Politics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has interviewed U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about President Donald Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. Citing unnamed people familiar with the investigation, the Journal said the interview occurred in June or July. Mueller is looking into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and whether Trump may have obstructed justice by firing Comey in May. Mueller, himself a former FBI director, ultimately reports to Rosenstein because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the probe. The Journal said the handling of the interview “could be a sign that Mr. Mueller’s team doesn’t view Mr. Rosenstein as a central witness in its probe, as the deputy attorney general hasn’t withdrawn himself from overseeing it since that interview.” The paper quoted Ian Prior, a Justice Department spokesman, as …

(Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions stepped up the Trump administration’s critique of so-called sanctuary cities on Tuesday, saying local and state policies to limit cooperation with immigration enforcement are a criminal’s “best friend.” Sessions’ remarks, at a gathering of law enforcement authorities in Portland, Oregon, came days after repudiation of his stance against the sanctuary movement in separate actions by a federal judge in Chicago and the California legislature. The judge in Chicago on Friday barred the Justice Department from withholding public safety grants to cities unless they allowed U.S. immigration authorities unlimited access to local jails and provided 48 hours’ notice before releasing individuals sought for deportation. On Saturday, California lawmakers voted to make California a sanctuary state, approving a bill barring local governments from forcing undocumented immigrants to spend extra time in jail just to allow immigration agents to take them into their custody. But under a compromise negotiated with Governor …

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Russia, said on Tuesday there was “no question” that Moscow meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, and pledged to bring up the issue with the Russian government. “There is no question, underline no question, that the Russian government interfered in the U.S. election last year,” Huntsman, who has also served as U.S. ambassador to China, said at his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing. “Moscow continues to meddle in the democratic processes of our friends and allies,” Huntsman said. Russia has denied interfering in the election, but U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that it did so to boost Trump’s chances of being elected have shadowed the first months of the Republican’s presidency. Congressional committees and a special counsel are investigating whether Trump associates colluded with Russia. The White House denies any collusion. Huntsman said he would raise the issue with Russian authorities. …

LONDON (Reuters) – Sebastian Gorka, a former adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump who quit after top White House political strategist Steve Bannon was ousted, has joined a nationalist pro-Trump campaign organization, the group announced on Tuesday. The MAGA Coalition, dedicated to helping advance Trump’s “America First” principles, said it had hired Gorka as “Chief Strategist.” MAGA is headed by Adam Gingrich, a Pennsylvania political operative who backed Trump’s presidential campaign. A MAGA statement announcing Gorka’s appointment said its mission was to “identify the obstructionists in (Washington) DC and to advocate the America First principles that catapulted Donald Trump to the White House”. It quoted Gorka, 46, as condemning “DC swamp-dwellers thinking they know better than the people they represent”. Gorka has been an outspoken advocate of tough U.S. anti-terrorism policies and in the past asserted that U.S. efforts to counter Islamic State and other jihadist propaganda were “pin-pricks and often counter-productive”. Prior to his …

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic leaders in the U.S. Congress on Monday demanded that lawmakers wait to find out the budgetary and healthcare impacts of a new, last-ditch legislative effort by Republicans to repeal Obamacare before voting on it. In their long-running war on former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, Senate Republicans are now proposing to replace it with a system that would give states money in block grants to run their own healthcare programs. Drafted by Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, the bill was introduced last week. Graham and Cassidy said they were close to securing the votes needed for passage, but the bill’s outlook was uncertain. If approved, it would replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, known informally as Obamacare, which Republicans have long seen as government overreach into the healthcare business. The Graham-Cassidy measure has revived a fight that many in Washington thought was over when an Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill …

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that he wants credit-reporting firms to comply with the state’s cyber-security regulations, the latest government official to crack down on the industry in the wake of the massive Equifax hack. Also on Monday, Bloomberg News reported that federal authorities have opened a criminal probe into stock sales by three Equifax Inc (EFX.N) executives before the company disclosed the massive data breach, news that has weighed heavily on the stock price. The company has said the executives were unaware of the hack when they sold the stock for $1.8 million. Equifax’s legal woes worsened as the U.S Attorney’s office in Atlanta issued a statement saying it was working with the FBI on a criminal investigation into the breach and theft of personal information. Equifax shares rose 1.5 percent on Monday after losing about a third of their value since the hack was announced. The …

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate passed its version of a $700 billion defense policy bill on Monday, backing President Donald Trump’s call for a bigger, stronger military but setting the stage for a battle over government spending levels later this year. The Republican-controlled chamber voted 89-8 for the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018, or NDAA, which authorizes the level of defense spending and sets policies controlling how the money is spent. The Senate bill provides about $640 billion for the Pentagon’s main operations, such as buying weapons and paying the troops, and some $60 billion to fund the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. The 1,215-page bill includes a wide range of provisions, such as a 2.1 percent military pay raise and $8.5 billion to strengthen missile defense, as North Korea conducts nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests. It also bans Moscow-based Kaspersky Labs products from federal government use. Related …

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic leaders in the U.S. Congress on Monday demanded that legislative analysts examine both the budgetary and healthcare impacts of a last-ditch effort by Republicans to repeal Obamacare. In a long-running war on former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, Republicans face a two-week countdown before Senate procedural rules make it much harder for them to advance their latest bill. Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy propose replacing the 2010 Affordable Care Act, known informally as Obamacare, with a plan to give U.S. states money in the form of block grants to run their own healthcare programs. Democrats warned that the bill would be very costly for some states and urged the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to study more than the measure’s effect on the federal budget. “A comprehensive CBO analysis is essential before Republicans force a hasty, dangerous vote on what is an extreme and destructive repeal bill,” senior congressional …

(Reuters) – Relatives of former national security adviser Michael Flynn have set up a fund to help pay for his legal defense against federal and congressional investigations into potential collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia. The fund was established by Flynn’s brother Joe and sister Barbara Redgate, who said in a statement the “enormous expense” of legal fees had put a “tremendous financial burden on our brother Mike and his family.” They asked supporters of the retired U.S. general, “veterans, and all people of goodwill” to contribute to the fund, which will collect donations from U.S. citizens through a newly created website, according to the statement. Flynn, a central figure in a federal probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller, as well as a focal point of congressional investigations, broke a months-long silence to thank his siblings for their support on Twitter. “Lori and I are very grateful to my brother Joe and …

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