McCabe firing roils Washington

The abrupt ouster of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe ignited a political firestorm in Washington on Saturday.

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsUnder pressure, Trump shifts blame for Russia intrusion Overnight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won’t stand MORE said he fired McCabe on Friday, alleging that the FBI’s former No. 2 official had misled congressional investigators and leaked information to the press. 

But McCabe quickly pushed back on those claims. He said that his firing, which came just two days before he was expected to retire, was a political maneuver intended to undermine the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump touted McCabe’s firing on Saturday as a “great day for democracy,” and suggested that the former FBI deputy director was corrupt and dishonest. He also cast the decision as a victory for the “men and women of the FBI.”

Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeDopey Russian ads didn’t swing voters — federal coverups did Federal abuses on Obama’s watch represent a growing blight on his legacy In the case of the FISA memos, transparency is national security MORE FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy,” Trump tweeted. “Sanctimonious James ComeyJames Brien ComeyDopey Russian ads didn’t swing voters — federal coverups did Assessing Trump’s impeachment odds through a historic lens Drama surrounding Shulkin — what is the future of VA health care? MORE was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”

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But McCabe’s ouster prompted an outcry from Democrats, who pointed to the episode as the latest in what they allege are Trump’s efforts to discredit the FBI  and undercut federal law enforcement.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyGrassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees Popular bill to fight drug prices left out of budget deal Judiciary Dems want public hearings with Kushner, Trump Jr. MORE (D-Vt.), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called on Saturday for a hearing on the Trump administration’s attacks on the FBI and Justice Department.

“I fear the damage being done to the FBI, and to our nation’s institutions more broadly, will far outlast any current crises unless we take decisive, bipartisan action,” he wrote in a letter to the committee’s chairman, Sen. Charles GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyPavlich: The claim Trump let the mentally ill get guns is a lie Congress fails miserably: For Asian-Americans, immigration proposals are personal attacks Grassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees MORE (R-Iowa).

Rep. Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellLawmakers call on Trump to preserve NAFTA Dems vow to repeal parts of GOP tax law Shutdown fight turns ugly as both sides dig in MORE (D-N.J.) accused Trump on Friday of trying to “vandalize our democracy,” calling the move to dismiss McCabe just days before his retirement a “disgrace.”

“McCabe’s dismissal in the dead of night is a disgrace to this country and our law enforcement community. Every day they vandalize our democracy and harm our institutions, and @HouseGOP does nothing,” he tweeted.

McCabe’s firing also drew condemnation from former officials, most notably ousted FBI Director James Comey, who has come under particular criticism from Trump.

In a tweet on Saturday, Comey made no mention of McCabe, but said that he would soon tell the story of his firing, and that the American people would determine “who is honorable and who is not.”

“Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon,” he tweeted. “And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not.”

Comey was abruptly fired in May for what Sessions and his deputy Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinOvernight Cybersecurity: Lawyer charged in Mueller probe pleads guilty to lying | Sessions launches cyber task force | White House tallies economic impact of cyber crime Sessions creates cyber task force to study election interference Dopey Russian ads didn’t swing voters — federal coverups did MORE said was his mishandling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWoman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Trump: CNN, MSNBC ‘got scammed’ into covering Russian-organized rally Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map MORE‘s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of State. But Trump later suggested that it was the FBI probe into Russian election meddling that prompted him to fire the former top cop.

Since then, memos have surfaced detailing Comey’s interactions with Trump. Those memos include allegations that Trump once asked the former FBI director for a loyalty pledge, and later pressed him to drop his agency’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

McCabe reportedly authored his own memos detailing his interactions with Trump. Axios reported Saturday that he had turned those documents over to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE‘s team of investigators, and that they corroborate Comey’s claims about his meetings with Trump.

Former CIA Director John Brennan also blasted Trump after McCabe’s firing, warning the president that he will go down “as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.”

“When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you,” Brennan wrote on Twitter.

Adding to the firestorm surrounding Trump on Saturday was a statement issued by John Dowd, a lawyer for the president, who called for Rosenstein to shut down Mueller’s investigation. Dowd initially told the Daily Beast that the statement was issued on Trump’s behalf, though he later reversed that claim, saying it was issued in a personal capacity.

Still, the mere prospect of the Trump administration ending Mueller’s probe drew scrutiny. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats now attack internet rules they once embraced Schumer: Trump budget would ‘cripple’ gun background checks Schumer: Senate Republicans’ silence ‘deafening’ on guns, Russia MORE (D-N.Y.) warned of “severe consequences” if the investigation was shut down.

“The president, the administration, and his legal team must not take any steps to curtail, interfere with, or end the special counsel’s investigation or there will be severe consequences from both Democrats and Republicans,” Schumer said.

Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, noted that “it’s impossible to evaluate the merits” of McCabe’s firing since the Justice Department’s inspector general has not released the report that triggered the disciplinary process that resulted in the recommendation that he be fired.

However, he tweeted, “That it comes after the President urged the DOJ to deprive McCabe of his pension, and after his testimony, gives the action an odious taint.”

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Trump-linked data firm met with Russian executives: report

Cambridge Analytica, the data firm the Trump campaign used during the 2016 election, met with Russian business executives, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The firms’ employees had been in contact with executives from Russian oil giant Lukoil in 2014 and 2015, according to company documents. 

There were reportedly three meetings with Lukoil executives in London and Turkey and Lukoil was interested in how data was used to target American voters. 

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Alexander Nix, director of SCL Group, denied at a British Parliament meeting last month that his consulting firm ever worked with Russia. 

SCL Group is a British political and defense contractor that owns the American offshoot Cambridge Analytica. 

Both SCL Group and Lukoil deny the meetings were political in nature and SCL denied that there were ever meetings held in London, the New York Times reported. 

It was also reported Saturday that Cambridge Analytics obtained private information of more than 50 million people without their permission to use strategically for President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out ‘subversion’ at VA MORE’s 2016 presidential campaign. 

Facebook suspended the firm on Friday for not fully deleting data given to them by Aleksandr Kogan, a University of Cambridge professor.

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GOP immigration bill stirs tension among Hispanic conservatives

A press event meant to tout conservative Hispanic support for a hard-line immigration bill instead brought into sharp relief the deep divisions among Latino Republicans on the issue.

Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteProgressive group targets GOP moderates on immigration Florida shooting reopens CDC gun research debate Congress punts fight over Dreamers to March MORE (R-Va.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and main sponsor of the Securing America’s Future Act, hosted the event Tuesday, inviting conservative Hispanic groups to speak in support of his bill, which would provide protections for so-called Dreamers. 

The legislation would also fund President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out ‘subversion’ at VA MORE’s border wall, end the diversity visa lottery program, limit family-based visas, create a new, controversial agriculture guest worker program, allow the administration to withhold federal money from sanctuary cities and require employers to use the E-Verify program to check the immigration status of their workers.

Because of those provisions, the bill is unanimously opposed by House Democrats and does not yet have 218 votes from Republicans. Most Hispanic groups oppose it.

The main organizer of Goodlatte’s event, Alfonso Aguilar, the president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said even he has misgivings about the bill.

Aguilar and Artemio Muñiz, a Texas Republican who was listed as a participant in the press materials and spoke at the event, said they view support of the legislation as a strategic move.

Aguilar said he’s against the bill’s stated goal of reducing legal immigration by 25 percent, and Muñiz said he wants a special path to citizenship for Dreamers, which Goodlatte’s bill does not provide for.

But Aguilar said he organized the event to specifically support passage of the bill — as opposed to its provisions — in order to keep the legislative ball rolling.

But some of the Hispanic advocates invited to the event were upset that press materials mentioned their names, which they said suggested support for the bill itself. Representatives of 10 conservative Hispanic groups were listed on a release from the House Judiciary Committee. 

Five of the eleven invited guests didn’t show up, including Omar Franco of the Latino Coalition, who said he would never have attended an event for legislation he strongly opposes. He said listing his name made it seem like he supports Goodlatte’s legislation.

“I simply RSVP’d to an event and I was shocked and surprised to be put up as a supporter of a bill I haven’t even read,” said Franco, a Republican lobbyist and former chief of staff to Rep. Mario Diaz Balart (R-Fla.).

“That bill is a sellout to the entire community, we would never support something like that.”

Franco added the bill doesn’t meet any of the Latino Coalition’s three criteria for support: That it’s positive for the country, for the Hispanic community and for small businesses.

The Latino Coalition is among the most influential Hispanic groups that maintain an active relationship with Trump; he was the keynote speaker at the group’s annual summit last week. 

Yohana de la Torre, a spokeswoman for The Latino Coalition, said the group hasn’t yet put out an official position on the Goodlatte bill because the full text of the proposal hasn’t been made available to them.

The four other conservative leaders named on the release who did not show up were Rev. Tony Suárez and Rev. Gus Reyes of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Lourdes Aguirre of Eres America, and Danny Vargas, the former chairman of the National Republican Hispanic Assembly. 

A second release from the Judiciary Committee, released after the press conference, only included the names of the guests who spoke at the event. 

Vargas declined to comment, and Aguirre said she wanted to attend, but couldn’t adjust her travel plans.

Suárez said he originally thought the event was a show of support for “the idea that Congress needs to finally act on immigration reform, and that after 30 years of futility we have to get this fixed.”

“So that was my intention of going but never to endorse a particular piece of legislation, especially that particular piece of legislation,” Suárez said.

Suárez, a conservative evangelical, was Rep. Luis Gutiérrez’s (D-Ill.) guest at the 2014 State of the Union address. Gutiérrez is among the most vocal Democrats on immigration issues. 

Mario H. López, head of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, a conservative advocacy organization, opposes Goodlatte’s bill and was not included as a possible participant.

He said he discussed Goodlatte’s press event with guests listed on the press release, and attributed the decision by some to skip the event as reflecting their opposition to the bill. 

“This person described the Goodlatte bill to me as ‘shit,’ ” he said of one person he spoke to.

Suárez said the Goodlatte bill is “playing politics” without the intention of actually arriving at a solution, since it provides fewer immigration benefits than proposals by the White House.

“To me this is just a show. I don’t think it has a legitimate chance of going anywhere,” he said.

But Aguilar said it’s opponents of Goodlatte’s bill, led by Democrats, who are trying to delay congressional action for political gain. 

“I criticized Republicans when they didn’t do anything in the House [in 2013]. I think the inverse is happening right now and I’ll continue to say, and I think both sides play politics with this issue, and this time around it’s Democrats,” he said.

At the event, Goodlatte mentioned the guest speakers who weren’t there, but did not suggest their absence might have reflected any misgivings about his bill.

“I especially want to thank the members of the Latino community who are here with me today. There were a few additional that were not able to join us and I’m sure you’ll hear from them separately,” Goodlatte said.

“I want to thank in particular Alfonso Aguilar, the president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, for bringing together a broad coalition of conservative Hispanic leaders who support the Securing America’s Future Act,” he added.

Goodlatte’s office declined to comment for this story, but steered questions toward Aguilar, who helped organize the event. 

Aguilar said he was clear with those he spoke with that they would be at the event to support Goodlatte’s bill.

“In my e-mail communication it was very clear that they were there to support the passage of the bill. I talked with everyone — each one of them — and I said you don’t have to agree with every single aspect of the bill,” Aguilar said. 

Aguilar shared an email with The Hill that he had sent Sunday to the invited participants. 

In it, he wrote that participants would attend the event in support of the bill’s passage, and were expected to speak in favor.

Both Aguilar and Franco say that in a later phone call, Franco declined to attend the event because he’s a registered lobbyist.  

But Franco says he was blindsided by “an opt-out scenario rather than an opt-in.” 

Franco added that he had to do some damage control with Capitol Hill sources because the release announcing the event implied his support for Goodlatte’s bill.  

Suárez said he’d look into asking the Judiciary Committee to remove his name from the original release, which is still online. He said he wasn’t clear on the fact that speakers would be expected to endorse the bill.

“I don’t feel it was misleading, but I was not aware that my name would be associated with endorsing the bill, because I have not endorsed the bill,” he said.

Aguilar blamed the no-shows and criticism of the handling of the event on pressure from Hispanic groups opposed to the legislation.

“I suspect that they got calls from Latino leaders like I did. I mean, we were getting calls. The others were getting calls to cancel or not participate,” Aguilar said.

“And you know this is part of the Latino shaming, if you don’t agree with the narrative from the Hispanic liberal elite,” he added.

Franco said his opposition to the bill is based on principle — he supports comprehensive immigration reform and an immediate path to citizenship for Dreamers. He added that, as a Republican, he avoids speaking out in opposition to other Republican proposals.

“We would not necessarily be on the record as opposing it, but if you do something this stupid as to put our names into an email saying we’re supporting a bill we’ve not even read, then that’s on you,” he said. 

Still, Aguilar said the leaders who showed are just a fraction of conservative Hispanics who support his legislative strategy.

“We could have had more leaders if we had enough time, but the whole point is that you do have leaders who support passage of the Goodlatte bill,” Aguilar said. “Some don’t and that’s fine, but there’s not a monolithic position in the Latino community.” 

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Video shows police laughing as mentally ill inmate dies

A video posted online on Friday shows California sheriff’s deputies watching as an inmate with schizophrenia, who had been restrained in a chair for 46 hours, writhes on the floor of a jail cell and eventually dies.

The video, obtained by The Tribune of San Luis Obispo, Calif., shows deputies at times laughing as the prisoner, Andrew Holland, 36, lost consciousness and eventually died on Jan. 22, 2017.

His death was ruled as “natural” due to a pulmonary embolism resulting from a blot clot that traveled from his leg to one of his lungs, according to The Tribune.

“What happened to Andrew Holland was a tragedy that impacts our entire community,” San Luis Obispo County Administrative Officer Wade Horton said in an email to The Tribune.

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“Although we can’t bring Andrew back, our county has made and continues to make changes in response to this terrible event.”

The county official called the video “extremely painful to watch.”

Holland had struggled with schizophrenia since he was in his early 20s, and done multiple stints in county jail, according to The Tribune. He was restrained in the chair after he repeatedly hit himself.

The video shows deputies entering the cell periodically to rotate Holland’s limbs and offer him food and water. County policy requires officials to rotate restrained inmates’ extremities to prevent blood clots.

After being released from the chair, Holland is taken into another cell, where he’s left naked on the floor, the video shows. He can be seen writhing and struggling to breath.

Deputies then enter the cell, call for help and begin performing CPR. Eventually a fire crew arrives and takes over for the deputies.

Holland’s family was awarded a $5 million settlement for his death last year, according to The Tribune.

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Former FBI agent: If Mueller is to preserve his integrity, he must step aside

It was painful to witness. One of our own — a deputy FBI director no less — was fired barely a day or two away from retirement and a certain pension. And now Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeDopey Russian ads didn’t swing voters — federal coverups did Federal abuses on Obama’s watch represent a growing blight on his legacy In the case of the FISA memos, transparency is national security MORE faces possible federal charges for lying to other federal agents, charges that Special Prosecutor Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE knows all too well and is wielding with great effect in the Russian collusion case.

Still, I wonder about Mueller. McCabe, Peter Strzok and James ComeyJames Brien ComeyDopey Russian ads didn’t swing voters — federal coverups did Assessing Trump’s impeachment odds through a historic lens Drama surrounding Shulkin — what is the future of VA health care? MORE all are public servants who former FBI Director Mueller mentored, supervised or knew well. It has got to be hugely disappointing for Mueller to stand by and watch the people who he managed, who worked for and were loyal to him, and who he was fond of become a part of this train wreck. As a former supervisor, Mueller is accountable for those people he supervised — for the good and the bad. How does he feel about it? We don’t know. He remains mute.

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We all know about Mueller’s stellar career in the military, in the Department of Justice and with the FBI. Mueller played a key role in enhancing the FBI’s image at a seminal moment in bureau history. And he should be and has been lauded for his courage and tireless service to the country. Everyone I know at the bureau and at the DOJ has had good things to say about Mueller. More importantly, the consensus among law enforcement and beyond is that Bob Mueller is a man of unquestionable integrity.

But that was then and this is now. 

Mueller’s first mistake was in having Strzok as part of his “dream” team of lawyers and investigators. I thought Mueller would have been a better judge of character. It also begs the question why Strzok would be selected to work on both the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWoman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Trump: CNN, MSNBC ‘got scammed’ into covering Russian-organized rally Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map MORE email investigation and the Russian collusion case. It should have been one or the other — that’s common sense. 

In fairness to Mueller, when he discovered that Strzok, one of his favorite investigators, was involved in conduct unbecoming an FBI agent, he acted immediately and removed him from his team. But Mueller kept that news quiet and away from the public for several months. That, in itself, seems out of character for Mueller.

While Peter Strzok still lurks in the basement of the Hoover Building, the optics could not be worse for Mueller and his impartial investigation. His team has worked diligently and for long hours to find “the goods” on an array of unsuspecting and discrete individuals. It would be a shame to have their good work impugned by those who would accuse Mueller of a conflict of interest — that he is perceived as too close to the same people who initiated the allegation of Russian collusion.

As it stands now, the credibility of the special’s counsel’s investigation is steadily eroding. The longer it goes on with Mueller, the man behind the curtain, the less effective the investigation and its results.

Mr. Mueller, show the American people what my colleagues in law enforcement already know — that you are a man of great wisdom and integrity. Do the honorable thing and recuse yourself from the Russian collusion investigation. The DOJ requires a special prosecutor without ties to Jim Comey, Andrew McCabe and Peter Strzok. The investigation will get done; don’t worry about that. Your team will see to it. 

Mr. Mueller, are you listening? You restored public confidence in the bureau.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyPavlich: The claim Trump let the mentally ill get guns is a lie Congress fails miserably: For Asian-Americans, immigration proposals are personal attacks Grassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees MORE (R-Iowa) called you a “great American.” You are still thought of highly. Step aside with dignity and let the investigation play itself out without any further controversy about you, the FBI and your team. The American people deserve no less.

Kenneth Strange served the FBI as a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Newark, New Jersey and as Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General in Los Angeles. He is presently the vice president of business development for an international investigative services company.

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