned it during our conversation.”

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former CIA Director John Brennan, who testified before Congress on Russian interference in the U.S. election Tuesday, said that intelligence revealed contact between Russian officials and people involved with the Trump campaign.

“It raised questions in my mind again whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals,” Brennan said during an open session of the House Intelligence Committee.

However, Brennan said that he did not know whether any “collusion” existed as a result of those contacts. The president has dismissed the story and said that there was no evidence of collusion.

However, Brennan testified that he believed that there was a “sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation” by the FBI to determine whether or not U.S. citizens were “actively conspiring, colluding” with Russian officials.

“I was worried by a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons,” he said.

He said he was concerned because he knows that Russians try to get individuals, including U.S. persons, to act on their behalf.

“By the time I left office on January 20th, I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf,” he said.

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