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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

The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), released one of the most critical statements yet from any member of his party on Tuesday’s shocking announcement that President Donald Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey.

Burr, who is leading the Senate’s investigation into alleged coordination between members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government, called Comey a “public servant of the highest order,” and said his firing was “a loss for the Bureau and the nation.”

Burr said he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination,” and noted that he “has been more forthcoming with information than any FBI Director I can recall in my tenure on the congressional intel committees.”

Like many other lawmakers, Burr expressed concern about the future of the investigation into Russian influence in the U.S. election that Comey was leading at the time he was fired.

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In the wake of Tuesday night’s bombshell news that President Donald Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey, most Republican members of Congress either remained silent or released statements supporting the President’s decision.

But Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, announced Tuesday that he and his staff are considering a bill that would establish an independent commission to take up the investigation into the Trump campaign’s contact with the Russian government that Comey was overseeing.

Following Comey’s dismissal and allegations that the House and Senate committees investigating the Russia ties have been starved of resources and stymied by partisanship, calls from both sides of the aisle for an independent prosecutor or independent commission to take up the matter are growing louder.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters Tuesday night that if the Justice Department does not appoint a special prosecutor to take over the investigation into Russian interference on Trump’s behalf in the 2016 election, it will indicate that FBI Director James Comey’s sudden termination was “part of a cover up.”

“Were these investigations getting too close to home for the president?” he asked.

Schumer says he questions both the timing of Comey’s firing as well as the reason given by the Justice Department—the mishandling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails last summer and fall.

“Why now? Why did it happen today?” Schumer asked, noting that if the Clinton missteps were the true reason, the Trump administration could have dismissed him in January.

The leader of the Senate Democrats also expressed fears that the decision would create a chilling effect for next FBI director, who could fear getting fired if they “run afoul of the administration.” He also questioned why Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who publicly recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation in March, “played a role in firing the man leading it.” Schumer called the decision part of a “deeply troubling pattern,” noting the recent firings of two other top officials involved in investigating the Trump administration: U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara and Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.

Schumer was one of a small handful of officials Trump called personally earlier on Tuesday to give a heads up about Comey’s firing.

“I told him, ‘Mr. President, with all due respect, you are making a big, big mistake,'” Schumer said. “He didn’t really answer.”

Like many of his Democratic colleagues, Schumer is now demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor to take over the Russia investigation Comey was leading at the time of his termination.

“The only way the American people can have faith in this investigation going forward is to have a fearless, independent special prosector,” he said.

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In the wake of the news that President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) called on the administration to allow a special prosecutor to take over the investigation of the administration that Comey was leading.

Harris, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee currently investigating the connections between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government, said the shocking news underscores the importance of appointing a special prosecutor to ensure a fair and impartial investigation going forward.

Other Senate Democrats, including Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), echoed this demand Tuesday night.

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Soon after learning that President Donald Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) took to the Senate floor to voice concerns that the investigation Comey was leading into the Trump campaign’s alleged coordination with the Russian government during the 2016 election will end with his dismissal.

“The termination and removal of James Comey as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation raises the critical question as to whether the FBI investigation into the Russian interference in the last presidential campaign will continue, and whether the investigation into any collusion or involvement  by the Trump campaign will also be investigated by the FBI,” he said. “Any attempt to stop or undermine this FBI investigation would raise grave constitutional issues. We await clarification by the White House as soon as possible as to whether this investigation will continue and whether it will have a credible lead, so we know it will have a just outcome.”

 

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Moments after the news broke late Tuesday that President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, a top Senate Democrat called for Comey to be immediately called to publicly testify.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee currently investigating the connections between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government, noted that Comey was in the midst of leading his own investigation into that same matter at the time of his dismissal.

 

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The full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, heard oral arguments Monday afternoon in the ongoing legal saga of President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers, immigrants, and refugees from six majority-Muslim nations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

“This is not a Muslim ban,” said Acting Solicitor General Jeffery Wall, arguing on behalf of the government that those “dangerous” countries don’t have the proper infrastructure for vetting travelers to the U.S. and weeding out national security threats. “It’s based on government conduct, not religious expression.”

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A new study co-authored by political science professors and a policy analyst from the think tank Demos finds that Donald Trump’s electoral college victory in November depended heavily on an increase in white voter turnout and an even bigger decrease in turnout among African-American voters—particularly in the key swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Comparing data from the voter file vendor Catalist and the U.S. Census Bureau, the researchers concluded: “Without those shifts in turnout from various racial and ethnic groups, these pivotal states might have gone not to Trump but to Clinton — giving Clinton an electoral college victory.”

The study, published Monday in the Washington Post‘s Monkey Cage blog, found that between 2012 and 2016, white voter turnout jumped 2.4 percent nationally, while black voter turnout fell 4.7 percent.

The split was even more dramatic in the midwestern states that tipped the scales for Trump. In Ohio, black voter turnout dropped 7.5 percent; in Wisconsin, it declined 12.3 percent; and in Michigan, it was down 12.4 percent.

That trend extends beyond the midwest, the study found, as white voter turnout surged 4 points while black voter turnout fell by 4 points in the critical swing state of Florida. Trump carried Florida by a narrow margin of just 1.2 points.

Had every demographic turned out to the polls in 2016 at the same rates they had in 2012, the researchers determined, Hillary Clinton would be sitting in the White House today.

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As Republican House members gathered in the White House Rose Garden to trumpet their passage of a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, many Senate Republicans voiced deep skepticism that it would ever become law—at least in its current form.

As Republican senators announced they were working on their own alternative bill, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) weighed in with a lengthy statement criticizing the House version, which she said raises “more questions than answers about its consequences.”

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It all came down to California.

With House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) furiously whipping wobbling Republican members, the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act passed the House by just two votes Thursday afternoon.

Right up until the final hours before the vote, a number of California Republicans remained publicly undecided. Yet by the time the gavel came down, enough fell in line and voted with the majority of their party to nudge the bill over the finish line.

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