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22 января, 07:12

The 270 people connected to the Russia probes

A POLITICO analysis reveals that the investigations into the 2016 election and its aftermath now involve hundreds of people in Washington, Moscow and around the world.

22 января, 06:59

Shutdown throws Trump’s Davos trip into doubt

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A long list of Trump administration officials could be forced to skip their trip to the World Economic Forum as the shutdown drags on.

22 января, 03:26

Senator: FBI missing months of texts between officials involved in Trump, Clinton probes

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The FBI is missing five months of text messages between two senior officials who Republicans on Capitol Hill have accused of political bias, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) revealed in a letter to the bureau made public on Sunday.Republicans have been scrutinizing the text messages between senior counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page as part of their inquiry into whether bias infected the bureau's investigations into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state and into President Donald Trump's ties to Russia.Johnson, who leads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote to FBI Director Chris Wray with questions about the missing communication, which he said spanned Dec. 14, 2016 to May 17, 2017, the day Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.In his letter — delivered Saturday — Johnson said correspondence from the FBI a day earlier ascribed the missing text messages to "misconfiguration issues related to rollouts, provisioning, and software upgrades that conflicted with the FBI's collection capabilities.""The result was that data that should have been automatically collected and retained for long-term storage and retrieval was not collected," the FBI informed the committee, according to Johnson, who called the missing information "concerning." The missing texts were first reported by the Daily Caller.Johnson said the agency did turn over 384 pages of text messages last week between Strzok and Page. The Justice Department gave lawmakers about 375 texts in December. The pair has faced withering criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill after the earlier round of text messages, unearthed by DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz, revealed a series of anti-Trump exchanges, among criticism of politicians on both sides of the aisle.Republicans have pointed to the messages to claim that bias in the upper ranks of the FBI led officials to soft-pedal the investigation of Clinton's handling of classified information and to look into Trump allies' ties to Russia. Strzok had been tapped as a senior deputy in Mueller's criminal probe of the Russia matter but was later removed from the team.There's been no public evidence that Strzok or Page acted on their dislike of Trump to influence any aspects of the investigation. Johnson said in his letter that among the new texts produced to the committee, a May 4, 2016 exchange showed Strzok and Page were worried that Trump's likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president would increase pressure to complete "Midyear Exam," the shorthand name the bureau had given to the Clinton investigation. In July, Comey announced the FBI would not recommend that Clinton face charges over the email issue.In a July 1 exchange, the two officials also criticized then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch's decision to defer to the FBI's judgment on whether to charge Clinton. They suggested she already knew the bureau planned to recommend against charging Clinton."It's a real profile in couragw [sic]," Page wrote," since she knows no charges will be brought."Johnson asked Wray to reveal the "scope and scale of all records lost, destroyed, or otherwise alienated during the midyear examination investigation." He also asked whether the FBI had records of any other communications between Strzok and Page during the time period when their texts were lost, and he asked if the FBI had searched the two officials' personal devices for any additional communications that might be relevant.Josh Gerstein contributed reporting.

22 января, 02:55

Troops caught in shutdown crossfire

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Republicans on Sunday escalated their accusations that Democrats are abandoning the military, banking that the plight of unpaid troops on the front lines will be one of the GOP's most potent political weapons in the standoff over the government shutdown.The GOP coalesced around that message in statements by congressional leaders, tweets from President Donald Trump and an appearance Sunday by Vice President Mike Pence, who used a visit to American troops in the Middle East to accuse Democrats of holding the nation's warriors hostage to politics.“Despite bipartisan support for a budget resolution, a minority in the Senate has decided to play politics with military pay," Pence said at a base near the Syrian border. “But you deserve better. You and your families shouldn't have to worry about getting paid.”Democrats fired back by accusing Republicans of hypocrisy, noting that GOP leaders have blocked a stand-alone bill that would keep paychecks, bonuses, housing allowances and other benefits flowing to troops and their families. Congress took such a step when the last government shutdown in 2013 appeared imminent.But the Republicans' argument is a simpler one, and the political peril for Democrats could multiply if the impasse begins to have serious consequences on military readiness.“On the military part alone, I sense that Republicans have the upper hand tactically [and] rhetorically,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a defense specialist at the Brookings Institution. “But of course, tolerating a standoff hurts the military, too.”Democrats could be at a particular disadvantage following an NPR poll last week indicating the military is America’s most popular institution.“Americans hold a very high opinion of our nation’s military. The president and congressional Republicans are correctly defining the Senate Democrats’ filibuster as holding our military hostage while negotiating amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants,” Dan Holler, vice president of Heritage Action, the lobbying arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, told POLITICO. “That construct, especially with the president and most congressional Republicans signaling a desire to address DACA," he added, "leaves Democrats left to explain why the military should be denied funding at this moment.” The shutdown that began at midnight Friday means that active-duty troops and essential civilians are continuing to work but won’t get paid until Congress reaches a budget agreement. It also means that training is curtailed, thousands of civilian employees are furloughed, and even death benefits to the families of fallen troops could be temporarily withheld. More basic things like boosting the morale of the troops by broadcasting the NFL playoffs have also been affected — although the Pentagon on Sunday decided to rely on previously dispersed funds to make an exception for the football games.Still, even while the GOP has traditionally held the optical high ground politically when it comes to military affairs, it could overreach in this case, said other longtime observers of congressional budget battles centered on the military. For example, lawmakers faced a public outcry during the 2013 shutdown when the families of the soldiers killed in combat were deprived of their death benefits.“Both parties have shown a willingness in the past to shoot [the military] in the head , so Republicans just have better talking points this time around,” Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense policy fellow with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told POLITICO.At least one Democratic-leaning veterans' group Sunday criticized Pence’s appearance before the troops as doing exactly what he was accusing the Democrats of: politicizing the military."What a disgraceful moment, to use troops as a prop and say this, just after Republicans blocked [a] measure … that would ensure troops get paid on time,” tweeted the group VoteVets.org.But Pence’s new broadside, which he made while addressing American troops fighting the Islamic State, demonstrated that Republicans still think they have the upper hand.His allies back in Washington also kept up the fire.“This is the Democrats trying to hold our military hostage for an issue that has been with us for decades,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."The strategy may work — at least for a while longer.“I am with the Dems, on balance,” said O’Hanlon, “but I'm not sure the politics will really play to their favor, if their principal motivation in the standoff is seen as defending immigrants.”Still, several Democrats pointed out that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has broken with precedent by refusing to allow a standalone vote on legislation to keep paying the troops.“It seems like that would have been a reasonable precaution to take ahead of this shutdown, but with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, they haven't done it,” Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, told POLITICO. “I don't know if it's just incompetence or what, but it's not the best way to prioritize our service members."On Friday, McConnell blocked such a measure from being considered on the Senate floor.“Sen. Claire McCaskill offered a unanimous consent request so that there would be no interruption, none whatsoever, in the payment of the men and women in the military in service to our country,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Sunday on “This Week.”“Sen. McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, objected,” he added. “Now that's a matter of record. So we don't want to in any way diminish our commitment to our troops start to finish.”In blocking military pay legislation, McConnell indicated lawmakers could reassess the measure if the shutdown dragged on."My hope is that we can restore funding for the entire government before this becomes necessary," he said after midnight Friday. "I'm going to object for tonight, but we'll discuss again tomorrow."There is also support for such a move among House Republicans. Legislation introduced in the House last week would guarantee paychecks for certain members of the military, civilian employees and contractors.But that hasn’t been considered, either. The Pay Our Troops Act introduced Tuesday by Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), would finance salaries and allowances for active-duty service troops and members of the Reserve and National Guard who are on active duty or engaged in certain training. It would also provide pay for some civilian Pentagon employees and contractors who are supporting them.

22 января, 01:08

Shutdown politics weigh on State of the Union preparations

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The theme and tone of the speech are now 'in flux' because of the shutdown, one White House official said.

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22 января, 00:59

McMaster makes his pick to replace Powell on the NSC

Nadia Schadlow will beef up the academic credentials on the team but leaves the national security adviser without an insider to guide him through Trump world.

22 января, 00:22

Trump aide tries to distance White House from ad attacking Democrats

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A top White House aide on Sunday tried to distance the administration from an online ad accusing Democrats who oppose President Donald Trump's immigration policies of being "complicit" in murders committed by undocumented immigrants.On Saturday, the president's reelection campaign released the ad titled "Complicit," which hammers Democrats for opposing Trump's proposed border wall and other unspecified border security measures. "Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants," an announcer says over images of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).Democrats and Republicans have been at odds over immigration, culminating in a government shutdown this weekend. But Republican leaders have shied away from backing the online ad."It's done from a political organization," White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday. "It's not done from people working inside the White House."When pressed on whether the tone of the ad was helpful given that the administration needs support from Senate Democrats to reopen the government, Short said, "I'm telling you, the data of the ad shows that there are people coming across our border that pose threats to our country." While the administration has said it will not negotiate immigration policies during the shutdown, the topic remains a key point of contention for Democrats. They have said any legislation to fund the government should extend Obama-era protections for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors.As lawmakers look for a solution to the shutdown before Monday, when most federal employees would normally go back to work, Paul Ryan told CBS’ "Face the Nation" he wasn't sure the Trump campaign ad was "productive."

21 января, 23:04

Graham tees off on Stephen Miller over immigration

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The South Carolina Republican says President Donald Trump is being ill-served by his staff in shutdown talks.