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Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Friday called on Congress to impeach President Donald Trump in the wake of the publication of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, breaking with Democratic leaders deferring the politically risky move despite new evidence that Trump attempted to derail the Russia probe.
“To ignore a President’s repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future Presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways,” Warren said on Twitter.
“The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty,” the Massachusetts Democrat added. “That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.”
Mueller’s 448-page report described at least 10 instances in which Trump attempted to interfere with the probe, implying that the president may have escaped an incriminating finding because top aides refused to carry out his most dramatic orders.
Warren, a leading contender in the 2020 field, called for extreme measures in response to the revelations. She joined a smattering of lawmakers — including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a high-profile progressive newcomer — in calling for the president’s ousting.
“Mueller put the next step in the hands of Congress: ‘Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,’” Warren said. “The correct process for exercising that authority is impeachment.”
A number of Democrats on Thursday, however, said they felt the evidence against Trump — though damaging — was not enough to trigger the consequential act of trying to forcibly eject the president from office. Party leaders fear such a move could cost the party the House.
Most of Warren’s primary contenders have demurred on questions about impeachment, not taking the option off the table but also not calling for it outright.
The special counsel ultimately did not come to a conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice, but Attorney General William Barr said in a letter to Congress last month he would not pursue charges since it is clear that was not Trump’s “intent.”
Democrats railed against Barr after reading the report, claiming the attorney general’s handling of it was misleading and a clear attempt to protect Trump. Many pushed to continue the investigation by quickly taking matters into their own hands — a process set in motion Friday, when the House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for an unredacted version of Mueller’s report and confirmed it was in talks with the Justice Department about plans for the special counsel to testify before Congress next month.
The Trump campaign has hired its own in-house attorney for its 2020 re-election bid – shifting future business away from the law firm, Jones Day, that has represented Trump since his first run for president.
Campaign officials and advisers cast the decision to hire Nathan Groth – a former lawyer for the Republican National Committee and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – as a money-saving move, supported by the businessman-turned-president who loves to cut costs.
But close Trump advisers say the decision also stems from disappointment with the White House’s former top attorney and current Jones Day partner, Don McGahn, whose behavior has irked the president and some of his family members.
Taking business away from Jones Day is payback, these advisers say, for McGahn’s soured relationship with the Trump family and a handful articles in high-profile newspapers that the family blames, unfairly or not, on the former White House counsel.
“Why in the world would you want to put your enemy on the payroll?” said one adviser close to the White House. “They do not want to reward his firm. Trump arrived at that point long ago, but the security clearance memo stories put a fine point on it.”
One February 2019 story in particular caught the White House’s attention, when the New York Times reported that the president ordered John Kelly, his chief of staff at the time, to grant a security clearance to Jared Kushner. Kelly had written an internal memo on it, according to the Times. That fact was closely held inside the White House, and few officials other than Kelly and McGahn knew, say two close White House advisers – and the administration blamed McGahn for the leak.
McGahn did not respond to an emailed request for comment. Trump campaign spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Mueller report, released on Thursday, only seems to have fueled Trump’s anger. It portrayed McGahn as one of the key officials who stopped Trump from taking actions that might be deemed obstructing justice.
In one especially colorful passage, McGahn is quoted as saying that the president had asked him to do “crazy shit.” In another, Trump berates his White House counsel for taking too many notes, comparing him unfavorably to his longtime consigilere, the late Roy Cohn.
On Friday, Trump seemed to take aim at McGahn on Twitter, writing, “Watch out for people that take so-called ‘notes,’ when the notes never existed until needed.”
The decision to shift law firms has been in the works for weeks, however, and pre-dates release of the Mueller report.
The loss of Trump campaign business will be a financial blow to the D.C. political law practice of Jones Day, which raked in $5.5 million in legal fees since the start of the 2016 Trump campaign, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.
The campaign still intends to lean on Jones Day for litigation already underway, so it is not severing all ties, and as a global law firm with 43 offices and 2,500 lawyers, its work for Trump campaign is just one small piece of its business.
The current head of the Jones Day political law practice, Ben Ginsberg, did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.
Groth will report to senior lawyers on the campaign, according to a Republican operative familiar with the operation. He will handle all of the compliance work such as conventions, ballot access and run-of-the-mill services like reviewing employment contracts and leases. This was a more typical arrangement for a campaign, the operative added – to have an in-house attorney and then other outside law firms for additional help. In 2016, the Trump campaign leaned entirely on Jones Day and McGahn, a former appointee to the Federal Elections Commission.
The move marks the waning of a symbiotic relationship between the law firm and the sitting president. After McGahn was named the White House counsel, he brought with him into the administration 12 Jones Day attorneys who worked in the counsel’s office, Department of Justice, Commerce, Agriculture and now as the solicitor general, responsible for arguing the administration’s positions before the Supreme Court.
At the time, David Lat of the legal blog Above the Lawwrote: “This is very good news for Jones Day and the lawyers remaining at the firm. It’s great for the firm’s prestige, and it also means that JD lawyers will be eagerly sought after by clients with issues pending before their former colleagues.”
McGahn returned to Jones Day as a partner this March, leading the government regulation practice. McGahn, a close ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, continues to advise Senate Republicans on judicial nominations, while focusing his law practice around the nuances of regulation, another of his passions from his White House tenure. Allies say he doesn’t mind losing the Trump campaign work and is quite happy with his new setup.
Prior to joining the White House, McGahn worked as a partner in the election law group at Jones Day from June 2014 to January 2017.
Sen. Mitt Romney said Friday that he was “sickened” by President Donald Trump’s actions described in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
In a statement, the Utah Republican said that while it was “good news” there was not enough evidence to bring criminal charges related to conspiring with Russia and that there was no conclusion of obstruction of justice, he blasted the White House and Trump campaign officials for their actions. The report, released Thursday, demonstrated repeated efforts by Trump to interfere with Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President,” Romney said. “I am also appalled that, among other things fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia.”
Romney blasted members of the Trump campaign for not informing law enforcement about Russia’s actions and went after former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for “actively promoting Russian interests in the Ukraine.”
“Reading the report is a sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspirations and principles of the founders,” Romney said.
The Utah Republican broke ranks with much of his party in condemning Trump. A number of Republicans emphasized the first half of Mueller’s findings, which said the special counsel did not find evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia, echoing the president’s “no collusion” mantra.
Like his GOP colleagues, however, Romney called for the government to move on now that the 22-month probe has concluded.
“It is good news that there was insufficient evidence to charge the President of the United States with having conspired with a foreign adversary or with having obstructed justice,” Romney said. “The alternative would have taken us through a wrenching process with the potential for constitutional crisis. The business of government can move on.”
Democrats on Thursday keyed in on Mueller’s decision to not “draw ultimate conclusions” about whether Trump intended to obstruct justice, citing a number of instances in the report that said the president’s conduct satisfied all the legal elements of the crime.
Romney’s statement does not reference ongoing congressional investigations, which Democrats plan to ramp up in the coming weeks. The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for an unredacted version of Mueller’s report Friday and are in talks with the Justice Department about plans for the special counsel to testify before Congress next month.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are rejecting an offer from Attorney General WIlliam Barr to view a significantly less-redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, contending that Barr is too severely limiting the number of lawmakers who can view it.
“Given the comprehensive factual findings presented by the special counsel’s report, some of which will only be fully understood with access to the redacted material, we cannot agree to the conditions you are placing on our access to the full report,” Pelosi, Schumer and other senior House and Senate Democratic committee chairs wrote in a letter to Barr on Friday.
The Democrats say Barr’s offer, which would allow just 12 senior lawmakers and certain staffers to see the fuller version of the report, also fails to guarantee lawmakers access to grand jury material. They say they’re open to “discussing a reasonable accommodation” but that members of investigative committees — such as the Judiciary Committee and Intelligence Committee in each chamber — require access as well.
“While the current proposal is not workable, we are open to discussing a reasonable accommodation with the Department that would protect law enforcement sensitive information while allowing Congress to fulfill its constitutional duties,” they write.
In addition to Pelosi and Schumer, the letter is signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.).
Their letter comes just a day after the Justice Department invited a select group of lawmakers to view a significantly less-redacted version of Mueller’s report.
Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd had said the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate Judiciary committees, in addition to members of the so-called “Gang of Eight” and certain staffers, would be able to view the less-redacted version next week in a secure setting at DOJ headquarters. The Gang of Eight, a group of lawmakers that regularly views the government’s most sensitive secrets, includes Pelosi, Schumer, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
But while that document would include classified information and evidence related to ongoing investigations — which were deleted from the public version of the report — lawmakers would still be blocked from viewing sensitive grand-jury information.
Republicans have argued that Democrats’ efforts to obtain grand jury material in Mueller’s report is fruitless and that Barr is legally prohibited from doing so under Justice Department guidelines and judicial restrictions on releasing such information. Rather, they say Democrats’ only recourse to access grand jury information is to open an impeachment proceeding, a step top Democrats have been loath to take without bipartisan buy-in.
Democrats say Congress has received grand jury material after previous special counsel investigations — including after Watergate and the Starr investigation of Bill Clinton. But Republicans say both of those reports were delivered in the context of impeachment proceedings.
The Democrats’ letter comes on the same day that Nadler issued a subpoena to the Justice Department for the full, unredacted Mueller report and all of the underlying evidence.
Democrats have contended that they have a right to use that information for their own obstruction of justice investigation into the president. They’ve also said that all members of Congress — rather than just a select few members — should be able to view classified portions.
For the past two years, Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to the United States, has signed off on the cables he sends back to Paris with the same caveat: “Of course, a surprise can’t be excluded.”
Such is life for many diplomats in Washington in the era of Donald Trump. But Araud, who retired this week after nearly five years in this latest post, proved a skilled navigator of the U.S. capital. His blunt talk, including on Twitter, has endeared him to many in the foreign policy community and beyond, even if they don’t always agree with him.
His advice to the people he leaves behind? Calm down. Take a deep breath.
“Washington is a bit hysterical,” Araud said in an interview with POLITICO a few days before he was set to retire. “People are so appalled by the behavior of the president that they listen a bit too much to their guts instead of really listening to the brain.”
So what should their brains tell them?
That Trump, for all his flaws, is asking legitimate questions, Araud said. That the Republican president saw the world “shifting, in a sense, to a new era” and that his “genius” was understanding the “malaise” in the United States.
It’s a malaise, Araud is quick to add, that is leading people to embrace populism and nationalism in France and other countries, too. “We have to address the concerns of these people,” he said. “It’s a serious crisis of our democracy.”
At one point, Araud even joked that he sounded like a “Trumpist in the closet.”
Araud, who was named France’s U.S. ambassador in September 2014, is a figure Washington won’t soon forget — an openly gay diplomat who threw memorable parties, disdains political correctness and loves the Tintin comics.
“He’s a real patriot. It’s all in the defense of France and French interests,” said Philip Gordon, a former senior official in the Obama administration. “But he is well-liked because he’s funny and charming and, again, honest. It’s not like he’s playing games behind people’s back.”
This past week, Araud’s last in the job, was exceptionally difficult and yet showcased his diplomatic talents: As a fire gutted the famed Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Araud wrote and spoke movingly about how the images brought him to tears.
“Suddenly, I have the feeling that a part of myself was burning,” Araud told “PBS NewsHour.” “And all the other diplomats and employees of the Embassy felt the same emotion.”
Araud, 66, has had extensive experience in the U.S. — he was in New York as France’s ambassador to the United Nations before moving to Washington, and he has warm relationships with numerous current and former U.S. officials. So he watched with a sense of wonder these past two years as the White House changed hands between two presidents with radically different styles.
Barack Obama, Araud said, was the “ultimate bureaucrat.” The Democratic president was famed for his attention to detail and reliance on meetings, briefings and other processes to help him make decisions.
Trump is “totally, totally different,” Araud said.
The Republican, who came to the White House from the world of real estate, pays little attention to bureaucracy or process, Araud said. Even if his underlings try to establish some sort of process “it’s not relevant” because Trump will simply ignore it, Araud said.
The Frenchman isn’t the first to notice these phenomena. But, like with any other foreign diplomat, it has caused him headaches.
Araud said that just days before Trump announced the U.S. is quitting the Iran nuclear deal — a move France implored him not to make — White House officials assured him that no decision was imminent because there had been no serious meetings about it.
And then, on May 8, 2018, Trump said the U.S. was out of the deal.
The envoy dismissed the idea that Trump will ever act in a more traditional way.
“As a diplomat, I am a realist,” Araud said. “President Trump is 72. It is what it is. He’s not going to change.”
Araud was quick to laugh throughout the interview, and appeared in good spirits for most of it. He is writing a memoir and in talks to join Richard Attias’ strategic communications firm, which has an office in New York.
The memoir is almost certain to tackle some of the more unusual aspects of his tenure, including his spat with comedian Trevor Noah over whether France’s World Cup-winning soccer team is actually more African than French. Another likely topic: Araud dramatic 2016 election night tweet — “A world is collapsing before our eyes. Vertigo.” — that was quickly scrubbed.
The book may also tackle some harsh realities, such as the fact that, for all of Araud’s charm, France has had little luck persuading Trump to abandon positions contrary to France’s interests.
Even French President Emmanuel Macron’s attempts to flatter Trump — who initially seemed to like the youthful Macron very much — have yielded little. On issues like trade, climate change and the Iran nuclear deal, the countries remain far apart.
But to be fair, most world leaders and their envoys have found that neither flattery nor disdain is enough to convince Trump of anything.
It’s “a bar that no diplomat could conceivably reach,” Gordon said.
Asked about the health of the U.S.-France relationship, Araud insisted that it is good, especially on the defense side. He brushed aside Trump’s Twitter barbs targeting Macron, pointing out that Trump has done that to several other world leaders.
“I wouldn’t say that there are no clouds,” Araud said. “But the relationship is, I should say, is excellent on the military side, and globally, I should say, is totally in the average relationship that President Trump has with major European powers.”
Araud applauded Trump for tackling head on tough topics like China’s questionable moves on the global stage and North Korea’s nuclear program. He also argued that although some of the questions Trump asks might seem odd at first glance, they are nonetheless fair game.
For instance, Trump has wondered why the United States should go to war to protect the tiny nation of Montenegro if it were attacked. To foreign policy types, the answer is obvious: Montenegro is a NATO member and the military alliance is built on the idea of collective defense.
Araud, though, pointed out that many ordinary Americans would pose the same question if the scenario ever arose. By raising the point, Trump is exposing the fact that not everyone is automatically on board with the views of foreign policy elites in places like Washington.
The French envoy struck a pessimistic note when talking about the European Union.
While some observers have suggested that Trump’s disdain for multilateral institutions could offer an opportunity for the EU to assert itself, Araud worries that EU member states may not be able to deal constructively with populism, nationalism and other polarizing forces tugging at their electorates.
“I don’t want to be too gloomy about it, but the jury is out,” he said.
Nonetheless, he said U.S. officials should remember that Europe faces many of the same challenges as America, including the rise of China. That’s one reason that keeping the transatlantic alliance alive is so important.
“Don’t consider the EU as a problem,” Araud said. “The EU may be part of the solution.”
Araud is expected to be replaced as ambassador by Philippe Etienne, a diplomatic adviser to Macron. What will he tell his successor about navigating Trump’s Washington?
BEAUFORT, S.C. — When Elizabeth Warren got a question on housing discrimination at a campaign event this week, she went into full wonk mode — and the diverse crowd packed into a middle school auditorium ate it up.
The Massachusetts senator launched into a brief history lesson on African-American homebuyers getting rejected outside of designated areas, black families getting hit hardest by subprime mortgages and foreclosures during the 2008 crash, and black homeownership still lagging far behind whites. “That’s a problem, and it’s a race problem,” Warren thundered, emphasizing “race” as the crowd erupted into applause. “And we need to attack it head on.”
Warren is stuck in single digits in national polls and is getting overshadowed by white male rivals like Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. But her consistent attention to racial disparities — and her truck-full of policy proposals to fix them across every economic issue — is drawing praise from a critical voting bloc that could eventually pay dividends: African-Americans, and especially African-American women.
The plans are penetrating the community of black operatives and activists working to mobilize black voters in 2020. Her housing affordability proposal is hailed as one that would do the most to close the racial wealth gap. She was one of the first candidates to endorse a House bill establishing a commission to study reparations for the descendants of slaves. And when she held a climate change forum in Charleston recently four out of the six panelists were local African-American leaders.
“Based on the fact that we've got a self-proclaimed nationalist in the presidential office, it's really important that we don't run away from identity politics,” said LaTosha Brown, founder of Black Voters Matter. “Elizabeth is not.”
“She is not running away from this conversation about race and class and gender and the intersection of that,” Brown continued, “To me that distinguishes her.”
The competition for black voters is intense and growing, and Warren is up against two prominent African-American senators, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris — plus former Vice President Joe Biden, who has strong ties to the black community and a bond with former President Barack Obama.
But Warren’s doing something right. Her three-state southern tour in March through Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama didn't go unnoticed. Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of the progressive BlackPAC, has seen a steady increase in the number of black influencers across social media “raising the flag,” asking why Warren and her policies centered on black communities aren’t getting more attention.
“No one,” Shropshire said, “is raising the flag around any of these other candidates in the same way.”
Warren’s affordable housing plan is cosponsored by one of her presidential rivals and six members of the Congressional Black Caucus. And in South Carolina, Warren delivered the details herself: If elected president she’d propose building 3.2 million new housing units, and federal assistance will go to any person of color who lives or lived in a redlined area, who is a first-time homebuyer or who lost a home.
When a young white man asked Warren about marijuana. “I would legalize it,” Warren said, because “this is a matter, for me, of racial justice.”
The black voters at her rally, many of whom said they were still undecided but ranked Warren at the top of their list, took stock of her answers.
“She’s really speaking to the people of color, the marginalized,” said 71-year-old Alice Walker, who is African American.
“I give her kudos for coming to the Deep South and not running away from areas that she cares about,” said Brown, who is from Selma, Alabama. “And that are probably not going to offer any electoral college votes for her.”
Warren wouldn’t say if her laser-focus on race across her policies is intentional or an attempt to learn from Democrats' past reluctance to embrace "identity politics” and the drop in African-American turnout in key places in the 2016 election.
“To ignore race in today’s political and economic system is to ignore reality,” Warren said in a brief interview with POLITICO on the sidelines of her South Carolina stop. “I want America to talk more about this.”
But a key ingredient to any presidential campaign is whether or not the voters buy a candidate’s message. So far, Warren’s decision to make race a focal point of her campaign has gotten her in the game with voters.
Ifeoma Ike, who worked on Doug Jones’ long-shot but ultimately successful Alabama Senate bid, said Warren is one of the candidates she’s “paid attention to from jump” and praised the senator’s “smart economic policy.”
“We pay attention to not just the comfortability but the rationale and the frequency with which candidates authentically talk about these things,” said Ike, who runs the Democratic consulting firm Think Rubix. “In ways that are not just trying to appease [black voters] as a community.”
Warren passes that test. And her focus on race separates her, according to Ike and Brown, from the one candidate she’s compared to the most: fellow Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“This is an area where she's actually breaking away from Bernie,” said Ike. “The minute she started talking about reparations, other candidates did too.”
Though Sanders did well with young black voters in 2016, he has made notable changes to his campaign this time around, frequently calling Trump a racist and attempting to integrate race more into his vision — but he doesn’t focus on race in his economic policies to the degree Warren does. Instead, Sanders talks about class, and the expanding gap between the rich and poor in the country.
Ike pointed out that the dynamics have markedly changed in the Democratic primary of today versus 2016. Where Sanders has pulled the party along on Medicare for All, Warren appears to be doing the same on her economic policies and race.
In 2016, Ike said, black activists struggled to get candidates to simply say “black lives matter,” referring to the movement against police brutality on people of color.
As Sanders and Hillary Clinton were met by protesting Black Lives Matter activists at their campaign stops, Warren delivered a speech in September of 2015 at the Edward Kennedy Institute, offering what was described then by The Washington Post as the strongest endorsement to date of the protest movement.
“We’ve had way too many decades, way too many generations of trying to sweep race issues under the rug and it’s not working for us,” Warren told POLITICO. “It’s time to do this differently, it’s time to do it more honestly and more directly.”
A Florida man has been arrested after making violent threats against three members of Congress, including two Democratic presidential candidates.
A trio of Democrats — Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Rep. Eric Swalwell of California and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — were on the receiving end of belligerent messages from 49-year-old John Kless, according to a complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of Florida.
All three have garnered increasing national attention in recent months: Booker as he took a starring role in Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing ahead of a presidential run, Tlaib for her vocal criticism of President Donald Trump and ascendance as a voice of Democrats’ rising progressive generation, and Swalwell for assailing Trump and promoting gun control as he pursues his own presidential bid.
The complaint quotes a profanity-laced message allegedly targeting Swalwell, who has made gun control a centerpiece of his platform and clashed with critics on Twitter, warning that “the day you come after our guns” is “the day you’ll be dead.”
Swalwell has previously highlighted similar threats, posting to Twitter a voicemail in which a caller can be heard mimicking the sound of gunfire and saying the California congressman would be a “casualty.” Swalwell responded to Kless’ arrest on Friday by praising law enforcement for “for protecting my staff and constituents.”
The alleged threats to Booker and Tlaib seem to reference comments about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) — who, like Tlaib, is Muslim — that Republicans, including Trump, have seized on to lambaste Omar. In both cases, Kless is quoted defending the president.
"Tell your Taliban friend to" stop talking about 9/11, he is quoted telling Tlaib, adding that "this ain't Trump's fault" and "you definitely don't tell our president, Donald Trump, what to say."
According to the complaint, Kless had formerly made “profane/harassing calls” to the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in which he spoke of “Congress taking away his guns, abortion, illegal immigration, and Muslims in Congress.”
Sen. Michael Bennet had “completely successful” surgery to treat prostate cancer, a spokesperson said Friday.
The Colorado Democrat received a cancer diagnosis last month, at least temporarily upending his plans for a presidential announcement.
Bennet underwent surgery last weekend; he’s now recovering at his home in Colorado and will return to the Senate after the current two-week congressional recess.
“His doctors report the surgery was completely successful and he requires no further treatment,” the spokesperson said. “Michael and his family deeply appreciate the well wishes and support from Coloradans and others across the country.”
Earlier this month, Bennet told the Colorado Independent that prior to his doctors informing him of his cancer diagnosis, he had planned to announce his candidacy for president in April and had even hired staff. At the time, he said that he intended to still run for president if he is cancer-free.
Bennet would be the seventh senator to enter the presidential race. He’s recently gained national attention for his speeches on the Senate floor. Among those speeches was a floor fight with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) during the government shutdown that became the most-viewed C-SPAN video of all time on Twitter.
TALLAHASSEE — Sen. Rick Scott today demanded that the FBI release information about a suspected Russian hack of at least one Florida county, a revelation that came to light in Thursday's report from special counsel Robert Mueller.
The Florida Republican, in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, asked the agency to provide information to both Congress and the Florida Department of State. He asked the FBI to identify which Florida county had been compromised and gave the agency seven days to comply.
“It is my goal to have free and fair elections with zero fraud,” wrote Scott, who noted his push to spend money on election cybersecurity ahead of the 2018 elections. “This is a very serious issue that needs the immediate attention of the FBI.”
The FBI did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
When then-incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson made a similar assertion about Russian hacking last year, then-Gov. Scott assailed him on the campaign trail, calling the comment “irresponsible" and the Democrat “confused” or “dishonest.” Scott narrowly defeated Nelson in November to take his seat in the Senate.
Russian attempts to access county offices in the 2016 election had been previously reported, but state officials—including those who worked directly for Scott at the time—had maintained that none of the efforts were successful.
Details released in the Mueller report Thursday stunned state officials, who stood by their past statements because they could not verify the new information with the FBI.
“The department maintains that the 2016 elections in Florida were not hacked,” Sarah Revell, a spokesperson for Secretary of State Laurel Lee, the state’s chief elections official, said Thursday.
Since initial reports of Russian efforts to target local election offices, details have been scant. An indictment filed by Mueller last summer said Russian operatives sent more than 100 fake emails to Florida elections offices and personnel. The report released Thursday said Russian hackers sent spearphishing emails to more than 120 email accounts operated by county election officials in Florida.
Rep. Matt Gaetz — one of President Donald Trump’s most avid supporters in Congress — has hired a former White House speechwriter who was forced out last year amid scrutiny over his ties to white nationalists.
The Florida Republican announced Friday that former Trump administration aide, Darren Beattie, will join his Capitol Hill office.
“Very proud to have the talented Dr. Darren Beattie helping our team as a Special Advisor for Speechwriting. Welcome on board!” Gaetz tweeted Friday.
Beattie was fired from the White House in August 2018 after reports that he had delivered remarks at a 2016 conference, dubbed an “active hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, alongside a well-known white nationalist, Richard Spencer.
Organizers of the event, the H.L. Mencken Club, described it as a gathering for the “independent-minded intellectuals and academics of the Right.” But the SPLC has described its attendees as “a band of white nationalists, pseudoacademic and academic racists.”
The former Duke University instructor, who rose to prominence for his early prediction that Trump would win the presidency, later released what he said was a transcript of his speech. No video of his speech has been found.
Gaetz has been one of Trump’s most vocal defenders on Capitol Hill and on television, and is known for his bombastic rhetoric.
The attorney-turned-lawmaker has drawn scrutiny himself for inviting a Holocaust denier to one of Trump’s State of the Union addresses. Gaetz has also appeared on the conspiracy-peddling website “Infowars,” run by Alex Jones, though he later said he regretted having done so.
Gaetz’s office did not return a request for comment on the staffing decision.