CIA Director Mike Pompeo faces the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, the first test of his nomination to be secretary of state, and with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) a "no" vote and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) out for cancer treatment, he is going to need Democratic support. In prepared remarks, Pompeo, a Republican former congressman from Kansas, emphasizes his plans to restore morale to and fully staff the State Department, touts his close relationship with President Trump, denies that he is overly hawkish, and says he plans to fix the Iran nuclear deal, which he has previous backed scrapping entirely.
Pompeo's confirmation hearing was already going to be tough, but on Wednesday evening, McClatchy DC reported that Pompeo did not disclose his ties to a Chinese state petroleum company in his background form to head the CIA. Juan Pachon, a spokesman for Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, told McClatchy that committee staff are aware that Pompeo had ties to Sinopec, an oil and gas giant whose majority owner is state-owned China Petrochemical Corporation. "We expect Director Pompeo to be able to explain exactly what financial entanglement he had with the Chinese government and why he failed to disclose it," Pachon said.
Pompeo was president of oilfield equipment maker Sentry International from 2006 until his election to the House in 2010, and in 2006, he registered SJ Petro Pump Investment LLC, McClatchy reports. SJ Petro, or SJ Petroleum Machinery Co., is a subsidiary of Sinopec, which agreed to help develop a $43 billion natural gas project in Alaska last November and is currently lobbying the U.S. government. Pompeo's "former business partners (Sinopec) are spending more than $30,000 a month lobbying the Trump administration," said Harrell Kirstein at American Bridge 21st Century, which opposes Pompeo's nomination, "and probably drooling over the idea of installing their pal as secretary of state." Read more at McClatchy DC. Peter Weber
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway violated federal law when she weighed in on Alabama's special Senate election in two televised interviews last fall, the U.S. Official of Special Counsel said Tuesday. Conway appeared in interviews on Fox News' Fox & Friends and CNN's New Day in which she urged voters to support Republican candidate Roy Moore over Democrat Doug Jones, the contest's eventual winner. In doing so, she "impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about candidates," the OSC wrote.
The law Conway ran afoul of is the Hatch Act, which prohibits executive branch employees from engaging in certain partisan activities. Because Conway was appearing in the interviews — with Fox News in November and CNN in December — in her official capacity as counselor to the president, her advocacy for Moore and against Jones in those appearances was unlawful, the OSC wrote.
The OSC is an independent investigative arm for the federal government and is separate from the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which falls under the Justice Department's purview. The OSC said it "gave Conway the opportunity to respond to the allegations" during its investigation, as well as upon completion of its report, but that "she did not respond." Read the OSC's full release below. Kimberly Alters
JUST IN: Office of Special Counsel finds Kellyanne Conway twice violated the Hatch Act and "submitted the report to the President for appropriate disciplinary action." pic.twitter.com/N6kyhhqdrW
— ABC News (@ABC) March 6, 2018
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has some serious concerns about Donald Trump. Or rather, he did, way back in the long-ago time of February 2016, before Trump won the presidency and tapped Pruitt to lead the environmental agency.
Appearing on The Pat Campbell Show, a talk show in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, market, Pruitt — then the state's attorney general — predicted that Trump would "use executive power to confront Congress in a way that is truly unconstitutional" were he to win the presidency. At the time, Politico notes, Pruitt was an adviser to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who was vying for the Republican nomination against Trump.
Pruitt's remarks were publicized Tuesday by the watchdog group Documented. During his appearance, Pruitt also unfavorably compared Trump to then-President Barack Obama. When host Pat Campbell remarked that "everything that we loathe and detest about Barack Obama and the abuses of power, Donald Trump is the same thing except he's our bully," Pruitt replied, "That's right."
The future EPA chief also agreed with Campbell's assessment of Trump as "dangerous." At one point, Pruitt prophesied that Trump "would be more abusive to the Constitution than Barack Obama."
Pruitt was asked about the comments during a Senate hearing Tuesday and claimed to not remember making any such remarks, Politico reports. He did, however, subsequently release a glowing statement about his boss: "After meeting him, and now having the honor of working for him, it is abundantly clear that President Trump is the most consequential leader of our time," he said. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Stephen Bannon did the one thing he wasn't supposed to do during his House Intelligence Committee hearing
It apparently only took an hour and a half for Stephen Bannon to crack himself like an egg during his hearing with the House Intelligence Committee.
Axios reported Wednesday that Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, accidentally told congressional investigators about his time working for the Trump administration, despite the fact that he'd been instructed not to by the White House. Bannon was less than 90 minutes into his hearing, Axios claimed, when he mentioned discussions he had with White House officials about the infamous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower where Donald Trump Jr. tried to get opposition research on Hillary Clinton from a Russian lawyer.
The Trump Tower meeting "has become one of the most important focal points of the Russia investigation," Axios explained, given reports that President Trump himself helped draft a misleading statement responding to the news after the meeting was first revealed by The New York Times last July. The White House's involvement in the creation of that statement could illuminate whether the Trump campaign tried to collude with Russia and whether the White House lied about those attempts, Axios explained.
Bannon declined to elaborate on his accidental disclosure, repeatedly invoking executive privilege. He additionally faced tough questioning from Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) about comments he'd made in Michael Wolff's book, Fire and Fury, where he'd claimed the Trump Jr. meeting was "treasonous." Read more about Bannon's rocky testimony at Axios. Kelly O'Meara Morales
President Trump surprised White House aides when he invited the press in to watch him negotiate immigration policy with Democrats and Republicans for 55 minutes on Tuesday, and the point seemed to be "to show that he could do his job," The Washington Post reports, after a week dominated by the Michael Wolff book Fire and Fury, which suggests otherwise. Trump "demonstrated stability, although not necessarily capability," write Post reporters Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker, and he left his audience with "a cliffhanger": What is going on with immigration legislation?
At one point, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Trump if he would support "a clean DACA bill now, with a commitment that we go into a comprehensive immigration reform procedure," and Trump replied, "Yeah, I would like to do that. I think a lot of people would like to see that." Senate Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), looking alarmed, jumped in to explain that a "clean" DACA bill would solve only the DREAMer issue, not border security.
Watch President Trump and congressional leaders debate immigration policy pic.twitter.com/QSnhJmhfnF
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) January 9, 2018
By the end, Trump appeared to agree with McCarthy. "I think a clean DACA bill to me is a DACA bill, but we take care of the 800,000 people," Trump said. "But I think to me, a clean bill is a bill of DACA — we take care of them, and we also take care of security." Still, the Post notes:
McCarthy apparently was not the only one concerned by Trump’s seeming agreement with Feinstein. When the White House released its official transcript Tuesday afternoon, the president’s line — “Yeah, I would like to do it” — was missing. A White House official said that any omission from the transcript was unintentional and that the context of the conversation was clear. [The Washington Post]
FBI documents show deputy director was not involved in Clinton investigation during wife's run for office, despite Trump's claims
On Friday, the FBI threw cold water on one of President Trump's favorite conspiracy claims when it released 13 pages of documents that assert that Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe did not take a managing role in the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails while his wife was running for office.
McCabe's wife Jill launched a campaign for Virginia's state Senate in 2015, during which she received almost half a million dollars in donations from the political action committee of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), a longtime friend of the Clintons. Republicans have alleged that because of that donation from McAuliffe, McCabe went easy on Clinton during the investigation into the former Democratic presidential candidate's private email server.
But the documents released Friday show McCabe did not join the email investigation until February 2016, three months after his wife had lost her bid for Virginia Senate. The FBI documents additionally show that during his wife's campaign, McCabe — who was not yet deputy director of the bureau — was warned of the possible appearance of impropriety if he worked on public corruption cases in Northern Virginia. "Out of an abundance of caution," the FBI said in April 2015, McCabe was "excluded … in all such cases."
Trump has long taken issue with McCabe's role in the Clinton investigation, implying that McAuliffe's donations to McCabe's wife's campaign actually came from the Clintons. In July, the president took to Twitter to ask why Attorney General Jeff Sessions had not yet fired McCabe.
FBI officials warned Donald Trump that foreign countries like Russia would try to "infiltrate" his campaign as far back as August 2016, NBC News reported Monday. Then the Republican presidential candidate facing off against Hillary Clinton, Trump was apparently briefed on the possibility just weeks after he officially won the GOP nomination.
NBC News reports that counterintelligence officials asked both Clinton and Trump to tell the FBI about any unsavory outreach from foreign actors. Trump most likely received his briefing after Aug. 17, 2016, NBC News reports, by which point several Trump campaign officials had already had the type of interactions that the FBI would be curious about; Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting at Trump Tower with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, for example, occurred in June of that year, even though it was not publicly known until The New York Times reported on it this past July.
Former FBI counterintelligence agent Frank Montoya told NBC News that the intelligence community was "aware of contacts" between Trump campaign officials and Russia prior to Trump's briefing, and claimed officials downplayed that knowledge to Trump so as not "to compromise the investigation." Montoya additionally claimed that if Trump's team was indeed warned of potential foreign interference and then stood by as it appeared to occur, that could be a problem. "If we're telling these guys stuff and they are not acting on it, then we're going to keep that as evidence," Montoya said.
A White House spokesperson downplayed the report and said it was "hardly a news story," citing the fact that both Trump and Clinton were briefed on the matter. Clinton's team did not respond to an NBC News request for comment. Read the full story at NBC News. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Sean Hannity asks the media to forget Manafort, focus on what 'President Clinton' knew about Uranium One
Sean Hannity did not ignore Monday's indictments and guilty plea of President Trump's former campaign officials on his Fox News show, explaining why onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's alleged financial crimes won't hurt Trump and shrugging off the guilty plea and federal cooperation of a Trump campaign adviser. "George Papadopoulos, he admitted, okay, he lied to the FBI — I think he's 29 years old," Hannity said, before insisting that until Monday, he'd never heard of the campaign adviser who confessed to trying to hook Trump up with Russian "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.
Hannity suggests that Papadopoulos lied to the FBI because of his youth pic.twitter.com/aYUU97s7hx
— Claudia Koerner (@ClaudiaKoerner) October 31, 2017
But soon enough, Hannity got to the real story: "So now that we have no Trump collusion, here's what we do have tonight. This is what the media will ignore, this is what matters, these are the facts, this is where the evidence comes in: What did Hill— President Clinton, or President Clinton-wannabe, President Obama, and key members of the administration, what did they know about the Uranium One scandal?"
Hannity just called Hillary Clinton "President Clinton" pic.twitter.com/AshAP2mnAx
— TheResistance Report (@AntiTrumpReport) October 31, 2017
Maybe he and Joy Reid at MSNBC could have a chat. On a related note, you can watch Fox News host Greg Gutfeld try to explain Hillary Clinton's obsession with Fox News below. Peter Weber
— Fox News (@FoxNews) October 30, 2017