Unfiltered Political News

Trump calls for unity on anniversary of Charlottesville rally

President Donald Trump on Saturday called for the nation to “come together” ahead of the one-year anniversary of a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “We must come together as a nation.”

On Sunday, white nationalists will gather at a “Unite the Right” rally near the White House marking the anniversary of the Charlottesville rally, which resulted in the death of a counter-protester after a supremacist drove his car into a crowd of people.

The president’s response to the rally was heavily criticized after he asserted during a press conference at Trump Tower that there were “very fine people on both sides.”

On Saturday, Trump wrote that he condemns “all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”

No permits were granted for a similar rally in Charlottesville this year and the city, county and Virginia have declared a state of emergency to allow for increased police presence. Multiple counter-protests are scheduled to take place in Washington.

The president followed up his Charlottesville tweet by touting his administration’s record on African-American and Hispanic unemployment levels. On Friday, amid the release of excerpts of a book criticizing Trump’s record on race relations by Omarosa Manigault, a former White House staffer who is African-American, Trump thanked rapper Kanye West for his support, following an interview broadcast with Jimmy Kimmel late Thursday.

The president, who is staying at his golf club in New Jersey, earlier Saturday returned to his criticism of current and former FBI officials, echoing calls from his congressional allies that the Justice Department had not turned over documents related to officials like former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe in a timely manner.

“Why isn’t the FBI giving Andrew McCabe text messages to Judicial Watch or appropriate governmental authorities,” the president wrote. “FBI said they won’t give up even one (I may have to get involved, DO NOT DESTROY). What are they hiding?”

Powered by WPeMatico

Trump pivots to border wall, China and ‘Manafort this, Manafort that’

President Donald Trump has spent his week at his Bedminster retreat fine-tuning an aggressive fall agenda that could benefit his reelection chances in 2020 but imperil Republican congressional candidates in the midterms.

While keeping a light golf schedule, the president is using his “working vacation” — which has included rallies, fundraisers and dinners with donors and business executives — to test lines about potentially shutting down the government to get a border wall and turning up the trade war with China.

Trump’s frenetic campaign schedule picks up immediately next week, when he’s set to travel to upstate New York to raise money for a vulnerable congresswoman. But interviews with a dozen administration officials, outside advisers and Bedminster visitors offered a portrait of a president continuing to grapple with balancing his responsibility to help Republicans hold onto a tenuous majority with his instinct to rile up the base with populist rhetoric and his longstanding “America First” promises.

“I think he feels the country’s future and the future of the world depends on him being able to do what needs to be done,” said GOP donor and New York grocery billionaire John Catsimatidis, a guest at Trump’s business dinner on Tuesday.

Trump’s respite has provided him hours of downtime, with aides sprinkling his comparatively sparse schedule with meetings and phone calls as he prepares to stump all fall for Republican candidates. He’s spent long stretches in high spirits, according to several accounts, gloating about the economy and gross domestic product, and riding high following recent ballot-box victories.

But Trump has found time to rage about the Russia investigation led by Robert Mueller and what he views as the unfair treatment of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is on trial in Virginia on charges of tax and bank fraud.

Trump’s mood has darkened during periods when the Russia story has dominated, according to close confidants. “Every day you wake up and it’s Manafort this, Manafort that. It’s crazy,” said one close adviser. “How do you get away from it?”

Trump “can’t miss” the media coverage of the trial, his attorney Rudy Giuliani added in an interview with POLITICO. “The only thing he keeps reiterating is he thinks Manafort has been treated in an unfair way for a guy who’s alleged to have committed a white-collar crime,” he said.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who golfed with Trump last weekend and had dinner with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, told an event hosted by the Greenville County Republican Party and radio station WGTK that the president brought up ending the Mueller probe “about 20 times.” Graham added: “I told the president, ‘I know you don’t like it. I know you feel put upon. You just got to ride it out.’”

But rather than focusing on upending the leadership of the Justice Department, as he did during his Christmas vacation at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, Trump has been mulling ways to deliver on his iconic wall. The maneuvering, even if it leads to a partial shutdown, would reinforce to supporters that he’s fighting for border security. Among those encouraging him to follow his intuition is Stephen Miller, the senior policy adviser and immigration hard-liner who is orchestrating additional crackdowns ahead of the midterms. Miller declined to comment.

China angered Trump by retaliating on American tariffs with new duties of their own. He has been polling close associates about trade with China, while reinforcing his position that the rival superpower’s unfair trade practices must be curbed. The president indicated in conversations that he was not so much discussing the matter but seeking reassurance from those around him, particularly since he’s taken so much heat from Republicans in Washington over the escalating tensions.

At his dinner Tuesday for business executives, Trump allowed that “we’re in a little bit of a fight with China right now,” after raging on Twitter that the country has been spending a fortune on advertising and public relations “trying to convince and scare our politicians to fight me on Tariffs — because they are really hurting their economy.” Some inside believe he can “fix” trade deficits the same way he “fixed” taxes. And Trump is presenting the impasse as temporary, giving these people the feeling that he thinks it will soon pass.

White House aides and confidants have swept in and out of town. Trump has been speaking with his Cabinet, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and his trade team by phone. He’s also called Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel several times and talked to congressional leaders, with the conversations primarily focused on national security, trade and the midterms.

At Bedminster, Trump maintains a home on the campus complete with an office, and senior White House staff members meet once a day, usually inside the residence. As is common practice when the president travels, a larger office space inside the club is designed to replicate their secure workspaces in Washington. Essential and senior staff members stay at the club, with the others staying at a nearby Marriott hotel.

An aide noted that fewer people were able to take a vacation last August because chief of staff John Kelly had just started in the role and there was a considerable effort to get him up to speed and reorganize the West Wing. Another aide noted the White House also spent much of August dealing with the fallout from the president’s response to the deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump has come to view Bedminster as relaxing because he can walk outside and see acres of rolling green hills. While the crowd is different from the high-society set at Mar-a-Lago, the scene feels familiar to Trump because so many of the members have been coming back for years. Guests talk about the venue’s low-key atmosphere, which was described as a couple of paces slower than Mar-a-Lago.

Officials said the president is spending time with the first lady and their son, Barron. Kushner and Ivanka Trump, also a senior adviser, also have been there, along with their children. In keeping with the working vacation motif, Trump did not golf on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, but on Thursday he hit the driving range with one of his grandkids, with photos of him practicing his swing and gesticulating from a cart popping up on social media.

Aides anticipate that the campaign trail will give the president a sustained chance to recharge among supporters and make inroads for down-ballot candidates in the party, whom he is telling people will be insulated by the strong economy.

“He loves the fight. He knows the people. He loves the game,” another outside aide said. “It gets him out of the office and doing meetings that he doesn’t want to do. Whether he’s going to turn the tide in these districts is TBD.”

Before rallying in Ohio for congressional candidate Troy Balderson, Trump’s team reviewed polling that had the Republicans trailing by 6. At Bedminster, allies said they were pleased with the results from fundraisers for House and Senate Republicans.

The vacation coincided with renovations to the White House, including in the West Wing, East Wing, Oval Office and Executive Residence. Trump explained the effort in brief remarks to reporters on Thursday, calling it a “long-term project” that was approved “years ago.”

“And I said, ‘Well, I guess this would be a good place to be in the meantime,’” he said. “So they’re doing a lot of work at the White House. I miss it. I would like to be there. But this is a good way of doing it.”

On Monday, he heads to the event for Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney in upstate New York, his first visit there since taking office. Unlike last fall, he isn’t planning to go into the city to his old office in Trump Tower.

“I think he’s too busy to miss New York,” Catsimatidis said. Trump’s Manhattan friends are grateful for it, he added: “I couldn’t take the traffic if he was in New York.”

Eliana Johnson, Darren Samuelsohn, Burgess Everett and Daniel Lippman contributed to this report.

Powered by WPeMatico

Manafort trial Day 9: Witness suggests Trump role helped Manafort nab loans

The bank- and tax-fraud trial of former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort resumed Friday afternoon without any public explanation for an unusual delay in the proceedings, but quickly produced revealing testimony suggesting that Manafort’s role managing the Trump campaign helped him win millions of dollars in loans at a time he was badly short on cash.

A Chicago bank CEO who thought he was being considered for positions in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet helped facilitate $16 million in loans to Manafort during and after the campaign, a bank official involved in the transactions testified Friday.

The Federal Savings Bank of Chicago agreed to issue Manafort a $9.5 million loan after an unusual dinner in New York City in May 2016, days before Manafort was elevated to the position of campaign chairman, bank senior vice president Dennis Raico said on the witness stand after receiving a grant of immunity.

The bank’s CEO, Stephen Calk, attended that dinner and spoke with Manafort repeatedly in the ensuing months, Raico said. Three days after Trump was elected, the CEO called to ask Raico to contact Manafort.

Calk “said he had not spoken to Manafort in a day or two and thought it was possible he might be up for a senior role in the administration,” Raico said. Raico said the CEO asked him to “call Paul and see if he was a possible candidate for secretary of treasury or secretary of HUD [housing and urban development].”

“Did you make that call?” asked Greg Andres, a prosecutor for special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which brought the charges against Manafort.

“No,” Raico said.

“Why?” Andres asked.

“It made me very uncomfortable,” Raico said.

Raico also testified that the process for approving Manafort’s $9.5 million loan was unusual in several respects. For one thing, Calk had never been involved in any other loan Raico handled. In addition, when the formal application for that loan was submitted to the bank’s Chicago headquarters, approval came back quickly.

“How soon after you submitted that loan for approval was it approved?” Andres asked.

“The very next day,” Raico said. That, too, had never happened before, the witness said.

Raico said he actually reached out to his ultimate boss in the spring of 2016 after learning about Manafort’s political work. “I came to learn Mr. Manafort was involved in politics and I knew Steve was interested in politics,” Raico said.

Calk came to the dinner in New York with Manafort and then attended a July meeting about the loan via video conference, Raico said. At that session, Calk was open about his desire to work with the Trump team, Raico added.

“He indicated he would be interested in helping serve the Trump organization,” Raico said.

Jurors at Manafort’s trial, which is nearing the end of its second week, also saw an Aug. 3, 2016, email from Manafort to Raico.

“Need Steve Calk’s resume,” the email’s subject line said.

The bank issued the $9.5 million loan in 2016 and another $6.5 million loan in January 2017 despite concerns about Manafort’s income stream and a large debt on his American Express bill caused by $210,000 in charges for Yankees season tickets, Raico said.

“It’s my understanding there were discrepancies in his income,” Raico said. Asked to explain, the bank official said Manafort’s financial statements seemed jumbled. “A + B didn’t equal C all the time,” Raico said.

Manafort assuaged the bank’s concerns about his American Express bill by submitting a letter Manafort aide Rick Gates signed saying he ran up the big bill for Yankees tickets.

“Thank you for allowing me to use the AMEX Business Plum Card to purchase season tickets for the 2016 baseball season,” read the letter, dated April 3, 2016. “I expect to collect fees from various people who will be partners with me to use the tickets.”

Gates testified earlier in the trial that Manafort asked him to write the letter, or something like it, because Manafort didn’t have enough cash to pay his bills at the time.

Manafort faces four felony counts — two of bank fraud and two of bank fraud conspiracy — for allegedly presenting false information to obtain the loans from the Chicago bank.

Calk never got a Cabinet post, although an email shown earlier at the trial indicates Manafort pressed to have him considered for secretary of the army and arranged to get tickets to Trump’s inauguration for Calk, his family members and friends.

Calk was not on the prosecution’s witness list made public before the trial. The bank has issued a statements saying it is cooperating with Mueller’s probe, but has declined to comment on Calk’s actions or to identify his attorney.

Andres told Ellis on Friday afternoon that the prosecution planned to rest its case Monday after calling one or two more witnesses. Manafort’s defense will then get a chance to call witnesses or Manafort himself, although the latter prospect is considered unlikely.

Closing arguments are possible as soon as Tuesday. However, things could slip somewhat depending on the length of any defense case and because Ellis doesn’t plan to convene the trial until 1 p.m. Monday.

Andres initially asked for the chance to give a two-hour opening statement and a half-hour rebuttal, but the judge said two hours would be the maximum for each side even though that was longer than he had in mind.

“I’ll tell you, I think it is no accident TV programs are half an hour,” the judge said. “If you think you can hold a juror’s attention for two straight hours, then you live on a different planet.”

Unexplained delay waylays fast-moving trial for hours

After speeding along for nearly two weeks, Manafort’s trial came to a mysterious halt Friday morning as the federal judge and lawyers for both sides huddled out of earshot of the public.

Rumors swirled through the ninth-floor courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, about what the delay could mean — from a looming guilty plea from the former Trump campaign manager, to Judge T.S. Ellis III conceding his second mistake in two days, to an issue with the jury — but there were no clear answers.

Instead, Ellis, a 78-year-old Ronald Reagan appointee explained briefly to the court that he had a busy docket of more than 200 to 300 cases that he also has to “keep moving” and sent the overflow crowd off for an early lunch.

“I assure you this was all necessary,” Ellis said.

The scene inside Ellis’s courtroom Friday morning was starkly different from any other morning in the Manafort trial, now into its ninth day. Before the jury was summoned into the room, Ellis immediately called a bench conference with prosecutors and Manafort’s attorneys.

After that brief meeting with the judge broke up, Manafort got up from his seat and huddled with his entire team of lawyers as the entire courtroom quieted down. From the front row, a friend of Manafort’s wife, Kathleen Manafort, remarked aloud that she thought everyone was trying to listen in to the conversation. She also asked the reporters sitting in the row behind them what they thought was happening.

Paul Manafort, dressed in a blue suit, smiled and had an animated look on his face as his conference with his lawyers transitioned to individual conversations.

Ellis then called lawyers back for a second conference. This time, everyone from Manafort’s team joined the huddle, leaving the defendant by himself at his table to scribble notes as a deputy U.S. marshal sitting behind him kept watch. The judge then took the unusual step of calling the courtroom security officer over to participate — that move fueled speculation about a jury-related issue since that official is in charge of logistics issues involving the jurors.

The conference broke after a short discussion and Ellis announced he needed to recess for about 15 minutes “to consider an issue.” Oddly, he exited the courtroom through a door opposite his own chambers and in the direction of the jury room. The court’s stenographer followed.

This wait lasted longer than Ellis predicted — about 45 minutes — and when the judge returned, he summoned in the jury, took attendance and told them the court would be going back out for the early lunch break. As he has repeatedly throughout the trial, Ellis then delivered multiple warnings about not discussing the case with anyone, even among themselves and added: “Keep an open mind until all the evidence is in.”

As the courtroom emptied and prosecutors carrying all of their materials waited for the elevators, reporters asked Mueller lawyer Uzo Asonye for an update and also whether he could say what was in his cardboard box.

“I could,” Asonye said as an FBI agent loomed to his side, “but I’d have to kill you.”

When prosecutors and defense attorneys returned after lunch, most appeared to go into Ellis’ chambers for another 45 minutes while spectators, support staff and Manafort cooled their heels in the courtroom. At one point, a court reporter emerged from a door near the jury room and crossed into Ellis’ office.

When court reconvened at about 2:20 p.m., Ellis asked the jurors if their lunch was satisfactory, but offered no explanation for the delay.

At the end of the day on Friday, Ellis delivered another unusually emphatic warning to the jury not to discuss the case with others or to do internet research about the case.

“Don’t look up anything on Google. … Put it out of your mind until Monday. I certainly plan to do that,” the judge said. His comments further fueled suspicion that at least some of the hours of delay Friday were due to a jury-related issue.

Prosecutors protest another rebuke from judge

Before Friday’s mysterious courtroom action, prosecutors filed a formal, written motion with Ellis asking him to retract a comment he made Thursday in front of jurors.

The new filing objects to a remark that seemed to dismiss the significance of a bank fraud conspiracy charge against Manafort that stems from a loan he sought but never received.

After the prosecution spent about 40 minutes Thursday afternoon questioning a bank employee about Manafort’s unsuccessful effort to get a $5.5 million construction loan on a Brooklyn brownstone, Ellis implied that the testimony had been a waste of time, or at least overkill.

“You might want to spend time on a loan that was granted,” the judge scoffed at Asonye, prompting him to jump up from his seat.

“Your honor, this is a charged count in the indictment,” the prosecutor said.

“I know that,” Ellis shot back.

In the new motion, prosecutors protested the judge’s comment and asked him to tell the jury to ignore it.

The statement, prosecutors wrote, “misrepresents the law regarding bank fraud conspiracy, improperly conveys the Court’s opinion of the facts, and is likely to confuse and mislead the jury. The Court should provide a curative instruction in order to avoid any potential prejudice to the government.”

Prosecutors filed a similar motion Thursday, objecting to the judge’s actions a day earlier rebuking the prosecution for allowing an expert witness to sit through the trial prior to his testimony. Ellis said that defied his usual policy barring witnesses from listening to other testimony. However, court transcripts showed that on the trial’s first day, the judge specifically gave permission for the expert to sit in on other witnesses.

In response to the prosecution’s motion, Ellis issued what seemed like a grudging apology in front of the jury, saying he “may have” made a mistake and instructed jurors to disregard what he said.

Yankees official details Manafort’s season ticket bill

One of the most anticipated figures on the prosecution’s witness list for the Manafort trial, Irfan Kirimca, took the stand Friday.

Kirimca is no household name, but the interest in his appearance was driven by the sought-after job he holds: senior director of ticket operations for the New York Yankees.

Manafort was a longtime season ticket holder at the Yankees. His tickets have figured in the trial in a couple ways. The big charges for tickets contributed to a delinquent American Express bill that jeopardized millions of dollars in loans Manafort was seeking. And his payment for the tickets on at least one occasion using money wired directly from an offshore bank may support prosecutors’ claims that he was paying his personal expenses by using funds never reported on his income taxes.

Manafort wasn’t just a holder of ordinary box seats, Krimica said. Instead, the once-high-flying lobbyist had tickets to the Legends Suite. One contract showed Manafort’s tickets costing about $700 apiece a few years back.

Kirimca testified that Manafort had a long-term contract including four tickets to 81 games a year. Despite Gates’ letter saying he and his friends were sharing the tickets in 2016, prosecutors displayed an email in which Manafort seemed to be calling the shots on the seats.

“Will you and Kathy be attending opening day or any other games that week,” the Yankees’ Drew Fox asked.

“Yes. Kathy and I will be attending opening day!” Manafort replied, also asking that the tickets be shipped to his Trump Tower apartment.

More hints that Gates may be cooperating in Trump-Russia probe

There was another signal Friday that the trial’s star witness, former Manafort protégé Gates, may be cooperating with Mueller’s ongoing probe of alleged coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

In a status report filed Friday with the federal judge who took Gates’ guilty plea earlier this year, prosecutors and Gates’ lawyers asked to put off initiating sentencing proceedings in his case for another 90 days.

In support of that request, attorneys cited the “possible need” for Gates’ assistance in the continuing Mueller probe. They also noted that Gates just testified at the Manafort trial in Virginia. (A separate trial of Manafort on other charges is set for next month.)

“The defendant continues to meet with the Special Counsel’s Office as required by his Plea Agreement,” the lawyers wrote. “The investigation, which includes the possible continued need for assistance from the defendant as required by his Plea Agreement, is ongoing.”

On Thursday, prosecutors handling Manafort’s Virginia trial persuaded Ellis to seal a court transcript of a sidebar conference earlier in the week where Gates’ cooperation with the Mueller team was discussed. Ellis agreed to keep the information under wraps because it could expose confidential aspects of the ongoing inquiry.

It is not entirely clear that Gates’ cooperation relates to the issue of Russian influence on the 2016 election, but the question that prompted the bench conference involved prosecutors’ interest in issues related to Gates’ work on the Trump campaign.

Powered by WPeMatico

Judge finds Roger Stone associate in contempt for refusing to appear before grand jury

A close associate of Roger Stone — the longtime confidant of President Donald Trump — has been held in contempt of court for refusing to appear before special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury, his attorney confirmed Friday.

Andrew Miller’s attorney Paul Kamenar told reporters outside a federal courthouse in Washington that Miller — who lost a court fight to invalidate Mueller’s investigation — won’t face immediate punishment. The court, he said, agreed to stay penalties until after Miller appeals the ruling upholding the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation.

Miller has ignored subpoenas to appear before the grand jury three times in recent weeks. He’s one of a slew of Stone associates who have been called to testify in the probe. Another, Kristin Davis — who famously ran a prostitution ring in New York City — was slated to appear Friday afternoon.

Kamenar emphasized that Miller had already been interviewed by two FBI agents and largely cooperated with Mueller’s investigation, including on document requests. But he said Miller drew the line at a grand jury appearance.

Kamenar emphasized that refusing to appear before the grand jury was a technically “necessary step” in order to appeal the ruling last week that upheld Mueller’s legitimacy.

“He has been more than cooperative with the special counsel,” Kamenar said.

Kamenar also floated the notion that the fight could make its way to the Supreme Court — portending a potential legal fight that he said he hoped the court’s newest nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, might have a chance to rule on.

Powered by WPeMatico

Hell hath no fury like Omarosa scorned

Nothing can change your mind about a person as quickly as getting dumped or fired.

In season one, Omarosa Manigault Newman, “The Apprentice” villain-turned-senior White House official, crowed that Donald Trump’s critics one day would be proved wrong about him and forced to “bow down to President Trump.”

In season two, the former communications director for the White House Office of Public Liaison has penned a tell-all book in which she calls the president a “racist, bigot and misogynist” and slams his daughter for ordering up lists of leakers to fire.

The story behind Newman’s change of heart sold for a modest advance, according to people in the publishing world, in part because she spoiled the surprise in February, when she appeared on the reality show “Celebrity Big Brother,” likening her exit from the White House last December to being “freed from a plantation” and calling Trump “a special kind of fucked up.”

But during a sleepy week in August, Manigault Newman’s book, “Unhinged: An Insider Account of the Trump White House,” out Aug. 14, appears to have a full news cycle to itself. She is set to make her debut media appearance Sunday, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Manigault Newman is selling herself as the ultimate Trump insider, with the best dirt on the president of the United States going back 15 years. She knew Ivanka before the first daughter knew Jared Kushner, she has bragged to people; she knew Melania when she was just a little-known Knavs.

She is aware, people who have spoken to her said, that there will be efforts to dismiss her as a fabulist.

But Manigault Newman is using the threat of taped conversations with the president and with his family members to gird against attacks on her credibility. She is also teasing her book as an appetizer, telling friends and acquaintances she has held onto explosive material that she intends to release later — such as the names of illegitimate children she claims Trump has fathered.

The most salacious charge to emerge from her book is that Trump often used the N-word during taping of “The Apprentice,” and that there are tapes to prove it. She also blames Ivanka Trump, who publicly tries to portray herself as above the fray, as the person who ordered up a list of “suspected leakers” to fire after a Make America Great Again rally in Youngstown, Ohio.

Manigault Newman does not have the tape but writes that she has confirmed its existence from three anonymous sources.

Republican pollster Frank Luntz tweeted on Friday that while he was named as one of the sources, he had never heard the president use the slur: “I’m in @OMAROSA’s book on page 149. She claims to have heard from someone who heard from me that I heard Trump use the N-word. Not only is this flat-out false (I’ve never heard such a thing), but Omarosa didn’t even make an effort to call or email me to verify. Very shoddy work.”

Rumors of the “N-word” tape have haunted Trump staffers since the campaign, when they would hold regular meetings to discuss a strategy if the alleged tape ever came out. “We were living in a constant state of fear of the N-word tape coming out,” recalled one former senior campaign official. While nobody knew for sure whether such a tape even existed, the post-“Access Hollywood” mind-set in Trump Tower meant that “anything seemed possible,” the former official added.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Manigault Newman’s book “riddled with lies and false accusations,” and she took a shot at the media for covering it. “It’s sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks, and even worse that the media would now give her a platform, after not taking her seriously when she had only positive things to say about the President during her time in the administration,” Sanders said.

As Sanders bashed the book in a statement, former aides were cheering the project, however flawed its messenger might be.

The campaign, one former aide said, was staffed by people who took massive reputational risk working for Trump and developed a bunker mentality because of it. When those people were later forced out by newcomers to Trumpworld, they felt used. “They’ll never go out and nuke people like Omarosa did,” said the former staffer, “but the anger is there. This book never gets written if Omarosa wasn’t treated like shit both in the White House and on her way out.”

A publicist for her publisher, Simon & Schuster, declined to comment. Manigault Newman also declined to comment.

Many presidents have former staffers who turn on them after they leave — and there’s a cachet and payday for the first turncoat willing to peel off and expose the leader of the free world in a negative light. In fact, the tell-all from onetime aides has become a literary genre of its own.

James Fallows, who served as a speechwriter to President Jimmy Carter, wrote a magazine article called “The Passionless Presidency: The Trouble With Jimmy Carter’s Administration,” after leaving the administration. Scott McClellan, the former press secretary to George W. Bush, published “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” criticizing his former boss for the way he sold the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

The former Bill Clinton whisperer Dick Morris is another classic example of someone who flipped on his former boss once he realized that the only place to cash his check was on the other side.

But Manigault Newman is a special case for a special kind of presidency.

She was treated poorly in the White House, according to former colleagues. But she also often behaved in ways that seemed out of line, even in Trump’s rule-flouting administration.

Last year, before her dismissal, the White House counsel’s office wrote up a report on the behavior surrounding her dismissal, which included an attempt to bring her wedding party onto White House grounds and an abuse of the White House car service, according to a senior administration official.

Manigault Newman, who was married in November 2017, arrived at the White House after her wedding ceremony to take pictures in and outside the White House. In tow were her wedding guests, including Trump-loving YouTube stars Diamond & Silk. When she was barred from entering the White House campus, the bride threw a tantrum and told people that “the president wouldn’t be in the White House if it wasn’t for her,” the senior administration official said.

A report by the White House counsel’s office about the entire incident was prepared to present to the president. When Manigault Newman was fired by chief of staff John Kelly the following month, she locked herself in her office, called the general “John,” and hung up on him when he tried to deliver her the news, according to a second administration official.

Manigault Newman’s reputation for deceit has also made people fear her. “I don’t know what tapes she has on me,” said a former colleague, explaining his reluctance to comment on her accusations.

But Manigault Newman has lately been telling people that she’s the one who should be afraid — and that she has given copies of her taped conversations with Trump to family members for safekeeping in the event that she is murdered, said a person familiar with the conversations. She has also said she is taking meetings in disguise — dressed in a baseball hat, sunglasses and baggy clothes — out of a growing paranoia that the president will come after her.

Powered by WPeMatico

White House slams Omarosa as 'disgruntled' for fiery memoir

The White House on Friday lashed out at former Trump adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman, calling her “disgruntled” and claiming that her new memoir — in which she accuses President Donald Trump of being a racist — is “riddled with lies.”

Manigault Newman has been promoting her soon-to-be-released book “Unhinged” in which she reportedly accuses Trump of using racial epithets and engaging in misogynistic behavior.

The former reality television star also writes that she refused a $15,000-per-month contract to keep quiet about her tumultuous tenure in the White House, according to the Washington Post, which obtained parts of her new book. The contract, which also came with a job on the Trump campaign, reportedly would have barred her from saying anything that could hurt the president or vice president and their families.

Manigault Newman says she refused the contract, according to the Post. Instead, she’s unloading on the Trump administration in a memoir packed with explosive quotes that accuses the president of being both a racist and a bigot.

The White House shot back on Friday, saying Manigault Newman is profiting off false attacks.

“Instead of telling the truth about all the good President Trump and his administration are doing to make America safe and prosperous, this book is riddled with lies and false accusations,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “It’s sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks, and even worse that the media would now give her a platform, after not taking her seriously when she had only positive things to say about the President during her time in the administration.”

In her new book, the former “The Apprentice” villain writes the president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump called to offer her the monthly contract and a job after she was fired. Manigault Newman had served as the communications director for the Office of the Public Liaison during her chaotic stint at the White House.

In one incident reported earlier by POLITICO, Manigault Newman frustrated White House staff last fall when she staged a photo shoot with members of her bridal party in the building. Guests allegedly wandered the halls, looking to pose in the Rose Garden and throughout the West Wing. Some senior aides had not been briefed in advance, and Manigault Newman was quickly barred from posting the photos online.

Despite creating tensions with other West Wing staffers, Manigault Newman was seen as an important liaison between Trump and the African-American community and vouched for him. In her new book, she takes on a different tone.

According to The Guardian, which got an advance copy of the book, Manigault Newman writes, “It had finally sunk in that the person I’d thought I’d known so well for so long was actually a racist. Using the N-word was not just the way he talks but, more disturbing, it was how he thought of me and African Americans as a whole.”

She also accused Trump of making racial slurs against George Conway, the husband of White House counsel to the president Kellyanne Conway.

Manigault Newman says the president used the words “flip” and goo-goo” to describe George Conway, who is half Filipino.

George Conway disputed the allegation, writing on Twitter Friday morning, “The allegation is not credible, and indeed is ridiculous, particularly in light of the timing of her departure from the White House—December 12, 2017. It’s absurd all around.”

Powered by WPeMatico

Trump blows up GOP's formula for winning House races

The vote breakdown in Ohio’s special election this week amplified a trend that’s been building in the suburbs during the Trump era — and illustrated how the traditional Republican path to victory has been upended in key congressional districts.

Deep suburban antipathy toward President Donald Trump has turned the old GOP electoral coalition inside-out in many areas in 2017 and 2018 — like Ohio’s 12th District, which for two decades sent former Rep. Pat Tiberi to Congress on the back of his popularity in the Columbus suburbs. His anointed successor, Republican Troy Balderson, took a different path to a small special-election lead, instead building on Trump’s rural strength while Democrat Danny O’Connor cut deeply into Tiberi’s old base.

In Columbus’ Franklin County, where Tiberi regularly received more than 55 percent support, O’Connor held Balderson to just one-third of the special election vote. In Delaware County — a wealthier, whiter bedroom community to the north — Balderson scraped together a majority where Tiberi used to win 70-plus percent. But the further Balderson got from the city, the better he performed compared to Tiberi’s baselines, taking up to 71 percent of the vote in further-flung counties.

It’s a shift that was underway before Trump arrived on the political scene — but the president accelerated it. In 2016, Tiberi and some other Republicans even combined their traditional suburban power with growing rural strength on Trump’s ticket. But that combination has proven unattainable in elections during the president’s tumultuous first term, and Republicans across the country will have to confront the full force of that change in the November elections.

Many House Republicans hope to hold back the tide by virtue of long records and personal appeal in their districts, along with key support in rural stretches. But many of them will also be running in suburbs that already tilt more heavily Democratic than the double-digit Trump districts, including Ohio’s 12th, that hosted special elections in 2017 and 2018. There are 68 GOP-held House seats that lean more Democratic than the Ohio seat, according to the Cook Political Report.

“While a great GOP win, Delaware County is the suburban abyss a lot of Republican candidates across the country are looking into as general elections begin,” said Nick Everhart, a Republican consultant.

The emerging House battleground map includes a number of districts dominated by younger, highly educated, more diverse suburbs like the Franklin County core of the Tiberi district. Open seats in Orange County, California, and the Philadelphia suburbs, and GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock’s Northern Virginia seat bordering Washington, D.C., have tilted toward Democrats this year behind that potent demographic mix.

Evidence out of Ohio as well as national polls show those voters are also more excited to vote in 2018. About 42 percent of Franklin and Delaware County turned out in the special election, compared to the rural counties, where turnout hovered between 27 and 32 percent.

Yet more tossup House districts that will be at the center of the fight for the House feature a similar geographic mashup to Ohio’s 12th District — a mix of suburban, exurban and rural voters in districts that sprawl away from cities like Charlotte, Chicago and Cincinnati.

“In districts with suburban and rural geographies, we have two challenges: You’ve got to run up turnout in the rural areas, and you’ve got to focus on persuasion in the suburban areas,” said Robert Blizzard, a Republican pollster who worked on Balderson’s campaign. “From a campaign standpoint, that’s a tough needle to thread. It takes both time and money.”

“Republicans are fighting uphill in the suburbs,” he added.

Running with an unpopular president in office, many Republicans have fared even worse in big suburban counties in 2017 and 2018 than Trump did in 2016. But they have not bled as much support in outer suburbs like Delaware County, where Balderson held on to win in Ohio.

“Since the advent of Trump, the suburbs are moving more dramatically to the Democrats, and as you move out away from the city center farther out, then it changes according to education and income,” said John Weaver, a Republican strategist who works with Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

This political drift exacerbates the bifurcation of urban and rural communities, a tension that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee exploited in the final hours of the campaign, after Balderson told supporters Monday night that they “don’t want somebody from Franklin County representing us.” That was seen as a put-down of the largest, and most citylike, part of the district. The DCCC sent 60,000 Election Day texts about Balderson’s remark, according to a source familiar with the committee’s investments.

Delaware County is “still a few years behind Franklin County,” but it’s “trending in the same direction,” said Tom Bonier, a Democratic strategist who leads the data and analytics firm TargetSmart.

“O’Connor underperformed [in Delaware County], and Balderson overperformed; that’s where you see Kasich’s impact,” Bonier continued, referring to Balderson’s endorsement from Kasich, who has long cultivated suburban voters in Delaware County dating back to his decades representing them in Congress.

But surrogates like Kasich can’t be everywhere in the November elections — nor can the outside groups that spent $3.5 million on TV ads alone backing Balderson, according to Advertising Analytics.

At the same time, Republican strength in rural areas under Trump poses an issue for Democrats across the House map. Trump’s last-minute stump appearance in the House special election in Pennsylvania last March juiced turnout “by 3 or 4 points,” said John Brabender, a GOP consultant who worked on Republican Rick Saccone’s bid. It wasn’t enough for Saccone, who lost to Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), but Brabender said the president’s visit to Ohio last weekend probably “did the same for the Ohio race, like it did for us.”

“There are a lot of people out there who are supportive of the president’s agenda, and they’re much more loyal to this president than they are to the Republican Party,” Brabender said. “The challenge for Republicans between now and November is to harvest the president’s ability to go find voters who have not always a strong affiliation for one party or the other, but do for this president and get them to show up and vote Republican.”

Just as the GOP hopes individual incumbents can withstand pressure in the suburbs, Democrats believe that candidates running in rural and exurban districts — many of whom are running for office for the first time — will be able to win back some of their party’s former voters who have flocked to the GOP in recent years.

“Danny O’Connor was a strong, but fairly generic candidate,” said one Democratic strategist working on House races. “There are a lot of better districts and a lot of better candidates out there.”

The shift away from Democrats in rural areas fueled the party’s decline during the years of President Barack Obama’s administration. But now, Democrats hope that the reverse trend in the suburbs will drive a resurgence — and that 21 months of off-year and special elections foreshadow the November midterms.

“A Republican in Delaware County would normally get about 70 percent of the vote, and this was 50-50,” Kasich said in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday. “In areas, suburbs particularly, where Republicans would win, the Republican lost.”

Alex Isenstadt contributed to this report.

Powered by WPeMatico

Republican reeling vs. Manchin in key Senate race

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Republicans can’t seem to figure out how to beat Joe Manchin.

On paper, Manchin should be an easy mark in November: an incumbent Democrat in a state where President Donald Trump won two-thirds of the vote in 2016 and remains overwhelmingly popular. Yet Manchin holds a comfortable lead in public and private polling, and interviews with multiple Republican operatives involved in or closely following the race indicate it has slipped out of the top tier of Senate contests.

Republicans are worried that Manchin’s opponent, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, has failed to close the gap since he emerged from a nasty primary in May. Morrisey has been blistered by ads from Democrats but has yet to hit the airwaves himself during the general election, and has less than $900,000 in the bank compared to Manchin’s $6.2 million war chest.

Republicans aren’t giving up: At least five outside groups are on the air attacking Manchin this month, hoping to drag down the Democrat and tilt the race back in their favor before Labor Day. But if Morrisey can’t right his ship by then, he risks outside groups and donors turning their attention elsewhere. A loss in West Virginia would be a major blow to the party’s hope of increasing its 51-49 majority and would provide a major boost to Democrats’ slim chances to flip the chamber.

“Between the primary and today, there’s no question that race has slipped for Republicans,” said one GOP strategist involved in Senate races, who requested anonymity to speak candidly.

In an interview here after touring a local mining equipment company, Morrisey, who has been elected statewide twice, didn’t dispute that he’s behind, but chalked it up to being less well-known than Manchin, who was West Virginia governor before being elected to the Senate in 2010. Morrisey dismissed as “irrelevant” polls showing him trailing by high single digits or low double digits.

“We always get hit when they put the big money in up front, and then we close and we win,” he said. “Why? Because we’ve been able to wait to get our positive messaging out and they can’t touch our positive record.”

Trump is the cornerstone of Morrisey’s turnaround bid: Republicans in the state are counting on the president’s support to put the Republican back within striking distance. If Trump holds a couple of rallies in the state to bash Manchin, Republicans say, the dynamics of the race could change very quickly.

“The recognition that Senator Morrisey would be a very good ally of President Trump, that in and of itself makes this race very competitive,” said Mitch Carmichael, the Republican president of the state Senate.

Morrisey has wholly embraced Trump. In the interview, he declined to name a single issue on which he disagreed with the president. He’s previously joked he wants the whole Trump family to buy vacation homes in the state and set up shop between now and November. He repeated that joke this week, and called Trump a “difference-maker” in the race.

“The president is very committed to this race, and he loves the state passionately. That’s going to matter in November,” Morrisey said. “He knows and Vice President Pence knows that when push comes to shove, Joe will say no. Joe’s never going to be a deciding vote in favor of West Virginia conservative values.”

Manchin, for his part, has embraced Trump. He was the first Democrat to break with his party and meet with Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, and has voted with the president 60 percent of the time, more than any other Democrat.

“I’m with him sometimes more than other Republican senators are with him,” Manchin told POLITICO in June.

Still, there are signs Morrisey’s 100 percent pro-Trump message is resonating on the ground.

“During a tour of Phillips Machine Services, a mining equipment business, it took Morrisey less than a minute after stepping onto the factory floor before asking about the benefits of the Trump tax cuts. The company’s CEO said business has improved in the past year and workers have seen increases in their take-home pay.

“I’m the guy who sued Obama,” Morrisey said by way of introduction as he shook hands with one worker on the factory floor while standing next to a gleaming white shuttle car. It was a reference to Morrisey’s successful lawsuit against the former president’s order to curb greenhouse emissions from power plants.

“Joe Manchin was with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton while your buddies were losing jobs,” Morrisey told other workers.

Morrisey’s problems, however, are not necessarily with the grass roots, but on the airwaves. He has faced constant attacks on TV, with most ads focused on his past work as a lobbyist, including for pharmaceutical companies, which opponents tie to the state’s opioid crisis. Democrats are also hitting Morrisey over a previous run for office in his native New Jersey.

The criticism isn’t new: Morrisey was rebuked by opponents on similar grounds during his expensive and brutal 2016 reelection as attorney general and again this year by his Republican opponents.

One GOP operative involved in Senate races said Morrisey emerged from the May 8 primary “worn down and broke.” Democrats picked up the baton immediately. Senate Majority PAC, a top group aligned with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, has spent $3.5 million against him since then, and has millions more booked through Election Day.

“Patrick Morrisey is losing this race because both Republicans and Democrats agree that an opioid lobbyist should not represent West Virginia in the Senate,” said Chris Hayden, a spokesman for the group.

Other party strategists dispute any concern about being competitive come November. They admit that some of the knocks on Morrisey have sunk in with voters after the relentless wave of messaging against him. But they also point out the attacks didn’t prevent Morrisey from winning his 2016 reelection or the Republican primary.

“It’s nothing new,” said Carmichael, the state Senate president. “It’s already been heard, it’s been processed and the voters have already made a decision on these issues.”

Republicans have dropped significant money onto the airwaves to turn the tide. The NRA, Judicial Crisis Network and a pro-Trump super PAC are running ads pressuring Manchin on Trump’s Supreme Court nomination. The NRSC launched its first ad of the cycle against Manchin this week, hitting him for having gone Washington. And One Nation, a nonprofit aligned with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has been bashing him on illegal immigration.

But none of the ads has countered Democratic messaging on Morrisey or worked to improve his own image in the state.

Phil Cox, an adviser to a pro-Morrisey super PAC, said he thinks Morrisey will have a healthy tailwind as the election nears. But he said “step one” for Morrisey’s allies is to begin airing positive ads to boost the candidate’s image.

“The negative information flow is baked in,” Cox said, “but Patrick’s campaign and the pro-Morrisey groups have a ways to go to define Patrick.”

Powered by WPeMatico

The challenge of tagging Republicans as 'corrupt' in 2018

Rep. Chris Collins’ indictment on insider trading charges has given Democrats new ammunition in their drive to take back the House — highlighting the latest scandal as part of what they call a web of corruption ensnaring President Donald Trump and his allies.

But what was a successful strategy more than a decade ago — Democrats seized both the House and Senate majorities in 2006 by promising to “drain the swamp” — might be a lot harder to pull off in a political landscape that’s light years different.

“It’s become so rampant. You have a corrupt Cabinet, from one Cabinet member after the next. It’s not just Chris Collins,” Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) said in an interview when asked why she thought Democrats’ strategy would still resonate.

“It’s this steady drip, drip, drip, and it’s one scandal on top of the next on top of the next. I think there’s a severe fatigue about this kind of behavior.”

Democrats know they’re operating in a political environment that bears little resemblance to the last time they won the House, upended by a president who has shattered many of the long-embedded political norms by which both parties abided.

What once could doom a politician’s career in an instant now sometimes barely raises an eyebrow. Scandals involving the president, his Cabinet or allies, seem to blow over by the next news cycle, if they pierce the public consciousness at all.

There’s also the challenge that the scandals at issue now — alleged insider trading by Collins, for example, or Cabinet secretaries using taxpayer money to finance their personal indulgences — don’t grab the public by the lapel in quite the way then-GOP Rep. Mark Foley’s underage sex scandal did in 2006.

Undeterred, House Democrats are charging ahead with their “culture of corruption” message. The strategy has been in the works for months, long before Collins turned himself in to federal authorities Wednesday on fraud charges related to an Australian biotech firm.

Democrats first unveiled their plan in May, introducing a package of anti-corruption bills inspired by misconduct allegations linked to some of Trump’s closest allies, including his former lawyer Michael Cohen.

Democratic leaders further refined the plan in July, rolling out their closing midterm message — “For the People” — centered on three key areas, including Republican corruption.

And Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reiterated the plan in a letter to House Democrats on Thursday, urging them to use the August recess to draw a “sharp contrast” between Republicans’ “cesspool of self-enrichment, secret money and special interests” and Democrats’ plans for change if they win back the House.

Pelosi’s note included a “toolkit” for Democrats with suggestions for how to talk about GOP corruption at campaign events and on social media along with a sample op-ed. It’s unclear whether Democrats will also employ their strategy in campaign ads.

“In the election of 2006, Democrats pointed out the Republicans’ pattern of corruption, cronyism and incompetence, under the frame ‘Drain the Swamp,’” Pelosi wrote. “In the Majority, we acted on that promise by passing a strong ethics package. Donald Trump hijacked the name and totally betrayed the mission.”

Democrats argue the steady flow of misconduct allegations implicating the president and his allies only strengthens their message, not dilutes it.

“Collins is the latest example of how this culture of corruption has gripped this White House and this administration and their allies in Congress,” Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) said Thursday in a conference call with reporters. “The public looks at Washington, they look at this White House and they look at this administration and they don’t see themselves in it.”

But in the next breath Sarbanes acknowledged the challenge plaguing Democrats this cycle: how to break through with voters who have become inured to outrage.

“We’re not asking you to pay attention to every detail of every scandal,” Sarbanes said. “We just want you to know Democrats have a program to create a different kind of government.”

For Democrats, that plan would include removing barriers to voting, tightening ethics rules governing lawmakers and administration officials and overhauling campaign finance laws. Even if Democrats win the House, none of those proposals would likely make it through the Senate and be signed into law.

Still, polling commissioned in July by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, and obtained by POLITICO shows that the anti-corruption plank works just as well with voters, and in some cases better, than talking about health care and the economy, the other two tenets of Democrats’ messaging.

A message focused on health care and jobs polled better than Republican talking points on tax cuts and the economy with college-educated whites and nonwhite voters in the 48 GOP-held districts surveyed. But a Democratic anti-corruption plank outperformed the GOP message by 8 points among whites who didn’t go to college as well as Trump voters in those same districts.

“I do think it’s breaking through,” said Bustos, one of a dozen House Democrats in a Trump-won district.

The Illinois Democrat said she’s seen a noticeable change in the topics voters raise when she’s back home on weekends. When Trump came in to office, the main questions she heard from constituents were about Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare.

But since last fall, voters overwhelmingly bring up the litany of scandals enveloping Washington at any given time, Bustos said.

“I have not once heard any person in the grocery store bring up the word emolument,” she said. “You don’t hear specifics like that. But I think it’s this compounding effect of the corruption that’s starting to really bother people.”

Collins was the first congressional Republican to endorse Trump and has been a vigorous defender and close ally of the president since then. But he’s not the only Trump associate staring down a headline-making scandal in recent days.

Just this week, Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort remains on trial for a litany of fraud charges. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was accused of stealing millions of dollars from former business partners in a Forbes report. And a ProPublica investigation found that a trio of Trump allies have been secretly driving Veterans Affairs Department policy from Mar-A-Lago, the president’s Palm Beach club.

Trump supporters say that Democrats who focus on GOP corruption should be ready for a powerful backlash when Republicans remind voters of the boogeymen on their side of the aisle. Barry Bennett, a senior adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign, named Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who was indicted on corruption charges but whose case ended with a hung jury, as one example, among others.

“If Chris Collins is guilty, and it certainly looks that way, we should be the first to throw him out,” Bennett said. “But … this is a strategy that leads to mutual shame. And it’s not a hard sell to the voters.”

John McLaughlin, a pollster who has advised the Trump campaign and White House, said Democrats do have an opportunity to reverse engineer a “drain the swamp” message against Republicans — but not because they’re seen as the more virtuous party.

“It’s more like the Republicans in Congress have not helped the president in terms of his agenda of draining the swamp,” he said, referencing Trump-favored policies ignored by lawmakers, like congressional term limits.

“Politics abhors a vacuum, and if Republicans don’t want to take the lead on draining the swamp, the Democrats are going to go after them on it,” McLaughlin said.

Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.

Powered by WPeMatico

Email exposes Kavanaugh to questions about role in terrorism response

A 2001 email from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is likely to reignite a debate over his involvement in making the legal case for the Bush administration’s treatment of terrorist suspects — and whether he misled Congress about it.

The email, part of a tranche of documents that the White House turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee in the run-up to Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, indicates that Kavanaugh, then a White House lawyer, helped to prepare then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to testify before Congress on the federal government’s monitoring of communications between terrorists in federal custody and their attorneys.

Democrats are likely to seize on the communication to argue that he misled them during his 2006 confirmation to the D.C. Circuit when, pressed about whether he had helped to make the legal case for torture, he denied any involvement in discussions about the treatment of enemy combatants.

The White House, however, argues that the email — in which Kavanaugh delegates to a colleague briefing of the attorney general on the use of military tribunals — strengthens the judge’s case. The White House says the email demonstrates that a limited number of White House aides, siloed from their colleagues, helped navigate uncharted legal territory on the interrogation of terrorist suspects and that Kavanaugh was not among them.

“To the best of my recollection Brett Kavanaugh was not involved with the legal issues surrounding the authorization of the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on high value detainees,” Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel at the time, said in a statement provided by the White House. “At the time, a very limited number of personnel in the White House and at the Justice Department were read into that sensitive issue. Brett was not.”

Kavanaugh’s involvement in the George W. Bush administration’s treatment of detainees became a flashpoint in his 2006 confirmation hearing when Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Patrick Leahy of Vermont pressed him on whether, in his capacity as White House counsel or later as White House staff secretary, he helped make the legal case for torture or recommended a candidate to the federal bench who had.

Kavanaugh denied any contemporaneous knowledge that the Bush administration was secretly waterboarding terrorist suspects, telling the senators he learned about the now infamous “Bybee Memo” that laid out a legal justification for torture years later through the “news media.”

“I think that memo did not serve the presidency … well,” Kavanaugh told the Senate panel.

Though the senators asked Kavanaugh pointed questions about the torture of terrorist suspects, he answered them in broader terms. In a statement that Democrats would later seize on — and on which they are likely to seize again — Kavanaugh also denied involvement “in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants.”

Durbin and Leahy pointed to a 2007 Washington Post report indicating that Kavanaugh had participated in a conversation about whether Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court’s swing vote, would uphold the constitutionality of the Bush administration’s decision to deny legal counsel to Americans deemed enemy combatants to a charge that Kavanaugh had perjured himself.

Kavanaugh, who clerked for Kennedy, told a group assembled in the Oval Office he believed Kennedy would vote against them, according to the report. Leahy urged the Department of Justice to investigate Kavanaugh for lying to Congress, though it declined to do so, citing insufficient evidence.

The newly released email, a forwarded message from Kavanaugh to then-associate White House counsel Brad Berenson, is likely to spark another round of debate about the judge’s involvement in the Bush administration’s terrorism policies and a new set of accusations from Democrats, including Durbin and Leahy, that he misled them a dozen years ago.

In the Nov. 19, 2001, email exchange, Kavanaugh forwards to Berenson a message from Dan Bryant, then the Justice Department’s congressional liaison, asking for “participation of WH Counsel in the preparation of the AG” on topics including “military tribunals, monitoring of atty/client conversations, racial profiling, etc.” — a range of issues related to the Bush administration’s response to 9/11 about which Ashcroft was expected to be pressed on at an upcoming Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

“I am happy to help on the attorney-client issue, but you should obviously handle tribunals,” Kavanaugh wrote Berenson, then his colleague in the White House counsel’s office.

In the 2006 hearing, Durbin and Leahy pressed Kavanaugh for his views on enhanced interrogation — the use of techniques like “threatening detainees with dogs, forced nudity, and forcing detainees into painful stress positions” (Durbin) and “documents relating to the administration’s policies and practice on torture” (Leahy).

Kavanaugh responded more broadly, telling the panel that he was “not aware of any discussions” about “the legal justifications or the policies relating to the treatment of detainees.”

“This was not part of my docket, either in the counsel’s office or as staff secretary,” he told Leahy.

Powered by WPeMatico