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National Govt & Politics
Lingering questions left over from the Mueller Report
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Lingering questions left over from the Mueller Report

Lingering questions left over from the Mueller Report

Lingering questions left over from the Mueller Report

As reporters, politicians, legal experts, and members of both political parties spent the weekend going over the impact of the 448 page redacted version of the Mueller Report, it was obvious from the political and legal reactions that the fight over what Russia did in the 2016 elections - and how the Trump Campaign and President Donald Trump dealt with that - was not going to be ending anytime soon.

"There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians,” President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CNN's 'State of the Union' on Sunday, as Republicans continue to press the case that the Mueller Report absolves the President of any and all wrongdoing.

"We need to go back and look at how this fake “Russia Collusion” narrative started," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), as Republicans looked to move on from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and to focus on investigating the investigators.

Meanwhile, Democrats were mulling over their own options, which certainly seem to include more hearings in Congress on what was revealed by the Mueller Report, tugging the story in the exact opposite direction.

Democrats pointed to comments from Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who said the Mueller Report showed a 'pervasiveness of dishonesty' inside the Trump White House.

Here's some things which may get some attention in the weeks and months ahead:

1. GOP still wants answers on the Steele Dossier. If you were looking for the Special Counsel's office to detail how the Steele Dossier had factored into the Russia investigation, there was precious little in the Mueller Report. The dossier was directly mentioned 14 times, but there was no mention of it contributing anything directly to the findings of the report. The Special Counsel report says nothing about the dossier as the reason for starting a counter-intelligence investigation, instead making clear that it was information from Trump Campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos which was the genesis. "On July 31, 2016, based on the foreign government rep01ting, the FBI opened an investigation into potential coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign," the report states on page 14. But the Mueller Report does not address one key question - was the Steele Dossier just another effort by Moscow to disrupt the 2016 elections? This is where Republicans say they want answers - they can hold hearings in the U.S. Senate, if they wish.

2. Michael Cohen again demands retraction over Prague story. One item in the Steele Dossier which has often caused a media furor is over the assertion that President Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen went to the Czech Republic on some sort of mission for the President during the 2016 campaign. Cohen has always denied it, and repeated that in testimony before Congress earlier this year. "Have you ever been to Prague?" Cohen was asked. "I've never been to Prague," Cohen responded without missing a beat. "I've never been to the Czech Republic." The Mueller Report was clear that Cohen was believed over Steele. "Cohen had never traveled to Prague and was not concerned about those allegations, which he believed were provably false," the report says on page 351. On Friday, Cohen again said he was still waiting for a retraction by McClatchy Newspapers.

3. Why did Donald Trump Jr. not answer questions from Mueller? While President Trump's son has steadfastly defended his father throughout the Mueller investigation, and testified to the Congress about the Russia probe, the Special Counsel report notes that Trump Jr. did not directly aid the Mueller investigation, specifically on the infamous Trump Tower meeting. "The Office spoke to every participant except Veselnitskaya (a Russian lawyer) and Trump, Jr., the latter of whom declined to be interviewed by the Office" - then, the next two sentences are redacted, with the explanation on page 125 that grand jury information is responsible for the redacation. In a later discussion of how President Trump handled publicity about the Trump Tower meeting, there is a redaction which involves Trump Jr. on grand jury grounds - does it indicate again that Trump Jr. did not answer questions? It's not clear because of the blacked out material - but the President's son never seemingly answered questions from Mueller's team or a federal grand jury.

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Lingering questions leftover from the Mueller Report

4. A Trump tweet that was redacted in the Mueller Report. This seems sort of crazy, but it's true. On page 363 of the report, Mueller discusses President Trump denouncing Michael Cohen, when his former personal attorney had moved to plead guilty and cooperate with the feds. "He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion serve a full and complete sentence," the President tweeted. Then there is a section which is blacked out under, "Harm to Ongoing Matter." But if you look at the footnote, it refers to a tweet by Mr. Trump, at 10:48 am on December 3, 2018. It's not hard to figure out which tweet that was, as it was one in which the President talks about Roger Stone not flipping and cooperating with the feds. I'm not a lawyer, so it makes no sense to me that printing that tweet could interfere with an ongoing case, but that's one of the redactions made by the Justice Department.

5. When will Robert Mueller talk in public? Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have already sent a letter to Special Counsel Robert Mueller asking him to testify before Congress on his report. Last week, the Attorney General said he would have no opposition to Mueller testifying. Mueller operated in a much different way than previous high-profile independent prosecutors - go back to Watergate and you will see news conferences by Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski; Ken Starr spoke to the press during the Whitewater investigation. But Robert Mueller has been totally silent, ignoring questions on his few visits to Capitol Hill, doing no interviews and saying nothing in public. An effort to get some remarks from him on Sunday after church netted only a 'no comment' - which is pretty much the most we have heard from Mueller during his almost 22 months as Special Counsel.

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  • A senior White House official on Sunday confirmed that President Donald Trump has raised the issue of the United States possibly trying to buy the island of Greenland from Denmark, even though Danish officials say the North Atlantic outpost is not for sale. 'Greenland is a strategic place,' top economic adviser Larry Kudlow said at the end of an interview with Fox News Sunday, acknowledging that the President is interested. 'The President - who knows a thing or two about buying real estate - wants to take a look,' Kudlow added. The comments came even as officials in Denmark and Greenland said the island was not for sale. Kudlow noted that President Harry Truman had raised the same possibility when he was in office, but the idea went nowhere. 'We're open for business, not for sale,' said Greenland's official representative to the U.S. in a tweet. Reaction from Congress to the news reports about the idea of buying Greenland was muted. GOP Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee said on Twitter that he wouldn't support such an idea during a time of budget deficits. “I think it's Trump's Folly,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). The New York Daily News may have had the most fun with the story, printing a headline on Saturday which echoed one of the tabloid's most famous headlines ever.
  • The maker of the painkiller OxyContin has agreed to provide access to proprietary research and other data to researchers at Oklahoma State University. The goal is to find causes and treatments for drug addiction.  Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma announced the agreement Thursday in a statement with the university.  Purdue said it will provide Oklahoma State's National Center for Wellness & Recovery access to 'research molecules and certain associated data' that will help with research into addiction. Purdue settled a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma for $270 million.  
  • In the aftermath of the mass shootings this month in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee will meet in early September to act on a series of gun control measures, including ten round limits on ammunition magazines, red flag laws, and adding new reasons for blocking someone from buying a firearm. 'For far too long, politicians in Washington have only offered thoughts and prayers in the wake of gun violence tragedies,' said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. 'Democrats in the House will continue to make good on our promise to work to keep our communities safe,' Nadler added, trying to put more pressure on Senate Republicans to act on gun bills approved by the House. 'House Democrats are serious about protecting our communities from the epidemic of gun violence,' said Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV). 'All of these gun violence prevention bills would save lives, and it’s really important that the House is taking action,' said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). 'We must act now to end the epidemic of gun violence in our country and keep our kids safe,' said freshman Rep. Joe Negeuse (D-CO). Democrats also tried to turn up the heat on GOP leaders in the Senate, where a bill to expand background checks to all private gun sales has been languishing for months. 'The Majority Leader should call the Senate back to Washington to debate and vote on gun violence legislation,' said Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). Some Democrats also want to force a vote on banning certain assault weapons - Congress approved such a measure back in 1994, but the expired after ten years. While the Congress isn't back for votes until the week of September 9, the announcement by the House Judiciary Committee will bring lawmakers back just after Labor Day for committee work - with the goal of votes on the various gun bills in the House later that month. 'Our community is relying on us to pass gun safety legislation, which is why we need a federal red flag policy to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,' said Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA). Some Republicans quickly made clear their opposition to some of the gun plans from Democrats. 'The problem with Red Flag laws is you’re guilty until proven innocent,' said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). President Donald Trump has held talks with some Democrats on the issue of expanding background checks, but his language at a campaign rally on Thursday night in Manchester, New Hampshire did not signal any compromise on guns, as he focused more on the issue of mental health. “It's not the gun that pulls the trigger. It's the person holding the gun,” the President said. The bills on the schedule in September before the House Judiciary Committee include: + H.R. 1186, the Keep Americans Safe Act. This bill would ban high capacity ammunition magazines. + H.R. 1236, the Extreme Risk Protector Order Act, designed to help states formulate 'Red Flag' laws. + H.R. 3076, the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, which would allow people to go into federal court to take a firearm away from a mentally unstable person. H.R. 2708, the Disarm Hate Act, which would add misdemeanor hate crimes to the list of items disqualifying someone from buying a weapon, under the current background check system. H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, which stems from the mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. In that case, the shooter was able to buy his firearms - even though he would have failed the background check - because the feds did not conduct a check within three business days. = Click here to read more stories from Jamie Dupree.
  • Aiming to put his mark on the world map, President Donald Trump has talked to aides and allies about buying Greenland for the U.S. A Trump ally told The Associated Press on Thursday that the president had discussed the purchase but was not serious about it. And a Republican congressional aide said Trump brought up the notion of purchasing Greenland in conversations with lawmakers enough times to make them wonder, but they have not taken his comments seriously. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Still, it wouldn’t be the first time an American leader tried to buy the world’s largest island, an autonomous territory of Denmark. In 1946, the U.S. proposed to pay Denmark $100 million to buy Greenland after flirting with the idea of swapping land in Alaska for strategic parts of the Arctic island. Neither the White House nor Denmark immediately commented Thursday. Trump is set to visit Denmark next month. The story was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
  • A day after the Israeli government refused to allow two Democrats in Congress to visit that nation this weekend, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) rejected a separate offer to visit her 90 year old grandmother on the West Bank, because Israeli officials would not allow her to speak out against the policies of the Netanyahu government during that trip. 'I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in - fighting against racism, oppression & injustice,' Tlaib wrote Friday morning on Twitter. 'Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me,' Tlaib said. The decision by the Michigan Democrat came a day after Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) had been blocked by Israel from an official visit - but then, the Israeli government allowed Tlaib to visit, only if she did not voice her support for efforts to boycott Israel. In the end, Tlaib backed out. In order to visit the West Bank, Tlaib had to promise not to engage in criticism of the Israeli government. 'I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my vist,' Tlaib wrote in a letter to the Israeli Interior Minister on Thursday. But in the end, Tlaib could not stomach those restrictions, even as she said, 'This could be my last opportunity' to see her aging grandmother. - Click here to read more stories from Jamie Dupree.

Washington Insider

  • A senior White House official on Sunday confirmed that President Donald Trump has raised the issue of the United States possibly trying to buy the island of Greenland from Denmark, even though Danish officials say the North Atlantic outpost is not for sale. 'Greenland is a strategic place,' top economic adviser Larry Kudlow said at the end of an interview with Fox News Sunday, acknowledging that the President is interested. 'The President - who knows a thing or two about buying real estate - wants to take a look,' Kudlow added. The comments came even as officials in Denmark and Greenland said the island was not for sale. Kudlow noted that President Harry Truman had raised the same possibility when he was in office, but the idea went nowhere. 'We're open for business, not for sale,' said Greenland's official representative to the U.S. in a tweet. Reaction from Congress to the news reports about the idea of buying Greenland was muted. GOP Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee said on Twitter that he wouldn't support such an idea during a time of budget deficits. “I think it's Trump's Folly,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). The New York Daily News may have had the most fun with the story, printing a headline on Saturday which echoed one of the tabloid's most famous headlines ever.
  • In the aftermath of the mass shootings this month in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee will meet in early September to act on a series of gun control measures, including ten round limits on ammunition magazines, red flag laws, and adding new reasons for blocking someone from buying a firearm. 'For far too long, politicians in Washington have only offered thoughts and prayers in the wake of gun violence tragedies,' said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. 'Democrats in the House will continue to make good on our promise to work to keep our communities safe,' Nadler added, trying to put more pressure on Senate Republicans to act on gun bills approved by the House. 'House Democrats are serious about protecting our communities from the epidemic of gun violence,' said Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV). 'All of these gun violence prevention bills would save lives, and it’s really important that the House is taking action,' said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). 'We must act now to end the epidemic of gun violence in our country and keep our kids safe,' said freshman Rep. Joe Negeuse (D-CO). Democrats also tried to turn up the heat on GOP leaders in the Senate, where a bill to expand background checks to all private gun sales has been languishing for months. 'The Majority Leader should call the Senate back to Washington to debate and vote on gun violence legislation,' said Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). Some Democrats also want to force a vote on banning certain assault weapons - Congress approved such a measure back in 1994, but the expired after ten years. While the Congress isn't back for votes until the week of September 9, the announcement by the House Judiciary Committee will bring lawmakers back just after Labor Day for committee work - with the goal of votes on the various gun bills in the House later that month. 'Our community is relying on us to pass gun safety legislation, which is why we need a federal red flag policy to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,' said Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA). Some Republicans quickly made clear their opposition to some of the gun plans from Democrats. 'The problem with Red Flag laws is you’re guilty until proven innocent,' said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). President Donald Trump has held talks with some Democrats on the issue of expanding background checks, but his language at a campaign rally on Thursday night in Manchester, New Hampshire did not signal any compromise on guns, as he focused more on the issue of mental health. “It's not the gun that pulls the trigger. It's the person holding the gun,” the President said. The bills on the schedule in September before the House Judiciary Committee include: + H.R. 1186, the Keep Americans Safe Act. This bill would ban high capacity ammunition magazines. + H.R. 1236, the Extreme Risk Protector Order Act, designed to help states formulate 'Red Flag' laws. + H.R. 3076, the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, which would allow people to go into federal court to take a firearm away from a mentally unstable person. H.R. 2708, the Disarm Hate Act, which would add misdemeanor hate crimes to the list of items disqualifying someone from buying a weapon, under the current background check system. H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, which stems from the mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. In that case, the shooter was able to buy his firearms - even though he would have failed the background check - because the feds did not conduct a check within three business days. = Click here to read more stories from Jamie Dupree.
  • A day after the Israeli government refused to allow two Democrats in Congress to visit that nation this weekend, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) rejected a separate offer to visit her 90 year old grandmother on the West Bank, because Israeli officials would not allow her to speak out against the policies of the Netanyahu government during that trip. 'I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in - fighting against racism, oppression & injustice,' Tlaib wrote Friday morning on Twitter. 'Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me,' Tlaib said. The decision by the Michigan Democrat came a day after Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) had been blocked by Israel from an official visit - but then, the Israeli government allowed Tlaib to visit, only if she did not voice her support for efforts to boycott Israel. In the end, Tlaib backed out. In order to visit the West Bank, Tlaib had to promise not to engage in criticism of the Israeli government. 'I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my vist,' Tlaib wrote in a letter to the Israeli Interior Minister on Thursday. But in the end, Tlaib could not stomach those restrictions, even as she said, 'This could be my last opportunity' to see her aging grandmother. - Click here to read more stories from Jamie Dupree.
  • Offering no evidence to support a charge of major election fraud in the 2016 elections, President Donald Trump again claimed on Thursday that he lost the state of New Hampshire to Hillary Clinton because of widespread illegal voting, which he said involved 'thousands and thousands' of people coming in from other states to cast ballots against him. 'New Hampshire was taken away, it was taken away from us,' the President said at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire.  'We should have won New Hampshire,' he told the crowd. Before flying to New Hampshire, the President made the same claim - again without any evidence - as he stood on the tarmac before boarding Air Force One. 'New Hampshire should have been won last time, except we had a lot of people come in at the last moment,' as the President once again repeated a conspiracy theory that voters from Massachusetts and other states came en masse to New Hampshire to vote against him in 2016. Granite State officials said last year there was no evidence to support Mr. Trump's claim of fraud. Back in 2018, Mr. Trump told reporters that Massachusetts voters came 'by the hundreds' in buses to vote against him - this time, he said it was in the 'thousands.' 'Thousands and thousands of people, coming in from locations unknown,' the President added, as he ignored questions from reporters about where the illegal voters were from. In 2018, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner undertook a full review of the votes cast in New Hampshire in the 2016 election - flagging 142 cases of possible fraud, not the 'thousands' President Trump has talked about. The New Hampshire Attorney General's office in 2018 found there were examples of buses with out-of-state license plates transporting voters to the polls - but no evidence that the voters on board those buses were from actually from Maine, Vermont, or Massachusetts. During his time in office, President Trump has repeatedly raised questions about voter fraud, claiming in February of 2019 that there was widespread evidence in California of illegal voting. 'They found a million fraudulent votes,' the President told reporters at the White House, after being asked about a GOP election fraud case which invalidated a Congressional race won by Republicans in North Carolina. But instead of fraudulent votes being cast, California has been removing over 1 million 'inactive' voters from the rolls - people who were registered to vote, but who had not cast a ballot in several elections. Just this week, the President re-tweeted a claim from a conservative activist, Charlie Kirk, that said the state of California has more people registered than the number of eligible voters. But the facts don't back that up. 'I'll retweet this stupidity and debunk it, only because the President retweeted it,' said elections expert Tom Bonier on Tuesday, as he showed how Kirk was talking about 'inactive' registered voters. 'Inactive, meaning they haven't voted (and often their mail ballots have been returned as undeliverable),' Bonier tweeted.
  • The race for President in the Democratic Party shrank on Thursday, as former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced that he was ending his long shot bid for the White House, unable to get any traction in the polls and debates with his more moderate brand of politics. 'In almost every regard, this journey has been more exciting and more rewarding than I ever imagined,' Hickenlooper said in a video released by his campaign. 'Although, of course, I did imagine a very different conclusion,' Hickenlooper said with a smile. In the first debates in June and July, Hickenlooper had made little in the way of any impact on the Democratic race, as he tried to argue that his colleagues were moving too far to the left on a number of issues. 'I think that the bottom line is, if we don't clearly define that we are not socialists, the Republicans are going to come at us every way they can and call us socialists,' Hickenlooper said in the first NBC debate in Miami. Hickenlooper repeatedly tried to break through in the debates with that more moderate message. 'I share their progressive values, but I'm a little more pragmatic,' Hickenlooper said in the CNN Democratic debate in Detroit, as he made the case that Democrats needed to slow down on the Green New Deal and Medicare For All. 'Last year Democrats flipped 40 Republican seats in the House, and not one of those 40 Democrats supported the policies of our front-runners at center stage,' Hickenlooper said at the CNN debate, as he criticized major changes in health care proposed by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and others. 'You might as well Fed Ex the election to Donald Trump,' Hickenlooper said at the CNN debate. Unless there had been some kind of miraculous change in the trajectory of his candidacy, Hickenlooper was not going to qualify for the next two debates, as he was not registering in the polls, and not raising enough money. The Wall Street Journal also reported that Hickenlooper had spent more money in the last quarter than he raised - another red flag about a campaign which wasn't catching on. The lack of momentum for Hickenlooper was crystallized in a quiet moment at the CNN debate in Detroit that I witnessed. After participating in the first night of the CNN debate, Hickenlooper arrived at the press filing center the next morning to do interviews, but he attracted little in the way of attention from reporters as he walked through the work space with an aide. After chatting with former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Hickenlooper sat down at a press table to watch experts on CNN go over the first debate night. As he sat and watched the TV, his name wasn't mentioned for almost 15 minutes. To have candidates drop out at this point in the race for President is nothing unusual; it was happening four years ago at this time in the GOP race as well.