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Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.
In a blistering letter to President Donald Trump on Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) criticized a May opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel allowing the White House to ignore information requests from Democrats, writing that the opinion is “nonsense.”
The OLC issued a legal opinion in May arguing that the White House did not have to complete requests for information from individual members of Congress, even those who are ranking members on committees, and was only required to fulfill requests sent by committee chairs or full committees. The opinion did not bar the White House from fulfilling requests from individual members, but did have the effect of allowing the executive branch to ignore them, leading Democrats to charge that the White House has been ignoring their oversight requests.
Grassley argued in his Wednesday letter that the OLC’s opinion “completely misses the mark” and that its implications are troubling.
“It erroneously rejects any notion that individual members of Congress who may not chair a relevant committee need to obtain information from the Executive Branch in order to carry out their Constitutional duties,” Grassley wrote. “It falsely asserts that only requests from committees or their chairs are ‘constitutionally authorized,’ and relegates requests from non-Chairmen to the position of ‘non-oversight’ inquiries— whatever that means. This is nonsense.”
Grassley explained that committees are simply a structure to help Congress manage a heavy workload and noted they’re not even mentioned in the Constitution.
“For OLC to so fundamentally misunderstand and misstate such a simple fact exposes its shocking lack of professionalism and objectivity,” Grassley wrote in his letter to Trump. “You are being ill-served and ill-advised.”
The senator also argued that OLC had no authority to declare which requests from Congress to the White House are authorized. He warned Trump against ignoring requests from Democrats, noting that the OLC opinion makes a “contrived distinction between ‘oversight’ and ‘non-oversight’” and does not “say that determinations whether to comply voluntarily with an individual request depend or should depend upon the party of the requester.”
But Grassley said that “bureaucrats in the Executive Branch sometimes choose to respond only to the party in power at the moment,” adding that he had trouble with his own requests to the Obama administration.
“I know from experience that a partisan response to oversight only discourages bipartisanship, decreases transparency, and diminishes the crucial role of the American people;s elected representatives. Oversight brings transparency, and transparency brings accountability,” Grassley wrote. “And the opposite is true. Shutting down oversight requests doesn’t drain the swamp, Mr. President. It floods the swamp.”
Grassley ended the letter by laying out why he found OLC’s opinion so troubling: by refusing to fulfill requests voluntarily, he wrote, the White House will prompt Congress to demand the documents through a compulsory process.
A new poll released by WSB-TV on Thursday showed Democrat Jon Ossoff strengthening his lead over Republican Karen Handel slightly in the special election to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia.
Ossoff led Handel by 2.5 points, 49.6-47.1, among likely voters, in the poll conducted by Landmark Communications. In the previous WSB-TV/Landmark poll released last week, Ossoff led Handel by less than two points.
The poll released on Thursday surveyed 420 likely voters June 6-7 with a margin of error plus or minus 4.78 percentage points.
A spokesman for Attorney General Jeff Sessions late Thursday pushed back on several aspects of James Comey’s Senate testimony after the former FBI director raised new questions about Sessions’ actions before and after he recused himself from the federal investigation of Russia’s interference in the U.S. election.
Comey’s testimony touched on Sessions at several points. He hinted that the FBI was aware of information that led the bureau to believe Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia probe weeks before he actually did so, and reportedly told senators in a subsequent closed session that Sessions may have met with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. on a third occasion that the attorney general had not disclosed.
The morning after former FBI Director James Comey delivered blockbuster testimony in the Senate in which he painted President Donald Trump as a liar and said that the President pressured him to quash a probe into Michael Flynn, Trump published a tweet declaring “vindication.”
Trump published his tweet shortly after 6 a.m. on Friday morning, during the time frame when he typically shares his thoughts on Twitter.
He referenced “false statements and lies,” appearing to accuse Comey of lying under oath.
Trump also labeled Comey a “leaker,” referencing Comey’s decision to get a friend to share the contents of memos about his conversations with Trump to the press, a revelation the former FBI director shared on Thursday during with the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication…and WOW, Comey is a leaker!
Throughout his testimony Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey repeatedly stressed the serious implications of Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election. He argued that the issue of Russian meddling it not about politics, but about the credibility of the American government.
Toward the beginning of the hearing, Comey said that he has no doubt that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election and that Russian government officials were aware of the meddling.
He later stressed that Russian interference is very real, countering President Donald Trump’s constant dismissals of the Russia probe.
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) asked Comey about the way Trump has discussed Russia’s election meddling, noting that the President has described Russian interference “as a hoax and as fake news.” In response, Comey stressed that there’s no doubt that the Russian government tried to interfere in the 2016 election and that the conclusion on Russia’s actions is “about as unfake as you can possibly get.”
“There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. And it was an active measures campaign driven from the top of the government. There is no fuzz on that,” Comey said.
“It is a high confidence judgment of the entire intelligence community — and the members of this committee have seen the intelligence — it’s not a close call,” he continued. “That happened. That’s about as unfake as you can possibly get and is very, very serious, which is why it’s so refreshing to see a bipartisan focus on that. Because this is about America, not about any particular party.”
Asked if it was a “hostile act by the Russian government,” Comey replied, “Yes.”
Later in his testimony, Comey emphasized that Russia’s attempt to meddle in the election is a threat to the United States and should rise above politics. He delivered a passionate monologue about just how grave a threat Russia’s meddling is to America.
“The reason this is such a big deal is we have this big, messy, wonderful country where we fight with each other all the time but nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for, except other Americans. And that’s wonderful and often painful,” Comey said. “But we’re talking about a foreign government that — using technical intrusion, lots of other methods — tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act.”
“That is a big deal. And people need to recognize it. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. They’re coming after America, which I hope we all love equally,” he continued. “They want to undermine our credibility in the face of the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them. And so they’re going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible. That’s what this is about. And they will be back, because we remain — as difficult as we can be with each other — we remain that shining city on the hill and they don’t like it.”
The former FBI director also noted that Russia’s attempt to interfere in the 2016 election was part of an ongoing effort targeted at the U.S.
“It’s a long-term practice of theirs. It stepped up a notch in a significant way in ’16. They’ll be back,” he told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
He stressed that the probe into Russian election meddling is also about prevention of future attacks, saying that Russia is not a threat to any one political party, but to the country as a whole.
Comey also addressed some of the details of the the FBI’s investigation into Russian hacking attempts. He said there was a “massive” effort to target government agencies and non-governmental groups, estimating that hundreds, possibly around 1,000, entities were targeted. He also said that the FBI never examined the hardware that was hacked at the Democratic National Committee’s, but that the FBI got the information they needed from a third party.
James Comey on Thursday described how Jeff Sessions reacted when he told him that he cannot be left alone with President Donald Trump.
Comey made the comments to Sessions after a Feb. 14 encounter in which he says Trump pressured him to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn, the ousted national security adviser. Comey wrote in his prepared statement that Sessions did not offer a verbal reply to his plea. On Thursday, Comey described Sessions’ body language after he told the attorney general that he and Trump cannot be alone together.