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Tag: Senate Judiciary Committee

What to Expect from Weeklong FBI Probe into Supreme Court Nominee Kavanaugh

Christine Blasey Ford testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Friday.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Whether Judge Brett Kavanaugh makes it to the nation’s highest court may come down to a one-week FBI investigation.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., called for an FBI investigation on Friday following an intense and emotional nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I think that we ought to do what we can to make sure that we do all due diligence with a nomination this important,” Flake said just hours after he said he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

So what would a week-long FBI investigation entail?

The Republican-led committee called for the probe to be “limited to current credible allegations against the nominee.”

Three women have come forward to claim Kavanaugh sexually assaulted them.

But one of those women’s accusations aren’t being treated seriously, said Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for Julie Swetnick, who said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her and that she was gang-raped at a party decades ago.

“This investigation is only as good as the scope,” Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for Swetnick, told USA TODAY. “If the scope doesn’t include my client and the others who have accused Mr. Kavanaugh, how can it be a credible investigation?” 

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted that the “FBI’s hands must not be tied in this investigation.”

“We need the facts,” she wrote.

But on Friday, President Trump said the investigation “must be limited in scope.”

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said the FBI must determine what “limited scope” means but indicated the probe cannot “be a fishing expedition.”

Following a rally in West Virginia on Saturday, Trump said the FBI has “free rein.”

“Whatever it is they do, they’ll be doing things that we’ve never even thought of,” the president said.

The FBI declined to comment.

Most likely, FBI agents will try to determine the veracity of the claims by Christine Blasey Ford, who said Kavanaugh pulled her into a room, held her down, fondled her and cupped his hand over her mouth to prevent her from screaming. That means interviewing everyone who attended the party, including Mark Judge, whom Ford said stood watch outside the locked room while Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.

According to the USA Today, the FBI has contacted Deborah Ramirez, a former Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s, who said he exposed himself during a drunken party.

The FBI has the resources to handle special investigations, former bureau officials said.

“They could knock this thing out in a couple of days,” said Jim Davis, a former agent who participated in at least 50 such background inquiries.

The investigation’s findings will be turned over to the White House, which then must share them with the Senate committee.

A full Senate vote could happen later this week or next week.

With a 51-seat majority, all but one Republican must approve the nomination if every Democrat opposes it, as long as Vice President Mike Pence casts the tie-breaking vote in Kavanaugh’s favor.

Dem Senator Says Confirmation Vote on Kavanaugh Should Be Delayed Pending Outcome of FBI Probe Into Sexual Assault Allegations

Brett Kavanaugh during the Senate confirmation hearings.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The U.S. Senate should wait on voting for the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court until the FBI conducts an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations.

That’s according to Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Feinstein’s statement follows a Washington Post report that detailed a first-hand account of sexual abuse by California professor Christine Blasey Ford. 

In a written statement, Feinstein said the professor’s allegations, which include being pinned down, groped and forced into silence at a high school party, were “extremely serious and bear heavily on Judge Kavanaugh’s character.”

Whether Feinstein gets his way is another story. At least three Democrats said Sunday that the confirmation hearings should continue, despite the allegations.

Senate Committee Approves Bill to Protect Mueller’s Firing

U.S. Capitol

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill Thursday to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fire by President Trump.

The committee advanced the measure with a 14-7 vote, putting pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow the full Senate to vote.

Four Republicans joined Democrats to pass the legislation: Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

McConnell pledged last week to prevent the bill from reaching the Senate floor for a vote, saying there was “no indication” that Trump would fire Mueller and it was unlikely he would approve the measure.    

Grassley said Thursday “this bill should be considered by the full Senate,” despite the objections of McConnell, The USA Today reports.

“Because special counsel investigations only occur where there is a conflict of interest within the executive branch, special counsel investigations are usually matters of great national concern,” Grassley said. “And Congress, by exercising its oversight powers, can help the American people to have confidence that these investigations are conducted efficiently and independently.”

McConnell Shut Down Bi-Partisan Bill to Protect Mueller from Trump

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to shoot down any legislation aimed at protecting special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by President Trump.

McDonnell says the bill is a waste of time because he’s confident Trump won’t fire Mueller, whose investigation so far has landed indictments against 22 individuals and entities.

“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as the Majority Leader, and we will not be having this on the floor of the U.S. Senate,” the defiant Republican said in an interview Tuesday on Fox News

A small band of Republicans has emerged to support a bill that would give a fired special counsel 10 days to request an expedited judicial review on whether the termination was for “good cause.” In fact, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to have enough votes next week to pass the bill.

But McConnell emphatically said he would not hold a floor vote on the legislation. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Trump’s intentions are irrelevant because the protections are good policy to have on the books.

“I don’t think he’s going to fire Mueller, but I think institutionally it would be nice to have some protections,” Graham said Tuesday.

Trump has stepped up his attacks on the FBI, Justice Department and special counsel probe said the federal raid on his personal lawyer’s various properties, phones and computers. He also has hinted at firing Deputy Attorney General Andrew McCabe, who hired Mueller and oversees the special counsel investigation. 

The legislation would give any special counsel a 10-day window to seek expedited judicial review of a firing, and would put into law existing Justice Department regulations that require a firing to be for “good cause.”

Fusion GPS Fires Back at Trump Allies over Salacious Dossier

U.S. Capitol

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Fusion GPS, the research firm that funded the salacious and unsubstantiated “Steele dossier,” fired back at President Trump and his conservative allies, saying they are spinning “mendacious conspiracy theories” to distract from the substance of a serious special counsel probe.

Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, two former Wall Street Journal reporters who co-founded Fusion GPS in 2011, wrote a New York Times op-ed headlined “The Republicans’ Fake Investigations” to respond to increasing criticism from Trump supporters.

Saying Republicans have distorted details of the firm’s congressional testimony, the Fusion co-founders urged lawmakers to release testimony transcripts “so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most, important, what happened to our democracy.”

Trump supporters and some conservative lawmakers are trying to discredit the Russia-Trump investigation by claiming the probe was triggered by the controversial dossier.

“As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.”

In a bombshell New York Times report over the weekend, the newspaper revealed that the impetus for the investigation was actually an Australian diplomat who revealed that a Trump aide admitted he knew Russia had political “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

Jared Kushner Failed to Disclose Emails about Wikileaks, Russia from 2016

Jared Kushner

Jared Kushner

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a White House senior adviser, received emails last year about Wikileaks and a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite” without disclosing the information to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Politico reports

Kushner is accused of receiving the emails last September and forwarding them to another campaign official.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, saying that other witnesses have disclosed emails from Kushner that he didn’t turn over, sent a letter to Kushner about the missing documents.

“We appreciate your voluntary cooperation with the Committee’s investigation, but the production appears to have been incomplete,” the pair wrote in a letter dated Thursday to Kushner’s attorney, Abbe Lowell.

In a statement, Lowell said Kushner has been responsive to requests for records.

“We provided the Judiciary Committee with all relevant documents that had to do with Mr. Kushner’s calls, contacts or meetings with Russians during the campaign and transition, which was the request,” Lowell said, adding that he and Kushner had also told the committee they would be open to additional requests for information.

FBI Originally Accused Hillary Clinton of Gross Negligence in Handling of Emails

Hillary Clinton

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI originally characterized Hillary Clinton as “grossly negligent” for her handling of classified information, according to an early draft by then-FBI Director James Comey.

The language, which may have been strong enough to warrant charges, was softened to indicate Clinton had been “extremely careless” when Comey announced in July 2016 that no criminal charges would be filed against Clinton, The Hill reports

Federal law makes it a crime to handle classified material with gross negligence. 

Neither the FBI nor Clinton responded to questions for comments.

The memos were disclosed to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is investigating Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation.

“There is evidence to support a conclusion that Secretary Clinton, and others, used the email server in a manner that was grossly negligent with respect to the handling of classified information,” reads the statement, one of Comey’s earliest drafts from May 2, 2016.

For reasons that remain unclear, the draft statement was changed about a month later to conclude that Clinton’s use of an insecure personal email server was “extremely careless.”

Now the committee wants to know who made the changes and why.

“Apparently, as of May 2016, then-Director Comey and other FBI officials believed the facts fit that gross negligence standard until later edits were made,” Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote to Wray in the letter demanding more information.

Bills to Prevent Trump from Firing Special Counsel Run into Legal Hurdles

Robert Mueller, via FBI

Robert Mueller, via FBI

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Senators from both sides of the aisle are backing legislation to make it more difficult for President Trump to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

But the New York Post reports that the legislation “ran into legal hurdles Tuesday at the Senate Judiciary Committee.” 

The issue is whether the proposals are legal.

Akhil Reed Amar, a professor at Yale Law School and a Democrat, told the committee that the legislation likely won’t pass constitutional muster.

“I must sadly report as a scholar who has studied the Constitution I believe the bills in their current forms are unwise and unconstitutional. It gives me no pleasure to say this,” said Amar, who suggested instead a new bipartisan senatorial oversight panel.

University of Texas Law School Prof. Stephen Vladeck and University of Chicago Law School Prof. Eric Posner disagreed.

“I conclude that they do not violate the principles of separation of powers and, on the contrary, advance important constitutional values,” Posner testified.

Two bills are being considered by the committee.

“Both bills were introduced when media speculation was rampant that President Trump was contemplating firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller,” said Committee chair Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “The President has said that he does not intend to fire the special counsel, and I think that he made the right decision.”