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Monday
Jul242017

President Trump criticizes Senate Republicans for not doing 'their job' in Obamacare fight

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump was critical of Senate Republicans for their work -- or lack thereof -- on health care reform during remarks at the White House on Monday.

"So far Senate Republicans have not done their job in ending the Obamacare nightmare. They now have a chance, however, to hopefully, hopefully fix what has been so badly broken for such a long time. And that is through replacement of a horrible disaster known as Obamacare," Trump said Monday.

"Any senator who votes against starting debate is telling America that you are fine with the Obamacare nightmare, which is what it is," he said while standing in front of a group of Americans the White House referred to as "victims of Obamacare."

"For Senate Republicans, this is their chance to keep their promise," he added.

He went on to say the Senate "is very close to the votes it needs to pass a replacement," though there do not appear to be enough votes to pass a motion to proceed to a vote on a repeal without having a replacement plan in place.

The latest whip count had at least three Republican senators against a repeal of Obamacare without a replacement plan in place. In addition to those votes, Senate Republicans are down a vote while Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is recovering from recent surgery during which doctors discovered a brain tumor. There can only be two Republican "no" votes for any vote to pass.

During his remarks, Trump then moved on to placing some blame for the failure to come up with a replacement health care bill on the Democrats.

"The problem is we have zero help from the Democrats they're obstructionists. That's all they are good at, obstructionism. Making things not work," he said.


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Monday
Jul242017

John McCain set for Senate return on Tuesday following cancer diagnosis

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Following the announcement last week that he has brain cancer, Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, is set to return to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, according to a statement from his office.

“Senator McCain looks forward to returning to the United States Senate tomorrow to continue working on important legislation, including health care reform, the National Defense Authorization Act, and new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea,” said the statement released Monday night.

The Arizona senator's office and the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix announced Wednesday night that McCain had surgery on July 14 to remove a blood clot above his left eye.

"Subsequent tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot," the hospital said in a statement.

According to the hospital, McCain and his family are reviewing further treatment options, which may include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.

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Monday
Jul242017

Timeline leading up to Jeff Sessions' recusal and the fallout

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' meetings with the Russian ambassador during the campaign continue to cause problems for him months after they were disclosed publicly.

Recent comments by President Donald Trump suggest that Sessions’ recusal created a strain between the two men, and although Trump made his feelings known in a candid interview, Sessions responded last week by saying that he intends to stay on at the Department of Justice.

This is far from the first time Sessions' contact with the Russia ambassador while he was part of the 2016 campaign has affected his standing.

Here is a rundown of what is known about Sessions' involvement with the Trump campaign, the timing of his meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States and several other key instances where members of Trump's inner circle have been publicly questioned about their connections with Russian officials.

Feb. 28, 2016: Sessions becomes the first sitting U.S. senator to endorse Trump’s presidential bid.

March 3, 2016: The Trump team named Sessions as the chairman of his National Security Advisory Committee. In the statement announcing the appointment, Trump said it is "an honor" to have Sessions on the team, and Sessions detailed how he could help.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to recommend and facilitate discussions among exceptional and experienced American military and diplomatic leaders to share insight and advice with Donald Trump, regardless of their political views," Sessions said in that statement.

Mid-July, 2016, on the sidelines of the RNC: Sessions spoke at an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, held during the Republican National Convention. After his speech, Sessions spoke to a small group of ambassadors after giving a speech and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak was among them.

A DOJ official told ABC News that this second interaction was a brief encounter after a public event attended by a number of ambassadors.

Aug. 19, 2016: Trump's then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigned following the hiring of new leadership and reports questioning Manafort’s ties to Russia. Ukrainian officials said that Manafort's name appears in "black accounts" linked to the country's former pro-Russian president.

Sept. 8, 2016: Sessions meets with ambassador Kislyak in Sessions’ office in Washington.

A DOJ official emphasized to ABC News that this meeting with the Russian ambassador was listed publicly and attended by staff.

Spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores released a statement noting that Sessions’ meeting with Kislyak was one of many that he held in his capacity as a member of the Armed Services Committee.

"Last year, the senator had over 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian, German and Russian ambassadors. He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign -- not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee," Flores said.

The focus of the various meetings that Sessions had with the ambassadors would not be about the election, but sometimes the ambassadors would make superficial comments about the election, a DOJ official said.

Nov. 8, 2016: Trump wins the election.

Nov. 18, 2016: Sessions announced as Trump’s pick for U.S. attorney general.

Jan. 10, 2017: At the Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, the topic of Russia came up when Sessions was questioned by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. Here is the relevant part of that exchange:

Franken: "If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?"

Sessions: "Senator Franken, I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn't have -- did not have communications with the Russians, and I'm unable to comment on it."

Jan. 20, 2017: Trump is sworn in as president.

Feb. 9, 2017: Sessions is sworn in as attorney general.

Feb. 13, 2017: Then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is asked to resign after it becomes public that there were discrepancies in his account of his interactions with Russian officials during the transition. He previously told Vice President Mike Pence that he had not discussed sanctions with Ambassador Kislyak during their calls after the election -- and Pence went on to say as much during televised interviews.

It was later revealed that the White House had been notified by the acting-attorney general that sanctions were discussed during the calls. Click here to see a full timeline of Flynn's saga.

Feb. 15, 2017: Sources familiar with the matter confirmed to ABC News that in the time leading up to the presidential election, U.S. authorities were looking into communications between several Trump associates and suspected Russian intelligence officials.

The New York Times first reported that according to several current and former U.S. officials, several Trump associates inside and outside the campaign -- including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort -- had repeated contact with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before election.

Manafort told ABC News on Feb. 15 that the report published in the Times is "completely ridiculous."

"No, never, I never spoke to the Putin government and I never had any involvement with anything like this," Manafort said.

"I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today," Manafort said.

March 1, 2017: News breaks that Sessions met with the Russian ambassador twice in 2016, which appears to contradict his statement during his confirmation hearing.

A White House official responded to ABC News, dismissing the claims as an attempt to deflect from Trump’s "successful" address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

"This is the latest attack against the Trump Administration by partisan Democrats. General Sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony. It's no surprise Senator Al Franken is pushing this story immediately following President Trump's successful address to the nation," the White House official said.

Democrats call for Sessions to resign. Among them is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said that that Sessions "lied under oath."

March 2, 2017: Sessions speaks briefly to NBC and makes quick remarks about the ongoing situation.

"I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign and those remarks are unbelievable to me and false and I don't have anything else to say about that," he said as he was seen getting into a car.

When asked whether he would recuse himself from being involved in the DOJ’s investigation into Russian involvement in the election, Sessions said, "I've said that whenever it's appropriate I will recuse myself. There's no doubt about that."

In a statement released March 2, Sessions said he had met with "relevant senior career department officials" in the previous several weeks to discuss whether he should recuse himself and, "having concluded those meetings today, I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States."

Later that day, he held a news conference reiterating his decision.

He defended his earlier actions during the confirmation hearing, saying that his reply to Sen. Franken "was honest and correct as I understood it at the time."

"In the end, I have followed the right procedure, just as I promised the committee I would," Sessions said of the decision to recuse himself.

"A proper decision, I believe, has been reached," he said.

June 6, 2017: ABC News learns that Sessions had recently offered to resign as Trump continued to express frustration with the attorney general's decision to recuse himself from the election-tampering investigation.

During the day's White House press briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer, in response to questioning on whether Trump has confidence in Sessions, said, "I have not had that discussion with [President Trump]."

June 13, 2017: Sessions testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and issued a sweeping denial of any personal involvement in Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

"I have never met with, or had any conversation with, any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States," Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign.”

The attorney general explained that he had met with "a senior ethics official" at the Justice Department in February as media reports emerged questioning his involvement in the investigation, given his role in Trump’s campaign. Sessions said from that moment, until the announcement of his recusal March 2, he "did not access any information about the investigation."

"I have no knowledge about this investigation as it is ongoing today beyond what has been publicly reported," said Sessions, who later explained that he never received a briefing or read the reports on the intelligence community's conclusion that there were attempts to meddle in the election.

Sessions said the move to step away from oversight of the probe was not because of his actions or meetings with the Russian ambassador; instead, he pointed to his position as chairman of the Trump campaign's national security committee.

"I recuse myself not because of any asserted wrongdoing or any belief that I may have been involved in any wrongdoing in the campaign, but because a Department of Justice regulation… required it," Sessions said. "That regulation states in effect that department employees should not participate in investigations either came pain if they served as a campaign adviser."

July 19, 2017: Trump had a sit-down interview with The New York Times, during which he launched into a blistering rebuke of Sessions and his decision to recuse himself from anything relating to presidential campaigns, including, most notably, the 2016 campaign.

"Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else," Trump said in the interview.

When asked whether Sessions gave the president a "heads up" before the recusal, Trump said: "Zero."

"So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have — which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. So he recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy," Trump said, referring to Rod Rosenstein.

July 20, 2017: Asked for his reaction to Trump's comments, Sessions maintained that he will remain at his position "as long as that is appropriate."

"We in this Department of Justice will continue every single day to work hard to serve the national interest, and we wholeheartedly join in the priorities of President Trump," he said at a news conference.

"I have the honor of serving as attorney general, it's something that goes beyond any thought I would have ever had for myself. We love this job, we love this department, and I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate," he said.

July 24, 2017 -- Trump calls Sessions "beleaguered"

Trump posted a tweet that included an apparent slight against Sessions, writing: "So why aren't the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?"

Sessions did not immediately respond to the tweet.

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Monday
Jul242017

Read Jared Kushner's full statement released ahead of closed-door meeting with Senate committee

YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser and the president's son-in-law, became the first Trump family member to appear on Capitol Hill as part of the Russia investigations after he met with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday for a closed-door interview.

Kushner was expected to be asked about his four meetings with Russian officials during the campaign and transition - including the meeting he and Donald Trump Jr. had with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in June 2016.

Read his 11-page statement released Monday morning ahead of his scheduled meeting.

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Monday
Jul242017

Jared Kushner denies colluding with Russia, says Trump ran 'smarter campaign'

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, is expected to deny that he colluded with Russia during the presidential campaign in a closed-door interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee Monday morning.

"I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government. I had no improper contacts," Kushner is expected to tell congressional investigators, according to an 11-page statement he released Monday morning detailing his four meetings with Russian officials during the presidential campaign and transition period.

"I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector. I have tried to be fully transparent with regard to the filing of my SF-86 [security clearance] form, above and beyond what is required. Hopefully, this puts these matters to rest," the statement said.

 Accompanied by his attorney Abbe Lowell, Kushner arrived on Capitol Hill this morning for the committee meeting, flashing a smile and giving a quick wave but not answering questions from reporters. The meeting was conducted in a SCIF, or Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, and lasted more than two hours.

As Kushner was walking out of the committee meeting, a protester tried to force a Russian flag into his hand, asking Kushner to sign it. The man was pushed back by security.


The panel, which is one of several congressional committees investigating Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, has interviewed dozens of individuals as part of its probe.

Kushner is one of Trump's closest confidants, an adviser who has been at his side since the beginning of the campaign. Kushner is the first member of Trump's family to appear before Congress as part of a Russia probe.

His contacts with Russian officials are a focus of congressional investigators and for investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading a separate probe into Russian election interference.

On the Donald Trump Jr. meeting with Russian lawyer

Kushner was one of several Trump associates to meet with a Russian attorney linked to the Kremlin in Trump Tower in New York in June 2016.

Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, organized the meeting with Russia lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya after receiving a message from a business associate who said the attorney promised to share incriminating information about Hillary Clinton, according to an email exchange he released.

He invited Kushner and Paul Manafort, the then-campaign chairman, to the meeting.

Though Donald Trump Jr. has said nothing came of the controversial meeting, lawmakers hope to interview all the participants as they continue to investigate whether Trump's campaign worked with Russia during the presidential election.

"The committee's going to reach out to everybody we feel has some contribution to make," Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said to reporters last week.

Kushner, in his statement, said he did not know who would be attending the meeting and described it as a "waste of our time." He arrived to the meeting late, as participants were discussing Russian adoptions. He also said he asked his assistant to call him 10 minutes into the meeting to give him an excuse to leave early.

"No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign, there was no follow up to the meeting that I am aware of, I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted," he wrote in his statement.

Manafort and Trump Jr. are in discussions with the Senate Judiciary Committee about sitting for closed-door interviews. Both men have expressed a willingness to cooperate with congressional investigators.

ABC News first reported Kushner's interview with Senate investigators last week.

Kushner, who has been cooperating with investigators, is also expected to appear before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

"There is a lot we want to know," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Cali., the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "His counsel has said they will make him available for two hours, so we expect this is just going to be the first interview."

On his meeting with Russian banker

Kushner is also expected to face questions about a meeting he had after the election last fall with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Russian bank Vnesheconombank, which has been sanctioned by the U.S. government.

The White House and the bank initially provided conflicting explanations for the meeting.

Kushner, in his statement, said the meeting lasted less than half an hour, and that he "expressed the same sentiments I had with other foreign officials I met."

"There were no specific policies discussed," he said. "We had no discussion about the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. At no time was there any discussion about my companies, business transactions, real estate projects, loans, banking arrangements or any private business of any kind."

Kushner served as Trump's liaison to foreign governments during the transition.

On his meeting with Russian ambassador

In December, Kushner met with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, at Trump Tower and discussed establishing a possible secret back channel for diplomatic communications between Russian and the United States.

Kushner denied discussing "an on-going secret form of communication" or "a 'secret back channel'" with Kislyak in his statement Monday.

"During the meeting, after pleasantries were exchanged, as I had done in many of the meetings I had and would have with foreign officials, I stated our desire for a fresh start in relations," he said.

After Kislyak asked if he could convey information regarding Syria to Kushner and now-former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, Kushner "asked if they had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to relay to Gen. Flynn," according to his statement.

"The ambassador said that would not be possible, and so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the inauguration. Nothing else occurred," Kushner said.


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Monday
Jul242017

Congressional Democrats to roll out economic agenda

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Chuck Schumer and other Democratic congressional leaders are launching a revamped messaging campaign Monday as part of the party's new appeal to voters before the 2018 midterm elections.

The campaign features a new package of economic priorities Democrats are calling A Better Deal.

Schumer, the Democratic Senate minority leader, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, progressive champion Sen. Elizabeth Warren and several other Democratic leaders will rally in a swing Virginia district Monday to roll out the new platform.

In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," previewing Monday’s event and the future focus on this agenda, Schumer was introspective about the mistakes Democrats made during last year's presidential election.

“We didn’t tell people what we stood for,” he said. “I don’t know why it didn’t happen in the campaign,” he said. “We all take blame, not any one person.”

Monday’s event represents their first stab at laying out what the party says it stands for, beginning with a three-pronged legislative agenda: increasing minimum wage, providing tax credits for worker training, going after prescription drug costs and reviewing corporate mergers and monopolies.

Schumer said the focus on these sorts of pocketbook issues resonates both with the so-called Obama coalition and also Democratic voters who abandoned their party to vote for Trump.

“We were too cautious, we were too namby-pamby. This is sharp, bold and will appeal to both the old Obama coalition ... and the Democratic voters who deserted us for Trump.”

The plan appears to have the blessing of the progressive wing of the party. Sen. Bernie Sanders will appear in a video message supporting the party's new campaign.

However, one of the key ideas supported by Sanders -- a single payer health care system -- isn’t going to be a focus. Schumer said the single-payer proposals remained on the table and in discussion among his peers.

Schumer said for now he hopes to work with Republicans to stabilize individual insurance markets, but only after Republicans fully put aside their Obamacare repeal and replace plan.

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Monday
Jul242017

Trump calls Jeff Sessions 'beleaguered AG' in tweet

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) --  President Trump Monday morning called Attorney General Jeff Sessions "beleaguered" following his public criticism of Sessions in a recent interview with The New York Times.

"After 1 year of investigation with Zero evidence being found, Chuck Schumer just stated that 'Democrats should blame ourselves, not Russia,'" Trump said in a tweet.

"So why aren't the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?" Trump wrote, referring to his Democratic opponent from the election, Hillary Clinton.


Trump on Saturday slammed what he called "a new intelligence leak" against Sessions, referring to The Washington Post's reporting on Friday that Sessions discussed campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign.

Sessions was one of Trump's earliest supporters during the presidential campaign but the president continues to air his frustrations with Sessions. Trump told The New York Times last Wednesday that he would not have appointed Sessions as attorney general if he knew Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation. He also criticized Sessions for "[giving] some bad answers" during his confirmation hearing in January.

ABC News also learned from sources that Sessions had offered to resign in June. However, despite Trump's comments to The Times, Sessions said last week during a Justice Department press conference that he intends to serve as attorney general "as long as that is appropriate."

Trump has called investigations of his campaign associates and their potential ties to Russia a "witch hunt" and, according to his new White House communications director, still questions whether Russia was behind the 2016 U.S. election hacking.

Trump also attacked California Rep. Adam Schiff today. The Democratic lawmaker is the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating whether associates of Trump conspired with Russia during the campaign.

Schiff responded to Trump that the "problem" is how often he watches TV and his "comments and actions."



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Monday
Jul242017

Jared Kushner set for closed-door interview with Senate Intelligence Committee

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, is expected on Capitol Hill Monday for a closed-door interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The panel, which is one of several congressional committees investigating Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, has interviewed dozens of individuals as part of its probe.

Kushner is one of Trump's closest confidants, an adviser who has been at his side since the campaign trail and the transition to the White House. He is the first member of Trump's family to appear on Capitol Hill as part of the Russia probe.

His contacts with Russian officials are a focus of congressional investigators and of the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading a separate probe into Russian election interference.

Kushner was one of several Trump associates to meet with a Russian attorney linked to the Kremlin in Trump Tower in June 2016.

Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, organized the meeting with Russia lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya after receiving a message from a business associate who promised to share incriminating information about Hillary Clinton passed along from a Russian government official, according to an email exchange he released.

He invited Kushner and Paul Manafort, then Trump's campaign chairman, to the meeting.

Though Donald Trump Jr. has said nothing came of the controversial meeting, lawmakers hope to interview all the participants as they continue to investigate whether Trump's campaign worked with Russia during the presidential election. Kushner did not stay for the entire meeting and left early.

"The committee's going to reach out to everybody we feel has some contribution to make," Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said to reporters last week.

Manafort and Trump Jr. are in discussions with the Senate Judiciary Committee about sitting for closed-door interviews. Both men have expressed a willingness to cooperate with congressional investigators.

ABC News first reported Kushner's interview with Senate investigators last week.

Kushner, who has been cooperating with investigators, is also expected to appear before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

He's also expected to face questions about a meeting he had after the election last fall with Sergey Gorkov, the head of the Russian bank VneshEconombank, which has been sanctioned by the U.S. government.

The White House and the bank provided conflicting explanations for the meeting.

In December, Kushner met with then Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower, and discussed establishing a possible secret back channel for diplomatic communications between Russian and the United States.

Kushner served as Trump's liaison to foreign governments during the transition.

"There is a lot we want to know," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday. "His counsel has said they will make him available for two hours so we expect this is just going to be the first interview."

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Sunday
Jul232017

Trump spokeswoman dismisses ‘Russia fever’ as attempt to take away legitimacy of his victory

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- The president’s new press secretary dismissed the media’s focus on the Russia investigation, what she called “Russia fever,” as an attempt to delegitimize Trump’s election victory.

“There's a ton of focus on what I like to call Russia fever,” press secretary Sarah Sanders told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday.

She said the allegations swirling around Russia and Trump associates is a “total made-up story about the president, trying to take away the legitimacy of his victory in November.”

Instead, she said the focus should be on leaks of sensitive information to the media. “We need to focus on these leaks. This is the only illegal thing that has taken place, and it's a real serious problem.”

Sanders was responding to a question by Stephanopoulos about a tweet by the president Saturday decrying what Trump called "a new intelligence leak" about Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

 

 

Stephanopoulos pressed Sanders on the tweet: "That appears to be a confirmation that the attorney general was talking to the Russian ambassador about the campaign" during the 2016 presidential race.

Sanders disagreed.

"I think the president's point is that there's a real problem with leaks, whether they're actual leaks or not. There's an issue that there are constant stories, sometimes true, sometimes not, that are being leaked out of the intelligence community," she said.

Earlier this week, President Trump, in a lengthy interview with The New York Times, said he would not have appointed Sessions as attorney general if he knew the former Alabama senator would recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Sanders said on "This Week," "The president knows the attorney general is trying hard and he appreciates that. But at the same time, he's disappointed that he chose to recuse himself. I don't think that that's inconsistent or hard to understand, that there would be frustration with that."

The president’s spokeswoman also said Trump will support proposed legislation slapping new sanctions on Russia.

“The administration is supportive of being tough on Russia, particularly in putting these sanctions in place,” she said.

The House and Senate struck a deal on a bill that puts new sanctions on Russia for its interference in the U.S. 2016 election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

The bill also gives Congress the power to review any effort by the Trump administration to ease or end sanctions against Moscow. The legislation includes stiff economic penalties against Iran and North Korea as well.

“The original piece of legislation was poorly written, but we were able to work with the House and Senate, and the administration is happy with the ability to do that, and make those changes that were necessary, and we support where the legislation is now,” Sanders said.

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Sunday
Jul232017

Trump lawyer says it's an open question whether president could pardon himself

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Jay Sekulow, a member of President Trump’s legal team, said it’s an open question whether the president has the authority to pardon himself.

Sekulow was responding to a question from ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" Sunday.

“We have not, and continue to not have conversations with the president of the United States regarding pardons. Pardons have not been discussed. And pardons are not on the table. With regard to the issue of a president pardoning himself, there’s a big academic discussion going on right now,” Sekulow said. “From a constitutional, legal perspective you can’t dismiss it one way or the other."

He added that he thinks such a question would ultimately have to go before the Supreme Court.

But Sekulow emphasized that the president's legal team is not looking into the question of pardons.

"We're not researching the issue because the issue of pardons is not on the table. There's nothing to pardon from,” Sekulow said. “We’re not researching it; I haven’t researched it because it’s not an issue we're concerned with or dealing with.”

Trump himself, however, brought up the issue of pardons in a tweet Saturday asserting that the president has "complete power to pardon."

In a later interview on “This Week,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., warned that if President Trump were to pardon himself or to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, “I think it would cause a cataclysm in Washington.”

“I cannot imagine our Republican colleagues, including [House Speaker Paul] Ryan and [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell, just standing by if he were to do either of those things,” the Senate minority leader said

In the Sekulow interview, Stephanopoulos pressed the lawyer about another of Trump’s tweets Saturday that asked why Attorney General Sessions and Mueller aren’t looking into what the president called "crimes" by former FBI Director James Comey and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"[What] Comey crimes does the president believe the Justice Department or Mueller should be investigating?" Stephanopoulos asked.

Sekulow said the memos that Comey had written about his conversations with Trump and which he leaked through an associate after the president fired him were written on a “government computer” and were “in fact government property.”

“He took government property … and leaked them to the press,” Sekulow said.

In addition, the Trump lawyer said that Comey’s conversations with the president “would have been covered by executive privilege.”“James Comey ignored that, did not give the president or anyone else at that point when he leaked the information the opportunity to assert that privilege,” Sekulow continued. “And I think that was not only a dereliction of his duties, I think it was a violation of his constitutional oath, and violated criminal statutes.”

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