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Joe Biden’s presidential campaign requested in a letter on Sunday that major news networks not invite President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani anymore, after Giuliani spent the morning on a series of talk shows aggressively highlighting what he called Biden’s apparently corrupt dealings in Ukraine and China.

The Biden campaign wrote to NBC News, CBS News, Fox News and CNN to voice “grave concern that you continue to book Rudy Giuliani on your air to spread false, debunked conspiracy theories on behalf of Donald Trump,” according to The Daily Beast, which first reported the existence of the letter.

The memo, drafted by Biden aides Kate Bedingfield and Anita Dunn, continued: “While you often fact check his statements in real time during your discussions, that is no longer enough. By giving him your air time, you are allowing him to introduce increasingly unhinged, unfounded and desperate lies into the national conversation.”

Should a network choose to book Giuliani, the Biden campaign called for “an equivalent amount of time” to be provided “to a surrogate for the Biden campaign.” The letter noted Giuliani was not a public official, but Trump’s lawyer and personal advisor.

Responding to the request, Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted: “Can we request the removal of Democrats on TV that push hoaxes? Wait, but then who would do the interviews?”

Hours earlier, Giuliani made the rounds on several Sunday shows, including “Fox News Sunday,” to argue that evidence of Biden’s possible corruption has been hiding in plain sight for months.

Biden has acknowledged on camera that, when he was vice president, he successfully pressured Ukraine to fire that prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was investigating the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings — where son Hunter Biden had a highly lucrative role on the board paying him tens of thousands of dollars per month, despite limited relevant expertise. The vice president threatened to withhold $1 billion in critical U.S. aid if Shokin was not fired.

“Well, son of a b—h, he got fired,” Biden joked at a panel two years after leaving office.

Shokin himself had been widely accused of corruption, while critics charged that Hunter Biden essentially might have been selling access to his father, who had pushed Ukraine to increase its natural gas production. Giuliani, on Sunday, suggested Shokin was the target of an international smear campaign to discredit his work.

In a combative interview on ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday, Giuliani presented what he said was an affidavit signed by Shokin that confirmed Hunter Biden was being investigated when Shokin was fired.

“The Washington press will not accept the fact that Joe Biden might have done something like this.”

— Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani

“I have an affidavit here that’s been online for six months that nobody bothered to read from the gentleman who was fired, Viktor Shokin, the so-called corrupt prosecutor,” Giuliani said. “The Biden people say that he wasn’t investigating Hunter Biden at the time. He says under oath that he was.” The Shokin affidavit purportedly said the U.S. had pressured him into resigning because he was unwilling to drop the case.

Later, Giuliani added: “I have another affidavit, this time from another Ukrainian prosecutor who says that the day after Biden strong-armed the president to remove Shokin, they show up in the prosecutor’s office — lawyers for Hunter Biden show up in the prosecutor’s office and they give an apology for dissemination of false information.”

After anchor George Stephanopoulos expressed skepticism, Giuliani fired back: “How about if I — how about if I tell you over the next week four more of these will come out from four other prosecutors? … No, no, no, George, they won’t be [investigated], because they’ve been online for six months, and the Washington press will not accept the fact that Joe Biden might have done something like this.”

When Stephanopoulos called it “not true” that Hunter Biden had taken more than $1 billion from China while the U.S. was negotiating with the country, Giuliani again said the former Clinton administration official was being too dismissive.

“There’s evidence that they got $1 billion directly from China, specific date, 12 days after they returned from a trip to China,” Giuliani asserted. “There’s evidence that another $500 million went in, and there are three partners.”

Giuliani went on: “Can I — can I make a contrast? Can I just make a slight contrast with the so-called whistleblower? The whistleblower says I don’t have any direct knowledge, I just heard things. Up until two weeks before he did that, that wouldn’t even [have] been a complaint, would have been dismissed.”

That was a reference to an explosive report in The Federalist showing that the intelligence community recently changed its form for reporting improper conduct. Earlier this year, the intelligence community’s form for whistleblowers explicitly stated that complaints based on secondhand information were not actionable.

But, that admonition was removed sometime afterward — around the time that an unnamed whistleblower filed a complaint, based on secondhand information, alleging misconduct in the White House. Although there has been no strict legal requirement for whistleblower complaints to contain only firsthand information, the previous intelligence community form made it clear that such secondhand complaints would not be investigated as a matter of procedure.

Twitter user Stephen McIntyre originally spotted the change in the whistleblower form.

Trump and top Republicans called for answers over the weekend as to when and why the form was changed — and whether the change was made specifically to allow the whistleblower’s complaint to proceed.

Before Giuliani’s interview, former Trump Homeland Security Advisor Thomas Bossert criticized Trump’s communications with Ukraine, but said he did not see any evidence of an impeachable offense. Giuliani said Bossert was wrong to imply that Giuliani had ever alleged Ukraine directly participated in the hacking of Democrats’ servers in 2016.

Speaking separately to Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” Giuliani brought up the affidavits and called the situation Clintonesque.

“The pattern is a pattern of pay for play. It includes something very similar to what happened to the Clinton Foundation,” Giuliani said, “which goes to the very core of, what did Obama know and when did he know it?”

Giuliani referred to a December 2015 New York Times article about Hunter Biden, Burisma and a Ukrainian oligarch, and how the younger Biden’s involvement with the Ukrainian company could undermine then-Vice President Biden’s anti-corruption message.

“The question is,” Giuliani asked, “when Biden and Obama saw that article, about how the son was pulling down money from the most crooked oligarch in Russia, did Obama call Biden in and say ‘Joe, how could you be doing this?'”

Giuliani was not the only attorney trying to get damaging information on Joe Biden from Ukrainian officials, and President Trump’s decision to withhold aid from Ukraine this summer was made in spite of several federal agencies supporting the aid, Fox News’ Chris Wallace reported on “Fox News Sunday.”

In addition to Giuliani, Washington, D.C., lawyers Joe DiGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing, worked alongside the former New York City mayor. According to a top U.S. official, the three attorneys were working “off the books” — not within the Trump administration — and only the president knows the details of their work.

In a tweet Sunday, Toensing called the report “false” and embarrassing.” Wallace, in a statement, responded, “We stand by our reporting.”

For his part, Giuliani insisted he “didn’t work with anybody to get dirt on Joe Biden,” again saying that the information “was handed to me by the Ukrainians.”

Giuliani stated that so far House Democrats have not subpoenaed him to testify about his work with Ukraine, but if they did he would have to run it by Trump first.

“I’m his attorney, there’s something called attorney-client privilege,” he said. “That has to be considered even if they don’t think he should have attorney-client privilege.”

Democrats have focused on the whistleblower’s complaint, released last week, which cited information from White House officials who alleged there’d been efforts to secure Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, among other conversations. The Trump administration reportedly began placing transcripts of Trump’s calls with several foreign leaders in a highly classified repository only after anonymous leakers publicly divulged the contents of Trump’s private calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia in 2017.

Trump suggested during a phone call with Zelensky that Ukraine look into Biden’s boast about firing Shokin, after Zelensky first mentioned Ukraine’s corruption issues, and after Trump separately requested as a “favor” that Ukraine help investigate foreign interference in the 2016 elections, including the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) server involving CrowdStrike.

The call came not long after Trump had frozen millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine. However, the U.S. later released the aid to Ukraine, and the Ukrainians were unaware the money was frozen in the first place until more than a month after Trump’s call with Zelensky, The New York Times reported.

Zelensky has said he felt no pressure from Trump during the phone call to do anything.

The whistleblower complaint contained several apparent factual inaccuracies, prompting some Republicans to call for an inquiry into the whistleblowers’ sources — and why they didn’t make the complaint themselves.

Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Biden seeks to bar Giuliani from TV news, after Trump lawyer alleges possible Biden corruption

California Rep. Devin Nunes predicted on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” that Joe Biden’s campaign is likely coming to an end — all because of newly resurfaced reports about his possible misconduct in Ukraine that “first originated back when Hillary Clinton was trying to make sure Biden didn’t get in the race.”

The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee made the claim as The Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll showed Sen. Elizabeth Warren surging ahead of Biden as the first choice of 22 percent of the voters surveyed, while Biden was the first choice of 20 percent of the voters. Biden held a 9-point lead over Warren in the poll as recently as June.

Nunes, speaking to anchor Maria Bartiromo, said a whistleblower’s allegation that President Trump had acted inappropriately during a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will ultimately backfire, and shine a light on Biden’s own possible misconduct. CNN later acknowledged that the whistleblower had no first-hand knowledge of the call, and a top Ukrainian official on Saturday defended Trump’s actions.

“These stories first originated back when Hillary Clinton was trying to make sure Biden didn’t get in the race,” Nunes said. “So now that these have been resurrected, I don’t know who came up with the scheme — maybe this whistleblower really is not a partisan. We want to hear from that whistleblower, but it sure looks like the scheme has backfired. And, like I said, it looks like this is the end of Biden’s campaign. I really do… his lead is basically down to zero.”

Late Sunday, Trump echoed Nunes’ comments, and emphasized that Biden recently bragged about pressuring Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor when he was vice president. At the time, the prosecutor was probing a company closely linked to Biden’s son, Hunter.

“Sleepy Joe Biden … forced a tough prosecutor out from investigating his son’s company by threat of not giving big dollars to Ukraine,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “That’s the real story!”

Nunes said the ever-deepening schism in the Democratic Party over whether to impeach the president — highlighted late Saturday when New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called it a major “scandal” that Democrats hadn’t yet voted to impeach — would help Trump in 2020.

“The more I think that they’re out there promoting this kind of craziness and silliness, the more that the American people are put off, and the more likely President Trump is reelected,” Nunes added.

There were parallels, Nunes said, with Democrats’ ultimately debunked claims that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.

“This has all the hallmarks of the Russia hoax,” Nunes said. “Something leaks out. … and then it’s the same reporters that report on it, the same reporters that reported on the Russia hoax. Then you move forward, and what happens? Then supposedly they come and testify — and the night before they testify, the whistleblower who supposedly doesn’t want anybody to know who this person is, or what information they have, well, it’s spilled all over the pages of the Washington Post” the day before Congress was briefed on the matter.

“Whoever came up with this scheme — it looks like somebody was trying to deflect what Biden did back in 2015,” Nunes said. “This scheme seems to have backfired on Biden. I mean, Biden’s already dropping in the polls.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaks during the EU-Ukraine summit press conference in Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, July 8, 2019. ( AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Trump had repeatedly asked Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son who had a key role in a natural gas firm that was being investigated by a Ukrainian prosecutor as part of a corruption probe.

At a conference two years after he left office, Joe Biden openly boasted about successfully pressuring Ukraine to fire that prosecutor when he was vice president.

Unverified reports circulated on left-leaning media outlets claiming that Trump could have even promised something improper in exchange for Ukraine’s compliance, although the Journal reported there was no “quid-pro-quo” involved.

Trump acknowledged Sunday that he had communicated with Zelensky about Biden, and that the conversation concerned “the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son [contributing] to the corruption already in the Ukraine.” However, the president and top officials maintained Sunday that nothing inappropriate occurred on the call.

DNI Inspector General Michael Atkinson said in a Sep. 9 letter to the House Intelligence Committee that the whistleblower complaint “appeared credible” and related to an “urgent” matter. But the DNI general counsel said days later that, after consulting with the DOJ, the matter did not meet the legal definition of an “urgent concern,” and was not subject to mandatory disclosure to Congress.

“Furthermore, because the complaint involves confidential and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community, the DNI lacks unilateral authority to transmit such materials to the intelligence committees,” Jason Klitenic, the DNI general counsel, wrote.

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire will testify before the House Intelligence Committee at an open hearing on Thursday.

“At that time, we expect him to obey the law and turn over the whistleblower’s full complaint to the Committee,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement Sunday afternoon. “We also expect that he will establish a path for the whistleblower to speak directly to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees as required by law.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., suggested Sunday that impeachment may be on the table, if certain demands are not met ahead of Wednesday’s whistleblower hearing. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Pelosi also seemingly threatened that she would back impeachment if her demands were not met, in a potentially major shift to her wait-and-see approach thus far: “If the Administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation.”

Trump’s conversation came as the White House was holding up $250 million in military aid for Ukraine. The president has said he wants European countries to pay more for their own defense, and denied delaying any military aid funding.

The whistleblower’s allegation could prompt scrutiny of the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy. Joe Biden has explained on camera that in March 2016, he privately threatened then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that the U.S. would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees from Ukraine if its top prosecutor was not fired.

“I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion,'” Biden recounted telling Poroshenko at a Council on Foreign Relations event. “I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.'”

“Well, son of a b-tch, he got fired,” Biden continued, after assuring Poroshenko that Obama knew about the arrangement. “And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”

It remained unclear if this was directly tied to the prosecutor’s probe into the company linked to Hunter Biden, as other countries reportedly wanted the prosecutor out as well.

And earlier this year, The Hill reported that the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, under the Obama administration, took the unusual step of pressuring prosecutors there to drop a probe into a group closely linked to liberal megadonor George Soros.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at an LGBTQ Presidential Forum in the Sinclair Auditorium on the Coe College campus in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette via AP)

Then, in April, Ukrainian law enforcement officials said they had a slew of evidence of collusion and wrongdoing by Democrats, and that they have been trying to share this information with U.S. officials in the Justice Department.

A 2017 investigation by Politico found that Ukrainian officials not only publicly sought to undermine Trump by questioning his fitness for office, but also worked behind the scenes to secure a Clinton victory. Trump told Fox News that the allegations of possible Clinton-Ukraine collusion were “big” and vowed they would be reviewed by the DOJ.

Additionally, attention focused anew on President Obama’s hot-mic comment to then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a nuclear disarmament summit in March 2012, in which Obama was overheard saying he would have more “flexibility” to negotiate with Russia after the November 2012 election.

“The longer we talk about what the Bidens did in Ukraine, the better,” said Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser, who dismissed those who believe Trump will pay a political price for the latest controversy.

Meanwhile, Biden on Saturday denied he has ever spoken to Hunter about his business in Ukraine and called Trump’s actions an “overwhelming abuse of power.”

“Trump’s doing this because he knows I’ll beat him like a drum, and he’s using the abuse of power and every element of the presidency to try to do something to smear me,” Biden told reporters in Iowa.

But Trump, on Sunday, pointed out that Biden’s claim was seemingly inaccurate. Hunter Biden told the New Yorker previously that he and his father had spoken “just once” about it.

“And now he made a lie when he said he never spoke to his son,” Trump said. “Of course you spoke to your son!”

Trump added: “No quid pro quo, there was nothing. It was a perfect conversation. … The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating the corruption already in the Ukraine and Ukraine has got a lot of problems. The new president is saying that he’s going to be able to rid the country of corruption, and I said that would be a great thing, we had a great conversation.”

Trump went on to say the latest allegations are “just as ridiculous as the others,” branding it “the Ukraine Witch Hunt” — a nod to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

“Will fail again!” Trump tweeted.

Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer, Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Biden’s campaign likely coming to an end — thanks to Clinton-linked Ukraine bombshell, Nunes says

California announced last week that it has added Iowa to the list of states on its ever-expanding “travel ban” list because of that state’s new prohibition against funding gender-transition surgeries under Medicaid.

The announcement by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra means that as of Oct. 4, California will no longer offer taxpayer-funded trips to Iowa for any public employee or student at a state-run university.

Becerra’s authority came from a 2016 California law signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown that bars state-funded travel to other states that undercut LGBT rights. The blacklist already included Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

Conservatives have called the law ineffective, inconveniencing, possibly unconstitutional and hypocritical. The state’s sports teams have turned to private funding to get around the restrictions, according to The Los Angeles Times.

“The Iowa Legislature has reversed course on what was settled law under the Iowa Civil Rights Act, repealing protections for those seeking gender-affirming health care,” Becerra said in a statement. “California has taken an unambiguous stand against discrimination and government actions that would enable it.”

The brouhaha began after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in March that taxpayers could be forced to pay for gender reassignment surgery. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law effectively overriding that ruling two months later.

“This narrow provision simply clarifies that Iowa’s Civil Rights Act does not require taxpayer dollars to pay for sex reassignment and other similar surgeries,” Reynolds spokesman Pat Garrett said in a statement at the time. “This returns us to what had been the state’s position for years.”

At the federal level, the Trump administration has rolled back the Obama-era determination that sex-based discrimination prohibitions under existing law include protections for gender identity.

The Health and Human Services Department, in May, angered progressive advocates with rules that both allowed doctors not to perform certain operations and stated that “gender identity” was not protected under sex discrimination law in health care.

“Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Roger Severino, who heads the HHS Office for Civil Rights. “We intend to fully enforce federal laws that prohibit discrimination.”

Asked about the charge that the administration has opened the door to discrimination against transgender people seeking needed medical care of any type, Severino responded, “I don’t want to see that happen.”

Fox News’ Sam Dorman contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: California adds Iowa to ‘travel ban’ over refusal to fund gender transitions

In a major victory for both President Trump and national Republicans, North Carolina GOP state Sen. Dan Bishop was projected to win a fiercely contested special U.S. House election for the 9th District that was widely seen as a bellwether for the president’s chances in the 2020 election.

And another Republican House candidate, Greg Murphy, decisively won a separate special election in North Carolina’s more solidly GOP-leaning 3rd District earlier Tuesday evening — frustrating Democrats who spent millions trying to make a splash in the state.

Even Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairwoman Cheri Bustos acknowledged that the president contributed to Bishop’s win, writing in a statement, “We fell an inch short tonight, but it took more than $6 million in outside Republican spending and a last-minute Trump rally” to seal Democratic candidate Dan McCready’s fate in the 9th District.

McCready’s campaign spent approximately $4.7 million on the race, while Bishop’s spent only $1.9 million. Outside spending primarily from national party committees helped Bishop to the tune of $5.8 million, though, compared to McCready’s roughly $1.4 million.

The clean sweep heartened the president, who has long emphasized the national implications at stake. Trump unloaded on McCready in the fiery rally on Monday night, telling attendees that “to stop the far-left, you must vote in tomorrow’s special election.”

That effort, Trump said late Tuesday, had clearly paid dividends.

“Dan Bishop was down 17 points 3 weeks ago,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “He then asked me for help, we changed his strategy together, and he ran a great race. Big Rally last night. Now it looks like he is going to win. @CNN &@MSNBC are moving their big studio equipment and talent out. Stay tuned!”

He added: “BIG NIGHT FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!”

“The voters said no to radical, liberal polices pushed by today’s Democratic Party,” Bishop said in a victory speech.

GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the wins spelled trouble for Democrats in 2020, and highlighted the importance of Republican National Committee (RNC) efforts in North Carolina — where the party will hold its national nominating convention in 2020.

“Despite being massively outspent by Democrats, @realDonaldTrump rallied voters and put Bishop over the top,” McDaniel said. “A huge win for the president and our grassroots field program that’s working hard to elect Republicans in 2020!”

The RNC had been active on the ground in North Carolina working on the special elections since June. The party brought on nearly two dozen full-time staffers and invested more than $1.5 million in the state, while also making nearly a half-million voter contacts through phone-bank work and door-to-door canvassing.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Bishop led McCready by 3,937 votes, 96,081 to 92,144, in the race to represent the 9th District. Bishop ran up substantial numbers in outlying areas and McCready eroded GOP advantages in suburban areas.

In 2018, the Republican candidate, Mark Harris, defeated McCready by a much smaller margin — just 905 votes, 139,246 to 138,341. State officials ordered the unusual special election earlier this year, invalidating Harris’ win after uncovering ballot fraud efforts.

North Carolina 9th district Republican congressional candidate Dan Bishop greets supporters in Monroe, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Republicans cheered Bishop’s even-higher margin of victory than Harris achieved, briefly, in 2018.

“Congratulations to Dan Bishop on his definitive victory tonight in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer said in a statement.

“North Carolinians rejected the Democrats’ socialist agenda and elected a representative who will defend North Carolina values, and will always fight for freedom and against socialism,” he added. “I look forward to working with Dan in Congress to hold the Democrats accountable for their extreme agenda.”

Analysts had warned that the cloud from the fraud scandal could have harmed Bishop’s prospects. Additionally, polls apparently showing Trump’s declining national popularity – which the president has dismissed as inaccurate – gave Democrats some cause for optimism. The president said Monday he did not consider Bishop’s race to be a bellwether for 2020.

President Donald Trump, left, gives his support to Dan Bishop, right, a Republican running for the special North Carolina 9th District U.S. Congressional race as he speaks at a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

Nevertheless, Bishop and Murphy were evidently boosted by a pair of visits to the district Monday by both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

At the rally Monday, the president specifically called out McCready as a dangerous proponent of “sanctuary cities” and rolling back gun rights.

“Just recently, Mecklenburg County set free an illegal alien charged with first-degree rape and crimes against a child,” Trump said, his voice rising. “Support for sanctuary cities is disloyalty to American cities — and McCready wants sanctuary cities, with all of their protections for people who are serious criminals. Tomorrow is your chance to send a clear message to the America-hating left.”

Had McCready prevailed, it might have suggested GOP erosion and raised questions about Trump’s and his party’s viability for 2020.

But Trump projected confidence early Tuesday evening after Murphy was projected to soundly defeat Democrat Allen Thomas in the separate special election in the coastal 3rd District to succeed the late Rep. Walter Jones Jr.

“One down, one to go,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, McCready, a former Marine turned financier of solar energy projects, had banked on the district’s suburban moderates to carry him over the top.

The 9th District, which stretches east from the prosperous Charlotte suburbs into rural areas hugging the South Carolina border, has been held by the GOP since 1963.

In 2016, Trump won the district by 11 percentage points.

Democratic House candidate Dan McCready talks to volunteers at his campaign office in Waxhaw, N.C., outside Charlotte, Saturday. (AP Photo/Alan Fram)

As voters headed to the polls Tuesday afternoon, a new balloting controversy surfaced briefly when North Carolina election officials did not act on a request by the state Republican Party to extend hours at a single precinct.

A voter enters a precinct at the West Charlotte Recreation Center Tuesday. (John D. Simmons/The Charlotte Observer via AP)

The state GOP asked that the voting site stay open an extra hour and 45 minutes because they said some voters were showing up at an old voting location in Union County, a Republican-heavy area east of Charlotte.

The State Board of Elections met and discussed the GOP request, but took no action.

However, by a 5-0 vote of the state board, one polling site in Mecklenberg County was kept open 25 minutes past the 7:30 p.m. ET closing time due to a reported gas leak.

Attendees line up outside hours before President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, N.C., Monday Sept. 9, 2019 (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

The 3rd District, where Murphy won easily early in the night, was less closely watched because it was strongly expected to stay Republican-controlled. Still, Republicans from the president on down sounded the victory drums.

“Congratulations to Dr. Greg Murphy on his decisive victory tonight in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District,” Emmer said in a statement.

“Dr. Murphy is a selfless servant who is dedicated to conservative values,” Emmer continued. “Today, North Carolinians rejected the socialist agenda of the Democrats and voted for freedom. I look forward to working with a consistent conservative like Dr. Murphy in Congress.”

Greg Murphy was elected to Congress from North Carolina’s 3rd District Tuesday. (Molly Urbina/The Daily Reflector via AP, File)

The 3rd district extends from the Virginia border and Outer Banks to the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune, and inland to Greenville. Trump won the district vote comfortably in 2016, and Murphy said at a Trump rally that he would have the “president’s back” if elected.

Thomas is a former Greenville mayor who questioned Murphy’s “blind loyalty” to Trump.

Fox News’ David Lewkowictz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Dems admit Trump helped GOP candidates sweep North Carolina special elections

Despite multiple indications last month of a possible breakthrough in trade negotiations, the United States and China went ahead with their latest tariff increases on each other’s goods Sunday, potentially raising prices Americans pay for some clothes, shoes, sporting goods and other consumer items in advance of the holiday shopping season.

The 15 percent U.S. taxes apply to about $112 billion of Chinese imports. All told, more than two-thirds of the consumer goods the United States imports from China now face higher taxes. The administration had largely avoided hitting consumer items in its earlier rounds of tariff hikes.

But with prices of many retail goods now likely to rise, the Trump administration’s move threatens the U.S. economy’s main driver: consumer spending. As businesses pull back on investment spending and exports slow in the face of weak global growth, American shoppers have been a key bright spot for the economy.

As a result of Trump’s higher tariffs, many U.S. companies have warned that they will be forced to pass on to their customers the higher prices they will pay on Chinese imports. Some businesses, though, may decide in the end to absorb the higher costs rather than raise prices for their customers.

A protestor uses a shield to cover himself as he faces policemen in Hong Kong, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. Protesters and police are standing off in Hong Kong on a street that runs through the bustling Causeway Bay shopping district. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Trump told reporters in August that Apple CEO Tim Cook privately made a “very compelling argument” that the administration’s tariffs on Chinese-assembled goods have made an unfair impact on the California-based tech giant, because its chief rival, Samsung, has conducted most of its manufacturing in South Korea and did not have to pay the levy.

Even more tariffs loom on the horizon. On Dec. 15, the Trump administration is scheduled to impose a second round of 15 percent tariffs — this time on roughly $160 billion of imports. If those duties take effect, virtually all goods imported from China will be covered, including all major Apple products.

In China, authorities began charging higher duties on American imports at midday Sunday, according to employees who answered the phone at customs offices in Beijing and the southern port of Guangzhou.

The move came even though China signaled last week it was seeking a “calm” end to its ongoing trade war with the U.S., as Asian markets crumbled and China’s currency plummeted to an 11-year low.

Tariffs of 10 percent and 5 percent apply to items ranging from frozen sweet corn and pork liver to marble and bicycle tires, the Chinese government announced earlier.

After Sunday’s tariff hike, 87 percent of textiles and clothing the United States buys from China and 52 percent of shoes will be subject to import taxes.

The Chinese government has released a list of American imports targeted for penalties on Dec. 15 if the U.S. tariff hikes take effect. In total, Beijing says Sunday’s penalties and the planned December increases will apply to $75 billion of American goods.

Washington and Beijing are locked in a war over U.S. complaints that China steals U.S. trade secrets and unfairly subsidizes its own companies in its drive to develop global competitors in such high-tech industries as artificial intelligence and electric cars.

To try to force Beijing to reform its trade practices, the Trump administration has imposed import taxes on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese imports, and China has retaliated with tariffs on U.S. exports.

Trump has insisted that China itself pays the tariffs. But in fact, economic research has concluded that the costs of the duties fall on U.S. businesses and consumers. Trump had indirectly acknowledged the tariffs’ impact by delaying some of the duties until Dec. 15, after holiday goods are already on store shelves.

A study by J.P. Morgan found that Trump’s tariffs will cost the average U.S. household $1,000 a year. That study was done before Trump raised the Sept. 1 and Dec. 15 tariffs to 15 percent from 10 percent.

The president has also announced that existing 25 percent tariffs on a separate group of $250 billion of Chinese imports will increase to 30 percent on Oct. 1.

That cost could weaken an already slowing U.S. economy. Though consumer spending grew last quarter at its fastest pace in five years, the overall economy expanded at a modest 2 percent annual rate, down from a 3.1 percent rate in the first three months of the year.

The economy is widely expected to slow further in the months ahead as income growth slows, businesses delay expansions and higher prices from tariffs depress consumer spending. Companies have already reduced investment spending, and exports have dropped against a backdrop of slower global growth.

Americans have already turned more pessimistic. The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index, released Friday, fell by the most since December 2012.

“The data indicate that the erosion of consumer confidence due to tariff policies is now well underway,” said Richard Curtin, who oversees the index.

Some retailers may eat the cost of the tariffs. Target confirmed to The Associated Press that it warned suppliers that it won’t accept cost increases arising from the China tariffs. But many smaller retailers won’t have the bargaining power to make such demands and will pass the costs to customers.

Fox News’ Joseph Wulfsohn and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Steep new US, China tariffs go into effect, as companies warn of higher consumer prices

In a major blow to state-by-state progressive efforts to effectively replace the Electoral College with a nationwide popular vote, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that presidential electors in the Electoral College have the absolute right to vote for presidential candidates of their choice.

Democrats have increasingly sought to erase the Electoral College’s influence by promoting state laws that would force electors to vote for the national popular vote winner — and those laws were now in jeopardy as a result of the court’s ruling, legal experts said.

The decision, however, also raised the prospect that electors could legally defect at the last minute, and decide the occupant of the White House on their own in dramatic fashion, weeks after Election Day.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Colorado secretary of state violated the Constitution in 2016 when he removed an elector and nullified his vote because the elector refused to cast his ballot for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who received a plurality of the popular vote both nationally and in Colorado.

The rogue elector was part of an unsuccessful scheme to convince enough members of the Electoral College to unite behind an alternative candidate and deny Donald Trump the presidency.

The split decision by a three-judge panel on the Denver appeals court asserted: “Article II and the Twelfth Amendment provide presidential electors the right to cast a vote for President and Vice President with discretion. And the state does not possess countervailing authority to remove an elector and to cancel his vote in response to the exercise of that Constitutional right.”

The panel continued, “The electoral college did not exist before ratification of the federal Constitution, and thus the states could reserve no rights related to it under the Tenth Amendment. Rather, the states possess only the rights expressly delegated to them in Article II and the Twelfth Amendment.”

The appeals court reasoned that once electors show up at the Electoral College, they essentially become federal actors performing a “federal function,” independent of state control.

Prominent Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, have slammed the Electoral College in recent weeks, calling it a racist “scam.”

“The Electoral College has a racial injustice breakdown,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Instagram Monday. “Due to severe racial disparities in certain states, the Electoral College effectively weighs white voters over voters of color, as opposed to a ‘one person, one vote’ system where all our votes are counted equally.”

Organized efforts to undermine the Electoral College have picked up steam this year. The so-called National Popular Vote interstate compact, which would commit states’ electors to the winner of the national vote, has been adopted by 16 jurisdictions, accounting for 196 electoral votes, including 15 states and the District of Columbia.

However, the compact, by its terms, will only take effect if jurisdictions accounting for at least 270 of the 538 total votes available in the Electoral College also sign on.

More than two dozen states also have laws binding electors to the results of the popular vote in those states. But the actual penalties for so-called “faithless electors” are minimal and in many cases non-existent.

The Tuesday ruling could spell doom for a new Colorado law that effectively signed the state onto the national compact, by prohibiting states from forcing their electors to vote for either the national or state popular vote winner. Other states that have signed onto the compact include Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Washington, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, California, and New York.

At the same time, Frank McNulty, an adviser to Protect Colorado’s Vote, which wants voters to overturn the law, cautioned that the ruling could also free electors to decide on their own to support the candidate with the most votes nationally — or any candidate, for that matter.

“It is a double-edge decision,” he said.

The Electoral College system is established in the Constitution. When voters cast a ballot for president, they are actually choosing members of the Electoral College, called electors, who are pledged to that presidential candidate. The electors then choose the president. Electors are selected by state parties at nominating conventions, and generally consist of party leaders, activists, and other luminaries.

“It is a double-edge decision.”

— Frank McNulty, adviser to Protect Colorado’s Vote

Democrats, who currently have a stranglehold on power in population-dense states like California and New York, have long protested the Electoral College. States receive electoral votes equivalent to their number of congressional districts plus senators, which allows less populous states to have more impact than they would under a popular vote system.

The upcoming 2020 census is expected to result in some shifts in Electoral College numbers by 2024, including an increase in electoral votes for traditional GOP strongholds like Texas.

Tuesday’s ruling applies only to Colorado and five other states in the 10th Circuit: Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

But it could influence future cases nationwide in the unlikely event that enough Electoral College members strayed from their states’ popular vote to affect the outcome of a presidential election, constitutional scholars said.

FILE – In this Dec. 19, 2016, file photo, Colorado elector Micheal Baca, second from left, talks with legal counsel after he was removed from the panel for voting for a different candidate than the one who won the popular vote, during the Electoral College vote at the Capitol in Denver. Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, front right, looks on. On Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Williams violated the Constitution when he removed Baca from the panel. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

The elector at the center of the Colorado case, Micheal Baca, was part of a group known as “Hamilton electors” who tried to convince electors who were pledged to Clinton or Donald Trump to unite behind a consensus candidate to deny Trump the presidency.

After a flurry of filings in state and federal courts, the electors met on Dec. 19, 2016, and Baca crossed out Clinton’s name on his ballot and wrote in John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio who also ran for president.

Then-Secretary of State Wayne Williams refused to count the vote and removed Baca as an elector. He replaced him with another elector who voted for Clinton.

Colorado’s current secretary of state, Jena Griswold, decried the ruling Tuesday in Colorado but did not immediately say if she would appeal.

“This court decision takes power from Colorado voters and sets a dangerous precedent,” she said. “Our nation stands on the principle of one person, one vote.”

Baca’s attorneys said the U.S. Supreme Court will likely hear the case because it conflicts with a decision from Washington state’s Supreme Court. That court said in May that electors could be fined for not casting ballots for the popular vote winner.

Jan. 6, 2017: Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., holds up a written objection to the Electoral College vote and calls on a Senator to join in the objection during a joint session of Congress to count the electoral ballots, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)

Constitutional scholars were skeptical, saying a conflicting opinion from a state court system has less influence on the Supreme Court than one from another federal appeals court. No other federal appeals court is believed to have ruled in a similar case.

The court ruling in Denver could be important if a future Electoral College is so closely divided that a handful of “faithless electors” change the outcome by casting a ballot contrary to the popular vote, said Ned Foley, a professor at Ohio State University’s law school.

“This opinion would be taken very seriously,” he said. “It would be considered judicial precedent.”

Meanwhile, parallel congressional efforts to usurp the Electoral College have been unsuccessful. In January, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., introduced a pair of constitutional amendments to eliminate the Electoral College, saying it was “outdated.”

“Americans expect and deserve the winner of the popular vote to win office,” Cohen said at the time. “More than a century ago, we amended our Constitution to provide for the direct election of U.S. Senators. It is past time to directly elect our president and vice president.”

However, a constitutional amendment eliminating the Electoral College would require two-thirds of both the House and Senate to approve the measure, along with three-fourths of state legislatures. Alternatively, Congress could hold a national convention and states could host ratifying conventions, but a two-thirds majority would still be necessary.

Trump secured victory in the 2016 election by winning the Electoral College with 304 votes to Clinton’s 232 despite Clinton winning nearly three million more votes than Trump.

John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and George W. Bush also won the White House without winning the popular vote. Of those presidents, only Bush was re-elected to a second term.

Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Federal court undercuts progressive efforts to nullify Electoral College, rules electors can vote freely

Just days after a Texas Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility was shot up in what the FBI called a “targeted attack,” Bernie Sanders unveiled a new plan on Sunday that would create a “registry of disreputable federal law enforcement officers,” and provide “financial support” for similar lists at the state level.

Sanders’ freewheeling proposal would also “ban the prosecution of children under the age of 18 in adult courts” for all offenses, apparently including even rape and murder, and would prohibit youth from ever facing prison time for misdemeanors.

The plan additionally would seek to cut the total “incarcerated population in half” by getting rid of what Sanders’ campaign called “excessive sentencing.”

The unprecedented crime reform initiative comes as ICE officers and workers are also facing a rapidly escalating series of death threats, including protesters menacing their children and shots being fired at their offices several times in the past month, amid a rising tide of anti-ICE rhetoric from the left fueled by congressional Democrats, media voices and presidential hopefuls.

Earlier this month, Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro drew bipartisan condemnation for posting the names of several individuals and businesses who donated to President Trump’s campaign, including individuals who also had donated to Castro. The episode underscored fears that federal registries can be abused for intimidation purposes.

“Establish a federal no-call policy, including a registry of disreputable federal law enforcement officers, so testimony from untrustworthy sources does not lead to criminal convictions,” Sanders’ plan stated. “Provide financial support to pilot local and state level no-call lists.”

The lengthy plan offered few details and appeared to contradict itself at points. For instance, the plan stated it would “end solitary confinement,” calling it a form of “torture.”

But, later in the document, Sanders’ campaign said it would specifically ban “solitary confinement for youth.”

Sanders’ proposal also doubled down on his previous calls to allow any incarcerated felon — including the Boston Marathon bomber and those convicted of sexual assault — the right to vote.

“All voting-age Americans must have the right and meaningful access to vote, whether they are incarcerated or not,” the plan read. “We will re-enfranchise the right to vote to the millions of Americans who have had their vote taken away by a felony conviction.”

Also under Sanders’ initiative, marijuana would be legalized at the federal level, “three-strikes” laws would be erased from the books, and solitary confinement would become a thing of the past.

“Legalize safe injection sites and needle exchanges around the country, and support pilot programs for supervised injection sites, which have shown to substantially reduce drug overdose deaths,” the plan stated.

To sweeten the pot, the proposal would also “enact a federal jobs guarantee to provide good jobs at a living wage revitalizing and taking care of the community,” with a $15 minimum wage.

Sanders’ campaign did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

In July, Sanders announced he would cut his own staffers’ hours so that they can effectively be paid a $15-an-hour minimum wage, prompting mockery from critics who say the move is more evidence that Sanders’ plan to raise the national minimum wage is hypocritical and would only lead to less work and more unemployment.

Attacks on law enforcement are poised to become a pivotal issue in the 2020 presidential campaign. At a fiery rally in Manchester, N.H., last Thursday, President Trump said recent episodes in which people threw water on New York City police officers were indicative of a larger trend among progressives.

FILE – In this July 8, 2019, file photo, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer looks on during an operation in Escondido, Calif. Advocacy groups and unions are pressuring Marriott, MGM and others not to house migrants who have been arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. But the U.S. government says it sometimes needs bed space, and if hotels don’t help it might have to split up families. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

“They view everybody as fascists and Nazis … They accuse our heroic border agents of running concentration camps,” Trump said, in an apparent reference to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “And, they look down upon the hardworking citizens who truly make our country run.”

Footage published Tuesday by Breitbart News shows protesters in Florida from groups such as Never Again Action and Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward County threatening workers and former employees of the GEO Group, a private contractor used by ICE.

“We know where you sleep at night,” one protester shouted. “We know what kind of dog food you buy your dogs.”

Last month, a man was killed by Washington state authorities when he threw incendiary devices at both an immigration center and nearby propane tanks. In Colorado, protesters demonstrating outside an ICE facility replaced the American flag with the Mexican flag. Also last month, protesters were arrested after trying to storm an ICE building in Washington, D.C.

Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan said on “Fox & Friends” earlier this month that people need to tone down “dangerous” rhetoric that demonizes ICE officials.

“The environment where we’re demonizing our law enforcement for doing their jobs and enforcing the law on the books is concerning,” he said. “It can be dangerous and it can result in people taking action that are not supported by facts that are not in response to anything inappropriate that the men and women of ICE are doing and we’ve got to tone that down.”

President Trump has called The First Step Act, his signature bipartisan criminal justice reform package, one of the major successes of his presidency. Fox News exclusively reported in July that more than a hundred violent criminals and sex offenders have been released under the First Step Act, according to data from an administration official.

The data, first obtained exclusively by “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” seemingly contradicted promises from lawmakers and the White House that the legislation would largely affect only prisoners sentenced for minor drug-related offenses. Of 2,243 inmates released under the First Step Act, only 960 were incarcerated for drug-related offenses.

A White House official later told Fox News that the violent offenders in question would have been released under existing rules, even without The First Step Act.

Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Sanders calls for ‘registry of disreputable federal law enforcement officers,’ cutting prison population in half

A federal judge in frank terms Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) against key members of the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks over hacked DNC documents, saying they “did not participate in any wrongdoing in obtaining the materials in the first place” and therefore bore no legal liability for disseminating the information.

The ruling came as Democrats increasingly have sought to tie the Trump team to illegal activity in Russia, in spite of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings that the campaign in fact refused multiple offers by Russians to involve them in hacking and disinformation efforts.

President Trump, in a tweet late Tuesday, noted that the judge in the case, John Koeltl, was appointed by Bill Clinton. The president called Koeltl’s decision “really big ‘stuff'” and “yet another total & complete vindication and exoneration.”

The DNC had asserted in court filings that the Trump team’s meetings “with persons connected to the Russian government during the time that the Russian GRU agents were stealing the DNC’s information” were “circumstantial evidence” that they were conspiring with the Russians to “steal and disseminate the DNC’s materials.”

The suit did not allege that the stolen materials were false or defamatory but rather sought to hold the Trump team and other defendants liable for the theft of the DNC’s information under various Virginia and federal statutes, including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, Wiretap Act, Stored Communications Act, Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and laws protecting trade secrets.

However, Judge Koeltl, sitting in the Southern District of New York, wrote in his 81-page opinion Tuesday that the DNC’s argument was “entirely divorced” from the factual record in the case.

The DNC first filed its suit in April 2018, and the defendants responded that the First Amendment legally protected the dissemination of stolen materials.

“In short, the DNC raises a number of connections and communications between the defendants and with people loosely connected to the Russian Federation, but at no point does the DNC allege any facts … to show that any of the defendants — other than the Russian Federation — participated in the theft of the DNC’s information,” Koeltl said.

“Nor does the DNC allege that the defendants ever agreed to help the Russian Federation steal the DNC’s documents,” he added.

The DNC claimed the defendants illegally compromised their trade secrets contained in some of the stolen documents — including donor lists and strategies. But, the judge said, any such claim to trade secrecy was lost when the documents became public in the first place, and in any event, the newsworthiness of the matter trumped the trade secrecy issue.

“If Wikileaks could be held liable for publishing documents concerning the DNC’s political financial and voter-engagement strategies simply because the DNC labels them ‘secret’ and trade secrets, then so could any newspaper or other media outlet,” the judge wrote. That, he said, would elevate a privacy interest impermissibly over the First Amendment rights of people and media outlets to disseminate matters of “the highest public concern.”

Koeltl went on to describe multiple hacking efforts directed by Russians at the DNC, in which Russians “hacked into the DNC’s computers, penetrated its phone systems, and stole tens of thousands of documents.”

But, even if the Russians had provided the hacked documents to the Trump team directly, the judge wrote, it would not be criminal for the campaign to then publish those documents, as long as they did not contribute to the hacking itself. Similarly, the judge said, it is not criminal to merely solicit or “welcome” stolen documents.

Koeltl cited the infamous Pentagon Papers case in which the Supreme Court held that The New York Times and The Washington Post were protected by the First Amendment when they published articles concerning the government’s public justification for the Vietnam War.

“At first glance, this opinion raises serious concerns about our protections from foreign election interference and the theft of private property to advance the interests of our enemies,” DNC spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.

The suit also named the Russian government, but Koeltl noted that federal law prohibited suits against foreign governments except in highly specific circumstances. Koeltl nevertheless acknowledged that the Russian government “undoubtedly” was involved in the hacking.

Koeltl denied the Trump team’s motion for sanctions but dismissed the suit with prejudice — meaning it had a substantive legal defect and could not be refiled. An appeal remained possible.

In addition to the Trump campaign, WikiLeaks, and Russia, the DNC’s suit named Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, George Papadopoulos, Richard Gates (whose connections with Russia were especially “threadbare,” the judge wrote), Roger Stone, Joseph Mifsud and Julian Assange.

The DNC in its complaint mentioned, among other contacts, Papadopoulos’ meeting with Mifsud in Italy in March 2016, as well as the claim Mifsud told Papadopoulos on April 26, 2016, that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails.

The FBI probe into the Trump team came after the bureau learned Papadopoulos then allegedly told an Australian diplomat about his contacts with Russians.

Mifsud had ties to both western and Russian intelligence, and Papadopoulos relayed to his superiors on the Trump campaign that there were “interesting messages coming in from Moscow.” There has been no evidence Papadopoulos told the Trump team specifically about the stolen emails.

The DNC also focused on statements from Stone that may have suggested he had advance warning of pending email hacks or dissemination, as well as Trump Jr.’s statement that he would “love” to receive potentially damaging information on Clinton. Several other communications from Trump officials to Russians or people tied to Russia were mentioned throughout the DNC’s complaint.

None of these alleged episodes, the judge ruled, established a criminal conspiracy.

Republicans, meanwhile, have focused increasingly on the DNC’s own apparent role in the origins of the FBI’s probe into the Trump campaign, which began in the summer of 2016 — after British ex-spy Christopher Steele, a longtime FBI informant funded by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign, began work on his now-discredited dossier.

The dossier was used in secret surveillance warrants to monitor members of the Trump team, and later fueled media reports that kept the investigation going, despite many apparent problems with its reliability. Multiple DOJ reviews into the dossier’s use, and related matters, were ongoing.

The chances of the FBI securing a secret 2016 surveillance warrant for a Trump campaign aide were “50/50” without the controversial anti-Trump “dossier,” according to testimony in recently confirmed congressional transcripts from senior FBI lawyer Sally Moyer to House investigators.

And, Papadopoulos on Sunday told Fox News he was heading back to Greece to retrieve $10,000 that he suspected was dropped in his lap during the campaign as part of an entrapment scheme by the CIA or FBI. Federal investigators want to see the marked bills, which he said were stored in a safe.

Papadopoulos said on “Sunday Morning Futures” he was “very happy” to see House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., grill Mueller about the summer 2017 payment during last week’s hearings — even though Mueller maintained, without explanation, that the matter was outside the scope of his investigation.

“I was very happy to see that Devin Nunes brought that up,” Papadopoulos said. “A man named Charles Tawil gave me this money [in Israel] under very suspicious circumstances. A simple Google search about this individual will reveal he was a CIA or State Department asset in South Africa during the ’90s and 2000s. I think around the time when Bob Mueller was the director of the FBI.”

Fox News’ Bill Mears and Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Judge dismisses DNC hacking lawsuit against Trump team, says claims ‘entirely divorced from the facts’

President Trump on Sunday announced that Texas GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe, a staunch White House ally, will replace Dan Coats as director of national intelligence (DNI), following months of speculation and public spats between the president and the intelligence community.

The move prompted immediate outrage from many top Democrats who accused the president of seeking to appoint a blindly loyal yes-man to the key post.

A source close to the matter told Fox News that Coats never saw his 2017 appointment as a long-term proposition. Ratcliffe has been well-versed in the intelligence community after driving key sections of ongoing Republican-led probes into apparent Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuses by the FBI and Justice Department, Fox News is told.

Coats submitted his letter of resignation to President Trump on Sunday. Part of it read: “The Intelligence Community is stronger than ever, and increasingly well prepared to meet new challenges and opportunities. As we have previously discussed, I believe it is time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life.”

“I am pleased to announce that highly respected Congressman John Ratcliffe of Texas will be nominated by me to be the Director of National Intelligence,” Trump tweeted.

“A former U.S. Attorney, John will lead and inspire greatness for the Country he loves,” Trump added. “Dan Coats, the current Director, will be leaving office on August 15th. I would like to thank Dan for his great service to our Country. The Acting Director will be named shortly.”

Coats frequently appeared out of step with Trump during his two-year tenure, and their frayed relationship reflected broader divisions between the president and the government’s intelligence agencies.

For instance, Coats revealed to then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators how Trump, angry over investigations into links between his campaign and Russia, tried unsuccessfully in March 2017 to get him to make a public statement refuting any connection.

“Coats responded that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has nothing to do with investigations and it was not his role to make a public statement on the Russia investigation,” Mueller’s report said.

And, last year at the Aspen Security Forum, Coats did a double-take when host Andrea Mitchell broke the news on stage that Vladimir Putin was planning a trip to Washington.

Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee this past January. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

“Say that again?” he asked, to laughter in the audience. “OK, that’s going to be special.”

Coats later said he meant no disrespect to Trump and admitted the moment was “awkward.”

“Some press coverage has mischaracterized my intentions in responding to breaking news presented to me during a live interview. My admittedly awkward response was in no way meant to be disrespectful or criticize the actions of the President,” Coats said.

In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., condemned Ratcliffe’s selection and pointed to the congressman’s performance during last week’s hearings with Mueller.

During his questioning, Ratcliffe told Mueller that he had acted improperly — and trampled on the presumption of innocence — by saying in his report that Trump had not been “exonerated.”

“It’s clear that Rep. Ratcliffe was selected because he exhibited blind loyalty to President Trump with his demagogic questioning of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller,” Schumer said. “If Senate Republicans elevate such a partisan player to a position that requires intelligence expertise and non-partisanship, it would be a big mistake.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., meanwhile, responded: “I was very sorry to learn today that Director Coats will depart his position as Director of National Intelligence later this month. My friend and former colleague has devoted decades of his life in service to our country. I was reassured knowing that a man who took such a deliberate, thoughtful, and unbiased approach was at the helm of our intelligence community.”

“The departure of DNI Coats is bad news for the security of America,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “DNI Coats’ successor must put patriotism before politics, and remember that his oath is to protect the Constitution and the American people, not the President.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., praised Coats’ tenure for staying “true” to the intelligence community’s mission and “speaking truth to power.”

CNN national security analyst Shawn Turner, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass also each separately praised Coats specifically for “speaking truth to power” on social media — prompting Republican consultant Arthur Schwartz to note that “talking points have been distributed.”

Reaction from Republican lawmakers to Ratcliffe’s selection appeared positive across the board. House Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Mike Rogers, R-Ala., called Ratcliffe an “excellent pick to be director of national intelligence.”

“His experience on the Homeland Security Committee and as former Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, & Innovation Subcommittee chairman will serve him well in this new role,” Rogers said. “I thank Director Coats for his leadership and years of public service.”

And, House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said Ratcliffe was a “great pick.”

Speculation about Coats’ ouster had been lingering in recent days. Sources told Fox News earlier this month that Trump spoke to two people recently about the job. Among the candidates he was considering at the time were Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Fred Fleitz, who previously served as chief of staff to National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Trump raised the possibility of the job with Fleitz as far back as February and asked if he was interested but did not offer it to him officially. It’s unclear how many other potential candidates may have been in the mix.

Trump regularly and openly sparred with Coats and the intelligence community. “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” he tweeted in January, after Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel testified about a threat-assessment report that called into question some of Trump’s foreign policy judgments.

Coats said North Korea would be “unlikely” to give up its nuclear weapons or its ability to produce them because “its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.” Coats and other officials also contradicted Trump’s positions on Iran, Afghanistan, and the Islamic State terror network.

“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!” Trump responded. “When I became President Iran was making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond. Since ending the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal, they are MUCH different, but a source of potential danger and conflict.”

Ratcliffe, by contrast, appeared to be on the same page as the president. He grilled Mueller and Democrats at last week’s congressional hearings, and told Fox News on Sunday that Mueller had effectively destroyed the presumption of innocence by saying Trump had not been “exonerated.”

“By requiring Donald Trump to prove his innocence, they were depriving him of the one thing no one can be deprived of, which is a presumption of innocence,” Ratcliffe said in an interview with Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.

Ratcliffe, who won re-election with more than 70 percent of the vote in his district in 2018, echoed that argument in the House Judiciary Committee hearings.

“The special counsel’s job, nowhere does it say that you were to conclusively determine Donald Trump’s innocence or that the special counsel report should determine whether or not to exonerate him,” Ratcliffe told Mueller.

He added: “So, Americans need to know this as they listen to the Democrats and socialists on the other side of the aisle as they do dramatic readings from this report that Volume II of this report was not authorized under the law to be written. It was written to a legal standard that does not exist at the Justice Department and it was written in violation of every DOJ principle about extra prosecutorial commentary,” he continued. “I agree with the chairman this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law. He’s not. But he damn sure shouldn’t be below the law, which is where Volume II of this report puts him.”

A Republican former senator from Indiana, Coats was appointed director of national intelligence in March 2017, becoming the fifth person to hold the post since it was created in the wake of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to oversee and coordinate the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies.

Coats had been among the last of the seasoned foreign policy hands brought in to surround the president after his 2016 victory, of whom the president steadily grew tired as he gained more personal confidence in Oval Office, officials said. That roster included Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and later, national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

Coats developed a reputation inside the administration for sober presentations to the president of intelligence conclusions that occasionally contradicted Trump’s policy aims.

Fox News’ John Roberts, Catherine Herridge, Chad Pergram, Gillian Turner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Dan Coats to resign as director of national intelligence; Trump selects Rep. John Ratcliffe as replacement

After a tumultuous and bizarre week in Washington, President Trump unexpectedly dropped in on the wedding of PJ Mongelli and Nicole Marie Mongelli on Saturday night at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey, as enthusiastic attendees broke into chants of “USA.”

Fox News is told the bride and groom are huge fans of the president, had dreamed of him attending their wedding and got engaged at the golf club in 2017. Flags and pro-Trump banners could be seen at the event.

The bride said she’d sent numerous requests to the president in hopes he would attend — and that Trump ended up paying two visits to separate wedding events. At the first event, he vowed to show up to the second, and kept his word.

As Trump talked with members of the family, a man approached him and shouted, “I’m the father, I’m the father! Thank you so much!”

“Great job. You did a good job,” Trump responded.

In videos posted to social media, Secret Service agents were seen keeping most attendees at bay while the bride and groom approached Trump and hugged him.

“Where’s the groom? Handsome — look at his shoulders,” Trump said. “Nobody’s gonna mess with him.”

“Staten Island is the greatest,” Trump said, when the groom told him told hundreds of guests from the borough would be attending a party later. “I love it. I’ll see if I can stop by.”

Trump, indeed, did stop by the second event, as the crowd erupted into a “USA!” chant.

Meanwhile, a slew of negative comments about Trump’s appearance at the wedding appeared on Twitter and other social media platforms Sunday, tinged with bitterness and partisan overtones.

The president has a history of personally reaching out to fans, both inside and outside his properties — but his wedding drop-ins on his properties are especially well-known.

“If he is on-site for your big day, he will likely stop in & congratulate the happy couple,” a since-discontinued brochure from the golf club previously advertised. “He may take some photos with you but we ask you and your guests to be respectful of his time & privacy.”

In March, Trump fulfilled a terminally ill Connecticut man’s dying wish with a phone call — with a little help from the man’s sister, an elected Democrat.

Video of the episode showed 44-year-old Jay Barrett, of West Haven, reacting with shock when he realized Trump was on the phone.

“You look good,” Trump said. “I wish you could come to a rally. I wish you could come, I know you like that stuff. I wish you could. It sounds like you have a great sister, Jay.”

Trump promised Jay that when he’d have a rally nearby, he’ll “be sitting front row, center.” Trump added, “I know where you live,” and said he was very familiar with the area.

Barrett, however, died just days after the call.

Fox News’ Ben Evansky contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Trump drops in on New Jersey wedding, as attendees chant ‘USA!’

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