Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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Rod Rosenstein’s fate hangs in the balance ahead of his Thursday meeting with President Trump.

But some congressional Republicans don’t want to wait until then to get answers from the deputy attorney general about reports that he discussed secretly recording the President and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) granted a Saturday extension for attorneys of the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempted sexual assault to settle on the terms of her tetimony.

In a series of late Friday night tweets, Grassley said that Christine Blasey Ford “shld decide so we can move on.”

The Republican leader appeared irritated by the delays, saying he feels like he’s “playing 2nd trombone in the judiciary orchestra and [Democratic Sen. Chuck] Schumer is the conductor.”

According to the New York Times, Grassley’s office told Ford’s lawyers they “absolutely must hear by 2:30 p.m.” that Ford will comply with their terms for testifying.

Ford’s attorneys have accused Senate Republicans including Grassley of pressuring their client and setting artificially tight deadlines.

Ford has alleged that Kavanaugh held her down and tried to forcibly remove her clothing while intoxicated at a high school party. Kavanaugh has categorically denied doing so.

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last year suggested secretly recording President Donald Trump and using the 25th Amendment to forcibly remove him from office, the New York Times reported Friday afternoon.

The Washington Post and ABC News confirmed the report shortly after, hanging theirs heavily on contemporaneous memos written by then-acting FBI director Andrew McCabe.

The extraordinary stories describe an unprecedented consideration of the invocation of the 25th Amendment, may further jeopardize Rosenstein’s position within the administration, and paint him in a deeply unflattering light even as they further call into question Trump’s fitness for office.

Per the reports, Rosenstein’s suggestions came in the chaotic aftermath of Trump’s May 2017 move to abruptly fire James Comey as FBI director. Rosenstein spoke to other Justice Department and FBI officials about his concerns, some of which were memorialized in McCabe’s memos, sources told the news outlets.

Efforts to declare the president incapable of holding office would have required recruiting members of Trump’s own cabinet to the cause. Rosenstein told McCabe that he believed he could persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions and John Kelly to join this effort, the Times reported.

The Times’ sources appeared to be critical of Rosenstein’s performance in his role:

In the end, the idea went nowhere, the officials said. But they called Mr. Rosenstein’s comments an example of how erratically he was behaving while he was taking part in the interviews for a replacement F.B.I. director, considering the appointment of a special counsel and otherwise running the day-to-day operations of the more than 100,000 people at the Justice Department.

In a statement to the newspaper, Rosenstein called the story “inaccurate and factually incorrect.”

“I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda,” he said. “But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”

Sources who spoke to the Post and ABC said that Rosenstein never actually intended to record the president, and was just making a sarcastic comment. Per the Post, after McCabe described pushing for the Justice Department to open a probe into the president, Rosenstein reportedly cracked, “What do you want to do, Andy, wire the president?”

McCabe’s attorney, Michael R. Bromwich, released a statement saying his client did not leak the memos he made while at the FBI.

“Andrew McCabe drafted memos to memorialize significant discussions he had with high level officials and preserved them so he would have an accurate, contemporaneous record of those discussions,” the statement read. “When he was interviewed by the Special Counsel more than a year ago, he gave all of his memos — classified and unclassified — to the Special Counsel’s office. A set of those memos remained at the FBI at the time of his departure in late January 2018. He has no knowledge of how any member of the media obtained those memos.”

The bombshell stories are the latest example of the rocky relationship between Trump and the senior officials who run the Justice Department and FBI.

Rosenstein assumed oversight of the federal investigation into Russia’s election interference last year, after Sessions recused himself due to his own contacts with Russian officials during the campaign. Shortly after, he appointed Robert Mueller as the special counsel tasked with probing all matters related to Russian interference and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

Trump has publicly lashed out at both Rosenstein and Sessions ever since, blaming them for fueling what he called a “witch hunt” bent on undermining his administration.

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As evidence accumulated over the past year that a blue wave will wash over the House in November, some two dozen Republicans resigned or retired from Congress, fearing that they would be wiped out by anti-Trump backlash. One of those lawmakers was New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, who is retiring after over two decades in his seat.

But the nominee to replace Frelinghuysen is further to the right on a host of social issues, from abortion to the Second Amendment, putting him somewhat out of step with the Garden State’s affluent, highly educated 11th District. Throughout his career, Assemblyman Jay Webber, who was endorsed by President Trump Thursday as “outstanding in every way,” has also been a particularly vocal crusader against LGBT rights.

That history has been one flashpoint in Webber’s campaign against Democratic opponent Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy pilot and federal prosecutor.

In a six-figure ad buy released this week on Webber’s “harmful record,” Sherrill mentions his multiple votes against gay marriage and support of conversion therapy to “fix” gay teenagers. She also points out that he voted against an equal pay bill in the state Legislature this year.

National Democrats, too, are calling out Webber as disconnected from the district he would represent.

“Assemblyman Webber’s anti-LGBT record is simply disqualifying, not just for Democrats or Independents, but for all Garden State voters,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Spokesman Evan Lukaske told TPM in a statement.

The National Republican Congressional Committee and Webber did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment. In a statement responding to the Sherill ad, Webber called his Democratic opponent “unhinged—showing her progressive-left true self” and denied, despite his voting record, that he opposes equal pay for equal work.

The 11th District is one of the seats the DCCC has targeted as part of its “red to blue” effort to flip the House. The Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball also rate the NJ-11 race as “lean Democrat.”

One reason may be the wide gulf on social issues between the outgoing House veteran and the GOP nominee to replace him. Frelinghuysen is a fiscal conservative who favored stricter sentencing for hate crimes, abortion rights, and prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. Webber, a Catholic father of seven, was backed by the Susan B. Anthony List as a “passionate defender of unborn children.”

Frelinghuysen was even endorsed in 2016 by Garden State Equality, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group that supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. The group came out against Webber’s candidacy, condemning his “repugnant anti-LGBT track record” and “history of prejudice.”

Matters of sexual orientation have been a particular focus for Webber since his days at Harvard Law School in the late 1990s. The New Jersey Republican served as the president of the Society for Law, Life and Religion student group. In an interview at the time, Webber told the Harvard Law Record that homosexuality was a choice that individuals could help be led away from through “a deep belief in Jesus Christ.”

During Webber’s tenure in the New Jersey Assembly, where he’s served since 2008, he became a stalwart opponent of civil unions and gay marriage. In a March 2012 speech from the Assembly floor, Webber said that legalizing marriage between gay couples would “override or redefine the institution of marriage for everyone else in this society.” He repeatedly co-sponsored a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and woman, even after gay marriage was legalized in the state. In 2013, he voted against a bill to ban LGBT conversion therapy.

More recently, Webber has rejected various pieces of transgender rights legislation. He voted against a 2017 bill to prohibit health insurers from discriminating based on gender identity and, in both 2017 and 2018, bills to establish a trans equality task force.

Webber’s reputation as the “conservative conscience of the state Legislature” served him well when he was representing New Jersey’s staunchly Republican 26th Legislative District. But Clinton lost the wealthy, suburban 11th Congressional District by only 1 point in the 2016 presidential election.

In an emailed statement to TPM, Sherrill said, “In 2018, it is difficult to imagine that we would have an Assemblyman in New Jersey who does not believe in equal treatment under the law for our LGBTQ community,” Sherrill said.

In the only public survey of the race, Monmouth University found Sherrill beating Webber 40 percent to 38 percent among all potential voters—a statistical dead heat.

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It’s all happening. Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen has reportedly been spending hours in interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller, where they’ve talked about the President’s ties to Russia and any possible offers he’s made of a pardon.

Cohen and his lawyer, Lanny Davis, sent out identical tweets about these talks on Thursday, applauding Cohen for voluntarily providing “critical information” to Mueller without a cooperation agreement in place.

Another cooperating witness, former national security advisor Michael Flynn, has provided all the useful information he has to the special counsel team. A D.C. judge has set a December 18 date for his sentencing in federal court.

Trump’s legal team is still trying to get a sense of the scope of the investigations into the President, and what dirt those once close to him could have divulged, according to the New York Times.

Republicans, led by Trump, are in a rush to declassify and release troves of material related to the congressional and federal Russia probes.

Trump made the unprecedented announcement that he wants to declassify text messages about the investigation sent by some of his top former (perceived) foes in the U.S. government: James Comey, Bruce Ohr, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok.

For good measure, Trump also wants the DOJ to release the underlying materials the FBI used to request a secret surveillance warrant for former campaign advisor Carter Page. His interest, the White House said, is “transparency.”

But Trump retreated on Friday, citing outreach from multiple U.S. allies and DOJ officials who said that releasing the materials would compromise intelligence-gathering methods and sources. In a pair of tweets, he said he would have the DOJ Inspector General review the documents before unleashing them on the world. He noted he could “always declassify if it proves necessary,” however, because “speed is very important to me — and everyone!”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes announced that he will release dozens of deposition transcripts related to his committee’s investigation prior to the midterm elections. Democrats appear to be on board with this move.

Meanwhile, Trump is still fuming about his own personnel choices, saying, nonsensically, that he should have fired Comey during the 2016 race, when Barack Obama was still president.

Trump also complained that he doesn’t “have an attorney general” because Jeff Sessions, who he blames for the launch of the special counsel probe, has done such a poor job in the role.

He has reason to be worried. As Politico reported, Democrats are keen to subpoena a long list of Trump allies, including Donald Trump Jr., if they retake the House this fall.

In international news, Russian officials reportedly held private meetings with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange last year to discuss a potential plan to help him escape the Ecuadorian embassy in London. President Vladimir Putin has also reportedly continued to stoke Trump’s anger at the “deep state” in their private conversations.

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