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Alice Ollstein

Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.

Articles by Alice

Donald Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly warned him not to contact his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who resigned in February after revelations that he lied about conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and who remains under investigation by congressional committees, the FBI, and a federal grand jury. The attorneys reportedly expressed fears that any contact with Flynn could look like witness tampering or coordination.

It appears the President did not heed their advice.

Yahoo News reported Thursday that Flynn announced at a dinner in late April: “I just got a message from the president to stay strong.” It is not yet known if the message was a phone call, e-mail, text message or other form of communication.

The revelation comes just days after the New York Times revealed that Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to drop his investigation of Flynn, and emerging reports that Flynn intervened to stop a military operation against ISIS without revealing that he was on the payroll of the Turkish government, who opposed the strike. Other reports revealed that Flynn failed to properly register as a foreign agent, and failed to report more than a million dollars in income from Russian and Turkish sources.

Just over a week ago, the public learned from ousted Acting Attorney General Sally Yates that she tried to warn the Trump administration that Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail by the Russia government, warnings that fell on deaf ears. Reports Thursday alleged that the Trump’s transition team—led by Vice President Mike Pence—was already aware that Flynn was under federal investigation when they brought him on board as White House national security adviser.

For now, Flynn is indeed staying strong.

His lawyers informed the Senate Intelligence Committee that he will refuse to honor their subpoena for his documents.

He has reportedly portrayed the investigations as a conspiracy against him by former Hillary Clinton aides as retribution for him leading a chant of “Lock her up” at the Republican National Convention. He previously announced he would be happy to testify before Congress in exchange for legal immunity, an offer that was swiftly rejected.

Reuters reported Thursday morning that Trump’s campaign had at least 18 calls, e-mails, and text message exchanges with Russian officials and people connected to the Kremlin during the final months of the 2016 campaign—contacts they did not previously disclose.

Six of those conversations—which are now under scrutiny from the FBI and the four congressional committees investigating the Trump-Russia morass—were reportedly with Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn resigned in February after it came to light that he had lied about a December meeting with Kislyak in which he discussed lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia. Flynn’s records of this meeting have since been subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

These newly revealed conversations happened between April and November of 2016, at the same time the world was learning of Russian efforts to intervene in the U.S. election on Donald Trump’s behalf. The unnamed U.S. government officials who described these contacts to Reuters said, however, that they saw no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion.

 

Fox News reported Thursday morning that its founder, Roger Ailes, has died at the age of 77.

Ailes, who worked on the campaigns of Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, became the founding chief executive of Fox News in 1996. He built the scrappy cable company into a ratings powerhouse, permanently changing the media landscape with a mix of right-wing commentary and hard news.

Ailes was ousted last summer from the company he helped build following accusations of serial sexual harassment and retaliation against female employees who rebuffed his advances—a pattern that allegedly lasted for decades. After more than 25 women accused him, he left with a severance package of tens of millions of dollars. An ongoing federal investigation into Fox News revealed that Ailes surveilled both his own employees and outside journalists who reported critically on his leadership.

Ailes then spent a few months as an adviser for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, before the men had a falling out in the final weeks of the race.

Ailes family has not yet provided details of the cause of death. His widow, Elizabeth Ailes, released the following statement: “Roger was a loving husband to me, to his son Zachary, and a loyal friend to many. He was also a patriot, profoundly grateful to live in a country that gave him so much opportunity to work hard, to rise—and to give back.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill are still reeling from the waves of scandals that have hit Washington in quick succession over the last few days: President Donald Trump’s sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey, the admission he did so to in order put the kibosh on the bureau’s investigation of his own campaign, reports that Trump pressured Comey in a private meeting to drop that investigation, and news that Trump revealed highly classified Israeli intelligence to the Russians.

Any one of those revelations on its own could drive a wedge between a President and his own party in Congress. In combination, they threaten to derail Trump’s presidency entirely.

While the latest Comey allegations have forced reluctant Republican leaders to initiate some oversight of Trump, and at least two GOP lawmakers have raised the possibility of impeachment, most members are standing by their man. Here are the some of the arguments GOP members made to reporters as to why Trump’s pressure on Comey to let Flynn off the hook does not constitute an obstruction of justice.

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Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) has been one of the loudest critics of President Donald Trump as scandal after scandal has hit the administration over its first few months.

He had already been one of just a tiny handful of GOP lawmakers backing Democrats’ call for an independent commission to investigate Trump, and he went a step further on Wednesday.

Asked if the new revelations that President Trump pressured then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation of national security advisor Mike Flynn’s communications with the Russian government could be grounds for impeachment, Amash told reporters: “If the allegations are true, yes. But everybody in this country gets a fair trial, including the president.”

Asked who he trusts more if the matter comes down to a dispute between Comey’s memos versus Trump’s account of their conversations, Amash said: “I think it’s pretty clear I have more confidence in Director Comey.”

Amash’s comments came on the heels of Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) raising the possibility of impeaching Trump in an interview Tuesday night on CNN.

“Any effort to stop the federal government from conducting an investigation, any effort to dissuade federal agents from pursuing an investigation is very serious and could be construed as obstruction of justice,” he said. “We’ve seen that these obstruction of justice cases, when they deal with presidents, can get ugly very fast.”

“Obstruction in the case of Nixon and in the case of Clinton in the late 90s has been considered an impeachable offense,” he added.

The first version of this reported cited Amash as the first sitting Republican to float impeachment. Curbelo was in fact the first. We regret the error. 

CIA Director Mike Pompeo will come to Capitol Hill Tuesday night to brief members of the House Intelligence Committee about the shocking developments of the past week, including the revelation that President Donald Trump shared highly classified information about an Islamic State threat with Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting.

The top Democrat on that committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), said at a conference in Washington earlier Tuesday that he fears the president’s carelessness could cause the source of the intelligence in question to “dry up or go away.” He added that the ally nation that reportedly produced the intelligence and shared it with the United States could decide that the Trump administration can’t be trusted with sensitive information. If that information concerns threats to the American homeland, Schiff noted, this rupture could prove dangerous.

“We immediately have to go into damage mitigation mode,” Schiff said, urging the administration to reach out to the ally and “assure them we’ll be more careful in the future.”

With several members of the intelligence community testifying over the past few months that Russian meddling in U.S. elections is likely to continue in the future, Schiff warned that the only way to “inoculate” the country from future attacks is to “fully investigate what they did and how they did it.”

“The most fundamental point is how we protect our democracy in the future,” he said.

Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

Senators arriving at the Capitol Monday night to return to their normal business of confirming nominees and passing bills were once again confronted with and forced to respond another disaster unleashed by President Donald Trump. This time, it was news broken by the Washington Post that Trump revealed “highly classified information” to Russian government officials in their Oval office meeting last week.

Only a few Republican senators, including Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), came out strongly against the president’s actions, which reportedly included revealing foreign intelligence related to an ISIS threat that the U.S. was not authorized to share.

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House Democrats are planning to use a special procedural tool this week to force the GOP majority to vote on a bill to establish an outside, independent commission to investigate President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

The use of the discharge petition, which requires only a simply majority to pass, can enable a minority party to force a vote on a bill that the majority is blocking from the floor. But the move is unlikely to succeed, because Democrats would need more than a dozen Republicans to join them in order to secure such a vote against leadership’s wishes. But it is one of several procedural tools Democrats are using to call attention to Republicans’ muted response to President Donald Trump’s shocking decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.

The bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has languished in committee since it was introduced last December. It gained new life last week, when Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) backed the call for an independent commission following Comey’s ouster .

Amash is one of just two Republicans co-sponsoring the bill, along with Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC). Nearly 200 Democrats have signed on.

In announcing the attempt to move the bill Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote: “The question remains: what do the Russians have on President Trump financially, politically and personally that he and Republicans in Congress want to hide?”

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