Firm responsible for Trump dossier refuses to comply with House intelligence committee subpoenas

WASHINGTON— A political research firm behind a dossier of allegations about President Donald Trump’s connections to Russia is balking at subpoenas from the House intelligence committee, with a lawyer for the firm questioning the legitimacy of the panel’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Joshua Levy, a lawyer for Fusion GPS, said in a letter to the panel Monday that House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes is acting “in bad faith.” Nunes stepped back from the Russia investigation after criticism he was too close to the White House, but is still chairman of the panel and signs its subpoenas. Levy signaled that the company won’t cooperate with the panel. He said in the letter that if any of the employees subpoenaed — Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson and two others with the firm — are compelled to appear before the committee, they will exercise their Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to testify. He also portrayed the subpoena as an attack on their free speech rights. In a statement, Levy said Nunes “would rather use his office to learn about who funded opposition research on Donald Trump than whether the Russian government interfered with our election. Americans of all political stripes should find his actions chilling.” The dossier contends that the Russian government had amassed compromising information about Trump and had been engaged in a years-long effort to support and assist him. The document circulated among Washington journalists last year and was provided to the FBI. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators — who are probing whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the election — have spoken with the former British spy who helped compile it, The Associated Press has reported. At a White House news conference on Monday, Trump said that though he would like for the Russia investigation to come to an Continue Reading

Rep. Devin Nunes on stepping away from House Intel Committee’s Russia probe: ‘I can do whatever I want’

When you’re the chairman, they let you do it. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes on Monday drew a sharp distinction between stepping aside from the Russia investigation and actually recusing himself — stressing that technically, he could resume heading up the probe as he pleases. “I can do whatever I want, I’m the chairman of the committee,” the California Republican told CNN. “I voluntarily, temporarily stepped aside from leading the investigation.” “I temporarily stepped aside, just to make sure there was no issue at all, just to give everybody assurance there was no ethical issues at all,” he added. “That is not withdrawing, that is not recusing myself from an investigation.” Nunes, a onetime member of President Trump’s transition team, stepped away in April from leading the Republican-controlled committee probe into Russian election meddling amid a House Ethics Committee probe and concerns over his ability to be independent. But he raised eyebrows in late May after issuing three subpoenas to the FBI, CIA and NSA related to the so-called “unmasking” of Trump officials — despite temporary replacement Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Tex.) having taken over weeks earlier. Nunes did not explicitly use the word “recuse” in his April 6 statement announcing he’d step away — but many, including ranking committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), seemed to believe he had. “The committee rules provide that the chair has to sign the subpoenas unless that authority is delegated to someone else,” Schiff told MSNBC in the wake of Nunes’ subpoenas. “That authority should have been delegated to Mike Conaway in consultation with myself. That hasn’t happened yet, and I think that’s a violation of the recusal by the chairman.” Schiff further Continue Reading

House Intelligence Committee issues subpoenas for Michael Flynn and Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen

WASHINGTON — The House Intelligence Committee handed out seven subpoenas on Wednesday including for Michael Flynn and Trump's personal attorney, a sign it's ramping up its Russia investigation. The GOP-controlled committee sent four subpoenas relating to Russia. According to reports, three more focused on how Trump officials were "unmasked" in intelligence with their names uncovered, a pet peeve Trump has harped on for months, leading Democrats to cry foul. "As part of our ongoing investigation into Russian active measures during the 2016 campaign, today we approved subpoenas for several individuals for testimony, personal documents and business records," said the committee's top Republican and Democrat, Reps. Mike Conaway (R-Tex.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) in a joint statement. "We hope and expect that anyone called to testify or provide documents will comply with that request, so that we may gain all the information within the scope of our investigation. We will continue to pursue this investigation wherever the facts may lead." Flynn, Trump's top campaign adviser and former national security director, has already refused a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee claiming his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and would likely do so again with this round. Trump attorney Michael Cohen had refused to voluntarily comply with an earlier informal request, but had said he'd comply with and formal subpoenas. Separately, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who had been forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation after working closely with Trump, also sent subpoenas to the National Security Agency, the FBI and the CIA for information on "unmasking," in which Americans who turn up in foreign surveillance have their names unveiled within classified settings at the request of top administration officials, according to the Wall Street Journal. Republicans have been hammering away on why Continue Reading

House Intelligence Committee to subpoena Flynn documents

WASHINGTON — Michael Flynn is about to get more subpoenas to refuse. The House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat said Wednesday that Flynn has refused a request for documents relating to any contact he had with Russia, and the committee will soon subpoena him for those documents. That comes after Flynn claimed his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination to try to fend off subpoenas from the Senate Intelligence Committee, leading that committee to issue a new pair of subpoenas this time aimed at Flynn's companies, which as corporations can't plead the Fifth, and warned they may move to hold him in contempt of Congress. "I said we would use whatever compulsory process we need," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor Wednesday morning, warning that the committee will explore further options for forcing Flynn's hand. "If the subpoenas are not adhered to in a way that is supported by their legal right." Schiff said the subpoenas will go out this week. But the Democrat cautioned against talk of impeachment of President Trump which has been ricocheting around the left in recent weeks, saying it's important to gather the evidence first and see whether that's enough to convince the Republicans who control Congress that it's time. "For the evidence to get to the point where you even talk about impeachment, the Republican members would have to think the President's conduct is so serious where it disqualifies him for further service," he said. Flynn was forced to resign from the Trump administration after it became public that he'd lied to Trump's team about the contents of his conversation with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential transition. He's facing serious questions about failures to register as a foreign lobbyist for Turkey, and whether he lied about that to retain his security clearance. The former top Trump Continue Reading

House Ethics committee launches inquiry into complaints against two Democratic lawmakers plus an aide

WASHINGTON  — The House Ethics committee said Monday it is investigating complaints against two veteran Democratic lawmakers and the top aide to a third Democrat. Reps. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and John Conyers of Michigan, senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, are under investigation, the ethics panel said. The panel also is investigating Michael Collins, chief of staff to Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. The independent Office of Congressional Ethics recommended the investigations, although the exact nature of the allegations is not clear. The ethics panel said in a statement that the inquiries do not in themselves reflect any judgment of wrongdoing. Joe Shoemaker, a spokesman for Lujan, said the ethics inquiry was "the result of a frivolous complaint, filed by a highly partisan outside group" about activities during a sit-in last year by Democrats urging House votes on gun control. The complaint "is without merit," Shoemaker said. "Congressman Luján is committed to abiding by House rules, is confident he has done so in this case and looks forward to a timely resolution by the Ethics Committee." The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a conservative-leaning watchdog group, filed a complaint last year that Lujan and other Democrats violated ethics rules by using the House chamber to raise money for campaign purposes. Specifically, the group Lujan and others sent campaign emails featuring photos of themselves during the June 2016 sit-in. The House ethics manual says House buildings, rooms and offices may not be used for campaign or political activities. The same watchdog group also complained that Collins improperly served in dual roles, in Lewis's Washington office and as treasurer for his 2016 re-election campaign. Ethics rules bar senior House staff from serving in any Continue Reading

Jason Chaffetz, House Oversight Committee chair, running for House Speaker against Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy: report

WASHINGTON — House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz is gearing up for a run for House Speaker, according to Politico, giving House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy a real challenger for the House's most powerful position. Chaffetz, a Utah congressman popular with the party's right flank, has been vocally critical of McCarthy in recent days. His decision comes after he and others failed to persuade his friend, House Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, to challenge McCarthy. Florida Rep. Daniel Webster is the only person so far to announce a challenge to McCarthy, who remains the favorite for the slot. House Speaker John Boehner recently announced his plans to resign in the coming weeks, and has offered praise of McCarthy, a young gun he's helped groom for leadership. Chaffetz recently demanded that McCarthy apologize for recent comments suggesting the Benghazi Committee's goal was to hurt Hillary Clinton, calling it an "absolutely inappropriate statement." "That was not the reason we started. We started because there were four dead Americans and we didn't have answers," Chaffetz said. McCarthy's gaffe has left some Republicans nervous that he's not ready to be Speaker, though he still appears to have a big edge in succeeding Boehner. McCarthy, a California congressman, is well-liked by establishment-leaning Republicans and helped many of the younger members win their seats in the first place, and has extensive relationships across the party. But Chaffetz's last-minute run will likely generate enthusiasm from some of the conference's younger and more conservative members. House leadership elections will be held on Oct. 8. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

House VA Committee Chair: Obama ‘Does Not Understand the Gravity of the Situation’

In the wake of the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Gen. Eric Shinseki, new questions have been raised on what's next for the embattled VA in terms of leadership. House Speaker John Boehner today called on President Obama to "step in and make things right for our veterans." "Business as usual cannot continue," Boehner said. O'Reilly: Obama Knew About VA Problems and Did Nothing Greta: Media Should've Held the VA and Obama Accountable House VA Cmte Chairman: 'I Don't Trust the VA's Numbers' Florida Congressman Jeff Miller, who chairs the House VA Committee, and Lt. Col. Ralph Peters joined Megyn Kelly to talk about the future of the VA. Rep. Miller told Kelly that Gen. Shinseki's resignation today had to happen, because he had "lost the faith of the American people." "Certainly the mid-level bureaucrats that were lying to him didn't feel like they had to tell him the truth, and so he had lost all of his effectiveness," Rep. Miller said. "It was a sad day." When asked by Kelly about President Obama's culpability in the VA scandal, Rep. Miller said, "The president took three weeks before he came out and actually acknowledged the gravity of the situation."  "We've had veterans that have died. They've known this for a number of years. I mean, they've already admitted 23 veterans died because they were waiting for care, and for the president to have gone forward with a lackadaisical attitude just shows another lack of leadership on his part," Rep. Miller continued. "It's a sad moment for veterans," Lt. Col. Peters said. "President Obama, when it comes to vets, so often in so many spheres he's said so many gracious and right things, but as with so many other spheres, he does nothing to execute it." Lt. Col. Peters said, however, that he placed equal blame on Congress for the VA's failings.  In response, Rep. Miller told Kelly that VA bureaucrats had blatantly lied to Congress about the numbers and implementation of changes at the VA. "The truth Continue Reading

Top Democrat fears House Intelligence Committee may split on Russia probe findings

WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said he fears the panel's Russia investigation could end up producing two separate, partisan reports offering contradictory conclusions to Americans.Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said he will work with other committee members "to do everything we can to prevent two separate reports" on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials."The ideal would be a comprehensive report with bipartisan support," Schiff said in a phone interview from California with USA TODAY.However, he noted that past investigations by congressional committees have often resulted in separate findings by Republicans and Democrats."It may still have to happen with us," Schiff said. "If it does, then Americans will have to read both reports and decide which one to believe. And that is far less than ideal."Schiff said the committee still has a long way to go in its Russia investigation and he is hopeful that it can avoid a partisan split.He said the panel has been "making progress" but that it's hard to say when the probe will be finished. The congressman expressed doubt that the investigation, which was announced in late January, would be completed this year."I think it would be difficult to conclude an investigation of this magnitude in a matter of months," Schiff said. USA TODAY investigation: Russia probe could reveal Trump's closest-held secrets Russia probe: Trump shakes up legal team More: Breitbart, other 'alt-right' websites are the darlings of Russian propaganda effort Asked whether he thinks the committee has sufficient resources for its investigation, Schiff replied: "No, I don't.""We ought to have two to three times the resources devoted to it," he said. Schiff said those resources would have been greater if the House and Senate Intelligence committees had agreed to a joint investigation, Continue Reading

House Intelligence Committee issues subpoenas in Russia probe

WASHINGTON — The House Intelligence Committee issued subpoenas Wednesday for testimony, documents and business records from former national security adviser Michael Flynn and President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, as part of an investigation into Russian interference in last year's presidential election."As part of our ongoing investigation into Russian active measures during the 2016 campaign, today we approved subpoenas for several individuals for testimony, personal documents and business records," said a joint statement from Reps. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who are leading the House committee's inquiry. "We hope and expect that anyone called to testify or provide documents will comply with that request, so that we may gain all the information within the scope of our investigation. We will continue to pursue this investigation wherever the facts may lead."The subpoenas are evidence of a ramped-up and expanding investigation in Congress. The House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee are the dominant committees leading the congressional probes.The latest committee action shows that lawmakers have not given up their own Russia investigations despite a separate FBI probe led by former FBI director Robert Mueller, who was appointed as special counsel by Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein on May 17.In addition to approving subpoenas for Flynn and Cohen as individuals, the committee approved them for their companies, Flynn Intel Group LLC and Michael D. Cohen & Associates PC.In an action described by congressional sources as "separate" from the committee's Russia probe, Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., issued subpoenas to the FBI, the CIA and the National Security Agency for information about how the names of Trump campaign officials were "unmasked" in classified intelligence reports from those agencies. Specifically, the subpoenas issued by Nunes seek information Continue Reading

House plans committee to probe Bentley impeachment merits

The Alabama House plans to create a committee to examine articles of impeachment against Gov. Robert Bentley, which both the sponsor of the effort and the chair of a major House committee say is in part a way to develop an approach to an issue the state Constitution is unclear on.“This is something this body’s never done,” House Rules Committee chairman Mac McCutcheon, R-Huntsville, said Thursday. “There’s a lot of questions out there, a lot of concerns.”The articles of impeachment, filed Tuesday by Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, accuse Bentley of willful neglect of duty, incompetency, corruption and moral turpitude.Most of the articles reflect allegations made by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier, who has accused the governor of having a relationship with former staffer Rebekah Caldwell Mason and using state resources to further it.Audio of Bentley making suggestive comments on a phone call has surfaced. The governor said he made inappropriate remarks to Mason, but both he and Mason have denied having an affair. Bentley has also denied misusing state resources. The Alabama Ethics Commission has signaled it will investigate the allegations.But Henry also accused Bentley of lying in campaigning for re-election in 2014 on not raising taxes in his first term, then pushing for a $728 million package to shore up the General Fund budget in 2015.“My main issue is his competency in that he has betrayed the trust of people of Alabama, he’s betrayed the trust of his own family, he’s betrayed the trust of Legislature, and as such, he has rendered himself incompetent,” Henry said. “By that measure, he should be removed.”The governor Tuesday called the impeachment move “grandstanding” and vowed to fight it.Unlike the U.S. Constitution, Alabama’s Constitution allows impeachment of constitutional officers for non-criminal activity, including incompetence and Continue Reading