Senate Republicans warn Trump not to pardon himself

By Seung Min Kim | The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Monday warned President Donald Trump, with varying degrees of alarm, against entertaining the prospect of pardoning himself of any federal crime — once again forcing members of his own party into an uncomfortable position as the president openly pondered another controversial move in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

In the past 24 hours, Trump and one of his attorneys, Rudy Giuliani, have argued that the president has expansive pardon powers but claimed he wouldn’t exercise that authority as Trump again openly vented about the Russia probe. That right to pardon was “absolute,” Trump insisted Monday morning in a barrage of tweets centered on the special counsel investigation.

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Nonetheless, those assertions from the president and his legal team gained little traction on Capitol Hill. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, noted that constitutional scholars have reached varying conclusions on whether a president can pardon himself, but she added that were she advising Trump, she would urge him to “never say another word about Bob Mueller’s investigation until it’s complete.”

“There’s no doubt that the president is not above the law,” Collins said Monday. “It would be a tremendous abuse of his authority if he were to do so, as well as remarkably unwise.”

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., stressed that the Constitution “doesn’t give carte blanche freedom to a president.” And Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who is leading his own investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, also took issue with Trump’s claim about his pardon powers.

“If I were president and somebody, some lawyer told me that I could do that, I’d hire a …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


Mueller’s team accuses Manafort of witness tampering

By Chad Day | Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller are accusing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of trying to tamper with witnesses in his ongoing criminal cases.

Mueller’s team says in a new court filing that Manafort and one of his associates “repeatedly” contacted two witnesses in an effort to influence their testimony. The contacts occurred while Manafort while under house arrest.

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The two witnesses are not named in court filings. But prosecutors say they worked with Manafort in organizing a group of former European officials who lobbied within the U.S. without registering.

Mueller’s team is asking a federal judge to hold a hearing to decide whether to revoke Manafort’s release. Manafort faces several felony charges in two federal cases. He has pleaded not guilty.

…read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


Analysis: With the White House, denials pile up before (eventually) the truth comes out

By Ashley Parker | Washington Post

WASHINGTON – Both President Donald Trump’s legal and political teams were vigorous in their denials: The president had absolutely not dictated a misleading statement on behalf of his oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., to explain away a controversial meeting he had with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower.

“Apart from being of no consequence, the characterizations are misinformed, inaccurate, and not pertinent,” Jay Sekulow, one Trump’s personal attorneys at the time, said in response to a Washington Post story last summer that first reported the president’s role in dictating his son’s response.

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And from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “He certainly didn’t dictate, but he – like I said, he weighed in, offered suggestion like any father would do.”

The only problem? That wasn’t the truth.

In a January memo to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, first reported by the New York Times on Saturday, two of Trump’s then-lawyers – including Sekulow – revealed that the president had, in fact, “dictated a short but accurate response” on behalf of Trump Jr.

And on ABC’s “This Week” last Sunday, when pressed about the shifting explanations, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani offered an inadvertent window into the White House’s credibility problem, quipping: “I mean, this is the reason you don’t let the president testify.”

The admission that Trump dictated his son’s statement is the latest example of where on a number of key issues – especially pegged to Mueller’s ongoing Russia probe and Trump’s legal woes – the White House and the president’s lawyers have offered contradicting stories and whipsaw about-faces, often revealing the truth only weeks later, when confronted with their inconsistencies.

“One of the challenges right …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


US Senator denied entry to immigrant detention facility in Texas

By Andrew Selsky | Associated Press

A United States senator tried to enter a federal facility in Texas where immigrant children are being held, but police were summoned and he was told to leave.

Sen. Jeff Merkley’s attempt late Sunday to enter the facility, and his request to speak to a manager, comes amid a national debate over the practice of separating families caught crossing the border illegally. A spokeswoman for the federal agency that is caring for the children accused the senator of grandstanding.

The children are being held in Brownsville, a city along the Mexican border, said Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon who live-streamed his arrival there on Facebook. He said no member of Congress has visited the facility, and that because U.S. citizens were financing it, he and the press should be able to see what conditions are like inside. The facility, run by a contractor, is in a former Wal-Mart with blacked-out windows.

“Every American citizen has a stake in how these children are being treated and how this policy is being enacted,” Merkley said. He said a new policy under President Donald Trump is “ripping away” children from immigrant families who have entered the country illegally or are seeking asylum here.

A supervisor, who finally emerged from the building, told Merkley he was not allowed to make any statements. He gave the senator a phone number of the public affairs office in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington.

Meanwhile, Brownsville police had shown up. One asked Merkley for his name and birth date. Merkley provided the information, and then tried to explain to the officer why he had come to the facility.

“The children who were previously kept with their families, under a new policy just implemented by the attorney general, are being separated from their families and …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


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