Franken Meticulously Dismantled Sessions’ Shifting Story on Russia. Then Sessions Made Things Worse

by Aaron Rupar – Under fire for moving the goalposts, Sessions moved them yet again. During a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) detailed how Attorney General Jeff Sessions has moved repeatedly the goalposts about his communications with Russians. Sessions responded by subtly moving the goalposts yet again. Sessions denied having any communications with Russians whatsoever during his conformation hearing in January. But under questioning by Franken on Wednesday, Sessions retreated all the way to merely denying “a continuing exchange of information” with Russian officials. The exchange came after Franken asked Sessions to explain the shifting statements he’s made since he told senators he “did not have communications with the Russians” during his conformation hearing in January. Less than two months later, Justice Department officials told the Washington Post that Sessions hadn’t told the truth — he had in fact met with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least...

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Prosecutor Takes Apart Donald Trump Jr’s Letter to Judiciary

by KevinNYC – Renato Mariotti is a former federal prosecutor who served in the United States Attorney’s Office in Chicago.  He has recently been commenting on twitter about the TrumpRussia case. @renato_mariotti He has a very keen legal eye and is very good at explaining how a prosecutor would approach Trump Russia investigation.  He has a piece at Just Security breaking down Donald Trump Jr.’s statement to the Senate Judiciary committee.  He does an excellent job of finding the implications in Trump’s very carefully lawyered letter.  It’s well worth reading the whole thing. Here’s a bit of his approach Trump:  As it later turned out, my skepticism was justified. The meeting provided no meaningful information    Mariotti:    Note that he does not say here that he didn’t receive information about Hillary Clinton, or other information from the Russian government. What he says is that he did not receive useful information. Some choice bits: Trump JR:  To the...

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Comey’s Testimony on Huma Abedin Forwarding Emails Was Inaccurate

by Peter Elkind, special to ProPublica – The FBI hasn’t decided how to correct the director’s false claim that she forwarded thousands of Clinton emails to the laptop computer of her husband, former Congressman Anthony Weiner. FBI director James Comey generated national headlines last week with his dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, explaining his “incredibly painful” decision to go public about the Hillary Clinton emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Perhaps Comey’s most surprising revelation was that Huma Abedin — Weiner’s wife and a top Clinton deputy — had made “a regular practice” of forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton messages to her husband, “some of which contain classified information.” Comey testified that Abedin had done this so that the disgraced former congressman could print them out for her boss. (Weiner’s laptop was seized after he came under criminal investigation for sex crimes, following a media report...

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Republican Senator Calls for Scrutiny of Trump’s Business Dealings in Russia

by Aaron Rupar – The former director of national intelligence’s comments during a hearing suggest they might already be under investigation. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says an exchange he had with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper during a hearing on Monday stoked his curiosity about President Trump’s shady business dealings in Russia. At one point during the hearing featuring Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, Graham asked Clapper if he ever encountered a situation where “a Trump business interest in Russia gave you concern.” “Not in the course of the intelligence community assessment,” Clapper replied, referring to the assessment he helped put together that detailed how Russian officials worked to help Trump get elected. “Since?” Graham followed up. “At all. Anytime.” Clapper’s response was definitely not a no. “Senator Graham, I can’t comment on that, because that impacts an investigation,” he said. Clapper’s response suggests there could...

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Sally Yates was Brilliant, Admirable, and Honest—but Will it Make a Difference

by Mark Sumner – After having originally being scheduled to speak in March, before Devin Nunes led the House Intelligence Committee down in flames, Sally Yates finally got the chance to appear before the public in a Senate hearing on Tuesday afternoon. Yates delivered a level of calm precision usually limited to surgical instruments as she laid out, step by step, the warnings she delivered to White House counsel Don McGahn concerning Michael Flynn. With Democrats providing on-topic questions, it became obvious that far from the casual “heads up” on the matter that the Trump regime had indicated, Yates and the Justice Department had provided a thorough and extensive briefing both on then National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s activities regarding Russia and the conflict between what Flynn had actually done and what was being said in public. In fact, the biggest actual news delivered during the testimony was the extent of Yates’...

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The Russia Investigation Could Finally Unlock Trump’s Tax Returns (VIDEOS)

by Aaron Rupar – It was a recurring theme during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing with FBI Director James Comey. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Democrats drew a connection between the tax returns President Donald Trump steadfastly refuses to release and the FBI’s investigation into potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. At one point during the hearing, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) noted that Russians “have a history of using financial investments to gain leverage over influential people and then calling in favors — we know that.” “We know that the Russians interference in our election and they did it to benefit President Trump — the intelligence agencies confirmed that,” he added. “But what I want to know is why they favored President Trump, and it seems to me that in order to answer that question, any investigation into whether the Trump campaign or Trump operation colluded with Russian operative would require a...

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Republicans Rebuked for Utter ‘Perversion of Constitutional Duties’

by Andrea Germanos – Scores of organizations representing a wide range of interests have denounced Republican obstructionism on a Supreme Court nominee, writing to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Republican members on Friday that its “unprecedented and destructive” decision represents “a dereliction of constitutional duty.” The letter (pdf) to committee chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and the other GOP members follows the body’s letter earlier this week declaring, “This committee will not hold hearings on any Supreme Court nominee until after our next president is sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017,” and stating that doing so was executing their “constitutional authority.” But such a claim, the 82 groups, which include Common Cause, Defenders of Wildlife, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the NAACP, write, “is a clear perversion of your constitutional duties as understood by almost every scholarly authority on the topic and by most Americans.” Their...

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Georgia ‘License To Discriminate’ Bill Forced Through Committee During Bathroom Break

By JACK JENKINS, Think Progress – Georgia Republicans have used a number of nefarious methods to get their way over the years, but earlier this week they busted out an especially sneaky new tactic: voting on legislation when Democrats are, um, temporarily indisposed. The incident occurred during a Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Monday, where assembled lawmakers discussed a number of proposed laws over the course of the day. Looming over the committee was S.B. 129, a controversial “religious liberty” bill that mirrors the federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, but that many argue could be used to discriminate against LGBT people. Committee Chairman Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) authored the bill, but it is opposed by Democrats such as Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), who tabled the proposed legislation when it was brought up to the committee last week. After several hours of deliberations at Monday’s committee meeting, however, the Atlanta Journal...

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